False religion, as impressive and wealthy and powerful and magnificent as it may appear, is a facade that cannot stand even the slightest exposure to truth. It is helpless before the simple testimony of a transformed life.
Explore the power of silence and the courage to speak out for your faith in the face of opposition. Discover how Peter and John, uneducated and untrained men, stood before the Sanhedrin and boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ. Learn about the significance of Jesus as the only Savior and the importance of making a personal decision to follow Him. Gain insights into the challenges of living out your faith in a world that promotes religious pluralism and syncretism. Find inspiration to embrace the truth and live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ.
Has it ever occured to you that the less people know about Christ, the more they seem to like him. In a few weeks you’ll be shopping in stores to the the sights of manger scenes and the sounds of Christmas carols. You can buy CD’s from popular singers who talk about the little baby Jesus boy. The baby in the manger touches even the most cynical soul . . . the moment you suggest the fact that the little baby Jesus boy grew up and will one day come back as sovereign King over all humanity judging all who’ve not claimed Him as Lord and King and rewarding all those who have - well, that’s another story.
You see, since Christ said that the world would hate Him, we can be sure that when the world likes Him, it is because they either do not know Him, or they have made Him into something He is not.”
In addition to that, remember that Jesus Christ said Himself that just as the world hated Him so they would hate His followers.
Maybe you’ve been listening to the religious news recently and heard the story of the 4th grader who began telling her friends during reces about her recent salvation. The teacher ordered her to stop and she refused - her parents took issue with that decision and it went through the court systems - ultimately upholding her right to tell her friends about Jesus Christ.
She simply had to share the good news - and for that she created trouble for herself and her family.
That story isn’t new - in fact, the very first time after the ascension of Jesus Christ, trouble visited the young church in Jerusalem.
4:1 AND as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Now you need to understand a little bit about the Saducees. They happen to be facing a very serious problem.
The Saducees were an influential, wealthy group of men - the high priest was usually chosen from their ranks. The Saducees collaborated with the Roman government any way they could in order to keep Judaism alive and well.
They happened to dominate the Sanhedrin, the 72 member Jewish Supreme Court.
1. they denied the miraculous or supernatural
2. they denied the existence of unseen spirit beings or angels
3. they denied of the resurrection from the dead
Now they obviously have a three fold dilemna:
1. a man had been miracously healed
2. it happened by unseen spiritual dynamic
3. the credit is being given to as resurrected Jesus whom they put to death just a few months earlier.
Their dilemna could be stated in one sentence; Peter and John had not broken any law by healing the man, yet the power to heal was being credited to a man the Sanhedrin thought was dead and gone.
In other words, if Peter and John were right, the Sanhedrin was wrong - and furthermore, they are indeed guilty of condemning to death not just any man, but their legitimate Messiah!
WHAT DO THEY DO NOW?! 3. And they laid hands on them, and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
In other words, all through the night the city is brimming with the news of this beggar’s healing and the resurrected Christ who made it happen. More and more reports are coming in to church makeshift headquarters of more and more people placing their faith in Jesus - they’ve been keeping a count as best they can - now the church is 5,000 MEN. Notice, that’s just counting the men - 5,000 of them - if you added wives and children to many of them, the church might be, at this moment some 10,000 strong!
5 And it came about on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.
Let’s set the scene - The 72 member Sanhedrin is there on their raised platform, seated according to party and rank in a semi-circle on the platform:
this is the same courtroom where Jesus Christ was interrogated and condemned.
Luke records the names of the men with the repeated use of the word “kai”, or “and”. That grammatical technique emphasizes each and every person. It’s as if Luke sets the stage with drama - “You won’t believe who was there to interrogate Peter and John - “There were the rulers and all the elders and each and every scribe elected to that august board. Then there is Annas and Caiaphas - they were there like serpents hissing at the light (remember these two men played the leading role in sentencing Jesus to death). and so on ...
Talk about intimidation. Peter and John were out of their league - there they stand before wealthy powerful men in fine robes, and articulate experts and seminary doctorates.
And Peter and John were poorly dressed, calloused, rough speaking, nobodies. . .they’re the little guys taking on the corporate giants.
Like that little grocer who refused to sell his little fruit and vegetable store - the city was revamping that particular block and he wouldn’t budge. So on one side of him a huge department store was built - and on the other side of him a large multi-story complex was built that sold everything from bycicles to apples. That little grocer never saw sunlight again - he was overshadowed by the giant competitors. But with great ingenuity he scraped together everything he could and bought a huge sign - and attached it to the top of his little store - in big neon letters the sign read, “Main entrance here!”
Peter and John - your about to be crushed by the weight of generations of tradition and pracitice . . . if there was ever a moment when Peter and John could have gulped hard and wondered - ‘What did we get ourselves into?” It would be this moment.
