24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL 25 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? 26 ‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ 27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
There are quite a few times throughout the scriptures where we read about the Holy Spirit doing something through God’s people. Sometimes, He even does things to others who are not His people. As I read this today, the main question in my head is, “why did God respond in this way?” I mean, I’m currently living in a culture where we all pray out loud together and not once did the room shake and we all ran out preaching the Word of God with boldness.
It was God’s Will.
This is a concept for us that is difficult to fully comprehend. Sometimes we use it to simply explain away bad things that happen. Sometimes we use it to justify not getting what we want. “God’s will” is not an excuse for our disappointments. As we read this passage we see a short recount of Jesus’ persecution and crucifixion. When Jesus foretold this to His disciples, Peter protested and Jesus called him Satan. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed how much He didn’t want to be tortured and crucified but put God’s will in front of His. Without seeing the big picture, we can’t fully understand or know God’s will. We don’t have the spiritual birds’ eye view of creation (and if we did, I think blood would shoot out of our ears and we wouldn’t even be able to explain what we witnessed). It wasn’t until all that passed and Jesus met with them again that something finally clicked and they understood why Jesus had to die. Then again, understanding the grand plan isn’t the point; accepting it is. Our connection with God and His will is directly related to how much we trust Him and that He has everything under control even when it seems like He doesn’t. You can tell how much one person trusts another when all external evidence points towards the untrustworthiness of someone but you trust them anyway and do what they ask without question. This is what we are taught in the Marine Corps as discipline and this is how we are called to trust God with our lives.
They were united in Spirit.
In the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages them to remain united in the Spirit of God and why:
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The word used in today’s passage from Acts that is translated into one accord is the Greek word homothumadon which signifies a oneness as in a band. It gives the imagery of many different instruments with different sounds and pitches but playing one melodious tune. They were all in sync with God’s tuning fork. This is the only way a beautiful concert is possible. Otherwise, we are all just making a bunch of noise.
Their goal was the glorification of God.
I’ve been hammering lately the theme that IT’S NOT ABOUT US. This is meant to remind us that IT’S ABOUT HIM! The people speaking in this moment called themselves God’s bondservants. Being a country plagued by a recent past of slavery and an ongoing undertone of racism against the same folks whose ancestors where slaves, we tend to avoid this kind of wording. But I invite you to look past your social programming and understand exactly what it is they are saying. First of all, we must recognize that it is voluntary. We’ve seen many times throughout scripture that while God gives us the capacity to believe, it is us who must choose to follow through with that belief. Secondly, a bondservant is one who absolutely and completely recognizes and accepts their master’s rule over them. No word is higher than their master’s. No command is more important than their master’s. They were fully and wholeheartedly given over to Christ as their master and this is what happened.
It is too easy for us to read the events in the book of Acts and dismiss them as things that have happened back then but not possible now. Whatever our excuse is for believing this, know that it is just that: an excuse. Our explanations are weak and reveal either our lack of faith in God…or our lack of faith in God. This is a direct story of what happens when we are in sync with God, when we are united in His spirit, and when we believe Him for what He says.
What’s your excuse?