Bold in Christ
So today, we will be continuing our look at Acts and the work of the early church. If you have your Bible, I will invite you to turn to Acts 4:1-22 where we will continue to look at the lives of Peter and John.
The world will always notice a life that is lived boldly in Christ and for Christ. Throughout history, many Christians have been celebrated and heralded for their service and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. Lottie Moon dedicated her life to reaching the people of China. She left her home, friends, and everything she knew here in the states to share the Gospel. Her life and dedication to the Gospel have inspired and equipped large number of Christians to engage the mission of reaching people around the world. Every year, Southern Baptist Churches around the US collect an offering to equip and send missionairies around the world for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Her life was noticed and remembered for living boldly for Christ.
Annie Armstrong was another woman in our denominations history that lived boldly for Christ. She was committed to caring for orphans and immigrants as she ministered and shared the Gospel with them. Annie helped found the women’s missionary union which helped facilitate ministry and streamlined communication for partnering churches. This ministry group continues today and we take an offering every year that goes to fund missionaires and ministries around North America.
I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie “End of the Spear,” but this movie tells the true story of five missionaries who fly to Columbia to reach an indiginous tribe of people. The 5 men in this group end up being killed by this tribe. In response, the wives and children of these missionaries move in with the tribe to teach them about forgiveness and the Gospel. These families were willing to sacrifice everything in order to be faithful to the mission of God and the spread of the Gospel. As a result, numerous people came to know the Lord and the Kingdom of God advanced into new areas.
These are just three stories of missionaries who have dedicated their lives to God and to His work. I could spend hours discussing people who have done the very same. We could read Scripture after Scripture describing people who have been bold in their faith for the sake of the kingdom. God calls us to this type of boldness in our lives. We are called to live for Christ and for His kingdom, willing to give up anything for the sake of Christ and His mission. Now God doesn’t not call everyone to vocational ministry. He does not call everyone to give up the same things or go the same places. However, we should willing to do whatever God asks of us for the sake of His kingdom.
So today we will look at the actions of Peter and John as they boldly stand for their faith. Follow along as I read beginning in Acts 4:1
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
As I read this passage throughout the week and when Blake and I gathered to examine the Scripture and prep the sermon, the idea of boldness began to surface. For myself, this is not perhaps the first thing that really came to my mind. Yes, we see Peter and John who are faithful to declare the message, but at first read through I didn’t really think much about them being brought in front of the council. There was no sentence, but basically a warning, no big deal right. So they fact they are sharing the message of Christ has not caught them anything right. But as I though about it, I came to an important realization. Boldness in faith is not determined by the reactions of the world or the level of persecution received. No, boldness in faith is determined by obedience of individuals for Christ. Peter and John had no idea what the cost would be for sharing the Gospel and teaching about Jesus in the temple. There was great risk for their actions, however they were willing to be obedient regardless of the cost. That is living boldly for Christ. Even though Peter and John receive a warning, they are still persecuted for their faith. Persecution is a fact in our world.
When we are passionate in our faith and when we are dedicated to the mission of sharing the Gospel and the truth of Jesus Christ, there will be people or groups that will attempt to silence your voice or actively stand against you. Throughout history, levels and types of persecution have come and gone. However, persecution has always existed. Some areas may experience a reprieve from persecution, while other areas in the world will see elevated persecution. It is true that God is control of all things and that His Kingdom and purposes will come to fruition, but there is an enemy that is striving to keep people from God’s Kingdom. Satan is actively working against the people of God. He wants to see a world living in hate and divided. While satan cannot win, He has been defeated and God’s victory in ensured, that does not mean he cannot work to attempt to limit the reach of the Gospel. Because of our sinful nature and the work of Satan and his forces, persecution will continue to happen. As satan and sin works one of the biggest results and reason for persecution is the fact that people try to justify sinful lifestyles
People try to justify sinful lifestyles
Take a look at the actions of the council. They had very little interest in what God had down through the healing of this man who was lame. No. They were more interested in their rules and guidelines for the temple. Instead of celebrating with the people over the power and grace of God, they were more concerned over their own position and power. Acts 4 tells us the reason that Peter and John were arrested is that the sadducees were annoyed by the teaching of these two mean about Jesus and His resurrection. So there was no attempt at listening to the truth or seeing what God was doing through Peter and John. No they were annoyed, so they arrested them in an attempt to keep them silent and then asked them by what authority they were teaching in the temple. All they cared about was their power, their rules, and their own lives and they acted in an attempt to perserve their own way of life.
The same is happening today. Christians are persecuted because the world wants to go about living their wordly, sinful life. Instead of listening to a loving message about forgivenss and the grace of God. They chose to hear a message of condemnation, even going so far as to say the message of the Gospel is a message of hatred and judgement. Some people’s lives and their own purpose are so integrated in their sinful nature. They will do anything to be able to justify their own sinfulness. This isn’t isolated just to the lost, people in the church will do the same thing. There is only one source of truth. God himself is the author of truth, so we need to seek Him and His word, not trusting in our own feelings or judgements, but relying in God’s truth alone.
So while persecution is never good and is a result of the sinfulness of the world, God still uses persecution.