Let’s face it - one of our natural problems stems from the fact that we don’t really like to be different - we are by nature imitators - fashion is one indicator of that fact. The reason I’m not up here wearing a necktie that’s 12 inches wide and a baby blue leisure suit is becuase nobody else is wearing them - I thank God for that.
If there was ever a moment when Peter and John recognized how different they were - how shocking their story was - it was now.
7 And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, (stop here - if you’ve misunderstood this answer as an act of peter’s brilliance or some self-initiated bravery - you’ve missed the significance of that last phrase - remember, their is one baptism- we all recieved that on the day we were saved - but there are many fillings - that is, there are many times in our lives when the Spirit of God dominates our minds and hearts and tongues so that we speak with clarity and courage. The question you have to ask yourself, is, “What is it in your life that demands the domination of the Holy Spirit - what have you discovered you can’t do without Him ?”)
Now Peter speaks - “Rulers and elders of the people, 9. if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, (can you see Annas and Caiphas squirming?) whom God raised from the dead (can you see the sweat forming on the foreheads of the Saduccess?)—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. (The Sanhedrin considered themselves the builders and keepers of the Temple - they had discarded the corner stone from which every angle and measurement is to be related. Peter’s not finished.) 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
That name, verse 10 informs us is Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Jesus - Yeshua - savior.
Peter makes a twofold declaration:
1) Since Jesus Christ is the only Savior - then to follow any one else is to remain lost.
notice again 12a. There is salvation in no one else!
Jesus Christ is not one god among many - He is the only God.
He is not one path to heaven among many - He is the only path.
2) Since Jesus Christ is the only truth - then to believe any other message is to remain decieved.
notice 12b. for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
Jesus Christ is not one source of divine truth - He is the only source.
You need to understand that the strategy of Satan in our culture is not necessarily to deny that Jesus Christ is the way to heaven, but to deny that He is the only way.
And so today, the God of the Bible is only one god among many gods, each equally valid in their claims.
In fact, in the 1993-4 Barna research report, nearly two out of three adults contend that the choice of one religious faith over another is irrelevant because all religions teach the same basic lessons about life.
So, today, you've probably heard statements like:
“I love Christ as much as you do, but I don't think He is the only way to God...God would never limit the way to heaven to one person.”
“Religious truth is just a matter of your own personal interpretation.”
“I think that all the religious of the world are essentially the same.”
“There are a lot of things I like about Christianity, except the fact that it seems so dogmatic and intolerant of other religions.”
Erwin Lutzer’s newest book entitled Christ Among Other God's caught my attention . . .
READ DR. LUTZER
Today, the society God has called us to reach is actually moving from pluralism, to syncretism - that is, you don’t have to even buy totally into one particular religion - you can now choose - you can choose a little bit from Christianity, a little bit of new ageism, a little bit from Hinduism, a little bit of Protestant doctrine, a little bit of Catholic doctrine, mix them all together and come up with your own personal religion that fits your lifestyle and your own little god who accepts you on your terms.
Spirituality is one happy buffet of possibilities.
What Peter says in Acts 4:12 shatter any attempt to pick and choose.
Jesus Christ is the only name - He is the only way of salvation - period!
And the Sanhedrin got the message - it wasn’t Jesus and Judaism - it was Jesus instead of Judaism.
Now notice verse 13. Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, , (the first word “uneducated” literally translated means, “unalbe to write” - the second word used to describe them - “untrained” is the Greek word which gives us the transliterated word for idiot) and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16. saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17. “But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.”
You get the idea that this courtroom has no interest in dicsovering the truth but supressing the truth?!!!
So after their brief recess, the Sanhedrin regathered. The gavel came down and the court ordered these two fishermen - “SILENCE - We order you not never to speak His name again.
We don’t want to argue about it - we don’t want to weigh the evidence!
We just want you to be quiet about it . . . don’t say anything to anyone!
May I ask you a question? Who represents your Sanhedrin today. Who is it that tries to intimidate you into silence?
That corporate setting, that campus filled with liberal thought and relative values; that atheletic club or neighborhood gang - where is it that you feel that untrained, ill-equipped, better not say anything lest they think I’m a lunatic - feeling.
Where are your Sanhedrins - and what does it take to stand like Peter and John and testify to the truth about Christ?
In order to stand like them, you will need to have the same four convictions:
1. You will need to be convinced that Jesus Christ has come back to life.
They were convinced that Jesus Christ was alive. (do you believe that?)
2. You will need a conviction that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life
They were convinced that Jesus Christ was the only hope for salvation! (have you come to that conviction?)
The state of our culture wherein we are called to testify could be illustrated by someone drowning at sea who is thrown a life-saving rope. But they respond by insisting that they deserve a choice of several ropes along with the option of swimming to safety if they so choose.
