Sunday School Lesson
Sept 25, 2005
A Practical application of principles contained in the International Sunday Lessons
|PURPOSE: The HOLY SPIRIT is no longer leading me to simply pass on commentary which just expounds on the details of the teachings contained in the lessons, but instead, to share the WISDOM of those details to aid us in these contemporary times, with the guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT.|
THE TIME FOR BOLDNESS
ACTS 4:1-4, 23-31
KEY VERSE: “Now, LORD, look on their threats, and grant to YOUR servants that with all boldness they may SPEAK YOUR WORD” (Acts 4:29).
Before we close out this series of study, “YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES: IN JERUSALEM,” when we left the apostles, Peter and John healed “ a certain man lame from his mother’s womb” (3:2). This man was at the gate of the temple begging for alms (gifts for the poor), but Peter told him, “Silver and gold I do not have but what I do have I give you” (v.6), after stopping to tell the man, “Look on us” (v.4). It was then that Peter took the man “by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (v.7), after being told, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, rise up and walk” (v.6).
When the people became “filled with wonder and amazement” at what had happened to the man they remembered from begging for money “at the Beautiful Gate of the temple” (v10), Peter responded with a sermon in Solomon’s Porch (vv.12-26). He told the people not to look at them as if by their “own godliness or power” they had made this man walk. Peter informed the people, “THE GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, THE GOD of our fathers, glorified HIS SERVANT JESUS” (v.13a). GOD glorified the same JESUS they had “delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let HIM GO” (v.13b). This was done to glorify the same JESUS, “THE HOLY ONE AND THE JUST,” they had denied and asked for a murderer to be granted to them instead (v.14). The man was healed to glorify the same JESUS, “THE PRINCE OF LIFE, WHOM GOD RAISED FROM THE DEAD, of which we are witnesses,” and WHOM they killed (v.15).
Peter concludes by driving home the most essential fact that “...HIS NAME (JESUS), through ‘FAITH’ IN HIS NAME (JESUS)” (v.6a), is what had made this man that they saw and knew as “lame from his mother’s womb” (v.2). It was not the apostles’ power that had healed this man, “The ‘FAITH’ which come through HIM (JESUS) has given this man (the lame) this perfect soundness” in their presence (v.16b).
It is at this point that our lesson text picks up with the arrest of Peter and John (4:1-4). Then we fast forward past Peter’s address to the Sanhedrin council, when he told them the same things he had told the people before his arrest, of THE POWER IN THE NAME OF JESUS, “...THE STONE which was rejected by you builders, which has become THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE” (v.11).
We will see that because of the “BOLDNESS” of these “uneducated and untrained men,” the members of the Sanhedrin “realized that they had been with JESUS” (v.13). After accepting the fact that they could not “deny” what had taken place, the council called Peter and John before them and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the NAME OF JESUS” (v.8). When the apostles told the council, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”(v.20), the Sanhedrin just threatened Peter and John and “let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified GOD for what had been done” (v.21).
Finally, we arrive at the second part of our text for this study, (vv.23-31), where we are witnesses of Peter’s prayer for BOLDNESS after being released.
1. THE COST OF SALVATION: PRICELESS (Acts 4:1-4)
In order to put the events that take place in these verses in perspective, we need to take into consideration that Peter and John’s healing of the lame man has caused those attending service inside the temple to follow them outside to Solomon’s Porch (3:11). In other words, Peter and John had, by their actions, stopped church in the temple, and then Peter had the audacity to give an ‘impromptu sermon’ to the people who followed them outside, in addition to others who gathered.
It was bad enough, to the Sanhedrin, Pharisees and Sadducees, that the apostles were constantly increasing the numbers of those being saved through preaching, since the Day of Pentecost, when “about three thousand souls were added to them” (2:41). Also, “THE LORD added to the church daily those who were being saved” (2:47), as a result of the apostles “continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (2:46). But, now here they were outside the temple with, I would speculate, most of those who had been inside, plus others.
The scripture says, “as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them” (4:1). I would imagine that it was not difficult to “come upon them” when there is a large crowd gathered together outside the temple. This had to create quite confusion for the officials, who thought that they had ‘killed’ this MESSAGE of the Resurrection of the dead, along with the death of the ‘original’ MESSENGER, JESUS CHRIST.
Now, here are HIS apostles, not only preaching “in JESUS the Resurrection of the dead” (v.2), but also healing IN THE NAME OF JESUS. This threat to their authority and official position on “the Resurrection of the dead” was mare than the leaders could ‘afford.’ If they allowed the apostles to continue at this rate, “many of those who heard THE WORD believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand: (v.4), it would become too ‘costly’ for the leaders. Basically, it would ‘cost’ them their control over the lives and beliefs of the people. Therefore, they had no choice but to take action, “And they laid hands on them (Peter and John), and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening” (v.3).
Thus, while the preaching and healing IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST through HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD ‘cost’ Peter and John their freedom, the ‘cost’ of Salvation was PRICELESS. Because, as a result of their ‘sacrifice,’ “many of those who heard THE WORD believed; and the number of men came to be about five thousand” (v.4). And even then, there is no mention of the number of women and children who, probably, came along with “the men.”
