Summary: This sermon "plows close to the corn" on all of us and deeply questions whether we are simply religious or are true believers.

Religious or Believer?

Acts 4:1-22

February 24, 2002


A. Some of you may have gotten this from Suzi Moore this week…

We always hear "the rules" from the feminine side.

Now you get to hear the guys’ point of view.

These are our rules!

Please note...these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down.

1. Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not quests to see if we can find the perfect present yet again!

1. Sometimes, we are not thinking about you. Live with it.

1. Do not ask us what we are thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as navel lint, the shotgun formation, and NASCAR.

1. Sunday = sports. It’s like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport, and no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work. Strong hints do not work. Obvious hints do not work. Just say it!

1. We don’t remember dates. Mark birthdays and anniversaries on a calendar. Remind us frequently beforehand.

1. Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we’d be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won’t dress like the Victoria’s Secret girls, don’t expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. Let us ogle. We are going to look anyway; it’s genetic.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done - not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions, and neither do we.

1. The relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out. Get over it. And quit whining to your girlfriends.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing", we will act like nothing’s wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

B. That’s what the world would be like if men really had their way!

1. Today in our text, we come to a particularly odious group of men who were called the Sanhedrin.

2. They had their rules and ways of doing things.

3. They were the religious leaders of the day.

4. And they had also been given judicial powers through the Roman government.

5. They had the political authority to enforce their rules on people with the full force of governmental punishment behind them.

6. Religious leaders with the authority of police and judges—what a frightening combination!

7. Let’s see what we can learn from Acts 4…

I. God is an offense to the religious.

Acts 4:1-7, The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. 5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

A. These religious leaders were a little ticked off.

1. They had instigated Jesus being put to death.

2. They thought they had this stuff swept under the rug.

3. But in doing so, they had unknowingly created more problems for themselves and this frustrated them even more.

B. So what was the problem these religious leaders had created for themselves when they had Jesus crucified?

1. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

2. The Sadducees were disturbed and offended that Peter and John were preaching the resurrection of the dead.

3. That’s an easy way to remember the Sadducees: they were sad-you-see because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or eternal life.

4. So the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into here is that now that Jesus was crucified, Jesus’ disciples were preaching to people that Jesus had risen from the dead.

5. And not only were they preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead, they were preaching that Jesus would raise everyone who believed in Him from the dead.

6. Peter and John had just healed this unlovely crippled beggar.

7. Then Peter preaches a sermon and tells the people that Jesus really was the promised Messiah (which was in contradiction to what the Sadducees had taught them).

8. AND, Peter preaches in this sermon that God raised Jesus from the dead (which was also in contradiction to what the Sadducees had taught them).

9. AND, Peter had said that Jesus was the one who had healed this unlovely crippled beggar (which according to the Sadducees is impossible because Jesus is dead.)

C. So can you put yourself in the shoes of the Sadducees and see why they were offended?

1. They had something good going on.

2. They had positions of authority with the Roman government.

3. They had people coming to them to learn about God.

4. They had their theology all laid out: be good people, do what we tell you to do, believe what we tell you to believe, give us your money, tell us how wonderful we are, and God will bless you.

5. But here come these trouble makers again.

6. They thought that by taking out their leader, they would silence His no-account disciples.

7. But here they are right here in the temple, stirring up trouble again.

8. "They’re teaching things that just aren’t right!"

9. "They don’t understand the Scriptures because we’ve already explained to them over and over and over again that Jesus really isn’t the Messiah."

10. "We’ve explained to them over and over and over again that the resurrection of the dead is not for today."

11. We know the Scriptures say that Elisha raised a boy from the dead, but that was strictly limited to the prophets of old.

12. "We know that the Scriptures say that when a dead body was accidentally dropped into Elisha’s grave that the body came back to life, but that was just because of the power that was still in the prophet’s body."

13. "We know that Ezekiel prophesied over a valley of dead bones and they got up and walked around and came to life, but that was before the Scriptures were finished."

14. "Yes, there were some isolated instances of miraculous resurrections of the dead, but you have to understand that there are simple explanations for those isolated instances and that doesn’t happen anymore."

D. Do you see what the problem is here?

1. The problem is when you have a set of beliefs or doctrines or theology that gets in the way of your seeing and believing God you are just religious (like the Sadducees).

2. You see the Sadducees could believe and teach whatever they wanted to.

3. They could sound as convincing and as believable as they could possibly be and probably got lots of people to believe them.

4. But no matter who they were, no matter what positions they held in the church, no matter what position they held with the government—THEY WERE WRONG!

5. Jesus really is the Son of God!

6. Jesus really did raise from the dead!

7. Jesus really did heal the crippled beggar!

8. And no matter who these people thought they were, and no matter how frustrated they got, God was still God; Jesus was still Jesus; the HS was still the HS; and the Sadducees were just RELIGIOUS!

9. They didn’t know God at all!

10. They didn’t believe God at all!

11. They were leaders in the church and they didn’t really even believe in God.

12. Do you see the difference between Peter and John and the disciples and the Sadducees?

13. The believers believed, while the Sadducees were sad!

14. Let’s read more of the story.

II. God is an encouragement to the believers.

Acts 4:8-13, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is "’the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

A. Look back at those first words in verse 8.

1. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit

2. Why are those words there?

3. I thought Peter was filled with the HS on the Day of Pentecost in chapter 2.

4. Why does it say now in chapter four that Peter was filled with the HS?

5. Is it just reminding us that Peter had been filled on the Day of Pentecost?

6. I think that would be silly.

7. If that were true, why didn’t it say, "Then Peter, a believer in Christ…"

8. I believe that every word in Scripture is there for a purpose and it would make absolutely no sense for these words to simply be reminding us of the obvious.

9. Therefore I believe they are there to tell us that the HS came upon Peter AGAIN!

10. Not that the Spirit had actually left Peter since the Day of Pentecost, but the HS came on Peter in a fresh way; in a powerful way; in a way that was necessary for the occasion.

11. Peter was in trouble and he needed the help of the HS here in a powerful way.

12. In fact Jesus promised the disciples that He would be there for them in these exact instances.

13. Luke 21:12-15, "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

14. And Jesus had told them the way He would speak to them would be through His HS.

15. John 14:26, But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

16. Verse three tells us that these religious leaders with legal authority had arrested Peter and John and threw them in jail for one night.

17. Now they have been brought before the Sanhedrin and asked by what power or name they had done this.

18. Peter, no doubt, remembers what this group was able to do to Jesus.

19. So knowing what Jesus had promised the disciples, it is perfectly understandable why the Scripture says in verse 8, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit

B. Peter certainly spoke with boldness when the HS came upon him.

1. Do you recall that just a few months before on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

2. Now, being asked by what power and by whose name he’d healed this man, Peter is a totally different person.

3. Why? Because he was filled with the HS.

4. Peter now has boldness that even the religious people could see.

5. 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished…

6. That’s what the HS will do for you and I as well!

7. I need that boldness and courage to speak!

8. I need to continually be re-filled with the HS!

9. I can’t do this on my own; how ‘bout you?!

III. God is indisputable.

Acts 4:14, But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

A. The Sadducees were at a loss for words.

1. They were deeply offended by the believers who were ruining their racket.

2. The believers were messing up the church.

3. The believers in Christ were teaching things that weren’t Scripturally accurate.

4. But v. 13 tells us they knew Jesus had made something powerful out of them.

5. And then they look over to the side of the room and there is the formerly crippled beggar standing there. What are they going to say?

6. Are they going to say, "You didn’t really heal him. We know that he has been crippled since birth, but we don’t believe he’s really healed."?

7. "We can see this man standing here, but we don’t really believe he’s healed."?

8. Or are they going to say, "No, we’re not calling you into account for healing this man. We just want to know how you did it. We don’t believe that Jesus did it, we think you two are some sort of gods yourselves."?

