I guess this will be another message in our COVID-19 series. Just as we thought the covid crisis was over, just as people started taking their masks off, they began to make up variants of the virus. And the fear campaign started all over again.
If you are paying attention to what is happening in our country under the Biden administration, it is very disheartening. There is a crisis at our southern border, and criminals are flooding into the country and then being bussed or flown to various cities and dropped off. Children are basically stacked on top of one another in cages. Children are being raped and trafficked while the Biden administration ignores it.
Inflation is running out of control; everything just keeps getting more expensive. Crime is on the rise in some of our major cities as police are told to do nothing. Violence is up and murder is up all while "Defund the police" cries go up around the country.
After 20 years of war and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, we finally pulled out of Afghanistan. Within a day, the Taliban has taken over. So many Americans lost their lives or were mutilated. For what? If you think 9/11 was caused by middle-eastern terrorists, you need to do a little research. It was our government that brought down the twin towers.
In a Homeland Security Bulletin Issued: August 13, 2021 02:00 pm and Expiring: November 11, 2021 02:00 pm it states.
Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland
The Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the current heightened threat environment across the United States. The Homeland continues to face a diverse and challenging threat environment leading up to and following the 20th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks as well religious holidays we assess could serve as a catalyst for acts of targeted violence. These threats include those posed by domestic terrorists, individuals, and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and by those inspired or motivated by foreign terrorists and other foreign influences. These actors are increasingly exploiting online forums to influence and spread violent extremist narratives and promote violent activity. Such threats are also exacerbated by impacts of the ongoing global pandemic, including grievances over public health safety measures and perceived government restrictions.
Then under the heading of Additional Details it says this:
Law enforcement have expressed concerns that the broader sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories will gain traction in mainstream environments, resulting in individuals or small groups embracing violent tactics to achieve their desired objectives. With a diverse array of threats, DHS is concerned that increased outbreaks of violence in some locations, as well as targeted attacks against law enforcement, may strain local resources.
NBC Nightly News on - August 13th, 2021 put it this way. Potential Terror Threats:
Opposition to Covid measures, Claims of election fraud, Belief that Trump can be reinstated, 9/11 anniversary and religious holidays. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBMCXkjaMxQ&t=804s]
So, opposing COVID-19 measures or believing elections can have fraud is now considered domestic terrorism. It seems as though anyone who questions the government is a terrorist. And when they say Religious, they mean Christians who will speak the Truth. Christians who refuse the vaccine because it has fetal tissue in it along with many other things. If your job is mandating the jab, here are some places where you can apply for a job because they are not mandating vaccinations: The White House, CDC, FDA, WHO, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson. It is suspicious that the CEO of Pfizer is not vaccinated. This should tell you everything.
Governors have been telling churches that they cannot meet because of COVID-19. They don't want us to meet because we are strengthened together, and we share information with each other. Last week a Portland church was meeting in the park and was assaulted by Antifa. The police did nothing.
What do we as Christians do? How do we respond to a tyrannical government that is power mad and out of control? What do we do when they censor us on social media? We should move to Gab. What do we do when they tell us we can't meet and that we have to get vaccinated? What do we do when the state mandates our business to cover life-destroying abortions in our employee health care?
Last week Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, posted this: "If you are a Christian conservative in the United States of America, you are treated worse and have less freedom that the Taliban." This is so true. It should be clear to you that our government does not like Christians. Things could get much worse. So, what do we do? How do we deal with what is happening in our country?
In the text in Acts 4, we see how Yeshua's disciples dealt with a tyrannical government. Hopefully examining this text will help us in the coming weeks and months.
In Acts 2 the Church is born, the New Covenant arrives. Because of the audiovisual effect of Pentecost, a crowd gathered around, giving Peter the opportunity to preach the church's first sermon. He preached the resurrection of Christ. Chapter 3 opens with Peter and John on their way to the temple to pray when they run into a lame man begging at the temple gate. Peter heals the man in the name of Yeshua, and the man causes a scene by leaping and shouting praises to God. This draws a crowd, and Peter preaches the Church's second sermon. While he is preaching, the temple police arrest them and put them in jail.
