Acts: For the Cause of Christ #12
Title: Following God’s Leading
People are always seeking God’s will for their lives. “A man was driving in Washington D.C., he was searching for God’s will for his future. His car ran out of gas in front of the Philippines embassy. He took it as a sign of God’s will he should go to the Philippines as a missionary. I wonder what he would do if he were single and stuck on an elevator with a single young lady named Mary” (Swindoll, Charles R., The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart. © 1998, p247).
The point is, that we need to follow God’s leading, while that story was humorous, I would counsel that man to pray for awhile before buying a plane ticket to Manilla. But there are times when God is directing us and we need to follow His leading.
The Obedience of the Apostles – vv 27-32
After the Apostles were brought back into custody and set before the Sanhedrin the High Priest addresses them. He reminds them with a rhetorical question that the Apostles had been ordered to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. He said that all of Jerusalem had heard the Apostles’ teaching, and it appeared that the Apostles were trying to lay the blame and responsibility of Jesus’ death on the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. The Apostles reply was shocking!
Peter, once again, seems to be the spokesman for the group and repeats what he said in previously 4:19, just more succinctly, or more to Peter’s style of blunt truth, so there would be no confusion about what the Apostles believed about Jesus or where their obedience lie. He also repeats what he and the others had been teaching since Pentecost.
Peter reminds the Jewish Leadership that the Apostles were also Jewish by calling God “the God of our ancestors” or “our fathers”. He says that the same God of the Patriarchs raised up Jesus. This may be a reference to God raising up David as king over Saul (Acts 13:22), therefore recently God had raised up Jesus as Messiah. This is a reference back to Jesus’ earthly ministry.
He tells the ruling Council that they are responsible for the death of Jesus. Though the Romans were the ones to carry out the crucifixion, these Leaders were the ones who handed Jesus over to Romans. By doing this they were pronouncing a curse of the Law onto Jesus. Deut 21:22-23 and Paul references this in Galatians 3:13. The Jewish Leadership had inflicted as much disgrace and shame as they could on Jesus, but God exalted Jesus to His right hand and made Him ruler and savior to give repentance to His people and forgiveness of sins.
Peter ends his statement telling the Council that he and the other Apostles are not just heralds proclaiming Jesus, but witnesses of Jesus, death and resurrection, and that they are witnesses with the Holy Spirit who has been given to them and anyone who obeys God and believes on Jesus. This correlates back to Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit in John 15:26-27.
“Mark Twain encountered a ruthless businessman in Boston during his travels who boasted that nobody ever go in his wa once he determined to do something, He said, ‘Before I die mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I’m going to climb Mount Sinai. And when I’m up there I’m gonna read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top of my voice!’ Unimpressed, Twin responded, ‘I got a better idea. Stay in Boston and keep ‘em’” (Swindoll, p413). What’s the point? The point is that to follow God’s will, to follow His leading, we must be obedient to Him. King Saul was disobedient, so David was made King. The People of Israel were disobedient, so they were sent into exile. The Jewish Leadership was disobedient, so God has put Israel on hold and raised up the Church. The Apostles may have been disobedient to the Jewish Leaders, but civil disobedience is always shown as an exception in Scripture. The Apostles knew that the commission they received from Jesus to testify about Him and teach what He taught, was the command they had to obey.
Are you obeying God’s commands? Are you obeying Scripture? We have no higher authority than the Bible. What is God leading you to do?
God blesses faithful, obedient ministry – vv 33-39
Peter’s reply enraged the High Priest and the Sadducees to the point of wanting to kill them, probably had stones picked out already. However since the Apostles had the respect of the general population, the Sadducees needed the Pharisees’ support since the Pharisees had more public respect. But a calm voice took control. A Pharisee called Gamaliel the Elder. Gamaliel would be later known as the greatest teach of his day, he was remembered by later generations as the embodiment of Pharisaism. We find out in Acts 22:3 that Paul was a pupil of Gamaliel. He sent the Apostles out of the room so he could address the rest of the Council.
Gamaliel warns them not to be to rash, and then gives them a couple of illustrations.
First he reminds them of an insurgent leader called Theudas who made large claims about himself, gathered 400 men, and gained nothing. He died and his followers fled. There is no other information about this man, though he is probably 1 of many insurgent leaders that came to power after the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C.