9. What could they say?

10. There was nothing they could say—the evidence was indisputable!

11. The formerly crippled man was standing right there!

B. That’s the way it is with God!

1. When God chooses, there is nothing anyone can say!

2. When God does something, there’s no way people can say that He didn’t do it!

3. God is indisputable!

4. On that day, God chose to make it so that it silenced the religious.

5. God doesn’t always chose to silence the critics immediately like that.

6. But someday, whether God had silenced those religious people that day or not—He would have silenced them someday!

C. Religious people today question when God does miraculous things or not just like the Sadducees did then.

1. The Bible predicted that it would happen…2 Timothy 3:1-5, But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

2. The Bible says that in the last days there will be people who hold to a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof!

3. And the Scripture tells us to have nothing to do with that kind of religious person.

4. Because God is indisputable to those who choose to believe and God will be indisputable to everyone One Day!

IV. God is a threat to the religious.

Acts 4:15-18, So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

A. So what did the religious do with the believers? They threatened them.

1. We can only imagine what those threats included.

2. We can imagine that they were reminded about what they did to Jesus and what they could do to them.

3. We don’t know for sure what they threatened the believers with, but we do know that they were told not to speak or teach any more about Jesus.

4. We don’t know for sure what the "or else" part was, but they were told not to speak or teach any more about Jesus.

5. They had their little pow wow back in their judicial chambers and said that since everybody knows they had done an outstanding miracle and there was no way to deny it, all they could do was threaten them about speaking about Jesus any more.

B. They could not allow them to continue to spread the word about Jesus.

1. Why not? Because it was a threat to them.

2. It would confuse the people.

3. It would destroy their authority over the people.

4. It would end their influence over the people.

5. It might even cause them to lose their authority with the Roman government.

6. These believers were a threat to everything that they held dear.

7. But notice that none of the things these religious people held dear had anything to do with God.

8. They simply did not want to loose their position on the board.

9. They liked the position of being on the Sanhedrin.

10. They weren’t interested at all in what God was doing.

C. And my friends this same sickening attitude is in too many church boards today as well!

1. I can tell you there are churches near us today that have people stirring up trouble in the church that are on the church board and they don’t even go to church.

2. How does someone get voted onto a church board that doesn’t even attend church?

3. How does someone get onto a church board that isn’t interested in anything put the power he gets from being on the board?

4. How does someone get onto a church board that doesn’t care who he hurts as long as he has the authority of a board member?

5. How does someone get onto a church board who tries to explain away the Bible in order to maintain their own position?

6. And it doesn’t just stop there…

7. Why do people go to church for years and years and years and sit in the pews and get threatened and offended by new believers who come into the church and start doing things differently.

8. Why do established church members get threatened by new believers in the church?

9. Why do established church members get offended when new believers question their beliefs?

10. Why do established church members want to run new believers out of the church simply because they ask too many questions?

11. Were Peter and John wrong for believing that God could heal someone?

12. Were Peter and John wrong for believing that Christ had risen from the dead?

13. Were Peter and John wrong for questioning the beliefs of these religious leaders?

14. Were Peter and John wrong for taking advantage of the HS to help someone in need?

15. Were Peter and John wrong for telling these church leaders that they were Scripturally wrong?

16. Why is it that after 2,000 years the same attitudes are present in the church that the Sanhedrin had?

17. Why is God such a threat?

18. Why is the HS such a threat?

19. Why are we so afraid to admit that we are wrong?

20. Why are we so afraid to repent of our sinful attitudes?

21. Why are we so afraid to just let go of our preconceived ideas about God and the way we want the church to be and just let the HS move?

22. Friends we have been guilty of quenching the HS just as much as those religious people were then!

23. I’m not some new Christian; I’ve been saved for almost 30 years and I’ve been going to church for 35 years.

24. And I’m telling you that I’m as guilty as sin of all these religious attitudes!

25. We’ve got to repent and let God be God!

26. We’ve got to repent and let the HS be the HS!

27. We’ve got to repent and let go of our comfort!

28. We’ve got to repent and let go of our position!

29. We’ve got to repent and let go of our preconceived ideas and let God teach the truth!

30. Because God is only a threat to religious people and not to true believers!

31. We’ve got to stop playing these self-righteous religious games and get down on our knees and repent!

V. God is an enabler to the believers.

Acts 4:19-20, But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

A. Wow! What an incredible statement!

1. So many people are addicted to sex and they say they just can’t help it!

2. So many people are addicted to alcohol and they say they just can’t help it!

3. So many people overeat and they say they just can’t help it!

4. So many people gossip and they say they just can’t help it!

5. But after being threatened by the same people who had crucified their Lord, Peter and John said, "You can tell us not to speak about Jesus all you want to but we’re still going to do it because we just can’t help it!"

