Summary: We are latter day apostles. We get to follow the first apostles and speak the gospel to people who are gathered in places where anyone can come.
Have you ever noticed that people aren’t always receptive to the Good News of the Gospel? We’re living in a world where it is increasingly forbidden to share the Good News with a desire to win converts. The situation is getting to the point where the only place where the Gospel can be proclaimed in in a church.
This problem isn’t new. The disciples were some of the first victims of this type of persecution. We heard an example of this persecution in Acts 5:27-32. Peter and John were arrested for preaching and brought before the Jewish authorities. They were released with orders not to preach-orders they promptly disobeyed. They were arrested again, and when they were asked why they disobeyed the order, Peter made a speech similar to the one he made on the Day of Pentecost.
The problem the Jewish authorities had was not what the disciples preached but how they did it. They were drawing public attention to the message of a Jewish man who was executed on a Roman cross. That message was contradictory to common ideas about God’s anointed Messiah. Their message challenged claims associated with Roman rule. The authorities failed to realize who the apostles were because they failed to recognize who Jesus was.
Peter’s claim that the disciples had to obey God instead of man was a continuation of the tradition of appealing to a higher authority to support or challenge actions. He made the same points that he made in the speech he delivered on the Day of Pentecost:
1. Christians must obey God rather than men
2. Jesus the Messiah is alive.
3. Jesus lives in us.
Peter and the disciples knew that following the outdated rules and regulations of the Jewish authorities would not lead to the forgiveness of sins. Only Jesus can provide forgiveness.
God calls on us to make disciples of all nations. This will likely mean that we will be persecuted, but the end result might be a period of revival. We are not alone in facing persecution. Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Third World face extreme forms of persecution such as death-all because of their faith.
As Christians, we must acknowledge that there is a tension between obeying God and obeying civil governments. God, not government, is to be obeyed when it comes to the mission of the church, which is to spread the Good News of the Kingdom. Civil governments might seem to be the answer to all of our problems, and they might even seem to be the potential saviours of our world, but they aren’t. Civil governments must be obeyed except when they overstep their bounds by trying to stop the work of God. When that happens, governments must be disobeyed. When injustice and oppression are part of religious, social and political systems, nothing short of mass activism will transform them.
God wants us to acknowledge that God is sovereign and trust him instead of rejecting him and following our own plans. The disciples decided to follow God’s plan, and in doing so they set a good example for us to follow. If we are ever asked to do something that would cause us to disobey God or violate our conscience, that is where we have to draw the line. Our conscience tells us what is morally right and morally wrong, and if we go against our conscience, then that is sin. Our allegiance must be to God and not to man, because God is the ultimate authority that we must answer to.