“Opposition From Without and Within” by Bill Echols (Evangelist)

Scripture Reference: Acts 5:17-29

Introduction: Satan will do anything he can to destroy the church. If he is to have any success, he must gain it by attacking those who follow Jesus. Satan tries to create internal problems (Acts 5).

I.  The Work of Satan in the Church (Acts 5: 1-4)

A. Basically, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was hypocrisy.

  1. Some would have thanked Ananias for the gift. Not Peter! Being honest and outspoken, he rebukes the wrongdoer. Ananias lied and died (5:5-6). God is not mocked (Gal 6:7).
  2. We see God’s attitude toward hypocrisy. The attitude of Jesus is not hard to learn (Mt. 23:13, 15).

B. Sapphira, the wife, felt the same sting of punishment (5:7-10).

  1. Why were this man and wife punished so severely? The results tell us (5:11). To produce such fear as to deter others. The true church must be free of hypocritical profession.
  2. God punishes the lying lips of those who sought the praise of men rather than God. This is another example of the honest realism of the Bible. Conditions are presented as they actually were.

C. The immediate result was more growth for the church (5:12-16). The healings were secondary to preaching and adding souls (5:14).

II.  The Second Imprisonment of the Apostles.

A.  The cause of this persecution (5:17, 18).

  1. Again it is the Sadducees leading the opposition (4:1). The apostles preached much about the resurrection of Jesus (2:32; 3:14, 15). This contradicted one of the main points of Sadducee belief.
  2. “They were filled with jealousy”. The success of the apostles created intense indignation, many believed the apostles teachings (2:41; 4:4; 5:14). The Sadducees were losing ground rapidly.

B. God’s angel released the apostles and sent them back to preach (5:19-21a).

  1. It takes more than a human prison to stop the work of God. Four reasons have been suggested why the Lord intervened here, but not always in other cases.

a)  It was a reproof to the Jewish leaders. b) It encouraged the apostles in their preaching. c) It convinced any doubtful Christians. d) It was proof of the truth of the apostles’ preaching.

2.  The apostles lost no time getting to the people. The message was “the word of this Life” (5:20). This is dependent on a living Christ, and a living Christ is dependent on His resurrection.

III.  Courage In Face of Persecution.

A.  The apostles again are brought before the rulers (5:25-29).

  1. The angel did not promise that there would be no more persecution. God’s approval of our efforts does not exempt us from hardship and possible persecution.
  2. The Sadducees prefer not to mention the name of Jesus (5:28). The charge was a great compliment to the apostles. The apostles did it because they were busy every day.
  3. Human authority said, “Don’t preach”. The apostles must obey one or the other. The choice is simple (5:29). The apostles preach to the leaders of their guilt and need to repent (5:30-32).
  4. The testimony could not be gainsaid or honestly denied. The Jews who rejected it proved themselves dishonest and unworthy of respect (5:33). They did not want credit for killing Jesus (Mt. 27:25).

B. The apostles were saved from death by Gamaliel (5:34-39).

  1. The merits of Gamaliel’s advice depend on which point of view you take. As a general rule, it is poor. Instead of waiting, every lover of truth should promptly investigate (Acts 17:11).
  2. Public opinion or great success do not prove that anything is true, especially religion (Mt. 7:13, 14). One finds no middle ground when confronted with Jesus. One cannot take a wait and see attitude.
  3. If Gamaliel’s advice is looked at from the point of view, “Should we attempt to crush this movement with violence?” then his counsel is good.
  4. Notice again his comment (5:39). You need to decide the question, “Is the gospel from God?” Why not accept the gospel as God’s power (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).

IV.  Rejoicing in Persecution (5:40, 41).

A. Very early in His ministry, Jesus pronounced happiness to sufferers (Mt. 5:10-12).

  1. Any suffering the council could impose upon them was nothing compared to eternity. Thus they are happy to suffer for Christ (II Cor. 4:17; Rom 8:18).
  2. It is better to be beaten than to fight against God as the Sadducees were doing.

B.  So the work went on unabated (5:42).

Conclusion: All who could admire moral heroism were drawn to the apostles who turned them to Christ. It is love that gave such strength to men (Jn. 3:16) Will you not accept him (Acts 22:16)?