Summary: The enemy of God comes against his people. What do you do when faced with forces against your faith? God’s word supplies many examples.
Jesus has Enemies – Acts 4:1-22
How do you give allegiance to a government that aligns itself against God’s will? Last week, a three judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in a South Carolina case that using Jesus’ name at a town council meeting at the invocation is unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has made use of this in their own state of Virginia and they faxed a warning letter to Hashmel Turner, a Fredericksburg, VA City Council member because he won’t stop using Jesus name in prayers to open the meetings.
Having the government oppose your faith is one thing, but how do you handle it when your own religious leaders try to lead you astray?
You know, it’s hard to accept that good news has enemies! There is an evil in the world that we must face if we would faithfully follow Jesus Christ. This evil is behind all the movement our country is experiencing with moral and spiritual decay. It is involved in all those who would manipulate the world with political and legal moves that lead us away from God’s will. It is also involved in all those who would control the world with terrorist actions. There is a Satanic network of evil that continues to work against the will of God subtly and sometimes not so subtly. And in Acts 4 we meet the enemy. He will attack the church on three fronts as Luke’s record in chapters 4-6 reveal. Here, in chapter 4 he begins to attack externally with threats of persecution, later, in chapter 5 we see how he works internally with greed, and again in chapter 6 we see how he works internally with attempts to form distraction. But, ironically, it will only work to spread the gospel.
The forces of hell are working against the kingdom of God. Satan is furious according to Revelation 12:12, being thrown down and knowing his time is short, he is determined to destroy as much as he can as he goes. He’s the ultimate terrorist. Headed for hell and taking as many with him as he can, Satan is the most powerful and dangerous evil force in the universe. While he is no match for God, he is allowed by God to test us and to take all who are not in God’s family, all who are not members of the church that Jesus built down with him. I make no claim to understand why God gives him this liberty. But I trust God and know that God’s love in Jesus Christ is real and our job as Christians in this world is meaningful and crucial. I also know that while Satan’s work is damaging, he can not overcome us. We are at war. But we will win. We are not home yet, but we are on the way. And all who remain faithful to Jesus, our Captain and Lord, will receive glory and eternal life in Christ forever. It is one of the benefits of membership in the church.
Look with me at Acts 4:1-22 and notice the stirring of enmity against the early church.
It was the Jewish leaders, those very men who had tried and condemned Jesus to death on the cross not long before this, that gathered now against those who preached Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus has enemies. But look! As soon as Luke tells us that they arrested Peter and John for preaching the gospel, he also tells us that their preaching hit home and had its saving effect in the hearts and minds of many. The count was about 5000 now, and climbing! The church was on the grow! You could put the preachers in prison, but you couldn’t stop the message preached from penetrating the darkness and saving the lost who were seeking God’s truth. 5000! That’s amazing! No wonder the Scribes and Sadducees were disturbed. Their unbelief was stubborn. They were not about to accept Jesus as the Christ. They believed the Maccabean revolt had ushered in the Messianic age… at least that was their theology. Unlike the Pharisees, they were not looking for the Messiah to come.
Change is hard when your mind is made up.
Have you ever tried to make a Republican into a Democrat or a Democrat into a Republican? For some people, you’d come nearer making a Muslim terrorist into a Church of Christ preacher. Or vise versa. Change is hard sometimes. Last week we talked about major life changes as we looked at the cripple beggar that was healed. We saw that the power of Jesus Christ to heal the lame also had power to save the lost when many who heard the word believed.
But not everyone accepted the word. Not everyone was changed by the message of Jesus Christ. In fact, some were only hardened in their positions against Christ. Their unbelief played into the hands of the enemy of God and Satan used it to attack the church. You see, you and I are all on one side or the other. We are either for Jesus or against him. We either stand in the ranks of the saved in Christ and resist the devil’s attacks, or we don’t. It’s a scary thing to think about, but some who are actually enemies can be found mixing with the faithful. Like Judas among the Apostles, there are sometimes enemies within the walls of the church. We will see later how Luke records a more subtle attack of the enemy, from within. But today is different, it is clear to everyone that Peter and John are on one side and the Scribes and Sadducees and their ilk are on the other side. The lines are much clearer in Acts 4. Notice the enemy first.