Standing Firm Under Fire click here for audio
It is very impressive to see the great response to the Gospel of Christ in the opening chapters of Acts. On the day of Pentecost we have the birth of the church, the empowering of the church, and the growth of the church resulting in 3000 souls converted by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We see in Acts 4:4 “..many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of men came to about five thousand.”
That doesn’t bring delight to the enemy of our soul, the devil. He hates every time a person truly repents and comes to faith in Christ. Sometimes we forget Satan is called the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31). He is called the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). He’s called the “god of this world”. That’s with a little “g”.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2Cor. 4:4)
That does not mean Satan has full authority. God is sovereign. God allows Satan limited power. There are limited boundaries as to what the Devil can do and is allowed to do.
1John 5:19 says “…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believing the Gospel. Believing in all God has given in Scriptures does not come without a price tag. The Gift of Salvation is a free gift. But there is a cost to walking with God. There is opposition from the enemy, and God allows His people to experience trials and suffering for the truth.
The first persecution of the church is seen here in Acts 4. It will become more intense as we make our way through the book of Acts. The early believers were not free from opposition. For over 2000 years the church has suffered much at the hands of her persecutors. Persecution that has been engineered by Satan and allowed by God.
The Church that was born on the day of Pentecost gives us much to learn from. Compromise is not an option for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It begins with the leadership. Leaders must never compromise, never back down, never give in to the enemies of the gospel.
The Apostles stood firm under trials. We’re going to learn from our passage how we too can be strong for Christ under trying times. We’re going to learn HOW TO STAND FIRM UNDER FIRE.
The hostility toward Christians is mounting. The hostitlity and hatred for the gospel; for Christ and His church is growing throughout the world.
We are called to be His witnesses. We are called to carry the message to a world that is trapped in the domain of the evil one.
1. Be Strong IN THE LORD! Stand Firm for Christ and Refuse to be Intimidated
Look at the people leading the opposition against the apostles-
Priests -the priest oversaw the sacrifices that were offered in the morning and the evening at the temple. A group of priest carried this out. Each group would do their priestly work for a period of two weeks. Another group would come in for their two week period. There were a total of 24 groups of priest. They came from different parts of the land of Israel and fulfilled their annual obligation at the temple. These priest were greatly disturbed at the preaching of Peter and the gathering at the temple the thousands and thousands of believers in Christ.
Captain of the temple - the captain of the temple was the head of security. He was the head over the temple police. Security was a big deal. Order had to be maintained and that was their job. With this massive crowd coming to the temple and worshipping and calling upon the name of Jesus Christ posed a real problem for security.
Sadducees - This was a religious group that controlled the operations of the temple. The Sadducees were an aristocratic group detached from the common man. It was a Sadducees who was primarily the high priest with all the other priest taking orders from him. One thing about the Sadducees - they only believed the first 5 books of the Bible were inspired. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuternomy. Since nothing is said about the resurrection in those first 5 books, or the Pentateuch, then they said – there was not resurrection.
Here you see their grievance against Peter preaching Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead.
The Sadducees were more political than religious. They worked to keep the Roman Emperor happy. Any problem with Rome meant they could lose their prestigious position. They saw the Apostles and the growing church of five thousand and more as a threat to their stability.
No wonder it says in v.2 THEY WERE GREATLY ANNOYED. This is a very strong word.
A) BECAUSE THEY TAUGHT THE PEOPLE - who gave them the right to be teaching? The Sadducees ran the temple, they had their own teachers… Who do these Apostles think they are?
B) Because THEY TAUGHT….PROCLAIMING IN JESUS THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD..
Peter dared to preach what infuriated this religious group…. The very ones who had Jesus arrested and had him killed….
Peter refused to be intimidated by their presence, by their prestigious position, and by their threats…
When the religious rulers saw Peter and John… according to v.13 …they perceived that they were uneducated, common men….
Peter was NOT intimidated because the Religious Rulers had higher degrees in education…..
Peter was NOT intimidated because the Religious Rulers had a higher standing socially, and greater acceptance in the eyes of the Roman authorities.
This is a lesson for us…. When you are in a prestigious place and you’re called upon to be the Lord’s witness……refuse to let anyone intimidate you…… YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE KING…
Be Bold like Peter and John…. Stay firm for Christ!
