Acts Ch. 5-6
Acts chapter 5 begins with a well-known (aren’t they all well-known?) story of Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife who sold a portion of their property and conspired to lie about the amount it sold for when they claimed to give the entire amount to the Apostles. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, knew that Ananias was lying, and pointed out to him that it was a senseless lie. After all, Ananias didn’t have to sell the field, and if he sold it then he didn’t have to give the full amount if he were to donate anything. Instead, Ananias and Sapphira claimed to be giving the full amount when they were really holding some back for themselves. As a result, Peter charges first Ananias and then Sapphira with lying to God, at which point both of them are struck down.
The Apostles continued doing many signs and wonders, with great multitudes flocking to them for healing and to listen to them preach the Gospel. In their classic style, the high priest and the Sadducees arrested the apostles and put them in jail, only for the apostles to be met by an angel of the Lord to open the doors and charge them to “go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” The jail was visited the next day but the Apostles were nowhere to be found until they came to the temple. They were not arrested again, but instead charged not to preach the name of Jesus, to which they answered “We must obey God rather than men … And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Those of the council who heard this became enraged, but the Apostles were beaten and released when a certain Pharisee, Gamaliel, said that if the Apostle’s efforts were merely of human origin then they would fail, but if they succeed then they are doing the work of God and woe to those who may be found opposing God!
Some conflict arose upon hearing of the neglect of Hebrew widows. The Apostles resolved to pick seven men of good repute to take care of these people so that the preaching of the word would not be hindered. One of the men selected for this task was Stephen who would become the first New Testament martyr. He was a man full of grace and power who fell victim to a conspiracy of the Freedmen who charged Stephen with fabricated claims of blasphemy. Stirring up a crowd, these people took Stephen and brought him before the council, where “all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
What are we to take from these two chapters? Let us first consider the name of this book. Acts is most frequently referred to as the Acts of the Apostles, but reading even these two chapters, we see that it is so much more than that. I believe a much more fitting name would be the Acts of the Holy Spirit whose hand is seen clearly at work all throughout these pages. What is incredible about the account of Acts is not simply what the Apostles did, but the fact that God has clearly revealed that His new, holy temple is not a place of brick and mortar, but of flesh and blood. It is God the Holy Spirit that makes these Acts happen in the first place and He does it using sinful and ordinary people – now that is incredible!
It is because of what God is doing through these ordinary men and women that makes the book of Acts such an epic read. Keep in mind, too, that God doesn’t make waste. There is nothing written in these pages that is there for no reason. Every revelation, every miracle, every Holy Spirit-infused speech given before furious opposition is intended to point us towards Christ and His mighty work on the cross and in the grave. What is written is intended for historical accuracy, true, and to inform us future readers, but it is also an account of a living and active God and is therefore intended to bring us into His living and active work.
Knowing that God doesn’t make waste and that He is residing in us as His new temple, we can deduce that the account of the Acts of the Holy Spirit are not actually over – they’re an introduction! They are a blueprint. They are not meant to be read as a neat story or an interesting narrative, but as a prescription for our walk with Christ. The believers in Acts prayed for boldness, they rejoiced in their suffering for the Gospel, they stood firm and, full of the Holy Spirit, reasoned and debated and preached for the sake of the Gospel. They fulfilled the charge of the angel of the Lord to “go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
Application and question:
My friends, none of these should be absent in our lives! We should be so surrendered to God that He has free reign of our wants, our will, our pride, our decisions, our thoughts, our words. We cannot live as a (fill in the blank) Christian, a lukewarm Christian, a fair-weather Christian, or a part-time Christian. You may be saying to yourself that it’s all well and good for the Apostles to do those things because God was setting up His new church in a new way and had a very specific plan for them and was empowering them for it – but what difference is there between you and them? Were you not called? Were you not washed, sanctified, and justified? Do you not have works put in place ahead of time that you may walk in them?
Do you not have that exact same Holy Spirit within you in a world that’s arguably way more in need of the Gospel than ever before? What are you doing with that Holy Spirit? We must not be content to pull Him off the shelf on Sundays, or to persuade ourselves that we’ll get to know Him later. We must not treat Him as confined to the pages of Scripture as if it were another temple – you have the Holy Spirit within you, right here and right now, eager to get to work not only in your life but the lives of others! Remember, God does not make waste, so any time spent with Him trying better to deny yourself, time spent learning to bear your cross to follow Him is time very well spent. You must pray for boldness, for courage to follow and speak and witness. Though this will look different for everyone, nobody is exempt from this charge to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Luke 28-19-20).
Lord God our Father, we thank you for free access into your presence through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Please awaken us from our comforts and our slumber that we might tread the narrow path with diligence and integrity. Please set us free from the prison of our comfort zone that we might fully rely on you and the power of your Holy Spirit, and so fill us with that Spirit that we might exude Christ in everything we say and do. Please forgive us our sins and renew in us a new heart! Amen.
Song: Oceans - Hillsongs UNITED
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.