Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. We are thrilled to have you with us today. It's the last day of the series called, “When Necessary”, and we’ve been looking at Acts chapter 4. Today we’re going to look at Acts chapter 5 and we’re going to talk about faith.
Now, I wonder how many of you have ever felt or wondered what God wanted you to do or maybe you wondered what blessing you’ve missed from not obeying your call. You see, what I have discovered is that disobedience comes in many forms, it’s not always out-right rebellion even though it often is, but sometimes it’s simply unintentional. And yet today, I believe that God is going to speak to many of you and as you respond in faith to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of his Word you’re going to experience his presence in a powerful way.
As we begin, let me give you a little context for our reading today in Acts chapter 5. Shortly after the resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples some curious instructions. Matthew tells us in chapter 28, that Jesus came to them and said in verse 18,
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-19).
Now let me remind you that Jesus said this to a group of his followers, 11 guys who up to that point hadn't demonstrated any capacity for conquering the world. In fact, earlier when they realized that Jesus was facing certain death, all of them but John abandoned him. Judas committed suicide, Peter denied ever knowing Jesus, and the rest just ran for their lives. And now Jesus is telling the 11 to go into all the world and preach the good news. It seemed to be an impossible command and you’ve got to wonder, how could this group honestly be expected to go into all the world?
Well, three things happened that turned the tide for the disciples. One was the resurrection of Jesus, because when someone you know dies and comes back to life it's easy to believe that person is who he claims to be, that he can do anything he says he can do, and it's easy to find the courage to do what they're asking you to do. And so, the resurrection of Jesus gave the disciples the COURAGE that we saw in week one.
The second thing we saw that turned the tide for the disciples was the power of the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven he said to his followers,
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
It’s important to note that Christianity is not merely following a list of do’s and don’ts. The Christian life is so much more than that. It’s a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in which his Spirit comes alive in you, lives in you, and gives you the power to do what he’s called you to do and to live the life he’s called you to live. And so, in week two we saw Peter and John SPEAK boldly, not in their own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And then the third thing that made a difference for the disciples which we saw in week three was that they PRAY. In Acts chapter 2, we saw the disciples praying together in an upper room in Jerusalem when suddenly the room was filled with the presence of God and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Peter now filled with the Holy Spirit, went out into the street and preached boldly. He called the people to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Many responded to his preaching and 3000 people were born into the family of God.
Later Peter and John went to the temple to worship and they came across a guy begging outside the temple gate who had been lame for 40 years. With great boldness they said, “In the name of Jesus, walk.” Suddenly, this guy leapt to his feet and not only began walking, but jumping and praising God in the temple courts. A crowd gathered and Peter once again began preaching on the resurrection of Jesus.
Well, the religious leaders were very disturbed by this, because they were trying to quench all this talk of Jesus’ resurrection and so they arrested Peter and John. Because it was late they put them in jail for the night and the next day they brought them to court asking them, “By what power or what name did you do this?” Once again, Peter boldly preached Jesus and the resurrection saying, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
The religious leaders were infuriated and wanted to keep them in prison, but because of the crippled guy who was now healed, and because everybody knew a great miracle had occurred, they were fearful of causing a riot. So, they released Peter and John after threatening them not to speak to anyone in Jesus name. After their release, Peter and John went back to the house where the Jesus’ followers had gathered and reported all that had happened. When the believers heard this, they raised their voices in prayer to God, asking for great boldness, for miracles, signs and wonders. After they had prayed the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled again with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.
As the weeks went by the apostles continued performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. Crowds gathered from all over bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits and all of them were healed. This is where we pick up the story in Acts chapter 5, verse 17 says:
“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail” (Acts 5:17-18).
You see, every significant act of faith will activate the opposition. When you boldly obey God, you can put it on your day planner or your Google calendar, because opposition is coming.
When you obey God, when you step out in faith, it often triggers something in the spiritual realm which causes opposition to come. But it’s that same faith that causes you to obey God that will also release his power and activate the miraculous in your life. And so, when you obey God in faith you can expect him to show up and work supernaturally and we see this in verse 19,
“During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” (Acts 5:19).
Now, I don’t know what Peter told Luke about this, but I imagine if this was me I might be just a little bit excited. But to Luke an angel of the Lord appearing and opening their doors wasn’t surprising, because when you walk in obedience to God you’re not surprised by the miracles of God. Our faith activates God’s miracles and so when we obey in faith you and I shouldn’t be surprised when God shows up and does something supernatural.
In verse 20, the angel of the Lord tells them: "Go, stand in the temple court and tell the people the full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20).
