Summary: We can be effective for God.


Acts 5:17-33

S: Obedience

C: Obedience to God as priority.


TS: We will find in Acts 5:17-33 how the early church took the truth about Jesus and aligned their lives to match it.

Type: Narrative, Inductive

PA: How is the change to be observed?




Version: ESV

RMBC 24 July 05 AM


1. Have you ever had trouble doing what you are told?

I may have told this story before…

My dad built the house I grew up in, but before we moved into the house, we actually lived in a trailer that was parked behind it, as it slowly was being built.

One day, my mom was mopping the floor because we were expecting company. So after she was done, she left the pail full of the dirty water in the middle of the kitchen.

For a five-year-old, that pail was a mighty big temptation. So I backed up, and ran as fast as I could in that small trailer, and leapt over that pail in a single bound. I was, simply, amazing.

It was then I heard mom … boom, boom, boom … coming down the hallway (did you know that my mom was a giant?). “Paul, what are you doing?”

“I was leaping over the pail.”

“Well, you better stop it before you have an accident and end up with water everywhere. Then you will really get it!”

“No problem, mom, watch I can leap over this pail with no problem.”

And then I proceeded to show her … successfully … what a magnificent piece of human flesh I was … able to leap over this pail. Then mom went … boom, boom, boom … back down the hall.

Of course, I had to continue to practice. And I did several more times … until … bam, I caught the side of the pail and water went everywhere.

Then, of course, you know what happened … boom, boom, boom … the rest is too hard to tell …

Why is obedience so hard?

Why is it so difficult to do what is right?

We may know what the right thing to do is.

We are aware of right and wrong, true and false, but we so often choose to go the wrong direction.

We have been studying Acts 5 this month.

You got a break from it this past week I believe since Jim spoke.

The book of Acts describes the early church.

Luke, our historian, describes what goes right, and what goes wrong.

You may hear someone say, “We just want to be an authentic New Testament Church.”

And I say to that, “No, thank you.”

They were not a perfect church.

Ananias and Sapphira proved that.

And as we move further down into this book, more problems are coming.

So, you see, we are not called to be a New Testament church.

We are called to be a 21st century church.

This being so, we should seek and desire to be what God is calling us to be now.

We are to be true to this calling.

I have entitled today’s message as “True to Life.”


2. What is it to be true to life?

Simply, for our definition today, it is living the truth.

It is being true to God’s design and plan.

It is demonstrating the courage to live differently.


3. We will find in Acts 5:17-33 how the early church took the truth about Jesus and aligned their lives to match it.

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.


1. What do you do when your influence is shrinking?

This is the problem that the Sadducees had.

They had arrested Peter and John after the lame man had been healed.

Then they told them to shut up.

They threatened them.

Said they would throw them in jail again.

So, the apostles listened real well.

They kept proclaiming the good news.

And the healings continued.

This was not good if you were one of the religious leaders.

The Sanhedrin was made up of both the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

Now the Pharisees were more popular with the common man.

But it was the Sadducees that held the power.

Their power and their popularity was taking a huge hit.

So, they were angered by this failure.

Peter and John had ignored their prohibition and threat.

It had to be disconcerting.

They had successfully gotten rid of Jesus, but now His followers were doing the same thing!

So, “back to jail you go!”

These were heretics as far as they were concerned.

These followers of Jesus were disturbers of the peace, and it had to be stopped, or there might be Roman intervention.

So to jail they went, but…

2. Ironically, an angel makes the rescue.

Did you know that the Sadducees didn’t believe in angels?

But the apostles did.

So this angel comes, and opens the door, apparently (as we see from further down in the text) without being noticed.

They walk right out undetected.

And God’s messenger had a message for them…

3. “Get back to work!”

You see…

They were not freed so they could go into hiding.

They were freed so they could go back to it.

“You have the words of life!” the angel said.

They had the good news.

It was time to pick up their belongings and get back to the public square of the temple where they would get a hearing.

It was not a time to be confused about what to do.

ILL Obedience: Standing Guard

A new soldier was on sentry duty at the main gate. His orders were clear. No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windshield. A big Army car came up with a general seated in the back. The sentry said, "Halt, who goes there?"

The chauffeur, a corporal, says, "General Wheeler."

"I’m sorry, I can’t let you through. You’ve got to have a sticker on the windshield."

The general said, "Drive on!"

The sentry said, "Hold it! You really can’t come through. I have orders to shoot if you try driving in without a sticker."

The general repeated, "I’m telling you, son, drive on!"

The sentry walked up to the rear window and said, "General, I’m new at this. Do I shoot you or the driver?"

Obedience shouldn’t be confusing…

Do you see what the apostles do?


4. Do the right thing.

To the prudent mind, this was reckless.

Why go back to where they can catch you?

Why put your life into further danger?

Why participate in such risky behavior?


Because God, through the angel, told them so.

It was obedience.

It was a defiant courage.

It was an act that left the consequences to God.

It is at this point you see that…

5. God has a wonderful sense of humor.

The Sanhedrin calls for the apostles to appear again.

So they send the officers to go get them.

Off they go…trudging along…guards in place…unlock the door…and no one is inside.

