TELL THE PEOPLE OF THE FULL MESSAGE OF THIS NEW LIFE
Acts 5:17-42 KV 20
“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said. “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
Thank God for his grace and mercy upon us all in his son Jesus Christ. Last week we witnessed the Holy God protect the early church from the influence of Satan. Two people tried to deceive God’s people and gain the praise of man at the expense of the church of God. God struck them dead and a great fear seized the church when they realized God was real-holy-and protecting his church.
In today’s passage we once again see the apostles arrested and placed on trial before the Sanhedrin. It seems to be a repeat story that we have heard over and over in our study of Acts gospel. While the story may be the same what is important is the theology of this story. Today let us focus on knowing the full message of the gospel that the disciples preached and how teaching this full gospel brings a new life in Jesus Christ.
Part I – The full message of this new life (17-20)
The passage begins today on a serious note—revealing the content of the religious leader’s hearts. Look at verse 17, “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.”” The high priest, all his cronies, and the Sadducees who controlled the power of the Sanhedrin were jealous of the apostles! Why? Looking back to verse 15 and 16 we see the apostles healing the sick, those paralyzed, and those possessed by evil spirits. People were coming from all over the country side hoping that even Peter’s shadow would touch them as he passed by (15). People recognized that the Apostles had the power of God in them and that they religious leaders did not. So jealousy formed in their hearts—just as Cain became jealous of Abel.
Instead of joining the apostles or encouraging the apostles what did the religious leaders do? They arrested the apostles (18). The leaders could not stand to see them healing people and preaching in Jesus’ name so they grabbed them late at night so no one would know—in the same way they came for Jesus and threw them in the public jail. What kind of heart a person has when they see the works of God before their eyes yet still conclude to arrest these men? But God did not abandon his people. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Look at verse 19, “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.” God sent an angel and supernaturally got the apostles out of prison. God’s favor was on the apostles because in the public jail they were not going to be able to continue their mission from God in prison. There were no lawyers or Miranda rights at that time and one could just disappear and languish in the jail indefinitely.
When we hear of this kind of special miracle we are amazed. But we have to ask why this happened? God wasn’t showing off and we know of times when Apostle Paul was arrested—there was no angel that came to his rescue. God had a distinct purpose here for the church and the apostles to accomplish—he had a purpose and a reason for the apostles to be freed. Look at verse 20 ““Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said,” ““and tell the people all about this new life.”” (NIV 2011) “and tell the people the full message of this new life” (NIV 1984). If an angel gets you out of prison—there are many things you might want to do. You could go on TV and proclaim some special privilege and knowledge and that some divine favor. You could use the event to start publically listing all the religious leader’s faults and try to get them removed. You could use this event to instill wonder in people and recruit them to your own cause and start a rebellion against Rome. But here they were given a specific message from God to teach publically the full message of their new life—to share the good news of Jesus’ name and the new life that comes through the full gospel message.
The command in verse 20 consists of 2 parts—the full message and this new life. Let me focus on the second part and come back to the first one. First - This New Life. At first this command sounds like something out of a Joel Osteen book, “Your best life now,” vague, but there is a deep meaning here that the apostles understood in context. For example the Apostle Peter later wrote in 1 Peter 4:1-4, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” This tells us that the New Life from the gospel is clearly different then from the way we were living before knowing Christ. It is so radically changed by Jesus that other heap abuse on you when you come to have new life in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:11-14, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Here we learn the new life in Jesus also has clear attributes. It is obvious that a new life in Jesus involves avoiding evil—but it also involves being transformed to desire to do good. Pursuing righteousness--a right relationship with God, practicing godliness, having faith in Jesus, love for others, enduring others sins, and being gentle to those around you. It is no doubt a fight but it is the outcome of hearing the gospel. 2 Timothy 2:15 reads “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” This new life is a life that is not ashamed of Jesus and correctly handles the word of truth—pleasing to God.
Second: Tell the Full Message: Here we want to learn the secret—the catalyst of having the “this New Life” in Jesus. It is not magic, nor is it an issue of willpower, money, or where you were born in life. Look at Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” There is no shortcut or a “watered down gospel” way to share the full gospel message—Jesus commanded his believers “to teach others to obey everything I have commanded”—this is then the full message, the entire gospel Genesis to Revelation. Jesus promised he would be with us when we do this.
But surely you may ask, what about others ways, other gospels and spiritual gurus? Shouldn’t we be a bit more open minded? The Apostle Peter addressed this issue a few passages ago in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”” That seems like pretty full gospel to me. This point must remain central in our gospel message. Otherwise without Jesus there will be no catalyst for the new life that Jesus brings. It will all be wishful thinking.
