Acts: For the Cause of Christ #11

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #11

Title: Faithful Witness

Acts 5:12-26

Introduction:

Our last time in Acts we saw how the church was living and giving to one another. Those that could would sell property or houses to help those in need when they could as they could. We were introduced to Barnabas and were shown how he was an example of what the church was doing. We were also shown Ananias and Sapphira as a negative example that holiness and honesty are important within God’s church.

This week we pick up the next section, we don’t how much time has passed since God judged Ananias and Sapphira, but we see that the Apostles haven’t stopped their evangelical preaching and teaching in the Temple. To open I wanted to give the lyrics to part of a song recorded by Steve Green in 1986, the song is titled “We Have Seen His Glory”.

“There they are again The witness of Jesus take their stand Twelve amazing men Their testimony spreads across their land Such a story told How can they believe That God has walked upon the earth Could they be deceived? But how their words persuade The truth is in their eyes And many hearts are won to faith As they testify:

Chorus: We have seen God’s glory We have lived and walked with Christ the King We have seen Him heal the wounded We have heard the brokenhearted sing We have seen God’s glory We have seen Him dead and raised to life We will worship Him forever We have seen God’s glory, Jesus Christ!”

(https://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/s/steve_green/we_have_seen_gods_glory.html)

The Apostles’ Faithful Ministry – vv12-16

The Apostles continue to be witnesses of Jesus in the temple. They are still preaching and doing signs and wonders before the people of Jerusalem. The Apostles were meeting in Solomon’s Colonnade (or Portico or Porch). This was a well known place in the the Temple Complex, but I think that the healing of the crippled beggar and Peter’s addressing the crowd may have made it even more well known and had been associated with Peter and the other Apostles.

We see that “no one else” joined them at the temple. Who are theses people? There are a couple of view, but I think it is probable that this is referring to other believers.  It is possible that the other believers hesitated to engage in ministry at the temple from fear of the Jewish leadership. The view may have been, ‘why place ourselves at unnecessary risk?’ Basically, why seek out persecution if it’s not necessary, especially if others are working a successful ministry of healing.

We also see that the people of Jerusalem still regarded the Apostles with respect.

The healing ministry was drawing attention to the message of the Apostles. People from all over Jerusalem were bringing their sick friends and family members, laying their bed rolls or cots down lining the streets hoping that even if Peter’s shadow passed over the the sick, the sick would be healed. This speaks to the power of the Lord working through Peter and the crowds view of how to access the power. In this time the shadow of a person was viewed as an extension of that person. The crowd’s expectation shows the atteton the Apostles’ work had drawn and the excitement it created. The signs and wonders had made a real impression on the people of Jerusalem.

Demon possession was also being healed along with the sick, but Luke tells us that some these were coming from the outlying towns and communities of  Jerusalem. People were coming from the suburbs of Jerusalem to the city. It’s a bit like going from Bloomington to Minneapolis. The reputation of the Apostles, the news of the wonders God had done through them was drawing people, not only in Jerusalem, but also from outside of the city.

So far we have seen that the Apostles were continuing to be faithful witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem and God is blessing them. God, through the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of theses 12 men, has shown signs and wonders to the Jewish people to validate that what these men are saying is true. God has worked in the hearts of men and women to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and growing His church, His called out ones, to continue to testify. These men were influencing the culture they were living in.

How are you doing? How is your testimony? Remember last week I remind you that as Christians we stand on trial before the unsaved world everyday. Are you being a faithful witness for Jesus Christ? We tend to think of these men, Peter, James and John, and later on Paul, as super-Christians. We think, “I can never be that good”. You don’t have to be Peter. You don’t have to be Paul. These men were flawed sinners saved by grace just like you and I. How are you influencing the culture around you? Are you faithfully testifying?

The Arrest of the Apostles – vv 17-21a

The high priest and the rest of the Sadducees acted for three reasons. 1.) The Apostles’ growing popularity. Jealousy. Jealousy has been defined as misguided zeal. This ties into Paul’s comments about the Jewish people in general in Romans 10 [1-4]. 2.) The signs and wonders. Remember the Sadducees are a religious party within Judaism, and they denied  physical resurrection and supernatural beings such as angels. 3.) The Apostles were also disobeying their order to stop teaching in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, as we see in verse 28.

In short, the Sadducees authority is being challenged. They were the current ruling party in the Sanhedrin and had made deals with the Roman authorities. We see in Acts that the Sadducees were hostile to the Apostles, while in Luke’s gospel the Pharisees were the primary opponents to Jesus’ ministry.  This is likely due to a shift in location for Luke’s narrative. Jesus had focused in the cities throughout the country (where the Pharisees would have more power), and the Apostles original focus was in the city of Jerusalem (where the Sadducees had more control).

The Sadducees were sensing a loss of authority and control that they wished to reassert, so they acted out of theology and power politics. They had the Apostles arrested and placed in a public jail. This arrest and jailing was done to make a clear public point, they were attempting to reassert their authority and at the same time shame and silence the Apostles. Though the Apostles were placed in a public jail, verse 23 makes it clear that a special guard was placed over the Apostles. The Sadducees were trying to silence the Apostles and keep anyone else to start preaching.

Though the Sadducees were asserting their authority in the Temple and what could and could not be taught in the Temple, God issued the ultimate cosmic overrule on the Jewish leadership. God sent an angel (a being the Sadducees denied existed) to free the Apostles. The leadership is shown as powerless before God’s action.

