By Ken R. Speakman
Member, Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory
Focal Passage: Acts 5:25-35, 38-42
As word about the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira spread, a wave of godly fear swept over the church, which now has great power and great fear. Growth continued and believers were now meeting regularly at the Temple and house to house. God gave the apostles power to perform great miracles and many believed, both men and women. Crowds came from villages surrounding Jerusalem and began to bring their sick to the apostles for healing (vv. 15-16).
The center of the apostles’ message was the Lord Jesus Christ, the very name the Sanhedrin had condemned and the person they had crucified. Because of the great success the apostles were having, the high priest and the officials were filled with jealousy. They had commanded Peter and John not to mention the name of Jesus but they obeyed the Lord and not man. They arrested the apostles and put them in jail, but an angel miraculously delivered them without unlocking the doors or alerting the guards.
The next morning when the high priest sent for the prisoners, they discovered they were not there, but were teaching in the temple (v. 23). The apostles were quietly arrested and brought before the high council. “Didn’t we command you never again to teach in this man’s name,” declared the high priest. He would not even mention the name of Jesus and accused the apostles of filling all of Jerusalem with their teaching, and accusing the high council for the Messiah’s death. This was the real problem. Had they forgotten their own words? In Matthew 27:24-25, Pilot saw no wrong in Jesus and declared Him innocent. The religious leaders, this very group, screamed to Pilate, “… His blood shall be on us.” They knew the apostles spoke the truth.
The apostles were ordinary laymen standing before a council of educated, ordained, powerful men. But God’s power was at work in their lives, so they stood without fear of death and remained faithful. The Spirit of God gave the apostles a bold stance before the high court and they began to witness. When they heard Peter’s message, the council was furious and intended to kill them.
A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a highly esteemed scholar, under whom a man named Saul, (Acts 23:3), had trained, stood, and spoke to the council. He said if this is the work of man, their voices will be silenced. If it is the work of God people cannot stop it. He was right. The message will go on through eternity. Gamaliel’s speech tempered their anger and the apostles were given 39 lashes (Deuteronomy 25:1-3), ordered to never again speak in the name of Jesus, and set free.
How did the apostles respond to this illegal treatment? They rejoiced! Jesus had told them to expect persecution and had instructed them to rejoice in it (Matthew 5:11-12). They considered it a privilege to suffer for His name (Philippians 1:29). Neither the threats nor the beating stopped them from witnessing for the Lord Jesus. They continued to witness and preach that Jesus is the Messiah. What is it that keeps Christians from doing the same?