Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Peter the Rocky

January 22nd, 2010 by Vic

Acts 4

The movie “Rocky” is based on a true story of a big comeback.  In the scripture we see Peter making a big comeback.  Just 2 months earlier he had denied Christ and huddled with friends in a locked room.  Jesus had warned Peter that Satan would sift him as wheat (Lk 22:31).  Satan had knocked Peter down a few times.

The inspiration for the Rocky movies was Chuck Wepner, nicknamed “The Bayonne Bleeder.”  He debuted as a professional boxer in 1964 and began posting many wins and some losses.  He had formerly boxed while a member of the United States Marine Corps, and had worked as a security guard before turning pro.  He was the New Jersey State Heavyweight Boxing Champion and popular fighter in the Northeast’s Club Boxing circuit.  But after being knocked out by George Foreman in three and Sonny Liston in ten, many boxing fans thought that his days as a contender were numbered.  After the fight with Liston, Wepner needed over 120 stitches in his face. He also lost a fight to Jose King Roman by a decision in Puerto Rico.

However, after losing to Joe Bugner in England by a knockout in three rounds, Wepner won nine of his next eleven fights, including victories over Charlie Polite and former WBA Heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell.

Then, in 1975, it was announced Wepner would challenge Muhammad Ali for the world’s Heavyweight title.  According to a Time magazine article, Ali was guaranteed $1.5 million and Wepner signed for $100,000.  This was considerably more than Wepner had ever earned and he therefore did not need any coaxing.  Ali bragged, “I’m getting paid $1.5 million to fight this pug, and it’s fool’s gold.  I’ll knock him out in the 3rd round.”

In the ninth round, Wepner landed a punch to Ali’s chest and Ali was knocked down.  Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager, “Hey, I knocked him down.”  “Yeah,” Wepner’s manager replied, “but he looks really mad now…”

In the remaining rounds, Ali opened up cuts above both Wepner’s eyes and broke his nose. However, the far-behind-in-points Wepner made a dramatic comeback but lost in the final minutes.

Young actor Sylvester Stallone watched the fight at home on television and was inspired to write the script for Rocky, based on Wepner’s gutsy challenge.

The apostle Peter also made a comeback after several knockdowns.  Like us, he was engaged in a spiritual battle.  It is a battle we can never win on our own.  Our conflict is not against flesh and blood, but spiritual realities (Eph 6:12).  When we become Christians we step in the ring for Jesus.  When we pray, we step in the ring for Jesus.  In our routines Peter tells us to be self controlled and alert because Satan is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8).

Satan’s plan is to knock you down and destroy you morally, mentally, and physically.  He wants to hurt you so badly that you will never be a threat to his plans.  He wants you to quit the battle.

In Acts 4 notice the attitudes of the disciples as they overcome evil with good.

4:1-4

The Sanhedrin rulers are not happy with Peter and John.  This is the very same group that condemned Jesus and sent Him to Pilate for crucifixion.  Pete and John are not expecting justice.  They are expecting to die.

The captain of the guard was a high officer next in authority to the high priest and his responsibility was to keep peace and order in the Temple area.  5,000 men believed the gospel message so there was a large crowd gathered.  Some translations include the 3,000 in the 5,000; however the text indicates these 5,000 are an addition to the original number.  To put that in perspective, estimates of Jerusalem’s population at this time vary from 25,000 to 85,000.  And Josephus says there were only 6,000 Pharisees in Palestine at this time.  The Pharisees were students of the scribes.  Peter’s teaching of the resurrection was not a threat to the Pharisees, but the large crowd was making the authorities nervous.

Most of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees.  The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body.  They denied the existence of angels or spirits.  They were loyal to the Roman government.  They wanted to maintain their influence.  They associated only with the rich.  They were uncomfortable with miracles.  Their Scripture was the 5 books of Moses.  The Sadducees were not mentioned in John.  They were not threatened by Jesus’ teachings but His resurrection.  The Sadducees and Sanhedrin were in charge of protecting the Jewish faith.

“They were greatly disturbed!”  (4:2a)

4:5-12

Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law.  He had been high priest from A.D. 6 to 15 and was replaced by one of his sons.  Caiaphas was priest from A.D. 18 to 36 and he was replaced by another son of Annas.  John and Alexander were 2 of his 4 sons.

“By what power or name did you walk in here and preach?”  Everyone knew there was no higher authority than the high priest.  The disciples are being asked to confess their wrong and admit it. (7)

“Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…”  Peter is bold, respectful, and heart-filled.  The old Peter would have gotten angry and argued from his own strength.  He had argued with Jesus.  He rebuked Jesus.  But when we let Jesus lead there is no need to argue.  We can be patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled.

