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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - Acts 4:1-24

Skip Heitzig - Acts 4:1-24

Skip Heitzig - Acts 4:1-24
Skip Heitzig - Acts 4:1-24
TOPICS: Expound, Bible Study, Book of Acts

Father, we do want to speak to You in prayer. And though I'm doing the praying here, my brothers and sisters I believe are in agreement when we say we need You and we need to hear from You. We need Your instruction. We need Your encouragement. We need Your reproof. We need the foundations of our lives that many of us have been fed with and weaned on in the scriptures. We need those to be reinforced. We need to build line upon line, verse upon verse. And Father, we just want to know the mind of the spirit. So Lord, as we look at a chapter that is a historical cutout of the early church, things that happened to Peter and John and to the earliest disciples when the gospel was first getting its footing in Jerusalem, and we consider our church and Your people in this century, in this time era, Father, we pray that we might take those timeless principles and apply them in our time. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Well, let me refresh your memory. On the day of Pentecost, we remember that there was a physical miraculous phenomena that occurred. The cloven tongues as of fire was over the heads of the 120 followers of Christ that had gathered in an upper room. It was quite amazing. They had never seen it before. They would never see it again. It was the very beginning of the church. Jesus said He would build His church. He starts doing it on that day, the day of Pentecost. That's the birth of the church. And so they looked around the room, and they could see what looked like fire on top of the heads or above the heads of all those in that room. I'm sure it was shocking.

Well, that fire has long gone. However, though the fire that was once on their head has gone, the fire that is in their heart still remains. They have a burning heart. And we pick up the story of after Peter's sermon, Peter and John going into the temple with burning hearts. I'm using that phrase because you'll recall at the end of the Gospel of Luke, there were two disciples unaware of the resurrection, taking a journey from Jerusalem to a nearby village called Emmaus. Jesus shows up. They don't recognize Him. He starts talking to them, explaining the scriptures, and then vanishes.

And once they realized it was Jesus, one said to the other, did not our heart burn within us, as He talked to us on the road and opened the scriptures to us. So, with burning hearts still, Peter and John go at the hour of prayer into the temple complex. They had been in Solomon's porch. A crowd gathered. Peter preached the gospel.

Now they're going up at the hour of prayer, two ordinary men on an ordinary day. But God has an extraordinary plan. Peter and John had no idea what was about to happen. They just did what they ordinarily did, but God will extraordinarily show up. I wondered what might happen if you decided to live your life that way. That you would approach each day, OK, it's a day. It's an ordinary day. I plan to get up, have breakfast, do my ordinary things, go to my ordinary occupation, my ordinary duties with other ordinary people. However, because I serve an extraordinary God, what might happen?

When you frame life that way, you set yourself up for an adventure. And I've always loved the idea of following God as an adventure. I love adventures. And I love the concept that following God could mean anything. Anything's possible. With God, Jesus said, nothing shall be impossible. So what might that extraordinary God want to do with an extraordinary plan in an ordinary fella's life? I love that. Psalm 37 declares the steps of a righteous man or woman are ordered by the Lord. And He delights in his way. What if you were to just think that as you get out of bed, the steps that I take, ordinary steps, are ordered by the Lord. Thus, God could do something amazing in my life today. Well, that sort of sets up what we're about to read in chapter 4.

As exciting as that seems, here's the unexciting part. Ready? They're about to go in. An extraordinary thing is going to happen. A miracle has already happened. And they've seen it. And a man who was paralyzed from birth is now able to walk. He was lame, but now he's walking and leaping and praising God. And they're flying high as a kite.

However, now begins another period of church history. After the birth of the church is the persecution of the church. This is the first recorded persecution of the followers of Jesus Christ post Christ on the earth. He is now ascended. The disciples are gathered in Jerusalem. This great miracle invites the eyes of the world. They're looking very carefully at what happened. And the establishment won't like it. So the great commission, preaching the gospel, has and always will invite great persecution. This is the beginning of the persecution for the church. For the next 300 years, the Church of Jesus Christ would experience some of the worst, most notable persecutions in its history.

