The Community’s Prayer in Response To The Threats Of The Sanhedrin; The Lord’s Response To Their Prayer; The Important Attributes Of This Greatest Of Communities
Immanuel has come! The Messiah, Rabbi Yeshua, the Resurrected and Victorious Son of God came from Heaven, which is a very real place, into this world, and after successfully and fully accomplishing His great mission of salvation and teaching, had then returned to Heaven, to the place of greatest honor and authority. From there the Father and the Son poured out the Spirit that They share on Yeshua’s disciples. They were Messiah’s representatives to the lost and dying world of human beings on planet Earth. Their purpose was to be a loving and worshiping and witnessing fellowship that would continue the Messiah’s great mission to bring the Good News of salvation to the world.
Messiah’s Holy Community had been growing, and that was a great thing! Starting in Jerusalem with 120, on Shavuot they had grown to 3,000. With the miracle that took place at the Yaffa gate, the community had grown to 5,000.
Well, evil does not like good. Error does not like truth. The non-Messianic leaders didn’t like what was happening, and Peter and John had been arrested and tried before Israel’s Senate, the Sanhedrin. After hearing from Peter and John, the political and religious leaders of the Chosen People made their decision: Yeshua would not be acknowledged as the Messiah. Yeshua’s resurrection would not be acknowledged. Messiah’s followers would be rejected by the leaders and the majority of the people who trusted the leaders. The followers of Yeshua would be threatened with punishments and ostracism to try and intimidate them into silence or compliance.
The decision of the Council was an unjust ruling. It was against the will of God. It contradicted His plan for the salvation of the world. The decision of the Sanhedrin was wrong and couldn’t be obeyed, and Yeshua’s two great representatives knew it. They understood that the laws of God are higher than the laws of man; the laws of God are higher than the laws of the State. It is the duty of those who know the Lord to honor the laws of God above the laws of man or the State. Civil disobedience was called for.
When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. Peter and John were courageous and fearless; but they had seen His miracles. They themselves had done miracles. They had seen the Rise Lord. Not everyone else had experienced these great things. Would the rest of the community be as bold and as resolute? Or, would they be intimated by the threats and yield to the pressure and compromise, become silent, or even begin to deny the Messiah? Or, would they be willing to disobey the authorities and engage in civil disobedience in order to fulfill their Messianic mission to the world – even if it meant persecution and rejection by the majority of Israel and its leaders? The existence of Messiah’s Saving Community, and its mission to bring the message of salvation to the world, were at stake. The salvation of the world was at stake!
The Sanhedrin was powerful, and could cause the sons and daughters of God great harm. But, their Friend and Ally was more powerful, and more worthy to fear! They would need His help in order not to be intimidated and stay true to their calling and mission. So, they prayed, one of the great prayers of the Bible. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord (this prayer was a congregational prayer. It was the community uniting to pray. And there is power in the prayers of a united and faithful community!) and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the Heaven and the Earth and the sea, and all that is in them. This introductory statement about the great power and authority of the Creator of all things is found in Exodus 20 and Nehemiah 9 and Psalm 146: This community knew the Bible. They studied it and thought about it. They could quote parts of it from memory. They knew that God the Father made the entire universe. He has the power to control them and everything in the universe. Everything in the universe is subject to His will and power.
The Father is not only the Almighty Creator God, but He is not subject to time. He is eternal. He can see the future. He knows the end from the beginning. And He is very wise. And, he has a great plan that involves His Son – the Messiah. Who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said: Even though David had spoken this Messianic prediction, the real source of this prophetic truth was the Holy Spirit. He is the Source of the inspiration of the prophets, and the Author of all of the Bible.
This prayer tells us that God the Father knew that when He sent the Messiah, Yeshua would not be accepted by the leaders of humanity. God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King and Savior would be opposed by those in power. O Lord, it is You who made the Heaven and the Earth and the sea, and all that is in them. Who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the Earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah’. Even though God the Father is the eternal and powerful Creator of all things, and sent the Messiah, and everything that exists should obey God the Father, just that kind of rebellion against God the Father and God the Son predicted in Psalm 2 what was happening!
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Yeshua, whom You anointed: Yeshua is holy, sinless, perfect, set apart to accomplish God’s special plans and purposes. He always faithfully serves God, and always does what His Father wants done. Yeshua was anointed by God, and empowered by the Spirit of God to be the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King of Israel and of the rest of humanity. But, even though Yeshua was God’s holy and anointed servant, the leaders of Israel and the mighty Roman empire had been opposing the Messiah – just as King David had predicted. For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Yeshua, whom You anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Both Jews and Gentiles were guilty of rejecting the Messiah and putting the Prince of Life to death. And, both Jewish and Gentile leaders were still opposing the Messiah by opposing His Community, which is His Body on Earth, His servants and representatives to a God-alienated, fallen and dying and needy world.
