So, I opened up my bible to a topic this morning, and this is the verse that I first read:
Acts 5:39a but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.
This was a prophetic statement from one of the “ecumenical” councils of the Jews during the days of the early church. Why do I call it “ecumenical”? Well, because it was a gathering of faith-related group that set aside their differences to address “worldly” problems. In this case, the Saducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, and the Pharisees, who were strict adherents to their “law”, were normally very much at odds with each other. However, they did find common ground in opposing Jesus. Why? Because He didn’t fit their program. Yes, he fit their scripture, but he didn’t fit their interpretation of it. Apparently, they had the same problem as we see today – that scripture is not sufficient in and of itself. Don’t we see denominations and even major religions setting aside their doctrine in the name of “love” and a desire to make the world a better place? We sure do.
Well, I can assure you that the early church would have none of that! Let’s see what Peter had to say to such a bunch:
Acts 4:10-11 let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Mind you, they were warned about all this talk they were doing. Here’s Peter and John’s parting shot:
v. 19-20 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
The next time around, the “ecumenical” council was not happy, although they were afraid of how this might affect their ranking in the latest political polls, so they tip-toed with caution. Even so, this is what Peter had to say to them, once again:
5:29-32 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exulted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Well, this didn’t go over well, and they wanted to use their legal system to put these trouble-makers away, as in six-feet down type of away. This is when one man, whom they must have felt was speaking wisdom, reminded them that groups like this had come and gone before. In his words, “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan is of man, it will fail.” He then added that if it was of God, they won’t be able to stop it. Indeed, they weren’t.
Yet, they couldn’t help but try, once again, to “reason” with these Christians, “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.” That didn’t stop these people. In fact, it encouraged them!
5:41-42 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Indeed, the council was not able to stop these men or generations of them afterwards. We see it every day in “Christian” churches all over the place. Yes, there are new, born-agains who are members of churches who carry the label but ignore scripture and the man whom it is written for and about. When one of these new “converts” starts questioning their doctrine, things start to turn. First, there are the kind, yet firm, comments intended to gently nudge the newbie back into their fold. When that doesn’t work, things get a little firmer and the words get a little more terse. When that doesn’t work, and this new person won’t shut up about Jesus and the bible, things get down-right ugly. Been there, done that. I’ve heard lots of people from many different denominations tell their story – identical to mine. I have plenty of company! What ended up happening? Well, we get driven out of the church because of their unbelief, but we don’t stop yapping about Jesus. We just move on and find a place in a church home that welcomes Jesus on His terms, not theirs.
I didn’t receive a beating, although I did get roughed up pretty good – verbally. Not too many in the United States suffer physical harm, although in much of the world death is a common sentence for proclaiming the gospel. Is our gospel somehow less because we don’t risk our lives? Certainly not! It’s the same gospel no matter where it is proclaimed. However, we do run great risk in hiding the gospel, even though we don’t fear physical retribution. That is a shame, when you think about it. We have been given the same spiritual gifts as Peter and the early church, yet we do not have that same sense of passion and urgency they had in proclaiming the gospel. Sure, many of us start out that way, but our momentum eventually lessens, some sooner, some later. I once had Gary Gaetti sign a baseball for me. He was of the 1987 Twin World Series team and a vocal convert who boldly proclaimed the gospel in the clubhouse. He got LOTS of negative feedback from that, much of which ended up in the newspaper. Anyway, I asked him if he was still on fire for Jesus, all the years later. He leaned back in his chair and said, “Not like I was,” and quoted John 14:6. I could see in his eyes that my question bothered him, as it should have.
So, my question to you is the same. Are you still on fire for Jesus? If not, then pray that he may fan it into a roaring flame. I often pray for Gary Gaetti, and I pray for you today. And for myself. Let’s pray for each other.
Father, please don’t let us get comfortable in our salvation so that we lose our enthusiasm. Stir our spirits, however you deem right, so that we may be excited and eager to tell the whole world about this crazy story of Jesus. Let everyone we touch know who we are and who we represent. Let us rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus. Please, Lord, stir us today! Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers