22.08.21 AM Acts 4:1-13 - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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22.08.21 AM Acts 4:1-13

May 2021 onwards
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Opposition

Introduction
A lame man had been healed and his healing brought a crowd running. To Peter it was an opportunity too good to be missed and soon he was preaching. He wanted everyone to know that this was Jesus’ doing. So he told them about Jesus, the very man his listeners and their leaders had rejected just a few weeks earlier. Indeed so serious was that rejection that it had led directly to Jesus being crucified.

But that was by no means the end of the story for, as Peter continued to explain, God had a completely different appreciation of Jesus. Far from rejecting Jesus God approved of him 100% both concerning his person and what he had done. And this approval had been demonstrated in the resurrection when God raised Jesus from the dead.

Peter continued his sermon by building upon the witness and testimony of the prophets of the OT. This combined testimony recognised that Jesus was at the very heart and centre of God’s plan of salvation. The act of kindness shown towards this poor lame beggar was further evidence of Jesus’ power and authority because this man had been healed in Jesus’ name.

We don’t know whether Peter had just about finished his sermon or whether he had intended to go on adding more and more explanations and exhortations to what he had already said but he never had the opportunity for another crowd arrived and this group of people came not to listen but to disrupt.


Official Opposition Begins
Peter and John were still speaking as they disparate group of irate leaders burst upon the scene – they weren’t best pleased at what they found. Here were two men busy preaching that Jesus had been raised from the dead – in temple of all places – who did they think they were? Who authorised all this?

I say it was a disparate group and indeed it is so often the case that those who oppose Jesus Christ make for strange bedfellows. On this occasion it was a mix of political and religious influences that came together – the following day the group would become even more mixed – the one thing that united these people was their hostility towards Jesus of Nazareth.

Don’t be surprised when you see strange alliances being formed to oppose the gospel – those who have nothing else in common will frequently close ranks when it comes to Christian things. It happened to Jesus. It happened here to Jesus’ followers and it has been happening down through the centuries.

This was perhaps the first attempt in the church era to stifle the proclamation of the truth as it is in Jesus. Jesus had told his disciples to expect such opposition and it certainly hadn’t taken long to express itself. And such opposition happens today for the gospel is not naturally welcomed by sinners. If you don’t believe me on that just try entering the words “street preachers arrested” into google and see what comes up.

If Jesus, who went around doing good, met with opposition then those who announce the restoration he brings to people should hardly be surprised to find their message contested too.

And so the preaching of Peter and John was brought to a premature end with both Peter and John being led away to enjoy a night in custody. But what about things they had already declared?

Well the Spirit of God took up the words they had spoken and drove them deep into the heart of many of those who were standing by listening to what they had to say. The preachers had been removed but the word they preached was bearing its fruit.

You see the word of God that we preach is like a lion. We don’t have to defend a lion for a lion will defend itself – our task is to set the lion loose. And that is just what Peter and John had done that evening in the temple . The result was that the church continued to grow at a remarkable rate – the numbers of those who now believed in the Lord Jesus was now up to the 5,000 mark.

So what deductions can we draw from all this? What lessons might we learn? Well we can see from this that opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing new. In fact opposition is a constantly recurring thing in the history of the church but the church is still here. The opposition that at times seems so united, so intense and so dominant has failed in the past to eliminate the church and it will continue to fail because God’s estimation of Jesus is different from that of the world. God has raised Jesus from the dead and placed all authority in his hands – Jesus is using his power and authority to keep his promises, promises that include the building of his church.

Well if the Jewish authorities were hoping that a night in custody was going to intimidate Peter and John, was going to put a dampener on their enthusiasm to talk about Jesus and make them amenable and submissive they were about to be disabused of that idea.


A Hearing takes Place
The next day dawned and the rulers gathered together – opposing parties were unusually united in their attempts to silence this emerging Jesus movement.

Peter and John were brought in and placed before the big wigs who quickly began to question them and the tone of their questioning was hostile and scathing:

v.7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

The English of our translation is somewhat smoothed out and it doesn’t really sound bad at all, does it? But the original Greek suggests a harsher tone.

The Amplified Bible puts it like this:

“By what kind of authority did such people as you do this healing?”

Or the Message:

           “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”

Or the Voice:

           “Who gave you the authority to create that spectacle in the Temple yesterday?”

It is worth noting that there is no recognition that a good and kind act of healing had taken place – just an abuse of authority.

So if you encounter at times some condescending mockery because of your Christian testimony don’t be surprised – it’s been that way from the beginning. And remember that when you’re made to feel a fossil for believing in an old message that promises salvation in Jesus Christ – and don’t our contemporaries like to give the impression that they’re up to date and modern and can’t believe for that reason – then remember that there is nothing at all modern in rejecting Jesus Christ. Men and women have been rejecting him from the very outset of the Christian era – unbelief is an old and tired response to the truth and don’t let others make you believe otherwise.

