Summary: The experience of Peter and John gives a clear picture of persecution.
The early church was doing well. However, last time (Acts 5:1-11) we saw the introduction and the punishment of hypocrisy as it entered the church for the first time. We saw that it was Satan’s way of trying to stop the growth of the church. Well Satan continues in tonight’s passage as we see him, once again, resorting to external methods to stop the church’s growth.
In tonight’s passage, the experience of Peter and John gives a clear picture of persecution. Let’s begin by looking at verses 12-16. READ. Wherever and whenever these things take place among believers, there will be persecution of one sort or another. Let’s look at some of the causes of persecution for a moment.
First, signs and wonders and miracles cause persecution. Note there were many miraculous signs, not just a few. That’s how God works among His people to demonstrate clearly and without question that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It’s also how God shows that Jesus is alive and still actively at work on earth.
You see, the world doesn’t understand these miraculous signs and wonders. The world doesn’t understand how a life can be totally changed by the saving grace of Christ or how a miraculous healing of the body can take place. And what the world doesn’t understand, it rejects, abuses, and persecutes. Why?
- Because miracles show the ignorance and inability of man.
- Because miracles show that there is a Being higher than man—a God to whom man must surrender and obey.
- Because it reminds men of their great need.
Second, just unity among believers causes persecution. The world is afraid when they see believers coming together. The world is afraid of the impact we can have on them. They’re afraid of our doctrine, our worship, and the discipline that comes with it. They’re afraid of our purpose and mission and of what so great a body bound together can do.
Third, just the holding of public worship by true believers causes persecution. The worship and praise of God is the foundation of our beliefs. The world is afraid of the attraction and pull of sincere and committed worship as well as the loyalty and commitment of sincere worship.
Fourth, separation from the world and being different causes persecution. The believers of the early church were different: their lifestyle, their commitment to God, their giving of all they were and had, their fear of God. Their commitment caused them to walk completely separate from the world and from the enjoyable pleasure it offered. Yeah, the believers were radically different.
Fifth, the commitment to reach out and evangelize the world causes persecution. The world believes there are many ways to reach God. So long as the world’s religions allow men to live as they wish and still give them a sense of security, they are acceptable and considered to be of value. So the commitment and mission of true believers, that there is only one way to God, is considered narrow by the world.
The world mocks and opposes the idea that Jesus is the only Savior of the world. The world rejects and does its best to erase the message of Christ from off the earth.
Sixth, the reaching out and mobilizing of large crowds causes persecution. The world fears large crowds who are different and separated from it. Even if the crowd means no harm, even if the crowd is out to help the world, the world fears it. Believers are different in a way the world doesn’t want, that is, different in morality and righteousness, giving and sacrificing.
Seventh, the meeting of man’s needs causes persecution. True believers see the world as being in desperate need, physically and spiritually. So they give of themselves to meet those needs. The world mocks and ridicules that commitment. The world doesn’t like that kind of deep commitment because it reminds them of how sinful and selfish they are.
The world approves of SOME of the needs being met. But they reject the idea of being totally committed. Note that the people were clamoring to get to Peter, believing if they could just fall under his shadow they would be healed. Also note there is no mention that anyone was actually healed this way. The implication is that some were. If so, the same two ingredients that bring about healing miracles were at work: the Lord’s power and the faith of the sick.
We should always remember that God cares and loves so much that He always honors a person’s faith. If a person had a faith so great that he really believed that Peter’s shadow carried the virtue and power of God, God would most likely heal the person. Isn’t God wonderful?
READ 17-18. Here comes the actual persecution. Note that the persecutors were the religionists and secular leaders of the world. They were jealous. They were consumed with an anger over the preaching of Jesus. So the apostles were arrested and thrown in jail. Of course this was an attempt to silence them. Being opposed, actually arrested and jailed would be enough to restrain, frighten, and shame many preachers and believers. So they thought.