Hi, a very good morning to you and welcome back. We praise God for being gracious to us, keeping everyone safe and well.
• We thank God for His Word, that’s our hope and strength.
• We want to wish all our fathers a happy and blessed Father's Day. Thank you, fathers, for your love and sacrifices for the family. Thank you for your good word and kind deeds. May the Lord bless you with joy and peace.
• Let us pray before we read the Scriptures and share the Word of God.
Our heavenly Father, we thank You that as Your children we are valued and cared for. We praise You, our loving Father, and honour You as Lord and God. We submit to Your will and we seek to obey You.
Bless every father, grandfather, and our spiritual fathers in this midst, with a greater measure of Your love and grace. Bless them with good health and a growing faith in You. Let their hearts be filled with joy and gratitude for Your abundant goodness in their lives. Continue to watch over their families and loved ones.
We thank you for Your written Word. Help us hear from You and know You. Give us the faith to stand firm and strong. You are our hope and strength.
You have not promised us that life will be without trials or pain, but we know You are with us and will lead us through. You are our refuge in times of danger and our help in times of need. Help us stay obedient to You and dependent on You always.
Let us find assurance from your Word again. This we ask, in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
This morning from Acts 5 we are going to see the apostles of Christ standing firm for the truth despise the persecution.
• Which began in Acts 4 when Peter and John were brought before the Jewish Council after the healing of the lame man.
• They were warned not to speak again in the Name of Jesus, but that did not stop them. They prayed instead for more courage to do the same.
The last 2 Sundays we saw how the Lord revealed His holiness in a tangible way when Ananias and Sapphira were judged, and great fear of the Lord came upon the people.
• The disciples continued to preach boldly and many came to believe Christ.
• The church continued to grow, unhindered by the threats, without and within.
We see the persecution growing. Peter and all the other apostles were thrown into jail by the high priest and the Sadducee party.
• The Council wants to stop them from preaching about Jesus and charged them for disobeying their order, which is the words of men as Peter puts it.
• The apostles did not even spent a full night in jail because an “angel of the Lord” came during the night and released them (5:19).
• They were back in the temple courts the next day preaching, and the religious authorities rounded them up again, as expected.
That’s where we pick up the story - Acts 5:27-33.
27Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead-whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." 33When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
>> We see the jealous SCHEME of men, the rejection of the truth.
>> We see the unwavering STAND of the apostles in persecution, and
>> We see the amazing SIGNS of God, the works of God in the midst of it all.
THE SCHEME OF MEN
The religious leaders in the Council would have heard the message and seen the miracles, like the many in Jerusalem, by now.
• They would have heard it and discuss it, because they accused the apostles of filling Jerusalem with their message (5:28).
• Signs and wonders were happening, with miraculous healings of the sick and demon-possessed, coming even from the surrounding towns around Jerusalem (5:16).
Yet the men of the Council were only concerned about themselves - they were filled with jealousy.
• They rejected the message and ignored the signs and wonders authenticating that message. It didn’t fit their preconceived understanding or go with their traditions.
• They were losing popularity and authority. The people were no longer turning to them but to their new-found heroes.
• Their power and prestige was at stake. They were going to stop that erosion.
• Truth, you see, isn’t what they were after; self-preservation was.
This sounds familiar right? That’s the growing culture of our days.
• Truth is not really a concern. What is true does not matter that much, but what we like and how we feel about it. That’s more important.
• People can create fake news to achieve their own goals, because truth doesn’t matter. It is about what makes us happy.
It’s sad. The truth would have given them a new life, in the words of the angel.
• But the Council was prepared to silence what they do not like to hear.
• They were unwilling to consider the truth because their hearts were hardened.
• We pray that we will be humble and teachable. We want to be receptive to God’s Word. We want to stand by what is true.
Look at the unwavering stand of the disciples. They were determined to stand by the truth that God has revealed.
THE STAND OF THE DISCIPLES
Peter said, “For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (4:20 NASB). Notice his emphasis.
• 2:32 Peter [on Day of Pentecost] “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
• 3:15 [to the crowd] “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
• 5:32 [now] “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The truth of Christ is a revelation, not something they created.
• Jesus had said, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, "… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8).
• They’ve filled Jerusalem with their teachings, in obedience to Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They fulfilled Christ’s words.
It cannot be stopped, because it is not the work of men and strictly speaking, not the ‘work of the disciples’, but the work of God.
• As Paul testified in 1 Cor 2:1-5 “1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.”
• The disciples were a part of something greater than themselves. Jesus: "I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
This is what we are a part of today. We are His witnesses.
• When we share Christ, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit testifies with us and through us.
• Like the disciples, we ask God for boldness and we stand firm for Jesus Christ.
Peter preached again! You can’t stop him. He states the truth of the Gospel to the Council yet again, repeating the very same message:
• 5:30-31 "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel."
Peter did not mince his words. “You killed Him. You hang Him on a cross.”
