Summary: What a great message we find in the early chapters of Acts. This is our history as followers of Jesus Christ. Our call is to faith and confession in the Name of Jesus.
(Read Acts 3-4 with slides)
Sharing the gospel is part of the churches identity. It doesn’t matter what the world says we should do, we answer to a higher authority and we must not be silent. Let me see if you agree with me or not here: A church that does not confess its faith is not the same church we read about in the Bible. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that if we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved. It is with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
What happens to a Christian if he or she stops believing that God raised Jesus? Is that not an abandonment of the faith? What happens to a Christian if he or she stops confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord? Is that not also a departure from the faith?
This raises difficult questions for us, does it not? As the early church spread across the Roman empire opposition to the faith also arose against Christians. Eventually, the Roman government got in on the persecution and Christians were subjected to terrible pressure to abandon their confession, or at least compromise by silence and even submission to the Roman emperor as a god. Those who would not compromise were not simply fired from work or spoken against, they were sometimes tortured and put to death.
Here’s a slide that I copied from Bryan Moynahan’s book: The Faith.
(Picture of a martyr broken on a wheel in a carving on the south portal of Chartres Cathedral in France. Many methods were used. In Macedonia, Christians were slowly asphyxiated over fires; at Alexandra, noses, ears and hands were severed; at Antioch, they were roasted over braziers. Yet it was often easy to avoid such fates by burning a stick of incense on a pagan alter or sipping a sacrificial offering of wine.
(Read p. 81 last paragraph). During the first two hundred years of the church the Roman games were especially dangerous for Christians who were rounded up to provide fresh blood for the crowds. On August 1, 177 at Lyons in Gaul Christian immigrants from Asia Minor were gathered and charged with belief in the “name” of Christ and sent to the arena. First, they were clawed with iron scrapers “so that their bowels were exposed to view,” Eusebius recorded. “Then they were laid on conck shells from the sea, and on sharp heads and points of spears on the ground and were at last thrown as food to the wild beasts.” Ironically, several onlookers, inspired by the martyrs’ refusal to give up their faith, joined them in the arena. Instead of crushing the Christian community, this seemed to merely strengthen it.
Paul told Timothy to proclaim the word of God, in season and out of season. In other words, preach the Christian confession whether it is welcome or not.
Can you think of places where talking about Jesus Christ will get you into trouble today? Isn’t it amazing that the same message that brings life and faith also brings hostility and oppression. What does freedom of religious expression really mean in our nation?