Summary: In the following sermon we are going to examine Acts 4:1-22 and conclude that through the power of the Holy Spirit ordinary Christians are to have courage that they can overcome their Sanhedrin and effectively profess that salvation is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Courage to Proclaim the Good News
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
Ever wonder what keeps believers from obeying the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20)? For many Christians the mere thought of going outside of the “sacred halls” of their church terrifies their souls for did not Jesus promise that since the world hated Him they would hate and persecute us as well (John 15:18-25)? While proclaiming the Good News today will unlikely result in physical harm or martyrdom, is it not just as terrifying knowing that telling people about Jesus will result in receiving the many psychological wounds that comes from being called a narrow-minded bigot and having many relationships with loved ones, family and colleagues disintegrated (Matthew 10:34-42)? And do not many believers choose to not lend their voice of witness for who could ever find the right words to say to this hostile world that would even begin to penetrate their stone, cold hearts? In the following sermon we are going to examine Peter and John’s successful evangelism in Acts 4:1-22 and conclude that through the power of the Holy Spirit ordinary Christians are to have courage that they can overcome their Sanhedrin and effectively profess that salvation is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Arrest of Peter and John (1-4)
“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”
After having healed the ankles and feet of a man in the name of the resurrected Christ (3:12-26) at the temple, Peter and John’s proclaiming the Good News was suddenly interrupted by some very hostile Jewish officials. While the temple guard was concerned that the large crowd around the disciples might incite a riot, it was the apostles teaching concerning a risen Christ that offended and scared them most! Most of the officials were from the Sadducee party, descendants of the Hasmoneans who believed the Messianic Age had already come and felt that they alone were qualified to instruct on spiritual matters. They felt they were to act as guardians of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament Law that in their minds did not include belief in angels, demons or the resurrection of the dead. Because the apostles teaching could be “politically, socially, and religiously destabilizing to the relatively good relationship with Rome,” of whom they got their power, the Sadducees believed something drastic needed to be done to the apostles. Also, since more than two thousand men became believers upon hearing the apostles message concerning a risen Christ, in their desire to “nip this teaching in the bud” the temple guard had the apostles arrested but since it was evening they put them in prison until morning to be tried. Maybe their night in prison and fear of facing the dreaded Sanhedrin in the morning might scare them into relinquishing Jesus’ command to spread the Gospel message? This event marks the beginning of a pattern of persecution against the church that only intensifies throughout the book of Acts.
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin (5-12)
“5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
The next morning the rulers or chief priests, elders, and scribes of the “highest legislative and judicial body in Israel,” called the Sanhedrin, brought the apostles before them to be questioned. While it is unlikely all 71 members of this council could have convened at such short notice, facing a semicircle of mostly the Sadducees of the same council that tried and condemned Jesus just a few weeks ago to face similar charges of blasphemy, would have been very intimidating! Furthermore, being questioned by the president of the council Annas, who had a rash temper and was known to be heartless in his judgments, would mean choosing one’s responses with great care! Like the question asked of Jesus in Luke 20:2, Annas sarcastically asks “by what power or what name did you do this” (healing of the lame man)? Being filled by the Holy Spirit and given the promised “right” words to say (Luke 21:12-15), Peter goes from a defensive to an attacking position and uses the word Greek word sozo which in a play on words implied the healing of the man but also by quoting Psalms 118:22 implied the only way to obtain eternal salvation was through faith in the very same Jesus they had rejected and crucified! Even though the Sadducees might have wished to debate resurrection, with the man standing there and living proof that Christ was the key to healing, many in the crowd believed Jesus was the prophesied, Messianic cornerstone and the only way that humanity could be cleansed from the “guilt of sin and judgment to come” and join the family of God!