Summary: Everything was going well for the church in the first three chapters of Acts. But the crunch comes in chapter four. How do the apostles respond? And how should we?
Passage: Acts 4:1-22
Intro: The first days of the early church were exciting, thrilling.
1. thousands of people believing in Jesus
2. signs and wonders, healing, “favor with all the people.”
3. they were successful, experiencing explosive growth.
4. but in this chapter, things change dramatically.
5. the honeymoon is over! From this point on, opposition to the gospel becomes the very arena in which the church exists.
6. we may not know much about persecution in our country, but the blood of the martyrs has and will continue to soak the ground the church is built upon.
7. while we may not know governmental persecution yet, we do experience resistance from family, co-workers, fellow students.
8. here, in this first occurrence of resistance, we are provided with steps we can take when resistance becomes a reality.
9. These steps are universal, can fit any situation.
I. Expect Resistance to the Gospel.
Il) one of the first thing we learned about living in Arizona is to expect dehydration. Don’t wait for it, but plan for it.
1. I wonder if the words of Jesus were ringing in Peter and John’s ears when this posse rounded them up.
PP) Luke 21:12-13
2. the group that arrested them was powerful.
3. “captain of the temple guard” was a priest 2nd only in power to High Priest
4. Sadducees a powerful group of leaders who interpreted and enforced Jerusalem’s religious laws
5. they interrupted Peters sermon because they had seen and heard enough
6. their specific complaint was the proclamation of resurrection.
PP Acts 23:6,7,10
7. Peter and John were not surprised, since they had seen resistance to Jesus before.
8. they expected resistance, and so were not surprised or puzzled or disturbed
9. we have an enemy, and he is in control of those who are spiritually dead.
10. if people resisted and rejected Jesus, they will resist and reject us.
11. this does not give us an excuse to be offensive in our presentation of the gospel
Il) last year in Chandler, 2 young men stood 10 feet from a tired group of fair goers waiting for a shuttle bus and blasted “the gospel” at these people through a bullhorn.
12. Peter and John merely healed a man and then explained what God was doing to a group of people eager to hear.
13. thats all it takes to get in trouble
III. When Persecuted, Execute Plan “A”
1. Peter and John spent the night in the pokey, then brought before a very august group
2. in fact, two members of this group had been the most directly responsible for the order to crucify Jesus.
PP John 18:24
3. they were both High Priests at one time, and Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas.
4. no doubt Peter and John had run afoul of the most powerful family in Israel!
5. question was simple: who or what is the authority behind your actions and preaching
6. they had asked the same thing of Jesus.
7. the Sanhedrin was the religious authority in Jerusalem, and as such had crucified Jesus.
8. to have healings and preaching being done in His name = by His authority, was a direct challenge to their decision to kill him.
9. the defense that Peter mounted was legally pathetic.
10. did not deny, did not claim civil rights
11. instead he preached a 33 second sermon that gave them all the ammo they needed to convict him. “raised from the dead” v10
12. we saw these same three points last week in Peters sermon in chapter 3
PP Their Big Mistake, God’s Response, and The call to repent of the Big Mistake.
13. Peters statement in summary is: everything we do or say is authorized by Jesus Christ and done for His glory
14. brothers and sisters, the response to persecution is to proclaim the very gospel that got us into trouble.
15. Paul did it in jail
16. imagine being chained to the apostle Paul for an 8 hour shift!
Il) Pastor Than Van Troung at the Dong Wai police cells and Bien Hoa mental hospital in Vietnam won 44 communists to Christ before his release. (Voice of the Martyrs Ministry)
17. imprisonment or persecution because of our faith is a God-initiated opportunity for the gospel to penetrate a dark place, a dead person.
III. Reject the Temptation to Avoid Offense by Compromising the Message
1. it was typical of the Jewish court system to treat ordinary people gently
2. assumed to be ignorant, so they were usually let off the first time with a warning
3. the group met in executive session, then reconvened, offered a compromise
4. v18 gives the verdict. They could continue to teach, as long as it wasn’t by the authority of that condemned and executed heretic, Jesus Christ.