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“The Failure of Fighting Against God” (Acts 5:17-42)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Anyone who has served in a leadership position in an organization knows that sometimes you can meeting something to death.

Sometimes, people have meeting upon meeting upon meeting, only to end up not really getting something accomplished.

Other times, they may have tons of meetings that end with a terrible decision being made.

Well, one thing that the Jewish leaders in Acts did a lot was have meetings. A lot of those meetings centered on trying to stop the apostles and the early church from having any success.

Today’s passage is no exception. However, as you can probably guess, since we’re here in this room today, they were unable to stop the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s sermon is entitled “The Failure of Fighting Against God.”

Before we go any further, let’s pray and ask the Lord to speak to us.


Ok, let’s look at this passage and discover four activities that took place in this time and place.

First, . . .

‌I. The leaders were meeting.

Let’s look at Acts 5:17-18:

17 Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.

The leaders in Jerusalem were tired of all the success the church was having.

Luke (the author of Acts) describes them as “filled with jealousy.”

So, they decided to have another meeting of some of the leaders of Israel. This is what they do; they meet.

It seems as if this meeting was an impromptu meeting. It seems that they were out and about, and saw the apostles ministering, then they were filled with jealousy.

So, what do they do? They have a quick meeting and decide to arrest the apostles.

Notice that the passage says they arrested the “apostles.” It doesn’t single out Peter and John in this passage. So, it is likely more than just Peter and John who are arrested.

So, what resulted from this meeting was that they arrested the apostles and put them in jail.

There’s another meeting we’ll read about in just a moment with even more important leaders, but let’s see what happens next.

Next, . . .

‌II. The apostles were missing.

Look at verses 19-24:

19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

When the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin—the full council of the Israelites—and sent orders to the jail to have them brought. 22 But when the servants got there, they did not find them in the jail; so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing in front of the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 As the captain of the temple police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them, wondering what would come of this.

We can gather that the first meeting was not an official full meeting.

However, it resulted in the apostles being jailed overnight until the entire Sanhedrin could gather.

The first meeting was simply the high priest and some Sadducees. This second meeting involves all the important leaders. This is the big meeting.

However, there is one major problem now: the apostles were missing.

You can’t have a big questioning of suspects without any suspects.

Can you imagine being the person who had to tell the leaders that the apostles were gone?

The guards probably looked at each other and said, “Uh oh.” “You know those guys that you put in prison? Yeah . . . they’re gone.”

You see, God intervened to rescue His people and continue His mission.

God sent an angel to open the doors and set the apostles free.

God sent His angelic servants to rescue His human servants.

Listen, church: nothing can stop the mission of God!

No matter how many meetings the leaders had, they would not come up with any plans that could stop the plans of God.

Those who were pretending to be servants of God were trying to get in the way of the actual servants of God, yet they failed again and again.

Church, we must realize that God is in control of all things. We must recognize what Job recognized in Job 42:2 “I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

God was in control then, and He is in control now.

Notice what the apostles did when they got out: they were back on mission.

The angel simply said, “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.”

So, the apostles entered the temple and began to teach again.

I wonder about us. What will it take to keep us from accomplishing the mission of God in our lives and in our church?

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to distract us or dissuade us. The apostles wouldn’t even stop when they were jailed!

Oh, that we would have that faith and that commitment to the mission of God.

What result did this have on the leaders? Verse 24 says, “As the captain of the temple police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them, wondering what would come of this.”

So, what did come of this? Let’s find out.

Next, . . .

‌III. The leaders were reconvening.

Let’s look at verses 25-39:

25 Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. 27 After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, 28 “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted this man to his right hand as ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. 35 He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re about to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him.

Well, the leaders are meeting again, and they can’t find the apostles. Then, someone points out that the apostles are right outside teaching in the temple.

You see, the Sanhedrin met inside the temple complex, and there are the apostles teaching right outside in the temple complex.

The apostles were full of boldness and power because the Spirit of God was upon them.

This time, when the leaders gather, a questioning takes place.

The apostles came quietly and respectfully to the questioning. Surely, they knew this moment was coming again.

After some back and forth, the high priest basically says, “Hey, we already talked about this. You shouldn’t do ministry in the name of Jesus.” You may recall that this same type of gathering took place in chapter 4.

