An outline of the Gospel worth sharing; part 2

What interrogation can make you do…

Mobile phones!  It appears we can’t live without them.  Recently my phone was upgraded.  For me it was a really stressful time; how will I get all the stuff from my old phone on to the new one?

Thankfully all I needed to do was to download an app and put the two phones close together and as if by magic the data were transferred.  Phew, that wasn’t as hard as I thought!

About a week later I wanted to do some online banking.  So, armed with my mobile phone to generate a “one time pass code” I logged on to my account on the computer only to find that I couldn’t get the app on my phone to generate the OTPC.  After several failed attempts my account was frozen!  By this time my stress levels were through the roof.  Good job I wasn’t measuring my blood pressure.

The bank’s website said I needed to register my new phone and by clicking here I could sort this out.  Well…. it wasn’t quite as straight forward as all that.  Stress rising further, I took what I hoped would be an easier route, I rang the help line.  After hanging on for 10 -15 minutes and having gone through several options, entering bank details, security details, telephone pin number, I was losing the will to live, but eventually I got through to a human being only to be asked a whole load of security questions again…

  1. Where were you born?
  2. What was your mother’s maiden name?
  3. Where did you first go to school?
  4. What is your date of birth?
  5. What is your post code?

I tried not to panic –

  1. was I born at home or in hospital?
  2. Have I got my mother’s maiden name right?
  3. Now, where was my first school?
  4. When was I born?
  5. What is my postcode?

There’s always a pause after you’ve answered. What if I’ve failed to answer correctly – will my bank account be frozen forever?  Worst still will there be a knock on the door in the early hours.  In my anxiety I felt as if I was being interrogated.

Yet, that is what is happening to Peter and John in our reading from Acts – not trying to gain access to their bank account – but being interrogated.  Here they are hauled before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (Acts 4:5-6).  And this really is an interrogation!

The Sanhedrin was made up of seventy-one elders, including Annas, Caiaphas, his son-in-law, John and Alexander, who we do not know, but all were undoubtedly powerful men.  Being hauled before such a group could easily have intimidated ex-fishermen like Peter and John.

The interrogation started with a question about the healing of the crippled man, since it could not be denied that this healing had taken place as he was there with them (Acts 4:10).  It had taken place because the disciples were compelled to witness for Jesus as He had commanded them to do during His resurrection appearances and before He ascended into heaven, (Luke 24:46-48 & Matthew 28:16-20).  But still the leaders sought to know by what power or in what name this had been done (Acts 4:7).

In Acts chapter 3, which we had last week, Peter was speaking to an interested audience outside the temple (3:12), about this healing, but now he faces a hostile and contemptuous court. 

He clearly needs God’s help to declare the gospel confidently to this group; hence the mention of him being filled by the Holy Spirit, given to all followers of Jesus by the grace of God (4:8a).

So, this passage reminds us that there is one baptism of the Spirit, and this is at conversion (1 Cor. 12:13), but there must be many fillings of the Spirit if the believer is to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:18ff).

And Peter addresses them with appropriate respect as rulers and elders of the people (4:8b).  He restates the reason why they are on trial, emphasising that what had been done was an act of kindness (v9).  The miracle had not been done to attract attention, but since they wanted to know in whose name it has been done, both they and all the people of Israel should know that it had been done in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (4:9-10).  Saying that something was done in someone’s name implies that it was done by His power.

The truth is this: Jesus has given us His power and authority to use to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.  And Jesus spent a lot of time teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven.  So, they were only living out what they had been taught to do!

It is this power and authority that helps us to resist every temptation of Satan.  Without it we would succumb to his ways and not fulfil God’s ways.  Scripture clearly tells us that Jesus came in power and authority to completely destroy Satan and his works.  Likewise, Satan was determined to destroy Jesus, yet Jesus took everything that Satan threw at Him – all his schemes, sin-filled temptations and evil power – withstanding them in perfect righteousness.

Jesus has passed this on to all who put their faith in Him as their Lord and Saviour.  But we need to use it, for we too can be set free from Satan’s power and dominion and to live in God’s power and authority.  This is a truth that we find in Acts 4 today.  This is why Peter is able to assert boldly the healing power of Jesus, whom the leaders had crucified and whom God had raised from the dead (4:10).  So Peter’s response to the interrogation is to proclaim the truth before the authorities because he is full of the Holy Spirit.

Peter then proclaims a second truth.  Not only does Jesus bring healing; He is also the only source of salvation.  Peter describes Jesus as the stone rejected by builders that has become the capstone (4:11).  In the ancient world, the capstone, or cornerstone, was the stone that held an entire building together.  So Peter is asserting through this interrogation that Jesus has become the stone upon which the new community of faith is built (see also 1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

However, the primary task of the rulers and elders was to build the community, but how could they?  They had rejected the stone and chosen a murderer in His place (Acts 3:13).  For them, the cornerstone had become a ‘stone of stumbling’ and a ‘rock of offence’ (Isa 8:14; 28:16; Rom 9:33).  And if the cornerstone is not given its rightful place, it becomes a stone of judgement. 

Peter makes this point strongly (Acts 4:12), when he says that there is no other name under heaven given by which we must be saved (see also Acts 10:43).  The use of the word “must” by Peter clearly tells us that Jesus is the appointed way of salvation. 

So the second truth of the interrogation is that there is no other way for salvation! Sadly, many people react negatively to the fact that there is no other name than that of Jesus to call on for salvation.  Yet this is not something the church decided; it is the specific teaching of Jesus himself; Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If God designated Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, no-one else can be His equal.  Christians are to be open minded on many issues, but not on how we are saved from sin.  The truth is this; no other religious teacher could die for our sins; no other religious teacher came to earth as God’s only Son; no other religious teacher rose from the dead.

In order for me to reset my online account I needed to focus on and proclaim the truth of the security questions! As Christians our focus should always be on Jesus, whom God offered as the one true way to have an eternal relationship with Him. There is simply no other name or way!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen! 

He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Living thoughts

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Read again the sermon and the two passages from Scripture: Acts 4:1-12 & John 10:11-18, and let them speak to you afresh in light of remaining steadfast to the Gospel.  As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal) what you sense God is saying to you.

The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.

Please consider these questions in light of this week’s sermon:

1. What was the main issue that upset the Sadducees in Peter and John’s preaching? (Acts 4:1-4)

2. What did the Sadducees believe?  See Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Matthew 22:23

3. Why is a belief in the death and resurrection of Christ so vital to our faith?

4. Is there salvation by any other way? (Acts 4:12)

5. Why did the rulers find it hard to suppress the Apostles message?  (Acts 4:13-16, 19-22)

Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond this question.  As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.

Prayer Response

Help us every day to come with anticipation into your presence.  As we take this step we ask you to roll away the stone from the tombs of our hearts, O God that we may share in the fullness of the resurrection life that your Son Jesus offers to all who put their faith and trust in Him and who call on Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen! 

He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!