Read Acts 5:17 -
We are told "great fear had seized the whole church" after the unfortunate deaths of Annanias and Sapphira. This fear was not a paralyzing fear, it was the kind that did the opposite, it opened the eyes of the church to the seriousness of sin. This fear did not hinder the church from advancing and growing, in fact we read in 5:14 that "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to the number."
But opposition was beginning to occur as the Gospel was preached. The religious leaders did not like this message that was being preached and they did not like the popularity this new message was gaining. The leaders were starting to lose their influence and control and they did not like this one bit. According to James Montgomery Boice in his commentary of Acts, there were three things that really bothered the religious leaders.
God had a different plan. In verse 19 we read, "An angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out." Typically when an angel appears in the Bible, he has a message to deliver. But in this instance the angel was sent to assist the imprisoned men by setting them free. The angel does not tell them to go and hide after their release, instead he tells them to go back to the Temple and continue speaking the Gospel message and they obeyed,
in the morning they went back to the Temple and preached the Gospel. The religious leaders were unaware that their prisoners had escaped until someone told them where they were. The guard was then sent to arrest them again, but they wanted to do it carefully and peacefully so as to avoid a riot.
When the guard brought the Apostles back to the religious leaders and were scolded by them. They said, "We told you not to speak in the name of Jesus. Yet you are determined to defy us and charge us with his death." The Apostle Peter responds, "We must obey God rather than men."
Was Peter being defiant? Was Peter going against his own words that he would eventually pen, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right." It would seem either Peter was contradicting himself? Theologian John Stott writes, "What shall we do then, when (people) use (their authority) to punish good and promote evil? We must resist!" He argues that since the states authority has been given to them by God we are to submit to them up to the point where obedience to authorities would result in disobedience to God. At this point it is the Christian duty to disobey man in order to obey God. I believe this to ring true today.
Peter and the Apostles then use this opportunity to present the Gospel message to the religious leaders. The outline of his sermons became known as the krgyma, which refers to the basic Gospel facts. These facts include: Christ's death for sins, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and his appearance in his resurrected form. This was/is the central message of the Gospel. They knew and understood the power of the Gospel and instead of making excuses or begging for mercy the Apostles seize the opportunity to share the essential message of salvation.
May we learn from the boldness of Peter and the Apostles? They were willing to defy human authority that went against God and stood in the boldness of the Gospel to honor God are you?
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.