Sermon – April 3
Acts 5:12, 17-32
12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. … 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying,“Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Jesus and His Gospel Cannot Be Stopped
In the name of Jesus, our living Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
Throughout world history there have been many attempts to discredit and even destroy the message of Jesus. Satan has tried different methods to do this very thing. The two main weapons in his arsenal are using world governments to persecute Christians, and false teachers within the Church to dilute and change the message of Christ so that people don’t depend on him for salvation. This is depicted in Revelation 13 as the vision is given of the beast from the land and beast of the sea. The one pulling the strings, namely Satan, is portrayed as the dragon.
Earlier in the 12th chapter of Revelation there is an interesting picture of the dragon pursuing a woman which is a picture of the Christian Church, believers in Christ. No matter the pursuit or the methods used by the dragon, the woman escapes. These are amazing pictures and a full reading of Revelation 12-13 would be worthwhile this week. What we have in our text is the picture come to life. After the ascension when Jesus was not a bodily target for His enemies, we find the government and religious leaders pouring out their fury upon the apostles. But just like in Revelation 12, they do not win. They cannot win. Jesus and His Gospel cannot be stopped. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message.
1. Try what they may the enemies of Christ will lose
The agenda of the Pharisees and Sadducees to stop Jesus and His message was two-fold. First of all it was a practical matter. As more and more people believed in Jesus they saw their popularity and power waning. If people were freely forgiven as Jesus said, then they would not be needed extort people through guilt. Secondly, many of them truly believed that they were helping God. Saul (Paul) truly believed that he was helping the Father by persecuting Christians. They believed that Jesus was truly blasphemous and bringing about a new religion rather than a fulfillment of the Old Testament.
They thought that in putting Jesus to death they had solved a problem that had plagued them for three years. Up until Pentecost it looked like they had. The disciples were in a locked room for fear of the Jews. But after seeing the signs and wonders done by the apostles we read in verse 17 that they were filled with indignation. That is to say that their anger and jealousy started to boil over. In that anger, they threw the apostles in prison.
That same fury of unbelievers will boil over on you as a Christian. The world is against Jesus, and since He isn’t visibly present to go after, they will do the next best thing and go after His followers. The more that you make known that you follow Christ and the more you talk about Him or follow His ways, the more will you become a target for hatred. This is evident frequently on the news as people stand up for Jesus, they are railed against. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same when you defend your Savior.
This hatred is so fierce that the enemies of Jesus are blinded. Even when they see that their actions are futile they will continue. In verse 18 we read how they laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. Yet what happened? An angel came and released them. The guards were completely unaware of it because the doors were still shut. They didn’t know of their escape until they saw them publicly speaking of Jesus the next day. You would think that that would deter the Jews and make them see the futility of their actions. Yet they still chided the apostles in verse 28: Did we not strictly command you not to teach in His name? Even later on they threw Peter in prison with the same result – an angel let him out.
You would think that all of this would make the enemies of Jesus consider that even though they couldn’t see Jesus, He was still the power behind the message. The more they squeezed Christians, the more the Word of the Lord spread and grew. It is useless to fight against God. But that won’t stop people from trying. Even today we find Christianity growing at high rates especially in places where there is heavy persecution.
Where does all this hatred come from? We are naturally pre-disposed with our sinful nature to be against Jesus, but Satan is the one who fans the flames. He hates you simply because you love Christ. The hate that he propagates even goes beyond common sense. You may have witnessed a person or perhaps have even been a person so full of rage that he does things that are just crazy and otherwise he would not do. That is the rage that the devil incites.
Yet deep down inside most know that something is wrong with what they’re doing. The Jewish council said in verse 28, And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us! Many of those same people doubtless said at Jesus’ trial, Let His blood be on us and our children. At that time they were ready to accept the guilt for killing Jesus. Now they were a little worried that what they were doing would come back to haunt them. The fact is that the blood of Jesus will be upon all, either in washing away sin, or people will be found guilty of the blood of Christ and have to pay up.
2. No matter how bleak it looks, the friends of Jesus will win
There are times that things look bleak for the believer. We were forewarned of this. Even as early as the book of Daniel God foretold the coming of great kingdoms that would fight against His people, and even told about the coming of the Antichrist. God knows the devil’s playbook. Not only can He restrain him when He wants to, but He has an answer to the assault even before it comes. In this case, He had an angel ready to cause the escape of the apostles from prison. He needed them out so He turned them loose. In the case of the apostle Paul, it was better for him to be in prison so He left him there. God will cause plans of the enemy to fail. He will turn what looks like defeat into victory for His Church.
He does this not only because He loves His children, but because of the importance of the message of Jesus. The angel said to the apostles in verse 20, Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. The words that bring life cannot be found in nature. They are not in us naturally. The way to eternal life has to be revealed in the Scriptures. It’s the only way that people can find out that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. God wants this ripple effect to continue whether it’s one person to speaking to a group or whether the Gospel is communicated from person to person. Believers have the antidote for sin, death, and hell. Our mission is to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all the ramifications that it brings. The Lord will uphold you to do that very thing.
Sometimes, though, we get caught up in the details and forget the big picture. The overall picture is that Jesus has won. We read in verse 30, The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. The Old Testament tells us that the one who is hung on a tree is cursed. That was the case with Jesus. He felt all the sufferings of hell while on the cross. Yet the Father exalted Him. Jesus reclaimed all of His glory that was rightfully His in His resurrection and then followed that with His ascension to the right hand of the Father.
Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Victory has been won. The devil is defeated. He has no ammunition to accuse you because you are forgiven. Death is defeated. You will one day rise from the dead through Christ. Hell is not a worry. That is a prison only for those who do not believe in Jesus. Your soul does not belong to Satan. Since Jesus has won that means that you are also victorious. This is why God wants repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed.
Since you are on the winning side and God is backing you, you can have boldness and confidence in the way of the apostles. Even with the threat of prison and violence against them, Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” When the angel released them from prison and told them go out and teach in public, they went and did it. They said in verse 32, And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. They had seen the exaltation of Jesus, and were willing to testify of it.
The Holy Spirit had been given to them and made them believers and so they had confidence in life and confidence in death. All of these things that we talked about today remain true 2000 years after they happened. The enemies of Christ continue to take out their hatred of Him upon His followers, even though it is a losing cause. They cannot win. They cannot defeat Jesus. They cannot defeat His message. Remember that as you have to decide day by day whether or not to speak for Christ or to live for Christ. He has won and He has shared that victory with you. Amen.