Today: [Acts 5:26-42 Part 2] Would You Take a Beating for Jesus? In Part 2 of Acts five, we find the apostles threatened and beaten by the council of the Sadducees. Regardless of the threatenings, they continue preaching and teaching without hesitation. Would you embrace these radicals as your spiritual leaders? Would you be willing to allow convicted criminals into your home to teach your children? What level of persecution would you endure for the faith once delivered to the saints?
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[Acts 5:26-42 KJV] Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 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. 34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, [even] as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
In part 2 of Acts, we find the apostles again taken into custody after the death of Ananias and Sapphira. The first time this happens, the Sadducees are none too concerned about the treatment of these men but now after 10’s of 1000’s of converts joining under their leadership they handle them differently although their intent to destroy the movement springing up around Jesus is the same. They set Peter and the remainder before them, reiterating the prohibition previously issued that they were not allowed to teach in Jesus’ name. Have you ever been a part of a church or ministry that seemed intent on suppressing what appeared to be a move of God in their midst? Have you ever felt pressure coming against you from friends or family because of your faith in Christ? In our own society, secularism defines the freedoms of the founding fathers as excluding faith from the public square. Our way of life is suppressed more and more each day as society terms us out of step, homophobic, backward and not up with the times. In the very heart of the midwest icons of Christian faith are removed by court order while altars to pagan gods are celebrated all in the name of diversity and tolerance. It is crucial for us to learn the lessons of how Peter and the apostles handle themselves under stiff persecution because like or not these same anti-Christ influences are baying like wolves at the door of the church as we know it.
In verse 29 Peter’s answer is simply they should obey God rather than men. There is hardly a social interaction that you might engage in that doesn’t impose upon you certain rules and expectations. What happens on the job or even in your church when you feel called upon by God to transgress the protocols of expectation imposed upon you? What will you do when you are challenged by the status quo? Peter doesn’t rail against these men about his right to have an opinion. He merely gives a direct answer and doesn’t try to avoid the consequences of his heartfelt determination to honor God more than what others demand of him otherwise. In spite of this, they intend to kill Peter. Could this happen today? It is not uncommon even in Evangelical circles for believers who disagree to speak death over one another. They turn each other over to Satan, etc., etc., and it gives one cause to thank God that the church doesn’t have the power of capital punishment against those it disagrees with. Let us remember that in recent centuries the most virulent persecution of the faith originated in the church itself until representative governments removed from the medieval church the right to condemn its detractors to the rack and the flame.
The council is cut to the heart by Peter’s words, and though they want to slay them, Gamaliel stands up and cautions against their irrational anger toward the apostles. He points out the fact that false Messiah’s had risen up in times past and come to nothing. He isn’t agreeing with the apostles but just suggesting that they be left alone, hopefully, to extinguish themselves as a movement as many others have done in times past. His conclusion is if the work is of God it cannot be overthrown and that they are in danger of standing against God Himself. The council is convinced and after beating the apostles for good measure, release them. Would you be willing to take a beating for your faith? What if God told you to do something that resulted in you getting roughed up by the security team in your church and turned over to the police for disturbing the peace? We think that God would never do this, but this is precisely what happened in the latter part of Acts 5. Remember that the apostles went to the temple – to a public venue that they were not in charge of and didn’t have permission to speak in. Would you be willing to do this, knowing you would be in jail in just a few hours because of it? These questions must be asked, or we have no right to compare ourselves to these believers who were so willing and determined.
The apostles, beaten and bleeding, leave the council and return to their brethren. They weren’t recriminating each other for an adverse outcome. They were demanding to know who would pay their medical bills. They weren’t looking for someone to blame or insisting if things had been done differently it wouldn’t have turned out so badly. They were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. What did they do afterward? Did they back off and do things differently? Quite the opposite. The very next day they were back in the temple and every day after that doing the same thing that got them beaten and abused in the first place. Not only that but they were welcome house guests as they went from home to home daily – not on a Sunday or Saturday schedule. They didn’t limit themselves to a perfunctory semblance of Synagogue activity. This wasn’t a religious activity for them. It was a living lifestyle, consuming their every thought and deed, surrounded by men, women, and families who believed in Jesus and believed in these men who chose to represent Him at the imperiling of their own lives. How do you think you would fit in with this early community of the faith? Would you open your home to convicted criminals and rabble-rousers? Would you be willing to be seen with men whose very presence could get you arrested or perhaps your children taken away from you? The rumor against these believers was that they abused children and drank the blood of infants in their secret meetings. Could you take that kind of pressure? Is the Jesus they so willingly suffered for the Jesus we serve and would we be willing likewise to suffer? It isn’t a hypothetical question. Our culture as we know it is not nearly as far removed from such willingness to persecute the faith as we might desire.
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