SUPERNATURAL POWER OF JESUS CHRIST CANNOT BE EFFECTIVELY OPPOSED – CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY CANNOT BE SILENCED
Persecution has never been effective in stopping the growth of Christianity and the spread of the gospel. In fact the opposite has proven true: Persecution has always created a climate of growth for Christianity down through church history. Satan’s tactics have not changed; and God continues to demonstrate that it is impossible to effectively silence Christian testimony. That was true back in the first century church with Peter and John and it remains true today in the many places around the globe where physical persecution is inflicted.
Tactics of the Enemy:
1) Threatening the Preachers — example of Peter and John we will study today
2) Killing the Missionaries
Karen Watson was one of our young missionaries to Iraq. On March 15, 2004, she was killed by unknown assailants. Later an envelope was found that said, “Open in case of death.” Inside was a letter that said in part: “Dear Pastor Phil and Pastor Roger, You should only be opening this in the event of death. When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward,. . .
The missionary heart: Cares more than some think is wise; Risks more that some think is safe; Dreams more than some think is practical; Expects more than some think is possible. I was called not to comfort or to success but to obedience. . . . There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you two and my church family. In His care, Salaam, Karen”
3) Burning the Bibles
a. We are familiar with the fact that the English Reformer William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his labours in seeking to provide a faithful translation of the Scriptures in the English language. In fact, Rome persecuted the translation and circulation of the Scriptures in all the countries of the European Reformation. The persecution was particularly fierce, however, in England and Scotland. The threat of being put to death as a heretic did not extend merely to translating the Scriptures into the English language, but also even to reading or possessing such a translation or any part of it.
As Tyndale translated and published portions of Scripture in English it was eagerly taken up and read. Although many thousands of copies of Tyndale’s translation were printed, so fierce was the persecution that only one complete copy of the first edition has survived the systematic destruction ordered by the Romanist clerics. Tyndale knew that the Roman Catholic authorities would go far beyond destroying the printed copies of his translation: ‘In burning the New Testament, they did none other thing than I looked for; no more shall they do if they burn me also, if it be God’s will it shall so be. Nevertheless in translating the New Testament I did my duty and so do I now…’.
b. Read articles about how Christians right now are being killed in Somalia and how bibles are being burned in Pakistan …. And other atrocities and acts of persecution … the media chooses to ignore most of these incidents
Why are we fearful about bearing witness for the Lord Jesus Christ? Why do we need encouragement to be courageous and speak our convictions? We face more subtle forms of mockery and rejection. But we need to be equally convinced that Jesus is alive and powerful and victorious in working through us today.
SUPERNATURAL POWER OF JESUS CHRIST CANNOT BE EFFECTIVELY OPPOSED – CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY CANNOT BE SILENCED —
FOUR FAILURES OF THE FUTILE ATTEMPTS OF CHRISTIAN PERSECUTORS
I. (:13-14) NO REFUTATION — IMPRESSIVE SUPERNATURAL POWER CANNOT BE REFUTED – EVEN BY THE PERSECUTORS OF CHRISTIANITY –
WHAT CAN BE SAID TO REFUTE THE POWER OF JESUS?
A. Observing the Boldness (and Effectiveness) in Witnessing Impresses
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John,”
Even in the Business world the importance of confidence is recognized: Sales tips magazine: approach the customer with Confidence
What contributed to their confidence – find out that they spent time with Jesus; been transformed by the power of God so that they were progressively becoming more and more like Jesus – could speak the truth with authority and conviction like He did; did not rely on their own natural abilities … so were not dismayed by their own deficiencies; believed in the power and presence of Jesus – who had promised to give them the words to speak when they faced such tense situations – had been commanded by Jesus to preach this message (1:8); not even afraid of death; confident in their resurrection
Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Courageous Christianity – Because the Christian faith is supernatural, we do not need to be clever to understand it or put it into practice. This is the remarkable thing. You may call it the paradox of the Christian message. Here we have the profoundest truth in the world about everything to do with men and women, life, living, death, the cosmos, and God. Yet this truth is never arrived at as the result of intellectual effort. . . So being a Christian does not depend upon us, but entirely upon God and His power and what He has done in the person of His only begotten, dearly beloved Son. You see God at work in these disciples. Look at the way they could stand and reason before this great council and confute them.
B. Understanding the Bankruptcy of Natural Ability Impresses
1. No Formal Theological Education
“and understood that they were uneducated”
We get English word “grammatical” – not that they were illiterate; but not formally schooled in the Rabbinical system
2. No Professional Training
“and untrained men,”
Stott: laymen or unprofessional; common, ordinary folks – nothing special in the way of brilliance and debating skill
We have same prejudice against laymen in Christian circles today – people want to protect their turf; Remember it is God who gives out the credentials and the enablement and the giftedness; Seminaries have their role but we don’t want the lack of a degree to be a disqualification for effectively developing and using your spiritual gift
Same charge leveled against Jesus by the Jews: John 7:15 “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” – Jesus pointed them back to the ultimate authority and empowering and enlightening of His Heavenly Father (Matt. 7:28-29; Luke 20:19-26)
C. Marveling at the Bond to Jesus Christ Impresses
“they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”
Most important credential for Christian leadership – spending intimate time with Jesus – close bond of fellowship and communion; genuine disciple in the way you live; in what you teach; becoming more like Jesus
D. Seeing the Resurrected Phenomenon Leaves Persecutors with no Answer
“And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”
New creature in Jesus Christ
Sanhedrin had thought that this confrontation with the apostles would be a piece of cake; a pushover; ends up with them having nothing to say
Boice: It is hard to miss that Luke used this word “standing” intentionally, for emphasis, and perhaps for irony. He could have said merely, “They could see the man who had been healed with them.” But this was a man who previously couldn’t stand. And there is this too. The Greek word for “resurrection” is anastasis. The basic part of anastasis, stasis, is the word for “standing.” To the Greek mind resurrected people were people who were standing up, as opposed to dead people, who were lying down. So there was a sense in which this “resurrected” man was a symbol of the very gospel Peter and the others were proclaiming.
