Summary: Have you ever thought, “There’s got to be more to being a Christian than this?" Apparently there can be, and by studying the book of Acts, hopefully we can learn how to get more out of our Christian life.
Have you ever thought, “There’s got to be more to being a Christian than this?” Coming to church, singing some songs, trying to stay awake through a sermon. Apparently there can be, and that is what we are seeing in the book of Acts, and hopefully today we can see how to get more out of our Christian life, by their example 2000 years ago.
Let’s watch Acts 5:12-42…
None of the rest dared join them. Now there were at least 10,000 adult believers in Jerusalem by now, and it says, “More than ever believers were added to the Lord, both men and women”. They just weren’t being too public about it.
We see here already that people are starting to look up to the apostles but are afraid to join them. They are seeing the power, and the courage that the apostles have, but they’re hesitating because they’re afraid of the persecution. It’s interesting to me that if there were about 10,000 or more adult Christians in Jerusalem with a total population of anywhere from 30,000 to a maximum of about 100,000 during the festivals. If at least a quarter of those are children, that would mean that the percentage of the adult population that were believers was anywhere from 10-40%.
What if all those people got together and had a sit in? What could the authorities possibly do?
There are two possibilities here. One is that the majority of those people were not really followers of Jesus, they were along for the ride and to experience the miracles. There was perhaps only a core of people who were true followers filled with the Holy Spirit. Or these people were simply not feeling like they could do the things that the apostles were doing and didn’t want to be persecuted.
I think this reflects the church today. There is a small minority of people in the church who do most of the work, especially the teaching and evangelising, and they are admired by the rest who are content to enjoy the ride. It was true in the early church too, but we will see that start to change in the next chapter, and the dispersal from the persecution actually helped to solve this problem a little later on in chapter 8.
So people were coming from even the towns around Jerusalem to get healing and have spirits cast out, even just getting close enough so Peter’s shadow would hit them. And it says they were all healed, because that is great faith. Remember the woman who fights through the crowd to touch Jesus’ garment? Jesus says your faith has healed you. Despite Peter’s efforts to let them know this was Jesus and not him, the natural tendency of people is to attribute it to a person.
So this time the High Priest and Sudducees arrested them and put them in a public prison. Apparently this was a step up from where they incarcerated them before, it’s maximum security this time. But the power of God comes through again and they don’t even make it through the night before God miraculously lets them out. Now we gotta remember these were not like our prisons today. They were tough and the guards, if they didn’t do their jobs, didn’t have a union, they would probably be executed.
Now if God just got me out of this prison and said go stand in the temple and speak the words of Life, I think I would probably do it. They wait until dawn and they get right on it.
The officials were perplexed to find the prison empty with the guards and gates still like they were the night before, and then they’re told that these guys are at it again, and they gently go get them this time to avoid being stoned. Does it seem odd to you that each time they go arrest these guys they’re afraid of causing riots and being stoned? Shouldn’t that tell them something?
They question the apostles and they respond like they did before. We have to obey God over you guys. And they simply again tell the truth. This isn’t a false accusation, and the religious guys know it. They know they’re guilty, but what do guilty people usually do, repent?
No they try to cover it up and spin the story another way. And the apostles end with another jab saying not only are we witnesses, but so is the Holy Spirit who is given only to those who obey God.
So they’re enraged but there is a voice of reason amoung them. Gamaliel was probably the most respected rabbi at the time. He was Paul’s teacher when he was still Saul. He tells a couple stories about mere men who started a movement but when they were killed, the movement died quickly. Here is a similar situation he says, if this is just man it will soon die off, but if it is really from God then you don’t stand a chance anyway, and you may even be opposing God himself.