Yesterday’s reading ended with Peter giving an impromptu sermon to the crowd gathered after the healing of the crippled beggar. Today, in chapter 4, we see the authorities stepping in to try to squash the nascent church before it made too much of a difference. Three points come to mind:
The resurrection is a crucial part of our faith
Luke tells us that the priests, the captain of the temple guard and some of the Sadducees confronted the pair not for healing the crippled man, but because (Acts 4:2) they were teaching that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. The resurrection, as we’ve seen time and again over just the last four days, is a crucial element of the Christian faith. It is what gives us certainty that Jesus truly is who he claimed to be. It gives us certainty that death and Satan have been defeated. It gives us hope that we too will one day be raised from the dead. But it is also one of the things that many outside of the faith take issue with.
Although there were those in New Testament times who believed in the resurrection (the Pharisees), there were equally those who thought the idea was ridiculous – such as the Sadducees. In Luke 20:27-40, they even tried to trap Jesus with a hypothetical argument meant to prove the absurdity of people being physically raised from the dead. On that occasion, Jesus trounced their logic (Luke 20:34-35), pointing out that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – even though these men had long since died.
You might have thought that Jesus’ logic would have convinced them – but no. Again we find them here going after the disciples for preaching that resurrection is available. What probably added to their rancour was the assertion that said resolution is available through Jesus – the very character they thought they’d finally rid themselves of.
Jesus is the only way to be saved
For those who’ve been Christians a long time, this seems obvious. But there are many out there who assert that it is either arrogant or unnecessary to insist that Jesus is the only way to the Father. How often have I heard people say that all religions are ultimately equal, like different spokes on a wheel all arriving at the spoke. Yet by definition that cannot be. For the central tenet of our faith is this: Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else. God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Jesus, crucified but raised by God from the dead is the only way to be saved. No amount of works can save us. No other revelation can save us. No other prophet can give us a better understanding of what we need to do to be saved. It is only by trusting in the name of Jesus Christ – the character, power and person of Jesus Christ – that we can be saved.
How to react when the gospel is opposed
The final thing I learn from this chapter is how to respond when the gospel is opposed. Rather than giving in to the threats and intimidation of the council, Peter and John retire to pray with the other believers. In their prayer, they remember that God is sovereign: the opposition of the nations has always been part of his plan. They pray not for vengeance, but for boldness to keep on speaking the gospel of God, asking that God himself – by signs and wonders – will prove their message true. And in response, God fills them with the Holy Spirit, allowing them to preach with boldness.
One of the ways God proves the message, I believe, is the character of the church. Their obvious love for each other demonstrates not only their love for God, but also that they are truly Jesus’ disciples. (John 13:34-35).