2. Be Patient IN THE LORD Stand Firm For Christ by NOT taking matters into your own hands…
There will be a time to act and a time to speak. Be patient and wait for God to give you the green light to proceed. Under Fire we are tempted to take matters into our own hands….
they arrested them
Peter responded different here than when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. There in the Garden of Gethsemane soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Peter took his sword and cut off the ear of the servant to the high priest. Jesus told him to put away his sword. (Matthew 26:52)
Nothing is said as to what Peter and John said, but one thing is clear, there’s a different response. Peter is not swinging a sword.
Peter is following the example of His Lord: 1Peter 2:21-23
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
v.4 being arrested and put in jail - positive results –
Five thousand men came to believe in the Lord Jesus!
vv.5-6 The high priest – Annas - actually the high priest was Caiaphas, but Annas called the shots. Caiaphas was the son-in-law to Annas. Caiaphas married Annas’ daughter. Even though Caiaphas was given the position of high priest by the Romans, Annas still had much control and that’s why he’s called high priest.
John and Alexander are both believed to be the sons of Annas. All who were of the high -priestly family.
v.7 set them in the midst - the custom for those put on trial to be in the middle and surrounding the accused is the Sanhedrin – the court of 70 elders. This is the Supreme Court of Israel. That’s an even number, so if there’s a tie in voting for a verdict, the high priest would cast the deciding vote.
· Important to note - there’s not protest march on behalf of Peter and John….
· Peter and John are not demanding their rights…
· They exercised patience while under this trial…
8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness (patience) of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Being patient is key to enduring during times of suffering, difficulties and especially times of persecution.
by what power or by what name did you do this?
The time has come to witness before the Sanhedrin. The door is opened.
3. BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT Be Spirit-Filled!
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit! Going back to what we’ve said about Peter when he pulled out a sword…at that time HE WAS FILLED WITH PETER…
Here’s the opposite… He’s filled with the Spirit… He has yielded control to the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus told his disciples what the Holy Spirit would do for them…
19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
This is about TRUSTING the Lord! (repeat) Don’t be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
You can’t prepare for all the contingencies of life! We don’t know what will face us tomorrow, or next month. There are trials you may be facing now. Trials that are yet to come for you.
It may be in the form of persecution, or just simply some “trial in your life”.
We don’t need to be “filled with anxieties” “filled with fear”;
We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. You simply, say, “Lord Jesus…have your will in my life…Help me to respond to whatever happens in the way that brings glory to your name. And I’m trusting in what You provide; I’m trusting you to provide words to say, I’m trusting you to provide the strength to endure; and provide the courage to stand strong. My trust is in You dear Lord Jesus.”
I was reading about a great missionary…..actually he’s called the “Father of Modern Day Missions” William Carey. He lived between 1761 – 1834. He was a Baptist preacher in England who had a great desire to do mission work in India. At that time churches didn’t do a lot of mission work. They believed the Great Commission was given only to the apostles.
William Carey didn’t get a lot of encouragement to go on the mission field. His wife, at first, was strongly against the idea. She changed her mind and agreed to go with him to Calcutta, India.
When they arrived in India, Carey was met with resistance by the British government and private companies who threatened to kick him out of the country. Carey stayed through the threats and hardships receiving very little money from back home in England. He had to support his family by working on an indigo plantation. Tragedy hit, because his five year old son, Peter, got sick and died and his wife literally went insane. She screamed constantly and had to be bound in a secluded room so that she wouldn’t harm herself. She remained that way for 12 years until she died.
William Carey worked at learning the language of eastern India, and translated the New Testament into Bengali in 1801. He translated portions of scriptures in 34 languages; and the entire Bible into six languages.
William Carey is an example of a Christian filled with the Spirit. He was empowered by the Spirit to do a magnificent work giving the gospel to the unreached people of India. His famous quote is “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things from God.”
by what power or by what name did you do this? (v.7)
v.8 Then Peter……….. said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders……..”
