Acts 5: 12 -42
We are sitting here, on a lovely sunny day in Roch, because two thousand years ago men and women stood and were beaten for the sake of the gospel. It is a privilege to come together, knowing that others before us took a beating so they could share the gospel, and then their sons and daughters could share the gospel, and their sons and daughters could share the gospel, and we have that beautiful privilege of meeting in freedom today.
This passage of scripture is quite challenging. I don’t know how you would respond if you were living at that time, and you were told not to go and tell people about Jesus, or you would be put into jail. What would you do?
The Book of Acts, Luke’s second volume, records for us what the early church was like. Luke’s first volume, his gospel, tells us all that Jesus did and taught. His second volume, Acts, tells us all that the risen Jesus did. So, we see here is Acts of the Apostles, or you could say, Acts of the Risen Jesus. We now look at everything Jesus did through His Spirit. He has ascended into heaven, and He sent His Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit lives and dwells in His people and they are helping His people live for Him. When you open the book of Acts you realise that there is a small group of people who follow the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the people who turned the world upside down. You and I stand on their shoulders.
Has God’s Spirit changed? Is the Holy Spirit who helped Peter on the day of Pentecost, when he preached to thousands, changed? Has God’s mission changed, to save a people for Himself? Has Jesus Christ changed? Has the cross changed? Is the cross not the same cross that Jesus Christ bled and died on and that is the only means and way of salvation? Has anything really changed? No! Nothing has changed. When Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, the Bible says He is waiting to return. We live in the last days, waiting for Jesus Christ to return. God’s Spirit has not changed and the cross stands still as the only means of salvation. God’s mission has not changed. He desires a people for Himself, even from Roch. The Commission has not changed. God has not changed. Until Jesus returns our mission hasn’t changed – we are called to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Take the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and share it with others who do not know him.
Pray drives evangelism. The apostles were doing many signs and wonders, and people were being healed. In chapter four, the apostles had already been arrested (4:29-30). They prayed and their prayer was answered. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If you believe this and have a God-Man who intercedes for you, you can pray to Him. The apostles prayed and were able to do extraordinary things. If you think, ‘Well, I couldn’t do that,’ you would be right. But God can! Christ healed a blind man, the deaf and the lame. God can do all those things because He is God. Evangelism is driven by prayer. God is the one who opens all the doors, who gives us opportunities, the one who answers our prayers. It is ludicrous, as Christians, we don’t pray to the God of heaven, the giver of all things. Pray for an opportunity to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is about speaking life. The apostles were arrested because they were preaching and they were healing. They were doing all sorts of wonderful things. But the High Priest didn’t like it, the Sadducees didn’t like it. They arrested them (v.17). They put them in a public prison. But an angel of the Lord brought them out and said, ‘Get on with it! Go and stand in the temple court and speak to the people words of life.’ (v.19). The apostles got together (v.21). Did they have a big discussion whether they should obey the angel? No. An angel of the Lord comes and tells them what to do and they do it. They are obedient and they go. At the Ascension Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and a cloud hid Him from their sight as they were watching. Immediately two angels come down and said, ‘What are you doing looking at the sky? Why are you looking up there when you should be looking all around you and getting on with the task of evangelism?
Evangelism is about speaking life. It is so important that an angel of the Lord comes and breaks them out of prison and tells them, ‘Get on with it.’ My friends, this is not a message about purchasing some goods, what colour paint you should buy, what your homes or gardens should look like. It has got nothing to do with this. This is about the words of life. This is about life that every one of us needs, that we live in a beautiful but broken word, that sin has entered in and the wages of sin is death. We experience sin in our bodies and we get old and we creaky and things fail. Yet Jesus Christ came to deal with the problem of sin and death. The good news about the gospel is not just having your legs healed and about being able to see. There is much more than that. It is about having this new life where you have a relationship with God, where you will know Him now and forever, into eternity. We are called to go out and give the words of life. Jesus Christ is the only way. There is no other way in which men and women, boys and girls can be saved. We need to know what God is calling us to do, what is He calling us to be more urgent about in our speaking to others?
Evangelism is driven by prayer, evangelism is about speaking life, but evangelism is about what God is doing. The apostles go back into the temple courts (v.27) and once again they are brought back to the Council, questioned and told, ‘We strictly told you not to teach in this name, yet you are doing the things we told you not to do!’ And they reply, “We must obey God rather than men,” (v.29). Scripture calls us to obey the authorities. In one sense, they are obeying the authorities. They get arrested and they don’t oppose being arrested. They let themselves be arrested. There is one thing we cannot disobey and that is we must be obedient to the laws. But here they are in Acts chapter 5 saying they must obey God rather than men. Even though they are told not to speak in the name of Jesus, they say,’ No, we must obey God, because here are the words of life that people must hear, for there is no other name.’ That’s what Jesus did, isn’t it? He obeyed the will of His Father, not His own. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was sweating drops of blood, knowing what He would go to, yet He did it, “Not My will but Yours.”
You and I face many dilemmas today, we are faced with complicated situations. We live in a very privileged society, in a very privileged country where there really isn’t that much dilemma about obeying God. We have freedoms, and as we have these freedoms we are not challenged, are we? There is no-one really threatening to put us in prison here in Roch. Don’t get me wrong, there might be cultural variations, there might be regional variations, there might be other variations, maybe a part of a city where it might be more difficult. But it is not about what is happening there, it’s about what is happening here. What is God calling you and me to do?
We have this word of life, and we are living in not difficult days but complex days. With God’s help, we will all know is it that God is calling us to do.
Evangelism is driven by prayer, evangelism is about speaking life, evangelism is about what God is doing in and through us. God is the one who is saving. Finally, the way we live can really help (v 38-39). The apostles are persistent, they are not giving up, they are willing to be put into prison time and time again. If it is from God, God is not going to fail. If this is from God, don’t get in the way or you will be opposing God.
My friends, as you and I live out our lives, as we go about sharing the gospel, the way we live really can help people to hear the gospel. You and I might not have a single conversation with somebody this week, but the way you live really can influence the way people listen to the gospel.
Evangelism is driven by prayer, evangelism is about speaking life, evangelism is about what God is doing in and through us as we are obedient to Him, and the way we live can really help us in our evangelising.