Can you speak with conviction that they either cling to the saving work of Christ alone or they will never make it to heaven’s shore.
Are you convinced that a person must trust Christ alone - or perish!
3. You must have a conviction that salvation through Jesus Christ is the most important decision in life.
Have you made that decision?
4th. You must have a conviction that obedience to Jesus Christ is the only lifestyle worth living.
The Apostle Peter and Apostle John knew that they could, as Jesus had been, condemned to die - they had no reason to hope for anything better than a cross for themselves.
But if you ever hope to make a difference in your culture, His name must mean more to you than your own life.
When I was in France, recently, I had dinner with a veteran missionary couple who had spent 40 years serving the Lord. There apartment was not much larger than most of your living rooms. Mr. Hazeltine and his dear wife retired simply becuse of ill health and they decided to remain in France rather than the States. I asked him to recount his ministry for me - a ministry that actaully began in Albania. With great humility he told me, and the other dinner guests many stories of God’s power and protection. While serving in Albania for several years before being forced out by communists years ago - he was taken by the police and interrogated about his religion and the work he had been involved in. The police commander then demanded that he give them the names of all the Albanian Christians. Knowing that if he did so, he would literally be sending them to their death, Mr. Hazeltine refused. The commander pulled out his pistol and put it to Mr. Hazeltine’s head and said, “If you do not tell me, I will kill you now.” He responded by saying, “I will not give you their names, and if you kill me, I will go straight to heaven.”
After a moment or two, for some unexplainable reason, the commander lowered his pistol and Mr. Hazeltine walked out unharmed.
18. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak (literally, not to make a sound!) or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (The Sanhedrin is attempting to nullify the command of Jesus - He told them to be witnesses - they are telling Peter and John to be silent) 19. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20. for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” 21. And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22. for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
False religion, as impressive and wealthy and powerful and magnificent as it may look and sound, is a fascade of spirituality that cannot stand even the slightest exposure to truth. It is helpless before the simple testimony of a transformed life.
Before we leave the story of this beggar’s remarkable transformation, let me rehearse the story once more, from a different point of view:
When Jesus Christ was born in human flesh, this man was 7 years old. Hopelessly crippled , he sat alone as the other Jewish children played in the streets of Jerusalem. How his mother and father must have agonized over the sight of their little boy - so weak. This little boy was unable to attend school, unable to help at home - unable to go anywhere unless someone carried him.
Religion was of no help - the Rabbi’s would speculate that there was sin in the parents lives that had caused God to bring pain into their lives.
When Jesus came to Jerusalem that day as a 12 year old boy - this man would have already begun his life of begging, now some 19 or 20 years of age. As young Jesus confounded the wise leaders in the temple, this young man begged for alms a dozen yards away.
Nearly 20 years would go by when suddenly, Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst the Hosanas of the crowd - as Jesus traveled about the city and taught in the temple, I have no doubt that at least a time or two He entered through that Beautiful gate, where the beggar sat - did there eyes ever meet - did Jesus ever stop to talk with him - the troubling truth was, though He healed others, He never stopped and heal him. Now, the miracle man was gone - no hope now. No prospect beyond begging. Perhaps his brothers or his father simply carried him to his daily post just outside the gate.
And then Peter and John came - perhaps he recognized them - he asked them for some money - yet, in a moment of time, through the power of that crucified, resurrected Man - the Messiah - he was healed - he could walk.
And now, before the Supreme Court - the very court that sentenced the Messiah to death - this man stands - unamed, unimpressive except for one thing - the same thing that sets you and me apart - the same thing that refutes the claims of our own Sanhedrin’s - it is this - we were once blind, but now we see - once we were lost - hopeless - crippled with guilt - empty - but now we are forgiven, saved, spiritually made whole.
And now he stands with Peter and John in that courtroom as we should stand in ours - unwilling and unable to be silenced. Why? Becuase we have the answer - we know the truth. “There is no other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby you must be saved: “and you shall call His name Jesus - for He shall save His people from their sin.”
Dr. Lutzer described his exposure to the Parliament of World Religions which met in Chicago last year. 6,000 delegates who had one message, "Unite or Perish!" was a call for all the religions of the world to find common ground and unite. (tribulation!)
The Parliament on World Religions held seminars to help people get over the thought that one religion could be superior to another...in fact, that is "the crucial obstacle" to religious unity.
(Lutzer reported an interesting observation) That among the 700 workshops offered, Christ was variously admired, quoted, and favorably compared to other religious teachers. But He was merely one enlightened man among many. Thought he was respected, he was not worshiped.
Lutzer concludes - Whether we like it or not, today, popular opinion goes like this - “The doctrines of different faiths should not be held as truth but as shells that contain kernels of truth that are found in all religions. It is best to speak of religious tradition rather than religious truth.”