Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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Acts 5

January 29th, 2010 by Vic

“Don’t play games with God!”

January 31, 2010

The apostles’ story continues in Acts 5.  The first deceit in the church was attempted by Ananias and Sapphira.  Peter states the seriousness of trying to fool God then gets arrested and preaches his 5th sermon, “We must obey God rather than men.”  Gamaliel, a highly respected Pharisee, prevents another crucifixion by trying to be reasonable without making a decision about Jesus.  And the apostles keep preaching.

Chapter 4 ended with Barnabas selling some property and bringing the proceeds to the apostles for distribution.  The Christians were sharing and taking care of one another.  God was doing a new thing among His people and Satan was ticked.  He had tried to destroy the Messiah by using the jealousy of the Jewish leaders, but God overruled.  He tried persecuting the apostles by using the jealousy of the Jewish leaders, but the apostles just kept declaring the resurrection of Jesus.  The Christians were the talk of the town.  Solomon’s porch was the ‘in place’ to be seen.

Maybe Ananias and Sapphira were Real Estate agents looking for more contacts.  Maybe they had friends attending.  With ulterior motives they joined the Christians for worship.  They met in Solomon’s porch, which was a beautiful area of the Temple and everyone who was somebody used this gate to the Temple.  This was a good place to be seen and this was a popular group to be part of.  Miracles were happening.  These Christians made you feel like family.

Now Satan is going to use Christians in the group to quench the Spirit and kill God’s work.  He uses the man whose name means ‘God is gracious’ and his wife’s name means ‘beautiful’.  They were the perfect couple.  They can really help the church.  “They will make good Christians.”  But satan fills the heart of gracious and beautiful people.  The Holy Spirit fills the heart of Christians.

Acts 5:1-11

Some feel that God was too harsh.  But throughout history God has reminded us that He takes sin very seriously.  At the very beginning of creation satan tried to destroy God’s work and tempted Eve.  At the very beginning of the nation Israel, soon after the Law was given to Moses, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron presumed on God and were struck dead with fire.  At the begging of their settlement in Canaan, Achan took what belonged to the Lord and he and his family were stoned.  At the beginning of the reign of David, the priest was taking the Ark back to Jerusalem on a cart rather than poles and he was struck dead by God.  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry satan came to tempt and deceive.

So here at the beginning of the church, satan tempts some new Christians that are weakened by the desire for status and popularity.  They wanted to look as spiritual as Barnabas.  Pseudo spirituality does not please God.  Hypocrisy was satan’s attempt to attack the church.

Everyone is tempted.  Satan still wants to destroy you.  You are God’s best work.  Since the resurrection of Jesus, satan has no power unless you believe his lies.  If you resist the devil he will flee from you.  We sin by our own choice to yield to temptation, to believe satan’s lies.

You don’t have to teach a child how to be selfish.  You don’t have to teach a child how to lie.  You don’t have to teach kids how to be homosexual, lesbian, or how to have sex before marriage.  Satan knows how to use our selfish desires and people to tempt us to sin.  But God takes sin seriously.  God has given us an owner’s manual.  There are some do’s and don’ts that are clearly stated that are for our good.  Sin is not bad for you because it is forbidden.  It is forbidden because it is bad for you.  When we don’t follow the owner’s manual, our beautiful truck starts falling apart.  If we don’t change the oil, clean the windshield, and keep air in the tires, our truck will be destroyed.

Ananias and Sapphira were pretending to be devoted to God.  Satan fills their hearts to conspire and deceive.  They lie.  They die.  This was not a case of church discipline.  Peter did not call a church meeting, but God dealt directly with sinners.  Peter simply said “You have not lied to men, but to God.”

5:11 Great fear seized the whole church.  The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  I’m glad that this was a lesson for the church and for us.  If God’s grace was not greater than all our sin, we would all be dead.  God does not want you to lie, because honesty is healthier.  God does not want you to sin, but He offers grace to the repentant.  This story is a lesson and an opportunity for you to repent and thank God for His grace.

5:12-16

Just as Jesus had promised, the apostles were doing many signs and wonders.  This is the only miracle of judgment that occurs through the apostles.  Once Jesus judged a tree for having leaves but no fruit.  All other miracles are demonstrations of God’s grace.

Solomon’s porch was now the regular meeting place.  No other place was big enough.

The community was no longer attending the church meetings as a social networking site.  Those who were not serious about following the Jesus Way kept away from the church.  It was no longer a safe place to hangout.  McDonalds and Starbucks lost interest in putting a franchise in Solomon’s porch.  God was in that area.

People had a very high respect for the church.  When we are filled with awe because God is present, then the little pretenses and games we play with one another are gone.

It was a popular belief that your shadow was part of you.  In Jewish law you were not suppose to let even your shadow touch a corpse.  Unbelievers had a great respect for Christians.  They saw God working miracles, but did not want to bring their sick friends to church and get zapped by God.  So they figured out the apostle’s routines and laid the sick by the side of the road where Peter’s shadow would pass.  They were all healed.

Jesus had said the apostles would do signs and wonders to confirm the word.  That is happening.

5:17-26

The apostles were arrested again.  Not primarily because of their teaching, but because of their popularity.  The Sadducees were jealous.  Everyone was asking them about the apostles.  They felt they had to do something.

