Ordinary Men With No Special Training
A Sermon Based on Acts Chapter 4
Acts Chapter 4 is ultimately why I am standing here this morning.
When I was first considering taking on the pastorate at this church, but before I had accepted, I was struggling a bit with what would give me the right or the authority to stand and preach God’s word.
After all, although I did have college education in religion and philosophy, and I did clearly acknowledge a call from God, I was not a seminary graduate, nor at the time was I ordained by any church.
And curiously, it was a this very time I got a questioning email from one of my relatives who knew I was being considered for the job.
I have truly enjoyed your daily newsletter “Love Works”. [I have] forwarded and
copied many for family as well as friends to read. My question is—what qualifies you to write topics regarding Christianity-religion or even faith in God … The ability to preach the words from the Bible requires an intense instruction from learned men of God.
My response in part was thus….thanks a lot for all the support!!!!
Thank you. This is a idea believed by many, and I disagree with it. I believe that the ability to preach comes, not from instense instruction, but directly from the Holy Spirit and the book of Acts is a huge testament to that fact.
Most of Jesus’ 12 disciples were ordinary, unlearned, uneducated men. In the book of Acts, the crowds were astounded by their preaching because indeed they were not Jewish Scholars but fishermen and ordinary folks. They simply preached Christ, as they knew Him. And even though they differed in their thoughts and methods greatly, many came to trust Christ because they could see these ordinary men were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
They showed that the ability to preach does not come from learning or knowledge, and nor does the power to lead others to salvation. These things come directly from God through Christ.
And Christ’s entire Good News message can be spoken in less than 5 minutes, much less than that if you get down to the essentials. It is so simple a child can understand it and accept it readily. And the gospel is more than words anyway, it is our whole lives that demonstrate God’s power.
So specifically, what makes any of us qualified to share the Gospel?
Nothing. There is nothing that you or I did, or ever will that would qualify us except God’s love for us, the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and my desire to share that with others. He has given us all a great commission. None of us are exempt.
And he doesn’t choose the fit, he fits who he chooses.
I really believed all that and still do, but it’s easy to understand how someone could think otherwise, because besides Peter and John from our reading today, the bible is just filled with all these highly educated superhero types called to God’s work. Right?
David was a big strong powerful man for God, yes?
No. DAVID was known for many things, but he was actually chosen precisely because he was ordinary.
The first king, Saul, had been chosen because he was so big and strong and impressive. That didn’t work out well, so when God sent his prophet to find a new king, he looked for someone a little more ordinary.
David was young and small, the baby brother of the family, left to take care of the animals while his brothers went to fight in the army.
But you’ll remember the story of how he went to fight the champion, Goliath. David was not even wearing armor because it was too heavy for him. Yet he killed the mighty warrior with a slingshot and a stone. It wasn’t because David was powerful, God did extraordinary things through David because David trusted and obeyed God.
But Moses was an extraordinary type yes?
Actually, when MOSES first appears in the Bible as a baby. He couldn’t do anything yet! And Pharaoh was wanting to kill him even as a baby but God miraculously protected him and caused him to be found and raised in the household of the very person who was trying to kill him.
Was that because of Moses’ skill or talent, or God’s will?
Later, when he was a grown man, God used Moses in lots of great ways, and even had him speak for Him, despite the fact that he stuttered! But he did what God asked him to do and God did extraordinary things through him because of his faith.
What about others? Jeremiah was way too young. Solomon lacked wisdom. Noah was way too old.
TIMOTHY was young and didn’t have the right qualifications. He may not have been all that fit or healthy. But Paul tells him it doesn’t matter. What matters is his faith and obedience to serve the Lord.
And Paul should know. He wrote most of the New Testament, and yet had issues with his sight and his handwriting, and was known to be a timid public speaker. He was educated, but his education didn’t help him much as he got totally confused and started his career by persecuting and killing Christians. His book learning didn’t keep him from doing that.
These were not superheroes.
MARY, who would give birth to Jesus, was not a biblical scholar, priest, wealthy woman, or anything other than an ordinary woman with faith in an extraordinary God.
RAHAB was a prostitute; RUTH was a foreigner; Esther was a beautiful was totally unqualified and unlikely to become queen.
And we read all about the disciples and see clearly how human and flawed they were. And yet all of these people we think of as “heroes of the Bible.”
Fact is…Even though we KNOW that they are for the most part just regular guys and gals like us, we tend to put them up on a pedistal as though they are something better that us.
Somehow more qualified. More able. It’s not the case at all. And I could go on and on with the list.
Powerful things will happen here in Chapter 4 of the Acts of the Apostles. But it’s not the doing of these individuals involved. The text tells us explicitely they are ordinary folks just like you and me. And everything extraordinary that happens here comes directly from God and His Holy Spirit.
Acts Chapter 4 [From the NLT- New Living Translation]
1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the leading priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees came over to them.
2 They were very disturbed that Peter and John were claiming, on the authority of Jesus, that there is a resurrection of the dead.
3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, jailed them until morning.
4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so that the number of believers totaled about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem.
6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest.
7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Leaders and elders of our nation,
9 are we being questioned because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed?
10 Let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed in the name and power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead.
11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’
12 There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
14 But since the man who had been healed was standing right there among them, the council had nothing to say.
15 So they sent Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.
16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny they have done a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it.
17 But perhaps we can stop them from spreading their propaganda. We’ll warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.”
18 So they called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?
20 We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.”
21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God
22 for this miraculous sign — the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.
23 As soon as they were freed, Peter and John found the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said.
24 Then all the believers were united as they lifted their voices in prayer: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them —
25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor King David, your servant, saying, ‘Why did the nations rage? Why did the people waste their time with futile plans?
26 The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’
27 “That is what has happened here in this city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed.
28 In fact, everything they did occurred according to your eternal will and plan.
29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching.
30 Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.
32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.
33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all.
34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them
35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.
37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
5000 men! not including women and children. That is alot of new converts! A staggering amount that would intimidate even the most seasoned evangelist.
Kinda frightening. Good thing it’s not something we have to worry about. Such things will not happen through us.
These things happened because Peter and John were such special and talented people. So completely different than us. More qualified and able to do this that we are. Right?
Let’s look at resume of the first disciples and see how different they are then you and me.
Qualification I. They knew the Lord
They had been with Jesus. They had a person relationship with Jesus. He’s not just a casual acquantance.
They were indeed ordinary people of varying backgrounds, but they became extraordinary when they met Jesus.
Now they didn’t likely know much about science, or math, or psychology, or even religion, but in Jesus they knew what was important. They knew the Savior. They knew Jesus’ power.
Is that like you and me?
Qualification II. They Knew the Scriptures
But they were not scholars
They were common laborers…many of them fishermen.
But we see here and other places that with God’s power they are quoting and accurately applying the Scripture.
They quote Psalms 118:22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
These uneducated men reference this obscure verse and correctly apply it to Christ.
There were no books at the time that told them that. They couldn’t learn that a seminary. Instead it was the Holy Spirit given by Christ and available to all, that let them accurately divide the word of God.
God did through them, and it was not what they themselves logically should have been able to do, so the people were amazed, and came to Christ in droves.
They trusted the power of the Holy Spirit, and God helped to understand and explain the scripture.
Is that something different than can happen with you and I?
Qualification III. They wanted to share Christ’s Salvation with others.
And ‘Salvation’ is an important word that’s used a lot in the bible, and a lot of different ways.
1. To Noah, the ark meant salvation while others perished
2. To those who came with Moses to the Red Sea they heard: ”Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”
3. To Jonah salvation came about through the belly of the big fish.
4. And through Jesus it means to be saved from deserved punishment and eterernal death.
God had always offered salvation to his people, and Peter and John knew this was still true.
And they wanted to share the good news of this salvation!
It that different with you and I?
The people needed Jesus and still do, and even though they were ‘unlearned and ignorant’ men they knew the salvation of the Lord, and God himself had called them to share it, and they said YES.
And that was their biggest qualification.
Qualification IV. Saying YES when God calls.
Noah, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, Jonah (sort of), and many more. And all the disciples including Paul. When they are personally called by Jesus, they drop their nets, or whatever else, and follow him.
Is that different for us? Will we say YES when God calls?
That’s the qualifications God required to be his ministers. Those who did powerful things:
They had been with Jesus, and they knew Him personally. They had a real and intimate relationship with their God, and they trusted Him.
They knew the scripture. They loved God’s word, and by meditating upon it night and day, they were given wisdom and insight through the power of the Holy Spirit.
They were willing to say yes to God, and the desire to carry the Gospel with them and share it. They took the great commission seriously, and live it out through their whole lives.
So we should ask….are these things true for us?
If not they can be, and it doesn’t require years in college to get you prepared. When you trust Christ, you are automatically equipt with the Holy Spirit, so all things are possible.
You can start now.
And whether formally or informally, education and experience will come, and they are very useful in helping you grow and become more effective.
But we can start now. Our ministry begins today, because we are just as qualified right this minute as Peter and John and the rest of the apostles.
They were ordained by God into a special group “Ordinary Men and Women With No Special Training, who said Yes to God.”
(c)2012 Timothy Henry