David Guzik’s weekly devotional, based on a verse or two from the Bible.

Praying God's Word

Praying God’s Word

“Who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:25-28)

You can learn a lot about a person by hearing them pray, and you can learn a lot about a church by their prayer meetings. In Acts 4 we see a prayer meeting in the early church, and it shows us wonderful things about the early church. Their prayer began with three important principles (Acts 4:23-24), and at Acts 4:25 it shows us something else important about prayer.

Praying God's Word

When the early church prayed in Acts 4, they prayed God’s word. We don’t specifically who spoke these specific words, but they voiced the unified heart of the whole prayer meeting. They said, by the mouth of Your servant David have said. This was the heart of all the disciples that the prayer meeting (remember they prayed with one accord). They recognized that words of the Old Testament (Psalm 2 to be exact) were really the words of God. God was speaking by the mouth of [His] servant David.

It’s an important point. The apostles and prophets believed that the words of King David, recorded in Psalm 2, were actually the words of the Lord God, said by the mouth of King David. The earlier Christians had a high view of the Holy Scriptures.

Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? Their unified prayer quoted Psalm 2 because the disciples quoted Psalm 2 because he and the other disciples understood what happened by seeing what the Bible said about it. From Psalm 2, they understood that they should expect this sort of opposition and not be troubled because of it because God was in control of all things.

When we pray, we must see our circumstances in light of God’s Word. In conflict, we see the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12). When there is sin, we confess and repent (Psalm 32:3-4). When we need strength, we rely on God’s promises (Ephesians 3:16).

With this confidence they could say to God, do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Because they saw their circumstances in light of God’s Word, they could recognize that the wrath of man never operates outside of the sphere of God’s control; these enemies of Jesus could only do whatever the hand of God allowed.

This brings real peace, knowing that whatever comes my way has passed through God’s hand first, and He will not allow even the most wicked acts of men to result in permanent damage.

Today, let God’s word give you confidence and peace that He is in control!

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

Knowing Whom You Pray To

Knowing Whom You Pray To

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” (Acts 4:23-24)

God worked something powerful in and through Peter and John. They stood before a council of important men who demanded that they stop proclaiming Jesus. Peter and John refused, but the council couldn’t stop such determined men. All they could do was threaten Peter and John and release them.

Knowing Whom You Pray To

When Peter and John met with the other disciples, they reported all that the chief priests and elders had said. They had good news to report. We can picture them saying, “We got to tell them about Jesus! They realized we were like Jesus! They told us not to tell others about Jesus!”

In response to this exciting report, the early Christian community – their own companions had a prayer meeting. Notice that important events moved them to prayer. It should be the same with us!

We see several important things about this early church prayer meeting.

First, they raised their voice. This means that they prayed vocally. It is certainly possible to pray silently in our minds, but we focus our thoughts more effectively when we speak out in prayer.

The word “voice” is in the singular. This means that they did not all pray individually, speaking at the same time. In this prayer meeting, one person prayed, and all agreed with that one, so that they were really praying with one voice.

Next, they prayed with one accord. This means that they prayed in unity. There was no strife or contention among them. There wasn’t one group saying, “We should pray for this” and another saying, “we should pray for that.” They had the same mind when they prayed.

Finally, they addressed God like this: Lord, You are God. They began by reminding themselves who they prayed to. They prayed to the Lord of all creation, the God of all power.

This word Lord in Acts 4:24 is not the most common word for “Lord” used in the New Testament; it is the Greek word despotes. We get the English word “despot” from this ancient Greek word. Despotes was a word used of a slave owner or of a ruler who has power that cannot be questioned. They prayed with power and confidence because they knew God was in control.

When we pray, we often forget just who it is we pray to; or worse yet, we pray to an imaginary God of our own ideas. The disciples had power in prayer because they knew whom they prayed to.

