Summary: Jesus said He would build His church. What we read in Acts 4 is how He intended to do it. What do we read there that helps us understand our part in Christ's construction crew?
There’s the true story of a southern church that had been stressing the importance of witnessing to people.
One particularly slow young man in the congregation took the idea to heart, but he wasn’t quite sure how to do it. Then, that Sunday, a skeptic visited the church one Sunday, and the boy approached him and asked if he wanted to become a Christian. The man looked coldly at him and said "NO! I have no intention of becoming a Christian." The young man was quiet for a moment, then responded: “Well, then you can go to hell”… and he turned and walked away. The starkness of the boy's sincerity and bluntness shook the man and ultimately he turned his life over to Jesus.
(PAUSE) You can go to hell!
(pause) Do you suppose that young man was trying to insult the visitor? Me neither. I think that what that young man was telling the skeptic was the truth: If the man refused to turn to Jesus… he’d go to hell.
NOW, HOLD THAT THOUGHT.
I want to review the background of our story this morning. In Acts 3 we read about Peter and John going to the Temple to pray... but on the way they met a lame man and they healed him. This man was so excited about being healed that he began walking and leaping and praising God… and he also begins to draw a crowd… because everybody there KNEW him and they were shocked to see that he could now walk.
Never one to let a good crowd go to waste, Peter begins to preach. He tells the people that there was a reason this man could walk… and that reason was Jesus. This was Jesus, the Messiah that Israel had waited so long for… AND THEY KILLED HIM.
But God knew that they (and their leaders) had acted in ignorance. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus had been prophesied 1000s of years before Jesus came. But NOW (Peter tells them) they need to “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” Acts 3:19-20
Do you think Peter was being mean-spirited here? Was he insulting the crowd? Was he being harsh or rude to them? Of course not - no more than the slow-witted boy we talked about earlier. Peter was simply telling the crowd what they needed to hear.
• They had crucified the Messiah.
• They had done it ignorance… but they had done it!!!
• And now - IF they continued to reject Christ… they’d go to hell.
• Therefore… REPENT and don’t do that – don’t reject Jesus anymore. And if they embraced Christ God would forgive their sins and give them refreshment and peace.
Now Chapter 4 starts out by telling us that “… as (Peter and John) were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the SADDUCEES came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.” Acts 4:1-3
As you can imagine, Peter’s sermon was NOT well-received by those in power (especially the Sadducees) and Peter and John found themselves behind bars. Now I’m pretty sure that was NOT the plan when they went to the Temple that morning. And the next day they were dragged before the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews) and they’re asked “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Acts 4:7
In other words – who gave you the right to go preaching like this????
Now it helps to understand what got this whole ball rolling. Did you notice I capitalized the word SADDUCEES in the text we put on the screen? This was the primary group responsible for the arrest of Peter and John. The Sadducees – along with the Scribes and Pharisees made up the Sanhedrin, BUT the Sadducees controlled the Sanhedrin. AND they were upper class of priests at the Temple (High Priest).
These Sadducees were one of the major “movers and shakers” in religious world and they were instrumental in Peter and John being arrested. There was something about what Peter and John preached that day that angered them. But what was it that Peter and John were preaching that could have upset these guys so much?
Well, verse 2 says “(they were) greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming IN Jesus the RESURRECTION from the dead.”
(PAUSE) So… what’s wrong with that? Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? So do I. But the problem was... the Sadducees didn’t believe that. They didn’t believe God had to power to do something like that. They were liberals of their day. They didn’t believe in a REAL physical resurrection of the dead. And they got pretty ticked off at those who did believe it!!