Summary: Pt 2 of a 2-part sermon examining 3 attitudes toward Christ & the Gospel displayed in Acts 5:17-42. Pt 1 dealt with the spirit of opposition and the spirit of compromise Gamaliel typified. This sermon shows the spirit of discipleship Peter & John showed.
Three Attitudes about Christ (Part 2)
April 19, 2015
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation of this sermon is available upon request by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Acts 5:29-33 – “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. 33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.”
When I took a speech class in college we were taught that every audience contains three groups of listeners: those who will be opposed to what you say, those who are neutral to your position and those who have a favorable disposition toward you or your point of view.
Last week we began a two-part sermon titled “Three Attitudes about Christ,” and those three positions I just mentioned are clearly seen in the attitudes of the participants in this story about Christ and the preaching of the cross.
If you recall, the Jewish religious leaders were doing everything in their power to destroy the fledgling Christianity that was newly blossoming in Jerusalem. They had already jailed Peter and John and commanded them not to preach in the name of Jesus any longer. But that night Peter and John were miraculously delivered from prison by an angel and instructed to return immediately to the temple and proclaim Christ.
Peter and John just wouldn’t “stay put” in the jail.
Illus. – This reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoons I used to watch as a child. Elmer Fudd, all decked out in his hunting gear, would imagine he had FINALLY trapped Bugs down a hole. As Elmer is guarding the entrance, Bugs would stroll up behind Mr. Fudd— casually munching on a carrot—and ask, “What’s up, Doc?” Elmer Fudd would always be surprised, and he would never be able to keep Bugs still long enough to get a clear shot at that “waskowy wabbit.”
In the same way, the Sadducees thought they had a lock on the apostles. It was even the public jail where people could see them behind bars and thick walls. The problem was that BARS ARE NO MATCH FOR ANGELS! They escaped with the angels’ help and went right back to the Temple to preach Christ. Just as Bugs’s constant escapes made Elmer Fudd, “vewy, vewy angwy,” so the Jewish leaders viewed Peter and John’s miraculous escape with extreme consternation.
This is where we saw the first of the three attitudes towards Christianity.
The high priest and the Sadducees personified a spirit of OPPOSITION. Chuck Swindoll used to say, “Where there’s light, there are bugs.” Whenever truth or light are proclaimed, somebody, somewhere won’t like it.
And the Jewish council definitely didn’t like it! They showed open hostility to Peter and John, and resorted to violence—the beginning of persecution of God’s people in Acts.
What the Jewish leaders did not realize was that it was persecution that would fuel the expansion of Christianity throughout the world. Early church Father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Persecution only served to PURIFY the church, making it even more formidable.
A Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was on the Jewish council, exemplified the SECOND attitude about Christ: the spirit of COMPROMISE. His advice was for the Jewish leaders to go slow and not take a position on Christ and these disciples; to just wait and see how things would work out.
That seems at first to be reasonable and wise and I’m sure he meant well, but as we saw last week, it was really DANGEROUS thinking. It was based on flawed human reasoning that anything that grows and prospers is blessed by God, which is clearly not true, as there are many false doctrines and false religions that have grown large and prospered, but are clearly not of God.
But worse, Gamaliel’s advice was characterized by NEUTRALITY. The truth is, you cannot be neutral about Christ. You are either FOR Him or AGAINST Him; you are either on God’s side or the side of His enemies; you cannot be a fence-straddler!
We now come to the last attitude about Christ, the attitude of discipleship. In our text, we see that their discipleship, which means following in the footsteps of Christ, revealed itself in two ways in our text. There are several other characteristics of a follower of Christ, but we’ll focus on just the two in our text this morning. As we personalize the points, note with me two ways to be a disciple in this passage: