Acts 4:1-4 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
For those of us who are old enough to remember a time when the Church and its message of hope and salvation had some kudos and traction in our society and culture, it is good to receive a gentle reminder from God’s eternal Word that the way of peace and goodwill is not the way that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to build his Church! He told his disciples at the very beginning: “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”
And the Book of Acts shows us how this worked itself out in the earliest days of the Church, when “the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached a powerful, hard-hitting sermon in the midst of ‘enemy territory’, “about three thousand were added to their number that day”. And now, just a short time later, “the number of men grew to about five thousand”.
Whereas these figures might seem amazing to us here in Australia today, it is the sort of thing that is happening in the parts of the world where there is severe persecution, and where it is extremely costly to become a Christian. Luke notes that when the time came for Jesus to face the Cross, he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem”, and on the way he met at least three men, each of whom expressed a desire to ‘follow’ him as long as it could be on their terms, not his (Luke 9:51-60)!
For many years, I have been praying for a spiritual revival throughout our land, but I am not sure that I had really considered what would be the consequences of my prayers being answered. It seems from Church history that ‘the Lord adding to our number daily those who are being saved’ and being ‘hated’ and ‘excluded’, ‘insulted’ and ‘rejected as evil’ is a package deal. Perhaps the very first thing the Holy Sprit will do if he is going to answer my prayers is to change my mindset, so that I stop trying to adapt the Gospel message to the current ‘acceptable’ cultural norms, and to seek to be reprogrammed in my hard-wiring to ‘rejoice’ and ‘leap for joy’ when the inevitable opposition comes! Only the Holy Spirit could do this.
– Bruce Christian