• He said the same to the Jewish crowd in 3:15 – ‘You killed the author of life’, and
• 4:10 before the same Sanhedrin council when he and John were questioned – this man was healed by the Name of ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified’.
These are strong words. Peter did not make it pleasant. He states the truth.
• YET not with a spirit of condemnation BUT an earnest desire to save them, his fellow Israelites, from God’s judgement.
• 5:31 “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”
• 3:19 [to the crowd] “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”
• 4:12 [to the same council] “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
So is this a message of hope or condemnation?
• It is an invitation to a NEW LIFE – that what the angel said, “tell the people the full message of this new life.” (5:20)
• Peter issued this same call to repent and believe Christ in all his sermons. They might have sinned and killed Jesus, but that’s not the end of them.
• “Repentance and forgiveness of sins” has been made available through the cross!
It’s a message that heals. It’s like hearing “a vaccine for Covid-19 has been found!” It’s good news!
Let’s read what happened next - Acts 5:33-42.
33When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.
35Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
40His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
We see the providence of God.
• The purpose of God has yet to be fulfilled. The apostles will not die a premature death here.
THE SIGNS OF GOD (we see the amazing acts of God)
The truth judges but the truth saves. The truth hurts but the truth heals.
• Sadly these men would not want anything of it, blinded by their jealousy and self-centredness.
• They were so angry they wanted to kill them and silence the message.
At this time, a well-respected Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel, stood up and spoke.
• Historical records tell us he was a distinguished teacher of the law and highly esteemed by the various religious groups in those days.
• In the Jewish Talmud (the written account of their oral tradition), he was mentioned as Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, a title more honourable than Rabbi.
Gamaliel was Saul of Tarsus’ teacher – that is, Paul’s teacher before his conversation. He mentioned him his testimony (Acts 22:3).
• This explains why Luke was able to know what happened in this private meeting. Gamaliel’s student Paul was there with him and he later related this to Luke, who was his travelling companion in the missionary journey.
Gamaliel highlighted 2 past cases of insurgency that have failed, to dissuade the Council from doing a rash act.
• One was led by Theudas [two das], an unknown individual who led a revolt in Judea in the early years of the 1st Century.
• Another was by Judas of Galilee, who led a revolt in Palestine, some years later.
• Both insurgencies failed. The leaders were killed and their followers dispersed.
Therefore - Gamaliel advised - 5:38-39
38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
• His advice persuaded the Council and they decided to release the apostles, but not before flogging them.
• By God’s providence - someone of status and persuasion, someone from within the enemy’s camp - argued for the apostles’ release and avoided the intended slaughter.
God’s purpose will prevails. “Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” (Prov 19:21)
• God delivered His servants TWICE within a day! Once supernaturally and the other naturally through the course of events.
• Supernaturally through an angel in the night and naturally through the words of Gamaliel. We can trust in the providence of God.
By God’s providence, Gamaliel’s student was there. God was preparing His man for the work of reaching the Gentiles. Paul appears at the end of Acts 7.
Think for a moment. God sent the angel to deliver His disciples the night before, not really to save them from the authorities but to affirm them.
• To save them will mean “go and hide”, but the angel tells them to “go and stand in the temple courts and tell the message of this new life!”
• They were asked to return to the temple courts, stand in the open, at daybreak, to do the very thing that resulted in their arrest.
• Of course, they would be rounded up again, as expected. And to be brought back to square one –the Sanhedrin court. Why?
God affirms the disciples: You are doing the right thing. Go to the temple courts and do it again. You are on the right track. This is what I want.
• God assures them that nothing can stop the message from going forth - not the prison gates, not the guards at the door, not even the Sanhedrin.
• Persecutions cannot stop the work of God. Literally speaking, “you can’t lock me in and shut me out.”
Imagine this, all the disciples could walk out, with the jail gates still locked and the guards still standing at the doors the next day!
• Gamaliel was moved to say, "If it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (5:39)
• Indeed, the disciples went off rejoicing, “and they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (5:42)
God can make a way where there seems to be no way. His purpose shall prevails.
This pandemic reminds us how limited and frail we are.
• In times like this, it is easy to lose perspective and miss the big picture, and fail to see how God is working.
• He is still working, and He wants us to know that. Sometimes supernaturally, and at other times, through the natural course of events.
Knowing that God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help” (Psalm 46:1-2) gives us the confidence that the future is in good hands.
• Our lives are in His hands. We belong to the Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28).
• Let us continue to do what God has called us to do – tell the people the good news of new life in Christ.
Dear God we thank You for the salvation you have prepared for us in Christ Jesus. We will continue to proclaim that Name, in good times and bad.
Help us stand firm in you, even when obedience carries a heavy price. We know that we do not fight alone, for you are at work in our lives, shielding, protecting, strengthening, and guiding us.
Remind us to pray for one another, so that we together will stand strong in the midst of persecution and trials.
May your purpose and will be fulfilled in and through us, for the glory of your Name.
May the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and forevermore, AMEN.