The Book of Acts (Chapter 4:1-23) (Part 9)
The devil hates the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom because it reminds him of his defeat at Jerusalem at the cross and that Jesus is coming back to establish His Millennial Kingdom and remove the devil from human contact. As it is written in the Word of God about the death and resurrection of Jesus that; “having cancelled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross! And having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15). As John the Apostle also wrote; “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Disturbing the peace
Well no sooner had Peter ended his sermon when he and John were arrested for supposedly “disturbing the peace.” In reality the religious institution was shaken and disturbed. Those into religion are always disturbed by witnessing Bible believing Christians and especially when the supernatural power of God is at work as demonstrated by the crippled man who had been completely healed. They could not deny the miracle. In these last days Satan has multitudes of his servants within the rank and file of Christendom (Institutionalised denominational Christianity) as he did in the religious establishment in the time of Peter and John. Of course nothing has changed.
It is the same now
Satan always gets up to the same old tricks as he has always done and he just puts different labels on them and it is all a mask for spiritual deception and there is plenty of that around today. It has always been the case that those who are unsaved and without the Holy Spirit persecute and resist those who are saved and have the Holy Spirit. This was the case with Cain and Abel as John writes; “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his own deeds were evil, while those of his brother were righteous” (1 John 3:12). It was the case with Jacob and Esau. “At that time, however, the son born by the flesh persecuted the son born by the Spirit. It is the same now” (Galatians 4:29). In the Last Days those who are not born again in the Church will persecute those who are. Already we see many churches, even some claiming to be evangelical, marginalizing those who want to stick with the Bible! Many prefer denominationalism, ecumenism and even interfaith rather than the Word of God alone.
Persecution is a reality
Already we see persecution in countries like Turkey, Syria, Eritrea, Pakistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria, China and in Russia and North Korea. In many Roman Catholic countries evangelicals and Pentecostals are persecuted to a greater or lesser degree by the Church of Rome. In Russia the Russian Orthodox Church persecutes Bible believing evangelical Christians. Now with the Islamic invasion of Europe persecution is looming on the horizon especially for Christians. In the first centuries it was the religious establishment in league with the Roman government. Then during the Middle-Ages it was the Popes of Rome in league with secular powers that continued the persecution of Bible believers during the Inquisition around 700 years or more in Europe. Today it is Islam!
(Vs. 1-2) “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
The religious hierarchy in Jerusalem thought that all their troubles had been over since they had arranged and instigated the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. They had managed to get the Lord Jesus out of the way and saw His followers ‘disappear into the woodwork,’ as it were, and they were nowhere to be seen. Now they had a huge problem on their hands. All of Jerusalem was astir! A man crippled from birth, which the Pharisees knew as the beggar at the gate of the Temple, had been supernaturally healed. It was ‘the buzz’ of conversation.
Furthermore, they were alarmed because Peter and John were preaching about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This was something the religious establishment had not ‘factored into the equation’ when they had arranged Jesus’ death and now they were faced with the facts that the man they had killed and thought was dead and buried was back again. Furthermore, a miraculous healing had occurred in the name of Jesus and everyone was talking about this in Jerusalem.
In the Last Days you will see this happening more and more. The power of God will be challenging dead religion. The day is coming when ordinary believers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will be preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, healing the sick and driving out demons just like the Lord Jesus and the apostles did. It will not be the theological elite or by those in the sacred confines of the Colleges of the Cardinals that these things will happen. It will be the working class! The Lord Jesus will raise up the ministries again of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry but it will be in the face of fierce opposition from the religious and secular authorities.
The last great spiritual battle will not be primarily in the area of theology but in the area of power like it was in the book of Acts. The power of God will come into direct conflict with the power of the occult. This is where we are headed. It will not be within ‘the hallowed walls’ of Institutionalised Christendom or within the denominational church system but outside in the market place! This is where the faithful Body of Messiah will operate. Not only will there be souls saved, saints sanctified, signs, miracles and wonders but most of all there will be a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! No wonder the religious hierarchy in Jerusalem were “greatly disturbed!” As it was in the past so it will be in the future. The book of Acts is not only past history but future history!
(Vs. 3-4) “And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
The Apostle Paul spent quite a considerable amount of time in prison for the name and for the sake of the Lord Jesus. Even in there in his second letter to Timothy he writes; “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David, as proclaimed by my gospel, for which I suffer to the extent of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained! For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10). Paul may have been chained but the Word of God wasn’t. No wonder the religious establishment was disturbed and upset. “The horse had bolted!” They could no longer contain the situation, besides there were now around 5,000 men who had believed the message spoken by the Lord through the preaching and testimony of Peter and John, not to mention what had already happened in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. So the religious hierarchy had them locked them up and most probably would have been glad to throw away the key!