But, this opposition didn’t take the All-Knowing and Infinitely Wise God by surprise! The opposition of these human leaders had been known to Him when David wrote the Second Psalm, and before! In fact, the opposition of the Jewish and Gentile leaders, first directed against Yeshua, and now against His Special Community, was part of the plan and activity of wise God! That means that God knows about and uses human opposition. Human opposition is part of God’s plan. It is to be expected. We must accept that, and endure the opposition, and not be intimidated by it. Like the Son of God, we are not to be deterred by opposition, or yield to it, or compromise because of it.
What Messiah’s Holy Community needed was not “no opposition” – asking the Lord to remove all opposition – what they needed was boldness to speak the truth in spite of the opposition! They needed boldness to speak true and faithful words that were backed up by more of the Lord’s miraculous power, which would demonstrate that the God of Israel was on their side, and that Rabbi Yeshua was indeed alive and the Messiah! And they is what they prayed for. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Yeshua”.
The community had united and prayed and had withstood this test. The Almighty was pleased with this great and wise and courageous prayer, and He let them know it in an immediate and dramatic way! And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken (they had asked for supernatural power and they were already getting it!).
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that they were speaking in tongues. It means that they were really close to God, and God was really close to them. This filling of the Spirit – and there can be many fillings in a person’s life, since it is very easy to become unfilled, and we need to get filled again, and again and again – resulted in courage and a passion to be engaged in bold evangelism. And began to speak the word of God with boldness.
And, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be holy, and close to God, and He will be close to us, and we will have a passion to be engaged in bold evangelism, speaking about Yeshua and Messianic salvation to a lost and dying world. That is so much to be what we are to be about as individual Christians and Messianic Jews, and together as a community. If we don’t have a passion for evangelism, we cannot be filled with the Spirit. So I ask you, honestly examine yourself. Do you have a desire, a passion, to tell others the Good News that alone can reconcile them to God? Are you filled with the Spirit? If not, why not?
That first community of Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, of all New Covenant communities since that time, was closest to the Three-In-One God. Those Messianic Jews were closest to the truth. They had the greatest spiritual understanding. They had the most spiritual power. They were a loving and supportive, worshiping and witnessing community. From that greatest of communities, the message of salvation, the Good News about the Messiah, would go to the rest of Israel and the other nations of the world! That community is our role model. We want to be like them. Luke, like he did in Acts 2, gives us a description of what that model New Covenant community was like. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; They were deeply and powerfully united by believing the same truths, the same core doctrines of the Faith; they were united by the same initiation ceremony of baptism; they were unified by the Father and the Son; they were joined together by the same Holy Spirit filling them. They were united by their common hope of eternal life and receiving a great and shared inheritance.
It was a generous, caring, loving and supportive community. They genuinely cared for each other and showed it where it counts – with their finances. And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them… And abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the emissaries’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Their attitude toward one another was: Your house is my house. My resources are your resources. They functioned more like one big extended family, rather than an organization or institution.
It was a community that was blessed with great leaders – Yeshua’s hand-picked, well-taught, courageous, Spirit-filled powerful representatives. And with great power the emissaries were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua. We need great leaders! We need to be praying for our leaders to be great leaders! We need to be praying for the Lord to raise up great leaders. We want to encourage and support those who have the potential to be great leaders.
It was a witnessing community. And with great power the emissaries were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua. The apostles were testifying, functioning as reliable eyewitnesses and truth-tellers to the realities that they knew were true – that Rabbi Yeshua had died, but He had been raised from the dead! He was alive! That means that He is Immanuel, and the King Messiah and Lord and Savior! That means that eternal life is possible, and we can overcome our greatest enemies – Satan, sin and death – if we believe and follow the Resurrected Rabbi!
It was a powerful community. And with great power the emissaries were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua. Again, miracles were not an everyday occurrence in biblical days. They were rare. There were only several times that they happened with frequency, and there were only a few men that God used to do the supernatural. The miracles that the emissaries were doing showed to anyone with a mind that was open to the truth that they were close to God, and God was close to them, and approved of them and their message about Yeshua – and that Yeshua was exactly who the apostles were saying He was – Israel’s true Messiah who had overcome sin and death!
They were a spiritually and materially blessed community. All of their needs – spiritual and material, were being taken care of by God and by them caring for each other. And abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the emissaries’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
Barnabas was like that – generous, caring, loving, supportive of those in need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the emissaries (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the emissaries’ feet. And almost of the rest of them were genuine and caring too – but not everyone. There were some MJINOs – Messianic Jews In Name Only – tares among the wheat. That’s dangerous to a community based on faith and righteousness and integrity. A few posers among the faithful can do a lot of damage. Their hypocrisy can discourage the faith and endurance of others. The tares would needed to be weeded out to maintain the holiness and power and integrity of this most special fellowship. The community would not only have to undergo persecution from without, but it would have to be judged from within. And, that was about to happen.
This was a community that practiced congregational discipline. A lot of churches and Messianic Synagogues today are reluctant to deal with issues connected to the discipline of those who are part of the community. But this was a congregation that had high moral and religious and ethical standards, and to protect this precious congregation, the Lord Himself imposed very serious penalties for violating those standards. But for that, you can read Acts 5 and come back in a couple of weeks!