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Obey God rather than men

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Obey God rather than men

Acts 5:12–16 ESV
12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
What we have before is a passage that gets a lot of attention in certain churches. It has becomes something of an objective goal for certain churches. And yet there is something way more important happening here than just people being healed.
What would happen if every time we read our Bibles we made the story we read about ourselves? We either made the main character relatable to us or we decided to take the results we see and decide that we are looking for the same results in our life or our church?
If reading makes you wonder why we don’t see sick people lined up being healed everywhere the church, then you are reading this passage wrong all together.
Now, to be sure, God does in fact miraculously heal people all the time… But we must ask ourselves what the Bible is all about? It is all about God. So what does this passage teach us about God? Well what is happening here?
The answer is this - The church is being established. More precisely, the church that didn’t exist just weeks before is being established. There is a historical context and specific keys to understanding this and the rest of the chapter we must see before we can ask what the implications are for us. So let’s look at it that way.
Acts 5:12 ESV
12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.
2 things here - First notice they are in Solomon’s Portico. This is the scene where Peter and John preached just a few short weeks before after healing a lame beggar. It is a court on the east side of the temple, and it faced the gentile court. Now that is important information, but hold that thought… They were preaching to Jews at the temple in a court that faced another court where only gentiles could go.
While some want to rush through to Peter’s shadow healing people, we need to understand more than the location of Solomon’s Portico… Like I said Peter and John had already preached there after healing a lame beggar, but some thing else happen there too.
Jesus taught there. And while that is a really interesting coincidence it becomes incredible when you understand what Jesus said there, and then what Peter and John did and said there… All of which gives the right context to this scene.
John 10:22–39 ESV
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
Did you notice what Jesus taught them in Solomon’s Portico?
They wanted to know if he was the Christ? Peter and John are teaching that he is the Christ in Solomon’s Portico.
Jesus told them they didn’t believe him because they didn’t belong to them. That his sheep hear his voice? In this very spots some time later Peter and John will call for the jews to repent and his sheep will come to him right there.
They wanted to kill him for blasphemy and Jesus showed them how their lack of understanding of scripture makes them the blasphemers for not believing in the Son of God. But the important part is what he tells them about the works of God, if they don’t believe the one sent by God believe the works themselves so that they understand that Jesus and the Father are one!
This is the scene where the apostles are now gathered and they are performing many signs and wonders. As if Jesus’ words are still echoing in those chambers. Right in front of Jews and gentiles.
The second thing is that so many signs and wonders are being done at the hands of the apostles… Why not everyone that was in the church at point? Some 5,000 people. Why just the apostles?
Well Paul gives us hint as to why this is later when he is writing a letter to the Corinthian church.
2 Corinthians 12:12 ESV
12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
Paul told that church that a TRUE apostle was one who could perform signs and wonders and mighty works.
This is necessary for apostles because they are the ones teaching about Jesus as eyewitnesses.
Why should anyone believe them when they say they are eyewitnesses? Because God gives them the ability to perform signs and wonders to confirm the words they teach, Just like Jesus did.
This means that the early church was not a miracle working church. We have nothing written to make us believe that this was normative for every believer at that time. But we do have lots of scripture to show us that it was normative for the apostles at that time.

That means that the early church… was a church with miracle working apostles who pointed others to Jesus!

And an important thing to denote here is that Luke didn’t record that many signs and wonders were done through the hands of Peter and John, even though most of the attention seems to be on them at this point. He is specifically saying it was at the hands of the apostles.
We heard last week how all the people were of one heart and soul, and that the apostles were preaching the resurrected Christ. Luke has no problem reporting details about people. So when he makes this statement we must realize he is talking about the apostles specifically.
And please understand that it in no way diminishes the Glory of God healing people, just because it was only through the apostles hands. After all, the apostles are not the ones with whom the power has originated with to heal, but God is always the source. It is just that Luke is reporting to us that the early church was being built up as the apostles were bringing attention to the Gospel message by validating miracles.
This combined with the word about Ananias and Sapphira caused people who were hearing about all this to have certain precautions...
Acts 5:13 ESV
13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
None of the rest of who… There is a lot of translating language here but we are gonna be talking about 3 different groups of people. First the apostles who were all together in Solomon’s Portico. Next is this group that didn’t dare to join them, but held them in high esteem.
Most Bible scholars believe this is talking about the Gentiles in the court near Solomon’s Portico. Why? Because the next verse would be a contradiction if not, and we know that scripture doesn’t ever contradict itself. look at it with me.
Acts 5:14 ESV
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
How do we go from, “none of the rest dared to join them”, to “more than ever believers were added”???
As we will see later in the Book of Acts, the gospel is first opened to the Jews to believe. It isn’t until acts 10 that we see gentiles becoming Christians with the Jews who believed.
In these verses it is saying that many more Jews will be added to them but there is another group of people who held them in high esteem and yet didn’t want anything to do with them, precisely because of the signs and wonders being done, coupled with a Hold God who judged Ananias and Sapphira. So there is a lot of people taking notice and desiring to be included in this movement.
Notice also that Luke intentionally included women here. Any movement at that point in time wouldn’t have ever cared to mention that women were joining, but here Luke is pointing out that it is more than just men being convinced of the gospel.

