STANDING UP TO OPPOSITION
Lord, we are inspired by the boldness of the early church.
Read ACTS 5:17–32
The Apostles Persecuted
17 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. 19 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.”
21 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. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “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.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
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‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19,20 ).
The growing power of the apostolic leadership and the increasing size of the church are matters of grave concern to the high priests. For many years they have enjoyed the authority and wealth of the temple, walking a fine line of compromise between the Roman authorities and their own fanatical groups. Now this balance seems to be at risk. It has not been long since the authorities finally got rid of Jesus, a move considered expedient for the preservation of the nation and their own positions (John 11:49, 50). Now the disciples of that same Jesus are not only proclaiming him as the Messiah but accompanying it with signs of spiritual power, leading to thousands deserting their traditional loyalty to the priests and joining this dangerous sect.
What kind of men are they? First, the apostles are men of courage. The command to go straight back and preach in the temple sounds to a prudent mind almost incredible. To obey that command was an act of audacity, yet they return. Second, they are men of principle: in all circumstances obedience to God must come first. They never ask, ‘Is this course of action safe?’ They ask, ‘Is this what God wants me to do?’ Third, they have a clear idea of their function. They know they are witnesses for Christ (William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, The Daily Study Bible, 1976, p48).
The apostles’ response to the high priest’s challenge comes in the form of a mini-sermon, because their concern is not to defend themselves but to uplift Jesus. What is your reaction when you are opposed? In many parts of the world Christians are forbidden to preach. Can you stand firm in the Holy Spirit?
Pray that you may stand firm against any opposition to the gospel. Pray for those persecuted for sharing their faith.
Lord, give us the spiritual backbone to stand up for You when circumstances become adverse. Remind us of the early church.