After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
In my New Interpreter’s Study Bible (which I highly recommend for those wanting to study the Bible), the title of this section in Acts 4 is called “The Believers Pray for Boldness.” And do they ever! Verse 31 reads, “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”
So why the need to pray with boldness? It’s because Peter and John were stirring up trouble with the religious authorities. Peter had just healed a man lame from birth—verse 22 says that the lame man was more than 40 years old when he was told to get up and walk in Jesus’ name. You see, Pentecost shook the world and Peter is on fire having been anointed by the Spirit! His preaching and healing are bringing people to believe that Jesus really is the Messiah raised from the dead.
The Sadducees scorn these roving “uneducated” and “ordinary” evangelists because their successful conversion rates have gotten under their skin (4:13). To exact revenge, they arrest Peter and John but had to release them after one night because they fear retaliation from their thousands of new converts. Imagine Peter and John retreating with their friends in Jerusalem and recounting this escapade. They no longer hide in fear. The power of the resurrection has given them courage and boldness to preach truth to power. The Holy Spirit has hatched on each and every one of them and birthed something new.
What was it? Hope made certain. Trust made real. Love made whole. The next verse says, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (vs. 32). This is the assurance offered to us today. Let’s be reconverted to this truth together.
If only we could have our own little Pentecost moment in which the Holy Spirit comes down and shakes us to our senses. I’m game. Are you? Pray with me. Come Holy Spirit. Come by here. Come Holy Spirit. Come set your people free.
I can feel it now,
O God the Holy Ghost who art light unto thine elect, evermore enlighten us. Thou who are fire of love, evermore enkindle us. Thou are lord and giver of life, evermore live in us. Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace, evermore replenish us. As the wind is thy symbol, so forward our goings. As the dove, so launch us heavenwards. As water, so purify our spirits. As a cloud, so abate our temptations. As dew, so revive our languor. As fire, so purge out our dross.
-Christina Rossetti (1830-94)