The gospel is a message that saves all kinds of people

it is interesting here to see the how Jews are being saved and there are some who are taking noticed but not joining… That wont last long as we will see, this gospel of Jesus Christ will be opened to everyone. But one of the first ways we see this is its inclusion of women as those who joined the church.
In the midst of great unity and reverence of a Holy God, the leaders of the church, the apostles perform many signs and wonders and this only encourages those whom the world would’ve previously overlooked to be part of the church. This is the power of the gospel!
I love what Al Mohler said here...
“Even though many people feared being associated with the Christians, the church still found itself growing in number. Nothing, not even human fear, can keep the gospel from effectively challenging sinners and converting them from sin unto salvation.”
This is the power of the gospel and it is available to all kinds of people!
This is glorious truth that means more than what comes next, even though what comes next tends to get a ll the attention.
Acts 5:14–15 ESV
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.
Acts 5:14–16 ESV
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
People were healed… in fact they all were. The only other places where we see this is in the earthly ministry of Jesus. This somehow becomes the one thing that churches today want to focus on, and yet this isn’t the point of this passage. The point is that God is establishing his church through the apostles preaching and teaching. They are in the same place Jesus was in and these people are now seeing how wrong they were when Jesus told them to at least believe in the signs.
These miracles are validating the message that is changing lives - the resurrection of Jesus is being preached and proclaimed in the very temple people are going to in order to worship God. These people will hear of a message about Jesus being one with the Father, and that was rejected. Now this Jesus that was crucified has risen from the dead and his followers are preaching this gospel. And to prove they are not just causing trouble for the religious leaders, many signs and wonders are being done. So much so that from even the towns around Jerusalem people are bringing out their sick to simply be put in Peters shadow. And everyone is getting healed.
That is what is happening, and think about how that news caught peoples attention… Now whatever they teach about God, this will become truth for people because they now are eyewitnesses to something they have never heard before. They do not have any NT scripture as we do… this is the beginning of a new church, and people will believe that it is the true church because of the power demonstrated by its leaders.
So this isn’t some sort of result based promise for every church today. In fact it has nothing to do with our churches today, other than to say, God is able to do anything and he can still choose to heal if he wants. This text teaches us that God is powerful enough to establish his church where no one believes.

“The church is not built on marketing strategies but on the power of God’s word and Spirit” - Al Mohler

Remember the Apostles are preaching about Jesus and teaching truth in homes as they meet with the church all around Jerusalem, and now even people from outside Jerusalem are coming to here.
Spiritual warfare is beginning to happen as evil spirits are being driven out of people. And remember they were already told once to stop teaching about this Jesus. God is having his church be built by displaying miraculous wonders that people cannot deny even if they do not like the message. And this is how he started the church, because the message is what the church is all about. The message is not all about you getting healed??? Why do I say that?
Because the Lord builds his church, not humans… not people or personalities. Humans, people, their personalities are all used by God to build his church. God’s church is a people of saved sinners who he is transforming into his holy people by the power of his Spirit through the preaching of his Word. And through the ages, this kind of miraculous healing has not been repeated like this here, but the message is still going out with the power of the Spirit.
Just think for a moment, if you wanted to stop this kingdom coming, you wouldn’t attack the spectacular works… you would want to use those spectacles to bring people to a different message. And that is what Satan is trying to do… Excite people about everything except the true message - that God saves sinners from his wrath, by sending his Son to the cross to suffer and die, so that they will not be judged in his coming kingdom!
This is the very opposite of what most churches are preaching today. they are chasing after miracles signs and wonders without hearing the message that these signs and wonders pointed the early church to…
H. Richard Niebuhr said it this way in his book about the Kingdom of God in America -
People now preach...
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

This is what happen when people desire power and spiritual giftings disconnected from the giver of not only all those gifts, but life itself. The message get so compromised that it doesn’t even resemble Christianity, and yet it is done in the name of Jesus… Satan is a masterful manipulator and the father of lies and deceit. Beware American church.

