Thursday, November 15, 2007

Acts, Chapter 5

The power of God cannot be stopped by the acts of mankind. That is the theme today in Acts 5. While I expect those that follow along to read the whole chapter, I will be concentrating primarily on the second half today. It is not that the first half of this chapter is not important. It is that I feel a more important message can be derived from the second half of the chapter, as a major turning point in the church is reached beyond verse 12.

As we saw yesterday, the early church had just begun to face its first challenge. It had already grown by leaps and bounds, causing the Sanhedrin to take notice and begin to fear for their own power over the people. Today we see that the church began to face that persecution in earnest through beatings, jail, and reprimands. In the face of this Peter and the rest of the apostles continued to share the good news unashamed of what they were doing. As a result miracles were being performed by the Holy Spirit and many more came to the faith.

"17Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20"Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." – Acts 5:17-20

God 1, The Sadducees 0. This is just further proof that the ways of God cannot be stopped in the face of man. Apostles weren't even in jail 24 hours before the angel of the Lord freed them. What even better is that they were not told to run and hide, but to appear in the very temple court the next day to preach the gospel. They were told to boldly return to the place they were thrown out of and continue to do what they were arrested for in the first place.

27Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." 29Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." – Acts 5:27-32

No truer words have been spoken than, "We must obey God rather than men." What conviction this men had. Remember, during much of Jesus' public ministry they were timid men. Many of them fled when Jesus was facing His crucifixion and didn't know what to do. Peter himself had denied Jesus three times, and now he was standing defiantly in front of many of the same people who had condemned Him to death. This is the kind of faith that we must exercise.

"34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." – Acts 5:34-39

I would say that now, 2000 years later, Gamaliel has his proof. Other than the brief mention of Theudas and Judas I had never heard of them or their revolts, but Jesus and His followers have certainly persisted and grown stronger right up to the present day. Even the most virulent skeptic cannot deny this. Surely His message would have failed long ago if based on human origin, much like other human messages that have become footnotes to history.


  1. What is your take on the first part of the chapter about holding back from God?
  2. How dramatic was the change in Peter?
  3. How does God continue to prove that His message is from Him?

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