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. Acts 4:1-3 ESV
This is the first opposition, the first antagonism that the early church experiences. From here on out things will be different. From Acts 4 until the end of the book (28 chapters) there are only three chapters that do not include persecution.
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, Acts 4:1 ESV
The captain of the temple guard was a highly placed member of the high priest's family charged with temple security. It was the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the gates of the temple in order to prevent the unclean from entering. The duties of the temple police fell under the command of an official known in the New Testament as "the captain of the temple." In Jewish writings he was known chiefly as "the man of the temple mount." Josephus speaks of him as a person of such consequence as to be sent, along with the high-priest, prisoner to Rome.
greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua and the resurrection from the dead. Acts 4:2 ESV
Luke tells us that this group was "greatly annoyed." This is from one word in the Greek—
diaponeo. It is a strong word, and it means "thoroughly pained." The group of men that wanted to stop Peter and John were in terrible mental anguish. Their anguish wasn't based on sorrow; it was based on indignation and wrath.
Why were they so upset? Our text says it was because Peter and John "were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection from the dead." They were upset because they were Sadducees, and Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.
Their whole system was in danger by the preaching of the resurrection of Christ. It was recognized that the resurrection from the dead might be taught in the synagogues (by the Pharisees), but not, if they could help it, in the Temple. And it was they who had overall responsibility for the Temple.
And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. Acts 4:3 ESV
Jailing was probably in the Temple itself. Their system of justice was swift and the arraignment was to be the next morning.
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:4 ESV
There were many Israelites there that day who believed what Peter was preaching. They trusted Christ.
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Acts 4:5-7 ESV
The group described here is the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish authority and court. It was made up of around seventy men taken from among the rulers (chief priests), the elders (important lay persons) and the Scribes (mainly but not entirely teachers of the Pharisees). They included a number of close relatives of the High Priests. Annas was High Priest according to Jewish Law, but he had been replaced as High Priest by Caiaphas under Roman Law (in about A.D. 14). Many of the people thus still considered Annas to be the true High Priest and Luke may simply here be citing this popular designation.
And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Acts 4:7 ESV
The Sanhedrin usually assembled in the precincts of the Temple, in a hall called "The Hall of Hewn Stone." They sat in a semicircle. The president of the Sanhedrin sat across from the semicircle, facing it. The prisoners were put in the middle.
They asked Peter and John, "By what power, or by what name did you do this?" Their question was one of authority. Yeshua was often challenged in the same way. As the highest religious body in the land, this group felt they should authorize all teaching and ministry in their midst, especially that which was done in the precincts of the temple.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Yeshua the Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. Acts 4:8-10 ESV
Think about the fact that this is the same group that had had Yeshua put to death just two months earlier. But Peter and John were not intimidated. Their boldness must have been alarming to the Sanhedrin.
The whole setting of this story centers on the healing of the lame beggar at the temple. The word at the end of verse 9, "healed," is from the Greek word sozo. By introducing the word sozo, which can refer to rescue from both physical dangers and afflictions (Lk 7:50; 17:19; 23:35-37; Acts 14:9) and the spiritual danger of eternal death (Lk 19:10: Acts 2:21, 40, 47; 4:12; 11:14; 15:11; 16:31), Luke initiates a wordplay that he will complete in verse 12. This story's physical healing is simply an illustration and demonstration of the greater spiritual healing.
let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Yeshua the Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. Acts 4:10 ESV
Peter tells the Sanhedrin that this great miracle was done by the name of Yeshua the Christ the Nazarene, the man whom they crucified, whom God raised from the dead. Remember, this is the Jewish high court, the one that had condemned Christ to death. To them Peter said, "Whom you crucified." What a contrast with that cringing disciple who was afraid of a little maid in the high priest's courtyard a few months earlier! Now there is a difference. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is bold, he is fearless, and he preaches the truth no matter what it may cost him.
The Jewish religious leaders thought they walked with God. But Peter boldly informed them otherwise. You killed Him; God raised Him. You are at odds with the God you claim to worship. The tomb is empty; He is alive." And there was nothing they could say because they knew that it was true.
This Yeshua is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. Acts 4:11 ESV
Peter cited Psalm 118:22 with a slight difference. Peter added "By you." Who should have known a good stone when they saw one? The builders! This referred to the religious leaders, those who should have understood the Scriptures. Yet due to their spinning of God's Word to create a religion of self-dependence in legalism, they rejected Yeshua the Christ.
God has placed Christ as the cornerstone of this living temple, and now anyone who would come to God for salvation must build on Christ.
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." Acts 4:12 ESV
Eternal life and eternal forgiveness are only available through Yeshua. The question had been in what name the lame man had been healed. This reply states that it is only in that Name that any of mankind can be healed.
"Salvation" if from the Greek word soteria. This would have had a Messianic ring to Peter's listeners, especially when it was connected with Psalm 118. In the scrolls from Qumran, "Salvation" and "God's Salvation" are designations of the Messiah. This is also true in other intertestamental Jewish literature, and it appears later in the Rabbinic writings. In their view the Messiah was to be God's means of salvation. He was to be Salvation. Thus, Peter's words are a further claim of Yeshua's Messiahship, linked with the salvation which will bring men into the everlasting kingdom. Furthermore, the name Yeshua means "Yahweh is salvation." Salvation is thus closely paralleled with the name of Yeshua in all its senses.
These leaders know from the Scriptures that the God of Israel is the only Savior (Is 43:11; 45:21; Hos 13:4). Now Peter claims this role for Yeshua who is the Christ. Peter was in effect saying that "If you don't turn to Yeshua, you will be damned. There is no other way to become saved."
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Yeshua. Acts 4:13 ESV
The response of Peter and John to this trial is encouraging. They were not at all intimidated by this high court. They had boldness! The Greek word for "boldness" here is parrhesia which means "free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance."
How many of you have been in a court room? How many of you have gone before a judge? It can be very intimidating because the judge has incredible power. He can fine you, jail you, make your life miserable. So, most sane people are intimidated by the judge and seek to do and say what might not offend the judge. But not Peter. He confronted the members of the court with their sin by using their own Scriptures. We fear a judge who can, at the most, fine us or give us some jail time, but Peter was fearless in the face of what could have brought physical torture (thirty-nine lashes).
The wisdom of Peter caused the Sanhedrin to be "astonished." This is from the Greek word thaumazo which means "to be wondered at, to be held in admiration." The Sanhedrin were impressed. They were used to men cringing before them, not speaking out boldly.
But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, "What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name." Acts 4:15-17 ESV
Here is something really remarkable. How would you describe the connection between what they say in verse 16 and what they say in verse 17? Verse 16, they acknowledged that "A noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it." In spite of that truthful assessment, they determine to "threaten them with harm and try to keep them quiet about this Yeshua" (Verse 17). As crazy as this seems, it is exactly what happened.
But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19-20 ESV
Remember that they were speaking to the highest religious authorities of the day. It was a fearful thing to be dragged before the great Sanhedrin court. These were the same leaders who decided to put Yeshua to death and set in motion the events for His crucifixion. Who was to say the same wouldn't happen to these disciples?
If you were given that same command by the Sanhedrin, what would you have said? Most of us would have said nothing. We may have thought, "We'll keep quiet for now, but when we get out of here, we will do what we want. Let's just pacify the court, let's not upset them."
Peter didn't feel that way. He defied the court. He basically said, "You are the Supreme Court of Israel, judge this matter: Who should we listen to, go ahead tell us, you or God?" How did these leaders of Israel, God's people, answer that? If they had told the apostles to listen to God, they could not have forbidden them to preach. If they had said, "Listen to us instead," they would have implied that God's commands were not to be obeyed. It's a question they could not answer without admitting they were not on God's side.
Peter and John had seen Yeshua heal this lame man by His power. And they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard, no matter who told them to stop.
Such a declaration of loyalty to God in the face of human opposition has been echoed often in church history, not the least of which occurred during the Reformation. Think of Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms or the Scots Reformer John Knox of whom it was said, "He feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man."
We all face situations like this in our lives if we seek to live out biblical Christianity in a secular society.
What is happening here is Peter and John are promising civil disobedience. When an earthly authority's command is in conflict with a higher command from God, then we are to be obedient to God. When King Darius of Babylon made a decree that no one could pray to anyone but the king himself, Daniel did not obey him. Rather, he continued praying to God (Dan. 6:6-10).
There have been times in Israel's history when disobedience to a government was important. In Exodus 1:16, we read that the king of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to get rid of every male Hebrew baby they helped deliver. They refused.
Peter and John defiantly refused to obey the civil order of the Sanhedrin. They flat out told them, "We will not obey you." What did the leaders of Israel do? Beat them? Throw them in prison? No, they threaten them.
And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. Acts 4:21 ESV
How do you think you would have responded if you had been put into the situation of Peter and John? Would you have shut your mouth? Would you have openly defy the authorities? You know what is really sad? We have never been commanded to keep our mouths shut, and yet we do. We often fail to tell what we have seen and heard of Yeshua.
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. Acts 4:23 ESV
I can picture Peter and John proclaiming how they had preached to the Sanhedrin and had been commanded not to tell others about Yeshua!
These threats, coming as they did from the highest civil authority, had the force of law. Obedience to Christ would from here on be costly, but Peter and John didn't return to their fellow Christians in a state of mental depression. They came back rejoicing! They had preached the resurrected Yeshua to the very Sanhedrin that had Him crucified.
We see here that Peter and John were committed to community. They had a corporate mindset. Their first instinct was to share with other believers what had happened, and this led to corporate prayer.
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, Acts 4:24 ESV
The first response of this group of believers was to turn to God in prayer. Is prayer your first response in difficult situations?
What is the purpose of prayer? Let me give you a definition of prayer that changed my prayer life. Prayer is a declaration of our dependence. Every time I pray, I am saying, "God, I need you!"
They had told the court that they would not obey them, and they all knew that this was going to get ugly. So, they went to God in prayer.
Notice how they prayed. "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them." That's interesting? They don't cry out, "God help us, protect us from the Sanhedrin." They begin their prayer by affirming God as the sovereign Creator of all things.
"Lord"—normally the word "Lord" is translated from the word kurios, but here it is the Greek word despotes, from which we get our word despot. This is not a common title for God in Scripture. This divine title emphasizes the complete ownership God exercises over His servants. It was a common ascription in Jewish prayers, according to Josephus (Jewish War 7:323).
The use of this word shows us that the apostles saw themselves as God's slaves. The idea of seeing ourselves as God's slaves is important if we face persecution or trials because slaves do not expect to receive wonderful treatment. Slaves had no rights. The owner could command the slave to do unreasonable things without giving a reason for his commands. If carrying out the command resulted in the slave's death, that was too bad. The slave had to obey without question or complaint.
These Christians were acknowledging this: "God, You are the master; We are the slaves." That was their way of saying, "We will submit to Your sovereign will no matter what it may be."
The prophets taught this theme of God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and so did the apostles. Paul also taught this.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 ESV
The Church found comfort in the fact that the God to whom they prayed was the Creator of heaven and earth. He was the Sovereign God who was totally in control. They knew that if God created everything in earth, sea, and heaven, then these elders and priests are His property, and He can do with them as He pleases. Confessing the truth about God's relationship to our circumstances brings encouragement, especially when we are aware of danger and feel out of control.
These early Christians recognized that God had even predicted the very opposition they faced. They quoted the second Psalm in support of it. They had clearly been doing what Christians should do under pressure—they had gone to the Scriptures. They had found in the second Psalm the prediction of the actual opposition they were facing.