Pray today – but make sure you pray to the God who really exists, the mighty God revealed to us in the Bible. Don’t pray to the God of your imagination.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

God Before Man

God Before Man

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

A council of important and powerful men sat in judgment of Peter and John. The important men seemed to have all control of the situation, but that didn’t bother Peter and John. Bold in Jesus Christ, they refused to bow before the threats of the council.

God Before Man

By the power of the Holy Spirit, God gave Peter and John the exact words for the moment. Jesus had promised in Luke 12:11-12: Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. These words from Peter and John were a beautiful fulfillment of that promise.

They said, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. It was self-evident that they should listen to God instead of man. Peter made an effective appeal to this truth. This is an important principle. God has established legitimate authority in humanity. We see this authority in the home, in the church, and in the community. God wants us to respect and obey these authorities, but never in an absolute sense. If doing what people tell us to do would make us disobey God, we are to obey God. We must listen to God before even legitimate human authority.

With this boldness, Peter and John proclaimed, we cannot but speak. Peter and John had to speak of the things which they had seen and heard. They had to, not only because of the inner compulsion of the Holy Spirit, but also because of the command of Jesus. In Acts 1:8 Jesus gave the command to all His disciples, You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem.

What were they supposed to say? They were to speak the things which we have seen and heard. This was not a message that they created. This was the message of who Jesus is and what Jesus did to rescue lost humanity. This was no made-up message; they merely relayed it as reliable eyewitnesses.

There are some things that are so good, we should never stop talking about them. The greatness of who Jesus our Messiah is, and what He has done to save us, is certainly the greatest of all those good things. Not only should we refuse to stop talking about it, God helping us we will also determine to obey God before man. To live in the fear of man is beneath the dignity God’s children and is actually the sin of idolatry. We give respect where it is due, but listen to God before any human authority.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

What Shall We Do to These Men

What Shall We Do to These Men?

But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:15-18)

I love this scene of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, desperately trying to figure out what to do with the “problem” of the disciples of Jesus. During the days of His earthly ministry, Jesus Himself was a problem for these religious leaders – this same council had a role in sending Jesus to the cross. Yet, even with Jesus Himself no longer walking and teaching and working among the people, they had an even bigger problem with the followers of Jesus.

What Shall We Do to These Men

In their desperation, these important men made a confession regarding the power of Jesus: we cannot deny it. That exposed the corruption of their hearts. They acknowledged that a miracle in the name of Jesus had genuinely happened; yet they refused to submit to the God who worked the miracle.

All they could do was make a threat and hope that the good news of Jesus spreads no further among the people. Their fear of the preaching of the good news of Jesus was rooted in their own sinful self-interest, not in any desire to protect the people.

Notice the note of desperation in the words, What shall we do to these men? It was a problem they couldn’t figure out. These men did not respond to their threats and intimidation. These men knew the way their Lord and Savior Jesus was treated, but were not afraid. These men showed the power of God in and through their life. You can’t defeat men and women who are this committed to Jesus Christ! They were commanded to stop talking about Jesus, but everyone knew they would keep doing it.

There is something else wonderful about this story from Acts 4. We see it in the words, they conferred among themselves. How did Luke know what the council discussed among themselves after the disciples left the room? Luke probably found out because a member of that same council later became a Christian: Saul of Tarsus. Acts 26:10 gives us reason to believe Paul (Saul) was a member of this council, able to cast his voteagainst the early Christians.

If this is true, we can say that Peter and John had no idea they were preaching to a future apostle and one of the greatest missionaries the church would ever see. It is an example of the truth that we have no idea how greatly God can use us.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

They Had Been with Jesus

They Had Been with Jesus

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Peter and John stood before the council of religious leaders. The powerful men saw the boldness of Peter and John, but they also noticed something else – that they were uneducated and untrained men.

Peter and John were certainly uneducated in one sense – they, like Jesus before them, had no formal rabbinic education according to the customs and standards of that time. Yet they were educated in at least two more important ways: they knew the Scriptures, and they had been with Jesus.

