Tell The Full Message Of This New Life
By Timothy Lopez
Key Verse 5:20
“’Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”
A couple weeks ago, we spoke about the prayer in Acts chapter 4 namely verses 29-30 where the Apostles and believers met together and prayed. In view of the condition of the world and the needs of the church they prayed, “Now, Lord consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” In this prayer there is a desire for signs and wonders, and there is a tremendous need. We see that God answered their prayer. And in this first set of scriptures, we still see God answering that prayer. Should we pray like this today? My answer is yes. But I think this answer will spell itself out for us if we ask ourselves: Why did the Apostles pray this way? Why did they want so earnestly to see the signs and wonders of God? There are a couple of things to reminded of that would make us think that these things weren’t really all the necessary or desirable. Think about it. Out of all the generations that have ever existed in church history, that generation was in least need of divine validation as being truly Christian and truly knowing the resurrection of Christ. From 1st Corinthians 15 we know that Jerusalem was filled with hundreds of eye witnesses to Jesus’ resurrected life. And that never again would that be the case. Never again could would we be able to walk up to someone who had eaten with Jesus, touched Jesus, talked to Jesus like Peter and say, “Now Peter, is it really true?” Another aspect of the Church we can look at is those who spoke the word of God. The greatest preachers who have ever lived were preaching then. Peter, Stephen, Paul, Philip, Luke. I’d venture to say that never has been an anointing of preaching God’s word as there was in those days. When we accompany these things with the unity and growth of church, this generation was the least of all generations that needed the validation of signs and wonders. So then the question still presses us, “Why did they want them so badly as to pray for them in Acts 4:30?” If the word of God is to be magnified as all sufficient for the salvation of sinners, why in the world would pray that alongside preaching, the greatest preaching, there would be signs and wonders? Let’s not even think about us at the moment. Let’s just ask ourselves, why would they ask for that? The answer is actually clear and simple.
We see that in Acts 5:12-14, two effects that the signs and wonders had on the people. The first effect in verse 13 says, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” Ananias and Sapphira had just dropped dead, and great fear spread throughout the whole church as well as those outside the church that heard what happened. Now the apostles are performing signs and wonders, but there’s a hesitation among all those around them. They weren’t quick to get in on the action, but they held them in awe. “What kind of people are these?” But verse 14 shows us that not everyone kept their distance, Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. And there is the answer. They were desirable because they helped bring people to the Lord. And this is not a one-time incident. Throughout the book of Acts, this is a pattern. There are at least 17 incidents in the book of Acts where signs and wonders lead people to the Lord. So we can conclude that, one of the reasons the Apostles asked for signs and wonders is that people came to Christ when it happened. The salvation of people’s souls when they happened. I encourage to look through the book of Acts and make a little note in your bible when you see that happen. I assure you that you will have at least 17 little notes.
Aside from this question, we can undoubtedly see the kingdom of God making large advances against the kingdom of darkness. Many were coming to faith in the Lord. Crowds were bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. All of them. Not one person was left out. But in view of what’s happening, let’s read the response of the high priest and his associates. Let’s read verses 17 & 18. “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. (18) They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” The price that the apostles are now paying for being ministers of life-giving and hope-bringing power, are three things. Jealousy, misunderstanding and persecution. To be an instrument of the power of God is a dangerous thing. It is dangerous for the minister of God and for those around them. The servant of God has to guard themselves against pride, while the others have might have the guard against jealousy. It is a great temptation for that believer to think that because of the great things they have done, God has decided to award them the use of his power. Or perhaps since they pray more, work harder or are purer than all the others around them, and that God has just so decided to reward their wonderful spiritual efforts by letting them be instruments of His power. But that is not true. God’s power is his power. And if he wants to use it at a certain time or not, it is completely up to him. He is not a puppet of which we can pull his strings to make Him do as we please. On the other hand, it is true that when we’re living in obedience to God’s will, we put ourselves in a position for him to freely work through us. And we ought to always be doing that. But to even get to that point of humble submission and obedience is grace of God. It is all of grace. Paul said that he was the hardest working apostle of God to ever live. But then he says in 1st Corinthians 15:10b, yet it was not I who was working, but the grace of God that was with me. And he also said that, neither man is anything, not the one who plants the seed of faith, nor the one who waters it, but only God, who makes it grow. He took no credit for any of his work.
Let’s speak about jealousy for just a moment. The truth is that if God sovereignty dispenses power over someone’s life, people might get jealous. But what is jealousy? It is not merely wanting something that someone else has. It is not seeing someone with great humility and being motivated to strive after great humility. It is not seeing someone being merciful and then wanting to be merciful. This is not bad. In Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” But jealousy is seeing what someone has, and being hurt that they have it and you don’t! And then in our hurt we want to take it away from them by any means. Cain was jealous when is brother Abel’s offering was accepted and his wasn’t. He resolved to take his brother’s life. King Saul who at one-time lead Israel in the power of the Spirit, became so jealous of David, that he was thrown into a murderous rage. His goal in life was to eliminate David. It literally drove him insane. He lost his mind. Do you see the impact of jealousy? Again, King Saul lost his mind because he was so given over to it. As children of God, we just can’t afford to toy with jealousy. Proverbs 27:4 reads, Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? Jealousy is something we just can’t entertain. Don’t wink your eye at jealousy, don’t flirt with it as if it’s not a true enemy in your life. In a moment it’ll wreak utter devastation to your soul. Here we see the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and had the apostles arrested.