Most historians point to 10 waves of persecution starting with Caesar Nero in about 67 A.D. This is what happens at Jerusalem, but the Roman Empire will come against Christianity until Diocletian around 303. Wave after wave after wave. When I say persecution, I don't mean they're going to laugh at their fish bumper sticker, that they're going to mock them and say, oh you Christians are so narrow-minded, hahaha. That's the kind of persecution we might get. I mean they get physical persecution. They will be beaten. They will be scourged. They will be beheaded. They will be taken by one of the Caesar's, given wax shirts, and lit as living torches, living candles in the gardens of Rome at night until they die in the flames.

Caesar Nero will take the skins of freshly killed animals and sew them around live men or women of faith, believers, and have wild dogs consume them alive. For the next 300 years, they're going to face that. Now we still have persecution on earth for Christians today. A lot of us thought that was passe until we discovered, no. It's been going on. There's a steady and increasing stream of it. And we've all heard of news reports over the last several years with ISIS and extreme Islam beheading, crucifying, doing some of the same things that the Romans did to the Christians in the first 300 years.

Now, in our culture right now, we don't see that kind of persecution. We see a persecution more of the ego. Our ego gets persecuted. We get scorned. We get maligned. We get sidelined. And so we think, oh no, people won't like me if I stand up for Christ. Oh, I may lose my job or my status or my friends. It's still persecution. It's still legitimate. But our persecution in the West pales, I think you would agree, with the kind of persecution that our brothers and sisters are seeing in the Middle East, parts of North Africa, and what was seen in the early church. So verse 1 chapter 4 Now as they spoke to the people, remember Peter has preached a message in Solomon's portico. As they spoke to the people, the priests the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them. Being greatly disturbed. Stop right there.

The gospel always does that. It greatly disturbs people. All those who live godly in Christ Jesus will, tell me. Finish the rest. Suffer persecution. Suffer persecution. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Now that's a very interesting verse of scripture that Paul wrote to Timothy. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. If you're not suffering any persecution for your faith, it must mean you're not living godly in Christ Jesus. Because the Bible promises everyone who does will.

The gospel always disturbs people because it always disturbs the status quo. When you open your mouth and proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ only, you're being very definitive and you are being very separatist. You are you are taking the broad spectrum of all people are good and all people find their own way. And so many people are sincere and there are so many ways to God. And you're saying I'm going to not only disagree with that. I'm going to show you that all of those ways in God's book are closed down to one single narrow avenue. Christ alone. Faith in Christ alone. That's going to disturb people.

Now the word greatly disturbed here in our verse means pained. They were pained. They were perturbed. They were greatly ticked off. But notice by whom and why. We are told the Sadducees, verse 1, came upon them being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees. We've read about them so far in the four gospels. But here's what's different. In the life of Christ outlined in the four gospels, the primary enemy of Christ was the Pharisees. Now that Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven and the early church is born, the Pharisees are no longer the primary enemy. The Sadducees are. You need to know why.

The Sadducees are greatly ticked off. Why? Because they preached the resurrection from the dead. Now a word about Sadducees. The Sadducees were the ruling class of very aristocratic Jews who controlled all that went on in the temple, including the high priesthood. The best way to think of the Sadducees is, first of all, politically. Politically they sided with the Roman government because Rome gave them favor because Rome appointed some of them and deposed other high priests. They wanted to get on the best side of the political engine that was Rome and not disturb the peace. They loved the status quo. So they curried the favor of the Roman government. So the idea of a messiah coming and people following him and that whole disturbance that Jesus created, that wasn't too exciting to them. Politically they sided with Rome.

Eschatologically, they believed they were in the Messianic Era. The Sadducees believed that the messianic era started at the time of the Maccabean Revolt, about 167 B.C. When Judas Maccabeus revolted against the Syrians who had overtaken Judea, that, they thought, they believed, was the Messianic Era because it was a physical deliverance from their enemies.

