- Sermon Notes
Set Free to Speak the Message
As we turn to Acts 5:17-42 this morning, we see the apostles imprisoned again after a powerful picture of their ministry, but their prison term ends when an angel of the Lord comes and makes the way for a midnight move out. The angel opens the gates of the prison in order to set them free, and they tell them to go and speak the message of this life to the people in the temple area. They were set free from something, prison; but they were also set free for something, to go according to the great commission.
In Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus told His disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him, and then told them to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We also saw in Acts 1, Jesus told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they would be His witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The Apostles understood that Jesus had lived, died, was buried, was risen on the third day, and then ascended to heaven. They understood Jesus’ sacrifice in and over their lives, they understood that Jesus was and is the way, truth, and life, that no one gets to the Father but through Him. They understood that in Him, they were set free from something, but they also had a clear commission from Jesus and continually walked according to the understanding that they were set free for something.
Like the early apostles, those of us in Christ have been set free from some things. But also, we have been set free for some things! And this morning as we will gain insights into our opportunity to speak the message of this life, in this life, because we have been set free personally, by Jesus Christ!
I. Be Seen Where God Sends You
• The church was experiencing and seeing the hand of God, they were seeing the breakthrough…However in verse 17 we are given insights into the backlash…
Acts 5:17-19(a), But the high priest stood up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison…
• The scene reminds us of what had taken place in Acts chapter 4, where Peter and John are out speaking to the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead and Acts 4:3 reads, “they laid hands on them and put them in prison.”
• Here in Acts 5, it is no longer just Peter and John who are out proclaiming the name of Jesus, it seems to be all the apostles, this would likely be the 12 apostles.
• The ministry is going well, a time of breakthrough, and verse 17 tells us, the high priest stood up, along with all his associates, that is the Sadducees.
• The high priest at the time was Caiaphas, and he was the supreme religious leader for the Jews in Jerusalem.
• The Sadducees, here referred to as the high priests’ associates, were a powerful group. They tended to be wealthy, they held positions of chief priests, high priest, and 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, a powerful group.
• It is this same group that put Peter and John in prison for preaching about Jesus, told them to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, and then thoroughly threatened, but ultimately released Peter and John.
Acts 4:29, Lord, look at their threats, and grant it to Your bondservants to speak Your word with all confidence.
• The Lord did just that, and it seems here again, that their confidence in speaking God’s word had once again led to conflict with one of the most powerful groups in their world.
• Verse 17 says the high priest and the Sadducees “stood up,” and they were filled with jealousy, which is resentment against a rival or a person enjoying success.
• Other translations read they were “filled with indignation,” which is a strong displeasure with something they considered offensive or insulting.
• The Sadducees stood up with jealousy, with indignation, laid hands on all of the apostles, not just Peter and John, and threw them all in a public prison.
• Their plan was to imprison and punish them, but the Lord had others plans.
• In verse 19 we read that during the night, and angel of the Lord opens up the gates of the prison and leads them out and sends them with instructions.
• I find it quite interesting that the Lord chose to use an angel to lead open the prison doors and lead them out of prison after being sent there by the Sadducees. I find it interesting because the Sadducees did not believe in angels.
Acts 23:8, The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
• The Lord sends an angel to release them.
• Hebrews 1:14 tells us that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve believers. And this angels is doing just that!
• The angel ministers to the Apostles who were put in prison from preaching, teaching, and healing in the name of Jesus. The apostles are set free from something, they are set free from prison, but the angel makes it clear that they are set free for something.
Acts 5:19(b)-21, …Leading them out, he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life.” Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple area about daybreak and began to teach.
• The high priest and the Sadducees were continually taking their “stand” against the apostles and the message of life in Jesus Christ.
• And the angel gives instructions that would confirm the call of Christ, they were to go, and in response to the rising up of the Sadducees, the apostles were to “stand,” and speak the message of this life.
• They were set free, not to hide, or get lost, but to go, stand, and speak the whole message of this life.
• Jesus had told the disciples they would be His witnesses; they would go and make disciples. The whole message of this life refers to the Word of Life, the gospel message, that Jesus came into this world to give abundant and eternal life.
John 10:10, …I came that they would have life, and have it abundantly.
• The angel told them what to share, the gospel message, and where to share it, in the temple.
• The direction given by the angel of the Lord would likely have seemed outrageous. Keep it mind, the apostles are dealing with the group that had Jesus falsely accused Jesus and promoted His being put to death.
• Without hesitation, however, they go where they are told. They were set free from something that most would have feared in their day, but before the Lord, they understood it was not just about being set free from something, but they were set free for something, to “go, stand, and speak the whole message of this life.
• The high priest and the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish supreme court, came together and wanted to have the apostles brough out of prison and placed before them to stand trial.
• One problem, the apostles were not found within the prison they were placed in, rather, they were operating according to the commission.
• The word came back to the religious leaders, and they were “greatly perplexed about what would come of this.”
• This word, “perplexed” (dee ah par aye oh), means literally, they were at a loss to explain.