Let’s read verses 19 & 20. “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20’Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people all about this new life.’” We can no doubt admit that an angel breaking the apostles out of prison is a wonderful thing. This is actually the first of three miraculous jail breaks in the book of Acts. I always love it when angels get involved, don’t you? I’ve never seen an angel according to the bible they all around us. In fact, we know from Jacob’s dream that angels are constantly going back and forth between heaven and earth. If you ever want to read a great book on angels, other than the bible of course, I hear that Billy Graham wrote one years ago. But as the story goes, they’re sitting in prison, and the angel breaks them loose and says, “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life.” Keep in mind that they are in jail, and being held by the same Sanhedrin that brought Jesus before Pilate, and they know what these people are capable of. They knew that their lives are in jeopardy. But angel releases them only to tell them to get back to the temple and keep preaching, and keep talking. That sounds a bit counterintuitive. I’m sure we’d naturally think we can actually make a break for it and be gone for good. The apostles understand that if they go back into the temple, that they are just as susceptible to being are arrested the first time and this might only make the Sanhedrin twice as angry. And in fact they will get arrested again. So in verse 21 they go back out there knowing it’s fully possible that they’re going to get arrested all over again.
Let’s draw our attention to the angel’s command one more time. He says, “…tell the people all about this new life.” His wording there is carefully chosen. The word “life” puts things into a certain perspective. The ESV actually capitalizes this word. And it’s to emphasize to us that this word is an important one as it relates to understanding the gospel, what Jesus did, and in fact who Jesus is. This word in the Greek is pronounced dzo-ay’. It’s actually where we get the name “Zoey” from which means “life”. It is used many times in the bible to refer to Jesus himself. The apostle John uses this word synonymously with the person of Jesus Christ. Paul will talk about this life as it starting in Christ, and now dwelling in you and I as the life that this truly life (1Tim6:19). That’s a good thing, because this verse is referring to the life that is ours apart from this world. Sometimes, even as Christians we tend to look our life right and here and now, and the only life there is. And we cling to it very strongly. If the apostles had this view when being set free from jail, as they were told to go out into the temple, out into the open to keep preaching, they wouldn’t have been able to. Even though our lives (in an earthly sense) may be in danger, and the possibility of losing it is very real, we can still and obey the God, because there is a life that is truly life. That is something that no one can take away from us. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill body, but afterwards can do no more.” (Luke12:4) They can’t take the life that is truly life. They cannot even touch what God has guarded so closely.
Look at verses 21-28. When the apostles have been re-arrested, the high priest reminds them that they were given strict orders to not teach in the name of Jesus. They were already warned. Remember that as far as the Jews were concerned the Sanhedrin was the supreme court. To them there was no high authority. They were the ruling council. Of course, Israel was all under Roman power, but to the Jews the Sanhedrin was the final say. Hence, to disobey them was no small issue. We obviously know that disobeying them was a punishable offense. Therefore, the Sanhedrin is amazed! They’re surprisingly not amazed at the miraculous jailbreak. He doesn’t even mention that part. What he’s amazed at is that they would obey a strict order. Peter’s response in verse 29 says, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” And this is the response that we should give whenever a command from man doesn’t coincide with the command from God. This should be our response. You and I are free to say, “I’m sorry but God wins.” When God tells me something, and you tell me something contrary, I’m sorry but God wins every time. What the Apostles meant was that there are certain things in life that are too sacred to come under any man’s authority, even if that authority was legitimate. Additionally, to obey “human beings” does not necessarily mean only human authority nor spiritual authority. But also, most importantly includes our own thinking and feelings and desires. Often our feelings and emotions tell us to do something contrary to the gospel and to what God would have us do. We have to answer those things as well. How the apostles answer this way? The reason for that has a lot to do with understanding what life is truly the life. When we accept that this life on earth is not all there is, then we can say to the same authorities, to our friends and family, to our own selves, that “I’m sorry, but it’s time to obey God.” The life he’s given me is not worth stepping back from.
Please draw your attention once again to the second part of the Sanhedrin’s response. They told the apostles that they are determined to make them guilty of this man’s blood. They is said to them in the undertone the they don’t really believe that they should be guilty. And in verse 30, Peter basically tells them that they are guilty. But do you remember when the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to trial. Pilate didn’t want to crucify him. He wanted to let Jesus go because he was innocent. The bible tells us that the Sanhedrin pushed so hard that Pilate finally gives in. But he brings out a bowl of water washes his hands and tells the crowds, “I am innocent of this man’s blood, it is your responsibility.” (Mat27:24) The next verse reads, “All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’” And now the apostles are out preaching in Jesus’ name, and what is the Sanhedrin’s big complaint. …you are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood. But isn’t that what they were yelling? That they were guilty.
Read verses 41-42. “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” They should have complained. They should have been angered. They should have been fearful. But rather they were thankful for the persecution. That is the true attitude of the true and genuine Christian who would serve God and the gospel at any cost. These days, there are some who worry too much about unnecessary things. What is necessary and important is to bring the message of life to our own hearts, and then to others’ lives as well. That is a privilege. It is an honor to do so. We who do not deserve anything, have been given life and the command to bring this message of new life and grace to all people. What decision will we make in this holy season of Easter is a good question. May God bless us to be purified this Easter in his blood and to rise to a new life in Jesus until we have become a source of blessing and life to all people. Amen.