We must obey God!

FI103017_TSW_Acts4Today, I am going to teach from Acts 5 to a group of kids at our church in the AWANA program. This group of kids is learning the book of Acts. This lesson is about obeying God rather than man. Just like there is such a thing as righteous indignation, there is also such a thing as righteous rebellion. This seems like a contradiction but, it actually complements the teachings in the Bible about subjection to earthly authority. In the heart of every human being, there is a spark of rebellion. We have this rebellious streak because of our sin nature. When raising children, we do not have to teach them to be rebellious. It comes naturally to them, just as it comes naturally to us. The definition of rebellion is “resisting an established law“. To resist means to take a stance against and refuse to move. As we know, laws are intended to be for the good of the people. Laws exist for the people and not the other way around. People do not exist for the sake of the law. Laws can be just and they can be unjust. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to surrender to the authority of the Word of God. When a law contradicts the Word of God, we have to stand on the Word of God even if it means standing against a societal law. Acts 5 lays this principle out for us and I would like to examine it in this article.

I. Unjust laws

At this point in the book of Acts, the church has been established and it is growing daily. Each follower of Christ sees himself as a disciple of Jesus whose mission in life is to spread the Word of the Living God to every people group on the face of the earth. In the book of Acts, the church grows the most after some form of conflict. There is a pattern that can easily be detected. The Christ followers teach the Word of God to others. External conflict arises in the form of persecution. The Christ followers overcome the conflict and the church continues to grow. Then, an internal conflict arises among the Christ followers. The conflict is overcome and the church continues to grow. An internal conflict is resolved in the first part of Acts 5. Now an external conflict appears. This is where our lesson picks up.

17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees ), and they were filled with jealousy.
18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. (Acts 5)

The spiritual leaders of the day are under pressure. Jesus exposed them for who they really were and they put Him to death, thinking that they had ended the threat. Now, His followers continue the work that He had begun. The religious leaders have become jealous of the Christ followers just as they had been jealous of Jesus. In order to squash the competition, the religious leaders have the leaders of the church put in prison, hoping to dishearten the movement and eliminate the threat.

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.”
21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. . . (Acts 5)

What they meant as a threat to stop the preaching of the Gospel actually opened the door for more opportunities to teach the Word of the Living Christ. At this point, the Christ followers have not practiced righteous rebellion. That is coming though. After hearing of what was going on, the religious leaders have the Christ followers brought before them, to question them.

27 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 and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” (Acts 5)

Actually, in this section, we discover that the Christ followers had been ordered not to teach the Word of God about Jesus, the Messiah and they had done it anyway. Why? Because they had a higher authority order them to teach the Word of God to the people. I love the accusation that is made about the Christ followers here. They were accused of filling Jerusalem with the Word of God about Jesus the Messiah. May that be the same accusation that is brought about each Christ follower today! How are they going to respond? On one hand, they are to surrender to authority, according to the Word of God. On the other hand, they are to surrender to the authority of the Word of God. Now, these two authorities are opposed to each other. They contradict one another. What will the Christ followers do?

II. A Christ follower’s response

The response that these people give is the same response that we have today. We live in a society with laws that contradict the Word of God. The Scriptures clearly teach us, “do not commit murder“, yet the laws of our land make is possible to murder vulnerable children in the womb. The Scriptures teach us to “honor our parents“, yet there are laws in our society that encourage students in public schools to dishonor their parents. The Scriptures teach not to “neglect the meeting together as the body of Christ” and we witnessed how the laws of our society forbade people from attending church in person for an extended period of time. The Scriptures teach us to “honor marriage” as God intended it to be yet, we live in a society that encourages people to dishonor God’s design for marriage in the form of gay marriage and cohabitation. How should we respond to these things? Let’s examine how the Christ followers in Acts 5 responded.

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.” (Acts 5)

These Christ followers have to obey God rather than the laws of man when the laws of man contradict the Word of God. Not only do they proclaim their allegiance to Christ, they also take the opportunity to preach Christ to their persecutors. Our response today must be the same as the response that these Christ followers gave. We must preach the Gospel that condemns the murder of vulnerable babies in the womb. We must preach the Gospel that teaches children to honor their parents in all things. We must preach the Gospel that commands believers to gather together in person to worship the Lord and to serve Him. We must preach the Gospel that commands society to honor marriage. Will it be easy? No! Will there be consequences? Yes! We must do it anyway.

III. Consequences

The Christ followers knew that there would be consequences for obeying God over the laws of man. They were ready to face those consequences.

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. (Acts 5:40)

The Christ followers were flogged simply for preaching the Word of the Living God. The word “flog” used in verse 40 means to beat until the skin flays. This was no simple spanking. This was no simple beating. This was a bloody, painful beating. The goal was to intimidate them and stop them from preaching Christ.

41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5)

These Christ followers rejoiced in their suffering because they were being persecuted for preaching Jesus Christ. They immediately went back to the temple and from house to house teaching Jesus Christ to the people. If we preach the Word of God, which opposes the popular culture, there will be consequences. There will be opposition. We know that. We do not fear that. We know the consequences and we do it any way!

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