Growing pains

Talk   Acts 5 Growing pains

Just to remind everyone this tour of Acts means that I am paraphrasing the story (in italics) but I do expect you to read the full version as homework. Act’ 4.36 to 6:7

Ananias and Sapphira

4:36 Barnabas sold his field and gave the money for the apostles to use for the church. 5  Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, sold their property, they gave the money to the apostles’ for the church but hiding some it. Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan persuade you lie to the Holy Spirit. The land belonged to you and so did all the money you received from the sale; what made you think of lying about it to us and to God.” Ananias collapsed and died when he heard this. All who witnessed it were fearful, his body was wrapped up and carried him out to be buried. Later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened she told Peter the same lie, so he said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” She too fell down and died and the men took her and buried her beside her husband. The whole church felt a deep sense of awe when they heard about it.

When studying the bible we can come across stories that we don’t like as it seems to go against a God of Love telling us something of God that we don’t want to know. Something about his character that goes against what we think he should be like. This story of Ananias and Sapphira can be one of them, they sell some land, put some of the money from the sale away for a rainy day then give the rest to the disciples for the new church to help in it’s growth. OK they didn’t give it all, but for this they are killed!

The last two verses in the previous chapter are intrinsic to this story, Barnabas sold his field and gave all the money for the church to use to God’s glory. The two stories are linked by attitudes of giving to God. We know that Barnabas gave all he had and then became a full time apostle, perhaps Ananias & Sapphira wanted to do the same thing, gain the same credibility told them they has given everything and so wanted to be apostles dedicated to lead others to know God’s ways.

But in their hearts they hadn’t, the issue is not the money but the lie made to the church and to God. Each of know that we can’t deceive God, Ananias & Sapphira believed they could, they wanted to be seen within the church as something there were not. The lesson for us is with our commitment to God we don’t try to deceive others, we can’t pull the wool over God’s eye, we need to be realistic. Leadership in the church has to be done in partnership alongside God, at that time God could not afford to have such people in leadership roles

We all sin, we all fail God, none can meet the standard that Jesus set and it is in recognising this that we can come to Jesus and seek his forgiveness. Yet the one unforgivable sin is to deny The Holy Spirit once it has been given, and this is what they did and the result certainly sent a message to all the followers, how important people’s commitment is when making Jesus our Lord

Some translation of this passage use the word fear in what the people felt, well if you are not in his family then yes people should fear God. But for those who are part of God’s family it is love one should feel not fear, once we have made Jesus lord in our lives, we need to live in love for as John tells us in his letters there is no fear in love

The Apostles Heal Many

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders and became highly regarded, although people didn’t dare to be seen with them, more and more came to believe and joined them. Crowds from the towns around Jerusalem, brought him their sick, some laid them on mats in the streets so Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed and all were healed.

The apostles used the gift of healing & people recognised God working in them, yet being part of a miracle, does not always give faith and commitment. Jesus told Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed and these first converts were all Jews, they saw healing happening, miracles! They still considering themselves Jews, but now with the Messiah to guide them in a close relationship with God and all by accepting the teaching and gifts of Jesus. Consider how our church would grow if people saw the same healings done today showing total faith in God.

Remember the women who touched Jesus’ robe and her bleeding was cured, this is like the healing received by the people who just lay in the shadow of Peter. Those healings were given not by Peter but by their own faith in God’s healing power. Peter and the apostles healing had emboldened faith in the individual faith demonstrated, blossoms and spreads like ivy over a wall.

The Apostles Persecuted

17 The high priests and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy, arresting the apostles and putting them in jail. An angel released them, telling them to go to the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life. The Sanhedrin were told the jail was securely locked with guards still standing at the door yet the apostles were in the temple courts teaching the people. The captain fearing his men might be stoned re-arrested the apostles, without using force.

For the 500 years since coming back from The Exile things had not be easy for Israel as always they tried to please God with deeds but not with their hearts and they simply did not put their trust in God. Wars were continuous, Alexander the Great had swept through, The Maccabees did for a little while regain some independence then to retain a semblance of self-rule, the Romans were asked in to keep order. It was simply a measure while waiting for the predicted Messiah to come for it was he who would emulate King David and Israel would once again rule themselves and the surrounding lands.

Nothing and No-one should interfere with what the temple leadership felt was right. Jesus had dared to oppose them and many were now starting to follow his ways. The chief priests were not able to fault his teaching or discredit his healing miracles or those done in Jesus’ name. They wanted this power and were jealous of the disciples for having it since thousands of the people were now accepted Jesus as their saviour

Jesus’s followers were arrested in the temple and put in jail this was Peter’s and John’s second time in jail. The disciples may have wondered how God was going to get them released for many Jesus was beginning accepted as Lord and they were now before the Sanhedrin and it was powerful enough to have them put to death. This was Peters’ severest test to date. surely God would protect them, for he had released them from jail. Had he not told them to go and preach in the temple, they were doing his work, yet would God save them? For his own Son had been crucified by these same priests and he didn’t save him.

 27 At the Sanhedrin the high priest accused them saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles’ replied: “We must obey God rather than men! You murdered Jesus by hanging him on a cross, it was our ancestors’ God, who in order to bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins raised Jesus from the dead and then exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The temple leaders certainly wanted to make an example of this new leader Peter, for both Peter and John had ignored their order not to teach about Jesus and now many people were now believing Jesus was the Messiah. Worst still the Sanhedrin was being blamed for his murder, The priests had believed they were doing God work in dealing with a false prophet they were so tied up in the politics of the world not wanting to see the proof nor understand the truth that even now stood before them.

In answer to the charge Peter simply said what he did before, ‘Obey God above man’ and reaffirmed yet again that Jesus was murdered by the priests then went on to say, The nation needed to repent of their sins, it was Israel’s God who raised Jesus he was the means of forgiveness for he had been raised to God’s right hand. We like those disciples need to use God’s Holy Spirit to go and simply witness this.

When asked what makes a Christian put the answer in a nut shell, make it simple, truthful and rom the heart, acknowledging God as Our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus as our Lord in your own words trusting God’s Spirit will give you the words that will touch the person who asked.

We Christian accept Jesus lived, died, was raised by God to life and who is now our Saviour with the result that we have been given The Holy Spirit to be used, so we need to use that gift, knowing our role is to obey God rather than men. However we don’t always do what God wants us to do, and therefore we need to acknowledge the forgiveness which is given through Jesus and keep on trying to witness God’s Word.

We can’t see inside of someone’s heart to discern whether they’re a Barnabas or an Ananias. But the secrets of our hearts are not secrets to God. When we proclaim  “Jesus is Lord” and live as if his law doesn’t matter, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that we’ve successfully tricked God.

33 A furious Sanhedrin wanted to put them to death but Gamaliel, a respected Pharisee had the apostles excluded then said, “Men of Israel, consider carefully when judging these men, remember Theudas he claimed to be somebody, then when killed his four hundred followers dispersed. Then Judas the Galilean led a revolt, again when he was killed his followers were scattered. My advice is: Leave these men alone and let them go! If what they do is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop these men and you will find yourselves fighting God. His speech persuaded them, the apostles were flogged and again ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let go. The apostles left rejoicing since they had suffered in honouring Jesus.  Every day in the temple and in homes, they kept teaching and proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah.

 We know that not all the members of the Sanhedrin were against Jesus even though they faced expulsion from the Temple and possibly death. Someone had to be God’s voice in that meeting and Gamaliel took on the role and very cleverly his did not say he supported Jesus. Yet saw something that made him act to stop the persecution of the early church.

Consider Gamaliel’s challenge – If what they do is of human origin, it will fail. Well 2,000 years later we know what those disciples did, did not fail. He then said, if it is of God, you will not be able to stop these men

 Jesus’ followers were not stopped, all proof that Jesus was from God as for them feeling honoured for being flogged because of their witness. Should not all of us be willing and feel honoured to suffer for Jesus. Jesus prayed not to go to trail but then did not flinch when the trail came. We need to do the same, put God and Jesus first and our own comfort second each challenge to our faith is an opportunity to witness and help the church grow

The Choosing of the Seven

6 As the number of disciples increased, the Hellenistic Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews since they felt their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called all the disciples together and said, “We need to ministry of the word of God, so to deal with this you chose seven men who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”  Stephen was chosen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; plus Philip, Pro-cor-us, Ni-can-or, Tim-on, Par-me-nas, and Ni-colas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. The apostles prayed and laid their hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, including a large number of priests.

The early church had its problems and in them one can sense Satan’s influence not everything was done or received in Love. People felt things were not fair, and because of that people complained. We don’t know if it were true or people were stirring up trouble for the sake of it but division starts when we put ourselves first and God second

What is important is how any issue that causes problems is dealt with, first listen to the complainant, then what can be done to sort it out? Use appointed people who can be trusted and are known to be full of faith, followed with prayer for all people involved. Giving authority to those led by The Holy Spirit to sort it out so everyone can acknowledge the situation will be judged fairly leading to the acceptance of their judgement enabling Satan to be defeated.