Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rejoicing in Bad Circumstances

Acts 5

Authority from Jesus

Power from the Holy Spirit

Stewardship from fellowship

Holiness from fear

Continuing Power in the Church

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. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.

[Following the judgment of the deceivers, you see the continuing rear and reverence of the people. The apostles have their own area of the temple courtyard, on Solomon's porch, and no one else will go stand beside them because of fear. But the people hold them in high esteem because they see the effect of the Holy Spirit on their lives.]

14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

[Through the power of the Holy Spirit the conversions continue such that Luke quits trying to count them. He just refers to increasing multitudes, to give you an idea of the growth of the church. All the sick and demon possessed brought to the apostles are healed. The fame of their healing powers is so great that we even see some superstition creep in with people thinking that just Peter's shadow touching them, could make them whole.]

Imprisoned Apostles Freed

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.

[As always the apostles use the fame of healing as an opportunity to preach Jesus. Again the Sadducees with the high priest resist the gospel of Jesus, this time the apostles are arrested and jailed.]


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."

[God delivers them from prison, by and angel of the Lord. They are NOT delivered for their own comfort or convenience but for God's purpose "Go…and speak…the word of…life". I wonder if any of them asked "didn't we just get arrested doing that"?]

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!"

[Does anyone else find this funny? The council is assembled to judge, but they have no accused. The prison was sealed and guarded but they found no prisoners. The people needed to hear the words of life, so God provided a preacher.]

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!"

[The humor continues as the priests assume men who cannot be stopped by prison walls, would be stopped by their command. You see the fear of God growing in their hearts. Before they were more concerned with losing their position of privilege, now they are more worried about being judged guilty themselves.]

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."

[Peter's words may sound harsh, but as Bro. Haley was teaching last week, no one gets saved unless they repent. Sometimes people have to confront their guilt before God. As the Holy Spirit convicts, people can repent, then new life begins with spiritual rebirth, this has to come from God. No repentance, no forgiveness. Baptism shows our rebirth, but also our death to the bondage of sin. Some people make professions of faith when they have no intention to do battle with the old temptations of our sin nature. These people are not born of the spirit.]

Gamaliel's Advice

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God."
40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

[Again the irony of words and actions are incredible. Gamaliel says if these guys are from God, you don't want to oppose God. So all they do is beat them, threaten them, and then let them go. No I'm sure God won't take offense to his the priests beating his apostles.]

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His[d] name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

[Who can rejoice after arrest, jail, release, arrest, trial, beating, threatening, and release again? This is a different attitude. When nothing matters so much as Jesus, you can rejoice in any circumstance, as long as God is glorified. Today the apostles were confirmed as ambassadors for Christ the King, opposed by the same men who opposed Jesus.]

Signs Gifts and Holiness

Authority – in the Name of Jesus

Power – of the Holy Spirit, in signs and preaching

Acts 4

Sharing in All Things

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

[A part of the fellowship of the early church was a strong sense of community. Moved by the Holy Spirit they had changed their view of materialism from ownership – I manage my resources to serve my purpose, to stewardship – I manage God's resources to serve his purpose. So they did not withhold from those within the church who were in need.]

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

[The commentaries tend to agree that the things sold were a surplus, not that people were selling their only home or the field in which they grew their own food, but anything they did not need to live on was given to the church and distributed by the apostles.]

36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

[Though many were selling land and giving it to the church, Barnabas is singled out as an example. They called Barnabas "son of encouragement, some translations will say consolation or comfort. Bar-Nabas really means son of prophecy, but apparently his spiritual gift was to encourage the brethren in the church. The fact that he is singled out suggests that his gift was a great example to others, whether larger in amount, or the first one given, or perhaps a greater portion of his wealth, so maybe he did sell his only land. For whatever distinction, the giving of Barnabas was well regarded.]

Acts 5

Lying to the Holy Spirit


1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

[Here was a couple who wanted to be regarded like Barnabas, without having to give like Barnabas. They wanted the reputation of an "all-in" Christian knowing in their hearts they were "hold-back" Christians.]

3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

[Probably through super-natural foreknowledge from the Holy Spirit, Peter was aware of the scheme. He told Ananias that when he lied to the church, by pretending to give it all, while knowingly holding back, he had in reality lied to God.

As the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, verse 3 says he lied to the Holy Spirit, verse 4 says he lied to God. This is another good passage to share with anyone who doubts the Holy Spirit is God.

So Ananias was judged for his hypocrisy, first he lied, then he died. The result was great fear came upon the church. So the young men, wrapped him, then took him out and buried him. Have you ever wondered why the little country churches had the cemetery right next to them? It's for convenience. When God starts judging sin you don't waste a lot of time on the burial.]

7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?"
She said, "Yes, for so much."
9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

[So Sapphira was judged, and killed just like her husband. Their secret conspiracy was no secret to God. Now I don't think this was the worst sin ever committed in Church. If it is, I know some people when they fill out that offering envelope, they need to scratch out the word tithe, because it's not really 10%. I heard the pastor of a really big church say that 1/3 of their families gave nothing to the church, 1/3 gave between 1 and 500 dollars, and 1/3 gave more than 500 dollars. Which means 1/3 of the families were supplying almost all of the financial needs of the church. And unless they had lots of families living on less than 5,000 dollars, then very few families were really tithing. So if being a hold-back Christian is so common then why did these two die that day?

Now some people read this story and get upset with God, they see this punishment as harsh or unjust, and there are other who don't want God to judge at all. But I have to tell you the idea that a "loving" God will never judge, is one of those warm and fuzzy Oprah ideas, that hides some really bad theology. You see a God that can ignore willful sin, is not holy. Holiness means God is distinctive, he is not like us. Moreover things that God chooses for himself are also to be separated or holy to God; likewise anything that man will give to God as an offering is considered sacred, exclusively to glorify God.

For the Jew everything they knew about holiness was wrapped up in the rituals of the temple.

2 Chronicles 7

1 When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice

16 For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.

19 "But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, 20 then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

[When Jerusalem and the first temple were destroyed at the time of the Babylonian captivity, it was a judgment for sin. Interesting when the captivity was over and the king of Persia permitted the rebuilding of the city and the temple; as they rededicated the 2nd temple in Ezra chapter 6 no mention is made of the Ark, the glory of God, or the presence of God. But the rituals and sacrifices continued through the rebuilding of the temple in the times of Herod, until the temple was destroyed again in 70 AD. On the day of Pentecost the apostles heard the wind, saw the fire and experienced the glory of God being filled with the Holy Spirit.]

Hebrews 9

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these (meaning the blood of animals), but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

[When Christ died he entered the most holy place of the temple to offer his own blood, not the earthly temple but the one in heaven. Hebrews says that the earthly temple was just a temporary copy of the heavenly temple, made for temporary sacrifices. The Last place the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark of testimony (as it is called in the Old Testament) is mentioned in the bible is in Revelations 11]

19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

John 2

19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?"
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

1 Corinthians 6

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

[Jesus showed that the temple of God's presence had moved from the building to the body. Now we put it all together and see, God has chosen to make his place in the heart of the believer through the Holy Spirit. So the assembly of called out believers, the church, is Holy to God. And the offerings dedicated to the church are sacred to God. Ananias and Sapphira died as an example for us. To defile the Holiness of the church with deception, and convert offerings for personal use, are sins God will not tolerate. "Be holy for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:45) ]