Now, we have been, in our study of Acts, considering, in chapter 5, the early Church pattern for effective evangelism. And we began last time with a section that really runs from chapter 5, verse 12 through 42. That entire section deals with the explosive evangelism of the early Church.
Now, we’ve already begun to see some of it. We’ve seen the Church grow 3,000 the first day, within a few days the 5,000 men, and continued to multiply and so forth. But I believe, finally in chapter 5, verses 12 to 42, we get a kind of a composite picture of some of the keys to that kind of evangelism. Now, there is a lot of evangelism, some of it very ineffective. Some of it the kind of evangelism that results in a bigger loss factor than a gain factor in the sense that I mean of the 100 percent of people that are introduced to Christ, maybe less than 50 percent really are sincere.
There are many efforts at evangelism, but I believe that here we have some of the basic things dealing with evangelism. This is not exhaustive. It is not extensive, and it is not all inclusive; it is merely part of the picture.
But here we have, I think, five progressive keys to effective evangelism. And we’d begun last time by looking at the first two, and we’ll take the second two this morning and leave the last one for next time.
Now, I think we who love Jesus Christ and who have committed our lives to him care about evangelism. And by that I mean communicating the Gospel to the world. We have been accused of proselyting, and we do, in fact, proselyte. We do everything we can do, becoming all things to all men, that by any means we may win someone to Christ. Within the realms of fidelity and veracity and honesty and sincerity, we want to win people to Jesus Christ. We don’t want to win them by underhanded methods; we don’t want to abort the new birth. But we do want to be engaged in winning people to Jesus Christ; that’s what we’re all about. Otherwise, the Lord would have saved us and taken us to heaven.
We are here, chapter 1 of Acts says, to finish the work that Jesus both began to do and teach. We are here to do His unfinished work, the work of reaching men with the Gospel.
Now, we know, first of all, that this is our task. Jesus said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And He commissioned us to take it where He left it. And He said, “You go into all the world and you preach the Gospel to every creature.” And He said, “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth.”
So, we’re here to do His-His work, as it were, to finish His unfinished work of evangelism, reaching the world with the truth of Jesus Christ. And we’re not only doing it here, I trust, in our little local area, but we’re supporting, as you noted and it was mentioned earlier in your bulletin, missionaries all over the world.
And we praise God for many right here in our own congregation who are working with various ministries, Campus Crusade – and how we praise God for their effective and dynamic ministry. And we have some folks with Intervarsity and others with Young Life who are right now on the campuses, reaching people for Christ. There are some of you involved in Jewish evangelism. There are others of you involved in Christian organizations of all different kinds, ministering to people here in this country, and, of course, those that we add to that about the world.
And I believe that, honestly, in our own hearts, we really want to win people to Christ. I think if I asked any of you who know Christ, “Do you care about the salvation of people,” you’d say, “Of course.” We want to win people to Christ. And yet, we recognize that there are degrees of commitment at that very level. Some people want it to bad they do it. Other people want it bad enough to pray about it. Other people hope it happens. And the commitment level determines just about where you are on that scale. And as the man said the other night, “Some people make things happen, some people know they happen, and some people are asking, ‘What’s happening?’”
But I believe, in all of our hearts, if we’re really honest, we do have a desire for people to come to Christ. The level of our commitment determines how intense that desire is activated in our life. But that is our goal. We must be with Christ after the lost. See?
Now, in order to do this effectively, in Acts 5, we have these 5 keys that are unveiled for us. And we saw – let’s review, first of all – we saw last time that the first key to effective evangelism is purity. Purity. And we saw that in the parenthesis in the middle of verse 12 and running through verse 14. Let’s review it. Verse 12 at the parenthesis, “And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” Now, that’s a very important statement, because back in the first 11 verses of chapter 5, they were not with one accord because they had sinning members. Ananias and Sapphira had lied to the Holy Spirit and polluted the fellowship. So, God just took their lives instantly, right on the spot they dropped dead. And God purified the Church by a very supernatural intervention.
And so, when you come to verse 12, and it says, “They were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch,” that’s exactly true. The sin had been rooted out. And you better believe that when the other Christian who may have been on the border of sin saw what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, there was some kind of purification going on in that place.
And so, when it says they were with one accord in one place, it means that there was a pure Church again. It had been restored to the purity that it enjoyed before Ananias and Sapphira had polluted it, and God had said again, in very dramatic letters – He had sky written, if you will, across the face of their life do not do this; it results in severe punishment. And so, they were pure, and that’s where evangelism begins. It springs out of the purity of the church. The church that deals with sin, the church that is alive and sensitive to God and the purity of holiness is the effective church.
Now, we saw a next step in that when we came to verse 13. It says, “And the rest dared no – of the rest dared no man join himself to them” – there they were on Solomon’s porch, and nobody jumped on their bandwagon because they knew that you don’t get into that deal unless you’re willing to have your life exposed. People who aren’t for real in that organization die.
And so, nobody joined up who wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. You see? Now, that’s why I continue to say to you that the church must be pure; it must deal with sin; it must operate with spiritual discipline in the lives of believers, not only for the purity of itself, but in order that the world may know that you cannot infiltrate the church and be undiscovered.
In the impure church that never deals with sin, like so many local churches are, the tares are sown in there so easily because there’s never any exposure going on. You see? But in the early Church, the public had seen this. Verse 11 says, “Great fear came upon all the church and upon as many as heard these things.” I mean the world was aware that that church dealt with sin. And you didn’t join up unless you were for real or you’re liable to die.
And so, you see, the church was not only pure to begin with, but because it continued to deal with sin, it stayed pure. And you find that in verse 13, the people didn’t jump on. It said, “The people magnified them.” Verse 14, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women.” You know who got added to that church? Who did? Not wheat and tares; just wheat. Believers. Because it was a church that was pure, and its purity was manifest in the world. And the world knew it was pure, and the world knew that God dealt with sin, and the world knew that sin was exposed, and the world didn’t join up on that basis unless they really meant it. And so, its purity was maintained.
You say, “Well, if you get too worried about that, maybe nobody will come.”
Look at it again, verse 14: multitudes. Multitudes. The pure church is the church that reaches the world.
The second thing we saw about evangelism and its basic ingredients, there’s not only purity but power. The pure church is a powerful church. And that’s why its evangelism is effective. It has a power that is from God. It surges with power. We saw in verse 12, apart from the parenthesis, “And by the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were wrought among the people.” In order to confirm their preaching, miracles began to happen.
Verse 15 says, “They brought the sick into the streets; they laid them on beds and couches, hoping that the shadow of Peter might pass over them. That’s how much they believed in the power that these people had.
“There came a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and those who were vexed with unclean spirits” – or demon possessed – “and they were healed every one.” Total. All of them. Power. And what drew people to this Church was the power that was so evident because they were pure. God was moving in this Church.
And that’s how it is today. And as I told you last time, we are not to assume necessarily that God operates on the same principles in terms of the sign gifts or the miracles to confirm the Word. But I still believe the pure church is a powerful church, and I believe God is still doing miracles through the pure Church, mostly the miracle – the miracle of the new birth bring people into the kingdom. And so, the pure church is powerful.
Now, let’s come to the third one. The third in these five progressive steps is persecution. Now, a pure, powerful church is going to really make waves in the system. Now, to begin with, let me just give you – just for you that might not be familiar with this, the world at this particular time in history, in the economy of God, is controlled by Satan. Satan, at one time, was an angel by the name of Lucifer, who thought he’d like to be equal with God or better, and so he pulled off a rebellion in heaven. He got one-third of the demons to go with him – or one-third of the angels. They became called demons because they fell. He got one-third of the angels, according to Revelation 12, and he started a rebellion against God. God said, “Sorry,” and threw them out.
Then he was the antagonist of God and still is. He became Satan, the Devil, the adversary. And his demons and himself are working against God. Now, Satan fell. Satan came to earth, and he tempted Eve. She fell, Adam fell, and we all fell with them. The earth, at the present time, is in the hands of Satan. The system is controlled by Satan. He is the prince of the power of the air who governs the world. The Bible calls him the ruler of this world. And anybody who lives in this world, apart from Jesus Christ, is one of Satan’s people at one level or another. Because he is a part of the system. And the system operates basically on three bases: materialism, humanism, and sex. And that’s just about what goes on.
And so, the system, being run by Satan, then, would naturally be in horrible antagonism to the truth of God. As Satan was against God from the very start, the demons against the holy angels, holy men against evil men, the same kind of war going on all the time.
And so, when a pure Church comes along with great power and starts ripping off people form Satan, then Satan gets irritated, you see, because he’s trying to salvage something here. He’s trying to salvage his authority and hang onto his rebellion at some level. He’s already been booted out at the original rebellion, and the earth is his domain, and he’s trying to capture the earth, and he’s trying to hang onto everybody he can. And in moves the powerful Church, and people keep getting saved, and they keep getting saved, and things keep happening, and Satan begins to get irritated, and you’re going to have persecution. You can’t miss it. It has to happen.
But when you irritate the system, the system reacts. And it’s exciting to make waves. You know? It’s a terrific thing. It’s interesting, too, that the only Christians who really make waves, and the only churches that really make waves, are the successful ones. Failures don’t make even ripples.
Now if you’re going to make waves in the world, and irritate Satan, you can count on one thing: persecution. Satan’s going to come after you. The problem is, he never knows what he’s doing, and everything he tries to do God undoes and turns to God’s glory. So, let Satan do what he may, take it willingly, and watch God work out of it some fantastic thing. But persecution will come.
