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God’s Word for You

Acts 4:23-26 Master, you are God

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 30, 2019

The Church Speaks God’s Word Boldly

23 After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said.

Who is meant by “their own people”? The text simply says, “they went to their own.” Many translators and interpreters supply “people” as I have here, but does Luke mean the Apostles, or the Church of believers as it was then, or something else? What we can say for certain is that the Sanhedrin (high priests and elders) were not part of “their own.”

24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master, you are God, the one who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 25 By the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David, your servant, you said:

Before we look at the content of the prayer, we notice the description of how the Apostles prayed. They “raised their voices to God with one mind.” This does not mean that they spontaneously recited the same words together, but that they prayed in the same way, with one or more of them taking the lead, or praying in turn (our church’s staff prays this way at the end of our weekly staff meetings, remembering various individual people or families in petitions, one after another).

“Master” here is Despota (Δέσποτα), but without the tyrannical connotation of our borrowed term “despot.” A δέσποτης was simply a way of saying “master,” whether the master of a household or God, the Master of all creation. No part of the creation is omitted from their address to God: He is the Maker of heaven, of the earth, and of the sea. Heaven in this case refers to all three heavens in Greek thought: the sky where the birds fly, the sky above where the planets are hove around their stars, and the sky-heaven where God has his throne and banquet outside the confines of the visible universe. He also made everything in those places. Their prayer is not to the Father alone, but also to Jesus Christ: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Jesus made it clear that he and the Father are one (John 10:30, 17:21), and here their prayer makes no distinction between the persons of the Trinity except to add that the church recognizes the Holy Spirit as well.

Along with 2 Peter 1:21, verse 25 is one of the clearest passages describing Divine inspiration in Scripture. It was David speaking, but it was also the Holy Spirit speaking through David. He used David’s mouth, that is, David’s pattern of speaking, his poetic gift, and his vocabulary, but the message was precisely what the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate.

  ‘Why do the nations rage
  and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth take their stand,
  and the rulers are gathered together
  against the Lord
  and against his Christ.’

Three parallel lines describe the betrayal and rejection of Jesus from the opening verses of Psalm 2. Note that Peter and John ascribe this Psalm specifically to David, not “in the style of David” or “dedicated to David,” since they say, “our father David, your servant.” When they say David, they mean King David himself, the second King of Israel, who reigned from 1010 to 970 BC. David is not mentioned in the Hebrew text of Psalm 2 as the author, but since this is from the Holy Spirit, we take it as factual that David did indeed write the Second Psalm.

In the first pair of lines, the (Gentile) nations and the (Jewish) peoples rage and plot in vain. Jesus’ trial was marked by the co-conspiracy of the Jews who brought the Romans along with them to dispose of the man they saw as a threat to their religion.

In the second pair of lines the leadership shows its hand against the Lord. The “kings of the earth” were epitomized by Herod the tetrarch. The ruler of the Gentiles was Pontius Pilate, but perhaps “rulers” would also include the high priests and the Pharisees.

In the third pair of lines, the Lord is equated with his Christ or Anointed One. The Psalm tells its readers that the Messiah was to be the Lord himself, an Anointed servant of God and at the same time the Son of God, who was rejected by most of mankind.

This is the basic story of Christianity, told and retold at its simplest: God took on human flesh to pay the atoning price for the sins of mankind. All of the ancient Hebrew sacrifices had pointed ahead to this moment, but when the Lord finally came to pay the price in person, his people for the most part did not recognize him. He did it while the temple was still standing; not the old tabernacle of Moses, nor Solomon’s great temple in all its splendor and magnificence, but Zerubbabel’s replacement temple following the destruction wreaked by the Babylonians.

The Psalm is not quoted in accusation, but in prayer. The Apostles and their fellow Christians were asking God himself for guidance. They had been commanded by the leadership of the Jews not to proclaim Jesus any longer. Now, what would they do? To violate a command like that would normally be a transgression against the Fourth Commandment, but they had already said it: “We must obey God rather than men.” They were asking God to approve of what they planned to do, which was to keep preaching Christ crucified.

He wants us to preach the same thing. You preach with your actions and reactions to people more often than pastors preach from pulpits. When people know you are a Christian, they pay attention to the way you speak, think, and act. Some people are looking for a way to accuse you of making a mistake, but don’t be afraid of that. It’s impossible not to make a mistake (Genesis 6:5). It’s the others who are paying attention that you need to remember. They want to know that your faith is genuine; that you really do trust in Jesus. Show it, and share it. And when they ask you about it, be honest and open about your Master.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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