God uses persecution
As Peter and John are faithful to preach the message, even though they are arrested. 5,000 men respond to the Gospel. So while the sadducees attempted to restrict the message and the effectiveness of the Gospel, God still used Peter and John to bring thousands into a saving relationship with Him. So I don’t believe that God rejoices in persecution, He will use it for His Kingdom. The fact of the matter is, throughout history the church has actually thrived and grew during some of the harshest conditions. The early church was persucted and put to death for their faith, yet the Church grew in spite of this persecution. Churches in China have continued to grow despite the severe pressure brought against them. So yes persecution exists and is always evil, but our God is a God who will bring good even out of the worst circumstances. The fact of the matter is God is almighty. He loves us and desires that people should come to a saving personal relationship with Him. For those reasons, he has provided salvation in Christ.
2. Salvation in Christ
Because of the gift of Jesus Christ, salvation is available to everyone. Unfortunately, many people will miss it. The Bible tells us that wide is that path that leads to destruction, but narrow the path that leads to righteousness. People in our world desire to improve themselves. They will spend hours and hours learning new skills, going to workshops, or reading books. Just look online or go to a bookstore and see the number of self-help or self-improvement resources available. We are obsessed with bettering ourselves. The sad part is, most people will waste their time in pursuing answers in the world and ignore the truth and salvation that comes in Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is salvation is in Christ alone
In Christ Alone (Cornerstone)
Acts 4 tells us how Jesus is the cornerstone of faith. What a great illustration about the role of Jesus. During the life of Jesus, cornerstones were essential in construction. The cornerstone would have to be perfect, it was perfectly square, laid first and with great precision. Then every other stone in a building would be laid in relation to the cornerstone. A building could not function without this cornerstone. The same is true for our lives. In Christ, our lives are laid next to His. We examine who we are and what we are supposed to do according to the life of Christ and His will. When we find ourselves outside of that, we do not move the cornerstone or change who Jesus is, no we adjust our lives to Him. This is how God has built his church. Life after life, surrendered to Christ, lives lived for the Gospel in obedience to His mission.
There is no other way to find salvation, but only in Christ. John 14:6 says,
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Some people think this truth limits or isolates people away from God. Practically that may happen, but it is not because God desires for them to be isolated. God provides clarity and specific instruction. He tells us that all other roads will only lead to descruction and not salvation. God doesn’t want people to be confused and pursue the wrong path. So He specifically says the road to salvation in through Jesus Christ alone. He is THE authority
b. He is THE authority
God has provided a path to salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, through His authority. While there are other authorities in this world, none of them compare to the authority of Jesus. The sadducees ask by what authority Peter and John are teaching. Their response is basically Jesus, who you have rejected has given our authority. While the council did not agree with their response, it didn’t matter for Peter and John. The authority of Jesus Christ is larger than any authority this council had and Peter and John were going to choose to follow Christ authority.
So through their example, we are shown the need to Live boldly.
3. Live Boldly
The Christian life is not about simply receiving Christ. It is not about having some sort of eternal fire insurance. No, it is about living for Christ, boldly through the Spirit. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Works are not required for salvation, but we are saved for goods works that God has already prepared for us. Revelation 21:8 tells us
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
We should not be cowardly about our faith. We need to boldly declare the message of Christ and live for Him. In fact, the spirit should be working for our lives in such a way that we cannot remain silent.
a. Cannot Remain Silent
Are our lives consumned with Christ to such a degree that we must speak out about Him. Look at what Peter and John say, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” I don’t think they say this statement out of stubbornness or rebellion. They aren’t saying, we are going to continue to speak simply because you told us not to. No, their lives are so consumed by the work of Jesus Christ, they cannot remain silent. Jeremiah 20:9 speaks about this type of passion for Christ
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
This is the type of relationship with Christ. A relationship that is so passionate and all-consuming that we cannot remain silent. I would pray that God would develop this burning fire inside of us, that we would be weary with holding the message of the Gospel in and that God would turn this burning fire weariness into a bold message of God’s grace, compassion, and forgiveness to the world around us. May we be passionate in reaching the lost and sharing the Gospel message. But just sharing the message is not enough, we must live the message.
b. Live the Message
I find it interesting that at the end of the council, they cannot charge Peter and John with anything. The may be teaching and the sadducees to not like the message, but they cannot do anything about it. The miraculous healing with the man standing right beside them is proof of everything they are saying. Their lives prove the message they are teaching and as such no punishment can be called down upon them and they leave with a simply warning to not teach of Jesus anymore.
Our lives need to mirror the lives of Peter and John. Lives lived through obedience so our testimony will prove and support the message of Jesus Christ. We can’t proclaim a Gospel and the need for repentence while failing to live for Christ ourselves. There is a quote that says, “you may be the only Jesus some people will see.” If people look at your life, what kind of Jesus will they see. Would it be the Jesus of the Bible, one who boldly declares truth, calling people to repentence and life change, all the while doing so in a loving and gracious manner? Or would they see some other Jesus? We are called to be bold in our faith. We must speak boldly about our faith, but we must also be bold as we live out that faith.