• Prison doors were locked, the prison bars were still in place, the guards were still in place, what had taken place, where had they gone? How was this all going to work out?
Acts 5:25, Someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple area and teaching the people!”
• The apostles were found in the place the place God sent them.
• If we look back at verse 21, we know that upon their being set free from prison, they set out on the mission and directives they had been given.
• The Bible does not say that they headed to the temple after taking care of some other things they missed while stuck in prison, or that they waited until things settled down and the Sadducees stopped looking for them, it doesn’t not say they waited, it says they went.
Illus. Knowing and Going.
James 1:22, But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
• The apostles are seen where God sent them as early as they could get there the very next day, may the same be true for us in our lives, today.
II. Make Obedience to Him a Must
Acts 5:26-28, Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). When they had brought them, they had them stand before the Council. The high priest interrogated them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.”
• The apostles, after going where God sent them, were once again, arrested and brought in to stand before the Council, which is the Sanhedrin.
• The proceeding began with a reminder from the high priest that they had already been given strict orders not to speak or teach at all in Jesus’ name.
• This was the first charge against the apostles: they had disregarded the orders of the Sanhedrin.
• Instead of following their orders, the apostles had filled Jerusalem with their teaching.
• They say, we told you to stop with that, but you have continued on, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.
• Oh, that the people in our city might say that about us… “we told you to stop it with that, but you are filling the city of Tigard, Beaverton, Portland, Oregon, with this teaching about Jesus…”
• This is what is being said as the apostles stand trial, “You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.”
• This is an interesting situation, because those who they are standing before were a part of the group that specifically asked for this to happen just a few weeks prior.
Illus. Jesus or Barabbas?
Matthew 27:20-22, The chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
Matthew 27:25, All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
• The high priest says to the apostles, we told you to stop, and you kept it up.
Acts 5:29-32, But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
• Peter says you called for and had Jesus put to death, but God exalted Him, we are witnesses to this, we cannot stop talking about Him.
• Peter and the apostles do not deny that they had already been commanded to stop, but the answer that he and the apostle give, is consistent with his previous promise that they would not and could not stop.
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.”
• Peter told them then, and now he says it again, we must obey God rather than men.
• And it is important in this life we live that we keep these lines clearly defined. There is much that people have to say. There I much that they may want to put on you, tell you to stop speaking about, but when what you are being told to stop, or start doing goes against the Word of the Lord, you must continually choose to make obedience to God a must.
• And I appreciate that a similar scenario is found just one chapter later because I believe it is this way in our lives. We are continually faced with whether to obey God or people, and as the days go on, this choice is one we have to make continually, day after day, chapter after chapter, situation after situation.
• The Bible makes it clear that believers are to obey governmental authority, but not when that authority asks believers to go against God.
1 Peter 2:13-17
• It would have been going against what God told them if they did not speak about what God told them to speak about.
• Jesus had told them previously to be His witnesses to the world, to go and teach all He had commanded them. In Acts 5 when they were set free, what did the angel of the Lord say to them specifically, “go, stand, and speak.”
• Peter said, we will obey God, even though they had political and governmental authority, there is a higher authority. God is the highest authority and rules in the highest court anywhere.
• Our obedience must first and foremost be to Him.
Illus. Go with God.
• When our obedience is to Him, the outcome is in His hands.
III. Make Jesus the Source of Your Course
Acts 5:33-34, But when they heard this, they became infuriated and nearly decided to execute them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.
• The apostles put the religious leaders in opposition to God. And after hearing their response, the religious leaders wanted to execute them. While determining whether or not to do so, a Pharisee name Gamaliel stood up.
• He was highly respected and gave orders that the apostles go outside for a short time so that they can discuss some things.
• Gamaliel reminds the religious leaders of two men who attempted to start revolutions, one had 400 men who followed and joined him, but was put to death, another rose up later, Judas of Galilee, he drew some people after him, but he perished, and those who followed him were scattered.
Acts 5:38-39, And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or movement is men, it will be overthrown; but if the source is God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
• If the source of this plan, or movement is men, it will be overthrown…But if the source is God, you will be able to overthrow it…You will be found fighting against God!
• Think about this in terms of the day we live in…When opposition to our mission, the plan of God, the Christian Movement is present.
• Who are people ultimately fighting against? You? No…They are fighting against God.
• When you put God first, when He is the source of your course, He backs you up. When you stand for righteousness, when you put God first, and people fight against you, they are fighting against God.
Romans 8:31, What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
• God made a way, and this time He did not send another angel, but used what a respected Pharisee had to say.
Acts 5:40-41, They followed his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
• The apostles were flogged, which means to be beaten with whips, lashes, or rods for the purpose of inflicting physical pain.
• But rather they looked to the source of their course, Jesus. They were not embittered, or disillusioned, they rejoiced and remained determined to speak the message they were sent to share.
Matthew 5:10-12, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Acts 5:42, And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus as the Christ.
• The apostles were continually set free and the were committed to giving the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of this life. May this be truth continually of you and I.
Illus. All we can.
But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.