Now, I’ve said this to you, but I’ll say it again, the principle upon which this-this really comes down to our level is 2 Timothy 3:12, which says this, “All” – a simple word, but it’s inclusive – “All that will live godly in this world shall suffer persecution.” If you’re going to live for God in this world, a godly live, a pure life, you’re going to be bumping into the system. And you’re going to irritate the system. And you’re going to get persecuted. People are going to avoid you. “Here comes that Bible-beating character again; let’s get out of here.” See?
And it may not be the hostility of, you know, shooting you or whatever, although it may be. We had one young man in our congregation witnessing in Los Angeles, on one occasion, who was attacked and killed about a year ago. It may be that. It may be some kind of defamation of character. It may be more than that, that subtle kind of thing that plays on your ego. You don’t want to be thought of as a religious freak. I mean you’re making yourself obnoxious. Nobody wants to hear that. I mean you are the biggest drag that ever arrived in this office.
Well, there’s a certain sense in which you can be very irritating needlessly. But I do believe that if you really live a godly life, it’s not only what you say, it’s just the pattern of your life that irritates the world, because unholy people don’t really like holy company. And that’s why I say all that will live godly will suffer persecution. It’s just that if you’re not suffering persecution, guess what? You’re not living godly. You have to get a reaction from the system, because Satan reacts to the purity of God. And that’s what we’re saying here.
When the church is pure and powerful, and it moves out among the world, there’s going to be a reaction. Praise God for that reaction, because that sets it up for God to do wonderful things. In fact, you ought to expect this. First Peter – and certainly Peter knew about persecution; I mean he really took it through the book of Acts. And he’s reflecting back on it. He finally wound up getting crucified upside down. But listen to what he says in 1 Peter 2:20, “But if you do well and suffer for it, take it patiently. This is acceptable with God.” God planned it this way; you should suffer. 3:17, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer.” Chapter 4, verse 14, “If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you.” You say, “Speak for yourself, Peter.” No. “Happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rests upon you.” It’s terrific. “Just commit your soul to Him who is the Creator because it’s His will that you suffer.” That’s what it says three times in Peter, “It’s God’s will for you to suffer.” Did you know that?
I’ve talked many times on how to know the will of God for your life. God’s will for your life is you be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4; Spirit filled, Ephesians 5:18; sanctified, 1 Thessalonians 4; Suffering, 1 Peter. That’s God’s will. Not that you be a flagellanti and get a whip with glass in it and beat yourself on the back and say, “I’m suffering for the Lord.” No, no, no. Not like the man in the Philippines who every year crucifies himself because he feels that pleases God. No, no, no. Not that kind of suffering. The kind of suffering that comes from irritating the world. You see? The kind of suffering that is the response of the system to your godliness. It’s not self-imposed.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, you can’t say, “My suffering is my wife.” Or, “My husband,” or, “My boss is my cross.” That’s not that. The only thing that Jesus is talking about, when He’s talking about suffering and bearing His reproach is confronting the world so much and with such effect that the system reacts violently, and you get some flak back. And that’s exciting. And you ought to be happy about that.
In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 – don’t turn to it; I’ll just read it to you – it says this – and the word “blessed” means happy; I’ll read it that way, “Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Listen to this one, “Happy are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” That’s some of the most devastating persecution. And happy are you. In the next verse He says, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad” – isn’t it wonderful? why? – “for great is your reward in heaven.”
In Romans chapter 8 Paul says, “We shall be glorified with Him if we’re willing to suffer with Him.” I believe there are special rewards in heaven for the ones who are willing to be bold in this world and confront the world with a holy life and a powerful life and take what comes. And it’s joyous. It’s joyous. Scars are the price that ever godly believer pays for his loyalty to Jesus Christ.
And you say, “Well, maybe it’ll get easier toward the coming of Christ.”
No, 1 Timothy 3:13 says, “Evil men shall wax worse and worse.” And that’s not talking about the local carwash. What it means is evil men will grow worse and worse; evil men may wax worse and worse. I haven’t been there for a while, but anyway, the idea is it isn’t getting any better. It’s going to get worse as men become more antagonistic to the Gospel.
So, persecution is predictable, and it begins in verse 17. That’s enough review and introduction. Verse 17, here comes the persecution. I want you to remember that this time they must have been getting excited about it, because the first time they got persecuted, everything good happened. People got saved; they got united; their prayers got answered; they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus was glorified, and you can’t get any better things than that. And so, here came persecution again. As always, it’s a plus.
Verse 17. Now, all these miracles going on, all this preaching going on has really upset the leaders. “Then the high priest rose up” – and it doesn’t mean he got out of his chair, it means he flamed – you know? – “he rose up, and all they that were with him” – and he had these cohorts – “the sect of the Sadducees” – the word “sect” is the word from which we get our word “heresy” – “and they were filled with indignation” – the word “indignation” is zēlou which means jealousy. They were mad because they were jealous. If there’s anything a religious organization can’t stand it’s the success of another religious organization.
Now, the Sadducees were the collaborationist leaders. They were the ones who were a very small minority, very wealthy and very influential Jews. They had this particular designation – Sadducees – which distinguished their party from the Pharisees who were the legalists. The Sadducees were the theological liberals of their day, and they were the ones who collaborated with Rome and kind of were Rome’s puppets in keeping Peace in Israel. They were the ruling party in Israel, as it were, and they were really uptight. This thing was going like wildfire. They thought they stamped out this Jesus movement when they executed Jesus, but they only seemed to speed it up. And now thousands upon thousands of people were naming the name of Jesus Christ. Miracles were happening under their nose all over the city of Jerusalem. There was no way to deny it when everybody that came into town that was sick got healed. You can’t handle that many miracles by just explaining them away. And they were really shook.
Now, Palestine was always inflammable, and the Jews were always ready to start something at the drop of a hat, especially when they hated the dominance of Rome anyway. And the Sadducees could see that their place was threatened because if an insurrection started, they would really be the losers.
Earlier, in chapter 4, they said to them in verse 18, “They commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” We don’t want any more of that! Stop it! You’re not allowed to do it.
And to which Peter and John said, “I’m sorry, the Lord told us to do it, so we have to do it. Now, you judge whether we ought to obey you or God,” which is a good question.
So, they were really upset. They were filled with a jealous rage. So, they took some action. Verse 18, “They laid their hands on the apostles, and they put them in the common prison.”
Now, the idea of laying their hands on them is seizure. They snatched them and threw them in jail. And they probably dusted off their hands. And, “Boys, that’ll hold them for a while.” How foolish. Were they – were they going to think that bars would restrict the power of God? They threw them in the – the word is “public ward,” a common prison, which means just the plain old place where all the criminals went. They just tanked them, you know? Had them in jail.
Now, jail has never really been a big problem for God. He does pretty well in getting people out. And He always has kind of unique methods. And you know what happens? Whenever Satan does something like this, God overrules it for good. You know? For example, look at Acts 16. That’s a wonderful story there about Paul and Silas, who were up there in Philippi, having a great time. And people got saved, and there was this certain girl who was possessed with demons. She was a medium. She was making a lot of money for her masters by telling people’s fortunes and stuff.
And so, Paul says to her, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her,” and the demon came out. And, of course, that stopped the business. And so, her masters were really upset because Paul had messed up their business.
So, they caught Paul and Silas, in verse 19, and later on they put them in prison. And they charged the jailer, in verse 23 to keep them safely. They made their feet fast in the stocks. So, they locked their feet in besides putting them in the cell.
You say, “Oh, those poor Christians. I imagine they were groaning.”
No, look at verse 25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God” – they’re just having a ball in there. See? Singing away – “and the prisoners are hearing them.”
And they’re thinking, “Those guys must me out of their minds.” And they’re just singing. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake” – now, God is about to get them out – “so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.” Now, that’s a very direct response to an earthquake. No normal earthquake’s going to release everybody’s chains and open every door in the jail. That was a very guided earthquake.
And, of course, the keeper of the prison had to pay with his life for anybody who escaped. That was part of the job. So, verse 27, “The keeper of the prison, awaking out of his sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew out his sword and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been – had fled. Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do thyself no harm; we’re all here.’” Now, that’s shock number two. Can you imagine every jail cell in the place open and everybody’s still sitting in it?
“And he called for a light and spring in” – he came running in – “and he came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, and he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”
Now, those little smart men in Philippi thought, “We’ll get these guys in jail and fix them.” They put them in jail and the jailer and his whole family got saved. You can’t do that and get away with it. God will always overrule it. You see? It’s terrific.
Now, you go back and you see the same thing in chapter 5, “We’ll put them in jail; that’ll hold them.” See? Stick them in jail.
Then you come to verse 19. This is really beautiful. Because, you see, Satan again had given God a wonderful opportunity to display his power. Satan just keeps doing this. He must be awfully frustrated.
Verse 19, “But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them forth” – see, this angel – God sends His angel down, and He says, “Now, you get down, and you let those guys out.” And this is exciting. Oh, this is the most defiant kind of miracle. You see, God didn’t use an earthquake, and I’ll tell you why. The Sadducees had two theological doctrines that set them apart. Number one, they believed in no resurrection – or they didn’t believe in a resurrection better. They did not believe in a resurrection. What was it that the disciples were preaching all over everywhere? The resurrection. That’s what burned them so much, see?
There was a second thing they didn’t believe in, and that was angels. You see? They had always taught there were no angels. So, God, very defiantly, says, “Okay, angel, show them.” So, this angel comes down and opens up the place and let’s them out. And so the very thing – the very being they denied, God defiantly used to release them to preach the very doctrine they didn’t believe. Now, that’s what’s known as defiance. And so, the angel let’s them out.