Everything was as it should have been with one exception.

The prisoners were gone.

No one knows what has happened.

This is rather humiliating.

But , the emergency network for escaped prisoners is working well.

The apostles are hiding themselves in the temple court.

They are speaking the good news about Jesus.

This is even more humiliating!

“What do you mean they are in the temple?”

They are openly flaunting the Sanhedrin’s authority.

They are challenging their credibility.

So they are rearrested…quietly…they did not want a riot on their hands.

So Peter and the rest are back before the council.

And it is obvious, the high priest doesn’t get it.

“You are not doing what we told you.”

“How dare you!”

“You are filling Jerusalem with this teaching about this man.”

They can’t even bear to say His name.

Then the high priest really says something ironic.

“You intend to bring this man’s blood on us.”

But that is exactly what they asked for back in the gospel account (Matthew 27:24-26).

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

But for Peter, there is only one appropriate response.

“We must obey God rather than men.”

6. Obeying God is always the priority.

When a human being makes a command that is against God, we obey God.

Peter’s message is clear.

7. It’s about Jesus (again!).

Peter continues to be firm…

You killed Him; God raised Him.

You rejected Him; God vindicated Him.

Jesus is now in the supreme position of honor and power.

Repentance and forgiveness are available to those that surrender in obedience to His authority.

Well, the Sadducees could take no more news about Jesus.

They didn’t need any lecture from these upstarts.

They had enough.

8. They wanted to kill (again!).

Yes, they had done it before.

But it was time again.

It didn’t matter what the evidence was about Jesus.

They didn’t want to be confused with the facts.

It was time, now, to be rid of the followers of Jesus.


This narrative is a reminder to us of this question…

1. Who do we serve?

Who do you serve?

As an individual, is it God?

Or do your interests and concerns take priority over spiritual matters?

We easily can be more for the kingdom of self, rather than the kingdom of God.

As a church…as an organization…we need to be honest with ourselves.

For it is so easy, too easy perhaps

…to desire to maintain,

…to keep the status quo,

…be comfortable,

…and lose the urgency of our mission.

As individuals, as a church body, our allegiance to God should not be in question.

And as we see in this passage, obedience is about action.

It is knowing the right thing to do and then doing it.


It is simply this…

We ought to obey God rather than men.

ILL Purpose: Gettysburg

"Gettysburg": Mission to Set Men Free

The movie Gettysburg, based on The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, brings to life the three bloodiest days of American history. The first scenes take place a couple days before the epic battle at Gettysburg. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain (played by Jeff Daniels) of the 20th Maine Regiment learns that his regiment is going to receive 120 Union soldiers who mutinied. Chamberlain is given permission to shoot any of these mutineers who don’t cooperate.

Chamberlain tells the men that he’s been told about their problem. He admits, "There’s nothing I can do today. We’re moving out in a few minutes. We’ll be moving all day. I’ve been ordered to take you men with me. I’m told that if you don’t come, I can shoot you. Well, you know I won’t do that. Maybe somebody else will, but I won’t. So, that’s that.

"Here’s the situation," he continues. "The whole Reb army is up that road a ways, waiting for us. This is no time for an argument. I tell you, we could surely use you fellows. We’re now well below half strength. Whether you fight or not, that’s up to you. Whether you come along is…" He pauses and then continues, "Well, you’re coming. You know who we are. But if you fight alongside of us, there’s a few things you must know."

Matter-of-factly, he states, "This regiment was formed last summer in Maine. There were 1,000 of us then. There are less than 300 of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did. Some came mainly because we were bored at home…thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die.

"This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you’ll see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free."

The church is likewise a different kind of army.

We are an army out to set other men free.

We should not be ashamed of the mission we are given.

It is a mission that makes an eternal difference.

It may be difficult at times.

But it is war after all.

So, like Peter, we need to be people of courage.

When we know what God would have us do, we need to move forward,

…regardless of the circumstances,

…regardless of the consequences.

Like Peter, we need to be people of principle.

We need to obey God rather than men.

When people call on us or pressure us to compromise, it is time to stand for what we know.

It is time to keep the standard.

Like Peter, we need to be people of purpose.

We are freedom fighters!

We are fighting for the freedom of those that are in the bondage of sin.

They need release.

In An Unstoppable Force, Erwin McManus says…

“Are we too much about us getting fed and too little about us exercising our faith?”

We are to be people of action.

We are to be people of courage…of principle…of purpose.

For God has designed us as a church to be effective.


BENEDICTION: [Counselors are ]

Let’s be effective for God…by being people of courage…that will do the right thing regardless of the circumstances and regardless of the consequences.

Let’s be effective for God…by being people of principle…we will do the right thing…because we ought to obey God rather than men.

Let’s be effective for God…by being people of purpose…we will do the right thing…for we have been given a message about Jesus that must be shared.

Now…May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.


The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, John MacArthur

The Acts of the Apostles, William Barclay

The Spirit, The Church and the World, John Stott

Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9


The Price and the Preciousness of Spiritual Power, John Piper

Providence, A. Todd Coget

An Attitude of Obedience, Ed Wood

Attacked Again, John Hamby

Peter and the Passion, Jeff Strite