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Back to the text ...
Acts 5:17 ESV
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy
now before we read the rest of this story I need you to know who we are talking about here. The Sadducees are a religious sect that is very liberal and ver y political. They were the ones who accepted only the Torah, or law as scripture. they did not believe in supernatural things like angels, spiritual healings, they didn’t believe in the resurrection, or eternal, heaven or hell… This is why they were sad you see… Dumb joke but it helps you remember who they were.
They also were not as against Rome as their counterparts the pharisees. In fact they were secretly working with Rome to gain control of the temple, so they even agreed with Rome that their land and temple was really roman territory. That is why they are jealous and angry with the apostles.
All these crowds in their temples are listening to these guys who are doing things they do not agree with. Ok So that is some quick context… let continue...
Acts 5:17–26 ESV
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
Ok… Lots here but are you seeing the irony here???
Knowing what I just told you about the Sadducees, understanding what was happening just before this with many signs being done and people joining this Christian movement, can you feel the tension and see how Gloriously good God is to his people in the midst of all of this?
The Sadducees who don’t believe in spiritual healing are jealous of the Apostles who are healing everyone in an effort to preach the truth of the gospel to them. They are upset that their precious temple is becoming ground zero for massive groups of people to come to Jesus. They arrest these men and an Angel, that they don’t believe in, rescues them.
What is even better is that the angel did not set them free to flee the country but for a specific reason. look at it!
Acts 5:20 ESV
20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
The angel tells them to go put themselves in harms way again! He doesn’t say, “God heard your cries fro help, so go home and get some rest...”
No, go right back to the temple and keep preaching the gospel...
But he didn’t say gospel, he said, “Speak to the people all the words of Life”
What is the words of Life? Does peter know what the angel is talking about?
John 6:68 ESV
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
What about John? does John
1 John 1:1–3 ESV
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the words of life! The angel is telling them to go Preach the gospel of Jesus Christ!
This best describes the gospel since Jesus is the words of life and has the words of life!
These apostles know exactly what the angel is telling them to do, and they do it! Can you sense the irony as they are ready to call these guys back in the morning but they cant find them? These sadducees loved to be seen as the smartest guys in the room and here they are in a room wondering what happened only to find out that these guys they arrested are out doing it again!
to make things even worse, they can’t just go grab them because they are now afraid of the people who are listening to them.
“The ironies in this story are evidence of God’s sovereign hand at work” Al Mohler

God’s plan to advance his kingdom will not be stopped

And just to be sure you understand what I am saying here… God did not allow his plans to be stopped because he sent Angels and wrought miracle through the apostles hands, and yet his kingdom isn’t stopped because his people are not silenced.
And just when you think this story is going to turn and these guys are gonna have stop and be quiet, another opportunity comes. An opportunity for obedience...
Acts 5:27–29 ESV
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
This is getting to the crux of the matter here for the apostles. Who do they obey? This isn’t the first time that Peter pits the religious leaders against God either. He did it earlier in acts and here he is going to be even more bold than before. Yet I do not want to rush over this statement in an effort to finish the story. Again the Bible is all about God, so what does this teach us about God?

