Acts #18 (chapter 5:11-42), part 2
The Book of Acts
Five Essentials of Evangelism, Part 2
Acts 5:11–42
To say what we saw Sunday night in the testimony of persecuted believers is convicting would be an understatement, especially when it comes to sharing the faith and doing evangelism.  Somewhere along the way, in our freedom and comfort as Americans, we have lost sight of the fact that the reason we are left on this earth as Christians is to do evangelism.  That is the sole reason for our existence and the  Lord has chosen to build His church through His church. 
The early church certainly understood that and that they were effective in doing it.  And as we began looking at the characteristics of effective evangelism in the early church, even though they were persecuted, there was this purity and power that was evident in the church. 
The third mark is
3.  Persecution
We've already talked some about the way this church faced persecution from our study in chatper 4, but we see it again here in chapter 5
verses 17-18
Since it is so fresh on our minds from the movie, it probably doesn't need to be said, but the Bible assures us that for the committed follower of Jesus Christ, persecution is inevitable.
Jesus said, in John 7, “All that will live godly will suffer persecution.”  And it is because the world hates Jesus and they hate Jesus because He condemns their sin.  So if we rightly preach the Bible and faithfully stand as followers of Christ, then lost people are going to bow up against that. 
I was reading this week about a youth choir tour to Scotland that was sponsored by Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. As a part of their tour, they sang in a city public mall in Edinburg, Scotland. 
A reporter named Shonna Craven, after comparing the choir to Nazis and ISIS called the  group a "Trojan horse" let in to deceive innocent Scots.  She wrote that the church the young people represent "ticks every box on the Ugly Religious Fundamentalism checklist: homophobia and transphobia, an obsession with sexual purity, and a firm anti-choice agenda thinly disguised as concern for women's wellbeing."
She closed her article by writing, "As a nation we should be stating clearly: bigots are not welcome here."
I know it shouldn't surprise us that people respond that way, but I still find myself taken aback by that kind of hatred.  But it was around in the earliest days of the church and the it was the early church’s conviction that they would ignore the persecution and proclaim all the more boldly and loudly the message, and that’s exactly what they did. 
So another wave of persecution comes in chapter 5.  This time it comes from the high priest and the Sadducees.
They are the ones who are the leaders of the temple operation.  They are narrow fundamentalists in that they only accept the opening five books of the Old Testament, the Mosaic books.  They are collaborators with Rome.  They want Rome to be pleased because they don’t want to have their power removed and because Rome is the occupying power, their power is only theirs if Rome agrees.  So they don't want any public disturbances that could be construed as a threat to Rome messing with things. 
Therefore, they are extremely agitated at these followers of Jesus because His teaching exposes them as the heretics they are. After all, there are now people bringing sick folks and laying them in the streets so Peter adn the other apostles can get close to them.  They are preaching about Jesus and everyone knows He died of a cross.  Now His followers are claiming He's come back to life.  And what they have here, as Barney Fife would say, is a situation! 
So the high priest and religious leaders decide to quiet things down. They can’t stand the popularity these followers of Christ are enjoying and it has to be stopped.  So they arrest the apostles and put them in the public jail. And for the moment, they think they’ve solved the problem.  But, notice what happens.
verses 19-20
It needs to be mentioned that the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection and here are these followers out there preaching a resurrected Savior. 
They also didn't believe in angels.  Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.  He sent an angel to deliver them from the jail. And what are they told to do?  Go right back to what you were doing when you got arrested.
God wants boldness in the face of persecution.  The command sounds really incredible.  To obey may be a little bit reckless.  It’s certainly audacious.  I love that kind of boldness and so does God, and that’s what He expects and that’s what He commands through His angel.  Obedience at any cost and preach the gospel at any cost. 
After all, they were expendable.  They didn’t ask, “Is it safe?”  Only, “Is it what you want us to do?”  And they are told, “Go speak,” and I love this, “the whole message of this Life, the whole message of this Life.”
If Christianity is anything, it is life.  Life abundant and life eternal, life in His Son.  He who is the Life.  What a beautiful reference to the Christian gospel. 
The command is to go to the temple and talk about Jesus, and that's exactly what they did.
verse 21a
Now don't miss the fact that the angel did a miracle to let them out but it was their obedience that placed them in the temple.  They arrive in the morning, and they begin preaching the gospel again.  I just remind you that God doesn’t release them from a very difficult situation so they can have an easy time.  He has a lot bigger plans than that. 
He puts them right back in the very place that is going to be the greatest threat to the people who put them in prison to start with.        
verse 21b
Their intention is to have the prisoners brought before the Sanhedrin for indictment.  But,
verse 22
Don't you know they were shocked to find the cells empty!  Now, watch this,
verse 23
So if you think they were shocked by the empty cells, then imagine how it must have felt to know the doors are locked, the guards are in place, but they are not there!  How did it happen?  I don't know!  I guess angels can get you through locked doors and prison walls!
Now the panic sets in! 
verses 24-25
One would think that once they got out they owuld have run for their life or been hiding somewhere, but instead, they're down at the very place they got arrested doing the same thing that got them into trouble!  In fact, I would guess they were preaching with more energy and unction than ever before.  Aftera ll, once you come to know Satan can't touch you and your enemies have no power over you, you can turn yoursELf loose!
verse 26
I wonder if they didn't just politely ask if they wouldn't mind going downtown to answer a few questions!   They sure don't want to stir up the people and they know better than to mess with this kind of power!
So the idea was to get them out of the temple, bring them back before the court without any violence. 
verses 27-28
Isn’t that an amazing testimony?  Don't you wish somebody would show up here some Sunday and say, "You people have got to shut up talking about Jesus because you are filling Ardmore and Carter County with your teaching!"  What a commendation that would be.
That’s what they said.  “We gave you strict orders not to do this, not to continue teaching in this name. And yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.”
So the first charge that bring against them is civil disobedience.  We commanded you not to speak in this name, and you are not only speaking, you’ve filled Jerusalem with this teaching. 
The second charge is,  “You intend to bring this man’s blood on us.” 
You are making us responsible for the death of this man.  Notice, they won't even use the name of Jesus.
You filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.  You are disobedient and you have laid the burden of guilt on us.
So the third characteristic of effective evangelism in the early church is persecution and just saw it as an opportunity to be more bold, more courageous, more straight forward with the gospel of Jesus.
There’s a fourth characteristic in the life of the early church that I want to point out to you in this narrative.  Not only purity and power, persecution, but
4. Persistence
verse 29
Simple enough, isn't it?  That’s the simple reality.  So what about Paul's instruction to be subject to the powers that be?  What about what Peter says, that we are to submit to the king and those that are in authority over us in his epistle?  Well, that’s all true until they tell us not to do what God has commanded us to do or tell us to do what God has commanded us not to do.   Then we obey God and not man.  It's just that simple.
We have been commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost part of the earth.  We must not be silent.  We must obey God rather than men. 
This is a critical commitment that every believer must deal with.  When you become a believer, you confess Jesus as Lord.  That is the very heart of our salvation confession. 
We have one master.  We are slaves under one master, one Lord, and we obey Him, not men.  What men say, what men desire, what men demand, what men want has no bearing on us.  You can’t be a slave to two owners.  We are slaves of our Lord and you see that bound up in their statement, “We must obey God.”  That’s characteristic of a true believer.  That’s what Christians should be able to say.  We must obey God.
If God says, “Preach the gospel,” we preach the gospel.  If God says, “Let the persecution come, and I will draw out of it my own purposes and bring blessing to you and glory to myself,” then we preach the gospel no matter what the cost.
verse 30
They reiterate the indictment that offends these men.  The end of verse 28, “You intend to bring this man’s blood on us.”  Peter in effect says, “You better believe we do!  You put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. You killed God’s Messiah.  And the truth is, we obey God and you disobey God.” 
That’s the difference between a believer and a non-believer.  We obey God.  We obey God’s command regarding His Son and in all that He has commanded us.  That’s why the Great Commission says, “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”   We are marked as believers by being obedient. 
verses 31-32
Talk about persistence!  He’s preaching the gospel to the people commanding him to stop.  He’s not saying, “Well, as soon as I get out of your presence, I’m going to give this message somewhere else.”  He’s giving it right back in their faces.                       
And notice, he says in verse 32, “We didn’t invent this. We aren’t making this up.  We are eye witnesses of His death and of His resurrection.  He has personally called us to this commission.  Further, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit for this work of preaching.  
I think the church of today could use a dose of that kind of persistence!  We have a tendency to shut our mouths at the first sign of opposition.  After all, we might lose our tax exempt status!  But silence doesn’t work in this calling.  We need to be willing to confront those who would silence us and to say we are witnesses of these things.
There’s one more characteristic I want us to see and we'll save it for next week. 
Let's pray.
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