Perry Duggar |
Pursuing God doesn’t prevent problems, but we can trust Him to overcome them.
Church Empowered – Message 6
October 25, 2020
I. Introduction: We continue our survey of Acts, called Church Empowered.
A. Today’s message is entitled Problems; it deals how the early church addressed difficulties.
- Theme verse: Acts 5:41 (NLT)—The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer… [Their response to persecution.]
- The early church encountered opposition which pressured to silence them and discrimination within their body which threatened to divide them.
- We will examine how these problems were dealt with by this young church.
II. When problems arise…
A. #1 - Pursue God’s purposes. (Acts 5:17-25; C/R: Matthew 5:10-12; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13)
- Acts 5:17 (NLT)—The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees [all high priests at that time], were filled with jealousy [at the church’s popularity with the people].
- The Sadducees enjoyed their authority and prestige (with Rome’s permission).
- They didn’t want anyone to erode their control of the people or create unrest, because the Romans would violently quell any uprising and might change temple leadership.
- Acts 5:18-20 (NLT)—18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20“Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
- They were freed not to hide, but to pursue God’s purposes, to preach the gospel. (Acts 1:8)
- Acts 5:21-25 (NLT)— 21So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching. [Sadducees didn't know.] When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. [Sanhedrin] Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23“The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
24When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. [“What is happening? Who are these people?”] 25Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!” [Imagine their shock and fear!]
- God commissioned the apostles to preach the Gospel; He intervened to enable them to do so, even freeing them from jail; God’s purposes will prevail! (Romans 8:28)
- We must discover and pursue God’s purposes, which is primarily spreading Good News.
- By angel or Spirit, God will remove obstacles preventing us from pursuing His tasks.
- APP.: What God has called you to do? [word or prayer] What is holding you back?
- Ask Him to release restraints, open cell doors, so you can pursue His plan and purpose.
When problems arise…
B. #2 - Persist despite opposition. (Acts 5:26-32; C/R: Jeremiah 20:9; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17; 1 Peter 3:13-16)
- Acts 5:26-28 (NLT)—26The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28“Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name!” he demanded. [Wouldn’t say Jesus’ name.] “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Him, and you want to make us responsible for His death!”
- This accusation was true, Peter boldly preached that these religious leaders had demanded Jesus’ death from the Romans (Matthew 27:25); the Sanhedrin wanted it stopped!
- It is interesting that there is no mention of the apostle’s escape from prison, why?
- The high priest (Annas or Caiaphas) did not want to encourage the people’s belief that these men were empowered by God, so they ignored it happened. (Denial of truth.)
- Acts 5:29 (NLT)—But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” [Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17]
- Jesus to His apostles to preach Good News and the Spirit equipped them to do so.
- They would not, in fact, could not, stop speaking about what they had seen and heard, despite threats against they; not intimidated, Peter repeated the accusation.
- Acts 5:30-31 (NLT)—30“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross. 31Then God put Him in the place of honor at His right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.” [Acknowledge wrongs they committed against Jesus.]
- Repentance from sin is an integral part of saving faith, not a human work added to it.
- Notice that no one disputes the assertion that these Sadducees had Jesus put to death; they didn’t dispute His resurrection or His ascension into heaven.
- Acts 5:32 (NLT)—“We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey Him.” [Obedience and Spirit synonymous with faith.]
- APP.: What have you experienced from Jesus, by His Spirit, that you must tell others?
When problems arise…
C. #3 - Pray for God’s intervention. (Acts 5:33-42; C/R: Proverbs 19:21; 21:1; Isaiah 46:10-11; 1 Peter 4:12-16,19)
- Acts 5:33 (NLT)—When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. [The Word of God provokes a violent reaction from people hardened in sin.]
- The apostle’s rejected the Sadducees doctrine by declaring the resurrection and resisted their authority by continuing to preach after they were ordered to stop, so these religious leaders were determined to silence them by killing them (but God intervened).
- Acts 5:34-35 (NLT)—34But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people [Paul’s teacher], stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! …”
- Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin about uprisings led by Theudas, and Judas of Galilee, both of which dissolved after the leaders were killed and the followers scattered.
- Acts 5:38-40 (NLT)—38“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” [Peter accused them of opposing God!]
40The others accepted his advice. [Gamaliel knew Messianic Old Testament prophecies and the sign miracles that would confirm His identity, but said nothing.] They called in the apostles and had them flogged. [Illegally beaten with a whip.] Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.
- God protected these men and safeguarded their assignment though he was an unbeliever.
- When we are truly following God and meeting resistance or opposition, pray, and trust God to intervene, even miraculously through unbelievers, so we can fulfill His will.
- APP.: Are your efforts to obey God blocked? Ask Him to intervene to remove obstacles.
- Acts 5:41 (NLT)—The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. [Not discouraged or angered.]
- Their persecution confirmed that they were serving Christ effectively. (1 Peter 4:12-19)
- Acts 5:42 (NLT)—And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”
When problems arise…
D. #4 – Purpose to meet needs. (Acts 6:1-7; C/R: Galatians 3:28; 6:2; Ephesians 4:11-12; James 1:27)
- Acts 6:1a (NLT)—But as the believers rapidly multiplied [perhaps 20,000 by this time], there were rumblings of discontent. [Another problem.] The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers,…
- The Greek-speaking believers, who lived outside of Jerusalem, had likely arrived in Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost, were converted and decided to remain.
- Some may have been older Jews who returned to live out their lives in Israel.
- They were loyal to Judaism, but influenced by the Greek culture in which they lived.
- The Hebrew-speaking Jews viewed them as second-class Israelites, which was an expression of disrespect based on racial pride and cultural hostility.
- This prejudice was expressed through mistreatment at Acts 6:1b (NLT)—…saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
- This cultural racism or bigotry had to be addressed immediately, in a practical way.
- Acts 6:1b-4 (NLT)—2So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. [First deacons? Not stated.] 4Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
- The Word reveals the nature, the character, the heart, of God; it tells us what is true, moral and immoral, right and wrong. (It shows us what to believe and how to live.)
- The Twelve prayed for the Spirit’s direction and to apply biblical truths to their lives.
- The church identified seven men who were respected, wise and spiritual to eliminate this unjust treatment of the Greek widows, because all were one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
- Acts 6:5-6 (NLT)—5Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). [Greek names] 6These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. [To show acceptance, affirmation and support for their ministry.]
- We too, must be aware and responsive to eliminate unfairness or injustice in our body.
- Acts 6:7 (NLT)—7So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
- Soul training: How do you make sure that everyone is treated fairly? Describe a time when you acted to insure fairness for others.
- As we return to on-site w/o restrictions: Flexibility and additional volunteers needed for students.
- Memory verse: The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Acts 5:41 (NLT)