Summary: We are called on the make decision all the time, from long ranging decisions to simple ones. How did the early church go about making a life and death decision at the infant stage of their existence?
Passage: Acts 4:23-31
Intro: I was amazed to discover on the web this week that for some churches, the question is not what time their Christmas Day service should be, but whether they should have it at all!
1. decision making in the church can be a quagmire, with all those opinions flying around.
2. many of the opinions expressed show a decidedly pragmatic viewpoint: cost considerations, #’s of volunteers needed, #s of attendees expected, and of course the “time with the family” trump card!
3. seems petty compared to the decision facing the early church here in chapter 4
4. the situation in this passage gives us a close-up picture of how the early church made their decisions.
5. and we can apply these principles to our own decision making process.
6. these were real people in real danger, with homes and jobs and freedom and friends and perhaps even their lives to lose!
7. the “Merry Christmas” controversy is the tip of an approaching iceberg.
8. the predictable and growing intolerance for God’s truth in any form.
Il) Paul Harvey reported that a Dallas 1st grade teacher has publicly apologized for telling her class the truth that there is no Santa Claus. When are we going to get the apology from the educational establishment for telling millions of students for decades the lie that the evidence indicates that there is no God?!
9. so what steps did the early church take in deciding what path to take in response to persecution?
I. They Remembered the Big Picture
1. we can assume that the early church experienced some disquiet when the apostles gave their report about what the Saqnhedrin had said.
2. the prohibition concerning teaching in Jesus’ name would impact them all.
3. even with 5000 members, they were puny compared to the power of the Sanhedrin backed up by the Romans.
4. the Sanhedrin could remove them from religious society, (which was the society), and the Romans could kill them.
5. they did not elect their leaders, religious or political. Their very lives were in the hands of others.
6. in that context, read vv 24-26
7. they went to God in prayer, and in that prayer established the foundation from which their decision would be made.
8. in summary, here is their statement
PP) “in spite of short-term evidence to the contrary, the One who created the universe and everything in it is therefore the Sovereign Lord over the universe and everything that happens in it.”
9. they quoted from Psalm 2 in their prayer. The following verses are very instructive.
PP) Psalm 2:4-6
10. the rulers of this world may scare us, but they do not scare God!
11. in fact, He is the very one who put those rulers in power.
PP) Isaiah 40:22-24
12. this foundational truth is not just for these believers 1972 years ago
13. it is for us as resistance to God gets louder and more vehement.
14. in spite of the national picture or your personal situation, the Sovereign Lord of the universe is at work for His glory and our good.
II. They Recognized the Specifics of the Big Picture
1. theology can seem like a very distant thing.
2. dusty, dry, only interesting to scholars talking to themselves and each other.
3. but not to these guys! They found themselves right in the middle of fulfilled prophecy!
4. scholars call this “pesher”, the specific identification of a current event with a OT prophecy. “this is that”
5. Psalm 2 discusses “rulers and kings of the earth”, and someone called “the Anointed One”
6. these early believers now knew who these guys were!
PP Herod the king, Pontius Pilate the ruler, and Jesus the Anointed One.
8. these events were so recent that the newspapers reporting them were still in the pile waiting to be recycled!! (at least in our house)
9. while at the time the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion seemed heinous, out of control, in retrospect they could clearly see the sovereign hand of God
10. v28 is classic. Everything these despots did to Jesus was decided beforehand by God.
11. it doesn’t usually happen that the sovereign plan of God is revealed so clearly or so quickly.
Il) believers live with pain, handicaps, under persecution. People lose their jobs, their homes, their families. And “why?” is the obvious question.
12. certainly there were some in this praying crowd who wondered why God would allow this opposition in the middle of their evangelistic party!
13. and frankly, the rest of the book of Acts is the story of the gospels advance in the face of unrelenting and murderous persecution.
14. the gospel continued to advance because these believers expected opposition and placed it in its proper theological perspective.