By Philip Bray
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord you are God, who has made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. Who by the mouth of your servant David has said…. - Acts 4:24-25
What a God we serve! God, who by the Word made the heavens and the earth, also humbles Himself to speak through men. Our text shows that, when David through the Holy Spirit wrote the Second Psalm, it was in fact God Himself speaking through him:
Who by the mouth of your servant David has said...
This is also the grave responsibility of preachers.This extract from Acts chapter 4 follows the Lord's healing of the lame man through Peter and John. The man had been lame for over 40 years, yet in a moment, was healed by the word of God. This miracle led to an opening to preach the gospel, and resulted in the salvation of 5000 men (Acts 4:4). However, it was also met with great opposition from the religious leaders who were,
disturbed that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:2-3).
A great move of God resulted in opposition. Rather similar to that which Paul commented on:
a great door for effective service is opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:9).
The true work of God is always opposed, but it is in His foreknowledge and wisdom, that God works in the midst of the opposition. We will pause to consider some elements of the Word of God.God through His Word made the heavens and the earth; He spoke, and each part of Creation came into being. As Psalm 29:3- 4 describes:
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders: the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
Majestic above all in authority: when God speaks He is to be obeyed. The Medes and Persians who ruled at the time of Daniel are an illustration of this authority:
the law of the Medes and Persians is that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed (Dan 6:15).
This illustrates something of what it means for God's voice to be majestic. It carries authority like nothing else.I am not suggesting that this gives authority to the church; that we may declare and command things to happen. This could not be further from what I am suggesting. David wrote what God commanded him to say; David did not use the Word of God to command what he wanted.Just as David spoke the words of God, so those who speak within the church, which I take primarily to refer to preaching, are to speak the words of God:
If any man speak let him speak the utterances of God….that God in all things may be glorified(1 Peter 4:11).
When a man stands to preach he is to speak the words of God. Can we do this lightly or carelessly considering how majestic the Word of God is? Similarly can we carelessly distort the Word of God?Peter wrote of Paul's letters:
As also in all of the epistles, speaking in them of these things in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable distort, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
Note that despite all the false teaching, all the distortion and apparent destruction of the Word of God, it cannot be changed. In Britain there was a period of great darkness under Roman Catholic rulers when the Word of God was heard in Latin, and open only to priests, most of whom preached another gospel. However, when the blaze of light came with the Reformers, it was the same “pure milk of the word” which was again preached. It is the Word of the King, established in the heavens. The only destruction which comes about is the destruction of those who distort the Word of God. We all need grace to preach correctly. We need to guard our hearts from simply desiring to preach! Are we wishing our voice to be heard or the Lord's?
My brethren let not many become teachers knowing we shall receive a stricter judgement(James 3:1).
There is power in preaching the Word of God and this should greatly encourage us in the task:
... it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).
In the same way that the Word of God instantly healed the man who had been lame for 40 years, so when a person hears and believes the preaching of the Gospel, a mighty miracle occurs instantly in his/her heart, by the Word of God. The Word which created all things also brings about the new creation. Then, just as the Lord rested on the seventh day and took pleasure in the things which He had made by His Son, so He rejoices all the more in a sinner who is converted and is translated into the image of His Son. And this miracle is freely offered to all.
the same Lord over all is rich to all that call upon Him. For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12-13).
There are many examples of this in Scripture. I will briefly look at two:First is the well known example of the thief on the cross:
Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42).
He called upon the name of the Lord; he could do nothing else; guilty, convicted and in the process of being executed! Could there be a more evident occasion when God would choose not to forgive someone? However, we know from Scripture that although he died in a most tortuous fashion, he died with a heart spotlessly pure, at peace with God and with the inner witness of the Holy Spirit testifying that he was a child of God, shortly to be received into glory. He died in Christ, with Christ. I wonder if this is actually one of the most triumphant deaths of human history. As the hymn writer says “Still He loves to save the sinful, heal the sick and lame.”Another example of this is that of Paul:
a blasphemer, a persecutor and an aggressor. (1 Timothy 1:13).
Christ Himself said,
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4).
Saul had been persecuting Christ Himself and when he was met by Christ he was enroute to hunt down more Christians. Yet, he is told by Ananias,
..why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
Saul, call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved despite what you have been. He did and was saved. He is now given by the Scripture as an example. If God will save such as he, will not He be willing to save all others? If God would forgive Saul when he called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, might not He also save me if I call on Him? We are actually no different to Paul!Saul, renamed Paul, says of us that we once
walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all lived in times past…and were by nature the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:2-3).
Paul does not distinguish between himself and us. We all once followed the course of this world which is in rebellion against God. We all served not God, but the devil himself, the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). We were all once enemies of God not only in conduct, but also in nature. It was our very substance; everything about us was only contrary to God, and in service to the wicked one. However,
the same Lord over all is abounding in riches to all that call upon Him. For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12-13).
This is the Word of God which we preach—the Word which is so full of majestic authority, the Word by which God made the world, and by which He saves every person who calls upon Christ. When we speak we are to speak nothing less than the Holy Spirit inspired words of God. Who is equal to such a task?Yet we have seen that such preaching is given to men. May God once again send forth preachers into our lands that many may call upon the name of the Lord.Finally, may we not be surprised that at such a time there will be great opposition. Rather than being discouraged, may we be encouraged that
they also persecuted the prophets (Matthew 5:12).
And that we were also all once on the other side!about the author
Philip Bray is a major in the British Army. He was converted in his year off in 1995 before attending university. Since then he has served at Stroud Green Christian Assembly, most recently as an elder, and is involved in the work of Christian Alliance Ministries. As an infantry officer in the British Army he has completed 10 years' service which included tours in Northern Ireland, and in Afghanistan. He enjoys swimming in cold water.