2018-04-29 – Acts 5.12-21 – Esteemed and Persecuted

The Apostles Heal Many

12 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. 16 A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

The Apostles Are Persecuted

17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” 21 When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

2018-04-29 – Acts 5.12-21 – Esteemed and Persecuted

Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.

Today’s message is entitled Esteemed and Persecuted. We don’t use the word Esteem very often any more, but Esteem means to respect and admire, and
the term self-esteem is what you think about yourself.
I read about a supposed cure for people who suffer from low self-esteem. You just need to hate a lot of other people more, then grade yourself on the curve.

Last week we read about a travesty that took place with the early church in Jerusalem. Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck down for lying to the Holy Spirit about the land they sold. They only gave a portion of the proceeds to the church, however they were trying to put off that they had gave it all. In doing so, they were disciplined by God and immediately died as a result. We talked about how “God Knows” everything. He knows our actions, and He even knows our hearts.  Four conclusions were offered last week:

  1. Sin, in the life of a believer, is even more serious than sin in the life of an unbeliever…for you are God’s child, and His representative and ambassador.
    2. Be very careful not to lie to God. The repercussions can even prove to be deadly to you and your loved ones. God disciplines those He loves.
    3. The devil is the king of lies and manipulations. Therefore fill your heart with Godly things, leaving no room for Satan’s schemes.
    4. Guard against hypocrisy in your life…be the same at home as at church.

That takes us to this weeks message where we will see God working wonders through the early church, but they also paid a price for their faithfulness.

Please turn in your Life Book Bibles to Acts 5:12, pg 122 in the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, and let us start with prayer.   [Prayer]

The Apostles Heal Many 12 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.

This text doesn’t elaborate on what were the “signs and wonders”, however we know in previous chapters of this book of Acts, it talked about the lame walking, people healed, truths revealed, wisdom given, and the Holy Spirt working through the Apostles. People were amazed, they were taking notice. We will see in the next verses they were even fearful because of the wonders they witnessed.

God equipped the Apostles to do “signs and wonders” for the purpose of establishing the church and bringing others into the faith.

13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 

14 Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. 16 A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

That must have been amazing to witness, and I am sure it caused quite a commotion. However, I find it interesting that in verse 13 it says that “None of the rest dared to join them”. It doesn’t say the reason why directly, however this takes place right after Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck down for lying to Peter and the Holy Spirit about the land sale. They were disciplined by Father God, and the people were in fear, fear as in reverence and fear as in scared. But at the same time they held them in “high esteem” it says. I just find that curious. They held them in high esteem but some were afraid at the same time.

I tried to think of somebody that I held in high esteem but was fearful of. Although sometimes I think our spouses might fit in that category, the person that better fit this scenario for me is the Fire Chief of Coal Valley. He is a large fellow that just commands authority. I respect him and his position, therefore as his chaplain, I try not to get to close while he is in the middle of a crisis. I stay back until the appropriate time. But in our text, I think it also had more to do with the fact that their associates, Ananias and Sapphira had just died at their feet. And that scared them. So they respected and they feared at the same time.

The Apostles here, Peter in particular, was healing all kinds of folks. People were even bringing out their sick from even the surrounding towns to be healed. The fact that they would even lay the sick out on the streets in hopes that Peter’s shadow would might fall on them and be healed is amazing. This reminds me of the lady written in Luke 8 that was healed by Jesus because she just reached out and touched His garment. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well;” In our example today, it wasn’t Peter’s shadow or even Peter that was doing the healing, it was the Holy Spirit through the people’s faith. We should have such faith. Amen?

But more important than the physical healing that was taking place, was the spiritual healing. Verse 14 says “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women”. More than ever it says!

Recall in our last chapter thousands were being saved and added to the church. And now this event text says “more than ever”. Praise the Lord.

In this book of Acts, there are at least 17 times where a miracle helps lead people to trust Jesus as their savior. In the previous chapters we have seen the miracle of Pentecost lead to 3,000 converts; and the miracle of the lame man lead to 2,000 converts; and now we have this testimony from Dr. Luke. There is no doubt that the working of miracles—signs and wonders—helped bring people to Christ. I believe that is what Luke wants us to see and understand in these text.

If I had to pick one sentence out of the book of Acts that would state the central theme of the book, I think it would be Acts 1:8. Just before Jesus returns to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God, He gives the disciples this charge that echoes through the whole book of Acts, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And that charge coincides with the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” I love how the Bible is so consistent and trustworthy.

