God's Power on Display
As people, we are often attracted to power.
Men are drawn to power tools and power lifting and powerful leaders.
The opposite is true, isn’t it? We hate weakness. We hate being physically weak, we hate being emotionally weak.
In fact, I dare say that most of us wish there was more power in our lives.
This morning, as we cruise through Acts 5, we are going to see what real power looks like.
In fact, if there is one thing you leave here with this morning, it’s this reminder: God is a powerful God.
In the early days of the church, God manifested his power in awe-inspiring ways.
Some of those look like we would expect, and others may not meet up with what we think should happen.
However, as we look over three ways that God demonstrated his power in Acts 5, you will see that any demonstration of his power always was to bring him glory.
Don’t think that somehow you can put God in a box and force him to do what you want him to do.
Instead, recognize that whatever you are facing, God can and likely is working in his power for his glory and your good.
We see that first as we see that God has the…
1) Power to draw people to himself.
1) Power to draw people to himself.
Right after Ananias and Sapphira’s death, we see God’s power being displayed.
Read with me Acts 5:12-16…
You notice right off the bat that they are continuing to preach and teach publically, even though the leaders had told them not to. That’s going to be important again in just a minute.
After surviving the attack from within, the church is still continuing to grow in unity.
13 - As the believers continued meeting in the temple, non-believers didn’t feel comfortable associating with them for fear of the leaders.
By and large, though, the people were really happy with them.
14 – The hesitancy to avoid gathering with other Christians in the temple didn’t stop God from continuing to draw people to Christ. If you notice, we’re not even counting anymore. You go from group small enough to fit in one room in chapter 2 to 3000 who got saved by the end of chapter 2. By the beginning of chapter 4, you have 5000 men, not counting women and children. Now, we’re not even looking at numbers, we are just seeing “multitudes” saved.
It can be hard for us to believe this because we have seen so many times where lots of people made some kind of emotional decision to follow Christ and then turned away.
Keep in mind, though, that this is the testimony of Scripture. These aren’t the inflated numbers we use to make ourselves feel better; these were genuinely men, women, and children who were being saved!
How did it happen? Because the believer’s lives were consistently demonstrating the power of God.
God’s power was so evident that people were genuinely drawn to him.
Look at verse 15-16…
This may seem strange to you, but God worked so mightily through the early apostles that people were healed left and right.
God was validating what they were saying by healing people physically.
Physical healing does push back against the effects of sin and does show that God is ultimately in charge over all of creation, but it is also a picture of how God heals hearts.
We see this parallel often in the Gospels. For example, iIn Matthew 9, some men brought a paralyzed friend to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to heal him, and Jesus healed the man’s primary need: he forgave his sin.
Just then some men brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the scribes said to themselves, “He’s blaspheming!” Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then he told the paralytic, “Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.” So he got up and went home.
He said that the whole point of the physical healing was to demonstrate the more important reality: God can heal hearts!
That’s why Isaiah points to in Isaiah 53:5 –
But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.
That’s what we’re seeing in Acts – Luke puts verse 14 before verse 15 to tell us that they weren’t simply getting better physically; they were actually getting saved!
So, then, am I saying that we should reasonably expect the power of God to work through our church family to heal the sick?
While it is possible that God can do that, it doesn’t seem likely.
Keep in mind what we just said: One of the main purposes of these physical healing was to validate the apostle’s teaching.
Now, we have the Word of God and thousands of years of church history to validate that, so God may not manifest his power in the same way.
Can he? Absolutely!
Does he? Sometimes!
It is interesting to notice, though, that it doesn’t look like every believer had the abilities that God gave the apostles…look back to verse 12…
God may choose to heal someone here, but it won’t likely look like what God did here.
However, here’s where I believe he is more likely to work: by powerfully drawing people to himself.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Just like in the book of Acts, God can use his activity in our lives to draw people to himself.
He may not heal someone through you, but he can use the fact that you sat and listened to them as a way to draw someone to himself.
He may not raise the dead through you, but he can use you to encourage and lift someone up, pointing them to the one who was lifted up for them.
As he works powerfully through your life, remember that you are called to be his ambassador to the world:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”
Would you allow the power of God to work through your life so that others would be drawn to him?
It’s not about you!
The apostles weren’t doing this for notoriety or fame. Instead, they were following God’s leading, allowing his Spirit to powerfully draw people to Himself through them.
Are you willing to do the same?
That’s not the only way God’s power is manifested in this chapter, however.
God uses his power to draw, but he can also use his power…
2) Power to deliver believers from trouble.
2) Power to deliver believers from trouble.
The high priest gets mad at the apostles because, once again, they are doing what they weren’t supposed to do.
They are publicly preaching about Jesus, and it isn’t making them happy.
Read the account with me here in verse 17-18…
Now, here’s where it gets good. Pick up in verse 19-21a…
So, once again, God shows his power in tremendous ways!
Here they are, locked up in jail, and in the middle of the night, God sends an angel to spring them out!