Then another way to think of the Pharisees is theologically. Theologically, they were the liberals of their day. The Pharisees believed in angels. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection. The Pharisees believed in the spirit world. They believed in all of the scriptures. They were very, very legalistic. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were very liberal minded. They did not believe in angels. They did not believe in miracles. They did not believe in the spirit world. And they did not believe, get this, in a resurrection.

So notice that it's the Pharisees that are greatly disturbed because the disciples are preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So the Sadducees become the foremost enemy of the early church in the book of Acts. Pharisees still don't like them, but the Sadducees sort of take the lead in being greatly ticked off.

So the Sadducees saw no hope in life after death. Just imagine living that way. They're religious, but they don't see any hope in life after death. They don't believe in the spirit world. They don't believe in the resurrection. And that's why they were sad, you see. You know, sometimes things just get set up for me and I can't resist. I sort of apologize for that, but you're kind of used to it by now. But they were Sadducees. And they, the Sadducees, they laid hands on them and put them in custody. They arrested them until the next day, for it was already evening. However many of those who heard the word believed.

Oh, how I love that verse. And you're going to hear me say that a lot in this chapter, because there's so many verses in this chapter I love. This is one of them. OK. They had their enemies, but many who heard the word of God believed. And that's what we live for. I understand whenever I share truth, even to a congregation, that not everybody in attendance agrees with the scripture, agrees with my teaching or the teaching of Holy Writ. I understand that.

I understand that when I share to an unbelieving world that a lot will be turned off by it. And a lot will say I don't believe that stuff. I hate that stuff. And they'll be greatly disturbed. But I also know that not everybody will, that some will hear and some will believe. And that's what gets me going and keeps me going. It's those some.

Jesus talked about the seed that was sown. And the enemy immediately comes and robs the seed that was sown by the wayside. Other seed only lasts temporarily, but dries up whenever there's a hard time or persecution. Other seed, other people grow for a while, but the cares of this world choke them out. But then Jesus said, there's the soil that is good. There's a heart that is good. And the seed of the Word of God is sown in some people's hearts and it takes root. And they bear fruit. A good root always brings good fruit. And the fruit is some 30, some 60, some 100-fold.

And that's what I, as a pastor, always focus on. Not the empty seats, the filled ones. Not the ones who fall by the wayside, as much as those who grab a hold of the truth. So some believed. And watch this. The number of the men came to be about 5,000. Now we read that on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon. And we're given the number of those who believed, 3,000. Now we're given the number 5,000. You know what this tells me? Somebody in the early church is counting. So you know, it's sort of holy to say, oh, but we don't care about numbers. Well they did. They recorded it. It was important, they thought, that we know what God was doing so that we could also rejoice 2,000 years later.

So 3,000 souls were saved. Now the number, the total number, the aggregate number up to this point, that's what I think this verse is telling, is about 5,000 men. They're counting just the men here. You can talk to me all day about male chauvinism. I understand. I get it. But that's just how they counted in those days. They counted the men who had made decisions. And so it's not an exact number, about 5,000 plus wives or friends or children. But a large, growing number of disciples are believing.

And it came to pass on the next day that their rulers, elders and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they set them in the midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?"

Now this is a loaded question. Because in their scripture, in the Old Testament, they were commanded when anybody comes in and does something notable like a miracle, a sign, or a wonder, ask that person what name they do it in. If that person is leading you away from the name of God and from worshiping God, that person is a false prophet and is to be extricated. Nice, fancy way of saying stoned, killed, eliminated. So they're waiting for the answer. "By what name are you doing", they're waiting. By the name of Jesus. They are, I would say, rocked and loaded. They got stone in hand. They're like ready to stone these, "By what power, by what name are you doing this?"

OK. So I want you to notice who is mentioned here. First on the list, besides the elders, Annas. He was a high priest. Caiaphas, he was the residing high priest. Now here's what's ironic. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, are standing before the very same group that Jesus stood before when he was tried before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Ironic. Peter was outside warming himself in the courtyard at a fire. Now he's face to face. Jesus faced this crowd, Annas, Caiaphas, and the rest, members of the Sanhedrin, and now the disciples.

Now can I refresh your memory? Annas was not the current high priest. He was the one-time high priest. However, though, he wasn't the current high priest. Caiaphas' son-in-law was. He had the power. He had the influence. It's interesting. I said that politically the Sadducees lined up with the Romans, right? So here's what happened. In 6 A.D., Quirineus of Syria appointed Annas as the high priest of the Jewish nation. But Annas was deposed in 15 A.D. So he was only serving for eight or nine years. And he was deposed by Valerius Gratus.

The Romans, who controlled the land, had the power to put in and take out high priests of Judaism. Now what makes that unusual, as you know, in your Old Testament, if you're a high priest, you're a high priest for what? For life. Because you're a son of Aaron. And you live out your life in that position. And when you die, you get replaced. But this is Roman-occupied Israel.

So the Romans are pulling the strings. And although the Romans deposed Annas as the high priest, he's the older guy. Caiaphas is the younger guy. He is the son-in-law of Annas. All the Jews still revered Annas, almost like a King of the Jews. He had the power. And one of the reasons he had the power, is he had the purse strings. It was Annas that was in control of the business of the temple. This is why Annas really got greatly ticked off when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. It hit him in his pocketbook.

Now the same Annas and Caiaphas and group are meeting with the disciples. And they asked this question. "By what power or by what name have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, I'm going slow because I really want that filled with the Holy Spirit part to sink in. We discussed it for three solid weeks before the book of Acts. But now just be refreshed by this.

Here's Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, and Peter is bold. Now do you remember? Let's go back. The night that Jesus stood trial before Annas and Caiaphas, Peter was outside in the courtyard warming himself at a fire, denying Christ to a servant girl. Now Peter isn't outside in the courtyard of the high priest. He's inside, on fire, being bold, not timid, not denying, but being declarative of his Lord. It's a different man. Why? Because it's Peter filled with the Holy Spirit. And Peter, having seen the resurrected Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit, is going to get all up in his grill. He said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel." Boy, it sounds like he's ready to go. You know why? He is.

Jesus had made Peter and the other disciples a promise. He said, don't worry about how or what you are going to speak when you get taken before these rulers, these elders, for it will be given to you in that hour what to say, for the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, will give you the words. So Peter's ready, because the Holy Spirit is filling Peter. So he just pours forth. "Rulers of the people, elders of Israel, if we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified", that's bold, "whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole."

Peter does something very interesting. He turns the tables of accusation back on them. "By what power or by what name are you doing this?" And Peter shows the absurdity of this whole mock trial. You see, now let me get this straight. We're being accused of doing something good to a lame dude. Here's a guy who couldn't walk. Now he can. He was a fixture in the temple for years, since his birth, 40 years. He begged alms. Now he can walk. And we're on trial for that? You're accusing us about that? And so he turns the tables when he says, "If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you, to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, God raised from the dead by Him", by Jesus. "This man stands before you whole."

Now I can't prove what I'm about to say. But I just have sort of a hunch. I'm just trying to put myself in the situation of Annas and Caiaphas, who had stared Jesus in the eye and heard Him speak the words he did. And I'm sure when Jesus spoke to them, they must have felt some conviction. Like, there's something different about this man. This is an unusual presence I'm standing before, or He's standing in front of us.

And I can't help but think that they're feeling some of that conviction again. As they listened to Peter and John speak to them, and Peter so bold and articulate, that probably some of the feeling they had in looking at Jesus and hearing, at the trial of Jesus, what Jesus said. They're feeling that all over again. It's like Jesus was speaking again to them. And He was. He was speaking through Peter and John to them. It must have been an eerie feeling as they felt that conviction.

See, they have a problem. The problem is, they don't believe in Jesus. They don't believe in the resurrection. They don't believe in miracles. Can you see what the problem is? A miracle just happened. There's a dude who was lame for 40 years, who can now walk and leap and praise God. So they have the evidence, the living proof, right in front of them.

