Friday, June 15, 2012

We must obey God rather than men - Acts 5 - Authority, Rebellion, and Resistance

(Click here to read Acts 5)

Acts 5:27-32 (ESV)
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 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.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30  The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The upside-down authority of the Kingdom of God in the church has brought them before the keepers of the old way once again. The Jesus People have been radically generous with each other, holding all power and wealth loosely, and sharing everything together without coercion or law. In fact, one rich couple who came to the community tried to use their wealth to gain influence by lying about how much of their wealth they had given in the community. They are corrected, told that their contribution had been voluntary and they had no need or right to claim to have given everything when they had only given a portion. No one had demanded their wealth of them. They would not have been given special privilege for having given so much. The community does not even need to discuss recourse for their action. They fall down dead on the spot (Acts 5:1-10).

This is the power and authority of the Kingdom Community. Not one of them needs hold power over another. None manipulate. All serve. None are final judge. God is among them, and God will be their judge.

The evidence of this authority continued to be in the signs and miracles that followed the teaching of the Kingdom. The community was going out into Jerusalem and announcing the radical freedom to everyone. People were being healed and set free. The community was growing every day (Acts 5:12-16).

The keepers of the old order are confronted again when the apostles are miraculously set free from prison. They are arrested for disobeying the command to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. They are locked in prison. The next day the religious leaders are annoyed and humiliated as the apostles are seen once again free from prison and teaching publicly (vv17-25).

Enraged, they brought the apostles back in for questioning.

What a farce. These old guard have no power to do anything but threaten and question. They can lock people away, but Jesus announced the Good News in Luke 4 was for setting the prisoners free. The Jesus People community was healing the sick. They were feeding the poor. Jesus came back from the dead. In the face of an authority that can defeat death, what can the powers of the old world do?

The apostles tell the leaders that they would obey God, not men. The midwives of Egypt refuse to obey Pharaoh of the Egyptian empire when told to kill newborn Israelites (Exodus 1:15-18). Three Jewish young men oppose the King of the Babylonian empire when told to worship him as a God, even when threatened with death (Daniel 3:18).

When we follow the King of kings, no other authority can cause us to fear. The most they can ever do is take our lives, and that only according to the will of the One to whom our lives are forfeit. Our King was the suffering servant and the glorified Lord. We are honoured to follow his example. We are blessed to act in his will. We rejoice in the life of the good and just Kingdom of God.

Acts 5:40-42 (ESV)
40 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. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.


v4 – It wasn’t because of the amount of money, but because of his lie that he was judged. By saying that this was all of it, he brought glory to himself instead of God.
v5 – Second recorded church miracle.
v13 – favour – see 2:47
v20 – set free to minister
v29 – again, their authority came from God alone. They resisted those who rebelled against God.
v31 – Even in arrests and trouble, the gospel was preached.
vv36-37 – revolutions
v41 – They’re happy in their trials – James 1:1-4

(Click here to read Acts 5)

(Next week - The Kingdom of God is Bigger Than You - Acts 6-12 - Introduction to be posted tomorrow)

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