"Go, stand (firm) and speak to the people ….the whole message of this Life."
"But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy." The religious leaders were angry and jealous because, as seen in Acts 5:12-16, God was using the apostles to heal "all" the people and more and more people were coming to the Lord. Thus they were losing their popularity and power over the people which was far more important to them than people being healed and set free from demons. They were the "sick" ones.
"They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 "Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." The Sadducees didn't even believe in angels and God uses an angel to release the apostles. J In our sophistication here in America we forget God is supernatural and can do the supernatural, and our unbelief can actually limit His power as did the unbelief of the folk's from Jesus' hometown. (Mt. 13:58)
"Go, stand (firm) and speak to the people…the whole message of this Life." The message the angel commanded them to speak is the essence of what Jesus commanded them (and us) to be and do in Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20- be His witness wherever we are, and go and make disciples of all nations by sharing the message of life – the gospel; (zÃ…Âe – "life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last for ever." Strong's Lexicon) "The man who loves his life (psyche – the human soul) will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (zÃ…Âe )" (John 12:25) "Whoever finds (or keeps) his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life]." (Matt. 10:39) As we as believers lose our life (stop focusing on and going after temporal happiness) for His purposes (sharing both the gospel message and our new life in Christ with people – 1 Thess. 2:8) we will "find it" (experience zÃ…Âe life) even in the here and now. ["Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity]
This is precisely what we see the apostles doing here and throughout the book of Acts. "Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach." They not only immediately obeyed the command but went right back into the temple area and began to teach; which meant certain persecution (and it came – the threat of death (v.33) and flogging – 39 lashes with the whip): ("The flagrum was a whip with a short handle and generally two or three long thick thongs, each weighted at some distance from their extremity with lead balls or mutton bones. In action, the thongs cut the skin, while the balls or bones created deep contusions. The result was significant hemorrhage and considerable weakening of the vital resistance of the victim." http://gira.cadouarn.pagesperso-orange.fr/english/back_matter/flogging.htm). Yet, they rejoiced because "they had been considered worthy to suffer shame (and much pain) for His name;" lose your life and find true life.
"When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching (about Jesus and His resurrection vv. 29-32)." That is exactly what they intended to do and what we are called to do… fill our cities with the good news about the resurrected Christ. "And (you) intend to bring this man's blood upon us." That is the very thing they said to Pilate when he said to them: "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves." And all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!" (Matt. 2725) They are fighting very hard against the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
Then Peter turns up the heat: 29" But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." 33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and (repented and were saved? – no) intended to kill them." Wow! Murder in the Name of God. The "law keepers" are the lawbreakers of the very laws of God. "Thou shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13)
First God uses His supernatural power and sends an angel to release them from prison. Now he uses His sovereign power to rescue the apostles from death through a lost and unrepentant Pharisee, Gamaliel: 38 "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God." God used this to save their lives but his "godly" counsel is very ungodly. Whatever succeeds is of God; whatever fails is not, is true in an ultimate sense but not in a fallen world. In fact even the group he is speaking to and a part of – the Sanhedrin is not of God but of man and yet it is not overthrown by God yet. How about all the false religions in the world that God has not yet overthrown? And how about thousands of crooked businessmen who rip off people year after year. Or far worse, sex traffickers who enslave young girls for the pleasure of evil men. No, the "wise" Gamaliel is spiritually blind. He was the #1 teacher of God's Word (Paul was one of his disciples and was there in the midst of them in this account) and yet he did the very thing Jesus spoke about: 39 "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life." ( John 5:39-40) Today we have God's Word to guide us into what is of God and not of God and that is how we decide what is right and wrong. Even then we can wrongly interpret Scripture (as so many cults do) and thus we need to employ all the means of grace to discern God's truth and will. (See attached Decision Making Guide for all the ways God uses to guide us into His truth and will.)
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." The death threats and the floggings did not even slow them down, much less stop them from teaching and preaching about Jesus as the Christ (i.e., as the anointed One the OT prophesied would come) and yet the religious leaders completely missed Him due to pride and the praise of man (John 5:44). And because the apostles continued to witness and make disciples we see this good report: the "disciples were increasing in number." (Acts 6:1)
"And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." (John 16:8-11) Notice here that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin (not sins; though He does that too) and "the" sin is "they do not believe in Me" – just as we see in this account. When we share Jesus as the only way to God and heaven and genuine life (zÃ…Âe) and they reject Him, they will receive the same judgment as Satan (the ruler of this world- the lake of fire forever) and miss out on true life (zÃ…Âe) here and now and forever. The discussion questions below can help us "go, stand and speak to the people the whole message of this Life."
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
What we see here in this account is a lot more dramatic than what most of us in America will experience in sharing the gospel; imprisonment, death threats and beatings. Here are a few questions from Life Guide
Bible study by Phyllis J. Le Peau that are more pertinent to our lives.
1) What situations in your life are calling for difficult, consistent obedience?
2) In what situations of sharing the gospel do you need the power of the Holy Spirit for perseverance?
3) Are there relationships in your life that need the clear presentation of the gospel even if it is rejected?
4) What decisions do you need to make to obey God rather than follow the cultural norm (follow the crowd)?
5) What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?