Monday, January 25, 2010

Acts 4 - Boldness

Acts 4

Peter and John Arrested

 1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

[Twice in chapter 3 (verses 15 and 26) Peter claimed to be a witness to Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees denied any resurrection of the dead, so they brought the temple guard to arrest them, and put a stop to this resurrection teaching. Peter and John had gone to the temple in the late afternoon, so after healing the crippled beggar, and teaching in the temple courtyard, by the time they are arrested it is almost evening. So rather than bother the elders at dinner time, they held them overnight. Even though the sermon was interrupted, still many believed. The count of men who trusted Jesus to be the messiah had grown to 5,000. (120 before Pentecost, 3,000 on Pentecost, now 5,000.)] 

5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?"

[The priests as guardians of the temple would try to control the message taught within the temple court. As co-conspirators to the murder of Jesus they were sure his death would send his followers back to the authorities of the temple. Their view of authority was that they had an office given to them by birthright of the priesthood, and that office gave them authority to work as they willed, to the exclusion of others. Christ's apostles were given authority by Jesus not as an office to use as they willed, but as an agency to do the will of Christ. This agency would be like a power-of-attorney, or a government ambassador, where the agent is bound to do the will of the principle. To act in the name of Jesus is to first submit to all that Jesus is as Messiah and Lord, then to guarantee that you are acting for him. Too many view the name of Jesus as a magic word hoping to invoke God's power to do their own will. When the apostles' act in the name of Jesus they only do it as they are led by the Spirit to do his will, to fulfill God's purpose.]

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'
(Psalm 118:22) 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

[This is the same message as Acts 2 and 3. – You killed Jesus – God raised Him from the dead – His life and power is evidenced by these miracles. Furthermore here he refers to the priests as the builders of the temple, rejecting the foundation of Jesus as Messiah. But this foundation of Christ as savior would be the cornerstone of the Church.]


The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name."
18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

[Boldness is the hallmark of the apostles teaching. The miracles confirmed the resurrection and the authority of the apostles to preach in Jesus' name.


Because of the miracle healing the priests and elders are stuck. The people all see God working in the apostles, but the keepers of the temple want this Jesus movement to stop. So they threaten them not to do anything else in Jesus' name, but even that the apostles reject, refusing to back down from their calling and mission.]

Prayer for Boldness

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[b] have said:

      ' Why did the nations rage,
      And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
      And the rulers were gathered together
      Against the LORD and against His Christ.'
(Psalm 2:1-2)

[Those who oppose the Lord often have earthly power and authority. And when you speak of Jesus they often rage, they curse, shout and even respond violently. But as Jesus' witnesses we remain peaceful, and overcome by perseverance abiding in Christ and maintaining a faithful walk and testimony.]
27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

[Even evil acts and wicked men are subject to the sovereign will of God. Though the conspirators against Christ were doing evil, that evil was turned to achieve God's purpose. How many of us in this situation would pray that God would remove the opposition to his word, or pray that God would kill the ungodly leadership in the temple, or at least pray for your own personal protection. Here the apostles only pray for "boldness", the courage to speak in Jesus name no matter the personal costs. They prayed that God would continue to heal and do miracles as a sign, that they would have more opportunities to teach and preach Jesus.

And as they finished praying, their prayers were answered, they whole place where they gathered shook with God's power, they were again filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Church – A New Beginning (part 2)

[Acts 2 opens with the Apostles all together, praying, and waiting for God to empower them, just as Jesus commanded. When the Holy Spirit came, they heard the sound, then they saw the fire, then they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in foreign languages, and began to witness to those gathered for Pentecost, we continue the story with Peters sermon to the Jews.]

25 For David says concerning Him: (Psalm 16:8-11)
      ' I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
      For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
      Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
      Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see
You have made known to me the ways of life;
      You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'[d]

29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,[e]
31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.

[Jesus proved his pedigree by his behavior in keeping the law, and by the miracles he performed. Likewise the Holy Spirit was validating the witness of the Apostles. Peter says David predicted this resurrection because David's body is still in the tomb, and their speaking in foreign tongues is evidence Jesus is alive.]


32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

[Adding their personal testimony, Peter says they were witnesses to the resurrected Lord.]


33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
      ' The LORD said to my Lord,
      " Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'
(Psalm 110:1)

36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

[So Peter had reasoned by prophecy, by personal witnesses, and by the proof of the Holy Spirit, that the resurrection was not only true, but it should have been expected. In short Peter says Jesus is the messiah, the Christ was here, God kept his promise, and all of you missed it!]


37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." 41 Then those who gladly[g] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

[Here also is the clear work of the Holy Spirit calling these men to salvation. The word translated "cut to the heart" means a violent stabbing. You know what that feels like because you were all convicted, before you were saved. Only under the conviction of the Holy Spirit do people realize that unbelief, and false worship are terrible sins requiring repentance, for salvation. Baptism is the outward testimony of the inward transformation. To follow Christ in baptism is to bond with other believers as the Church, one faith, one savoir, one baptism, and one Spirit. Note that he said "you shall receive the Holy Spirit", it was not some conditional event for new believers. And verse 39 makes it clear this promise will be for people near and far, to as many as respond to the call of the Lord. That day the Church began 3,000 souls by the faithful preaching of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You have to understand that the apostles were empowered when they were FILLED with the Spirit. This is not automatic. When the Apostles went to Jerusalem to wait and pray, they had emptied themselves, left everything else behind, and decided that nothing matters but Jesus. Only then were they filled with the Spirit. I would say that maybe they were more filled with the Holy Spirit because they were more emptied of self. We fill our lives with so many things I have to wonder how much room is left for the Spirit of God to fill.]