Then Gamaliel reminds them of another revolt that was led by Judas the Galilean. In A.D. 6 another census was ordered to determine the tribute amount for the Province of Judea. Judas led a religious and nationalist revolt claiming that the Jewish people should have to pay a pagan ruler when their true king was God and they were in the land He had given them. Rome crushed this rebellion, but history shows us that the spirit of this revolt lived on in the part of the Zealots who led the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66.
Gamaliel then makes his point by telling the Council that if the Apostles and their teaching were of men’s wisdom or scheme the Apostles would fail. But if the Apostles were from God, they would not fail, and the Sanhedrin would not be able to stop them. The Sanhedrin might even been seen as fighting God. As we will see in a few chapters, Paul of Tarsus had a different mindset, but the Council saw Gamaliel’s wisdom and did not kill the Apostles.
Connecting Dundee and Wormit, the center section of Tay Bridge collapsed in 1879. A train running on the bridge’s track fell into the Firth of Tay, killing all 75 passengers on board. Top-heavy, susceptible to high winds and built with low-quality support columns, inspectors noted that the bridge was poorly designed and shoddily constructed. Evidence of deterioration in the months prior to failure indicated that the bridge was also badly maintained. (https://www.complex.com/style/2011/12/the-50-worst-architecture-fails/17 – 10/20/18)
Like an inept architect designing a bridge that fails, many plans of men will fail if God allows to it. Sometimes things last that shouldn’t, and things we think should last, don’t. But God is sovereign and allows plans, movements, and ministries to succeed or failure as He wills. Gamaliel’s point is that if God is behind the Apostles, they will flourish and be blessed despite what the Sanhedrin do or don’t do. The Jewish Leaders, should sit and watch and see if the Apostles fail on their own.
No matter what we do. No matter what we plan, or think should work, or ministry we try, if it is outside God’s will, it will fail. And sometimes we are right, and we just need to continue to obey God, pray for His leading and will. In the bulletin, I have added purpose and direction for the church to the Prayer section. I trust we are all praying for God’s leading and direction for our church as well as our own lives and ministries.
Rejoicing in hard times – vv 40-42
Gamaliel’s view may have represented the majority of the Pharisees, but it was enough to persaud the rest of Council to not execute the Apostles, mere flog them for disobeying the Council’s order. This flogging may have been the 39 lashes (40 lashes, save one) from a whip or something else may have been done for the “minor” offense of disobeying a ban on teaching, either why Luke doesn’t specify. After having the Apostles beaten, the Sanhedrin re-issue their ban on the Apostles teaching in the Name of Jesus. The Apostles were then released.
When the Apostles were released they rejoiced. They didn’t rejoice over being released, but over being beaten and disgraced for the Name of Jesus. Paul says something similar in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings”. The Bible teaches that Christians will suffer persecution for Christ. Paul and the other Apostles rejoiced in their persecution, because they knew they were doing what they were supposed to do. In the case of the Twelve here they knew that the beating they endured here and anything else that would follow would be minor compared to the disgrace and beating Jesus endured. This was a part of their participation in Jesus’ sufferings. Jesus warned the Apostles, and by extension us, in John 15:18-25 about the world hating Jesus and His disciples. The Apostles knew they were doing what they were supposed to do, they were obeying God’s commands, and following His leading. They continued to teach and preach that Jesus is the Messiah in homes around Jerusalem and back in the Temple. They knew this might lead to further arrests, further beatings, or death. But proclaiming the gospel, as they had been commissioned to do by Christ, was what they had to do, no matter the cost.
The Apostles were following God’s direction. They knew what the cost might be and they rejoiced in the fact they were suffering for Christ. The Apostles didn’t play it safe, they didn’t hesitate. They continued to preach the gospel. They continued to follow God’s leading. The Apostles knew they were following direct leading and commands from God, sometimes discerning God’s leading can be difficult. But, if we are obedient to God and the Scripture, and pray for wisdom God will give direction clearly.
God wants us to follow His leading. In the passage today, we saw the example of the Apostles obediently following what they knew God expected them to do, though they were beaten, they didn’t hesitate to continue to follow God’s leading.
We also saw through Gamaliel’s examples that if God is not behind the endeavor or if steps are taken outside of His will, it will fail. Sometimes, for reasons known only to God, He allows somethings to fail that we think shouldn’t and sometimes He allows somethings to succeed that we think shouldn’t.
No matter where God leads us, no matter what hardships, no matter what success, God wants obedient disciples. We need to seek God’s will before our own. We need to seek His glory before our own. We need to pray for clear direction, and then take steps in obedience when the direction is clear.