6. WOW!

7. "We just can’t help speaking about what we’ve seen and heard!"

8. "God’s so good to us, we just can’t help talk about it!"

9. "God’s so good to us, that we couldn’t stop talking about Him even if we tried."

10. "God’s been so good to us that we’re going to keep talking about Him no matter what you do to us!"

11. God enables the believer to do things that they could not normally do!

B. We prayed for the two missionaries that were held hostage in Afghanistan here at Somerset.

1. The Southeast Outlook on February 7th carried a story written by Ruth Schenk of the visit the two of them made to Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY the previous Sunday.

2. I want to read some exerpts from that story…

"Sharing Jesus with Afghans who wanted to know more about Him was worth everything—arrest by the Taliban, 105 days in prison, even facing the threat of death. Looking back, they have no regrets.

"’It was worth everything,’ Heather Mercer, 24, and Dayna Curry, 29, told record crowds during worship services at Southeast Christian Church Feb. 2-3.

"’He’s worth all we have to give,’ Mercer told the crowd. ‘It’s all about Jesus. We could not turn our backs on people who wanted to know more about Him.’

"Many who packed the sanctuary at Southeast drove hours from throughout the region to hear the two Americans tell the story of their arrest, imprisonment and release. People had followed it on television and radio and in the newspaper. Now they came to see and hear for themselves. …

"Weekend worship attendance reached 22,053. At each service, the women were welcomed with thunderous applause as people stood to greet them. Many brought their children with them. Some churches filled busloads with people to hear the aid workers’ testimony.

"Mercer and Curry knew the risks when they volunteered as aid workers with Shelter Now, a German-based Christian aid group in Afghanistan, but they also saw overwhelming need.

"’We went to Afghanistan with open eyes,’ Mercer said. ‘There were risks not only because we are followers of Jesus, but also because we are single women and Westerners.’

"But, the women said, the risk paled compared to the need. …

"’We were doing simple things there,’ Curry said. ‘We were loving our neighbors, caring for the street children, giving out warm meals and reaching out to the widows.’

"Children Mercer and Curry met in the street begged them to visit their homes.

"’We’d go to their home and read Bible stories, sing songs, sometimes give them medicine and food,’ Curry said.

"The women also had had an open-door policy at their apartment in Kabul, and before long, dozens began seeking help.

"The women’s presence in the desolate, war-torn country was a mystery to the Afghan people. The place had little to offer. Need. Rubble. Illness. Raw sewage in the streets. A nation of people without hope.

"Yet these two young women with college degrees from Baylor University and plenty of potential in America, chose to stay and help while so many others were trying to find away out.

"Often, puzzled Afghans asked, ‘Why do you stay?’

"In many ways, ending up in a Taliban prison was not a surprise for Mercer and Curry. They had heard the decree [a la the Sanhedrin] last summer that anyone teaching about Christianity would be hanged. Though the noose on religious freedom had tightened, the people’s needs had not changed.

[And a la Peter and John] "’There was no choice but to share Jesus,’ Curry said. ‘God’s love has changed us in such an incredible way that we have to share it.’ …

"When one of the Afghan villagers asked about her faith in Jesus, Curry and Mercer waited a long time to determine his sincerity. They knew that showing a film about Jesus could mean their deportation, prison—even death. Yet, it was also a life-and-death matter for eternity for this Afghan who wanted to know more about their Savior.

"’We waited a long time to show it,’ Curry said. ‘Afterward, he said, ‘Why didn’t you share it with me earlier?’ It showed us once again that the Gospel is more important than anything in the world.’

"The aid workers had been visiting with an Afghan family for about four months when they took an abbreviated version of the Campus Crusade for Christ JESUS film to the home in August.