(Vs.5-7) “On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the centre, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”
The very same ones who had engineered the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus were once again confronted with the supernatural power of God that they could not explain away. The ‘Cardinals’ and the ‘Prelates’ were there to assess the situation. They acknowledged that something supernatural had taken place but either feigned ignorance or were just spiritually blind full stop! Either way, they had been confronted with the power of God and something they could not do away with or rationalize theologically according to their man-made commandments and traditions. In the Last Days, just before the Lord Jesus comes back, secular governments and religious institutions will find their attention drawn to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ through His faithful body, the true Church of the Living God.
These religious leaders most probably knew already that Peter and John had been preaching in the name of Jesus. What happened to Peter and John had already happened to the Lord Jesus. In fact the Lord Jesus had told them previously that this kind of situation would occur for them. He had said to them; “But beware of men; for they will hand you over to their councils and flog you in their synagogues. On My account, you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to respond or what to say. In that hour you will be given what to say” (Matthew 10:17-19).
In the Last Days believers will be empowered in the same way as Peter and John were when faced with opposition. Already this is happening where believers are being persecuted for their loyalty to the Lord Jesus. The same thing is going to happen to the faithful body of Messiah in the western democracies. Already in America, England, Europe and Australia laws are being put in place to stop believers preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. As yet it has not escalated but it is coming. Look what happened next.
(Vs.8-10) “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health.”
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit again as he had been on the Day of Pentecost. Being filled with the Spirit is to be a continuous experience for every believer (Ephesians 5:18) however, at certain times and in new situations a fresh empowering or infilling will be necessary. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the first of many fillings to come. For every new avenue of service, for every new person we witness to and for every other work we attempt for God, we must make sure we are filled with the Holy Spirit’s power from on high. Peter was empowered by the Spirit to withstand the coming verbal barrage by these so called ‘learned’ theologians, this ‘College of the Cardinals’ as it were who knew nothing about the power of God. Years later Stephen would also experience this empowering as he stood before the Sanhedrin and in his case it led to martyrdom at the hands of his accusers. Now Peter did not try to get into a theological debate but testified to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and that proof of this was the man healed. He had been healed in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene and by His power.
If Jesus was dead then no miracle would have occurred on this man who had been crippled from birth. The name of Jesus of Nazareth has supreme authority on earth, above the earth, under the earth and in heaven. The devil and his minions from hell know there is power in the name of Jesus and they tremble. Once again in the future this kind of experience Peter and John faced will be common place in most nations around the world as the Lord Jesus predicted; “You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
He also promised; “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:12-19). Peter also reminded these religious leaders that it was by their own actions that they put to death the author of life, the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter continued…
(Vs.11-12) “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
In the days of the Roman Empire when they built a bridge they did not use cement as it were but a cornerstone which was positioned in such a way that it held the rest of the stones tightly together. Without this cornerstone the bridge would collapse very easily. Today in England you still have some of these bridges built in the days when Britain was a colony of the Roman Empire. Some of these are so strong that you can drive a small truck over them.
Now Peter understood this principle in that Israel as a nation was the bridge that God Himself has built and that the Lord Jesus was not only the stone upon which it had been built but more so was the chief cornerstone that kept Israel together as a nation and the stone upon which the faithful Church itself would be built. Now that Israel had rejected the Lord Jesus as their chief cornerstone the nation was headed for destruction, a destruction that came in 70AD at the hands of the Roman Empire. “The axe had already been laid to the root” and it was only a matter of time. After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus God, in His grace and mercy, gave Israel another 40 years to repent.
Once again we find that Peter clearly pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only one who could bring about salvation not only for the Jewish nation but for the Gentile nations as well. In fact the whole Mosaic Sacrificial system with its laws and regulations had all pointed to the Lord Jesus as Israel’s Passover lamb sacrificed for them. These so called ‘learned’ theologians had religion but not reality! Only in trusting the Lord Jesus alone could the people of Israel be saved. As the apostle John later wrote; “He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). There is no salvation for anyone outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we do not come to God through Him and by faith in Him to save us we will be lost forever! In fact the Lord Jesus had said; ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6) He also said; ““Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7b-9). This was the thrust of Peter’s defence. He was so filled to overflowing with God’s power that the religious leaders could not withstand his testimony to them. And so we read…
(Vs.13-14) “Now as they observed the boldness of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”
Peter and John were no theologians as such but they knew the Word of God. The religious leaders who were proud of their learning and supposed knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures recognized that Peter and John were just ordinary men and were not educated and trained in theology and religion as they were themselves. They looked down on Peter and John in a condescending manner yet were amazed that these two men had something that they did not have themselves. Furthermore, they recognised that Peter and John had been with Jesus.