Well, watch what happens. He says, verse 20, “Go, stand and speak” – now, that’s a good sermon outline – “Go, stand firm, and speak in the temple.”
Is he kidding? I mean we just got out of there; they threw us in jail. Go back there?
They don’t give any argument. He just says, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” Verse 21, “And when they heard that, they entered into the temple” – boy, I like that.
You say, “But that’s not smart.”
Well, you see, nobody ever said in the Word of God that we’re supposed to figure out what’s smart. All we’re supposed to do is be obedient. Right? I think God knows what’s smart. He’s got it all planned out.
So, the angel says, “Go, stand, speak.” That’s solid. Forceful. And God wants that kind of defiant courage, that kind of boldness that really confronts. The command sounds incredible. You’d think that the angel said, “Now, you guys, here’s a map, and there’s a little cave up in the boonies up here, and you can – you know?” “And I’m going to bring you manna under special dispensation for the next few weeks until it cools down.”
No, “You go right back.” You ever had a – been in a swimming pool and try to put a volleyball under the water, and it just keeps bobbing up again? Or a cork? This is the way they are. They keep trying to submerge them, and they just keep popping up in the same spot.
I remember a little birthday cake at a little – one of our little kid’s parties, and the candles wouldn’t blow out. Have you ever seen those? You blow them, and they go out, and they come back on again. Well, they were just a whole lot of those little candles. They kept blowing at them, and the more they blew, the faster they flamed. You couldn’t put them out; and the more you tried, the worse it got, because everything Satan tried to do to put them out only added fuel to the fire because another miracle happened.
Now, look at the end of verse 20. He says, “Go and speak all the words of this life.” That little phrase is a beautiful thing. Our Gospel is the Gospel concerning the words of life. Paul said to the Philippians, “Holding forth the word of life.” Do you know that the message we preach is the message of life? Jesus has come into this world to give life to dead men – spiritually dead men. The world is spiritually dead, right? Men are dead spiritually. They’re insensitive to God. They can’t sense His presence. To be spiritually dead means that you can’t sense God. You can’t sense Him.
I went down the street one time, on a Saturday morning, and a little kid took me down there, and there was a little baby that had just died lying on the bed in the house down the street. And the mother tried to revive the little baby by kissing it and loving it. And, of course, I touched it, and it was – it was dead. Nothing you could do to revive it; it was physically dead.
Well, spiritual death is the same thing. It doesn’t matter what the stimulus is, you can’t respond. Men are dead, and they’re groping in this kind of deadness to find reality, and it isn’t there, and the only thing they really need is life. And there’s only one who can give life, and that’s Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and” – what? – “the life.”
Who said – of whom John said, “He that hath the Son” – what? - “hath life.” And to come alive to God is what it is to be saved. All of a sudden you sense God, and you’re alive to His world, and you’re a part of what He is and what He’s doing. And this is life.
And it doesn’t say, “Tell the people all the words that add to their life.” Christianity is not a part of life; it is life. And apart from it, you’re dead. You’re dead. I love that phrase, “All the words of this life.” This is life, isn’t it? This is everything.
I heard a man say, “Christ is the center of my life.”
I said, “Wrong. Christ is the circumference of your life or He’s nothing. Everything is in the inside. He’s not in the middle of everything. Everything is inside him. He is your life.”
“He that hath the Son hath” – what? – “life.” So, this is what you declare. “You go in there, and you tell them how they can all have life. Get in there and preach.” And the key to life was the resurrection.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; because I live, ye shall live.” So, the key to the message of life was preach the resurrection. So, back they went, like little corks, bobbing up again, right into the temple, and away they go on the resurrection again.
And we find that in verse 21, “And when they had heard that, they entered into the temple early in the – early in the morning and taught.” Here they go again. This is absolutely terrific. And what is so interesting is that the Sadducees and the chief priest and everybody don’t know where they are yet. So, meanwhile, back at the high priest – whatever – verse 21 in the middle – “But the high priest came” – and you could just see the austerity of this occasion, you know. They’re getting ready now to deal with these upstarts. “The high priest came, and they that were with him” – he had this little gang that trailed around, you know, were kind of attached to him theologically – “and they called the council together” – that’s the Sanhedrin, the ruling elders of Israel. Then they got, in addition to that – “all of the senate” – which is gerousia, which has to do, probably, with all of the elder, older Jews, the wise older men who in years past had served in many capacities. And they called together this kind of a senate of wise men made up, maybe, of many Pharisees.
So, they had all of the brain trust of Israel meeting together to dispense with these guys. And then, “They sent to the prison to have them brought.”
“You go, and you bring the prisoners. We’ll deal with them.”
So, then it gets kind of humorous here. I don’t think they were laughing, but it’s – it’s somewhat humorous. Verse 22, “When the officers came, and found them not in the prison” – the great escape; nobody’s home, verse 23 – “they returned and told, saying, ‘The prison truly found we shut with all safety’” – I mean that place is locked up like it’s always been; all the padlocks in the right spot, the bars are all there; the hinges on the doors are all there; that place is shut up like it’s always been – “‘and we found the keepers standing outside before the doors’” – the guards are on duty; they’ve secured that place – “‘the only thing we didn’t find was the prisoners.’” We looked in there, but they’re gone.
Now, you can imagine the shock of this moment. I mean they have had enough miracles already to gag them, and they’re not about to believe. They never thought of that option: too hardened were they in their unbelief. One of my professors in seminary said that they had probably all, by this time, committed the unpardonable sin of apostasy anyway, so they were beyond the possibility of belief, and these evidences were for the people, not for them. But whatever, they were so cold and so hard and so indifferent that rather than believing the miracle, they just kind of filed it away in their minds and didn’t even want to know anything about it.
And here was another one they had to face, in addition to the thousands of miracles that had been going on all through the city. So, their reaction is in verse 24, “now when the high priest and the captain of the temple” – that’s the temple police chief – and the chief priests heard these things, they were perplexed.” Now, that is mild. The Greek means they were at their wits end; they were on the verge of going bananas in the vernacular. They were in a state of sort of semi-panic. They were really stirred up; they were really messed up. They were scared to death, and they couldn’t stop this thing, and they knew they couldn’t stop it. And they knew their authority was being disregarded, heresy was being preached, God was opposing them by miracles, every effort to stop had failed, and great success was following them, and more and more were believing. And now they had tried this last thing, and they were gone out of there, and there was no way to explain it, because it was all locked up and the guards were still standing in front. And they were on the edge of panic.
And they were probably thinking to themselves, “Where did they go? We’ll get them. Where did they go?” And they were probably thinking how they would plot their escape.
So, then comes the final defiance, verse 25, “Then came one and said unto them, ‘Behold,’” – that’s a very strong word. It could be translated, “You will never believe this!” – “‘the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple, teaching the people.’” They’re right back in there doing it. Now, that is defiance. I mean they’re not stashed away in the hills anywhere; they’re right back there going at it again.
And I’m sure they were so excited. I mean I would have stuck around just to keep seeing the stuff that God was doing in their lives. They were probably at this point thinking, “Boy, I wonder what’s going to happen when we get arrested this time?” You know? You know? I mean these things are so exciting. And the people were listening to them, and people were believing, and people were being won to Christ.
So, there they were. Boy, I like that kind of defiance, don’t you? I like that kind of boldness. God does, too. That kind that always bobs up and comes back for more. Then look what happened in verse 26. Apparently, cooler heads prevailed for the moment. “And the captain with the officers went out and brought them without violence” – now I imagine it says without violence because the violence was in them; they were ready to rip them limb from limb, but they restrained the violence.
You say, “Oh, that was nice of them.”
Not so nice. Look at the end of verse 26, “They feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.” The only reason they weren’t violent was because they knew the people were listening to them, and the Jews would stone somebody almost on the drop of the hat when the motions were right. And so they said, “Boys, play it cool.” “Fellows, we’d like to speak to you a few moments if we might.” You know?
And the disciples could have said, “Forget it; we’re staying right here.” And then they could have made a violent move, and the disciples said, “All right, everybody, stones out.” You know? No, there’s none of that. There’s none of that violence on the part of the disciples either. They’re very content to go, because they know that whatever they get into, God’s got some fantastic plan in mind. And I mean just think of the thrill of going through a jail cell when it was locked. I mean, you know, that’s – not too many have that opportunity. For several reasons. They – you don’t usually get in, hopefully.
But nevertheless, there was no resistance. They could have resisted at that point very easily, but they went so willingly. And probably, on the way, Peter has – is plotting out his sermon outline, because he knows that the Lord’s going to give him a second – this is the second service that they’ll be holding in the Sanhedrin. And he’s probably getting it all outlined, of course, and figuring out the order of worship or whatever.
But anyway, so, they’re taken captive again. And the nonresistance is beautiful. You know, this kind of nonresistance is what opens up opportunities. Remember the apostle Paul in chapter 25 of Acts? Oh, that’s really a great section there. He’s under trial by Festus, and the Jews have accused him of all these things, and he says, “I haven’t done anything against the Jews. I’m a Roman citizen. If you’re going to try me, you better try me before Caesar.” And then he says this in 25:11, “If I be an offender or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die.” In other words, “I’m going to do whatever you want me to do. I just obey the Lord, and if the consequences are die; I’ll die.” You see, that’s the right attitude.
Now, we’re to obey the government, but when the government contradicts the command of the Lord, we’re to obey the Lord. But then when the government says, “You die,” we die. But that’s all right, too, for Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is” – what? – “gain.” So, that’s only a promotion. And he even said, “It’s nice to be here, but I’d rather be there. I mean I like you people; you’re wonderful, but I’d rather be with the Lord anyway.”
