Summary: Easter 2(C) - We must obey God rather than men since mankind tries to silence God’s Easter message and because, as believers, we are set free to testify to God’s truth.
WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN
April 23, 2006 - EASTER 2 - Acts 5:17-32
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Dearest Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
As we heard these words, they probably sounded familiar to us. Maybe we even noticed two contrasting ideas that were there. There was captivity and there was freedom. The apostles and Peter were put into jail as prisoners. Yet, they were let go. In there spirit they were always free. On the other hand we see the chief priest and the Pharisees and Sadducees who seem to be free but yet are held captive, captive by their own ignorance and their own blindness to the power of God through his Son Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The freedom that these apostles had is seen in our theme today when they stand before the court, the church council, and the leaders and say: "We must obey God rather than men." We are going to talk about freedom and captivity today, the fact that the Lord sets us free. For spiritual freedom Jesus taught about the importance of holding fast to the word of God. In the Gospel of John: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31b, 32). Today, we gather together because we hold fast to God’s teachings and his truth has set us free. We are reminded that we are encouraged this morning to be as bold as these disciples and be as confident in our faith to be able to say:
"We must obey God rather than men," for:
I. Mankind tries to silence God’s Easter message.
II. Believers are set free to testify to God’s truth.
I. MANKIND TRIES TO SILENCE GOD’S EASTER MESSAGE
How was it that the apostles and Peter were put into prison? At the beginning of Acts we see Jesus’ ascension into heaven. We see the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes down and sends out his people. The church grows by 5,000 and 3,000; and the teaching of Jesus grew in favor with men. Believers went to the church daily. We heard in our Lesson in Acts 3 how the disciples healed those who needed healing. So they gained favor among the people. This did not set well with the religious rulers. Verse 12 of chapter 5 says: "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people." We are told that even people would be blessed by just having Peter’s shadow pass across them. You can imagine the Sanhedrin, the chief priests, and their concern. They thought that they got rid of all of this popularity for the teachings of Jesus when they got rid of Jesus.
Our text begins, verse 17: "Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy." They were jealous of these disciples. They were jealous of this new teaching that the people were following, upset with what was happening. They had not silenced Jesus and the Easter message. They hadn’t squelched the power of Jesus’ resurrection. We are told in the next verse: "They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail." The disciples were quieted, as they couldn’t reach as many people while in the public jail. They couldn’t be in the streets or temple healing the sick. The high priest and Sadducees thought this imprisonment should stop their message. We know that God had far greater plans to spread his message. God has far greater plans for those whom he has called.
Even when they are out of the prison and brought back, the disciples tell them the truth. The disciples stand there before the high priest and the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin. They say to them: "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree." In the book of Acts as Peter and the apostles proclaim God’s message, it sounds the same, doesn’t it? If you look at our reading today from Acts, it says: "You killed the author of life. You put him to death even when Pilate was ready to release him." Now, Peter says the same thing again, the same charge is true: "You killed Jesus by hanging him on a tree." Now they try to cover up and hide that message when they put the apostles in prison. You may remember that after they put Jesus to death and Jesus was put into the tomb, what did they do? They hired a guard to watch the tomb and they sealed the rock so that no one would come and steal the body away. Yet what happened? Jesus still rose from the dead. They tried to silence the power of God and this Easter message. But Jesus rose. Then we are told the authorities told the soldiers, "Spread the news that the disciples came and stole the body." Paul even says that rumor was still around when he was preaching and teaching. They tried to silence God’s message. But they could not silence God’s Easter message even though they posted the guard and sealed the rock around the tomb. Even though they put the apostles in jail as prisoners, they still proclaimed the fact that "We must obey God rather than men."