- Sermon Notes
The Truth in the Trial
This morning we pick up in the middle of a story that centers on what took place after two of Jesus’ Apostles, Peter, and John, were on their way to the temple for prayer and were called out to by a man who was unable to walk since birth begging for charity.
Peter, in response to the man’s request, looked at him, asked for his full attention, and then said, “I do not have silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” Peter then took his right hand and raised him up, the man was healed, and he began walking and leaping, and praising God!
It was an amazing scene, as the man who had spend his entire life begging at the temple entrance, walked on his own two feet into the temple with Peter and John. As he walked with them, people recognized him as the man who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate and beg, they were utterly amazed and astonished.
The people in the temple began running in groups to see what had taken place, they were looking at Peter and John as miracle workers, but Peter asked the question, “why are you looking at us as though by our own power or godliness we had made him walk?” And from there, Peter in his second sermon directed their attention to Jesus.
He proclaimed to all the people that the man was healed on the basis of faith in Jesus’ name. That Jesus was rejected and crucified by them, but God resurrected Him to life. Peter tells the people to repent and return and what we will see that after he preached, the number of people who had turned to Jesus in response to His life, death, burial, and resurrection was now growing and had reached over 5,000.
The people were responding to the Gospel message. They had seen the power of God on display, they had heard the message of Jesus preached in a powerful and poignant way, and while many would give their lives to Jesus Christ that day, there were others with something different to say.
Many gave their lives to Christ in response to the powerful sermon preached by Peter, pointing all to Jesus, telling people to repent and turn their lives to Him. And though many would see the miracle, hear the Word of God preached and turn to Jesus personally, others were “greatly disturbed” and took the opportunity to persecute and place Peter and John on trial.
And it is in Acts chapter 4 that we see the first recorded persecution of the followers of Jesus after He had ascended to heaven. While persecution from the religious powers was not likely the response they hoped for, Jesus had already told them that times of persecution, trial, and trouble would come (John 15:18-20, John 16:2).
John 16:33, In the world you have trouble, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
Illus. Trouble would come.
It is here that Peter would show us how to take courage and remain tied to truth in any trial. Here Peter gives us insights into the way to hold to the truth in our own trials, knowing that no matter what others may think or say, Jesus is the only way. As we see Peter appeal to and apply the truth…there are many lessons given for me and for you!
Illus. What to know!
Keep Proclaiming the Name that Saves
Acts 4:1-4, As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in prison until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
It seems that after Peter preached to the people, he and John were continuing to speak to them, they are still inside the temple, people were turning to Jesus, the good news was preached, yet the message of the good news had greatly disturbed the temple authorities.
Hearing about what and who Peter was proclaiming, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees came to arrest Peter and John.
Catch that, the good news had greatly disturbed them. The word for “greatly disturbed” here means to be displeased, offended, worked up, or to be pained.
The men coming to take Peter and John are greatly displeased, offended, and worked up about what they were proclaiming. Notice who is upset, and why.
We are told the priests come, these were the ordinary priests who would have been conducting the evening sacrifice, then the captain of the temple guard, which was the chief of the temple police force; he would be second in rank to the high priest and was in charge of keeping order in place on the temple grounds.
The third group mentioned is the Sadducees. We read about them while going through the book of Matthew, but now that we enter into the book of Acts, the Sadducees become the primary group that is strongly against the church.
In the Gospels it was the Pharisees, but now that Jesus has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven and the early church is born, the Pharisees are no longer the primary group against the church, the Sadducees are.
The Pharisees were ritualistic and legalistic. The most numerous, popular, and outwardly religious.
The Pharisees they held to strict observance of oral traditions, external customs, and were legalistic believing their works gained them acceptance with God.
They believed in resurrection, the afterlife, the spiritual realm and angels. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, even though He had performed many miracles and fulfilled many prophesies.
The Sadducees were rationalists. According to Acts 23:8 and here in Matthew 22, we understand, they did not believe in angels or in a resurrection of the dead, nor did they believe in spirits.
Acts 23:8, The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
The Sadducees tended to be wealthy and held positions as chief priests and high priest. Additionally, they held the majority of the 70 seats of the Sanhedrin which was the supreme court of ancient Israel.
They were the dominant religious and political force in that day, since the high priests in that period were Sadducees.
As far as their beliefs, they contrasted strongly with that of the Pharisees, they only believed or adhered to the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
Many Jews not only believed in life after death, but, the resurrection of the body. The exception to this was the Sadducees.
So, as Peter and John are pointing to and preaching the resurrection from the dead of and in Jesus, the Sadducees are worked up and greatly disturbed, they have been given power in that place to do something about it, so, they come to get Peter and John and put them in prison.
That is the response of the religious leaders in the temple, they “lay hands on them and put them in prison.”
But verse 4, many of those who had heard the word preached believed and the number of men who believed grew to 5,000.
So, you have two different responses, those who are worked up, and those who wake up.
When you share the good news of Jesus Christ, you find the same responses in our day currently.
Some will come, some will see, some will believe, and others will get worked up. Regardless of the response, don’t give up, Keep proclaiming the name that saves!
Illus. Seed sown.
Peter will continue to proclaim the name that saves despite the persecution and response of the religious leaders.
Acts 4:5-6, On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.
After a night in prison, Peter and John are placed in the center of a group of rulers, elders, and scribes, the former high priest, the current high priest, and everyone who is of high priestly descent.
The scene is one of power and intimidation. The rulers, elders and scribes (teachers of the law) made up a group called the Sanhedrin (the supreme court of ancient Israel, with 71 members including the high priest).
The Sadducees made up the majority of Sanhedrin.
And most of this group, the entire Sanhedrin, as well as the former high priest, Annas, and the current high priest, Caiaphas were those that Jesus himself stood trial before.
This group was very powerful, and Peter and John surely knew it.
Acts 4:7, When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”
Being placed in the center means they are in the middle of a semicircle where they would be formally questioned.
And as Peter stands trial, I am reminded of the change in his response and posture toward these men of power.
When Jesus went and stood trial before the same Jewish Sanhedrin, Peter distanced himself, but after seeing Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, after being given the great commission, Peter is filled, but no longer with fear, he was now filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told His disciples about this in advance.
Luke 12:11-12, Now when they bring you before the synagogues and the officials and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Peter and the apostles had been with Jesus and prepared in advance for trials, trouble, and persecution. Peter, on the night Jesus’ arrest, was ashamed to proclaim the name of Jesus, but now he knew the truth and no matter the difficulty or trial, he would keep proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Be Known as One Who Has Been with Him
In verse 8, Peter starts respectfully, “rulers and elders…”
Then he displays the absurdity of their imprisonment and trial…Are we on trial for a benefit done to a lame man?
This man could not walk for his entire life, he was outside the temple begging for alms for most of his life and he is over 40 years old now. He spent his life begging for alms, now he can walk…Lets get this straight, we are on trial for this reason!
Talk about bold, Peter and John are standing trial before Caiaphas, he is the one who looked on as Jesus was spit on, beaten, slapped, and mocked. (Matthew 26:67-68), and the Sanhedrin, which is the group that conferred together with false accusations to put Jesus to death.
Previously, Peter did not want to be known as one who was ever with Jesus. When a servant girl associated him as one who had been with Jesus, Peter denied it. Then a servant woman said she had seen him with Jesus, Peter responded, “I do not know the man,” and swore an oath…and then a group of bystanders said, “you really are a follower of Jesus, you even talk like a follower of Jesus…” and Peter denied again (Matthew 26:69-75).
But Peter had grown, from warming himself at a fire, denying association with Jesus, to being on fire for Christ, and saying “let it be known to all of you, this man was healed and stand before you whole in the name of Jesus!”
And so, they have an issue on their hands, there is man standing before them whole, they all had likely seen him, he was unable to walk for 40 years, he is living proof, standing before them in perfect health!
The issue is, they do not believe in miracles and a miracle just happened. They do not believe in resurrection, but Jesus Christ was resurrected and there are 500 witnesses.
He continued (vs. 11), Jesus is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but He became the chief cornerstone.
Peter, is quoting Psalm 118, a stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone and applying this verse to Jesus, and it is a verse Jesus had quoted as well (Mt. 21:42)
In those days, when buildings were built, they weren’t built with 2×4’s. Rather, they used stones.
Today if you go to Israel, you can see sections of the temple, which was built stone upon stone.
The cornerstone was always the most important stone, the stability and symmetry of it all was set by the cornerstone. And if the stone wasn’t just perfect, everything would be off.
So, the builders would select just the right stone for the cornerstone, the perfect stone which determined the integrity of the rest of the structure.
Illus. Rejected Stone.
Acts 4:12, There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Peter proclaims, what name has the power and authority to make this man walk? What name has the power to heal, the power to save? Jesus Christ the Nazarene, there is no other name.
And my encouragement to you, since there is no other name, since Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. Be known as one who has been with Him!
Acts 4:13, Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
The religious leader, after seeing Peter and John and hearing what they had to say, are amazed.
They were confident in Christ, they were uneducated and untrained, but they knew the Scriptures, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke up and applied them in a way that made it clear they had been with Jesus.
Previously, Peter did not want to be known as having been with Jesus, but now he was ready, willing, and able to declare his devotion and determination that Jesus is the way publicly.
They were willing to proclaim the name of Jesus and were now known as having been with Jesus.
Illus. Be known.
Illus. Circle Maze.
Do What is Right in the Sight of God
After hearing the words of Peter and seeing the man who had been healed standing before them, the temple leaders were left speechless.
They then began to confer with one another asking, what are we going to do with these men? We cannot deny what has taken place, a miracle took place, it is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, we cannot deny it…But we must quiet these guys down.
Acts 4:17-20, So that it will not spread any further among the people, let’s warn them not to speak any longer to any person in this name.” And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
The mandate was given to them… “Do not speak any longer, to any person in this name.”
Acts 4:18-20, But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The issue came down to what is right? And their determination was to do what is right in God’s sight. Not what was popular, or easy, or what makes people happy…What is right. And in the case of Acts 4, the right thing is to not do what the authorities were telling them to do because it was in direct conflict with what God has told them to do.
If there was a way for Peter and John to obey the authorities on earth and obey God, they would have done that.
Peter himself would later teach obedience to government.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Paul wrote in Romans 13 to be in submission, to be subject to the governing authorities.
If there is a way to obey human government, human institutions, and God, we do both. A big question in our day is…When does a Christian deviate from that?
The answer is when one collides with the other, it is then that you appeal to the higher court, to the court of Heaven.
When the choice is, “obey God, or obey government” we obey God. When the government is not asking you to disobey God, obey the government.
Peter and John are being told to stop talking about Jesus, and they make it clear, to stop talking about Jesus goes against God! They will continue to proclaim the name of Jesus. They say, we cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard.
There may be consequences in our world for going with God. For doing what is right in God’s sight, but that should never cause us to veer from God or do anything other than what is right in God’s sight.
Acts 4:21-22, 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man on whom this miracle of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.
In John 16:33, Jesus had told His disciples trouble would come, and it came, but Jesus also made sure they knew they could take courage; He had overcome the world.
And the truth in our trial, is that there are troubles that come, but we too can take courage, because Jesus has overcome the world, and we overcome through Him.
Peter pointed them to the power of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and Jesus’ power was seen clearly through the testimony of the man who was more than 40, once could not walk, but was given a miracle of healing.
Revelation 12:11, They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in prison until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 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, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, “What are we to 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. But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let’s warn them not to speak any longer to any person in this name.” And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man on whom this miracle of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.