Sermons

When God Has A Mission

Sun, Jun 28, 2020
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Passage: Acts 5:17-42
Duration:28 mins

Message text

When God Has A Mission
Acts 5:17-42

INTRO: Good morning. We are going to continue our study in the book of Acts and I invite you to turn to the fifth chapter of that book from which we will take today’s lesson. Our text will be Acts 5:17-42. In general, I will use the NKJV or the KJV though I may paraphrase at times.

We saw the last time we were together that fear can be a good thing, especially if it turns us towards God and His ways.

But first, a story that I heard about when Johnny had signed up to a university class which he said was very difficult. He said that one of the highlights of being a first-year student in this biology class was the monthly feeding of a caged rattlesnake kept in the laboratory.
Johnny said that one time, the entire class gathered around the cage in complete silence, and watched as the feeding took place. The instructor said, "I'm jealous of the snake, I never get the class's undivided attention like this."
To which another student piped up, "You would if you would swallow a mouse."

I guess the point is that if you feel jealous of someone be careful where that jealousy takes you.

After the amazing and powerful events we learned about last week when Ananias and Saphira lied to God, a great fear came over the Lord’s church and also those who were not yet Christians. We read how God added to their number, and God through the apostles was getting peoples attention, not just in Jerusalem, but from afar.

It should be no surprise to us that other people are becoming jealous because of the attention the apostles were receiving. After all the religious leaders were jealous of the attention Jesus received.

Let’s start with Acts 5:17-18 – “Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.”

We recall the apostles had been warned before not to preach in Jesus’ name. Despite that earlier warning, they continued preaching in the name of Jesus. Remember what they are preaching? They are preaching the story of Jesus and His resurrection.

We saw last week that this teaching was contrary to the teaching of the Sadducees because they didn’t believe in the resurrection. People always forget who God is and that when God has a plan and mission in mind, no one and no thing is going to keep God from completing what is to be done.

I. Continuing in Acts 5:19-21 – “But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.'' And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.”

A. That’s a lesson for us. When God says ‘go’, He means ‘go’. In Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

1. I wondered; what does He mean when He commands us to “go”?
2. Does He want us to go everywhere in the world?
3. Does He want us to leave our jobs, family, and friends and go preach the gospel?

B. When looking at Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15 we see that in these two texts different Greek words are used to describe who we are to reach with the gospel.

1. In Matthew, the word “nations” is “ethnos” meaning a multitude associated or living together, tribe, a group of people. We get our word ethnic from this. This doesn’t just refer to nations that are geographically distant from us; it also expresses the idea of different customs, cultures, and civilizations. The gospel is to be taken to people from every culture, custom, civilization, race, color, or ethnicity in the world. Today we do not need to go far from home to find these people.
2. In Mark Jesus uses a different word to tell us who we should carry the gospel message to. Here he uses the word “world” or kosmos meaning a harmonious arrangement, order, or government, an aggregate. This word carries the idea of a particular political system; a system of fashion; a system found in any part of society, such as a circle of friends; or any sphere where you live and have influence.
3. In other words, He wants us to preach the good news to our friends and family, those we work with, our neighbors, etc. He wants us to preach Jesus and His resurrection to the people we meet, be they in different ethnic groups, cultures, or civilizations. He expects us to invade every sphere where we have influence and to use our influence, and declare the Gospel to people who live, work, and function in those places, and to those people we meet or the people we are involved with, in our personal lives.

C. When God saw that His apostles were in prison again, He sent a messenger to release them and commanded them to go to the temple and preach the words which give eternal life. In other words, God is more powerful than any earthly authority.

1. The point I’m trying to make is that when God says ‘Go’ He means ‘Go’ but He will also give us the means to go. That’s why He sent an angel to the apostles to free them to preach in the temple.
2. That’s why He sent Jonah a great fish to get him to Nineveh.
3. God will give us the opportunities and we need to watch for them taking the gospel with us. And whether the door opens by a personal invite for dinner or a birthday party or by a funeral service of a friend, be ready to teach.

II. You might say the apostles have now played their God-sent get out of jail free card, and are preaching in the temple. At roughly the same time the high priest and his friends are coming together to discuss what to do with the apostles.

A. The high priest and the council with all the elders sent to the prison to have the apostles brought. Now in Acts 5:22-23 – “22. But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23. saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!''”

