Read: Acts 5:27-42
I love hearing the stories of the early church, the fearlessness of those who had given their hearts to Jesus and committed themselves to making his name famous. Though they faced many trials and much opposition, they persevered and were strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they were assisted by angelic help, and they became victorious in their mission. We read of one such account in Acts 5.
In the early days after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension and after the gift of the Holy Spirit was given, Jesus' apostles were meeting in public places, where huge crowds gathered as they performed many miraculous signs and wonders. So many people were being healed that sick people were laid in the streets, just waiting for Peter to walk by so his shadow might heal them! As people were healed and delivered of their afflictions, the number of those who believed in Jesus was increased greatly day by day.
This made the high priests and elders of Israel furious with jealousy. They arrested Peter and the apostles, ordered them not to teach in Jesus’ name, and threw them into jail. But during the night, an angel of the Lord came and opened the doors of the cells and directed the apostles to go into the temple courts and share the gospel there.
When the temple guard and chief priests realized the cell doors were still locked and guarded but the men were no longer in jail, they were puzzled. Soon someone came and told them the apostles were now in the courts of the temple, preaching about Jesus!
Again, the men were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Rather than being intimidated by the questions of the religious leaders, Peter and the apostles shared the gospel with those gathered. As you can imagine, this made the elders all the more furious and they wanted to put the apostles to death.
At this point, a man named Gamaliel stood up and called a Time Out. The apostles were put outside and Gamaliel addressed the assembly of elders. He told them of past revolutionaries, Theudas and Judas, who led uprisings of their own, which drew hundreds of people in. But eventually in both cases, these leaders were killed and their followers were dispersed.
Then Gamaliel said these powerful and persuasive words of wisdom:
“Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God.”
The apostles were released and though they had been ordered not to, they persisted in teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Shortly after this event, the follower of Jesus named Stephen was martyred and a great persecution broke out against the believers, forcing them to disperse to many places. But this only led to more people hearing the good news. Small house churches formed and multiplied throughout the Roman empire. At every turn, no matter what came against the gospel, and the people who proclaimed it over the years, Jesus’ name continues to be made famous as people hear of his love, sacrifice and victory over death, as they encounter God’s power through his Holy Spirit and as they give their lives over to him in love and devotion.
God’s purposes are unstoppable. This is a beautiful truth to stop and consider, especially in times when we are faced with uncertainty and a lack of control. It means we do our part by choosing to obey and follow his leading, and then we let go of our anxieties as we trust Him to take care of the rest, including that which seems impossible. Is there anything you need to give over to God today?
Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Song: Unstoppable God -Sanctus Real
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,