Handling Hostility # 6

 

Have you ever been to court ? 

I have on one occasion  -  Before the nominating committee people squirm, relax, I was  a witness for the prosecution, and I found it a very   intimidating experience.   

  • It must be terrifying if you are an innocent person – finding yourself  accused of a crime when religious obligation clashes with civil law and death penalty or rotting in a stinking hot jail is the other option.
  • Yet  Peter and John  are not quaking in their boots  - as they stand in the court of the Sanhedrin  facing charges of hearsay.
  •  Speaking the Gospel truth to a society that does not want to hear it  -  means  - in the word of Irvin Berlin “ there will be trouble ahead”.

For disciple’s hardship  was to be expected   Jesus had promised on the night before his crucifixion that there would be trouble ahead.  In the book of Acts  - crowds and preaching go together  but also the conflict  beliefs of the world  and the Gospel truth .

  • A timeless truth is illustrated   society only finds a church tolerable when it does not rock the status quo.    When the secular society says we love your church  -  it’s a church that is willing to trade its core values for social acceptance.
  •   Yes, it might produce a church that is admirably socially involved  - but its is one that is week in gospel proclamation.   The broad church they like to call it  -  it’s a mile wide and has no depth. 
  •  It’s a church that wants an easy option Jesus who comes without the fear of God and the reality of judgement and personal accountability.
  • We want a broad Church  - Broad in love but deep, deep , very deep  in Biblical Truth .
  •  Jesus did not die so that we may say – maybe
  • The church in acts had no such problem    The church was facing open hostility  - Peter and John were facing the same court that Jesus faced in his trial  - the same court that would condemn Steven to stoning  - it was court that guarded religious Orthodoxy having authority in all areas of Jewish life.

When the gospel advances there is some form of opposition  -

  • In verses 1-7  Peter and John encounter the opponents  - the priests  -the temple guard  and the Sadducees.    The later were the ruling class - they had an interest in the maintenance of Good relations with the Roman establishment .  Their concerns were theological and political. 

Theologically – they did not subscribe to the possibility of resurrection of the dead through Jesus.

And politically there was a daily invasion of the temple of people proclaiming Christ asLord and master.The Romans would be looking with concern on the rise of this new sect and no doubt wanting to have a word with the Sadducees about getting these rebels under control.

  • The Sanhedrin employed what is a timeless tactic  - when faced with political opposition silence it .   We see that around the world today  -  if you were to look at the release international website you see a band of countries spanning the equator that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa – across the Arab word  - through India – Pakistan  - central Asian to the  Chinese coast with s southernly border at Indonesia.   All places where  the Gospel is supressed. 
  • But as Luke reminds us  - that even when opponents sit in the driving seat   - God does continues to do his work.  The Sanhedrin ask  by what  name and power do you do this ?     - that is there only question .   There is an irony  - the so-called experts have simply no idea what the God they revere is doing.

Peter stands before the tribunal  - but in no way does he act like  the accused -  quite the opposite .  Filled with the Holy Spirit his defence is a 3-point sermon.

# 1 Jesus is responsible for the healing at the temple Gate

#2 Jesus is alive   and in a place of authority , they the Sanhedrin and all the people in Israel had crucified Jesus but God raised them up from the dead – Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s building  - yet he is the one they reject.

#3  Jesus is the unique saviour – the one who raised the crippled man and gave him the power to walk. He is the one who leads people to God’s purpose  - announces the forgiveness of sin and pours out the Holy Spirit .

There is only one way to God and Jesus is that way.

There is no one else who can save  -  a statement that makes crystal clear the point that Jesus is the only way to God.   

Peters address is succinct and clear  - yet he is a theological novice – a humble fisherman  - speaking boldly to the religious elite who are well honed in argument.  And that takes courage which makes it clear he is speaking with the power of the Holy Spirit .

 

 

Again, Luke records the response of the Sanhedrin   (V 13-22) They were speechless with astonishment and the healed man was the object illustration of what peter had just said.   So, like all religious bureaucracies   - they formed a committee

  • Whom concluded that the apostles were to speak no more of Jesus of Nazareth – in the hope the uncomfortable truth would disappear.  Peter and john put a radical question to the Sanhedrin  - should we obey you and be silent – or obey God?    
  • Until that moment obedience to God and obedience to the Sanhedrin were the same thing. If it wasn’t for the PR disaster  - I have no doubt they would have been taken and stoned to death.  It was game over for the prosecution  - Peter was using the same argument used by  the Sanhedrin in the Roman courts. Frustrated they made further threats and let them go.  Its significant their response was neither reasoned debate ,logical argument or further enquiry.
  •  What a contrast to that of the disciples who’s Spirit empowered witness is seen in their determination to speak of what they had seen and heard.

V22 -30

Peter and John on their release return to their people  - the church. 

  • And in response the Church prays reminding itself that God is sovereign And they remind themselves of Spirit inspired words in scripture drawing for the first two verses of psalm 2.   Which teaches that there will be those that stand and plot against the Lord’s anointed. 

Prayer focussed on the sovereignty of God – sustained by scripture , is the churches weapon against hostility.   Ps 2)

  • Sadly, bad things do happen  to faithful people  -  Joseph sold by his brothers , Jesus crucified and for Peter and John threats from the religious power broker. Trouble awaits everyone who is called to God's purpose  apostle Paul affirmed.   God's sovereignty is not an excuse on the part of the church for inactivity.  Indeed, it is the opposite it’s the foundation for all activity . Through prayer God will work and bless his people.

 

 

  • Finally, authorities had tried to introduce a blanket of silence  - but in the end God's laughter is heard.
  • Contrasting  between the spiritually dead in the religious elite seeking to silence the church and the bold proclamation of the followers of Jesus ( the Apostolic leadership and followers) Saving work displayed in the healed man for all to see. 

 

The Sadducees  remained both  both blind and deaf.

 

The church cannot escape hostility  - it has not to run form it or compromise its belief and values. Today in our communion service we will recite the Nicene creed which outlines our beliefs as a church  - we know that because its starts  - We believe …..

 

We must face up to hostility rather than run from it – proclaiming Christ empowered by the holy spirit  -trusting in the sovereign rule of ~God. 

Silence is not an option  -  powers  that seek to silence the evangelical church have  never conquered it by silent  moral example.  It takes people to have the confidence of their faith to speak out.   The holy spirit does not empower his people to silence.

 

Amen