The church in Jerusalem had prayed to God about the troubles they were facing from the authorities. His answer to their prayer took a threefold form.
First, there was a physical expression of God’s approval. Most likely, the shaking of the building was a picture to them of God’s power, that he was able to deal with what seemed to be most secure structures. The Sanhedrin also seemed very secure in their decision-making activities, yet God was able to topple them with ease.
Shaking buildings of this kind can be a very unnerving experience to those that do not know God. Something similar happened when the Philippian jailer was converted. A great earthquake shook the prison, and shook the jailer, but it did not shake Paul and Silas because they knew who it was that was causing the shaking. Signs of the presence of God are means of great encouragement.
Second, all of them were filled with the Spirit. This description is often used to describe the relationship a believer has with the Holy Spirit. It basically means that the Spirit has communicated spiritual ability to a Christian and the expression occurs in a variety of contexts such as corporate worship (Eph. 5:18-20) and dedicated service (as in the qualifications for the men chosen in Acts 6 to deal with care of the widows). In any case, the apostles received more of the Spirit in response to prayer. The fact is, there is no limit to how much of the Holy Spirit we can have – after all, he is infinite. Further, there is not a limit to how much of the Holy Spirit that we need – we need his help constantly and comprehensively. There is not a moment in time and there is not an activity so small that we can assume we do not need his help to enable us to live for God.
Third, their specific request for further boldness was granted. Their petition pleased God and he equipped them for fulfilling their calling to spread abroad the fame of Jesus Christ. His strength was made perfect through their weakness and dependence on him. In the days ahead, Jesus would continue to be honoured. And one link in the chain was this occasion of earnest prayer.
So we can see that opposition was not a disaster. Instead we observe that it resulted in increased numbers, in believers who became even more dedicated, and in the defeat of the devil. Truly, the wisdom of our God is beyond human understanding in that he can use opposition as a means of progress for his kingdom.
Yet we must do more than admire what happened to others. It is important that we can ask one question about ourselves. This question is straightforward. Have we asked God for courage to be his witnesses in our situation? Have we asked it for ourselves as individuals and for us as a congregation? I suspect that the solution to many of our problems lies in making this request of God.