I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.
Review of the study thus far
— Jesus’ briefing on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17
— The promise for which they were to wait
— Fulfilled in Acts 2
— Peter’s sermon, boldly speaking their sin and Christ’s resurrection, and 3,000 come to Christ
— The beggar born lame is healed, Peter speaks again of Christ’s resurrection and their sin, and 5,000 come to Christ
— Peter, John and the beggar are brought before the Sanhedrin
— Do not speak this name or do anything in this name
— Should we obey God or you? You be the judge!
—We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard
— The bond-servants of the Lord ask for greater boldness to speak,
and God answers their prayer!
— Contrast between Barnabas, who gives all, and Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about their offering, and the consequences.
— The apostles are arrested. The angel who frees them delivers this message: Go! Stand! Speak all the words of this Life! And they did, and were arrested again!
Now, Session 12 — Acts 5:33-42
I’m backing up to Peter and the apostles’ response to the Sanhedrin in Verses 29-32, so we can understand Verse 33 onward.
Verse 29 — They say, “We must obey God rather than men,” to this august group of scholars and rulers, the Sanhedrin! That means the Sanhedrin are not God’s representatives, or they would applaud Peter and the apostles’ actions and words! The Sanhedrin were not speaking from God, so the Twelve would not obey them, but they surely would obey God, whom the Sanhedrin was now opposing!
Verse 30 — The God of our fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for the apostles are Jews)
— Raised up Jesus (Ah! An offense to the Sadducees AGAIN, for they do not believe in resurrection)
— Whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross! Peter and the apostles declare the Sanhedrin guilty! How bold!
Verse 31 — He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand (you, Sanhedrin, have no idea who Jesus is!), as Prince (Leader, and also the prophesied Prince of Peace from Isaiah 9:6) and Savior (the angels announce to the shepherds in Luke 2:11, and Isaiah said in Isaiah 12:3 and many other places!!!).
Why? So God could GRANT (give as a gift) repentance (to people, including all Israel), and forgiveness of sins.
Verse 32 — And the apostles are EYEWITNESSES of these things, and the Holy Spirit, both in the Old Testament the Sanhedrin claims to know so well, and now, the Holy Spirit who has filled the apostles and the rest of the 120.
Who receives the Holy Spirit’s baptism? Those who obey Jesus, as I taught last time, from John 14:15-16.
And why do these Jewish leaders continue to persecute them? It is the state of the Jewish leaders’ hearts —
Jeremiah 9:26 Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.”
Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
NOW, the response from the Sanhedrin . . .
Verse 33 — When they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended (it was their will) to kill them. Cut to the quick, cut in their hearts, just as in Acts 2:37! Rather than repent, these hard-hearted men’s will was to kill the Apostles!
Why does this scripture say they were “cut?”
From Hebrews 4:12 — The Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, able to divide soul and spirit, joint and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Its purpose is to pierce hearts so that people will repent!
And Hebrews 4:13 says there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do! There is no hiding from Him, no hiding sin. He alone searches the heart and examines the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve (see Jeremiah 17:10)!
Verse 34 — Gamaliel, a Pharisee who was the Apostle Paul’s teacher before Paul’s conversion (Acts 22:3), was a teacher of the Law and respected by all the people.
He gave orders for the apostles to be put outside.
Verses 35-37 — Take care what you propose to do with these men, he warns. Remember Theudas, who was killed, whose uprising came to nothing. Remember Judas of Galilee who also had some followers, but he, too, perished, and his followers were scattered.
Verses 38-39 — So stay away from these men, the Apostles. Let them alone. If their plans are of men, they will be overthrown, just like the others. BUT if it is of God, and you try to overthrow them, you may even find yourself fighting against God!
How has that worked out so far, in the world? I looked it up at worldatlas.com, and found there are more followers of Jesus today than any other religion —
Christianity (2.22 billion followers)
“Christianity began over two thousand years ago, and is a faith based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. From its humble beginnings as a tiny sub-group evolved from Judaism, Christianity has grown to become the most popular religion in the world, with followers to be found all across the globe. Christians believe in the existence of one God who sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to save humanity from their iniquity and Hell. Followers believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Crucifixion), his death, and his resurrection were all carried out in service towards granting eternal life and forgiveness to all of those who accept Christ as their personal savior. Even in our modern society, Christianity plays an important and powerful role, not only in terms of religious rituals, but also on a much wider scale. In some degree, it even does so in terms of shaping social and political policies of Christian-dominant nations.”
Nothing will stop Christianity from going forth, for true Christianity is not a religion, but God’s way of reconciling the whole world to Himself (John 3:16)! It is not a series of do’s and don’ts, but being connected with, and interacting with, the living God! Some say the Bible is a bunch of stories. But they are stories of God and His creation and how He has interacted with us from the beginning. These are stories of His work, from the sin of Adam onward, to bring people back to Him by way of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He sent to make that reconciliation possible so you may live with Him eternally, starting here and now. No other “religion” teaches such a thing! All others are about what you can do to make yourself better or somehow bring yourself to a perfect nirvana, or appease millions of false gods. But you can’t make yourself better or achieve perfection. You CAN repent, and God will make you His, and that will be much better, and fill you with His Spirit so you are able to walk with Him and talk with Him and eat with Him, here and now, and love Him and no longer be slaves to sin! Glory to God!
Verse 40 — The Sanhedrin took his advice (the Greek is “were persuaded by him”). So what did they do? They called the Apostles back in, flogged (flayed, scourged) them, and warned them not to speak of Jesus, and then released them.
This was not the degree of scourging that Jesus endured, for His was done by the Romans, and was in preparation for His death on a cross, so it was more severe. But it was flaying, and involved peeling the skin off them with a whip.
Verse 41 — Did the Apostles go home and hide in fear of further punishment? Did they stop speaking of Jesus?
Of course not! They went away rejoicing, after being scourged! What? They were bleeding and flesh hung from them, back and front! But they considered it a great honor to be considered worthy of suffering like Jesus suffered, for His name’s sake.
Matthew 10:17 Jesus warns His disciples, “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;
Matthew 20:19 Jesus describes what will happen to Him, saying the Jewish leaders “will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
Matthew 23:34 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders, “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,
John 16:2 “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.”
That was the promise, if they proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ! And they had, and so they rejoiced!
Verse 42 — And what did they do? EVERY DAY, they were in the Temple and went house to house, continuing to teach and preach Jesus as the Christ! They obeyed God and not men!
If you say that was for then, and not for today, look at 1Peter 4:12-16! Peter warns the church that they all will be treated as the Apostles were treated by the Sanhedrin! James says, “Count it all joy!” in James 1:2!
Are you ready for that? Or does the world love you? Do you shrink back from telling the truth to sinners because you fear the backlash of a society that has hard hearts against the truth? I tell you that it is an expression of God’s love when we exhort homosexuals and all other sinners to repent, just as we see in the Book of Acts. Repentance is God’s gift to them, so they may be reconciled to Him and forgiven for their sins!
Do you know you should expect persecution? Do you know that Christians are murdered for their faith, in other lands? Yet they consider it an honor, and rejoice, and proclaim Jesus even with their last breath, just as the Coptic Christian men who were lined up on a beach by ISIS and one-by-one, were beheaded. They spoke His name to the very end!
Do you have boldness of speech? Or do you find yourself falling short, compared with the Christians in the Book of Acts?
Be filled with the Spirit, and you won’t be able to stop speaking of what you have seen and heard, and you will rejoice if because of it, you have to suffer at the hands of hard-hearted men! It’s how the church grows and multiplies, beloved!