They Had Been with Jesus

That kind of education was more important than the customs and standards of their time. The truth that knowing the Bible and a real relationship with Jesus is more important that formal education and degrees has been proven in the lives of God’s servants again and again. It has been proven true through such servants of God as Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, William Carey, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Hudson Taylor.

Yet it is helpful to remember that God has also used many who were greatly educated. Moses, Daniel, and Paul are all Biblical examples. Augustine, Martin Luther, and Billy Graham are just a few historical examples. It’s just as wrong to think that formal education disqualifies someone for effective service as it is to think that it automatically qualifies someone for effective service.

In Acts 4, the boldness of Peter and John came from the fact that they had been with Jesus, they were naturally bold. When one is a servant of the all-powerful God, he has nothing to fear from the judgment of men.

It is interesting to note what the Jewish leaders did not do: they did not make any attempt to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. If it were possible to do, this was the time to do it. Positive proof that Jesus had not actually risen from the dead would have crushed the early Christian movement. Yet these religious leaders could not disprove the fact of the resurrection.

They realized that they had been with Jesus: This means that the bold exclusivism of Acts 4:12 was coupled with a radiant love characteristic of Jesus. If we will preach no other name we should also make it evident that we have been with Jesus.

Sadly, when Christians became strong and powerful, and when Christianity became an institution – too often Christians were those who arrested people and told them to be quiet, threatening them with violence and sometimes carrying it out against them. That is not evidence that one has been with Jesus.

People should go to Jesus directly, but often they won’t. The only Jesus they will see is the Savior who shines through our life. God helping you, today live in such a way that it will be obvious that you have also been with Jesus.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

No Other Name

No Other Name

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Here was bold preaching from Peter. He spoke to the most powerful men of his community and told them that Jesus Christ was the only way to salvation, the only way to be made right with God.

No Other Name

This shows what a remarkable transformation the Holy Spirit did in Peter. The same man who only a few weeks before was afraid to say that he even knew Jesus now proclaimed Jesus Christ as the only way to be made right with God. As he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), Peter did not have the spirit of fear – he had the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter phrased this with great emphasis:
– There is no salvation in any other name than Jesus (Nor is there salvation in any other)
– There is absolutely no other name that can save (for there is no other name under heaven given among men)
– This is a “must” for salvation, being made right with God (by which we must be saved)

Peter didn’t merely proclaim Jesus as a way of salvation, but as the only way of salvation. The idea that there is no salvation in any other, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved is hard to accept for many people – but it is plainly stated.

The world hates this kind of talk. Many people don’t mind if you speak about Jesus being one among many possible saviors or ways to God. But if you believe and speak what the Bible says – that there is no salvation in any other – then get ready to be laughed at, to be hated, to be considered hateful.

Instinctively, many respond: “Isn’t there some way that I can save myself? Isn’t Jesus just for those people who can’t save themselves?” No. If you are going to be rescued; if you are going to be made right with God, Jesus is going to do it.

Such a strong statement from Peter also shows that he understood that Jesus was in fact God. The Old Testament clearly says that God is the only Savior (Isaiah 43:11, 45:21). If Jesus is the only savior, then Jesus is God!

If you wish to believe that everyone will be saved, or that there are many roads to heaven, or that one can take the best of all faiths and blend them into one – you are free to believe such things. You may believe such things and bear the consequences; but please do not claim this is the teaching of the Bible.

Today, remember what the Bible says about the name of Jesus: there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

Chief Cornerstone

The Chief Cornerstone

Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” (Acts 4:10-11)

Peter preached to the religious leaders of Jerusalem, boldly telling them of Jesus Christ. As he did, he took words from Psalm 118:22 and applied them to Jesus. Peter told them that though Jesus was rejected by men – by those leaders – nevertheless He was exalted by God the Father.

Chief Cornerstone

This quotation from Psalm 118:22 has a special place in the Bible. It is a strong and important statement in the New Testament understanding of the person and work of Jesus. Jesus quoted this of Himself in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17. Peter quoted it here in Acts 4:11. Paul alluded to this verse in Ephesians 2:20, and Peter again referred to it in 1 Peter 2:7-8. No text in the Old Testament is quoted more in the New Testament.

The principle of the rejected one becoming the chief of all is found in many Bible characters. It was true of Jacob, Joseph and David – each were rejected and then raised high. It was most certainly true of Jesus.

– They didn’t approve of His origin (John 7:52).
– They didn’t approve of His lack of formal education (John 7:15).
– They didn’t approve of His disregard for religious traditions (Luke 6:2).
– They didn’t approve of His choice of friends (Matthew 9:11).

Yet Jesus has become the chief cornerstone. We see that even though the religious leaders (the builders) of His day rejected Him, God established Jesus as the chief cornerstone of His great plan of the ages, that all things would be founded and fulfilled in Him.

Notice that this was God’s doing – God raised Him from the dead. The exaltation of Jesus from the cross to the resurrection to the right hand of God on high is the work of God alone. Who lifted Jesus high again, exalting Him above all?

– Not the religious leaders – they rejected Him.
– Not the Roman leaders – they crucified Him.
– Not the Jewish multitudes – they chose another.
– Not the disciples – they cowered in fear.
– Not His influential followers – they buried Him.
– Not the devoted women – they were beset by grief.
Only God the Father Himself could lift Jesus high.

And He did – God the Father lifted Jesus High when God raised Him from the dead. We can’t lift Jesus any higher than the Father has, but we can recognize the exalted Jesus and honor Him as He deserves.

A cornerstone is something to build upon. All the work of God across creation is built upon Jesus Christ. He is the strong, unshakable foundation for your life. Whatever you build today, build on Jesus Christ – the chief cornerstone.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

Filled with the Holy Spirit

Filled with the Holy Spirit

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel” (Acts 4:8)

Peter was in trouble again, and in a stressful situation. He stood before important and powerful men, and it was possible that they could condemn him to death.

At that critical moment, it tells is that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter was instantly filled with the Spirit again. The result of this filling with the Holy Spirit was seen in his supernatural boldness and ability to speak the gospel clearly and to the heart in a really stressful and dangerous moment.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

But wait – wasn’t Peter filled with the Holy Spirit before?

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit in John 20:22, when he was among the disciples when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4, when he was among the disciples who were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:8 it wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last time. The filling of the Holy Spirit Peter experienced in John 20:22 and Acts 2:4 was not a one-time event. It was something God wanted to continue doing in his life.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event that we live off of the rest of our days. It is a constant filling, a continual asking to be filled, and repeated receiving the Spirit’s filling by faith.

There is a wonderful and significant first experience with the filling of the Holy Spirit, often thought of as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5 and 11:16). This is an experience valid and important for every believer.

Much of the weakness, defeat and lethargy in our spiritual life can be attributed to the fact that we are not constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 5:18 the Apostle Paul wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, telling us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The grammar of the ancient Greek for the phrase Paul used indicates at least two important things. First, the verb “be filled” is passive, so this is not a manufactured experience. We must never “manufacture” or “fake” some experience with the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t glorify God or bring true help to people, including ourselves.

Second, in Ephesians 5:18 the verb “be filled” is imperative, so this is not an optional experience – it is a command! We should never think of this as if some Christians are “better” or others are “worse” because of what they have or have not experienced with the Holy Spirit. We should simply often come to God and ask Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit.

Peter was often filled with the Holy Spirit. Is this also true of you?

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

Luther at Worms

The Right Thing in the Wrong Way

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:5-7)

Only a few times in my life have I stood before a judge or before angry people in authority. I have been in court for a few traffic tickets once for small-claims court, but nothing too stressful. It’s hard for me to imagine what Peter and John felt at this moment.

