Reflections From Acts 5: PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF THE NAME (Part Two)

actsThe persecution from chapter 4 continues through into this chapter.  This persecution results from the Name of Jesus being preached and signs that follow the preaching attest to Christ’s resurrection.  The following observations are instructive concerning the power of the word and the persecution continues to follow its: declaration, explanation and practice.

First, the death of Ananias and Sapphira because of their greed and deception served as an opportunity for God to affirm the apostolic authority and unique position in the church.  Note how lying to God ended these people’s lives.  The text, nowhere says that this couple were eternally lost.  This has the earmarks of God’s discipline that too often Christians consider an abhorrent thought.  But if this is Gods church, and it is, then He will do all His good pleasure for the glory of His name.

Second, God continued to grow the church such that the sick were brought within the apostle’s reach in order to be healed.  These acts of power were signs of the new age which had come into this evil age through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and now extended through his apostles.

Third, persecution, imprisonment, flogging and shame came as a result of the Name of Jesus.  [Quick note here: the name of Jesus (possessive) is not what is referred to when it’s talking about the name.  The name Jesus was common (I.e., Joshua), but the name above all names is “I Am” referring to the self-existent One Moses spoke to on Mount Sinai.  It’s this name Jesus says to the Jews, “Before Abraham was I Am” in John’s Gospel that triggered in the hearers a desire to stone him].  Anyway, and while they were apostles, they nevertheless must have felt the danger they were in before the leaders of the land.

Even though they were commanded to cease preaching in Jesus’ name, Peter and the apostles civilly disobeyed because God’s is much weightier than the command of the creature.  And as always, Peter is preaching, as an eyewitness, the fulfillment of prophecy God demonstrated through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Fifth, this manner of preaching did not get them killed just yet because it was not their time and God used the Pharisee Gamaliel to speak sense to those enraged.  Essentially, his message was that if these deeds and movement are based on human power, then it would not last as was the case with Theudas and Judas of Galilee as examples.

But, if these men and this movement originated in God, not only will you not be able to overthrow it (Jews), you will also find yourselves to be enemies of God.  There’s much wisdom here and yet, the apostles were released after being flogged.  It seems the Jews weren’t convinced they were beating God’s servants.

Lastly, instead of recoiling, the apostles rejoiced after being flogged because their theology of suffering was God-centered (E.g., they knew about Job, they witnessed Jesus’ passion).  The text reads:

41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Assuredly they recalled the Sermon on the Mount where rejoicing is the only response worthy to be expressed after being persecuted for righteousness sake and because of Jesus’ name (Mt.5).  Moreover, they must have understood that in God’s providence their lot included such shame which was a seal of honor, not disgrace.  Ironically, the shame suffered before men results in honor before God—that’s much to consider.


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