In our last Acts lesson, we left the apostles in jail for ministering and preaching in Jesus’ name. At least that was the “party line.” But the real reason was “jealousy” (v. 17). The apostles had become very popular and the religious authorities felt threatened. This would be a good place to stop and read today’s text: Acts 5:17-42.
During the night an angel “opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” and told them to keep proclaiming the gospel. They were back in the temple courts at the first light of day (vs. 19-21). When the Sanhedrin met to question them, they were shocked to find the jail empty and the men “standing in the temple courts teaching the people” (v. 25). They were again brought before the Jewish leadership, albeit more gently out of fear of the people.
The Sanhedrin reminded them of their orders to refrain from teaching in the name of Jesus but Peter boldly declared “We must obey God rather than men.” (v. 29). He pointed the finger directly at the Jewish council as the perpetrators of Jesus’ murder and proclaimed the Lord’s resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. They were naturally furious and wanted them executed. But one Pharisee – Gamaliel – wisely advised caution saying “If [this] is from God you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (v. 39).
The culture today, particularly where I live in the U.S., is turning decidedly away from God. The message of the Bible is not welcome and is considered “hate speech.” How the gospel can be called hateful is beyond me – it is the greatest show of divine love in human history. The gospel declares the mercy of God towards sinful creatures who are rightly condemned for their corrupt state.
The apostles refused to back down, even after they were flogged. They “rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (v. 41). They “never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 42). So must we. The gospel is God’s message and it is unstoppable. It will offend some, but it will also save some. Maybe someone you love. Never stop declaring the good news of Jesus Christ. Eternity is at stake. Beloved, tell somebody about Jesus today.