As we move through the book of Acts in these messages, what we are seeing is the fulfillment of this promise. The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples again and again with unusual fullness, and the result is this supernatural power that leads to courageous, life-giving witness of the early church, and the church grows greatly.

This initial surge in new believers, new church members is what will carry them forward in the rough road ahead. What we are going to see now in these next verses is a lesson concerning the price they had to pay for their spiritual growth.

17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 

Now you might recall in our last chapter it showed how the Sanhedrim council had already arrested them once, and they warned Peter and John not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore. The Sadducees and the Sanhedrim were not only noticing the crowds and the excitement it resulted in, but they were Jealous as well at all the attention they got, the esteem they received from the people.

Envy and Jealousy are powerful emotional sins, and can result in many terrible things to happen as we will see. You should know that Satan was and is jealous of God and wants His throne. Cain killed Able because of jealousy. Saul went after David because of jealousy. There are many examples in the Bible about the tragic outcomes from jealousy. Even Peter and John were jealous of each other while they were with Jesus; that is until Jesus gave them some humble pie and straightened them out. Pride is the underpinnings of envy and Jealousy, and humility is generally the cure.

So they threw Peter and the Apostles in prison again. This is already their second time in prison and it won’t be the last time either.

19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” 21 When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

Have you ever felt that an angel was watching over you? I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that. The Bible tells us that Angels are real ladies and gentlemen. We may never see one in person this side of heaven, but they are real creatures created by God. And they have many purposes or jobs. According to scripture, they are messengers, they protect, they worship, and they are great warriors. The word “angel” actually means “messenger of God.” Here an angel opened the prison doors and gave them a powerful “Go” message.

“Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” What a wonderful and beautiful message the messenger angel gave them.
Have you ever been given a message from God? Please tell me if you have, I want to know. I have had two messages given to me through the years that I believe were from God. One was “Do not fear, it will be okay” and the other was my daughter’s name, Estelle. I feel blessed to have such an experience and I know that is a rare and precious thing. If that ever happens, we should always check the “message” against God’s word to make sure it is of God and not Satan. Satan is the king of deception and lies, and he will manipulate you if given the chance. The message the Angel gave to them was Go. That message is for us too.

“Go, tell the people the whole message about this life.” Just like the Apostles, we as Christians, were rescued from prisons too by the power of God. Therefore our Godly purpose is to offer life to other people—true life, eternal life, through the forgiveness of sins, and personal relationship with the ever-living God. It is a precious thing to be empowered to give life to others. Are you willing?

The Greek word LIFE is “Zoey”, and it means to live. It is also a reference used 36 times in the New Testament. Again, as Christians, our purpose for living is to bring people to understand and accept the saving grace and eternal LIFE that God offers. Jesus said in John 10:10 “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” I pray you feel the joy that a God’s life of abundance can bring.

Paul said “take hold of the life that is truly life”. The life that we have as Christians is freeing and hopeful, or hope filled. Therefore since we have such hope we can stand even in the face of persecution. On the other hand, if we choose to focus on this mortal life, we will be handicapped in regards to our ability to serve anyone, let alone Jesus. As the Apostles demonstrated, if you are boldly stepping out in faith and risking even your life for Christ, we don’t have to be afraid of those who can only kill the body. God will sustain you and give you even joy in the midst your tribulation.

Speaking about persecution, Peter said in his first letter, that when you suffer for the name of Christ, “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). You might recall that’s what happened to the first Christian martyr Stephen when he was stoned to death. Even though no angel came to rescue him, Acts 7:55 says of Stephen, “Full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen was at peace as he was being stoned. This shows that even if God doesn’t take away our persecution, He can provide His mercy in death. And that too is precious beyond words.

Jesus said in Luke 21, “They will lay their hands on you and deliver you to prisons, and some of you they will put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish”. As Christians, when we die in the flesh, we then enter into His eternal Life. We will be raised with new resurrection bodies. And in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us so. That’s what I put my hope in.

Therefore, I call you to humbly seek the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life until even death dear Christian. There will be a price: there will be jealousy and accusations, maybe even prison and pain, but it will be worth it. Because the power of God is precious and awesome.

So with your eyes open to the price and the preciousness of God’s spiritual power, I invite you to seek the fullness and blessings of LIFE from the Lord.
And through the LIFE He brings, each of us can have a positive self-esteem, one that is not graded on a curve of hate for others. God loves you so much.

Let Us Pray:   Please stand.. Heavenly Father..