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27-28 ESV
When they heard Psalm 2, they said to themselves: "That's exactly what has happened. Herod and Pontius Pilate with the others, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, have set themselves against the Lord Yeshua. We saw it happen right in this very city. It's not surprising, not unexpected; it's exactly what God said would happen." They found great encouragement in the fact that this event was not beyond divine control. The opposition they were facing was anticipated, for no human event gets out of hand as far as God is concerned.
Notice verse 28. What does it teach us? There were no Arminians in the early Church—they all knew that God was sovereign over everything.
The Greek word translated "predestined" here is proorizo. It is the word from which we get our English word "horizon." This Greek word could be literally translated pre-horizon. The horizon is the great boundary between the earth and the sky. The Greek word, horizo, means to establish boundaries. And to set the boundaries, to draw the lines, to establish the limits is to determine what will be. And to do that ahead of time, in eternity past, is what predestined means. God predestines all things, even the evil deed of crucifying His anointed One, Yeshua.
If you believe, as most teach, that evil events occur outside of God's sovereign will, then you have great cause for fear and no cause for comfort when evil things happen to you or your loved ones.
God mightily and sovereignly ordains everything that happens, and He orders it all according to His wise purpose. If wicked men persecute His church, God predestined it to occur for His purpose and glory. We can submit to it, knowing that He is in control.
Now, after five verses of proclaiming the glories and sovereignty of God, we have two verses of petition.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Yeshua." Acts 4:29-30 ESV
The Greek word for "boldness" here is parrhesia which means "free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance." This is the second of three times that this Greek word is used in our text. This text is about boldness.
They had it, and they prayed for more of it. They understood that persecution would naturally incline men to draw back, to soften up on the message which they preached.
Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. John 7:13 ESV
Thus, the prayer for boldness and confidence was an admission of the fallibility of Christians. Paul prayed this same prayer for boldness.
and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, Ephesians 6:19 ESV
Paul is in prison! What would your prayer request be if you were in prison? Paul's prayer was for more boldness in proclaiming the Gospel, yet it was his boldness with the Gospel that had landed him in jail. Prison hadn't diminished Paul's zeal; he was asking for prayer so that he could be bolder than ever.
When is the last time you prayed for boldness in the midst of persecution? They did not ask to be delivered from persecution. They did not even ask that God judge or punish their opponents. They were more concerned about their mission than their comfort. Believers, we can learn something from this! Do you live with a consciousness of the mission our Lord has given to each of us as ambassadors for Christ to a lost world?
Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where all the requests seem to focus on everyone's health problems? But if that is the main focus of the prayer time, it reveals that we're too focused on ourselves, not enough on God's kingdom.
They didn't pray, "God, make sure that nobody else threatens us; make sure that nobody persecutes us." They understood this was going to cost them. They just said, "God, give us the boldness, give us the boldness to step it up and to accomplish the mission."
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 ESV
This shaking of the place is God's symbolic answer to these disciples' prayer. He is saying to them, in this figurative way, that He would shake Jerusalem and the world by the message these disciples were proclaiming. Less than forty years after this event the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by Roman armies; the authority of the priests was broken in the city; and finally, the entire nation, the religious theocracy of Israel was shaken and the people were dispersed throughout the nations of the world.
Their prayer was answered, and they spoke the Word with boldness. Their boldness was a gift from God received through prayer; it was not something that they tried to work up in themselves. They were dependent upon God to give them the power to do what He had commanded them to do.
Believers, we need to trust in God's sovereignty and pray for boldness to speak his truth to the world we live in. We need boldness to be image bearers and truth tellers.
Our culture continues to move toward ungodliness and unrighteousness and we as Yahweh's representatives need to be a light in the midst of darkness. We need to confront the ungodliness with the truth of God's Word. Unborn babies are human beings, there are only two genders, marriage is between a man and a woman. All lives matter. We need to pray for the boldness to be a light in the midst of darkness.