If Acts 2 shows us the favor of the early Christians in the beginning of the church, Acts 4 shows us the persecution of the early Christians in the beginning of the church. They once had favor will all the people (2:47). Now they’re thrown in jail (4:3). While we pray for the favor of God, let us not fail to create the biblical category of persecution as well.
Thinking about persecution, and the possibility that it may someday come for us, opens up to us at least two pathways that we must heed.
One path opens us up to a romantic view of persecution. When that day comes, the signs on the path say, then we will really be able to test our meddle. On that day we can take our stand for Christ. Along that path we can start wanting persecution to come so that we can prove who we are.
The other path leads us into the dangerous arena of wondering if Jesus is worth it anymore. The letter to the Hebrews was written to a group of Christians wondering this very thing. They had faced persecution, and were going to face more, and they wondered if going back to Judaism might be the wise thing to do. They were ready to abandon Christ because of their tough circumstances.
Both of these paths are dangerous. The first because it puts the glory on us, not on Christ. The second because it causes us to harden our hearts against Christ and deny him. But there is another path that leads us where we want to go. We can accept both the most wonderful of earthly things and the most difficult of earthly things from the hand of the Father when we begin to realize, as the apostles did, that though our circumstances may change, we have a changeless God. Whether we have favor with all men or are being thrown in jail, Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
Our circumstances don’t change the reality of who Jesus is and the efficacy of the gospel. Peter says in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Enduring persecution as a good soldier does not earn us the medal of honor that usurps the need for saving grace. Abandoning Christ as savior will only lead us into a more awful death than what men can do. Sticking near to Christ on the path he leads us is the only way to pursue the glory of God in all things.
There is salvation in no one else. That means the Christ that is with us in the good times is the Christ who stands beside us in the bad times. We can endure persecution, if it comes, as we look to the Savior who endured the ultimate persecution on the cross. We can do it without acclaim, suffering as he did, because he is the only name under heaven given men by which we must be saved. And there is power in the name of Jesus. Don’t run to other gods promising safety and security. While their fortresses may look mighty, the walls are made of paper. The only security we have in this life is the security we find in Christ alone. We are as secure as Christ is.
Let’s fight together to stay together on the only good path: the path Jesus paved for us by his death and resurrection. Following him, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. And in due time he will lead us, the Good Shepherd that he is, into green pastures and beside still waters. Salvation is by Christ alone. Let’s trust him in good times and in bad. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us (Rom 8:31)?