WHAT PETER SAYS --- COMES FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT…
4. PROCLAM THE GOSPEL OF Christ…..
(a) With Certainty…. There’s clarity in Peter’s witness …. He’s clear… Peter gives certainty as to the WHO, the What, and the How…
v.8 Rulers of the people and elders –PETER IS Certain as to WHO he is addressing…
v.9 if we are being examined (if we are on trial) today ….. PETER IS CERTAIN as to What the question is concerning (what the issue is all about)….by what means did this man become healed…???
v.10 let it be known to all of you………by the name of Jesus -- PETER IS CERTAIN as to how the man was now stands before them well
Peter gave a Clear presentation. Nothing fuzzy about what he said. No one walking away wondering what he said. ALL THE FACTS were presented. The Holy Spirit helped him to make it clear.
This is different than the Peter we knew when Jesus was betrayed, arrested, deserted by his disciples. Peter stood around a campfire and denied that he knew Jesus when questioned by a servant girl. (Matthew 26:69-75)
a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 1 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter was restored. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He stood before the Sanhedrin…the highest court in the land and with CERTAINTY….and with CLAIRITY…..THERE’S NO GUESSING WHERE PETER STANDS…
(b) WITH BOLDNESS
v.11 This Jesus is the stone……..
This is a bold statement --- He quotes the Old Testament - from the Psalms
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
The Sadduecees…the priests, the rulers , and elders -- they are the builders of the Jewish religious establishment……. They decide what to use in their religious structure. Jesus comes along and they rejected him. Jesus did not fit into their theological mold. Jesus did not fit their man-centered, works-based religion.
Isaiah 53:3 “he was despised and rejected by men”
Jesus is the One who “came unto his own, and his own received him not”
11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)
Peter was BOLD to answer their question—YOU ASK BY WHAT AUTHORITY I AM DOING WHAT I DO?
“The Messiah whom you beat, humiliated, rejected, and killed- yet whom God has raised from the dead—is my authority.”
How is it that Peter is BOLD and Courageous in his proclamation of the Gospel?
1- First – it’s because of the Holy Spirit. The boldness from the Holy Spirit….we’ve already pointed that out.
2- Secondly -it’s because the Resurrection is undeniably true! Christ had been murdered, but God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. To that they were witnesses! But there’s another resurrection they were confident of---their own resurrection---Jesus promised they would be resurrected.
He promised Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus who had died would rise again.
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:21-27)
DEATH will NOT have the Last word!
Tony Merida writes in his commentary
“Most of us will never have to face physical death because of our faith. However, some of us might. Take courage no matter what you face because all who are united to Jesus will be raised like jesus. As Martin Luther said, “The body they may kill, His truth abideth still!” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)”
Proclaim the Gospel of Christ with CERTAINTY, with BOLDNESS, and
(c) With Exception
When it comes to Salvation and going to Heaven - there is an exception clause –
v.12 Only one way to be saved…..
Peter preached the exclusivity of the gospel.
There is salvation in no one else - there’s no salvation in Muhammed, or Allah, or Buddha
WE ARE SAVED BY CHRIST ALONE.
No other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - UNDER HEAVEN….. in case someone says “Jesus is the way to be saved for those who live in this particular part of the world.” UNDER HEAVEN—that includes all people of all geographical areas….everyone lives “under heaven”.
· There’s not “many paths” to God, the path is ONE, and the path is NARROW. YOU CANNOT COME UP with your own path….DESIGN your own ideas to get to God…. GOD HAS PROVIDED ONLY ONE REMEDY FOR SINNERS--- THE ATONING DEATH OF CHRIST--- THE ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS ACCEPTED BY GOD IS THAT OF CHRIST--- WE TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS HE PROVIDES ON OUR BEHALF…
· Wrong to think-- we are being loving by affirming to others that there are other ways to be saved…….we may think it’s the loving thing to say – I believe you praying to Allah is your way to be saved…you are so sincere…. You kneel on a pray rug five times a day….I see your sincerity…THAT’S NOT BEING LOVING…….. IF YOU LOVE THEM…YOU WILL TELL THEM THE TRUTH…… a DOCTOR may know the cure to a deadly disease…. Is it a loving thing to withhold that information?
· Jesus Christ is the ONLY cure for sin! A person may be VERY sincere in their faith. It’s not the sincerity of faith that saves. It’s the object of faith -and that OBJECT IS NONE OTHER THAN THE LORD JESUS.
1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,
John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.