Acts 4:23-31 Fearless servants

Peter and John left the temple grounds and went to the assembly of believers. They wanted to both share what had happened and be filled again to go out and do the work of the Messiah.

It was important that they share what had happened so all the rest would know what was going on and what to expect from the rulers. They could rejoice that they were able to preach the gospel directly to the leaders. Jesus had told them they would be taken before leaders and here it had happened. Now they had started the mission Jesus gave them.

They first praised God for his sovereignty and his plan. They remembered how God had been with them all a long. They praised God for his power and majesty and how they expected God to help them since it was his plan.

Instead of being afraid because of the threats of powerful men, they wanted God to prepare them to continue. They had been afraid before Pentecost, but now with the Holy Spirit filling and guiding them, they had the boldness and courage to be plain and forceful in preaching. They were so focused on their mission given by Jesus, they did not worry about what would happen to them. They wanted more power to continue rather than protection.

The reference to Psalm 2 showed that they expected there to be blow back. But they did not want to shirk their duty so they asked for boldness not security. They asked for what to say and that signs and wonders would be there. They knew that proclaiming God’s kingdom would need a display for people to really get it.

Jesus was the Son of God and they intended to follow where Jesus said to go. They asked for healing which was a large part of what Jesus did. They had regrouped and encouraged each other. Now they all could go out and keep on preaching, and casting out demons.

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Dealing with officials

Acts4:1-12 

It was a kind of turf battle when the Disciples were teaching in the Temple. The leaders of Israel and the Temple had things going the way they wanted. Now these country bumpkins were doing something not allowed. They were preaching about Jesus who they had already killed. They were teaching people about resurrection. These were doctrines they did not want spread about.

So all these leaders (plus a few I think) went to the Disciples as they were preaching and teaching in the Temple and told them to stop. They wanted to keep to tradition and what was allowed by the Romans and not have to deal with something new and probably dangerous.

Then they arrested Peter and the others. From the way it is said that they were treated a bit roughly. They were thrown in the “jail” until the Sanhedrin could be called and decide about this problem. According to commentaries, the list of names shows those who were part of the High Priest’s family plus rich and powerful residents of Jerusalem.

But because it was God at work, the people responded to what Peter and the others said to them. More people believed in Jesus as the Messiah. More wanted to belong to this group that saw miracles and power. It did not matter what the leaders thought because it was the Holy Spirit working among the common people. More were added to the church to 5000. That is a huge jump in the numbers of this budding sect of Jesus.

So the Sanhedrin brought Peter and John to interrogate them. Why did you heal this man? How could you do such a thing? They could not believe that Jesus was still active. Healing a man born lame was not done.

But Peter was not intimidated by the Temple leaders nor the rich and powerful men.. He relied on the Holy Spirit to give him the words he needed. He told them it was in the name and by the power of Jesus of Nazareth that this cripple was healed. He is the Christ whom you crucified and who rose from the dead. Jesus is the model and “corner stone” of the new fellowship. He is the one who was supposed to be the leader of the Jews in revival. He is quoting Psalm 118:22. That whole Psalm is a prophecy of Christ.

They would have known that he was pointedly showing them their mistake. However, the men listening to the Disciples were not about to consider that they were wrong. Peter goes on to say that there is salvation in no one else. Moses was considered their savior so this statement would make them more angry.

There was no way in the world that these men of the Sanhedrin would change their mind. They liked the power they had and the respect they had from the people. They were blinded by the spirits of the world and could not see Jesus for who he was.

When we talk to people who are in power, we will have this same problem. We have to know in advance that we have to rely on the Holy Spirit and we may get in trouble.  Let us take  courage and go when called.

Why Jesus? to the Jews

Acts 3:20-26

Peter is preaching again in the Temple. God’s plan has been that salvation and renewal would come from the Messiah, Jesus. In his name you can have freedom and peace and refreshment in your hearts and souls. Long ago God planned that He would come and bring this salvation to people on earth. This salvation was spoken of by the prophets. It is for you personally if you will believe in him.

Now he must remain in heaven with God until the time of the end when all the things prophesied come to be. Jesus will be in heaven with God the Father working for those of us in his kingdom. All of the things prophesied will be completed, and then it will be the end.

He says that all of you, here in the temple, are descendants of the prophets and are aware that Moses said God would send another prophet like him. So now here is that prophet, Jesus, that you must listen to and be obedient to. For anyone who does not listen and obey will be cut off, destroyed from among the people.

This warning is pretty strong since all of Israel was under oppression of the Romans. The ancient prophets had said there would be another prophet who could lead people out from oppression like Moses. One who could talk to God face to face. But Jesus was not going to do anything about the Romans. His message was of escaping spiritual oppression of sin and the Devil.

Jesus wanted people to recognize God and return to worship of God instead of power and material things. The covenant with God was still active if they would do their part. (see Deuteronomy) Jesus came to Israel, Judah, first because of this covenant. But the people had to respond to God with faith in Jesus and repent of their sins in him instead of going to the Temple. This was pretty radical since they were standing in the Temple, going to prayer.

Peter says “this Jesus who was killed by you, has been raised from the dead.” This verifies that he is God’s special son. Because he is alive again people can see that God’s power is in him. He came to bless you when you believe in him, and encourage you to turn from your evil ways.

This same warning is for us today. We need to turn from our idols of material things and ideologies, to Jesus who is our only savior and redeemer.

The Offer of Salvation

Acts 3 11-19 

When the lame man was healed, there began an uproar. This was so unusual that people were shouting and praising God. Many people who were in the temple ran over to see why people were so loud. When they heard what had happened, they too began to shout and praise God. God was among them again. Miracles like those Elijah did were happening again.

Peter took the initiative to speak about what had happened. Because they had not had miracles since Jesus died, they needed to know that in Jesus name miracles could happen. He is very clear that mere human power could not do this amazing thing. It was God.

In fact God was glorifying Jesus showing that faith in his name could continue what Jesus had been doing. He was very careful to make plain that it was not they who did this, but God. God was near and powerful. He was also careful to make sure they knew it was the same God they all had already worshiped.

Peter then told the crowd how they had been part of the whole incident. He is quite blunt telling them that they had been party to an injustice causing an innocent man to be crucified. He was trying to call them in and help them see that they were wrong so they could repent.

Peter said they had rejected the Holy and Righteous one (Messiah). He was the source of life who rose from the dead. Probably all the Apostles were there and they all could testify to the risen Lord. It was faith in his name that healed the lame man. Jesus now was in his heavenly kingdom but available to those who believed in him as Son of God.

Peter then tells them that they were ignorant but this was how scripture was fulfilled. So they have a chance to repent and have their sin blotted out. This is an opportunity to exercise their faith in a new way. They were guilty, but God wanted to restore them as they repented.

Now in Jesus they could heal too. They could be close to God in a new way. A new kind of spirit was available to those who believed in Jesus. It was an invitation to come to God in a special way.

Miracle at the Temple

Acts 3:1-10  

There were three daily public prayer times at the Temple. One in the morning, one at noon and one in the afternoon. Peter and John were going to pray as was a common things among Jews. There was a service with sacrifice inn the late afternoon.

Also there was a place for the crippled and poor to sit and beg. Begging was not looked down on then as now. It was known that some people would need help and giving to them alms was was one way to bless them and to fulfill the commandment to take care of their fellow Jews.

The scene is set for the miracle.

This one cripple was carried in by friends or relatives so he could beg for alms. He was at the gate where Peter and John were going in.  They were moved by compassion and got the beggars attention. Peter told the man that they had no money but that they would give what they had from Jesus. He commanded the cripple to walk in Jesus name. Then helped him up. That was enough to get up on his feet and for God to heal his legs and feet.

The man was so excited that he began to leap and jump and run around while praising God. This surprised everyone around. This was a new kind of prayer. The Holy Spirit was acting through ordinary people! This was a healing like no other.