Now to me, I find that statement to be kind of strange, because basically the angel was saying, “Go back and do what they told you never ever to do again. Go back and do what got you thrown in jail in the first place.” And so, that’s going to take great faith, but isn’t that the way it normally works, that when God prompts you to do something it’s going to take faith. And so, you just do what God leads you to do.
For example, a good place to begin is to start obeying God’s word. When Jesus sent his followers to make disciples of all nations he said,
“Baptize them…and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Because, “If anyone loves me,” Jesus said in John chapter 14, “He will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).
We will obey what’s written in the Word, because the Bible says that God’s Word is a lamp. David tells us this in Psalm 119,
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).
In other words, it’s a light shining at our feet so that we can see the next step. God’s Word is a light to our path, we have to obey step-by-step, and as we obey, God continues to reveal the next step. You do what God has revealed, you obey by faith, because the Bible tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
So, it’s faith that activates God’s miracles number one. And then number two, faith talks about Jesus more than anything else. Watch what the disciples do, they don’t pray about it, they don’t hesitate, they do exactly what they’ve been told to do.
You see, whenever God prompts you, you obey completely, and you obey immediately no matter what. No matter whether its big, small, or insignificant you still obey. It doesn’t even have to make sense, you just obey and you obey completely. Watch what happened in verse 21,
“At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people” (Acts 5:21).
Continuing in verse 22,
“When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin — the full assembly of the elders of Israel — and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, "We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside." On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this” (Acts 5:22-24).
“Then someone came and said, "Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people." At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest” (Acts 5:25-27).
This text shows us that not only does faith activate God’s miracles, but number two faith talks about Jesus more than anything else”. Look at verse 28, the high priest said to the apostles,
"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood” (Acts 5:28).
Notice how the apostles were obedient to the Word of the Lord. They didn’t talk about politics, social issues, or culture wars. They didn’t say how you should vote, where you should shop, or which companies you should boycott, they just talked about Jesus, telling the people the full message of this new life (Acts 5:20). And in the same way, it’s our purpose to tell the good news about Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, encouraging people to repent, to trust Jesus as their Savior, and teaching them how to follow him as their Lord.
You know, family values are good, political convictions are good, but our message goes way beyond that. Our message, more than anything else, is about Jesus Christ and his power to save. And so, when people come to this church I want them to know that we’re all about Jesus. I want them to hear Jesus’ name in our conversations with one another, in the music, in the prayers, and in the preaching; because it’s Christ’s Church and it’s in Christ and in Christ alone that we have forgiveness, peace, and purpose.
You see, His teachings are the greatest lessons ever heard. His life is the greatest story ever told. And so, if we believe, if we have faith, how can we not talk about Jesus?
The Sanhedrin said to the apostles, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name." But faith obeys God above anyone else, so the apostles replied in verse 29,
“We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29).
Now, in our country its extremely rare when it comes to the law, that you’d have to choose between obeying God and obeying men. You know, I've heard of churches that tried to play this card in regard to zoning laws or ordinances related to public assembly, but that's not what this verse about. We can preach the name of Jesus Christ in Emmitsburg without defying the government, but it’s not that way everywhere. We have brothers and sisters in the body of Christ around the world who have to choose between obeying God and obeying the government. And so, we never want to diminish the dangers they face by claiming that we're being persecuted just because we're expected to follow certain regulations concerning buildings, signage, and parking.
When it comes to serving God, we don't have to choose between obeying God and obeying the government, but sometimes at work you have to choose between obeying God and obeying your boss. There may be times when you’re expected to cut corners for the benefit of the company, to go along with questionable practices, and to perform with something less than integrity.
Sometimes in social settings you have to choose between obeying God and obeying the crowd. You know, this usually isn’t a matter of jail time, because most often it’s just a matter of fitting in, of wanting people to like us, but it is a choice we all have to make if we’re going to be committed to obeying God. As Christians, I believe there is room for most of us to became more courageous in our stand for Christ.
The high priest said to the apostles:
"Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." To which the apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:28-29).
In other words, the apostles said, “When you've seen what we've seen and heard what we've heard, you can't not talk about Jesus, because obedience is born from faith. You don't know what we've seen. We obey because we believe so deeply; this isn't an option, it's not an if, a maybe, or when; it’s a we must obey God!”
Church, as servants of Christ, our faith, our obedience, our convictions, and our love for Jesus must be above everything else. And therefore, we obey not caring what anybody else thinks, what anybody else says, or how foolish it makes you and I look. Day in and day out, we need to remember that we have a high calling and that no matter what the world says we’re unstoppable. They can threaten to kill us, they can lock us up and beat us, but they can’t shut us up and we’re not going away, because we must obey God rather than men!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
August 28, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.