1. Luke tells us that officers went to get the apostles but discovered that they had gone even though guards were still there and the jail was still securely locked. They went back to those who had gathered and told them the apostles were gone. I wonder what was going on in the minds of those gathered there.
2. The apostles did not “escape” on their own or through some great feat of illusion. They were apostles of Christ, and God through the means of an angel set them free to continue their preaching about Christ and His resurrection.

B. Despite this clear sign that God was with the apostles; the high priest and those allied with him wondered what would happen. Acts 5:24 – “Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.” I find it interesting that there does not seem to be any doubt of how the apostles escaped, but rather a perplexity regarding the rapid spreading of the kingdom.
C. It must have been a shock for the council to learn that the men they had charged not to preach in the name of Jesus were... even as they met, preaching in the temple. These religious leaders now find themselves in a very awkward situation.

1. Acts 5:25-26 – “Then one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!'' Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.” The captain and his officers brought them back without violence because they feared that the common people, who sympathized with the apostles, would stone them.
2. Acts 5:27-28 – “ And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!''” It amazes me that here in verse 28 the high priest says; “you are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." Amazing, because it wasn’t all that long ago when Jesus was crucified, that these very people, along with a mob, were quite willing to have the blood of Jesus on their hands.
3. Recall what is said in Matthew 27:24-25 – “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.'' And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children.''”
4. I recall a story about a teacher who gave his class an assignment for a five-page paper using the theme of "Courage." Each student was to describe the best example of courage that he or she had ever witnessed. One student boldly turned in five blank pages. The professor gave that student an A.

D. Back in Acts, we see that the answer of Peter and the other apostles to the Sanhedrin carries profound implications for every generation of Christians. Acts 5:29 – “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.”

1. No law was considered by the apostles to be above God's law. After all, the limit of the Sadducee’s authority could be seen in the fact that they had crucified Jesus and God had raised Him up from the grave. Who has the greater authority; God or man?
2. To further prove God’s authority Peter and the others go on to say in Acts 5:30-32 – “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” The apostles said God had now seated Jesus on the throne as Ruler and Savior. The Lord had been empowered by his Father to give repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins to all of Israel.
3. The twelve apostles stood as witnesses of God's working and the Holy Spirit confirmed the truthfulness of the events they related through the miracles He enabled them to perform.

III. So let me ask again; Who has the greater authority; God or man, and who should we obey?

A. Let me give you some possible examples.

1. Some of your friends ask you to stop off with them at a local bar after work for some small talk and a drink. What do you do? Do you obey God or obey your friends?
2. Maybe you are talking with some other Christians and they want your opinion about another Christian because they are looking for ways to put them down. What do you do? Do you obey God or obey them and gossip?

B. It takes courage to stand up and obey God. Courage to put God first and courage to say, ‘we’re prepared to be persecuted and treated like Jesus was. When we stand up and put God first, people are going to get upset and maybe even angry with us.

1. Just like we see in the next verse, Acts 5:33 – “When they heard this, they were furious and took counsel to kill them.” The Apostle’s words accusing the council of murdering Jesus enraged them to the point of being prepared to murder the apostles as well. See any irony there? However as angry as they were, they couldn’t take such action without the support of the Pharisaic members of the court. Remember the Pharisees were in the minority, but they commanded much more of the popular respect than the Sadducees.
2. Then Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher from among the Pharisees, rose to speak and asked for the apostles to be put outside, his words were instantly paid attention to.

C. Acts 5:35-37 – “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.”

1. Gamaliel warned the council against the actions they were thinking about taking on the apostles. He reminds them of two men, Theudas and Judas who both claimed to be someone special and led men in a rebellion. They had both been killed and those who followed them were scattered, and both rebellions came to nothing. For the moment at least these religious leaders are beginning to listen to wisdom.
2. Gamaliel goes on; Acts 5:38-39 – “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it lest you even be found to fight against God.''” Gamaliel was saying when God has a plan, you will know what His plan is sooner or later.
3. If their actions were truly directed by God, the council could not stop them and they would be found in the un-envious position of opposing God Himself. Here is a man that recognizes that if God has a mission, no thing and no one could stop it from happening.

D. A woman was sorting through "treasured" stuff her daughter, Elizabeth, had accumulated over the years, when she came across a questionnaire Elizabeth had filled out while completing her master's degree. In response to the question "What was the most important advice you received from your mother?" Elizabeth had written, "Always rely on your good judgment." And to "What was the most important advice you received from your father?" Elizabeth answered, "Ask your mother." The world is full of advice and sometimes we take that advice and sometimes we choose to ignore it.
E. After hearing Gamaliel’s advice the council decided to take it. Acts 5:40 – “And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” After being flogged, the religious leaders let them go with yet another warning not to preach in Jesus’ Name.

IV. Let’s look at their response after being flogged and sent off. Acts 5:41 – “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” The response of the apostles after being beaten and coming up against people who wanted to kill them is remarkable. Why would anyone rejoice after being beaten up? Why would anyone rejoice after coming so close to the possibility of death?

A. They rejoiced because they counted themselves worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name’s sake.
B. I wonder, in what ways are we going to suffer as a Christian today? Like those early Christians, we are a part of an unpopular cause. Those first believers turned to Christ with the full understanding that they were supporting an unpopular cause that could cost them everything.

1. Shortly after Pentecost, some were jailed, many lost all their earthly goods, a few were slain, hundreds were ‘scattered abroad.’ They could have escaped all this by simply denying their faith and turning back to the world. This they steadfastly refused to do.
2. When people are thinking about becoming a Christian today, the message is still the same. Paul will tell Timothy later in 2 Timothy 3:12 – “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. The cause of Christ is unpopular and people don’t like it.
3. In the US today there is not much chance at the moment of being thrown to the lions because of your faith. At the moment there’s not much chance you will be thrown into jail because of your faith.

C. I say at the moment because no-one knows what the US will be like in the years ahead.

1. For now, the extent of your persecution may be losing some friends or even family members because they don’t agree with your beliefs. You are likely to get talked about because of your faith. You might even lose your job because of your faith.
2. When we think about it and compare the persecution we might receive today with the way these early Christians were persecuted, I would say we’re very blessed.

D. The message is the same; we are out there trying to plant seed and water it when we get the chance. We are tempted to play down the difficulties and play up the peace of mind and worldly success enjoyed by those who accept Christ.

1. When we talk to others about the gospel we need to tell our listeners the blunt truth that, as members of a race of moral rebels, they are in a serious jam, and one they will not get out of easily. If they refuse to repent and believe on Christ, they will most surely perish; and if they do turn to Him, the same sort of enemies that crucified Jesus will try to crucify them.
2. We can count it as joy because just like the apostles, we know how much Jesus had suffered for us on Calvary. The apostles felt that this was a small thing to do in contrast to such a great act of love.

CONCLUSION:
I will wrap this up with a few more scriptures. I’ll paraphrase 1 Peter 4:14-16 – “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” It’s not only an honor to be persecuted for Christ but Peter tells us it is a blessing. Peter saw that the Spirit of God was with the one suffering and God's name would be glorified.

Jesus says in His very first sermon, in Matthew 5:10-12 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

James 1:2 tells us; “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials”
We usually stop reading right there and don’t read on to find out why we should consider it pure joy. James 1:3-4 – “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
When we grasp that we will receive a blessing after we receive persecution, we will continue to grow in our faith. Persecution makes you stronger and it helps us to persevere.

You know the catchphrase “You can do it”. It’s a phrase that tries to encourage kids to keep going, to try their best and not give up. Folks, that’s not a new policy. That comes right out of God’s handbook for Christian growth. Perseverance means “You can do it”, don’t give up, try your best and keep at it.

When we keep at it, we keep on preaching the good news just like the apostles did.
Now to Acts 5:42 – “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

I heard about a new church building that had a sign outside its door next to some young trees. When they first opened the building people could see the sign clearly, it said, “We preach Christ crucified.” After a few years, the trees grew and the leaves covered part of the sign and all you could read was, “We preach Christ.” A little more time went by and the trees continued to grow then all you could read was, “We preach”.

The gospel that we proclaim is as simple as you want it to be.
When people hear nothing but bad news all day long, give them some good news. Tell them that Jesus is the Christ and He came to die by crucifixion so that He could give us life to the full, even unto eternity. When we preach we do not rely on our wisdom. We do not rely on our understanding. We do not try to be a philosopher.

We listen to Paul’s advice as he tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 – “20. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23. but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24. but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

God had a mission for the apostles and He has a mission for each one of us.
That mission is to preach Christ crucified to those we find within our personal lives.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

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