How cool would that be? You’re sleeping, probably a little concerned about the fact that you’re in jail again, and suddenly, there is an angel, and he lets you out of jail!
Did you notice the command he gave them? (v20) – Don’t stop preaching about Jesus.
So, what do they do? They go back to preaching! Verse 21 tells us that they were right back at it the next morning.
Keep reading verse 21-25…
So God had delivered them so miraculously that nobody even noticed they were gone!
I love verse 24...I’d be perplexed too!
In verse 25, you see that they are doing just what they were supposed to do: continuing to teach and preach the Gospel.
I don’t know about you, but isn’t this such a great picture of how God can deliver his people?
Sitting in the jail and in the middle of the night, he brings you out so quietly that no one even knows you’re gone?
He confounds his enemies by working in ways they can’t even begin to imagine.
God is certainly able to deliver his people from trouble now just like he did then.
I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
They defied King Nebuchadnezzar, and he threatened to turn up the heat on the fire and kill them all.
He even taunted them, asking “Who could deliver you from somebody as powerful as me?”
Their response is classic:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
“King, we know that God can deliver us, but even if he chooses not to, we won’t give in.”
Isn’t that a great statement?
Here is something you need to fix permanently in your mind: God is more powerful than anything you face. He is strong enough that he can deliver you from anything.
The apostles saw that when they walked out of jail and God delivered them out of the high priest’s hands.
God can deliver you, and sometimes, he uses his power to do so.
It is true that it is an act of God’s love for us to deliver us, but keep in mind that when God demonstrates his power, it is also so that we will give him the glory he deserves.
He didn’t deliver them just for their comfort, as we will see in a minute.
He delivered them so they could continue proclaiming how good he is.
That becomes especially clear when we see what happens next.
If you’ve looked ahead, you see that God doesn’t always deliver like we would like him to.
However, when he doesn’t deliver, we see that he also has the…
3) Power to sustain believers in trouble.
3) Power to sustain believers in trouble.
Look with me in verse 26…
Here they were, obeying what God told them to do, and they get hauled back to jail for the third time.
God had just let them out of jail, and he was the one to tell them to go back to preaching, and look what happens!
As they stand before the Council again, they are reprimanded for teaching about Jesus.
You’ll notice that Peter’s response is different than it was in chapter 4. In 4, he said,
Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
He was being a little polite when he said that.
Now, he doesn’t hold back anything. Look at verse 29…
Peter goes on to tell them yet again who Jesus really is.
Verse 33 tells us that it wasn’t well-received…
There is an interesting interjection here by a teacher named Gamaliel.
The main reason you and I might know this guy is that he had a very famous student we meet in a few chapters - the man we know as the apostle Paul.
He makes a prophetic statement in verses 38-39…
(As an aside, Gamaliel’s idea isn’t a good way to determine things. God often allows wicked people and ideas to spread without over-turning them. Just because something doesn’t die off doesn’t mean it’s correct.)
The Council liked the idea, though, so they let the apostles off with just a flogging this time.
Wait…you’ve heard of flogging, right? That’s what they did to Jesus before they led him away to die.
Flogging would have been a beating like nothing you or I have experienced. It would have been terribly painful for a long time.
Yet, how did the apostles respond? “Oh man, guess we better quit preaching about Jesus.”
No…look at verse 41…
How can they possibly look at life this way? You’ve been thrown in jail, you’ve been beaten, and yet you rejoice?
The only way that you and I can have this perspective on our suffering is when the power of God is so at work in our life that we recognize his sustaining presence.
Think about what drove them to act like this: These men had seen Jesus arrested. Some had seen Jesus executed for them. They could smell the blood and sweat and see the tears running down Jesus’ face as he hung on the cross and died.
It didn’t seem like the power of God was on display that day, but three days later, some of those men ran to a tomb to find that God’s power had raised Jesus from the dead.
That power changed their hearts and lives, and now, they were proud of the fact God had given them an opportunity to experience a taste of the suffering Jesus did.
They were willing to suffer well because it gave them an opportunity to proclaim Jesus.
Are you willing to do that, or do you say that there is no way you could face hardships with that attitude?
Then you need to rest in God’s power to sustain you in the middle of troubles.
He isn’t going to let you go; he isn’t going to fail you.
He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.
Now, we are not the people of Israel, but we have the privilege of being in a covenant relationship with the same God who watched over them. He still doesn’t slumber or sleep!
That’s why Paul could say confidently,
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
That includes carrying you through difficult days where you have to stand up for Jesus.
I don’t know what you’re facing this morning, but I know the God who is facing it with you.
He may work his power through you in such a way that your life is a shining testimony of his grace. People may be drawn to him as they see his power work through you.
He may work his power through you in such a way that he delivers you out of a trial or a temptation, delivering you from harm.
Or, just maybe, he would allow you to join with the apostles that day and send his power to sustain you in the darkest moments.
May we face those days with the same heart they did, “rejoicing that they counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name…”