Acts 4: 1-31 (Selected)
Pearl: The unmatched power of the truth: Jesus Christ and his reign.
Function: To encourage worshippers to, with Spirit-filled boldness, trust in the truth of Jesus Christ and his reign which cannot be silenced or squelched and which transforms our world.
Each day Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer begins with verse 15 from Psalm 51: “O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” That is a fine way to begin the day: to plan, prayerfully, to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and his realm every time you open your mouth through that day. It is a tall challenge. Yet it is your calling, is it not?
There is a game found in arcades and amusement parks called “Whack a Mole.” In this game moles pop up and you hit them with a hammer. When you hit one another one pops up somewhere else. It is a frantic game of trying to keep up with all of the moles which keep popping up. It is practically a hopeless cause of trying to eliminate all of the moles.
So, it is with the Truth! So, it is with the Truth of Jesus Christ and his reign.
- When the gospel of Jesus Christ is squelched or silenced it keeps popping up!
- It keeps breaking forth.
unique aspect of promoting the truth of Jesus Christ and the parameters of
God’s reign is that as you do so you are empowered and made more courageous by
the Holy Spirit.
- As you witness to the name of Jesus Christ you are empowered by the Spirit.
- As you work to justify things according to the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, God works!
So, it happened with Peter and John! They were preaching that “in Jesus there was the resurrection of the dead.” At that time just as now, there were those who did not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead nor did they even believe in “the resurrection of the dead” (Sadducee party).
this message got Peter and John into trouble!
- They were brought before the spiritual authorities of their people. They were taken before an intimidating establishment.
right question was asked! “By what authority do you do and say these things?”
It was the perfect set-up to speak the world-changing message: “…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead…There is salvation in no one
else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we
must be saved” (4:10, 12).
- This was precisely what they should not have said. But it was the Truth. It was the central message of the gospel.
- Standing there with them in person was
also the man lame from birth who was given legs to stand on. He was cured from
- They did not deny that a notable sign was done. But nonetheless Peter and John were ordered to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus.
- They responded amazingly, “…we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:20).
truth of Jesus Christ cannot be silenced! Peter and John got into “gospel
trouble.” As powerful to heal and make new as the gospel is, it is opposed all
of the time. The awesome Truth, the awesome gospel of the kingdom of Jesus
Christ makes waves.
- Will Willimon wrote, “Unfortunately for the rulers, trying to keep spirit-filled apostles quiet is like trying to hold back a breaking wave” (Interpretation, p. 49).
- It is this same dedication to the Truth that Christians in some places throughout the world still today are becoming martyrs because they refuse to deny Jesus is their Lord; they refuse to deny what God’s kingdom demands!
I visit Princeton Seminary, I like to look for a certain plaque on the wall as
you walk into the campus dining hall. On this plaque are listed the names of graduates
of the seminary who lost their lives witnessing to the name of Jesus Christ and
to the demands of the kingdom of God. I was always moved to read those names
and I still am when I stand before it:
- Walter Macon Lowrie—thrown overboard by pirates in the China Sea. 1847.
- John Rogers Peal—killed with his wife by a mob in Lien Chou, China. 1905.
- James Joseph Reed—fatally beaten in Selma, Alabama. March 11, 1965.
way, the kingdom of God, makes waves. It always has.
truth of Jesus’ Way is dangerous in some of the following ways:
- It champions life over death;
- It promotes love over hate;
- It champions grace over law;
- It seeks after and prays for unity rather than division;
- Jesus promotes dialogue in place of silence.
Thomas wrote about the illuminating power of the truth of Christ in “A Light to
See By” (“Journey with Jesus,” August 6, 2017).
- She was moved by a quote by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
- She described how that quote fed her soul
in a way that very much mirrors my own personal journey:
- “I’ve spent a long time now moving away from a version of Christianity I can no longer affirm in good faith—Christianity as certitude, Christianity as fundamentalism, Christianity as a rabbit’s foot, securing my safety and good fortune. All the while, I’ve tried to find an essential core that I can still hold, and that will hold me. I wonder now if C.S. Lewis’ analogy is that core.
- What would it be like to accept Christianity, not primarily as a set of doctrinal claims, but as a lens? As a means of seeing? If my faith became my eyes, my light source, my sun, what sort of reality could I live into?
- At every point, Christianity calls us
to hold together truths that seem bizarre, counterintuitive and irreconcilable.
- Die to live.
- Pardon in order to be pardoned.
- Bless those who persecute you.
- And yet these seeming contradictions are what give the religion credibility. If I live in a world that’s chock full of contradiction, then I need a religion robust enough and complex enough to bear the weight of that messy world. I need a religion that empowers me…
- I am held and braced by a God who is too big for thin, one-dimensional truth. I am held in a deep place. A mysterious place. A high place. Of course, the light is different here. It’s filtered, shady, complex. It requires more from my eyes—more patience, more alertness. A longer gaze. But the view? The view is worth it. The view from this place is spectacular.
- The truth of Jesus’ Way is dangerous in some of the following ways:
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a life-changing, life-transforming, world-changing reality.
saves! He saves…
- Marriages and families;
- From addictions;
- From loneliness;
- From despair;
- From bondage;
- From poverty;
- From hopelessness;
- From grief;
- Such is the power of the gospel; “…there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (4:12).
this is very important: Jesus’ message was that the kingdom of God was at hand.
So, there is also a physical dimension to the gospel.
- So often we think of “justification by grace through faith” in only a spiritual way, neglecting the physical demands of that concept worked out by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans.
what is justification? It includes the word “justify.” When you justify something,
you bring it into alignment with something.
- So, in Jesus life and ministry he taught that things needed to come into alignment with the kingdom of God. Things like systems, structures, laws, beliefs, philosophies, and so on.
- We might confess a certain sin but that is
not all that is necessary. After confession comes work to right the wrong and
make the needed changes or justifications to align with God’s Way.
- Take the topic of racism, for example. This is a complex topic which requires much more understanding. It is a pervasive problem in our land.
- For issues concerning race to come into alignment with the kingdom of God there is a lot more required than simple confession of sin and granting of forgiveness.
- There is the need for a lot of discussion, dialogue, understanding, and reconciling work to do.
- Followers of Christ are empowered by the Holy Spirit to refuse to accept things as they are. Things are not what they should be. Things must change for the better all of the time.
- Gospel boldness is needed. This boldness derives from the Truth of Jesus Christ who always pointed to the kingdom of God present in this world.
Word got around about the boldness of Peter and John. Word got around that they were taken before the authorities. Word got around that they were told to stop speaking about Jesus of Nazareth. As their story got around God worked and scriptures say “…many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand” (4:4).
Spirit-filled boldness comes from promoting the Truth, the Way, of Jesus Christ!
The unmatched power of Jesus Christ is adequate to live on; it is able to solve dilemmas/problems; it is prone to renew and to revive; the power of Jesus Christ is enough to unite…the Truth, Jesus the Christ is up to the task!
is the Truth and the Truth keeps popping up! Jesus Christ cannot be squelched.
His reign keeps popping up and clashing with the principalities and the powers.
Christ keeps popping up and showing up and saving the day.
- And he will come again once and for all to save this world at the Father’s command.
the meantime, your job is to pray for it and to work for it!
- St. Augustine said: “Pray as though everything depends on God, and work as though everything depended on you.”
- Boldly pray and work in the name of the Truth, Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the kingdom of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit!