Sermon Series- The Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
From Acts 4:23-31
Read Part 1 of this series.
The Church’s first response to the miraculous return of Peter and John is to lift up their voices in prayer to God. It is as it should be. Our first response to all unlooked-for blessings from God should be to rejoice before Him. In their prayer here, the ancient Church does something that the modern Church would do well to imitate. They begin their prayer by making clear assertions about God. We would call this praise, as praise is making declarations of truth about God while in God’s Presence. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to start with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” The pattern that Christ gives us is to direct our praise to God and remind ourselves of who He is as our first act of prayer. The early Church in this passage is following that pattern. They direct their prayer to the One True God, calling Him “Sovereign Lord,” and then accurately state Who their God truly is. He is the God “who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.”
We should immediately hear echoes of the Old Testament in both these phrases. In Deuteronomy 10:17, God describes Himself as the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” God is “Sovereign Lord,” or as Paul will refer to Him in 1 Timothy 6:15, He is “King of kings.” He is King of the gods. That is because the gods of the nations are not gods but created beings. The gods of the nations are, in fact, demons. “What do I imply then?” Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, “That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. We must remember that God is not a man nor a created spirit. He is “Sovereign Lord,” the only uncreated one. No other Being has the power to call into being something from nothing. Yet that is what our God did. He alone is worthy of our worship. No other god has a claim to our worship because truly “there is no other god besides Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:35). He is “Sovereign Lord” not just of us but of all men and all spirits, whether they are in heaven, on earth, or under it. Whether they acknowledge Him or not. He is the God of gods, “Sovereign Lord.”
He is the God “who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” This is, of course, praise found on the lips of many of God’s Old Testament saints in various though slightly different forms. However, Psalm 145:6 is probably the verse the Church is quoting as they praise the heavenly Father in prayer for Peter and John’s deliverance. It says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;” (Psalm 145:5-6)
We often start our prayers unconsciously with praise related to our needs. For instance, if we need mercy, we pray to the “God of all mercy” or our “merciful Father.” It takes a bit of familiarity with God and the Scriptures, but over time it is natural for us to call upon God by approaching Him according to Who He is and praising Him by appealing to the characteristics in His nature about which we are in need. And they needed to be reminded that their God is the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.”
Look for What & How To Pray In The Face Of Fear Part 3 tomorrow!