Acts 4:25

ESV who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?
NIV You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ''Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
NASB who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY WERE THE NATIONS INSOLENT, AND THE PEOPLES PLOTTING IN VAIN?
CSB You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant:Why do the Gentiles rageand the peoples plot futile things?
NLT you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
KJV Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

What does Acts 4:25 mean?

Peter, John, and the other church leaders continue to pray after realizing the persecution Jesus promised (John 15:18–21) is starting in earnest. The quote recorded in Acts 4:25–26 comes from Psalm 2:1–2. It speaks of nations and people who rebel against God and "his Anointed." "Rage" refers to horses who buck and throw their heads before their rider tames them. The "Gentiles" are the Romans, while the "peoples" are the Jews.

Psalm 2:3 explains why the world rages and plots: they want to "burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." They don't want to submit to God's sovereignty. They don't realize that God makes His plans and sets the rulers in their places to enact His plan. Even when they think they're rebelling, they fulfill God's purposes.

The Jesus-follower's prayer goes on to give the examples of Pilate and Herod who, despite themselves, fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and God's plan of salvation when they crucified Jesus (Acts 4:27–28). The people praying now will experience God's omnipotent sovereignty as well. The persecution will heat up. After Stephen is killed, Saul will drive most of the Jesus-followers out of Jerusalem (Acts 7:54—8:3). But this is God's plan and God's timing. When the Jesus-followers flee, they will have been well-trained by the apostles (Acts 2:42). Philip, alone, will bring the gospel to Samaria and Judea (Acts 8:4–40). And a man named Ananias will travel about two hundred miles to Damascus so he is in place to help Saul the persecutor find Jesus and become one of the most successful missionaries in history (Acts 9).

The Sanhedrin, who both arranged for Jesus' crucifixion and spearheaded the persecution of the church, represents the "peoples." They have at least three problems with Peter and John's message. First, most of the chief priests and elders belong to the Jewish sect of the Sadducees who do not believe in life after death, let alone the possibility of resurrection; to claim Jesus, their enemy, has risen adds insult to injury (Acts 4:2). Second, although the people are willing to repent for the collective crime of the murder of Jesus, the members of the Sanhedrin know they are specifically guilty and do not want to admit it (Acts 5:28). Third, the message of repentance, forgiveness, and resurrection resonates with a great number of people, and the Sanhedrin feels their influence slipping away (Acts 5:17).
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