2016-9-11 Being Questioned For What You Believe

ACTS 4:1-22                                                                                       SEPTEMBER 11, 2016


Our society has been changing, even before 9/11. One of the changes you may have noticed is that Christians are often being challenged over what we think and believe. I thought it was great timing that our Friday night movie was “God is not Dead 2”. It was about a school teacher who was sued for mentioning the name of Jesus in High School history class. She was asked a question about the ideals expressed by Martin Luther King and if he got his guiding principles form Jesus. She was told to apologize and never mention the name of Jesus again. She refused and was sued. We should not be surprised or scared or hesitant to tell others why we believe. Peter and John were used by God to heal a crippled beggar and then were able to speak about their faith in Jesus Christ, calling people to repentance and to faith. For these actions that took place in the Temple they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel to be questioned.

Acts 4:1-4 (NIV) 1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” It is easy to understand why the religious leaders were upset with what Peter and John were saying about Jesus. Acts 3:15, 17 (NIV) 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 17 “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” It was the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified. Peter made sure the people understood what took place after the crucifixion, that Jesus was resurrected. This proclamation would not have been pleasing to the Sanhedrin.

It was late in the day and according to Jewish law they could not start a trial if it would extend into the night so the two apostles were arrested and held overnight in jail. Luke adds the results of their preaching to the people. Around 2,000 men were persuaded to accept Jesus as the messiah and became believers. We know that at Pentecost 3,000 souls were saved so the church was rapidly growing in size. Luke only mentioned the number of men, not the women and children. The words of Jesus came true that the apostles would be imprisoned for their faith in Jesus.

The next day all of the Sanhedrin met to deal with the problem. Acts 4:7 (NIV) 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” The leaders were not questioning the truth of the healing of the crippled beggar. Everyone could see that the man had been healed. They knew that a miracle had taken place. What they wanted to know was where the power to heal originated from. “It was common in the Greco-Roman world to call on various gods and spirits for the power to do feats of magic.” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, pg 247) The Sanhedrin was hoping to discredit the two apostles.

Instead of reacting defensively, Peter goes on the offensive. Acts 4:8-12 (NIV) 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Peter is not meek and mild, but bold and confident.

Peter immediately points to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, who is the source of their power that healed the lame beggar. Peter uses the same scripture that Jesus used when the Sanhedrin had questioned his authority to do his ministry. Matthew 21:42 (NIV) 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan to bring salvation to the lost sheep of Israel. The Jews sought salvation on their own terms, seeking to gain God’s favor by obeying the law. Peter reminds them that they are mistaken and dense. Acts 4:12 (NIV) 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Peter’s words and actions astonish the religious leaders. Acts 4:13 (NIV) 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were two common workers who had not had the benefit of any schooling in the rabbinical schools. They recognized that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Jesus rubbed off on them. Their confidence and boldness came from the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit is in us as well. Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.”

How do you punish someone for going a good deed? This was the dilemma that faced the Sanhedrin. Acts 4:16-17 (NIV) 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Like most politicians, they thought they could do damage control and stop these men from preaching about Jesus.

Notice that both Peter and John respond to the command given them by the leadership. Acts 4:19-20 (NIV) 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The two men boldly proclaimed their loyalty to Jesus, the Son of God. When people tell us to not talk about Jesus and what we believe we are then faced with the same choice that faced Peter and John. Are we going to be loyal to Jesus or to the demands of what is now considered politically incorrect? In the movie the school teacher was asked to apologize and then promise to never again mention Jesus in the classroom.  Many people are facing this dilemma. What will we choose? Will we be loyal to Jesus or will we meekly submit to the political correctness madness that is so prevalent in our society today?

Listen to the words of Jesus! John 15:20-22 (NIV) 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” 2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV) 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” May we ask the Holy Spirit for the courage and boldness of Peter and John!

May we pray.