Longenecker: But even the miraculous is not self-authenticating apart from openness of heart and mind; and the Sadducees’ preoccupation with protecting their vested interests shut them off from really seeing the miracle that occurred.
Toussaint: The apostles were thus experiencing what Christ had promised (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12; 21:12-15).
Sanhedrin needs to come up with a plan of action; this business about Jesus and the resurrection has proven to be more of a pain than they bargained for
II. (:15-17) NO RECOURSE — INTIMIDATING SCHEMING PERSECUTORS SEEK TO PUT A LID ON CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY –
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY?
A. (:15-16) The Problem Faced by God’s Enemies
“But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”
Bock: “Noteworthy” – refers to an obvious, unusual event, a manifest miracle; points to God’s activity
Boice: frustration of the leaders – They had eliminated Jesus, but his influence was still with them – and spreading.
B. (:17) The Pressure of a Gag Order
“But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.”.
Kent: They decided therefore to issue a restraining order prohibiting further speaking of any sort in the name of Christ. The threat was an absolute restriction: they must henceforth speak to no one regarding the message of Christ. It now became illegal to preach the gospel, whether in mass meeting or by personal encounter.
Different if employer warns you against taking work time to distract people and to witness excessively in a way that cuts into your productivity at your job
Bock: One of the effects of hardheartedness is that it not only blocks the individual from responding to God but also can influence others in the same direction.
III. (:18-20) NO REAL AUTHORITY – IRREPRESSIBLE SUBMITTED PREACHERS RECOGNIZE GOD’S AUTHORITY OVER MAN’S –
GREAT COMMISSION CANNOT BE OVERRULED!
A. (:18) Bogus Command
“And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
What did God leave us here on this earth to do?
B. (:19) Appeal to Ultimate Authority
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;’”
Don’t make this appeal lightly; if there is a way to comply with the orders of the government without compromising our obedience to God, we need to comply – no matter how painful or uncomfortable or undesirable – this is a very unique circumstance where Civil Disobedience is not only allowed by Required
Remember the counsel of Peter in his epistles about obeying unjust rulers – 1 Pet. 2:13-14 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”
Remember the example of Daniel who would not bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar and disobeyed the edict of the king – did it openly; did it with full acceptance of the consequences; was not trying to foster political rebellion; was not physically fighting the King
Remember the Great Commission
Longenecker: But where that established authority stood in opposition to God’s authority, thus becoming in effect demonic, the early believers knew where their priorities lay and judged all religious forms and functions from a Christocentric perspective.
C. (:20) Necessity of Proclaiming Christ
“for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”
Testimony of Martin Luther – ordered by the Roman Catholic Church to cease preaching a gospel of salvation by grace alone by faith alone; need to add a works component to that message:
“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. “
IV. (:21-22) NO RESOLUTION — IMPRESSIVE SUPERNATURAL POWER FRUSTRATES PERSECUTORS WHILE BRINGING GREAT GLORY TO GOD –
GLORY OF GOD CANNOT BE SQUELCHED!
A. Impotence Facing the Frustrated Persecutors — All Bark and No Bite – nothing they could do
“And when they had threatened them further, they let them go”
Nobody likes to be brought face to face with their own lack of power and helplessness
In later confrontations they add more specific terms to their threat – beatings, etc. Acts 5:40 – at this point they are all words with no action
The apostles had just called their bluff; exposed them as being without any authority as compared to the supreme authority of God; exposed them as not being legitimate spiritual leaders and not speaking for God at all … all they could do was make empty threats and let them go
B. Irony Facing the Frustrated Persecutors — Hands Tied Politically
“(finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;”
Searching for some grounds on which to hold these men and punish them – but their popularity made that impossible
Exactly what they did not want to happen was taking place and there was nothing they could do about it – How ironic!
They wanted to shut up any mention of Jesus – but everybody was talking about the great miracle and attributing it to the power of Jesus Christ and making the connection to His deity – resulting in glorifying God
C. Illustration of God’s Power Facing the Frustrated Persecutors
“for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.”
Could not deny this obvious miracle; it was clearly a work of mercy and compassion; could not be criticized in any way
How are we doing in being bold and courageous to testify to what we have experienced of Jesus Christ and His power in our lives?
Not difficult to be a witness – just need to speak up – doesn’t mean that we won’t experience any fear … just that we will be faithful and trust God and be more concerned with pleasing Him
SUPERNATURAL POWER OF JESUS CHRIST CANNOT BE EFFECTIVELY OPPOSED – CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY CANNOT BE SILENCED —