These are two headlines from newspapers in 2010:
Florida robber stopped cold with conversation about Jesus
Pompano Beach/New York, July 31, 2010 – An unflappable 20-year-old sales woman in Florida kept her cool during a robbery, turning away a robber by discussing Jesus, a broadcast report said Friday. ABC showed video from the security camera in a cell phone store in which eventually the robber backs away telling the woman that SHE doesn’t need to be afraid.
Churches launch mission: ‘Unstoppable’
Peoria, IL – December 2, 2010 Four area churches have united on a mission to send a swarm of volunteers to the streets on Saturday.
They call themselves “Unstoppable.” At the very least, they’ll be unavoidable, because they have scheduled a variety of events all over town (to proclaim the Christian message, and offer assistance to the needy).
So a robber is stopped cold, and a church goes on a mission unstoppable.
Those are our two main themes in Acts Chapter 5:
And we have some very vivid illustrations of these concepts in this reading that shows how God works, what he expects, and what happens with those who trust Christ, and step into the power of His Holy Spirit.
As part of this reading, we are going to see a number of people stopped cold, and a number of people who are unstoppable, but we’ll also note that none of it comes from from within the people themselves.
All of the stopping cold, and unstoppability (if that’s even a word, comes from God)
These are words of caution and inspiration. But first up, a couple people who are stopped cold which should serve as a warning.
Acts 5:1-11 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.
2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.
6 Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?””Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”
9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this — conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too.”
10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened.
To the all-seeing (omnipresent ), all-knowing (omniscient ) and all understanding (omni cognoscente) eyes of God, there are no secret sins .
Thomas Brooks put it this way, “Those sins which lie closest and are most secretly lurking in the heart, are as obvious and odious to God as those that are most fairly written upon a man’s forehead.”
And that’s not even considering another OMNI’s – God is also all-powerful (omnipotent ).
The bible tells us our omnipotent God can do anything He pleases (Job 42:2) and is never exhausted. His power is unlimited in regard to both its extent and its magnitude. What is impossible for man is possible for God (Matthew 19:26). Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17).
Immediately when we read of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira both dropping dead we might might immediately think of the act of our all-knowing, all-powerful God being pretty harsh.
Why would God do something like striking these two people dead?
Before we even try to address that we should note first off, it doesn’t say he did. It says when each of them where found out, they fell to the ground and died.
But it doesn’t say God killed them.
How many here have ever been caught in a lie, or caught doing something wrong, even as a child? How many have maybe not been caught, but really feared at one point that it might happen?
How did you feel?
For most people being discovered in a lie, or even the threat of being caught in wrongdoing causes our pulses to races, our hearts to pounds, we start to sweat, and can feel faint and nausiated. The fear of discovery or the discovery itself can cause severe physical symptoms.
If we do something wrong, and the jig is up, panic strikes. Extreme stress.
And this is just the realization that a person may catch us or has caught us.
For both Ananias and Sapphira they came to the full realization that they had tried to deceive God and His Holy Spirit. They thought they could get away from it, but the jig is up.
And the text doesn’t say God struck either of them down as a punishment, but it does say that in their guilt their hearts just stopped beating.
And to me that that certainly does bring to mind all these OMNI natures of God. You can’t hide from Him. You can’t get away from Him. And He can do ANYTHING he wants at any time.
He may not do something, but HE can, and he would be just and right in doing so, and even though Ananias and Sapphira thought they were unstoppable.
They were deadly wrong, and they were stopped cold, by their own guilt.
It’s a cautionary tale about disregarding God, and His Will, but our next examples show the power of stepping into it.
12 Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade.
13 No one else dared to join them, though everyone had high regard for them.
14 And more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord — crowds of both men and women.
15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.
16 Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.
17 The high priest and his friends, who were Sadducees, reacted with violent jealousy.
18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the jail.
19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them,
20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
21 So the apostles entered the Temple about daybreak and immediately began teaching.When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council, along with all the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought for trial.
22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported,
23 “The jail was locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end.
25 Then someone arrived with the news that the men they had jailed were out in the Temple, teaching the people.
Instead of going against God, and His Holy Spirit, the apostles here step right into His Will, preach the Gospel, and they are unstoppable.
And when something is unstoppable there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
When we think of unstoppable, we think of things like a tornado or a tsunami or a stampede of wild animals.
You can do what you like, but ultimately these things will just keep on going no matter what you do.