The Sanhedrin did not mention the man healed.  They did not mention the resurrection or Jesus.  But Peter respectfully reminds them of what is going on.

4:10 Jesus is resurrected, seated with God in heaven, and sent His Spirit to heal this man.  The resurrection is God’s confirmation of Jesus the Messiah.

4:11 Jesus is the stone ‘you’ builders rejected.  Psalm 118:22 says “the stone the builders rejected” but Peter identifies this council as the builders.  They have rejected God’s stone.  They knew the OT used a ‘rock’ as a symbol of God.  Daniel indentified the Messiah as a rock.  They rejected the stone and God put it in place permanently.  Jesus quoted this same Psalm in Matt 21:42-44, probably before this same group of men.

Peter goes on to explain that God has made Him a capstone.  Later in a letter Peter calls Jesus a precious cornerstone (1 Pet 2:4) that brings unity to Jew and Gentile.  Peter is allowing the members of the Sanhedrin to see the facts and confess their sin.

4:12 Jesus is the only Savior.  Salvation is to be found through Jesus alone.  This man has been made whole and complete (been saved) because of Jesus.  God is fulfilling Scripture before you today.  Isn’t this exciting?

4:13-17

The Sanhedrin was used to arguments, but Peter does not argue.  They were used to discussing the fine points of the law.  But Peter just states the big plan of God.  When we listen to the Spirit of Jesus we have courage and conviction.  When we respect others and treat them kindly, they are astonished.

Following Jesus and respecting people is a great way to defeat Satan.

Jewish law forbade punishing an unschooled or common person for a first offense, assuming he acted in ignorance.  Instead he was instructed and then punished if a second offense occurred.  This policy was followed here.  Peter and John were warned and threatened.  In 5:40 they are arrested a second time.

4:14 The healed man was standing there.  Everyone knew this man.  Their witness to what the Lord had done could not be refuted.  They could not explain his healing.  There was no precedent.  They believed no one crippled from birth could be healed.  None of the 70 scholars responded.  In the silence they ordered Peter and John out so they could confer with one another.

4;16-17 These leaders pool their ignorance and decide to threaten Peter and John.  They did not discuss the gospel that Peter preached.  They ignored Peter’s explanation and tried to cover the facts. They did not seek the truth but how to avoid the truth.  Miracles never convince anyone of truth.  Belief is a choice.

God uses the ignorant to confound the wise.  God uses the weak to confound the strong.  These big fishermen have been with Jesus 40 days after the resurrection.  Moses was on the Mount 40 days and people noticed.  How do people know we have been with Jesus?   Does our life show it?  Does our face glow?

4:18-22

Peter and John were respectful.  Maybe they were thinking of the Egyptian midwives who disobeyed the king.  Maybe they were thinking Moses’ mom and dad who disobeyed the king.  Maybe Daniel who disobeyed the king.  Whatever they were thinking, they believed in God’s sovereignty and His plan.  They had no more plans to preach in the Temple unless God told them to.  They were respectfully saying, “If God is speaking through you and telling us to stop, we’ll stop.”

4:23-31

The disciples did not go out the door and start preaching.  What we call the great commission was not their motivation for doing good.  Their motivation was internal, not external.  (see the story of Cornelius in chapter 10)  They were praising the Lord because they were not scheduled for crucifixion.  They went back and reported to the church what had happened.  The church prayed and things got shook up a little.

Too often I have gone to prayer meetings like I go to concerts, or plays, or other events.  There is little sense of urgency in prayer because my life is so comfortable.  But when I am out of my comfort zone or when I realize I can’t control the situations in my life, then there is more urgency in prayer and blessing for the church.

They do not ask for protection.  They do not ask God to destroy their enemies.  They quote Scripture.  They see the plan of God.  They submit to God’s sovereignty.  They ask for boldness and power to glorify Jesus and do God’s will.  They do not tell God what to do.  They do not name it and claim it.

They admit that God already knows what He is going to do and they want to be part of that plan.  They did not form a committee to plan an evangelism program.  The church does not need more slick methods.

There is only 1 Pentecost, but many fillings of the Spirit.

4:32-37

The filling of the Spirit created a unity among the people and a greater desire to sacrifice and share with one another.  They enjoyed great power and great grace, which are marks of a growing church.  One example of that was Barnabas.

If we want to defeat Satan and evil in our neighborhood, we need to pray.  We need fresh fillings of the Spirit.  We need to love the Lord with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus’ only weapon was love.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  God is gong before you.

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