That's a problem for them. They don't believe in miracles. One just happened. Deal with that and it's sort of like Lazarus, when Lazarus wasn't lame. He was dead, and now he's alive again. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, it says some believed, having seen Lazarus raised from the dead, but others went and told the chief priests. And the chief priests conferred together and said, what shall we do? Because they all knew Lazarus had risen from the dead.

Interesting question, what shall we do? I have an answer. Believe in Jesus. That's what you should do. At this point, a dead dude is now alive. Repent. At this point, a lame man can now walk and leap and praise God. That should shake you guys to the core. That's what you should do. But it's amazing how deep unbelief will go. Have you ever heard people say, well, if I could only see a miracle, then I'd believe. And when I hear that, I immediately go no you won't. Oh, I would believe. No you won't.

You remember the story of rich man and Lazarus in Luke chapter 16? Jesus tells a story about a rich man and Lazarus. Both die. One is taken to Abraham's bosom. That's Lazarus, a different Lazarus than the friend of Jesus in John 11, and a rich man who is suffering in Hades. And the rich man said to Abraham, "Abraham, send this man, Lazarus, to my five brothers in my Father's house, lest they come to this place of torment." And Abraham said, they have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them. In other words, they have the testimony of scripture. That's enough. And immediately the rich man says, no. But if somebody rises from the dead, they'll believe. And Abraham said no they won't.

If they won't listen to the testimony of scripture, they will not believe even though someone rises from the dead. And that can be proven. A different Lazarus rose from the dead, and a whole group of people in Jerusalem refused to believe the evidence. Here's a lame man. A miracle has happened. A whole group of people refused to believe the evidence.

So they have a problem. And the problem is by Him, this man, verse 10, stands before you whole. Now here's the principle. The greatest argument for the power of Christ is a changed life. Here's a changed life. A cripple can now walk. The greatest ad that God can ever take out, the greatest advertisement God could ever take out, is to have a life changed by the gospel. And you know people are going to say, well I can argue this Christian in circles. I know so much more intellectually than he or she does. Come on, let's have an argument. I can argue you, Christian, out the door.

But you can't argue with I once was blind, but now I see. I once was lame, but now I walk. Or this is who I was before I met Jesus Christ. This is what I believe now and who I am now. And as people who knew you now watch you in a renewed, changed life, it will make an impact on them. The personal testimony of a changed life. Greatest argument for the validity of the gospel is a changed human life.

Peter continues, verse 11. Notice again he's a lean, mean preaching machine. This guy can just quote scripture. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone, nor is their salvation in any other. For there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved. He's quoting Psalm 118, which says the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. Now, along with that scripture comes an old story. Some call it a legend. Some believe it was an actual story. And the story, or legend, goes like this.

That in the days when the temple of Solomon was being built, we know from what it says in the scripture that they didn't quarry the stones at the temple site, because they didn't want to have the sound of a hammer or chisel going on at the building of the temple in Jerusalem. So they quarried it at a quarry site. And they moved the prehewn stones to the temple, and they placed them. And they were so accurate in cutting them that you were unable to put a knife blade between the stones. There was no gap. No mortar was used. No cement was used. And they were so precise that you couldn't put a knife blade between one course and a second course of stone.

But the stones were hewn at the quarry. And they were brought to the building side of the temple. They were laid out. The builders would follow the schematic, and they would put them one on top of the other. But one of the stones was sent over from the quarry that had an odd shape. And none of the builders knew where it fit, so they sort of didn't know what to do with it. And they pushed it aside to the rubbish heap, some say they rolled it down into the Kidron Valley to be taken up later because they rejected it. It was a stone that didn't fit anywhere until the temple was almost done and they were missing the capstone, the cornerstone.

And they say, we have every stone, but go tell the quarry that they need to send the cornerstone, the capstone. And the quarry said, what do you mean send the capstone? We've sent it already. We sent it months ago. Then somebody remembered. I think I know what happened. That was the stone we marginalized because we said it doesn't fit anywhere. And we pushed it out and rejected it. They found that stone, brought it back up, and put it in place. This messianic Psalm, and he is quoting a messianic Psalm. He's going to quote Psalm two later on in chapter four. Now he's quoting Psalm 18. There are 16 of the 150 Psalms in the Old Testament that were regarded as messianic Psalms, and this is one of them.

Psalm 118. Nor is their salvation in any other, verse 12, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Now, verse 13. Here goes. This is one of my favorite verses. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. Notice the verbs in that verse. They saw, they perceived, they realized.

What's the first one? They saw. What did they see? The boldness of Peter and John. Now you might say, well, Peter was always bold by nature. No, he wasn't. Peter was always impetuous by nature. Peter wanted to cut off ears of high priest servants. He always made impetuous moves, but he had a hard time telling a servant girl, admitting to her that he was a follower of Jesus. That's not boldness. That's timidity. He was impetuous, but he was not bold. Now he's bold. Now there's a holy boldness as he stands and gives his testimony and preaches using the scripture. So they saw the boldness of Peter and John.

Second, and they perceived, notice this. What did they perceive? That they were uneducated and untrained men. Don't get the wrong idea that they are being accused of being idiots or illiterate. When they say they're uneducated or untrained, it simply means they didn't have a rabbinical background. They didn't have a higher education. They were not trained in the seminaries of the rabbis of the day. They didn't have the schooling. They looked at these fishermen, these simple guys, and they go I don't get it. They are so good at quoting the scripture and interpreting the meaning of this messianic text. They marveled.

And then third, and they realized that they had been with Jesus. Ah, that's the secret. You can tell when a person has been hanging around Jesus. And let me just put it this way. There are people who know the Word of God. Then there are those who know the God of the Word. You can just tell. There's something different, man. These people have a relationship with this God.

Now you can have both. You can know the Word of God and know the God of the Word. You don't have to have one or the other. But sometimes people just know the Word but don't really know the Lord that well. But they realized they had been with Jesus. They gave something off that identified them with Him. I'm going to jog your memory. In first John, I think it's chapter one, I know it's chapter one, John writes to three different groups. He goes, I write unto you children because your sins have been forgiven. I write unto you young men because you have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you fathers because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

Levels of spiritual maturity. There's the young children, new members in the household of faith. All they know is their sins are forgiven. Then there are those who are maturing and growing and overcoming the evil of the wicked one. But then there are those spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers who know the Lord. They're with Jesus.

I love that. Love that verse. They realized they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, talk about evidence. Talk about proof. He's not like on the ground anymore begging. He's standing with them. Remember, he's been leaping and praising. So just to get this guy standing is kind of miraculous. They could say nothing against it. But when they commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? For indeed that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem. And we cannot deny it."

But so that it spreads no further among the people, here's what we'll do. We'll severely threaten them. It's all they could do. Well I guess they could have killed them. They'll do that later. But they severely threaten them that from now on they speak to no man in this name, the name of Jesus. There's something powerful about the name of Jesus Christ, that Satan fears, that the world hates. It brings up all sorts of emotion. Now you could do a little experiment if you're so inclined. Next time you're in a room with a group of people at work, relatives, unbelievers, you're talking about, just talk about stuff. Just drop in a conversation the name of Jesus Christ, not as they drop the name of Jesus Christ, as an expletive, but in a friendly manner. Drop the name Jesus and just watch the reaction.

You'll see at the very minimum heads turn, like who's getting religious around here? They get uncomfortable with that. If you talk about my faith or my church or my religion, they're OK. If you talk about Jesus Christ, the person with whom I love and have a relationship with, they get really weird really quick. It's sort of fun to do. There's power in the name of Jesus. So verse 18 tells us a law has now been passed by the religious establishment, making personal evangelism illegal. But Peter and John answered and said to them, now this is not what they expect. The authorities expect them to answer and say, OK, whatever you say. We'll roll over. We'll obey our authorities.

But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God you judge. But we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Oh. Sadducees did not expect to hear that. It's not the answer they were banking on. They were banking on yes, sir. But Peter and John now appeal to a higher court, the Supreme Court. Not the Supreme Court of the United States, a higher court. Not the Supreme Court of Judaism, the Sanhedrin, a higher court. God. The courts of Heaven, the throne room of Heaven.

