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135: Persecution Begins; Outside and Inside

May 15, 2009

Text: Acts 5:17-6:7

Outline:

  1. The Apostles are Arrested and Freed                Acts 5:17-32
  2. The Apostles are Defended and Flogged           Acts 5:33-42
  3. The Apostles Resolve an Internal Conflict       Acts 6:1-7

Context/Discussion/Comments:

The Sadducees, who do not believe in a resurrection, became jealous of the Apostles because they are preaching Christ crucified and resurrected in the temple courts with tremendous power and more and more people believe Jesus is the Christ. They have the Apostles arrested and put in jail but an angel frees them during the night. The next day the Apostles are teaching in the temple court again.

The Sanhedrin convenes that day to discuss what to do but they can not find the Apostles in jail. They are informed that they are free and teaching in the temple courts once again. They are brought to the Sanhedrin to be questioned. Peter defends their teaching by saying it is more important for them to obey God than to obey the Sanhedrin because God raised Jesus from the dead, the One they crucified. Jesus is now at the right hand of God and has the power to grant forgiveness of sin. Jesus has been replaced by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. This obviously infuriates the Sanhedrin and they want to kill the Apostles too. But Gamaliel stands up and says that if they are following man, they will fail; and if they are truly following God, then no matter what the Sanhedrin does, they will be blessed. The Sanhedrin agrees. So they flog the Apostles and tell them again to stop teaching Christ Jesus.

The Apostles, true to form, rejoice for the privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, go right back to the temple courts and house to house in proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Gamaliel was a recognized expert in the Law and was the teacher of Saul [Paul], the leader of the persecution against the Apostles and the Church. Scripture doesn’t confirm it but I believe Gamaliel was a believer. He was a person who recognized the fact that Jesus fulfilled all the law and was the Messiah. He may have been the one to sow seeds in Saul’s mind so that when Saul saw the “light”, He immediately cried out and acknowledged Jesus as Lord. This, of course, is speculation. Some day we will know for sure.

The Church is growing and many are Greek speaking Jews. Those Jewish Christians complain to the Apostles that their widows are slighted when it come to providing food for those in need. The Apostles recognize the problem but feel they can not abandon their teaching ministry so they appoint seven people to oversee the distribution of food, thus resolving the conflict. These men who were appointed were known to be wise and filled with the Spirit. Among them were Stephen, Philip, and Nicolas who was a Greek who converted to Judaism who converted to Christianity. The end result is that the Church grew even more rapidly.

Lessons/Applications:

  1. Understand God’s Will is more important than man’s will when it comes to obedience. Always obey the highest power.
  2. The love of Christ is revealed in two ways; preaching the Word of God boldly and assuring believers that their needs will be met.
  3. Minister boldly in the name of Jesus wherever you are; especially in the workplace. Rely on God’s angels to free you from jealous men. Use the full extent of your civil rights to teach the rights of believers.
  4. Rely on the Holy Spirit for the right words needed to defend you against persecution.
  5. Do not be surprised when those who defend you are also in the enemy camp. Thank them and help them see the truth of their defense; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, alive, Lord, Savior, and King of Kings.
  6. Chose the right people with the right attitude for the right job. Preaching/teaching takes precedent but feeding the poor is also important. Regardless of the type of job, being wise and filled with the Holy Spirit are key character traits in bringing credibility to any ministry.

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