Summary: The apostles suffer for the name of Jesus.
Jeff Hughes – April 13, 2003
Calvary Chapel Aggieland
a. Persecution is often God’s tool of choice for refining us and bringing us closer to Him. In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 25, God tells us this - 25 I will turn My hand against you, And thoroughly purge away your dross, And take away all your alloy.
b. I bought a piece of jewelry one time, a piece of what I thought was silver jewelry. It was silvery and shiny on the surface, but underneath was a cheaper metal. When I turned it on, it turned green. I thought it was shiny and pure all the way through, but I was wrong. That piece of jewelry wasn’t pure, it was alloy.
c. God’s desire is to have a pure church, free from the weight of sin. We saw this last week, as well as in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. We see the church under fire today as we continue in our study of Acts.
d. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you will know that persecution and tribulation are something that comes with the territory. I asked my pastor one time, after a really hard week, if it ever let up. He told me – no, not really, you get breaks every now and again, but for the most part, it is constant.
e. The imprisonment and trial of the apostles was certainly tribulation in the lives of these men. But, as we will see today, the tribulation passes, and the apostles get a breather at that point.
f. The first time, back in Acts chapter 4, Peter and John stood before the rulers of Israel, the Sanhedrin, they presented the gospel to this hardened body of politicians.
g. This defense in front of the Sanhedrin would be similar to the last. God, being so merciful, extended the grace of Salvation to the same group of men who condemned Jesus Christ.
h. The early church was a pure church. A spotless bride being prepared for Him. But, along with this tribulation, with this persecution, came blessing. God was preparing the church to serve Him, and to carry the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
a. While preparing our study for today, I ran across a quote from A. W. Tozer that was very appropriate considering our study today.
b. Those first believers turned to Christ with the full understanding that they were espousing an unpopular cause that could cost them everything.
c. Shortly after Pentecost some were jailed, many lost all their earthly goods, a few were slain, hundreds were ‘scattered abroad.’ They could have escaped all this by the simple expedient of denying their faith and turning back to the world. This they steadfastly refused to do.
d. To make converts, we are tempted to play down the difficulties and play up the peace of mind and worldly success enjoyed by those who accept Christ. We will never be completely honest with our hearers until we tell them the blunt truth that, as members of a race of moral rebels, they are in a serious jam, and one they will not get out of easily. If they refuse to repent and believe on Christ, they will most surely perish. If they do turn to Him, the same enemies that crucified Him will try to crucify them.
e. The gravity of deciding to follow Christ is something many can’t or won’t come to grips with. So many churches embrace a doctrine of what I call “easy believeism”. They teach a watered-down, sugar coated gospel of peace and prosperity in the Christian life. It is getting the rose without the thorns. You won’t hear talk of sin, suffering, condemnation, wrath, death, or Hell in these places. You will hear prosperity, health, and happiness.
f. This is selling people short at the least, and an outright lie at the most. AS we covered last week, each one of us will have some rain in our lives to go along with the sunshine, to help us grow.
g. As we study the Bible, we find that true joy is found in abiding in Christ. We abide in Christ by Bible Study, prayer, and fellowship in a body of believers.
h. As we continue along in our study today, we will see how the apostles respond under pressure, they stand before the Sanhedrin, and answer the charges against them today. Our study is from Acts chapter 5, verses 29 – 42, and we will finish Acts chapter 5 today. Follow along as we read.
i. 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." 33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it--lest you even be found to fight against God." 40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.