"’We knew the Vice and Virtue police wouldn’t like it, but it was worth it,’ Mercer said. ‘These people have never heard that Jesus died for them or that HE gives eternal life. They started weeping at the scene of Jesus being crucified on the cross. ‘Why didn’t you tell me before?’ they asked.’

"As they left the home, the women were arrested. …

"Since their release, God has used Mercer’s and Curry’s experiences to bring more attention to the once-Taliban dominated nation. Both plan to return to Afghanistan next year.

"’God has used what seemed to be the worst to be the best,’ Curry said. ‘We wouldn’t trade any of it because we’ve learned to know Him better.’"

3. "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

4. Do you see the difference between being religious and being a true believer?

5. God enables the believer to stop at nothing to tell others about their Jesus; religious people pay the preacher to do that for them.

6. We need a church full of believers who can’t help speaking about their Jesus!

7. That’s the difference!

VI. God is unstoppable.

Acts 4:21-22, After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

A. Now we see the reason that Peter and John weren’t punished—it was because the people were praising God for what had happened.

1. This is yet another difference between religious and believers—religious are more interested in what the majority thinks.

2. Since the Sanhedrin didn’t have the majority of the people behind them, they gave up.

3. When the believers had the unanimity of the judges on the bench AGAINST them, they still pressed ahead with what God wanted because they knew that God was on their side and nothing could stop their God!

B. And when God gets behind something like this, there’s NOTHING OR NOONE who can stop Him!

1. The Sanhedrin probably thought they had stopped Jesus when they crucified Him, but – look out -- He’s back and bigger than ever!

2. A few months ago the Sanhedrin had public opinion going their way and they got Jesus crucified.

3. But now He’s risen from the dead and the crowds are starting to turn to Him.

4. Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for forty years even after they they’d killed Him.

5. The religious people couldn’t do anything, so they just let Peter and John go!


A. So what’s the difference between religious people and true believers?

1. Religious people are just interested in trying to be good people.

2. Religious people are just interested in being seen going to church by God and people.

3. Religious people often are very concerned with keeping things under control.

4. Religious people often twist the Scriptures to fit their preconceived ideas.

5. Religious people are determined to keep things from changing, no matter who they hurt.

6. Religious people are afraid to let new people in.

7. Religious people are afraid to let the HS move.

8. Religious people refuse to repent because they think they’ve already done that and they’re already pretty good people.

9. True believers don’t care what their theology is as long as there is a Theo (God.)

10. We don’t care if all of our beliefs make sense and fit together in a particular system, we just believe in God.

11. We don’t care if God burns the building down as long as God doesn’t burn us up.

12. We don’t care if new people get involved as long as they are believers as well.

13. We don’t care about anything or anyone else, but knowing more and more of God.

14. We aren’t content to just know about God—we hunger to know God.

15. We aren’t content to just know about what God did in the past, we want to see what God does today.

16. We aren’t content to simply read about where God was in the past, we want to see God move today.

17. We aren’t content to just go to church week after week, they thirst after His righteousness!

18. We aren’t content to just live by the letter of the law, we live by the Spirit!

19. We are saddened by the quenching of the Spirit and we must release Him.

20. We know that we’ve been playing religious games and we must repent!

21. We know that we’ve been playing religious games and we know that we have to cry out to God to have mercy on us!

22. We know that we’ve not had the unstoppable desire to tell others about our Jesus and we must repent!

23. We know that we have been offended by others whose beliefs are different than ours even though they love Jesus with all their hearts and we must repent!

24. For too long we’ve prayed, "God thank-you that I’m not like those sinners," and now we must cry out, "God have mercy on me-a sinner!"

25. We know that the only thing that will bring revival is death.

26. We have to die before we can be revived—especially if we’re already saved!

27. We need to crucify our self by repenting and then (and only then) can we be revived.

B. I would that all of us would come and get down on our knees and cry out to God to in the death of repentance and that God would send revival!

1. "God I don’t want to be religious—I want to be a believer!"

2. "I want to be like those first believers."

3. "I repent of my religious attitudes; I give it all to you."

4. "Just give me Jesus; that’s all I want; He’s all I need just give me Jesus!"

5. "You are the Potter; I am the clay!"