The air was filled with stress and tension when they stood before all kinds of officials and authorities: rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and many from the family of the high priest. Just two humble disciples of Jesus on accused and examined before all these important people!

Luther at Worms

In 1521, when Martin Luther defended his teachings at the Diet of Worms he stood before some intimidating people: Charles V, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. There were also 24 dukes; 30 archbishops, bishops, and abbots; 7 ambassadors and papal nuncios. In all there were 206 persons of rank sitting in judgment of Martin Luther. Imagine being judged by so many important people!

In Acts 4, the important men asked Peter and John: By what power or by what name have you done this?It was as if they said, “This miracle is clearly beyond your power – so who was really responsible for this?”

We can say that in itself, this was a perfectly legitimate question to ask. Together, these important men were the guardians of the Jewish faith. It was natural and appropriate for them to be concerned about what was taught on the temple mount. If someone was spreading dangerous lies or deception, it was their job to stop them.

The problem was not with their investigation, but with how they did it. They did it with intimidation and threats instead of an honest search for truth. No one is beyond accountability, and it was not wrong to call Peter and John to account for all the uproar on the temple mount. But how you call someone to account makes a big difference.

These important men also were wrong regarding what they did with the results of their investigation as the rest of Acts 4 will show.

Maybe this week you will be responsible for investigating something or calling someone to account. If so, the do it – but take care to do it in the right way, without dishonest intimidation tactics and lack of concern for the truth.

Maybe this week you will be investigated by someone else or called to account. If so, they keep your eyes on Jesus and answer truthfully and boldly – just like Peter and John did.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4

Unafraid, Unstoppable

Unafraid, Unstoppable

And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:3-4)

The religious leaders in Jerusalem were angry. Peter, John, and the other apostles and disciples wouldn’t stop telling the good news of Jesus the Messiah. They talked about who Jesus was and what He did for us, especially in taking our sins on the cross and in His resurrection.

Unafraid, Unstoppable

The apostles and disciples wouldn’t stop, so the religious leaders tried to make them stop. The temple police came together with the priests and the establishment leaders (the Sadducees) to suddenly arrest Peter and John.

After the arrest, they put them into custody until the next day. Normally, this would be an intimidating experience for Peter and John – or for anyone! They were suddenly arrested by angry officials. They were handled roughly (laid hands on them), and threatened (Acts 4:21 implies this). Finally, they were thrown into jail. The entire atmosphere was intended to make them afraid.

Acts 4:21 even mentions further threats. If there were further threats, there must have been earlier threats. They must have said things like, “If you keep preaching, we will arrest you and beat you.” “If you keep preaching, we will harm your family.” “Remember what we did to Jesus.”

By all outward measures, Christianity – the movement of the followers of Jesus – was very weak at this early point.

– They were few in numbers.
– They were inexperienced in leadership.
– They were commanded to not fight back; they were not militant.
– They were opposed by institutions that had existed for hundreds of years.

Look at all who were against these followers of Jesus in Acts 4. There were the priests and the Sadducees (Acts 4:1); there were rulers, elders, and scribes (Acts 4:5); there were others from the family of the high priest (Acts 4:6). There were also individuals such as the captain of the temple (Acts 4:1), Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander (mentioned in Acts 4:6).

It was a frightening, intimidating situation. Maybe Christianity would be crushed at the very beginning.

It didn’t work out that way. Instead, the number of the men came to be about five thousand: Despite the opposition coming against Christians and the gospel of Jesus they preached, the number of Christians kept increasing, growing to 5,000 from 3,000 at last count (Acts 2:41). Opposition did not slow the church down at all. The power plays, threats, and intimidation didn’t work. More people started following Jesus, not less.

When we feel that Christian freedoms are attacked, we should do every God-honoring thing we can to protect those freedoms. Yet, we should never do it from a spirit of fear. God’s church can and will flourish no matter what the gates of hell bring against us. You can be unafraid because you have an unstoppable Savior.

Click here to read David’s commentary on Acts 4