Most probably they had seen Peter and John among the other disciples that had been accompanying Jesus during His ministry. However, Peter and John by their testimony and actions were speaking and acting just like Jesus Himself had spoken and acted. It was unmistakable. They had nothing to say because the healed man, whom the Pharisees all knew previously to be crippled from birth, was now standing before them as whole as any healthy man. Now they decided to have a symposium. After all they had to contain this movement before it spread further.
In the Last Days this sort of thing will be common place as the faithful Body of Messiah will be operating outside of the Institutionalised Church system. The power of the Holy Spirit will be moving in such a way that it will challenge the whole religious system that by this time will be in league with the secular government. Just as it is in China today you have the Government sanctioned ‘Church’ but also the underground Church. It is the same in North Korea today. It will be like this in the future in the western democracies where Church and State have amalgamated. So then concerning Peter and John the religious leaders decided to hold a Synagogue leaders meeting. And so we read…
(Vs.15-17) “But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”
Today we live in a post-modern society which does not mind if you have a religion. As long as you keep it to yourself or see it as one of many co-equal and co-valued religions it is okay to believe what you like. However, to say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that the only way to God the Father is through Him demolishes all other religions and ideologies of man. Religious people do not like this at all! The devil does not care if someone has a religion as he gets more people into hell through religion than he does through all of the other sins of man combined.
People will always have and tolerate religion but when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ that is something altogether different. Now these religious leaders had to stop this new movement from spreading any further in Jerusalem. They could not deny what had happened to the man whom had been healed. For years they had passed him every day when coming and going to and from the synagogue and had most probably given him some money but that was all they had to offer him. They may have been ‘learned theologians’ as such but did not know the power of God.
So they put the apostles outside and had their staff meeting. After they had the board meeting they decided to warn Peter and John not to preach in the name of Jesus. Isn’t this just like the devil. Preach about Buddha, Confucius, Mahammad, or about some other religious guru from the past and no one really minds as they are now all very dead but Jesus is alive and doing well! He has risen indeed! To preach Him astonishes man and disturbs hell! So they called Peter and John back in.
(Vs.18-20) “And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Peter and John respected the religious leaders because both of them were faithful Jews but when it came to obeying God rather than man they chose to obey God first. They ‘threw the ball back into the court’ of the Pharisees. They were left to judge what was wrong and right in God’s sight. As far as the apostles were concerned they knew what was right and that was to obey God before they obey man. Undoubtedly being faithful Jews the apostles respected the office of the Pharisees but when it came to compromising the truth they chose the truth every time. The apostles could not stop preaching and testifying about Jesus. They had come to know the truth as it is in Jesus and were compelled by the Spirit within them to testify about Him and to preach and teach in his name. The best the Pharisees could come up with was to threaten them. And so we read…
(Vs.21-22) “When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.”
Unsaved religious leaders will always go along with the crowd if they feel their religious institution is threatened in some way. In the case of Peter and John they had most definitely threatened to disturb the status quo. Most of the people were in a euphoric state of mind over what had happened and this in itself made the Pharisees anxious and edgy as they were now threatened with losing many of their regular Synagogue members. What further disturbed them was that they had no basis on which to punish the apostles. God was being glorified and besides who could dispute that the man who had been crippled for all of his life was not standing before them completely healed. He was most probably well over 40 years of age.
As the end of this age closes the Traditional denominational institutionalised system of Christianity will be something quite different than that of Biblical Christianity. It will be a mixture of the Bible, the philosophies of man and of other religions. Interfaith and Ecumenism will be the character of Christendom. The faithful body of Messiah will have no denominational boundaries but be united and of one mind and heart when it comes to Apostolic doctrine. A division is coming in the professing Christian Church over the absolute authority of the Bible itself.
Many ministers and pastors who are now employed by their denominations will be forced to go along with the trends of their denomination and compromise the Bible. Conviction will be replaced by tolerance and a watering down of scripture to fit in with the current thinking and trends in society. Others will just have to get up and leave if they want to stay faithful to the Bible. The fissure has already appeared but it is going to become a crevice very soon. What happened to Peter and John will be common place for faithful Bible-believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christy. The day is rapidly approaching when true believers will have to make a choice as the Institutionalised Church slides into the apostasy. Unless faithful believers are filled with the Spirit and stand together on Apostolic doctrine (the Bible) they will never stand alone!