How seriously do you take God? How do you prove you take God seriously? It is very easy to verbalize faith, trust and obedience to God, yet when we are pushed into a corner, do we put what we have verbalized into practice or do we buckle and submit to other forces, lords and gods
What we really need in all of Christianity today is people like the apostles who bravely declared … “We must obey God rather than men! By the way, they said this in the face of following in Jesus’ footsteps and being executed in some way or the other.
We pick up our reading today:
Ac 5:24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. 27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
1) The response to the news of an empty prison.
Ac 5:24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this.
Firstly let’s understand the people involved in this verse.
(1) Captain of the temple guard. He was most likely the officer who arrested the apostles the day before. Some think he was the Commander of the Roman Garrison based at the castle of Antonio but this cannot be because the scene before us takes place in the temple. He was a Jew not a Roman and more, he was a priest. It is likely that the Levitical Guard was his responsibility. One may easily see him being puzzled as he was responsible for their arrest and imprisonment.
(2) Chief Priests. Although we have dealt with this before, let’s remind ourselves of why it is chief priests and not chief priest. Other than Luke in Luke and Acts, we only find this terminology in the Old Testament. Annas was high priest from AD 7 to 14, yet as with others, a high priest held the title for life even though technically not active. Because of his age, wealth and family connections it seemed he was a huge influence in the Sanhedrin … maybe even the deputy president of the Sanhedrin. He too would have had a great concern because through the apostles preaching and miracles, many were leaving the Jewish Faith and turning to Christianity.
(3) These two men were puzzled. Another interpretation is “perplexed” which means “they were in doubt as to which road to take”. Couple this to the word “wondering” it means … “what would the news of an empty prison grow into?” Their leadership would be in question. It is for reasons like this that we as Christians need to spend much time in prayer about decisions we make to ensure what we do is done correctly, God honoring and supports Gospel principles.
2) The preaching and teaching of the apostles drew large crowds. It was far more than spectator value, it was the Holy Spirit drawing people into the sphere where they heard the gospel clearly, rendering them without excuse.
Ac 5:25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.”
The “someone” here must have passed through the temple courts and heard the apostles and saw the crowds gathering. Maybe he was part of the Sanhedrin because he saw those teaching were the very ones that had been placed in prison. Look carefully at this sentence … The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people. Those you locked up in jail are now standing in the temple courts … teaching the people! They are found freed and doing what they were forbidden to do … teaching about Jesus. If only we Christians would follow the example of the apostles. We have the same Holy Spirit but we don’t seems to have the same spirit!
3) With great care, the captain of the guard and his men went to arrest the apostles again.
Ac 5:26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
The reason for them being careful was because they feared the people would stone them. They were men afraid of people. Compare this to the apostles … “We must obey God rather than men” … followed by them being:
Ac 5:40 … flogged … and … ordered … not to speak in the name of Jesus.
The fear of man comes when there is no fear of God. You need to understand that all arms of Judaism were nothing more than a religion … one that was made obsolete through the Cross of the Lord Jesus.
4) Now the apostles stand before Caiaphas, the real high priest.
Ac 5:27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
His questioning of the apostles comes in the form of a statement of what the Sanhedrin instructed them not to do.
(1) We ordered you not to teach in Jesus’ name.
(2) You disobeyed us by doing so, teaching that we, the spiritual leaders of the Jews are guilty of Jesus’ execution.
(3) The word “filled” means filled to the full. It was used for a fishing net filled with fish, a building filled with people … and here, a city filled with the teaching about Jesus.
(4) Then follows a guilty conscience. The apostles directed their doctrinal teaching in such a manner that they drew from the Old Testament prophecies which showed that the very ones to whom Jesus came … the ones who ought to have identified Messiah’s arrival were the ones that put Jesus to death.
5) The only response of the apostles was:
Ac 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
They were fearless of man. They were forceful in preaching. They were faithful in doctrine. This is what we need in the Church today … men resembling the apostles.
O God, please raise up faithful men to fill our pulpits. Amen.