And of course with Christ’s church, the more people have tried to stop it, the more it grows, and expands. The church under persecution simply explodes.
And we see the very start of it here. The high priest and a group of Sadducees think they can shut down Christ’s church by putting the apostles in jail.
BUT… “During the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life’ “
Now the angel could have said…”You guys Get out of here, and go hide someplace until the heat is off”, but no,
After miraculously freeing them, the angel commands the apostles to do what? Go back to the temple and simply pick up where they left off.
Don’t lower the flag. Don’t soften the message. Don’t get all strategic or subtle or clever. Don’t hide out. Just get back to work.
And verse 21 says “And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach”and by Acts 6:7 tells us that, “The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.”
Isn’t that exciting? And then they lived happily every after, from this point on nobody bothered them anymore.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The next 300 years would contain a most horrific attempts to cleanse the earth of a religion that we’ve ever seen.
But …and that’s where it is still so exciting, for each that was cut down a dozen took their place even more anxious to preach the gospel. And from a handful of faithful in Jesus’ day, to millions of believers when Constantine finally conceded and proclaimed Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the gospel of Christ was unstoppable.
It still is. Why? You just can’t stop what God is doing. No matter what move man makes, God trumps it, and His Kingdom moves forward.
The Gospel in unstoppable because God’s hands are never tied. His message is never snuffed out. No matter what opposition is thrown in its path, when the church of Jesus Christ is what it’s intended it to be, there is no stopping it.
But of course, many have tried, to no avail.
26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested them, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would kill them if they treated the apostles roughly.
27 Then they brought the apostles in before the council.
28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” the high priest demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Jesus, and you intend to blame us for his death!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority.
30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by crucifying him.
31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to God so their sins would be forgiven.
32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
33 At this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them.
34 But one member had a different perspective. He was a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert on religious law and was very popular with the people. He stood up and ordered that the apostles be sent outside the council chamber for a while.
35 Then he addressed his colleagues as follows: “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men!
36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About four hundred others joined him, but he was killed, and his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing.
37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got some people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.
39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 The council accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.
41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.
42 And every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: “The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus.”
Did you catch that last part? The apostles were taken out and flogged, and ordered to stop. And what did they do?
” The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.”
Rejoicing that they could be jailed, and berated, and beaten, for Jesus.
And then “every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: “The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus.”
This was not done in in hiding. Right out in the Temple. And of course they’d be captured, and jailed, again, and most of them eventually executed, but all the way, they’d still be rejoicing.
They’d be sitting in their prison cells (and these are not the ones with TV and comfy beds that we have today), they’d sit in their dark, cold, misreable dungeons, and sing Hymns and pray and rejoice waiting for God to rescue them again so that they could get back out there…….and do just what had gotten them imprisoned in the first place. And if he didn’t rescue them, so be it. They rejoiced anyway just for the priveledge.
And the numbers of them grew and grew.
It went against all logic, and all experience.
And Gamaliel brought and very rational and solid argument. There had been Theudas and Judas of Galilee, who were just two of many false Messiahs that were running around during this time. And Gamaliel pointed out that these false Messiahs were soon proved false, and their followings scattered quickly.
And so it was logical that the very same thing would happen with Jesus. He’d be proved false, and his followed would disapate. And that would be the end of the story.
BUT….Nearly 2000 years later and there is no end of story in sight. Jesus has never been proven falls, and his believers have never scarred, and every attempt to kill Christ’s church, has been as futile as the attempt to kill Christ himself.
The two phrases of verse 42, “every day” and “they kept right on,” emphasize to us that the proclamation of the gospel did not skip a beat in spite of their arrest and flogging.
And it will not. In these days, there is apathy, and ridicule, and persecution of Jesus and his followers everywhere you look. It’s not new.
But despite every argument that modern man throws at Jesus and His Followers, the numbers continue to grow.
We may not see that so much in this country, or in Europe. Satan is having his go in the playground that we have set up for him.
But across the globe in Africa, and South America, and Asia, the church is expanding like wildfire.
Showing us clearly that Jesus wins. He won back then, His wins now, and in the end, He’ll win completely and finally.
His enemy, that frolicks in short term victories will be completely defeated, stopped cold, forever.
And we’re in the midst of it. We are part of a mighty army of Jesus that marches forward in a world trying to Him cold, and stop us cold. It won’t work.
Followers of Christ, who trust Him completely, unlike Aninias and Saphira are unstoppable.
(c)2013 Timothy Henry