Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, April 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/13/16 Sermon - The Message is "HOPE"

“The Message is ‘HOPE’”

ACTS 5:12-42

 

In today’s Scripture, Luke continues to share the missionary adventures of Peter and John, in Jerusalem, after Jesus’ ascension. Luke began his narrative of the beginning of this new community, back in chapter 2, verses 42-47, his description tells us they were:

“devoted to the apostles’ teaching,

to the fellowship,

to the breaking of bread,

and to prayer.”

As a quick review of what we have studied so far, Peter and John have become leaders of this community and have demonstrated their ability to preach powerful messages, in the temple, and perform acts of healing, specifically one instance of a miraculous healing of a forty-year old man who was crippled from birth. Only to be arrested by the Jewish leaders, for their benevolent act. The religious leaders could not come up with a conviction that could be justified so Peter and John were told to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, and released.  

They returned to their community of believers and we are told the community lived in harmony and everyone was taken care of by each other, no one was in need.  And to demonstrate the community was not pre-disposed to the reality of sin and greed, last week we read the account of the immediate deaths of Ananias and Sapphira due to their choice of lying to God and to the apostles.

Which brings us to today’s Scripture, and Luke continues the description of Peter and John performing “signs and wonders” which, again, lands them jail. Only to be freed by an angel in the night. Determined not to be deterred, Peter and John return to the temple and continue their teaching and preaching. Logically you may be asking, like I have, why on earth do they keep going back to the temple to teach? Can’t they teach the people in their own community and not put themselves so “in the face” of the religious establishment?

The answer to this question is found in verse 20, of this chapter.

Because the angel told them to, he said, “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

So it makes sense. If you were in prison and an angel of God visited you and set you free, you would most likely do exactly what he said.

Not surprisingly, they are easily found, and again, are brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning. Immediately Peter and John are reminded that they were breaking the restrictions of their earlier parole. The Sanhedrin had explicitly instructed them not to teach in “this name,” and then accused them of implicating the Jewish leaders of killing Jesus.

This is where the story gets intriguing. We have an ironic contrast of power and authority.

The religious leaders unwittingly bring to attention the very power that will ultimately be their doom when they refer to the apostles’ teaching “in the name”.

Peter proclaimed this in his first confrontation with the Sanhedrin when he stated,

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

For Peter and John, this name carried a power and authority that “must” be obeyed, and with it brings salvation from one’s sin and ultimately salvation from death.

The very message of Easter in which we are about to celebrate.

But things don’t stop here, no, there is more.

Jesus specifically directed his disciples with an instruction on the first Easter, Luke writes about it in his gospel in chapter 24, verse 47,

“that in his name, repentance and forgiveness will be preached to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” 

Although not without consequences, and we read about these consequences in this courtroom summation, beginning in verse 33.

Here we see God using, not Peter or John, but one of the most celebrated teachers of the law, Gamaliel, to free the apostles.  Gamaliel was a well-known Pharisee, one of Paul’s seminary professors. He was highly respected by the Jewish people and very liberal in his applications of the law. As a leading Pharisee of the Sanhedrin, we can easily surmise that he may not have been invested as much in the gospel as he was in keeping the Sadducees from winning any victories. Whatever his intentions, Gamaliel appeared as hero of the day, by convincing the council they had nothing to fear with these two men and their message. Gamaliel utilizes the “straw man” agreement by stating, that if these men are operating on their own, they will surely fade away, however, if they are operating on God’s will, they could not be stopped, and the Sanhedrin would, in essence, be fighting against God. Gamaliel sighted previous examples of men who had started a revolt only to have it eventually die, to support his thesis and his argument.

Unfortunately his argument had holes in it.

Gamaliel used these examples to convince the religious men in the room, they would be wasting their time if they convicted and prosecuted these men. Gamaliel’s argument projected the idea that if something was not of God, it must fail, which is not true.

Success for the Jewish leaders meant God was behind it, but in reality success is not a true test of truth.

Think about it.

If this argument were true, than false cults would not grow faster than God’s church, and yet they do.

Regardless, the argument worked for the Jewish thinkers and the Sanhedrin agreed to let Peter and John go,

After they commanded them again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus and gave them a good flogging.

However, neither the command nor the punishment deterred the apostles. For they remembered Jesus had warned them, at the Sermon on the Mount, they should expect persecution and rejoice when it comes, Matthew 5:10-12.

Clearly the apostles had internalized God’s grace and were determined to share their understanding, regardless of the cost.

The apostles also understood that God’s grace was not given in response to their repentance, but in spite of it.

Somehow, as evangelicals, we have placed our acknowledgement of our sins and our repenting of our sins necessary for God to give us grace and forgiveness.  When in essence, God’s grace was demonstrated on the cross, our sins have already been forgiven.

The gift of God, given to us, through the Name and power of the risen Lord, was God’s demonstration of forgiveness, period.

It is the receiving of this grace, freely, that gives us the power to “repent” or turn around and begin a new life in Christ.

This new life involves the promise that God eternally forgives our sins and we become a new being.

This passage gives credence to the promise of Easter and reminds us that this message of Easter should be considered a pleasure to share.

The message is hope!

And the world so desperately needs hope. This story of the gift of forgiveness combined with our personal story of accepting this gift is powerful. Luke’s narrative of Peter and John demonstrates what life can be for us. God raised Jesus from the dead, exalted him to be our leader and our Savior so that we may receive God’s gift of salvation from our sins through the living power of the Spirit.

Gamaliel had some things right. If salvation is from God, for those who accept it, humans cannot take it away.

It is our responsibility, like the apostles, to share this message.

Reflect.

Take time to remember. 

Where has God entered your life?

What has He redeemed you from?

How is He helping you to grow in His love?

How wonderful is His hope for you, your family, your friends, our community, our country, for the nations?

Then, like Peter and John, share the hope.  

This time of Easter reminds us that Christ is risen!   He is risen, indeed!

 Let’s pray.