This message at Word of Grace was preached on July 5th, 2020 via zoom by Tara. To listen to the audio please click here.
Acts 5:17-42 “Fear, Faith, and Freedom”
Questions to consider before reading the passage:
1) What or who did the high priest and council fear? Why? What about Gamaliel?
2) What did the apostles fear and who did they trust and obey?
3) What does fear have to do with obedience to God? What do you learn from this story?
Read Acts 5:17-42
Now let’s look at the questions for this passage:
1) What or who did the high priest and council fear? In v17 it says they were “filled with jealousy” and in v28 they said, “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching” (people were coming even from towns outside Jerusalem to be healed) and “you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us”, so it seems they were very concerned with how the crowds were favourably responding to the apostles and that they were afraid of what the people thought about them.
Why? Perhaps they were afraid to be seen as guilty of the blood of Jesus, perhaps a revolt or riot could happen with the people turning against them? We don’t know for sure.
What about Gamaliel? In v38 he said, “if this is a plan of man it will fail,” … “but if it is of God you may be found opposing God”. He seemed to have a different opinion and more reverence for God and to trust that God could handle the outcome of the current situation with the people following this movement started by Jesus.
2) What did the apostles fear and who did they trust and obey?
In v20, they were told by the angel of the Lord, “Go, stand in the temple, and teach” and they obeyed what they were told. Furthermore they “rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus, the Christ”, showing that they trusted in God and were not afraid of men.
3) What does fear have to do with obedience to God? What do we learn from this story?
To help us answer this last question, let’s look at some points to highlight below
“Fear, Faith, & Freedom”
1) Fear of man vs fear of God
Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 29:25 - The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
Gal 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Many times, in the scriptures God commands his people “do not fear” and to take courage, see the beginning of the book of Joshua for an example of this. Also, see 2 Chronicles chapter 20 in which King Jehoshaphat, when faced with a vast army coming against the people, prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” He was told he would not need to fight that the “battle is the Lord’s”.
Paul was facing a group of Jewish Christians who opposed him as a leader and also were instructing the Galatians to be circumcised. Even Peter who had been spending time and eating with the Galatians suddenly stopped when those Jews came to town, hypocritically submitting to them. Paul himself also faced this conflict of his call to preach the good news of the blessing of God coming to gentiles with opponents.
For myself, simply following Christ and submitting my decisions to his leading and leadership in my life also puts me at odds with those close to me who have other desires or plans. The main example of this has been my dad who like a good father, wants the best for me, however often according to his own plan of what is best. I have learned and am still learning to honour and respect him and yet to fear God and trust God in obeying what God is calling me to do.
2) Faith is obedience to Jesus despite persecution
Jesus warned of persecution to come but also described it as a blessing:
Matt 5:11-12 - “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23“He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24“If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25“But they have done this to fulfil the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’
26“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will testify also because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
Jesus as commanded us to be his witnesses, with a promise of being with us. Will we obey?
19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
3) Freedom through Spirit is to obey God and to serve others out of love, by the power of the Spirit
Gal 5:1, 13, 22-23,
“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. …
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.”
The freedom we have in Christ is so that we can use the opportunity he gives us to love one another and serve one another. This motivation of love sets us free of fear to live by faith.
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
In closing, we have seen how the apostles were continued to be trained as witnesses through the persecution they experienced, being imprisoned again and yet being commanded to keep teaching. God used a leader among the high priests to speak wisdom at a critical moment, and allow the apostles to continue and not to stop teaching and preaching about life in Christ. The priests felt threatened by them and were afraid of the people yet the apostles continued to live freely obeying God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again), Spirit-filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that has people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. Word of Grace is a part of a wider international family of Churches called RegionsBeyond.To know more about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.
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