Sunday, April 7, 2013

Acts 5 - Giving Our All

LINK: Acts 4:32-5:42


BACKGROUND


A Unified Church (4:32-37)


I have combined this section of Acts 4 with Acts 5 because they are contrasts. The believers in Acts 4 were one in heart and mind not only spiritual but also materially. They shared with those who had need. Barnabas (we will hear more from him later in Acts) sold a tract of land (obviously in another area or owned by his wife because Levites were prohibited from owning land, Numbers 18:20,24). Barnabas, led by the Spirit, is in sharp contrast to Ananias and Sapphira.


Discipline in the Church (5:1-11)


Remember Achan of Joshua 7? This is a New Testament version of that similar story. God wanted all of Ananias and Sapphira, and they withheld some of the proceeds of the sale of their land. They were led by Satan, and both died for their deceit. Ananias and Sapphira were examples to the believers and unbelievers that God meant business about sin in the church. Acts 5:11 is the first time church is used in the book of Acts. 


Progress and Persecution of the Church (5:12-42)


The apostles performed "signs" (miracles pointing to a divine truth) and "wonders" (miracles evoking awe), and this led to unity and an increase of the believers and fear and lack of association from the unbelievers (5:13; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 2:3).


As the church grew, so did the persecution, and the apostles were incarcerated only to be miraculously released so that they could preach "all the words of this life" in the temple courts. The jail officers had to round them up and bring them back before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme court and administrative body of the Jews that consisted of 71 members and included the high priest. They were mostly Sadducees. They exhorted the disciples to quit preaching, but Peter responded that they must obey God rather than men (4:19-20). Then he told them that the Jesus they had killed (Acts 3:13-14; 4:10) had risen from the dead and had been exalted to God's right hand (a place of honor throughout the Old Testament - Psalm 110:1). The good news was that they would have forgiveness (2:38; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18) if they repented of their sins. 


Of course, this infuriated the leaders, and they would have killed the disciples if not for the lone voice of Gamaliel the Pharisee. He proposed that if this were not of God, the "movement" would die out, but if it were of God, not even they could stop it!


Despite a flogging, the apostles rejoiced that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name? WOW!


REFLECTION


I'll admit it: I hate to suffer. I hate rejection. I hate pain. 


The early disciples of Jesus had all of it in abundance, yet they went away rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus. I still cannot get over that. 


Recently, I had to suffer in a very minor way for doing the right thing (nothing compared to the early disciples), and I was pretty devastated by the rejection that followed. 


My sweet husband read these words to me from the pen of the leader of that courageous band of early disciples who would rather obey God rather than men, and they really encouraged my heart. I hope they do the same for you:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:18-20)


But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:14-17)
APPLICATION

How do you respond to persecution when doing what is right?

Here is a message about a servant of God who suffered with joy:

You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals: Lessons from the Life of John G. Patton


PRAYER


Lord, give us the courage to always follow You no matter what the cost. We love You. Amen. 

(By the way, this was written in 2010, and I am not presently suffering persecution. The situation worked out for God's glory and my good, as always!) 
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