Well let’s get back to the interrogation and the question that had been put to Peter and John. As we’ve come to expect it’s Peter who speaks up and he did so boldly. How was it possible for him to behave in this way, after all the night he had just spent in prison was probably not the most comfortable he’d ever experienced. Luke explains that it was not to be attributed to Peter’s own character or resolve that he spoke out boldly, it was due to the fact that he was filled with the Holy Spirit Of course we shouldn’t be surprised by this because isn’t this just what Jesus had promised his followers while he was still with them?

Mt.10:16-20 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Jesus had prepared his followers for opposition and persecution – his warnings along with his promises meant that they need not be afraid of those who would oppose and persecute. They might have the power to kill the body but they cannot kill the soul and believers are precious in his sight.


Peter’s Bold Response
As Peter responded to the questioning he began by drawing attention to the strangeness of the situation. What was so bad in all that had happened? Wasn’t the healing of a lame man a good to be celebrated? Was that really a crime?

But unbelief refuses to think clearly and so its assessments are often illogical and biased.

Placing the healing of the lame beggar in the foreground Peter explained just it was that this man could now walk. The authority that lay behind his healing was the authority and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Peter didn’t stop at that point but pressed on. He was in something of a courtroom setting but he unashamedly preaches Christ and in doing so he changes the whole scenario. He had been the one being questioned and challenged but now he is the one doing the challenging reminding his judges of their implication in the death of the Lord Jesus.

The man had been healed in Jesus’ name and Peter wants all and sundry to know that for a fact but more than that Peter wanted his hearers to realise the guilt of their faulty appreciation of just who Jesus of Nazareth was. They had rejected him and had him crucified and in doing so had put themselves at odds with God who approved of him so much that he raised him to life again. These leaders were seriously out of line with the God they purported to serve – indeed they could hardly be further out of line.

Once again Peter is following the pattern he established on the Day of Pentecost when he preached a similar message in Solomon’s portico. The setting has changed, he’s now before a tribunal, but the gospel message remains the same. Have you come to terms with this message yet? Or are you still rejecting it and refusing to change your thinking about both yourself and the Lord Jesus?

Peter continued because he wanted his hearers to understand that he was not inventing some new fangled religion – no, what he was proclaiming in Jesus Christ risen from the dead was truth that had been prophesied man years earlier in the prophetic writings of the OT. To illustrate these claims he quoted from those writings again, this time from Ps.118 where we read:

v.22 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

The builders in question are the leaders of the people, the very ones who are interrogating Peter and John now. There task was to build the nation using the best of materials available – they had looked at one stone and decided against it – it didn’t meet with their approval and so they ignored it, thrusting it aside. They wanted to build but not with that, they wanted to build something else. And so they ended up rejecting the stone that is Jesus. They wouldn’t build upon him as their foundation and so they ended up not building the building that God always intended. They turned away from the most important stone they would ever encounter, the only stone that would secure them the safety of salvation.

Are you doing the same as them? Are you dismissing the importance of Jesus and trying to construct your own edifice on other foundations? My friend if you are they stop and listen. There is only one name that secures salvation for us. There is only one Saviour who can save us. We don’t have to make ourselves worthy – we don’t somehow have to make a name for ourselves – for a name has been given to us. This one name has been given from a reliable source – given from heaven itself. And it is a powerful and successful name. All who believe in the name of Jesus will be saved.

Does that include you, my friend? Will you be saved? Or will you go on rejecting the only one who can do poor sinners good?

Peter’s declaration before this ad hoc tribunal contained a rebuke and a challenge for his would-be interrogators. Do they really think that it is Peter and John in the dock? Peter has turned the tables on them and they must give their answer before God. It was a gracious challenge that Peter has issued even though it involved a painful challenge.

It was painful because it always is when you’re found out, when you’re shown to have been wrong; to be convicted of your sin is rarely comfortable. And here were men who were supposed to be leaders, spiritual as well as political leaders of the people – surely they should have known better! And here they were being exposed and corrected by a couple of very ordinary men – a couple of fishermen from the north, the north of all places!

But it was a gracious challenge too! These leaders had failed greatly but the truth was now being simply and straightforwardly being presented to them. The man who had power and authority to heal a lame man was being presented to them as the Saviour who has the power and authority to save sinners. Would they eat their pride, repent and be converted by putting their faith in a crucified Saviour? We’re not told – maybe in glory we’ll find that some of them did. But you will only find out if you are in glory and you will only be there if you repent of your sin, if you are converted and if you put your faith in the same crucified Saviour.

My friends, on what are you building your life? Some of you have been building for many decades already – is Jesus the cornerstone in your life?

As we close this morning let’s do so by reminding ourselves of what Jesus had to say about building. His words are found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount:

Mt.7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Amen.
 
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