The Persecution Of A Hostile World
Book of Acts Chapter 4: 1-14
Many people always ask why do we suffer from persecution and we really should have only one answer even though there may be some other reasons.
Jesus teaches us these words:
Mat 10:22 And “ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake”: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
It is a fact that most all true Christians do good in this world we live in “But” even that good that is done is looked upon as evil in most of the world today.
Even in this latest tragic hurricane in our north our own president put down the good of the churches and asked people to work through the Red Cross. The Red Cross does a good work for the most part but they cannot put people on the ground as quick and as efficient as the local church.
BUT, It is a fact that any demonstration of the power of God makes this lost world uneasy!
The preaching of Peter had caused many lost souls to come to know the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But this same preaching that had brought many to salvation had inflamed the priestly authorities of Judaism in Israel.
The Sadducee were the ruling party at that time and they absolutely rejected resurrection in any form and especially any resurrection of a Messiah.
It is also a fact that this world’s religions reject the truth of God coming to Earth in the form of a human.
Most all religions believe that any Messiah will be some resurrected human from the past.
So, They could not allow the disciples of Jesus Christ to go unpunished.
Remember what Jesus had said:
Mat 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: “I came not to send peace, but a sword”.
Mat 10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Mat 10:36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Of course that sword is the Living Word of God!
At this time the high priest and his followers were answerable to the Roman authorities for anything that even sounded like a disturbance.
Any gathering of people that might suddenly erupt into a riot or a revolution could take away their limited power and prestige given to them by Rome!
Their answer to this problem was to try to stop the preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!
As we left off last week the Temple Police and the religious leaders were just about to lay their hands on Peter and John.
Let’s continue where we left off!
*****Act 4:1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
Act 4:2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
It should be very obvious to us all that it was not only a ruling government that led to the persecution of the Lord Jesus but it was the religious rulers of that day. These were the enemies of Jesus Christ when he walked on this earth and these were the enemies of the apostles as the early church began to grow and then we can add on to that the ruling governments.
These authorities tried in every way to stop the spread of the Christian faith just as they still do today!
Many lost souls were being saved by the preaching of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The church could have been stopped dead in its tracks if the world could only have produced the dead body of Christ.
We can be sure that they made great effort in trying to find the body of Jesus.
They could not find the “physical” body of Christ so they took steps to eliminate the “spiritual” body of Christ!
Rom 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
These apostles had witnessed the Lord Jesus ascending into Heaven. They had spent 40 days walking and talking with the resurrected Lord.
They knew for a fact that no one would be able to find the body of Christ because it was not on this earth!
This gave them the boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ AND This was also one of those infallible proofs that Luke writes to us about.
This enemy would surely have produced that body of Jesus if it were possible for them to do so.
Christianity would have never even got started!
The apostle Paul put it this way:
1Co 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
1Co 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
1Co 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
If you believe that Jesus did not raise from the dead, then you are still on the threshhold of hell if you are still alive and everyone that has gone before you is in Hell already!
*****Act 4:3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
Peter and John were placed in jail that day for simply preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!
It had only been 3 hours since God had used Peter in the healing of that lame man and had preached a sermon that would cause these to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!
Peter and John and entered the Temple in time for the three o’clock prayer time and it was now evening time probably six o’clock.
*****Act 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
If anyone that calls himself a preacher needs an outline for a sermon they need to take advantage of this one preached by the apostle Peter. At least 5000 souls were saved that day. These were true converts.
These were Jews who had recognized that the fulfillment of Judaism is in fact, Christianity.
*****Act 4:5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
Act 4:6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
We see this time that there was no midnight court for these Apostles and this is because of those 5000 new Christians and “one miracle receiving man” who had spent 40 years being lame.
You know it is just as great a miracle for even one lost soul to be adopted into the family of God.
This court was essentially composed of the family of the High Priest. The Jewish religious system had become so corrupt that the offices were passed from one relative to another without regard or the Word of God.
None of these men were not descendents of the tribe of Levi.
In fact history tells us that Annas was deposed from the High Priesthood by Rome and he was not about to allow that to happen to those of his family! Caiaphas his son-in-law was next appointed High Priest and at least five of Annas’s sons held the office of High Priest at one time or another.
In 1994 near a hidden valley in Jerusalem the stone burial ossuary of Caiaphas was actually found in the tomb of Annas.
These were real people and at a real-time at this time of the apostles and the beginning of the early church and not some made up story by these apostles!
*****Act 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, [have ye done this]?
The first thing we should notice here is that these religious leaders had acknowledged this as a miracle even though they tried to make it seem a minor thing at this time! (this thing)
The second thing we should notice is that these religious leaders had acknowledged that this miracle was done by Peter and John, the Apostles of Jesus Christ! (ye or you people)
In other words, “who do you think you people are to come into the Temple with this stuff”
The view of Judaism at that time was that all illnesses and afflictions were caused by demons!
In their view it would take an exorcism to remove those demons and this could only be accomplished by qualified spiritual leaders or else by a follower of the devil as we know that Jesus had been accused of.
Mat 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
This Sanhedrin council realized that these two Apostles were only fishermen and could certainly not have any such power.