Peter’s response in verse 29 is basically, “Yeah, we DID already talk about this. As I told you before, we cannot help it. We must obey God rather than you.

Peter then recaps the gospel story by saying that the Jewish leaders killed Jesus the Savior by crucifying Him, but Jesus rose to new life and can bring forgiveness to Israel.

Then we see Peter once again say they are witnesses.

This word harkens back again to when Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses” in Acts 1:8.

What’s more, Peter says the Holy Spirit is a witness of these things.

Notice the response of the leaders to these words from Peter. Verse 33 says they were enraged.

Then, starting in verse 34, we hear this bit from Gamaliel, one of the leaders from the Pharisee party.

It seems that Gamaliel spoke wisdom in more ways than he realized.

Gamaliel basically says, “Hey, if this thing is not genuine, it will die down, like the other false teachers who have come through here. However, if it is genuine, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of this battle.”

Gamaliel’s words were true. The Jewish leaders were, in fact, fighting against the mission of God, AND they would not be able to stop the apostles.

So, the Jewish leaders were persuaded by Gamaliel’s words. They were going to wait and see what happened . . . sort of.

Let’s see what I mean by “sort of.”

Finally, . . .

‌IV. The apostles were rejoicing.

Let’s read verses 40-42:

40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name. 42 Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

I said a moment ago that the religious leaders were “sort of” going to wait and see what happens with the apostles. Now, do you know what I mean by “sort of?”

They didn’t totally follow Gamaliel’s advice.

Rather than just letting them go, they had them flogged. To be flogged means to be beaten with a rod or whip. So, they didn’t simply let them go; they beat them first.

The leaders once again ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Apparently, they haven’t learned yet that the apostles are not going to stop speaking in the name of Jesus.

How did the apostles react to all of these events?

Verse 41 says they went out rejoicing!

Notice the comparison here:

Verse 17 says the leaders were jealous.

Verse 24 says the leaders were baffled.

Verse 26 says the leaders were afraid.

Verse 33 says the leaders were enraged.

However, verse 41 says the apostles were rejoicing!

The ones who thought they had all the power were completely turned upside down. Yet, the ones being beaten were filled with joy!

How could this be? This is not the way things are supposed to work.

In case we haven’t learned this yet, God doesn’t work the way the world thinks things should work sometimes!

God can cause a blind person to see. God can cause a dead person to rise. God can turn a sinner into a saint. God can turn a persecuter into a preacher. God can cause a lame man to leap. And, as we see here, God can cause someone who is beaten to rejoice.

Notice what causes them to rejoice: Verse 42 says they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.”

That name by which people were healed.

That name, given as the only name by which salvation can come to humanity.

That name, which they were commanded multiple times to quit mentioning.

That name: the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the name in which they rejoiced to be part of for the sake of suffering.

Wow, there must be something about that name.

Well, did they stop teaching in that name? Of course not!

Verse 42 says “they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

That takes us to our bottom line for today:

‌Bottom Line: True faith and true power cannot be stopped.

The religious leaders of Israel did not know what they were dealing with during the time of the early church.

The apostles received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they were witnesses for Jesus.

They had true faith and true power, which could not be stopped by meetings, arrests, or floggings.

The true faith and true power that comes in the name of Jesus is more powerful than anything this world can throw at it.

The reality is, church: we have access to the same true faith and the same true power that the apostles had access to. We serve the same God, we are saved by the same name, and we are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit.

Let us trust in the true faith and true power that comes only from the true God.

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Ask yourself if your faith would stand under pressure.

What if you had to stand before a group of powerful people to be questioned about your faith? The reality is, most of us cannot even imagine that.

What if the most powerful people out there told you to never speak in the name of Jesus again? How would that affect you?

Take some time this week to ask yourself how you would stand under pressure.

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Pray for God to make you a bold witness.

Peter said, “We are witnesses of these things.” Are you a witness to the things of Jesus? Ask God to make you a bold witness.

Share the love of Jesus. Share about the name of Jesus. Share about the salvation of Jesus. Be a witness.

For some of us, we are witnesses of what Jesus has done in our hearts. For others, the Holy Spirit may be witnessing to you now.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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