And so, Paul’s simply saying, “If I’ve done anything wrong, that’s fine; I’m willing to take the penalty for it.” So, they had disobeyed, so they said, “Okay, guys, we have to go now.” And off they went.
And do you remember what happened to Paul in Acts after they said, “All right, you’re going to Rome, and you’re going to get it”? What did he do all the way to Rome? Preached Christ. They had a big shipwreck, and he was holding forth the word of life, and they were all worried about drowning in the ocean. And Paul managed to rescue everybody. They got on Melita, and the snakebite thing, and then he got a chance to declare God’s power again. And pretty soon he got to Rome.
And he got into Rome, and at the end of the book of Acts, he was having a great time, a prisoner in Rome. It says in verse 23 – it says - here’s what he was doing, listen to this, “He expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus” – and he did it – “from morning till evening.” Paul did it all the time he was in Rome as a prisoner. “And some believed” – he was winning converts. And then in verse 30, it says, “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house” – remember he was a prisoner in his own house, chained to a Roman soldier. And what did he do for those two years? “He preached the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.” Did he have any results? Listen to this, Philippians 4:22 – he writes to the Philippians; he says, “All the saints greet you” – listen to this – “chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” See?
See, God said, “Paul, you’re going to get into trouble here, so we’ll just use it for your – for My glory.” And all these people kept getting saved, because Paul didn’t resist. And he said, “I’m willing to be offered” – remember? “I’m going to go to Rome, and I’m willing to be offered.”
So, you see, that’s the right attitude in the situation of persecution. Now, look at verse 27, “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them” – here they are, right back – and the stage is set for sermon number two to the Sanhedrin. And the attendance has grown, because now the senate’s there. This is even better. And they said, “Did we not strictly command you that you should not teach in His name – this name?” That’s the first indictment. “You’ve disobeyed us.” And they had. But then they told them they would.
Chapter 4, verse 18, “They said, “We command you not to speak.”
And Peter says, “You judge whether we ought to obey you or God. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So, we will speak.” And so, they did. And so, when they came to arrest them for disobeying, they went. So, the first indictment was disobedience.
The second – the second charge they made against them was that they had accused them of the death of Christ. Notice it, at the end of the verse, “And you intend to bring this man’s blood on us. You’re saying all over the place that we are guilty.”
“That’s right. That’s exactly what we’ve been saying. You guys have really gotten it right. Your charges are totally accurate. We’ve been disobedient, and we’ve been indicting you.” I mean all the way through his messages, chapter 2, verse 23, he says, “You have taken, and by wicked hands crucified.” Chapter 2, verse 36, he says, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, Lord and Christ.”
Chapter 3, verse 15, “You killed the Prince of life.” Chapter 4, verse – I think it’s 10 and 11 – “Be it known unto you all, and all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who ye crucified...”
“Sure, we’ve been saying that all along. You did it.” But have you forgotten Matthew 27:25? Jesus was to be crucified, and they all screamed, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him,” and then they said this, “His blood be” – where – “on us.” They wanted it.
Peters not accusing them of anything that they didn’t desire to be accused of. They had the indictment right. They were disobedient. And in fact, they were accusing them of crucifying Christ.
Then this wonderful commendation in the middle of the verse, “And behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” – praise the Lord. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. Mission accomplished. Saturation evangelism. What a commendation.
But notice in this verse, as I noticed it, that there’s no question about the miracle of the escape. You know why? They don’t dare to ask them about it, because they don’t want to hear about it. They’re so sick of hearing about miracles. They’re already so messed up in their minds that another miracle would just really be too much to handle.
So, in all of that conversation, they don’t even ask them how in the world they got out of jail. You know, my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts.
So, you see, the effect of evangelism of the early Church was built on purity, power, and persecution. Let me give you a fourth one, and then we’ll wrap it up. And I changed it while I was sitting here. The fourth one in your outline is preaching. Put down persistence. That’s a better word for it. That reflects what it’s – what it’s really saying. Persistence. And this, again, is the idea of the cork that keeps popping back up. They just never quit.
Now, you’d think that this time, after this malediction that was fired at them in verse 28, they’d kind of say, “Well, uh, it’s so true, and, uh, ooh – we’ve kind of – sorry about that.” No, they’re just persistent.
Verse 29, “Then Peter and the other apostles” – Peter answering for them – “said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” And, you see, there he sets them against God. See? Boldness, fearlessness. We’re not in the business of obeying you folks; we’re in the business of obeying God, if you don’t mind.
