This section of Acts seems to be the Holy Spirit’s initial fight. When a boxer goes professional they are measured by their first few fights. In Acts 4-6 The Spirit is a knockout!
From the very beginning of chapter 4 the Spirit humbles even Peter, who is on its side. From the very coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 until now in chapter 4 Peter has been talking. The Spirit seems to have had enough with Peter’s talking so he is sent to jail along with his corner, John. The Spirit humbles Peter first. It wants the readers to see that this match is about the Spirit, not about its workers.
Immediately after this is a series of interactions where we see that anyone opposed to the Holy Spirit’s work will get knocked aside as well. Imprisonment gets knocked out when the rulers and elders of the Sanhedrin have to release Peter and John. They don’t release them because of what the men do though, but because, “they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men” and were “astonished.” (Acts 4:13) It wasn’t Peter and John that won the fight against prison, it was the Spirit doing work through them.
After Peter and John leave prison they go to pray with the other apostles where the Holy Spirit knocks out the ground. As the apostles are worshipping the very way the Spirit told them, “The place where they were meeting was shaken.” (4:31) Not even the ground is stable against the mighty Spirit.
The apostles continue to do what the Spirit ordains and contain to see blessings as they share their possessions. In the middle of all this sharing another competitor emerges. Two of the apostles decide to keep some of their wealth to themselves rather than sharing EVERYTHING. The Spirit literally knocks these two out for good (5:5 & 10). It will not stand for people taking credit for its achievements.
The apostles are apparently unphased by the Spirits tyranny because the go on to healings and wonders (5:12-16). Yet shortly after another adversary emerges when the apostles are persecuted again. The Sadducees got jealous of the fame that the apostles were receiving because of how miraculous the Spirit was working through them. The Sadducees threw them into jail. Just like the last time, the Spirit released the apostles from jail to prove that no enemy of the Spirit will win.
Time after time in this section enemies emerge and the Spirit destroys them. These aren’t even fair fights. It is interesting to see that the enemies of the Spirit are not always the ones that we would most expect. We’d expect the Sadducees and Pharisees to try and maintain order and righteousness within their systems when the apostles are demonstrating a new order. We don’t expect that even disobedient apostles would be terminated. We don’t expect that Pharisees would be converted to work for the Spirit. The Spirit sorts out who is appropriately working for it, and who is against it.
We often think that anything that a church does is with good intentions and is ordained by God. That isn’t always true. I’m sure you’ve heard about preachers and programs that seem utterly despicable. Wars have been fought ‘in the name of God’. Genocides have been ‘inspired by the Spirit’. Children have been bullied because they are an ‘abomination’. These are movements that have come from people that are seemingly in God’s corner. Most of them also have had some great outreach programs and discipleship models. Yet, some of their actions are outright opposing the Spirit’s gospel of grace.
I’ve been a part of several programs that have begun with the best intentions, but were squashed because the Holy Spirit didn’t inspire them. Church staff will often work their butts off to create a ministry or program or mission trip and then sit down the day of and ask the Spirit for guidance and ask God for success. We need to START with prayer and prophecy. If we’re ending with it we’re just another underdog next to an unbeatable adversary.
Its important we constantly go back to scripture, prayer, and God’s Truth to determine if our actions are in line with the Spirit.
Are you doing those things the Spirit ordains in Acts 2:42-47?
Is your church devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer?
Are you sharing with your neighbors and those in need?
Do you have a Spiritual review and accountability in place to help you discern if your actions are against God’s best intentions?
Cause if not, you might get knocked out…
When you act for the Spirit, the very ground will shake. Oppression will move. Nothing can imprison you. But, trust Ananias and Sapphira, don’t withhold anything when you say you’re working for God’s Spirit. It’s by God’s grace that we are aware of Him. Lets start with our awareness of God and inspiration of the Spirit. THEN we can boldly on the Holy Spirit’s behalf.