This is the first of 3 supernatural jailbreaks recorded in Acts. (12:6-10 with Peter, and 16:25-26 with Paul and Silas). This is God’s sovereign choice to release the Apostles. Later in Acts, God chooses not to free Paul from captivity, and Paul goes to Rome as a result. This angel is not to be confused with or viewed as Jesus. Luke is very explicit in Acts when Jesus is present (Acts 9).

After freeing the Apostles the angel tells them to go back to the Temple and preach to the Jewish people. Despite disobedient leadership, God was trying to reach His wandering people. The message is “this life”, which seems to refer to the unique life God provides through Jesus. Jesus has already been referred to as the source or author of life in chapter 3:15.

So what do the Apostles do? They obey and go back to the Temple at daybreak. They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t say, “hold on, we just spent a portion of the night in jail. Peter and John have now spent two nights in jail, we aren’t going back to the temple. Why bother? We have enough converts to start several satellite churches all over Jerusalem and the neighboring towns, that’s good enough.” They didn’t stop and hold a vote to decide if they should obey. They did stop and form a committee to investigate if this was good idea or not. They acted on the instructions they were given. They went to the Temple at daybreak and started teaching again.

Their arrest was public, would the people see God’s providence in the Apostles’ release?

The Apostles knew the risk. They knew that the Jewish leadership would not forget the order they had issued to Peter and John to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. They also knew that the commision that the Lord had given them superseded any order that was contrary to that mission. They knew that had to preach and teach and tell everyone in Jerusalem everything that Jesus had taught them. Were they scared? Possibly. Remember that after Peter and John were threatened and released, they had prayed for boldness and that the Lord would continue the signs to validate the message.

Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to proclaim the Gospel? Are you praying for boldness? Or are you shrinking back in fear from what God has commanded? Or are you satisfied with sending others into the field to do the work of God while the harvest is ripe here as well?

The Confusion of the Sanhedrin – vv 21b-26

That morning as the Apostles were teaching in the temple again, the Sadducees had convened the Sanhedrin. The wording tells us that the High Priest called every available member of every level of the council. Their concern over the teaching of the Apostles was so great that a majority, if not the whole, governing leadership council gathers. The Apostles were essentially going to Federal court.

The escape of the Apostles was unknown to the Sadducees and the High Priest. Verse 23 tells us that the doors were closed and locked, the guards were still on duty having not seen a thing. The servants sent to bring the Apostles to court were Levites, who were most likely under the authority of the Captain of the Temple Guard. The went, and they returned reporting what they saw. Locked doors, guards on duty. Basically everything was as it was supposed to be, except when they opened the doors the Apostles were not there.

The Captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were confused. They couldn’t figure out what happened. How it happened. Or what the result of all this would be. Remember Sadducees believe less in divine intervention, so they were very confused or perplexed about this. The question as to the whereabouts of the Apostles was answered by an unnamed witness who told the Council that the Apostles were back in the Temple teaching the people.

This was bad news for the Sadducees that wanted this message silenced and had acted very publicly to stop it. The Leadership was powerless to stop the the spread of the Word as the Apostles were obeying God’s calling and instructions. The Captain and his servants were sent to re-arrest the Apostles. This was done without violence as they were afraid of the people. Apparently some level of violence was routine when these men arrested someone in the temple.

Why were they afraid of the people? They were afraid of being stoned? The reference to stoning seems to indicate that the people had a better idea of who Jesus is than the Leadership. The Leadership feared a public reaction. They feared the people would view their actions as almost blasphemous. They feared a reaction from the people if great care was not taken when arresting these messengers of God.

The Apostles obediently submitted, nonviolently, to the arrest to appear before the Sanhedrin. Peter no longer carries a sword. They probably learned to go peacefully from Jesus’ example. There seems to be a portrayal of the people as viewing the Apostles as true prophets of God. The respected the Apostles, whether they believed their message or not, but they did not view them as religious criminals.

Sometimes God works things out. No matter what everything happens within His sovereign will. Sometimes, He stops a certain level of persecution. Sometimes He doesn’t. The Apostles trusted the Lord enough, that no matter what happened, they knew they had obeyed, and remained faithful to their calling. Are you willing to remain faithful? Are you living faithfully before the Lord?

Conclusion:

So far we have seen that the Apostles were continuing to be faithful witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem and God is blessing them. These men were influencing the culture they were living in. How are you doing? How is your testimony? Remember as Christians we stand on trial before the unsaved world everyday. Are you being a faithful witness for Jesus Christ?

Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to proclaim the Gospel? Are you praying for boldness? Or are you shrinking back in fear from what God has commanded? Or are you satisfied with sending others into the field to do the work of God while the harvest is ripe here as well?

I opened with the first verse of the song “We Have Seen God’s Glory”, I want to end with the second verse:

“Here we are again The witnesses of Jesus take their stand May it never end Through us let God keep stretching out His hand Reaching those who doubt Touching those who cry Lifting up the word of God As we testify:

Chorus: We have seen God’s glory We have lived and walked with Christ the King We have seen Him heal the wounded We have heard the brokenhearted sing We have seen God’s glory We have seen Him dead and raised to life We will worship Him forever We have seen God’s glory, Jesus Christ!”

(https://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/s/steve_green/we_have_seen_gods_glory.html)

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