Summary: Revisit what caused growth in the early church and apply it to what will bring growth to your church today.
One thing which has characterized the church over history is opposition, and that opposition, rather than driving the church away, has provided for church growth. When your convictions come under fire, when they are tested, you will come to embrace them or reject them. When Christianity is put under fire, it causes people to embrace it stronger than they had before opposition came. We are going to look at that opposition tonight as we look at these verses in chapter four.
I. Opposition to the Healing of the Lame Man.
The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religious scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”
The groups which had gathered here formed the Jewish religious ruling body called the Sanhedrin. This was the senate and the supreme court of the nation which had jurisdiction over all non capital cases, although they did advise the Roman government on such cases as we had seen in the case of Jesus. There was an exception to their non involvement, and this was in the case of a Gentile trespassing beyond the posted barriers and walking into the inner court of the Temple, in which case, even if the transgressor was a Roman, they would be executed. The president of the Sanhedrin was the high priest, and over a period of time, this position was attained by paying the Roman government. Caiaphas was the high priest at one time, at others we read of Annas his father-in-law, so we can see they tried to keep the position within the family. In fact, Five of his sons held the position as well as one of his grandsons.
Here we find they had called Peter and John out of their imprisonment and placed them into the center of a circle and began to ask them questions as to what they were doing. They wanted to know by whose authority they had healed this man. It seems they were not concerned about the man’s healing, the thought of rejoicing did not enter their mind. They were consumed with preventing the further healing of others since it was outside of their control. It is hard to imagine someone would stand in opposition to seeing someone healed, but that was the case here as they gathered.
II. Opposition Draws us to the Power of God.
With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: Rulers and leaders of the people… vs. 8
Peter had spoken following the Holy Spirit coming in the Upper Room, and the night before he, through the power of the Holy Spirit, saw the healing of the lame man, spoke to those who had gathered and witnessed many accepting Jesus Christ. Now, the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, Peter begins to speak to the highest body of Jews, the Sanhedrin.
Peter might have remembered the words of Jesus in Luke 21:12-15 when Jesus told them, But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will define yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
This is a need for all of us, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, for when opposition comes, and it will, we can overcome it through the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be fair to say, the reason some run from opposition is they lack the power of the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in their lives. There is no question, Peter and John were ready to take on the world, to share the experience of Christ with any and all who would listen, in spite of opposition to the message.
III. Opposition opens the door to Opportunity.
…if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is the stone you masons threw out, which is not the cornerstone. Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one. They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus. Vs. 8-13