Finally, we studied this just a month ago at Easter—Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers who were struggling with all kinds of sins and weird activities in their church. Paul went back to the foundation in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 saying, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” Paul here told the Corinthian church as of first importance –base your faith on the full gospel according to the scriptures of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and by this gospel you are saved. Otherwise you have believed in vain.
So many of us and others we know are trapped in brokenness, darkness, sin, destructive behaviors, addictions, fears, lusts, we all desperately want a “New Life.” But the disciples clearly preached that this new life comes from hearing and obeying the Full Message of the gospel. This is what the disciples preached then and is what disciples should preach now. Therefore it is not a relative message that can be changed or excluded or updated like a desktop computer but a vital lifeline coming from God.
Part II – To Obey God or man? (21-42)
When morning came, the nefarious religious leaders sent for the apostles. But instead found something unexpected. Look at verses 21-23, “At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”” They found no one in the jail—in spite of it being locked and securely guarded tighter than Fort Knox! They did not know what to make of it—they saw the miracle but could not understand that this was a sign from God. Meanwhile the authorities were scratching their heads, where were the Apostles and what were they doing? Let us look at verses 24-25, “On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.”” The apostles were now in the temple courts following the command of the angel and preaching and teaching the people about Jesus with total trust in the full message of the gospel.
Now the Sanhedrin felt embarrassed and bit confused—they went to grab the apostles again but couldn’t do it now because they were afraid of the people—so they begged them quietly to come with them. In verse 27-28 now the apostles were on trial again. Look at 27-28, “The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”” The Sanhedrin accused the apostles of continuing to preach in the name of Jesus and of convincing everyone in Jerusalem that they were guilty of Jesus’ blood (death). Funny thing was, this accusation was true! The Sanhedrin and the chief priests were responsible for turning Jesus over to the Romans who put him to death. The religious leaders had a serious problem with the name of Jesus. They religious leaders commanded them to stop preaching Jesus’ name. On one hand you had the murderous threats of the religious leaders—on the other hand you had the life giving command of the angel. In this case who should we listen to?
The Holy Spirit I believe spoke through Peter in verse 29-32, “Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”” “We obey God rather than men.” Peter and the apostles had a clear focus regarding the word of God. Peter explained that he was a witness to all that God had said and done through Jesus and could not in good conscience deny him. Martin Luther did the same thing at the Diet or Worms in 1521—when faced with charges from the Pope and from the Holy Roman Emperor to stop preaching the gospel, he said, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
It is not an easy question to answer. In the context of this Sunday Service we will all confidently shout, “Obey God!” But in our lives obeying God has to have some kind of decisive meaning. To obey God has to be an active plan in the sense of when we are challenged or persecuted our identity doesn’t fall away. It can be difficult in real life if we do not know Jesus and know God fully. When we plan to go to Sunday Service but our work or family schedules an event at the same time is an example of this question. When our good friends want to go somewhere or watch something that the gospel tells us not to engage in—we must ask the same question. But I pray you may know the right thing to do and the right answer to the question—because you know the full message of the gospel and you have tasted the new life in Jesus—and you do not want to go back to where you once were. Obedience to God is not relative—otherwise it is not obedience. A person only has one heart and must decide who it is given to.
The Sanhedrin did not respond kindly to that statement. Look at verse 33, “When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.” It is very obvious that the Sanhedrin wanted the apostles to obey man (themselves). Now the Apostles were in clear and present danger. But God does not abandon his Church as we saw earlier. In the remainder of this passage (34-39) God used in this case a Pharisee named Gamaliel. Though we don’t know if he was a believer, his wise words protected the apostles from the death penalty. Also he spoke prophetically that if this was a sect or a cult—it will fizzle out when the leader dies, but if this is truly from God then the Sanhedrin cannot stop it. The religious leaders accepted this wisdom, ordered the apostles flogged and let them go. Here we see God always protects his people.
These events could have left them shaken, but look at the Apostles response in verse 41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” They rejoiced in their flogging—they had been counted worthy to suffer the same punishment as the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that we suffer in some form or another is not up for debate. What is up for debate is who will you suffer for—your own sins and mistakes—or suffer for the full message of Jesus Christ? Because they were found worthy to suffer for the name, they became emboldened again and ever more vigorously preached the gospel. Look at verse 42, “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 Messiah.”
Conclusion: Today we learned how we can have a new life in Jesus Christ. That is through hearing and believing the full gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us hold onto the full message and decide to obey God rather than men and experience this new life.