The two disciples gave something more powerful and useful than mere money. Now he could walk around and go to worship by himself. Now he could work and give alms himself. He could visit his family and be a productive member of both his family and the nation. His life was given back to him not just the healing.

Those seeing the man who used to be a cripple were astonished and wondered at this new thing. Luke doesn’t say if the onlookers continued to praise God over time. Those who were amazed could now have a new understanding of God’s love. No longer did they have to remind themselves of Abraham and Moses but they saw God’s work themselves.

The man now had to learn to live all over again. He had been a beggar for a while so he would have to find a job he could do. He could work within his family and develop new habits.

Are we bold enough to pray like this? Do we have the confidence that God is in us to work the kingdom when we ask?

The church grows

Acts 2:40-47 

Peter was persuasive to the crowd, so many were willing to become believers in Jesus as the Messiah. They heard him say “be saved from this corrupt generation.” They understood that this was a new call from God to follow God better. The people around them were doing whatever they wanted instead of following God.

They were commanded to love God above all else, yet many did what looked fun and good instead of the scriptures. Over and over God warned his people not to follow those around them. But they did anyway. God wanted to bless them but if they wandered away they would be cursed instead as a consequence.

So now they had a choice. Would they believe that Jesus fulfilled the scriptures and let Jesus Messiah lead them into all the blessings God had for them? They had the Apostles to teach them and scriptures to learn better. The Apostles could talk from their experience of being with Jesus all those 3 years. They also learned about communion and community in breaking bread together. Prayer was part of a devout Jews life they just had to do it in the name of Jesus.

Fear came over them. Partly fear of punishment for sin and partly fear of God’s all knowing power. The signs and wonders the Apostles did showed the power God gave to believers through the Holy Spirit. Thus they became aware 0f their sinfulness and did not stand on their birthright in Abraham. They were ready to repent, renounce their disobedience and indifference to God’s way. Then they could fully embrace Jesus.

All the believers, both the ones who had been with Jesus and these new ones, were now united in heart and mind. Because of this they shared life (meals) and possessions with each other. They also gathered together to share the Lord’s communion and prayers. When someone was in real need, others would sell some possessions and give the money to those in need. As they came under persecution this was very important. This was a continuation of the habits of Jews to care for their brothers and sisters of faith.

Because they were united, they went as a group to the Temple to pray and worship. This would have made them obvious to everyone. They were continuing their religious habits of worship, prayer and alms giving. They associated with each other all the time, also eating at each other’s houses and sharing what food they had. They were forging a community of believers who looked after each other.

As they went about their days, going to the Temple as a group and sharing everything, they gained the good will of others. Their example and the love they extended to others brought more into the community of faith in Jesus. Their love brought others to want to know Jesus Christ.

What can we do to be more like this? It takes work to love each other through disagreements and differing opinions. It takes commitment to always be thinking about the others in our church. It also means that we must have a group of less than 100 persons in our personal group. Beyond that number it is so difficult to know each one well enough to know what they need. Any church of any size can have groups like this.

Who Jesus really was 

Acts 2:22-35

So many want to know who Jesus is today. Is Jesus God? Is he merely a wise teacher? Who needs a savior?  Why  at that time?

It was according to God the Father’s plan. Jesus could not come until the fullness of time. There had to be certain things in place. I think the Roman peace was one of those. They made roads and thus the Apostles could travel to places farther away and preach the Good News. They also enforce peace stronger than had been true before and thus it was safe to travel. It would be the Romans who would kill Jesus on the cross, to lift him up as scripture said. I think John the Baptist had to come too as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Also because of the Romans, people wanted the Messiah to come now. They felt oppressed by taxes as well as that their culture was threatened. The Temple had been secularized by the Romans and they longed to see God move again. This made them more open to hear a new teacher, prophet.

Jesus was so different from what was expected of the Messiah, the leaders and most people had a hard time accepting him as a prophet, let alone the Messiah. But many of the ordinary and poor people heard love and hope in his preaching. He proved himself of God by healing miracles and power miracles. His message of God’s love was what they wanted.

