A night or two ago, as my wife and I were reading Acts 5, we were talking about many things in the text. One of them was the amazing contrast between the members of the Sanhedrin and the Apostles. Here’s a little walk through the passage:
In Acts5:14, the church was growing by leaps and bounds because in 5:15-16, Peter healed everyone in Jerusalem. Did the members of the Sanhedrin rejoice at the healing, revival and gospel proclamation?
Nope. They were jealous (5:17) and arrested them (5:18).
Then an angel let them out of prison and told them to continue preaching (5:19-20) and they did (5:21).
In the morning, the Sanhedrin sent out soldiers to get the prisoners but they weren’t there (5:21-24). They found the prisoners out preaching in the temple (5:25) and went and asked them to come back to the Sanhedrin cautiously, for fear that the people would stone them (5:26). The apostles went with the soldiers and appeared before the Sanhedrin, who reminded them that the apostles were forbidden from preaching Christ (5:27-28).
The apostles tell the Sanhedrin that “we must obey God rather than men” (5:29) and re-itterate the message that they’re proclaiming (5:30-31). Did the members of the Sanhedrin rejoice at the gospel proclamation?
Nope. They were so infuriated that they wanted to murder the apostles (5:33).
Then Gamaliel (the teacher of Saul of Tarsus), who was a wise and respected Rabi, had the apostles removed, spoke up to remind the Sanhedrin of other “revivals” that came and went into oblivion, and also suggested that if the apostles were indeed spokesmen for God, any opposition to the apostles would be direct opposition of God (5:39). Did this have any effect on the Sanhedrin?
Barely. They didn’t murder the apostles. Instead, they had them flogged and commanded them again to not preach the good news about the resurrection (5:40). Then comes one of the most bizarre verses in the entire Bible:
“Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” – Acts 5:41
And they kept on preaching the gospel both in the temple and in houses (Acts 5:42).
Here’s some thoughts on the passage:
1. The facts of Peter’s healing weren’t in dispute. Acts 5:16 says “The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” Peter put the doctors out of business, and nobody was suggesting that Peter wasn’t doing what he was clearly and obviously doing. The facts of the healings weren’t in dispute; the interpretation of those facts was where the battle lied. Peter was unquestionably verified, by divine miracles, as a spokesman for God. The Sanhedrin hated that fact, and they sought to erase that fact by silencing, or even murdering Peter.
All this to simply show you that sin affects how the mind interprets facts. Facts are neutral, but the carnal mind is enslaved to sin and sees all facts only and exclusively through the lens of their own sin (John 8:34; Rom. 8:5-8).
2. The disciples rejoiced in their suffering. Literally, they praised God that they got a beating. There’s a rather vast disconnect between how they saw the world and how the Sanhedrin saw the world. The Sanhedrin saw the apostles as a threat to their power and position and wanted them silenced, even at the cost of obvious and premeditated sin. The apostles saw the Sanhedrin as a threat to the gospel and wanted to proclaim the gospel, even at the cost of their own comfort or even lives.
All this to simply show you that the Holy Spirit must change your perception of life. Paul talks about this at length in Philippians 3:3-11. The gospel turned his world (and his worldview) completely upside down:
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
That leads to a serious question about how much your life and actions either confirms or betrays your claims to believe the scriptures and treasure Christ:
Do you, like Paul and the apostles, live with a singular focus on preparing for the coming resurrection?
Do you live for then or now?
What I mean by that is that every Sunday, I pass Pepsi’s new ad campaign on my way to church:
When life brings you sickness, difficult times, or even malicious people who orchestrate tangible acts of wickedness against you, etc. do you see it for what it is? Do you see the Lord’s good and loving hand in it for the purpose of increased Christ-likeness, the fruits of which will be enjoyed forever?
Fools live for now. Wise men live for 10 trillion years from now.
Live for then.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Get your worldview from the Savior, not a soft drink” Unger