Whether it's right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you decide. You judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Now what was the issue to the apostles? The issue was what is right. What is right. That's the issue with them. We're going to do what is right, not what is safe, not what is popular, not what is easy. What is right. And what is right, in this case, is to not do what you say we should do. What is right is what God says we should do.

Now if there was a way for Peter and John to obey both their authorities on earth and God, the authority in Heaven, they would have done that. Because they said that. They wrote that. Peter said to submit to every authority, whether it's as to the kings supreme or to governors who are dispatched from the king, 1 Peter chapter 2.

Paul, Romans 13, said submit yourself to every authority, pay your taxes, et cetera. If there is a way to obey human government, human institutions, and God, we do both. But if one collides with the other, you have to appeal to the Supreme Court, the court of Heaven. We must obey God rather than men. We're not going to listen to you as much as listen to God.

There's a great story about one of the church fathers named Athanasius. Now some of you who are well-read already know this story. Athanasius Contra Mundum, against the world, at the Council of Nicaea. Many people were swayed over the Arian heresy, demoting Jesus to being God, to simply being a created being who created everything else. He wasn't really God, the second person of the Trinity. And Athanasius stood against that. And at one point somebody said to him, "Athanasius, the whole world is against you." And Athanasius said, "Well, if the whole world is against me, then Athanasius will be against the whole world." And he stood contra mundum, against the world, as does Peter and John here.

We cannot but speak the things which we have seen or heard. Now I just need to say, no I don't. I need to keep going. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them because of the people since they all glorified God for what had been done, for the man was over 40 years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders said to them. Did you notice in verse 22 it says the man was over 40 years old? He'd been paralyzed from birth. He'd been at the Gate Beautiful of the temple. Again, that just brings up something I brought up in a previous study. What that means is Jesus walked by him many times and never healed him.

So don't think Jesus healed everybody he saw, everybody sickness. Oh, there's one I missed. I better get him, like Pokemon. You got to just capture them all. No, he walked by him and didn't heal him. And this shows you the wisdom of God's timing. This was the perfect time for maximum glory to God, because you have living proof in Jerusalem. All the people, all the leaders see it and have to deal with it. So Jesus walked by him probably thinking, your day's coming, buddy. Hang on.

So, verse 24. When they heard that, they heard the threats. They raised their voice to God. Now you're going to eavesdrop on their prayer. They raised their voice to God in one accord and said, now their prayer is begun and recorded. Would you please notice their spiritual instinct. They get threatened. What do they do? They lift their voice to God. You know what some people do? They lift their voice to the government and picket and riot. No, their first instinct wasn't to go picket and riot and have a formal complaint of written down names on a list. They took it to God in prayer.

And I want you to notice a few things about their prayer. First of all, they prayed with perspective. Notice what they say. Lord, you are God who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said, why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand against the rulers. And the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ, for truly against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles.

And the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done. Now Lord, look on their threats and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word by stretching out your hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy servant, Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Now I'm looking at the time that I have left, and I realize I can't cover the whole chapter. I could read it and end it, but I wouldn't deal with it well. So I'm just going to not finish the whole chapter. I'm just going to where I think it's appropriate to end. Is that fair? Not that you would have a say in it, but I'm glad that you're agreeing and consenting to that anyway. It just makes me feel better.

OK, so I skipped over something I just want to draw your attention to, because this prayer is so good and so meaty. And it's such a good template and example for our prayer life for talking to God. And it's encouraging for that, that I want to kind of deal with it a little more. So go back in verse 20 and notice what I believe is the best definition of a witness.

So what does it mean to witness for the Lord? It simply means this. Speaking the things which you have seen and heard. You tell other people what you have seen, what you have heard. Tell your testimony, what you have seen the Lord do in your life. What you have heard is truth from His word. A witness is somebody who speaks to others what they see and what they hear. That's the definition of a witness.