His arrest made many wonder what was going on. But here Peter shows them that this was part of a plan of God. Jesus had to be killed and raised from the dead to usher in the new life in the Spirit. It was not a random thing that Jesus was arrested and Crucified. Those who were standing there listening had been part of the sequence when they demanded that Jesus be crucified. They had guilt to confess and repent of.

Because Jesus was the Son of God the psalm 16 of David was prophetic. He could not stay in Hades or have his body putrefy. So of course God’s Spirit raised him up alive. This proves that Jesus is indeed the savior of humankind. He now can give to those who believe in him a life beyond this life.

David died and his tomb was there for all to see. However Jesus had no tomb but had gone to sit at the right hand of the Father. Instead he sent the Holy Spirit to enliven and fill people who believed in him so that they could continue his work of healing and preaching salvation.

Peter was saying that today we are showing you all, the truth of this, through the power of the Spirit. We were witnesses of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. We have been with him the whole time. What we are saying is true, we are not drunk babblers. Hear, repent, and accept that Jesus is Lord.

Peter’s sermon to the crowd

Acts 2:13-21

Peter, being the most impulsive, stood up to get the crowd’s attention. He wanted them to know the truth of what had happened. He was beginning to be an evangelist. The accusation from worldly logic was that all these people were drunk, babbling incoherently. But Peter said “no. This is the work of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus.”

There have been some efforts to see if the Spirit tongues are real languages. Philologists have not been able to find the grammar in it in a lab setting. What I read said that sounds repeat in no kind of sentence. However many of those who do speak in tongues today, can tell some things about the language they speak. Some times it is demanding, other times comforting. In worship, not in a lab, it is easier to have a sense of what is being said.

Peter was trying to show the crowd a reason to believe in Jesus so he quoted Joel abut prophecy in the last days. For these to be speaking of God in different languages pointed to the prophecy of men and women being filled with the Spirit. He was inviting them to believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

Peter told them it was time to repent and turn back to God. It was time to follow the Spirit of the Law(Torah). It was time to look to God for help and guidance. The Holy Spirit was available to anyone who believed in Jesus for help and comfort. Anyone could call on the name of Jesus and be saved.

It was like he was reminding the Jews of the Babylonian captivity. Too many sins had piled up and God’s patience had run out. Formal religion was not enough. People needed to actively love God and take care of those in need. Every person for themselves did not honor God.

The signs that would precede this destruction were visible to anyone. A solar eclipse, volcano eruption, fires all around with their smoke. The issue was to believe the signs and prophecy of Jesus and not deny them. Repent,Turn back to God, and call on the name of the Lord.

The great day of the Lord was coming very soon. This meant that God’s frustration with the Jewish people was about to overflow. They were going through the motions of sacrifice and prayer, but there hearts were not turned towards God. The consequences of ignoring the Covenant of God had come. The Romans would demolish Jerusalem in 70 AD but all the Christians were warned by the Holy Spirit specifically and fled to a small town near by, Pella. This is recorded by Josephus in his history of the Jews.

Do not be afraid to let the Holy Spirit speak through you. Tongues are meant to strengthen your inner man. Praying in tongues will strengthen your faith and give you hope. Sometimes it is The Holy Spirit speaking to someone in a different language. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will know what to do when the disasters come close to you, as did the Christians in Jerusalem. It is spiritual discipline to allow the Holy Spirit to tell things to your inner man that you need to know.

The Pentecost Miracle

Acts 2: 1-12                             

Pentecost was one of the important Jewish feasts. It celebrated 2 of the important things in Jewish life. The first is the giving of the 10 commandments on Mt Sinai. In the thunder on the mountain there were voices for all the world. The second is celebrating the end of the grain harvest. It was celebrated at Jerusalem as a feast of the whole nation of Israel.

The giving of the Torah or law defined Jews so it was like a constitution of a nation. This celebration would have some similarity to American 4th of July. There were special readings from the Torah and worship. Some special foods and stories to share. There was a special dance of celebration of the men at the altar. Every one in the household was to be there. There were many animal sacrifices so it was definitely a feast (BBQ in our culture).

During the festivities, a loud sound like wind storm came in and fire came out of the wind. The fire did not burn anyone but it divided and hovered over each Disciple there. It is likely they were in the Temple because they met there frequently and there was a multitude near by.

In fact, because all the Disciples were speaking in other dialects and languages the other people were puzzled. They gathered around and discovered that the disciples were speaking the languages of the countries around the Mediterranean, as well as inland. What was astonishing was that they knew these men were from Galilee and thus not well educated. Probably they knew this because of their accent and clothes. So how could these uneducated men be speaking other languages? In any case they heard about the glories of God in their own native languages.

To those who were around when the roar of this wind came, this situation was very startling and they could not make sense of it. At this point it was a curiosity. It was not connected to anything that made sense.

For us who believe it is the beginning of the Holy Spirit being with us in the church. Now the work of learning how to live with this amazing power begins. God was showing that the disconnection of each group from the Tower of Babel was reversed. God was interested in all people not just Jews.

I think some of church people are still amazed and puzzled about speaking in tongues. It is strange to someone who does not see scripture as pointing to God’s greater glory for the church. Some are afraid of it and the power it brings. God does not live in our box of doctrine. Rather it is us who have to learn how to find G0d any way.

However speaking in tongues under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a way to connect with heaven. It can lead to healing, visions and wisdom. Do not let fear stop you from enjoying this blessing of heaven here and now.

Replacement Apostle 

Acts 1:15-26

Twelve was an important number for the Jews. There were 12 tribes of the patriarchs. Jesus chose 12 men to be his closest companions. Now that Judas was gone, how would they regain this number 12. Peter was not shy and so he stood up and addressed those in the upper room. He referred to Psalms of David that spoke to this situation.

Psa 69:25 May their camp become desolate and their tents remain unoccupied.

Psa 69:26 For they persecute those whom you have struck, and they brag about the pain of those you have wounded.

Psa 109:4 Instead of receiving my love, they accuse me, though I continue in prayer.

Psa 109:7 When he is judged, may he be found guilty; may his prayer be regarded as sin.

Psa 109:8 May his days be few; may another take over his position.

So they decide to replace Judas with someone who had traveled with them and Jesus since the beginning. They wanted God to choose who would be appropriate because God would know their heart and destiny. They discussed among themselves who might be good. They ended up with 2 names of men they considered eligible.

They wanted someone who had been with them since Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist to the ascension. They needed some one who had heard all of Jesus’ teaching and traveled with all of them. They wanted someone who could witness to the resurrection and ascension. Since this person would be an apostle he had to be familiar with Jesus and the other apostles. The resurrection was the main event they had to witness. This was the defining moment of Jesus as God.

So they took lots. We draw straws as a type of lots. We also cast dice as a type of lots. David used lots so it was something already a part of Jewish culture. I can’t find anyone who know exactly what type of lots these men meant. But it is possible they each took a pebble put a name on it, put it in a basket, and someone drew a name from a basket of all the stones.

They prayed before drawing lots wanting God to guide the choice. Matthias was the name chosen. He was enrolled as an apostle which implies they had a list of all those who regularly traveled with Jesus. They had shared food and life together for 3 years. Drawing lots cuts out a lot of political maneuvering and makes a more definite decision.

Judas had a terrible end after his betrayal of Jesus. One account says he hung himself. This one says he fell on his face and his body broke open. I read one commentary that said he could have hung himself and fallen that way. He died in the field he bought with his betrayal money. His effort to “out” Jesus ended in disaster.

There is such a contrast of the Disciples trying to do what God wanted and Judas doing his own thing.  The power of God is for good, and that of the flesh, especially from greed or jealousy, ends in trouble. We sometimes need a way to make sure we are not acting from the flesh. We could follow this example of lots. I know voting for offices leads, for some, to try to influence the vote. When we can discuss expectations and qualifications and not control the outcome, that is better. When we can pray and find from prayer we all agree on something or someone that is good.