Acts 2020 Bible Study (Moving Forward with Jesus)

Acts 5:12-42, Worthy To Suffer

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Energizer batteries had a famous commercial that you probably remember. There was a pink toy bunny beating a drum as the narrator said, “Energizer batteries: they keep going and going.” We have been talking about how to have unstoppable faith as seen from Acts 3-5. We are reading about a strong faith from the disciples and we want to learn how to have an unstoppable faith like theirs. They have a faith that keeps going and going and going. We saw in Acts 4 we saw the governing officials who ruled over the Jewish commanding the apostles to stop talking about and teaching Jesus. These Jewish leaders even threaten the apostles with a severe punishment. This is the same council and the same leaders that put Jesus to death through the hands of the Roman government. So now the threats are being breathed against the apostles and these first century disciples.

Still Going (5:12-16)

In Acts 5:12 we see that the apostles are performing signs and wonders regularly while the rest of the Christians held them in high esteem. People are recognizing their authority as apostles from Jesus as the apostles are the only ones who are performing miracles. In verse 14 we stop counting the number of people who are coming to Jesus for salvation. The numbers are increasing so that we have multitudes of men and women. It is uncountable how many have come to the Lord. Please think about the importance of this statement because we are seeing God fulfilling his promise to Abraham.

The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 16:10 ESV)

The power of the apostles was so dramatic that people carried the sick into the streets just hoping that Peter’s shadow would fall on some of them for healing. People gathered from the surrounding areas, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits and they were healed.

Arrested Again (5:17-26)

But remember that the Sanhedrin commanded these apostles to stop preaching Jesus. But they did not stop. So the high priest and the religious authorities have all the apostles arrested and put into prison (5:17-18). Notice that the motivation is jealousy. The people are listening to and following the apostles now, not the religious leaders. So they have the apostles arrested. But, during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and set them free with an important message: Go and stand in the temple courts and keep speaking to the people about this Life. God did not release the apostles so that they could go home or run away. God released them so that they could continue preaching. Look at verse 21. As soon as it was daybreak, the apostles entered the temple courts and began teaching again.

Meanwhile, the Sanhedrin is convening to have a trial for these arrested apostles. They send officers to the prison to bring the apostles in for the trial. But when the officers get to the prison, they find that the apostles are not there. Their report is in verse 23. We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors. But when we opened the doors we found no one inside. The prison was secure. The prison doors were locked and the officers are standing guard as if the apostles are inside. But they were not there. So everyone is perplexed and trying to figure out what would come from this. Someone comes in and tells them that the men you put in prison are in the temple courts teaching the people (5:25).

And Arrested Again (5:27-40)

So the apostles are arrested yet again. But the officers did not use force because they were afraid of being stoned by the people. The apostles’ preaching is resonating with the people so that cannot bring in the apostles by force. This tells us that the apostles were willingly arrested and did not resist the authorities. So now the apostles are standing before the Sanhedrin and questioned by the high priest. “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (5:28). But the apostles simply respond, “We must obey God rather than people.” They do not rebel against the Sanhedrin because it is evil and false. They simply do not obey the command that directly contradicted what God had told them to do. The apostles now proclaim the gospel to these leaders. God raised Jesus from the dead, whom you killed by having him hung on a cross. God exalted Jesus to be Leader and Savior to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

This does not go over well as the leaders are enraged and want to kill the apostles. One can imagine how fearful this moment would have been. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel who was high respected by all the people, gave the order to put the apostles outside the chamber for a little while so he can address the council. History tells us that he was a highly honored and elevated rabbi. So Gamaliel addresses the council, reminding them of what has happened before. Others have come along before, claiming to be somebody and having a following. But all of their efforts have become nothing. When Theudas was killed, his followers were dispersed and the whole movement came to nothing. The same thing happened with Judas the Galilean. Gamaliel advises that they leave these men alone because if this is from human origin, then it will fail like all the others. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men. You will be fighting against God. The council listens to Gamaliel and they do not have the apostles killed. Instead, they have the apostles flogged and told them to not speak the name of Jesus.

The Response (5:41-42)

Now all of that is set up to what I want us to see in the final two verses of this chapter. But before we read this, I want us to think about what we would do after being flogged by the government and told to not speak the name of Jesus again. Essentially, you have been told to stop worshiping Jesus and stop telling other people about Jesus. To back up the power of the order, you have been flogged. What would be your response? Listen to what the apostles did. They rejoiced and never stopped preaching Jesus in the temple courts and in homes. Can you imagine? Two things that they did. They rejoiced. They did not stop preaching. How? How did they have this unstoppable faith? What kept them going in the face of the pain they have suffered? Look at verse 41.

“They rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”

It is an easy sentence to pass over, but it is everything to having unstoppable faith. The apostles’ perspective is very important. Do you see how they looked at their service to Jesus? Jesus suffered for me and I am willing to suffer for him. God has given us the honor of being shamefully treated for the glory of Jesus. That is how they looked at their service to the Lord. The apostle Paul said the same thing in regards to having this perspective about our service to God.

For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29–30 NRSV)

You have been granted the privilege of believing and suffering for Christ. It is a privilege to suffer for Jesus. It is the gift of God to suffer for Jesus. Acts describes this as be declared worthy by God to suffer for the sake of Jesus. We can have unstoppable faith when we see that we should not fear resistance, dishonor, shame, or any other kind of response. Rather, if that is the response we receive, it is something to be embraced because we did it for Jesus. We want to show our loyalty to Jesus. We want the chance to show that we will be faithful to him no matter the cost. We want to show him that we appreciate the sacrifice he made for us. We want to show him that he is more desirable to us than life itself. We will consider that Jesus’ sacrifice is worth disgrace and dishonor.

We are willing to step into difficulty, not because we want suffering, but because we understand that there will be resistance to the mission Jesus has given us to proclaim. The apostles did not look for trouble. They did not resist arrest. They just did what God called them to do and were ready for the consequences that come from practicing your faith. Look at any negative outcome of having faith in Christ and sharing faith in Christ as a way to be grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice for you.

Our faith can keep going and going when we are willing to embrace our struggle as being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. We will look at opposition as opportunity. This is my chance to show the Lord how much I love him and how much I appreciate what he has done. If I get into trouble for doing good and serving Jesus, then I will rejoice that I can suffer a little for Jesus.

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