Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the eighth in my series on the Book of Acts.
“Kingdoms in Conflict”
The book of Acts chronicles the story of the early church in the days following the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Until we get to chapter 4, it’s just one tremendous event after another. Jesus ascends to Heaven before the eyes of His disciples, after giving them marching orders for life. He promises the unleashing of the Holy Spirit in power, and that is recorded in chapter 2. Unprecedented growth occurs in the early church as a result of God’s power and Peter’s message of the resurrected Christ, and that early church is on a roll. People are caring for one another and helping each other out selflessly; they are joyfully worshipping God; they have a great reputation even with those outside the church. In chapter 3, a miraculous healing takes place, and again people are drawn to listen to Peter’s message, and many listeners become followers of Jesus.
Then comes chapter 4. Everything had been flying high for the fledgling church, and then comes conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, inevitable because by nature all of us are fallen people, fallen from God’s holy standard, selfishly seeking our own way. When your desires get in the way of mine, there is often conflict as we each try to get our share, or get our way, or get ahead. And so we find in verses 1-22 a story of conflict, in fact several conflicts; let’s read together!
In Why Men Hate Going to Church, author David Murrow makes the observation that Christian faith has been perceived of late as being a “women’s religion”, something that real men have little interest in because their sense of “macho” is somehow offended. I think he makes some great points, but as he points out, it wasn’t always this way; look at this text of conflict! Two men, Peter and John, followers of Jesus, stand toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball with a religious council of seventy other men, men with the authority to throw them in jail. Instead of backing down, Peter boldly says some things that are the verbal equivalent of a left hook across the chops of these men, politely but firmly insisting that Jesus Christ is the One Who is ultimately responsible for a man’s healing, and that if they don’t like it, that’s too bad, but they’ll keep on talking about what they’ve seen and know to be true. This doesn’t sound like a couple of namby-pamby momma’s boys to me!
I want us to work our way through the story, and then come back and take a look at it from the standpoint of four conflicts that we find played out here.
• Peter & John had followed up the healing of this man with a message by way of explanation
• This ticked off the authorities
o Sadducees and priests were concerned because of
Fact of their teaching – what authority?
Content of their teaching – contradicted their beliefs about God
Potential effects of their teaching – temple guards there for concern of rebellion
o Had them arrested for the night
• Note that this arrest didn’t have the desired effect; “the Sadducees could arrest the apostles, but not the gospel” (Stott). Now, 1000’s of people were part of the church!
• Next day, the equivalent of a Supreme Court was convened, seated likely in a semi-circle to interrogate the disciples
• Question involves the authority by which these guys are talking about Jesus
• Response of the disciples is
o Focused on Jesus Christ
• The council’s response was to be
o They convened a meeting behind closed doors to try to figure out what in the world to do
o Final response was a weak one; “stop talking about this Jesus”
• Response of the disciples, these real men of faith, was courageous and resolute: we can’t stop talking about Him!
• In the end, about all the council could do was to make some idle threats, and let the disciples go
• Ultimately, the name of God received praise because of this episode, and rightfully so!
Now, let’s look at this encounter from the standpoint of the different conflicts that we find here. First,
I. The precipitating conflict: Between disability and the power of God
• The kingdom of pain and death, presided over by Satan, versus the kingdom of God
• Chapter 3 records the miraculous healing of a man disabled from birth
• Peter and John, followers of Jesus, had met the 40-year-old man at one of the gates of Jerusalem
• There to beg alms of passers-by
• One seemingly ordinary day, this man was well into his routine