The Sadducees put the apostles in prison but…  These arrogant leaders who denied the existence of angels are now the men helping God demonstrate that He uses angels to protect His people.  Silently and unnoticed the angel of the Lord opened the doors and gave the apostles a command.  He did not tell the apostles to run and hide.  He did not tell them to back off and play it safe.  He did not tell them to be a silent witness.  The angel said I’ve set up an appointment for you to go on the Good Morning America show and the Jay Leno Show to tell the world the full message of this new life.

They were not to flee or fight.  They were told by the angel to preach Jesus in the corporate headquarters of the men who were threatening to kill them.  These same men had killed Jesus.  This is the same place where Jesus had taught.  So early in the morning they go to the temple courts and began to teach about this new life in Christ.

Though their release demonstrated an unusual power, the priests ignored it and the apostles did not use any of their power against the priests.  Remember the miracles were only to confirm the word.

Probably a couple hours later, the CEO and his board members came to the Temple through their special private entrance.  The first thing on the schedule was the heretics that they put in prison last night.  The captain of the temple went to get the apostles but they were gone.  He came back and reported a supernatural prison escape.  The men had just disappeared.  There was no sign of forced entry.  The doors were still locked.  The guards still had the keys.  The men just disappeared.  The highest religious powers of Israel were gathered to judge prisoners they did not have.

One of the guards had apparently gone out to the temple area to see if anyone had seen the apostles and there they were teaching just like they have been doing the last few weeks.

5:27-42

Two times in 5:28 the high priest uses the pronoun to avoid pronouncing the name ‘Jesus’.  He reminds the apostles that he had commanded them not to mention ‘this man’.  I told you to stop doing this.  And you are trying to bring division by accusing us of killing ‘this man’.

5:29-32  With boldness Peter repeats his previous sermon.  Kind of like the pastor in Brazil who preached the exact same sermon 3 Sundays in a row and the elders called a special meeting to admonish him.  He replied, “When you start living what I’m preaching in this sermon, I’ll move on to another one.”

The apostles say, “We must obey God rather than men.”  The Sadducees are commanding things contrary to God.  God is a higher authority than the great and powerful high priest seated here today.  Peter clearly says ‘this man’ you are referring to is the resurrected Jesus.  Again Peter says, “You killed Him” but he adds that God has provided repentance and forgiveness through His sacrifice.  Peter is reminding these leaders that they made a big mistake.  They sinned against God, but if they will repent they can receive forgiveness and salvation.

Think about verse 29.  Do you remember the Beatitudes?  “You have heard that it was said, do not murder, but I tell you.”  You have heard that it was said, do not commit adultery, but I tell you.”  At least 6 times in Matthew 5 Jesus says that His teaching is different from what the world commonly says.

“We ought to obey God rather than men.”  What is the world telling us?  Don’t spank your kids.  Don’t be homophobic.   Don’t be like Tim Tebow and publically thank your mom that she did not abort you.  Don’t be so fundamental about pre-marital sex.  Don’t get up tight about God’s gift of mind altering drugs.  Don’t get too concerned about buying things that ruin our planet or keep other people in bondage.

God says we are to walk justly.  His promise in Proverbs 20:7 says “The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.”  Are you concerned about your kids and grand kids?  Then live a holy life and they will be blessed.

What does the world say is good for you?  What does your owners manual say is good for you?  Have you had a check up?  Have you checked your oil and brakes?  Do you have some squeaks?

When we do what the world says, there will be death.  When we walk the Jesus way, there is abundant life now and also life to come.

How do we obey God rather than men?  “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”  Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

What happens when you obey God rather than men?  You will know real freedom.  Freedom has been compared to playing the piano.  When do you have freedom to play the piano?  I would like to invite you to come up and we all give you freedom to play any of Bach’s music you want to play.  You are free to play any classical piece you want to play.  But your freedom is hindered because you don’t know the rules or math of music nor have you practiced for 10,000 hours.

As Christians we are free.  When we know the rules of God and obey the rules.  Real freedom comes when we put His yoke on our shoulder.  His yoke is easy.  There is no better place to be than on the road that leads to heaven.  Our world is not on that road.

5:33 When they heard the gospel, the good news, they were furious.  Remember the Sadducees were wealthy, concerned about preserving their prestige and power with the Romans.  The Pharisees had no political ambitions.  They conscientiously tried to keep the letter of the Law.  They were respected by the common people.  Gamaliel was honored with the title Rabban.  He was known as a kind man and loved by the people.  He was Paul the apostle’s teacher.

Opinion is divided on the wisdom of Gamaliel’s counsel to the Sanhedrin.   He does not mention any Scriptures.  He refers to history.  Is he trying to avoid a theological debate?  Is he not sure about Jesus himself?  The Pharisees believed in the sovereignty of God and the free choice of man.  They said everything is decreed by God except the fear of God.  So Gamaliel’s point is that the Sadducees should be careful so their free will does not go against the will of God.

Gamaliel was trying to be neutral about Jesus, but Jesus said you are either for Him or against Him.  Gamaliel was trying to avoid making a decision about the truth and counseling them to do the same.  He tells them to leave these men alone.  If it is not of God they will self-destruct.  If it is of God you can’t stop them.

5:41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing that God has counted them worthy to suffer for Jesus, and they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news.

If Peter was miraculously sent here to Liberal what would he preach here today?  What would he teach?  What would he say about Obama?  In Chapter 10 Peter tells his first Gentile congregation to “Fear God and do good.”  Take time to develop a relationship with God.  To know Him is to love Him.  Jesus calls Him our Father.  Do you give Him respect?  Do you obey?

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