It is better to obey God than men

These guys had every opportunity to obey the men in authority over them. And they did everything they needed to do to live at peace with those in authority over them, but they draw the line at the point when it comes before obeying God.
If anyone had a chance to not obey God it would these guys. They could’ve said to God, “They will kill us if we listen you.” If anyone could’ve complained about what God was asking them to do, it is these guys. Yet lets not forget that the last time they were released from prison they called a prayer meeting together and the Holy Spirit shook the place where they were meeting and they were filled with boldness. These guys are not backing down… watch how peter carries on in his response.
Acts 5:29–33 ESV
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
This isn’t just bold, this it placing the religious leaders in opposition to God. But even more than that it is like they are saying, they belong to a different kingdom. These guys knew that the government and the religious leaders do not have ultimate authority. Only God does. As long as they do not as you to violate God’s word, follow the government. As long as the religious leaders do not stop them from preaching the gospel, there isn’t a problem. They belong to a higher kingdom, and they must obey God!
This causes the Sadducees to want to kill them. The gospel is again preached directly to them and they want to kill Peter. What an example this is to us. Now it may not seem like it, but there are many around the world this very day whose lives are in jeopardy for preaching the Gospel, and this story should give them the resolve they need to trust the Lord for their deliverance. It should also encourage us to see how God delivers them as well. The first time God uses an Angel, that they don’t believe in. This time HE will use one of their own.
Acts 5:34–39 ESV
34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
Amazingly this Gamaliel talks some sense into these guys. He recounts how in the past they didn’t need to worry about troublemakers and if they are from God, they don’t want to be found opposing God.
This is advice I wish every Christian would take. Sometimes we try to pick fights or we get all bent out of shape when someone who is not orthodox is seen speaking for the rest of us. People draw lines in the sane and pick sides. yet even here there was a voice of reason. But it is more than that.
Who is this Gamaliel? Well without getting too sidetracked… pretty soon we are going to hear about a man named Saul who will persecute the church. This Saul gets saved and becomes Paul the Apostle. He ends up writing 2/3 of the NT… So what. Well guess who his teacher of the law was? He tells us...
Acts 22:3 ESV
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
This Gamaliel is one of the most respected rabbi’s of that time. He taught the Apostle Paul. This man was used by God to bring much glory to himself even though he was a jew and found himself in opposition to these Christians.
This is a picture of the Sovereignty of God at work behind the scenes for years in ways no one would ever understand until many things come to light!

The church is founded on the Sovereignty of God

It is all over this story we hear today. It is more than Irony, and more than divine rescue.
We have the power of God being displayed, and that causes some people to stay away from the church and yet it causes others to come be part of it by submitting to Christ as Lord and Savior. This makes no sense to us but it is God’s sovereignty that is working out a plan since before the foundations of the world.
The same attention the apostles get that brings people to the church is what causes them to be captured and sent to prison. This only serve to further the gospel as they are delivered by an angel to go preach even more and ultimately preach it to the religious leaders. The church is not being built on gimmicks but on a divine plan that makes no sense to main players yet it cause such a rise that no one can stop it. And God sovereignly speaks this through Gamaliel as a means of escape from death here.
But it is not over yet… because there is an attitude that is displayed here that sets the tone for the rest of the NT...
Acts 5:40–42 ESV
40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
This is an attitude we must have in the face of suffering. Isn’t it interesting that God didn’t deliver from the beating?
They didn’t perceive this as a failure because it ended with them being beat up… rather they rejoiced because they were worthy to suffer dishonor for his name! They suffered well and it sets an example to us when we suffer in this life.

The church is built on those who suffered well

and by saying suffered well, I don’t mean they just grinned and beared it. They actually rejoiced! and they didn’t say, “that was close, not lets go home and not do that anymore”.... they suffered well because they kept going and the kept preaching the gospel.
This is what is greater than people being healed in the streets because it is the message they take from house to house. They can do that because of the miraculous. Those miracles validated the message to a people who didn’t know anything about this God and the words of truth, Jesus.
Suffering well it what it looks like to be formed into a passionate follower of Jesus!
Rejoicing as you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for his names sake, will help you be formed into a passionate follower of Jesus… And notice they did this by proclaiming the Gospel and the glory of God in the truth about the resurrection of Jesus!
Aren’t you glad they did this and didn’t stop, as this same message has reached us some 2,000 yrs later?

Question 1 - What is wrong with the church looking for miraculous signs?

Is there something wrong with this? Should we be chasing signs and wonders. Why is it important to understand these stories from Acts in their proper context. How do churches get away from sound doctrine when they make miracles and signs a priority? What is the right understanding of miraculous healings in this story?

Question 2 - How does this story show us the Sovereignty of God?

Do you understand what it means for God to be a sovereign ruler over all creation? How does scripture show us this? In what ways are you most impressed with the sovereign plan of God unfolding before your eyes as you read these stories? When you understand what this means, how does it give you hope for the current condition of the church today?

Question 3 - What is the role of suffering in the life of the church?

Can there be any church today without 2 millennia of suffering saints passing the message of the gospel on to us? What should our attitude be toward suffering dishonor for his names sake? Could we really rejoice if we were put in the same position as these men were? Why doesn’t this get more attention in our churches in this current culture? How can we help each other suffer well for the cause of Christ and his church being built until he returns for it?

What does this text and this sermon teach us about God?

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