When we looked at the fledgling church yesterday, we saw that they were completely focused on Jesus and that they showed their joy by sharing all they had with each other. Today we see problems already creeping into the family.
Ananias and Saphira were part of the gathering. They sold property and gave most of the money to the group. Remember, there was no requirement to do this – it was a voluntary act. These two didn’t give all, but told the leadership that it was the entire amount. They could have told the truth and said that they kept some back, but instead they lied to God. His punishment was swift – death to both of them. This reminded everyone else that they needed to take God very, very seriously. Yikes! They may not have been true believers… why else would they have lied like that? It brings to mind a Scripture:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 (KJV)
The Holy Spirit was empowering the apostles, and it angered the High Priest and the Sadducees. They imprisoned the apostles. An angel came and let them out and they went back to their preaching. They were brought (but not by force – they didn’t want to be killed by the people). The High Priest demanded to know why their edict to not speak of Jesus wasn’t being obeyed.
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32 (ESV)
Have you ever had to make a choice whether to follow the dictates of the world, follow the crowd, or maybe even follow instructions that you knew were illegal – or follow what you knew God wanted you to do? The apostles were always being threatened with beatings and death for their testimony, and this time they were beaten before release.
God protected them yet again because of the calming words of Gamaliel.
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:33-42 (ESV)
Wise advice – and because it was of God, the apostles were able to continue to teach and preach.
The apostles were charged with the spreading of the Gospel, and the band of believers was growing. The Hellenists, Greek-speaking Jews that apparently had a language barrier to overcome, complained that their widows were being shorted when the time for distribution of food. The apostles knew that they couldn’t do it all, so they appointed men who could communicate with this group of people. The most well-known of these seven was Stephen, who was stoned for his testimony. A young man named Saul watched the stoning and even agreed with it.
As we conclude our week, we see the believers being scattered throughout the world, spreading the Gospel as Jesus commissioned.
…and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8 (KJV)
This weekend, I pray that you contemplate the ways that YOU are a witness to those around you. In America, we are fortunate to be able to speak (most of the time) without any repercussions; however, we see examples of Christians being forbidden to wear crosses, or keep Bibles or Scripture quotes on their desks. This is not “persecution” as it was seen in the fledgling church. We can still talk about Jesus to everyone. Will that continue forever? Take time now to witness for Him. We don’t know when or how persecution may arrive – no matter where in the world we live. Don’t worry about what you will say – God promises that the Holy Spirit will help you.
God bless you as you go about your weekend activities. Attend church and worship wholeheartedly!
See you Sunday.