And then he takes off in this sermon. Now, listen to this, verse 30, “‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who ye slew and hanged on a tree.’” Yikes, Peter. That’s just what they accused you of doing was indicting them. Why don’t you relax for a few minutes? No. Persistence. Absolute persistence in evangelism. Aggressiveness. You’ve been shot down once? Don’t ask for an honorable discharge. Go out again. Pack up your Purple Heart and retire? Get in the battle. Bob up a little bit.
“Well, I-I tried that endeavor, and oh, my, I’ve put in my effort. I’ll let somebody else do it for a while.” So, we all droop, and after one little skirmish, we ask for our honorable discharge.
Not them. Peter got right back in that Sanhedrin and said, “Right. That’s exactly what you did. You slew Him. You hanged Him on a tree. The one that God raised up as your Messiah you hanged on a tree.” Oh, man, is that powerful stuff. It puts them at odds with God.
And the word “slew” is an interesting word. It’s used only one other time in the New Testament, a very unusual word. It means to murder with your own hands. Now, Peter had never used that word before. Instead of backing down, he gets more aggressive. Before he had said, “You, by use of the Gentiles, have killed.” And then he just kind of generally said, “You killed the Prince of life.” Now he says, “You killed Him. Not only had Him killed, you did it with your own hands.” Now, that is persistence, friends.
And if people want to say that the Jews are not guilty of the execution of Jesus Christ, they’ll have to argue with the Greek text. And let me hasten to say this, I have a love for Jewish people, and I don’t think that the Jewish people, as a population, did the execution. I think what the New Testament is indicating is that the indictment belongs against the leaders of Israel. But none the less, it is very obvious that they were held – they were held guilty by God, and even had cried – even the people cried, “His blood be on us.”
So, he says, “You not only slew Him, but you hanged Him on a tree.” Why does he say that? Well, He was crucified. He could have said that, but to say hanged on a tree ties it in with Deuteronomy 21:23. The Old Testament said, “Cursed is anybody who hangs on a tree.” That was the most shameful, despicable, cursed death a man could die, and they chose that one for the Son of God. So, boy, does he ever indict them; he really does.
And then he takes step two in his sermon. After indictment, there’s always exaltation of Christ as Messiah, verse 31, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand” – right hand means power; God by power ripped Christ out of the grave and exalted Him. And He made Him a Prince and a Savior. Now, you thought He was nothing. You thought He was something to be trampled, but God lifted Him up and made Him better than Prince – the word is Archēgos, which means King, Pioneer. It’s got so many meanings I can’t even tell you all of them: Creator, Originator, Author – all of those words. Archēgos has so many concepts.
Peter was a fisherman. Maybe one concept we haven’t talked about that Peter may have had in mind is this. On each ship there was a strong swimmer who as called the archēgos. Whenever the ship got into trouble, his job was, with a rope around his waist, to dive in, swim to shore, secure the rope, and then everybody else could get to shore on the rope. But the archēgos was the guy who had to make his way there and secure the rope.
He says, “Jesus Christ is the one, who having been killed on this earth, when the ship wrecked, God lifted Him up, took Him to heaven. He left the rope there, and all of us are able to reach it on the basis of His provision.” And so, Jesus Christ is the Archēgos, the strong swimmer who secured the anchor to God, and then the Savior who gathers us and takes us into God’s presence.
“And He offered you,” he says at the end of verse 31, “He offered you repentance and forgiveness.” And, beloved, there’s no forgiveness for a man apart from repentance. That’s the missing ingredient so much in the message of salvation.
People always talk about salvation, and they leave out repentance. You’ll never be saved until you’ve turned from your sin. That doesn’t mean you become sinless; that means you’re sorry for your sin, and you say, “God help me and make me different. Forgive me.” And He does.
So, he was Prince and Savior. And verse 32, he closes by saying this, “And we are His witnesses of these things” – we know He is; we knew Him; we lived with Him; we saw Him. Not only that – “so also is the Holy Spirit whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” They said, “We’re not just telling you what we know; we’re telling you what the Spirit inside of us is saying through us.”
In John chapter 14:26, Jesus said, “I’ll send you the Comforter; He shall lead you into all truth. He shall bring all things to your remembrance.”
In Matthew 10:19, the Bible says this, “But when they deliver you up” – you know, in front of those who hate you – “don’t be anxious how or what you shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak.” And who gave it? The Holy Spirit.
Peter says, “We haven’t been shooting off our own mouths about our own opinions. We’ve been talking about the things that the Holy Spirit is saying within us.”
Persistence, they were persistent. And as long as they yielded to the Spirit’s power in their life, they were absolutely victorious. What did the apostle Paul say, “Be strong in the Lord and in” – what? – “the power of His might.”
Listen, we can reach this world for Jesus Christ, but we got to keep both of our feet planted upon the Spirit of God so that His power flows through us. And we only can do that as we’re pure.
Father, thank You for again sharing with us this morning these principles. How our hearts rejoice that You have given us what we need in terms of instruction and power to reach this world for You. God, may we do it. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.
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