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

[It's easy to see that someone is truly saved when they are completely transformed. Notice these believers whose teachers and preachers are practicing this completely selfless life of faith, followed their example and become a selfless faith community. All those with a surplus, sold those things to provide for brothers in need. Their charity built up this unity among the believers. The Apostles continued to exhibit these spiritual gifts as a sign to everyone that God had chosen them as his messengers.]

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church[h] daily those who were being saved.

[Here we begin to see the momentum the Apostles had in the beginning of the church. Every day they went to the temple to teach, every day they had fellowship and meals in the homes of other believers. The Spirit of God was moving among the Jews in Jerusalem. The simple joy, simple faith, and simple lifestyle had a mass appeal. "And the Lord added to the church[h] daily those who were being saved." The Greek word for church is ekklesia and is generally translated as assembly, but an assembly of what? Well the root words are ek-kaleo which means called-out. Now compare that to verse 39 where is says "as many as the Lord our God will call", the Greek word translated "call" is pros-kaloe which is a directional call, calling to someone. So the Church is an assembly of those who are called out by God. Peter told us all who hear God's call and repent receive the Holy Spirit, and are baptized into the Church. So the church grew every day. I challenged you last week to see, how we measure up to the early church. So I want to throw it open here to ask what attributes or characteristics do you see in the early church?

  • Empowered – v 43
  • Apostles Doctrine – v 42
  • Fellowship – v 42
  • Prayer – v 42
  • Baptism – v 41
  • Caring and sharing – v 45
  • Frequent meeting – v 46
  • Praise – v 47
  • Good reputation – v 47

[One of the hardest things for any organization is transitioning leadership from its founder to the next generation. But with Christ as the eternal head of the Church, and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, God has shown he can grant authority and leadership to whomever he chooses. But the message and the mission do not change, and they work today just as they did on the day of Pentecost.]

The Church – A New Beginning

[The Book of Acts represents an amazing transition. Those who conspired to kill Jesus were sure that his death would bring an end to this movement, as it did with all the false messiah's that came before and after Jesus. How could they continue what Jesus began, without him to lead them? Well that's a trick question because the answer is Christ would remain the head of the Church. As long as the message was Jesus, the leaders were the ones he chose, and they were empowered with the same spirit as Christ, then the Church could legitimately continue the ministry that Jesus began. ]

Acts 2

Coming of the Holy Spirit

 1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord[a] in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

[The timing here is important. For the miracle of tongues to have it's full effect you need another large gathering in Jerusalem as we will see a little later. In obedience to Christ's command, they had gathered to wait for the promised empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Notice the similarities to Jesus Baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended visible, followed by a voice from heaven, to begin his ministry, and witness to John and his followers (John 1:32). So here the visible representation of the Spirit as fire, touches each of the apostles, and gives them a heavenly gift to speak in other languages.]

The Crowd's Response

5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."

[Because of the Roman oppression Jews were dispersed from North Africa to Southern Europe. 50 Days after Passover for Pentecost, the Devout Jews would gather to celebrate the day of first-fruits. As Passover symbolized Christ death, so Pentecost symbolized his resurrection, and the new beginning of the Church. First as the Apostles are praising God a crowd gathers, because all these pilgrims are hearing Galileans speaking in these foreign languages. Some even think the miracle extended to the listeners as though one speaker was heard in multiple languages at the same time.]

Peter's Sermon

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
' And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
       That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
      Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      Your young men shall see visions,
      Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
      I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
       And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above
      And signs in the earth beneath:
      Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
      And the moon into blood,
      Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
And it shall come to pass
whoever calls on the name of the LORD
      Shall be saved.'[b]
[Even when seekers here God's word there will always be mockers with hard hearts who are not ready to listen. Just as Jesus explained his miracles were the fulfillment of prophecy, so Peter quoting Joel 2:28 says this outpouring of God's Spirit was to validate the continuing ministry of Jesus, through the apostles. They had become witnesses by the power of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus said (Acts 1:8). Here they would preach to men who would otherwise not have listened to them. Instead of thinking they were drunk at 9 AM this was a moving of God's Spirit, to announce the time of salvation. Not all of Joel's prophecy was completed, verses 19 and 20 will not be fulfilled until the tribulation.]

22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

[Jesus proved his pedigree by his behavior in keeping the law, and by the miracles he performed. Likewise the Holy Spirit was validating the witness of the Apostles. They could not do these things had Jesus not sent the Spirit, and Jesus could not send the Spirit if he were still dead. So Christ is risen and this speaking and preaching in unlearned languages, not only validated the apostles, but the resurrection of the Lord.]

(continued next lesson)