I love the idea of the book of Acts. As I work through the Bible this year, I’ve been excited to get to this book because, even though I’ve read every other book from beginning to end at one time or another, somehow I haven’t ever read this one all the way through. I hadn’t even realised this until recently.
Our denomination did not result from the reformation, as a protest against Catholic ecclesiastical control in the dark ages. Rather, we were the early Christians, forced “underground” to survive, and essentially resurfacing during the reformation years. As such we take the book of Acts as the start of our denomination and try to emulate what we learn here as much as our limited human understanding (and the infinite grace of God) will allow. So I’ve been looking forward to studying how the early Church got started, and how we should be continuing today.
I really love the feeling just before I start a new book in the Bible, when I’ve planned to start it the next day. I wake up with a sense of expectation, and it’s pretty much the only thing that gets me leaping out of bed, rather than groaning under the covers for five more minutes!
When I started reading Acts this week, what struck me had nothing to do with the Church and how it started, to my surprise. Rather, it dealt with an old story we all learnt in junior school. You remember the song:
Peter and John went to pray one day.
They met a poor, lame man on the way.
He held out his palm
And he asked for an alm,
And this is what Peter did say:
“Silver and gold have I none,” said he,
“But such as I have give I unto thee:
In the name of Jesus Christ
Of Nazareth – rise up and walk!”
I’ve read and heard and sung the story many times, but what really struck me this time was what happened next. The chief priests weren’t happy with what they saw and demanded an explanation. Peter gave brilliant apologetic:
Acts 4:8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
And then this great verse, which somehow I just never grasped before:
Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
How could I have missed that? Peter and John were ignorant and unlearned. They weren’t gifted or smart. They had no book knowledge and hadn’t been taught by traditional teachers. Yet despite this they spoke with wisdom, authority, power, and depth – they knew the scriptures and their meaning. Then the leaders realised that these rough, barely-literate men had been with Jesus. Their relationship with Him gave them everything else they needed:
- A purpose.
- A plan.
- A destiny.
- Courage and boldness.
Without Him they were common, unschooled fisherman with quick tempers and poor manners. With Him, they were part of the lineage of grace, fathers of the descendants of Abraham, the sons of faith, promised to Abraham in the desert all those centuries ago, the fulfilment of which promise all we of faith now are.
It’s just astonishing what He can do through such weak and unfit vessels if we just bring faith and obedient hearts.