And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou [art] God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Note 1 at Ac 4:24: It is very important to take special notice of the contents of this prayer. This is the first persecution (or censorship) that the church ever experienced and their first prayer concerning persecution. What did they pray for?
They did not pray for the persecution to stop (see note 7 at Mt 5:10). They didn't pray for change in the religious system or government so that they could preach the Word without fear of persecution. Rather they prayed for boldness, so they could continue preaching the Word regardless of what anyone else did.
Satan's ultimate purpose in persecution is to stop the spread of God's Word (see note 5 at Mr 4:16). Even if we don't stop speaking the Word, if we divert the bulk of our energies into social or political reform, then persecution has had a negative impact.
One might reason, "Through my efforts, even though I am not directly ministering the Word, I am making it easier for others to minister the Word." That is not the reasoning that the first-century church used in this prayer. They had a totally hostile, pagan government opposing them, yet because they were not sidetracked from their primary purpose, the message of the Gospel multiplied faster and farther in that situation than during any other period in history.
We cannot win the race if we are in the grandstands arguing with the spectators. The Lord has called every believer to spread the good news of Jesus' love. If believers have also been called to work in government, then let them use that as an opportunity to promote godly legislation and glorify the Lord, just the same as the Lord would expect craftsmen to use their trade to advance the Gospel.
However, all believers must remember that the Lord's commission is to change hearts with the Gospel, not change governments. If the church was to keep that as its primary directive, then as people change, governments and societies would change as a byproduct. Once the emphasis shifts from the Gospel changing people to laws restraining people, then it is only a matter of time until darkness prevails. A room cannot be rid of darkness by removing the dark; the light must be turned on.
This is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics or government. All believers have dual citizenship: one on earth and one in heaven. If believers live in a country that grants its people the freedom to vote, hold office, and participate, then they should take advantage of it. But priorities must be maintained.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Esther all held high positions in non-religious governments, but their major impact on those governments was their godly lives, not their legislative initiatives. As their personal lives changed rulers, then rulers changed governments.
|Previous Verse||Next Verse|