So they're speaking, and they're not going to stop speaking. But they're going to speak what they have seen and what they have heard. There's a principle. If you find it hard to speak for the Lord, perhaps it's because you haven't seen or heard much of the Lord lately. When you see and hear what God is doing and working, you're going to speak it. If you have nothing to say, it's because you haven't seen or heard anything. But if you have seen and you have heard, you will speak.

And that's what his point, look, I'm compelled to just tell you what I've actually seen and what I actually have heard. And that's a witness. So they got together. They gathered together. And I love that as their spiritual instinct. First thing they did is gather together in fellowship, not separate, not see you later. They got together. They went through it together. And they prayed. And I'm going to close with this. I'm going to just give you one element of powerful prayer. It was a prayer that had perspective. Notice how they begin their prayer. They don't say, God, help. God, this is messed up. I need this and I need that. They go, Lord, you are God who made Heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Why did they say that? Why did they pray this way first? Why did they do that before just telling the Lord what they need? What they want? Here's why. They needed to gain the right perspective before they asked the Lord anything. And the right perspective is to realize who you're talking to. We're not talking to Herrod. We're not talking to Annas. We're not talking to Caiaphas. We're not talking to the presidential cabinet of the White House or to the Roman government. We're talking to God. We're talking to God who made everything and everyone everywhere. So what that does is elevate your faith. When you realize that you're dealing with, talking to, asking from the God of the universe, nothing's too hard for him. By the way, it may have been they were actually copying the prayer of Jeremiah.

In Jeremiah 32, Jeremiah was in a pickle, not literally a pickle, but you know what. I mean by the nuance. And he said, Lord, or said ah, Lord God, who made the Heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm, there is nothing too hard for you. So when you pray with perspective and you realize to whom you're talking, it brings you into that place of faith, confidence, believing. Something else about that. Notice the word Lord. It says, Lord, you are God. Now if you're a Greek student or a little bit of Greek because you've attended here, you would probably think that the English word Lord is from the Greek word kyrios.

But that is not the word that is used for Lord here. A very rare New Testament word was chosen in this prayer. It is the word despotes. Despotes, we get the word despot from. A despot is an autocratic absolute ruler, a dictator. We talk about a despot, usually talk about a guy who has this iron rule over a nation and nobody can vote. He's just in charge. They're calling God that. You are despotes. The Lord, the autocrat, the absolute ruler of the universe. So they're framing, they're gaining the perspective that they're dealing with this Lord. Lord, you are God who made the Heaven, the earth, the sea and all that is in them.

And we'll get to it the rest next week. But let me close with this thought. How often when we pray, and I'll put myself in this camp. When we pray, we pray with such desperation, almost like I don't know if this is going to work. I'm like at the end of my rope. This is so tough. There's really nothing left for me to do except pray. And why is it we approach God and we carry our human limitations over to the divine sphere? Almost as if they say, God, I don't know if you're up to this. This is really hard. Maybe on your best day, you might be able to pull part of this off. No, it's a whole lot better to say, Lord, autocrat of the universe. You are God. You made it all.

So, therefore, all I need is a physical healing. So because you're the autocrat of the universe, you made everything, therefore all I need is a changed relationship. All I need is this economic problem in my life dealt with. All I need, can you see when you have that elevation of that frame of faith, it's like Jeremiah. You did it all. Nothing's too hard for you. I mean, if you can go and the universe existed, well then it's all shortchange to you. It's all small stuff. This is icing on the cake. No problem. Learn to pray with that elevated posture of faith. Now there's other great elements in this prayer, but we don't have the time. We have 15 seconds left. Time to pray and close in song.

Father, we as Your people gather together. But at this moment, we realize to whom we're speaking. We're speaking to the Lord, God, the only one true God who has the only plan for people to be saved. Moreover, not only is He Lord, not only are You God, but You are Father. And as Jesus taught us to pray, our Father in Heaven, He taught us by that there is intimacy to be enjoyed with You. We don't have a relationship of just being creatures to a sovereign, powerful God, but a relationship as of children to a loving, intimate, caring Father. And so we say our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever more. Amen.

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