*****Act 4:8 Then Peter, “filled with the Holy Ghost”, said unto them, [Ye rulers of the people], and [elders of Israel],
The power of regeneration can come only by the Holy Spirit and only through the Lord Jesus Christ:
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Joh 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
To question the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ is “Blasphemy” and this riled the Holy Spirit within Peter!
And Christ Jesus fulfilled one of His promises to His Apostles which was:
Mat 10:19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
Mat 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
We must realize the more we go about the work of God, the more spiteful will be the servants of Satan!
If we take our stand on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will empower us!
Notice the eloquence of Peter at this time that is shown to the national leaders of Israel. This shows the wisdom of God that is given to the Christian!
*****Act 4:9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
Act 4:10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
Keep in mind that Peter and John were only fishermen and not educated and trained lawyers.
The Word of God teaches us:
Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Gal 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, [to stand].
Peter’s first emphasis was that they were being questioned “for a good deed”.
Peter and John had done nothing bad, nothing evil nor anything immoral and it was not a Sabbath’s Day.
They had been used by the Holy Spirit to bring life to a man that had been lame for 40 years. This man had been a beggar all his life and to God’s glory he had been preserved until this very day of his healing.
There can be no doubt that in those 40 years these same elders and the same rulers had seen this man many times and had probably provided an “alms” to him.
Peter then said if you want to know by what means this good deed was done then let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel that it was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
There can be no doubt that these words pierced the heart of these non-believers.
They had thought that they were finished with the prophet from Nazareth but now these fishermen were telling everybody that Jesus of Nazareth was still alive.
Since the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead then Peter’s statement was almost a declaration of war to them.
Peter made it known that it was these religious leaders and these elders of Israel that had caused Jesus to be crucified, but it was God who had raised him from the dead!
It was that same power of resurrection that had brought new life to this lame man!
*****Act 4:11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Here again we see that Peter knew that Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism and not some new religion but this is still rejected by the practicing Jew!
We should also remember that this same Peter had once been so fearful in his life that he had denied Christ Jesus three times.
It had taken a major transformation which was the fact that Peter knew beyond any question that Jesus had triumphed over death and had now energized him by His indwelling spirit.
Peter quoted the same Scripture that Jesus had earlier:
Psa 118:22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Psa 118:23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
This “image of the stone” was not new to these men who were experts in the Old Testament scriptures. They knew that the “rock” was a symbol of God.
Deu 32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
The Sadducees used only the five books of Moses but the Pharisees used most all the Old Testament of that time.
We know that the Jews still stumble over this “Rock”!
Rom 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
Rom 9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
This is the stumbling stone that God has laid at the feet of the Jew and also at the feet of the world.
You see for Jesus was not just any Stone, “He is the Corner Stone of the Church” just as He is also the Savior of the Church and This World!
*****Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
This is one of the clearest statements that can be found anywhere in the Bible that sets forth the only way of salvation!
Only Christ Jesus can save!
It is Christ Jesus that created and sustains all things!
Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Col 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Jesus had made this very plain Himself!
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
We can see that these Apostles “clearly believed” the gospel of Jesus Christ!
We know that this truth may be offensive to non-Christians but we must continually and consistently make it clear in our witness to them in an act of love for them.
For without Christ Jesus we are lost and bound for an eternal Hell!
*****Act 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Many, if not all of these same men on this council had been at the false trial of Jesus. Remember this day of Peter and John was probably not much than two months since Jesus was crucified.
They had seen the witness of Jesus and sitting before them this day they were seeing men that resembled the Lord Jesus Christ in many ways including their boldness!
Being with Jesus will yield a greater wisdom and courage than this world offers!
There are many things the Holy Spirit provides to every believer:
Isa 11:2 And the “spirit of the LORD” shall rest upon him, “the spirit of wisdom” and “understanding”, “the spirit of counsel” and “might”, “the spirit of knowledge” and “of the fear of the LORD”;
We that believe, can live happier and more productive lives with the knowledge of Jesus than we could have ever lived with any great wealth of this world or with the education that this world provides.
These men that were accusing these Apostles of Jesus Christ were of the most educated and certainly of the most wealthy in Israel.
But they had been silenced by God’s people!
Suddenly the accused had become the accuser!
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
It should be to all of us “our goal” for people to see Jesus in us!
These religious rulers of Israel had thought that they had gotten rid of Jesus but they could see Jesus in these Apostles and in all who believed with all their heart!
Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
*****Act 4:14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
All this time they could see this once lame man standing with Peter and John with personal knowledge that they had witnessed a miracle!
All arguments are silenced when there is a direct evidence of the power of the Gospel!
What Peter’s speech could not do the witness of this once lame man accomplished!
All this time this council had not been seeking the truth.
They were seeking a way to avoid the truth! No matter what God does in this world we live in, some people simply will not learn or accept!
What they did think is if they just left thing alone, Christianity would soon pass away from the scene but it did not because the truth “is always the truth”.
Christianity exploded from this day onward!
The name of Jesus was in the minds of everyone in Israel and would be scattered around the world by persecution!
This world can only do what God allows it to do to God’s people!
And what God allows will further prove His Word is True!
Then let us pray with them!