Good morning church family! Well once again I am videoing the message in order to keep everyone safe and healthy during these challenging times, particularly in light of Clark County’s escalation from orange alert to red alert this past week. But I did want you to know that I will still be in the office on Wednesdays.
This week we are starting on chapter 4 in the Acts of the Apostles. Are you enjoying our study thus far? I hope so, I know I am. Last week we briefly discussed Peter’s second sermon given immediately after his healing of the lame man, which is the first recorded miracle in Acts. Peter realized that he had a captive audience and that it would be a great time once again to share Jesus – to share the gospel with all those who had gathered around. We also took some time to learn more about the apostle Peter and his prominence in the early church.
So, this morning let’s start with Peter’s 2nd sermon again. Peter was full of the Holy Spirit thus his message was powerful. And as with his first sermon, he was straightforward and to the point, and he accused his audience of killing the author of life. Now we are still in this same scene, but we are moving on to chapter 4 and reading from verses 1-21 which is a very long reading I know, but there is a lot to cover. I’m reading from the NIV version. And I will stop occasionally to interject some comments.
“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. (Yes, you heard me correctly! It’s only Peter’s 2nd sermon and already they are put in jail for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ). But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
(If you recall, prior to the day of Pentecost there were about 120 believers. On Pentecost after Peter’s first sermon 3000 men were added to the church. After this, his second sermon, an additional 2000 men were added, totaling approximately 5000 men – from just two sermons. Wow! When the Holy Spirit is moving, He really does move doesn’t He?!)
The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called into account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “’the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Do people take note that you have been with Jesus? I’m asking myself that question right now!) But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Let us pray – Gracious God there is so much in Your Word for us to learn. We praise You for this wonderful gift and for the fact that we can never cease learning when we read it. We know that Your Word never returns to You empty, but that it accomplishes exactly what You set out for it to accomplish. May all of us be transformed through the power of Your Holy Spirit and Your mighty Word. In the Name of Jesus we ask and pray. Amen.
Just to explain who some of these people are – the priests initially involved were those who were serving that week in the temple precincts. The captain of the temple guard was the leader of the guards who were set around the temple to ensure order. The Sadducees were members of a small but powerful religious sect that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were religious leaders who stood to gain financially by cooperating with the Romans.
Peter and John were speaking during the afternoon prayer time. The Sadducees heard them and moved in quickly to investigate. Now think about it, if they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, they are going to indeed be disturbed with what the apostles were saying. Peter and John were point blank refuting one of their fundamental beliefs and thus threatening their authority as religious teachers. Even though the nation was under Roman rule, the Sadducees had almost unlimited power over the temple grounds. Thus, they were able to arrest Peter and John for no other reason than the apostles teaching something that contradicted their beliefs.
The rulers, elders and teachers of the law whom Peter and John made an appearance before the next day, made up the Jewish council – the same council that had condemned Jesus to death. There were 70 members plus the current high priest, Annas, who presided over the group. The Sadducees held a majority in this ruling group. The men in this council were among the most wealthy, intellectual, and powerful men in all of Jerusalem.
When Peter responds to them that morning, we are reminded once again that He was full of the Holy Spirit. He shares that the healing occurred by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who they crucified but whom God raised from the dead. He was the stone they rejected, but He became the cornerstone. He then goes on to make a very important declaration.
Salvation is found in no else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Did you hear that? No other name – not Buddha, not Mohammad, not Satan, (unfortunately yes, people worship Satan as a God), nor any of the other Gods worshipped around the globe. Nowadays people think as long as you believe in a God that it’s okay. You’re safe and you’re going to heaven. But church family that is simply not true.
Did you know there are over 4,300 religions in the world today? This is according to Adherents, an independent, non-religiously affiliated organization that monitors the number and size of the world’s religions. Yet nearly 75% of the world’s population practices one of the five most influential religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Christianity and Islam are the two religions most widely spread across the globe. As a matter of fact, these two religions comprise over more than half of the world’s population – which now stands at about 7.5 billion.
Yet, there is no other name – belief and faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven! And Jesus Himself tells us that – “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He also tells us to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). And with so many world religions, it’s easy to see how people can get confused and wind up going through the wide gate. Especially when you grow up in a religion that is not Christianity. We are fortunate and greatly blessed that at least most of us, if not all of us, grew up in the Christian faith, in a time when our country was primarily Christian. I don’t know about you, but I’m very thankful for that. I’m not sure at all that I would have found my way to Christ if I grew up in India, for example.
Now there is one more item I want to point out from this scripture passage. The Jewish council let Peter and John go but commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. I love how the apostles respond. “Judge for yourselves whether it’s right in God’s sight to obey you or Him. We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
At this point in their lives and walk with the Lord, Peter, John and all the apostles knew it was not about pleasing others. We have a term for that in our culture and it’s called people pleasing. They had learned it was all about pleasing God and only God. I don’t know about you, but I think this is a problem for many of us in this day and age. We want to be liked. We don’t want to upset others, so we often step outside of God’s will. And I think our social media situation now only exacerbates this issue. Unfortunately, church family, we as a society tend to be more worried about pleasing the people in our lives – our spouses, our families, our church family, the people around us in our communities, than we are about pleasing God. And this is a big problem, for at least some of us.
I’m working on this very issue right now in my life. I’ve come to the conclusion that fear of rejection is at the root of my desire to please other people. The problem is, my fear should be of the Lord’s rejection, not that of humans!
Finally in this passage, Peter and John end their rebuttal with “We cannot help speaking about what we had seen and heard.” When we come to know Jesus, when we realize the tremendous sacrifice He made on our behalf. When we come to experience His great love and mercy – His amazing grace – we can’t help but speak out on behalf of Him. I’d like to end with a profound scripture from the prophet Jeremiah, found in his book in chapter 20 verse 9, and it goes like this. “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.’”
Let us pray. Holy God may we speak out boldly in the name of Jesus for You. May we seek to please You above all. May we not hold the truth about what You have done for us quietly in our hearts, but rather share it with others. Share it with those you put across our path, those who we are to nurture, to mentor, to raise. May we not only speak the truth about You, but may we live it! May we be transformed by the renewal of our minds through Your written Word. May our hearts be purified through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. May we live each day for You and only You.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.