May 2, 2021

"The Acts of the Apostles: Official Opposition"

Scripture Reading: Acts 4:1-31

In Acts 3:6 the apostle Peter says to a man who had never walked before, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” With these simple words, not only did the man begin to walk, he also started “jumping and praising” God. As the people looked on with wonder and amazement over
what had just happened, Peter delivered a Christ-centered, God-glorifying sermon in order to explain it all. He called on everyone to repent and turn to God so that their sins would be wiped out and that they may be refreshed by the grace of God. He called the people to see and embrace the Kingdom of God which has now come into this world’s time and space through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Acts 3 began with a miracle which was then followed by a sermon. Today we read about the consequences of all this in Acts 4.

Who took notice of Peter’s sermon? Why are they concerned about it?
What does the apostle Paul say about the resurrection of Jesus in I Corinthians 15:12-19?
The resurrection of Jesus is necessary for Christianity to be true. Without it there is no Christian faith. As Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin (the governing body of the Temple) they are called to give an account. The highpoint of the message comes in Acts 4:12 where
Peter concludes saying, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This statement is what makes Peter’s sermon “illegal”. Even to this day verse 12 is the cause and life of the “Official Opposition” to the Gospel. This is why the Christian faith brings usually one of two reactions: love or hatred. Those who by grace through faith hear the Word and believe it, are filled with love for the name of
Jesus. Those who do not believe are filled with fear and loathing at the name of Jesus.

How do the authorities try to stop the preaching of the apostles?
How do Peter and John respond to their demand?
In what ways do “authorities” try to silence the gospel today?
Where do Peter and John go after being released from Jail? What do the believers do?

The easy thing to do when reading Acts 4 is to focus on the main thing which is the declaration of salvation in no other Name than Jesus Christ. This is the high point of Peter’s Christ-centered sermon before the Sanhedrin and we should never forget this. If we do not proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen, our faith is useless. However, we need to do a bit more than that and what the apostles do in reaction to the Official Opposition is something the church today needs
to see and hear. When they are ordered not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus Christ and when the powers that exist threaten them with further reprisals, how do the apostles react? Do they take to a media campaign to win their rights? Do they try and legislate the Truth? Do they invite their fellow believers to hate their opposition into silence? No. (This is what happens in today’s Social Media where love, grace, and truth are in short supply!) When they are told not to teach or
preach in Jesus name, verses 23-31 say the apostles go to their own people and they pray.

Take a look at the prayer and notice how they address God: who he is and what he has done.
What Scripture do they quote in the prayer in verse 25?
What do they ask God to do for them?

The Conclusion:
Peter’s bold and simple declaration in Acts 4:12 is a source of grace and comfort for us and great anxiety for others. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we must be saved.” The powers of this world can try and legislate against the Truth but they can never legislate against the prayers of God’s people who pray for God’s grace and truth to shine in this world. Our reading concludes in verse 31 saying, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” When the Church prays, God answers. The apostle Peter says in his first letter, “Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope  that you have.” When asked, our hope is in Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, and Lord