Monday, April 13, 2015, 12:48 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “No Less.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 5 (quoting selected vv. ESV).
Go and Stand
The apostles were performing many signs and wonders among the people. More and more people believed in the Lord Jesus and were added to the fellowship of the believers. Crowds brought their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed (See: Ac. 5:12-16).
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. vv. 17-21a
Before Jesus came to the earth, and before he gained followers after him, the religion of the Jewish people was that of the Old Covenant relationship between God and them, and of the writings of the Old Testament, as well as it included many man-made rules and regulations which were added on to the law.
The Sadducees, Pharisees, priests, scribes and elders all seemed to be in some type of positions of authority and/or strong influence over the Jewish people, who were then God’s chosen people. Many of these leaders of the people were hypocrites, though, because they focused so much attention on being clean on the outside, but they were not clean on the inside. Jesus chided them regularly for their hypocrisy, which was one of the reasons they hated him. Yet they were jealous of him, too, because he stood as a threat to their positions of power and influence over the people.
They thought that in killing him, they would be rid of the competition, but then he rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers. Then, empowered by the Spirit, his followers continued in the work that Jesus had begun in preaching the gospel and in healing the sick and afflicted. So, the same people who were jealous of Jesus, and who had him put to death, were now jealous of the apostles, and so they put them in prison.
Similarly, when we follow our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, and we are his witnesses to the world around us, and we speak the truth of God’s word to the people, we will also be hated and persecuted. Some people, too, will persecute us out of jealousy because we are exposing their lies (false teaching) and because we are calling people to come out from underneath ungodly influences and to follow Jesus in obedience. And, this may serve as a threat to their positions of power and influence over the people. They may throw us into a literal prison, or they may just try to silence us by telling us to “stay in your own lane,” i.e. to mind our own business, or to “stop inserting yourselves into the lives of others.” They may even accuse us of stuff that is not true in order to try to persuade others to reject us and our message, and to follow them instead.
Yet, the Lord Jesus is right there encouraging us to not be imprisoned by fear of what humans may do to us, but to get right back out there and speak to the people all the words of this Life. So, we need to do what he says and keep speaking in the name of Jesus.
Rather Than Men
And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” vv. 25-32
The Bible teaches us that we must obey those in authority over us, but when that authority asks us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than human authority, even if it costs us our reputations, friendships, and family relationships, and even if we are rejected, hated and mistreated in return. God’s commands always trump man’s laws. If God says for us to get back out there and to tell the people the full message of salvation and of new life in Jesus Christ, then that is what we must do. And, if they charge us with disobedience or with disunity, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and the like, we must not allow them to intimidate us and to get us to back away from sharing the only message which will bring life to people who are walking in darkness. We must be bold and courageous in sharing the full message of the gospel of our salvation.
So, what is the “full message” of our salvation? I think most of us can all agree on the first half. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are tempted, yet without sin. He was crucified on a cross, although he had done no wrong. In his death and in his resurrection he put our sins to death, and he conquered death, hell, Satan and sin on our behalf. He then ascended back to heaven, and there he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell, to empower, and to teach, counsel, guide and comfort Christ’s followers, as well as to purify their hearts. The Bible teaches that it is by God’s grace we are saved, through faith, and that it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast (See: Eph. 2:8-10). I believe that even the faith to believe is a gift.
The other half of this “full message,” changes depending upon the people who are sharing the gospel. For some, they preach that all you have to do is say some prayer and you have your ticket into heaven guaranteed and no one can take it away, no matter how you live your life from this day forward. I don’t believe that is supported scripturally. The Bible is real clear that Jesus died so we would die with him to our old lives of living for sin and self, and so we would be transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and so we would be given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived out in his holiness and righteousness. Jesus died, not just so we could go to heaven when we die, and escape hell. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us. He died to free us from slavery to sin, and to free us to become slaves of righteousness (See: Luke 9:23-25; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25).
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Vv. 33-42
Many religious people today, perhaps out of ignorance, or perhaps out of sheer stubbornness and rebellion, end up opposing God when they come against his servants and messengers. This happens often, I believe, when religious people become followers of a religion and followers of humans instead of becoming followers of God. Instead of going to God and to the scriptures when they hear something which goes against what they have always believed, or which goes against the current trend in how to market their churches to the world, they hold firm to their traditions, or to the teachings of humans, and thus they reject what the Word of God teaches, because it doesn’t fit with their marketing schemes or with their theologies. So, I believe this serves as a caution. We need to take care that we don’t end up opposing God because we don’t take matters to the Lord in prayer and in the study of his Word, so that we learn the truth, and so we reject the lies.
Yet, this also serves as an encouragement for all who are suffering for the name of Jesus, and who are being opposed for their stand for Christ and for his Word, and for teaching the full gospel message. We should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for our faith in Jesus Christ. And, we should never stop teaching the good news of Jesus Christ and of our salvation. Even though people may reject us and the message, yet, we can do no less than to continue to obey the Lord in whatever He has called us to do, say and be. Amen!
No Less / An Original Work / March 19, 2012
I can do no less than praise You,
Lord, for all You’ve done for me.
You died for my sins to save me,
So I would be set free.
I adore You! Lord, I praise You!
Jesus, Savior, King of kings!
You provided my redemption.
Your grace has pardoned me.
I can do no less than serve You.
Lord, Your witness I would be,
Telling others of Your love,
And why You died on that tree.
Tell of how You gave of Your life,
So from sin we’d be set free,
So we could worship You forever,
And live eternally.
I can do no less than love You,
Lord, for You have first loved me.
You gave of Your life so willing,
Because You cared for me.
Turn from my sin! Obey freely!
Live for You each passing day.
Read Your word, and follow Your lead,
Lord, as I humbly pray.