2. THE ULTIMATE QUESTION: OBEY MAN OR GOD? (v.23)
As our text picks up, “And being let go, they (Peter and John) went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them” (v.23). However, we cannot proceed without, at least, taking a concise look at what was “said to them” and why. This would require us to examine, briefly, Peter’s address to the Sanhedrin, and their subsequent response (vv.5-22).
To begin, Peter and John are taken by force to be held in custody overnight; and now, the next day, they find themselves “in the midst” of the Sanhedrin Council, composed of all the top officials in Jerusalem (vv.5-6). “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what POWER or by what NAME have you done this (healed the lame man)?’” (v.7) This left Peter no choice, since he was “filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT (THE VOICE OF GOD)” (v.8), but to give them the same Gospel MESSAGE OF JESUS CHRIST as had caused the gathering that got them there in the first place. “Let it be known to you all, and to 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 stands before you whole” (v.10). And to further add insult to injury, “THE VOICE OF GOD” punctuated this declaration by stating, “This is THE STONE which was rejected by you builders, which has become the CHIEF CORNERSTONE. Nor is there SALVATION IN ANY OTHER, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we MUST BE SAVED” (vv.11-12).
In response, verses 13 and 14 tell us, “When they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. AND THEY REALIZED THAT THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” How could the council argue with or dispute the ‘evidence’ of Peter’s BOLD proclamation “standing” in their very presence?
This is why JESUS told the apostles and us today that “THE HOLY SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS OF ITSELF.” When GOD ‘uses’ or ‘acts’ through THE HOLY SPIRIT in one of us, there is no reason, whatsoever, to try to defend or explain THE ACTIONS OF GOD. HIS ACTIONS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. Therefore, why try and go any further than use the same ‘explanation,’ if you will, that THE HOLY SPIRIT (THE VOICE OF GOD) through Peter so BOLDLY proclaimed, “...THERE IS NO OTHER NAME (THAN JESUS) UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN BY WHICH WE MUST BE SAVED” (v.12).
However, the leaders knew that while they couldn’t deny this MESSAGE or ITS EVIDENCE, they could allow it to “spread no further among the people,” and decided to “severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man IN THIS NAME (JESUS). So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach IN THE NAME OF JESUS” (vv.16-18).
This presented a dilemma for Peter and John. They were “filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT” and have been sent on “A MISSION FOR GOD,” yet here were these ‘powerful’ leaders “commanding” them both to carry out their MISSION. Should they obey man or GOD? Was their ‘fear’ of man greater than their “reverential fear (awe)” of GOD? Well, Peter’s next statement answers those questions, and others, “...we cannot but SPEAK THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD” (v.20).
3. PRAYER FOR BOLDNESS (vv.23-31)
“And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them” (v.23). I would imagine, the leaders figured that they had sufficiently ‘warned’ and /or ‘scared’ the apostles, and that they would convince the others to comply. However, the leaders underestimated the determination and POWER of those “filled with THE HOLY SPIRIT.”
Our text tells us, “...when they heard that, they raised their voice TO GOD WITH ONE ACCORD” (v.24). Yet, their prayer was not ‘voiced’ out of ‘fear’ for what the leaders could do to them. Their prayer was ‘voiced’ to confirm their TRUST AND BELIEF IN GOD. For these were the same people that GOD “allowed’ to do to HIS “HOLY SERVANT JESUS” whatever HIS HAND and HIS PURPOSE “determined to be done” to HIM (v.27).
As if Peter and John had not been “BOLD” when they ‘healed’ the lame man, then ‘chastised,’ if you will, the people because of their “amazement.” As if Peter and John had not been “BOLD” after being arrested and stood before the Sanhedrin and repeated the sermon of ‘chastisement’ before the elders. As if Peter and John had not been “BOLD” when told “not to speak at all nor teach IN THE NAME OF JESUS,” in his reply, “...we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard” (v.20), Peter’s request is as “BOLD”as what is requested. “Now, LORD, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that WITH ALL BOLDNESS they may speak YOUR WORD, by stretching out YOUR HAND TO HEAL, and that signs and wonders may be done THROUGH THE NAME OF YOUR HOLY SERVANT JESUS” (v.30).
This determination and devotion to their CALL TO MISSION in the spreading of the Gospel in Jerusalem far outweighed any threat that man could impose upon them. The apostles knew that their MISSION of “souls being saved,” and “souls being added” to the church was more important than any thought for their lives. They knew that with THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT operating fully through them, GOD’S “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE” WAS TRULY ‘POSSIBLE.’ That is why, after they had finished their prayer, our text says, “the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND THEY SPOKE THE WORD OF GOD WITH BOLDNESS” (v.3).
This example set by Peter and John and all of the early church still stands today as a ‘beacon’ of THE FAITH needed to carry out GOD’S MISSION in the world. While we are not under the same threat of arrest and persecution for speaking THE WORD OF GOD, or allowing THE HOLY SPIRIT to ‘use’ us, we still need to pray for “BOLDNESS” to stand against Satan and his demons, the ‘Sanhedrin’ of this present age. They are those who continue to try and silence the “VOICE OF GOD” so that “it spreads no further among the people” (v.17).
THINK ABOUT IT!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr. DD
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