With less than forty days remaining before, arguably, the most important presidential election in the history of our country, it is difficult not to look at passages that pertain to preaching the saving gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of opposition through the lens of the upcoming election. Should the Biden-Harris ticket win in November, the extreme left wing will aggressively try to shut down evangelical churches.
By “evangelical” church, I mean a church that preaches and teaches, among other things, that salvation is by Christ alone and grace alone and faith alone. To say that other religions (e.g., Buddhism) are damning may possibly be “hate speech.” It seems possible that such preaching and teaching will not enjoy a pulpit exemption from being characterized and punished as “hate speech.”
With all this in mind, the passage that stands out for Day 173 is Acts 5:28–29, 42 (ESV)
28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. … 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Acts 5:12-16 shows that the apostles were performing many great signs so that “… more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, …” (see verse 14a, ESV). The apostles’ success made the Jewish leaders jealous so they arrested the apostles and put them in jail. That night, an angel of the Lord carried out a successful “jail break” so that the next day the apostles were “standing in the temple and teaching the people” (see verse 25b, ESV). The apostles were brought before the Jewish leaders and verses 28-32 (ESV) tells what happened [emphasis added]:
28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
At first, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill the apostles, but Gamaliel brought some reason into the discussion per verses 38-39:
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
Thereafter, the Jewish leaders beat the apostles and let them go charging them “not to speak in the name of Jesus”. Verses 41-42 (ESV) records the apostles’ reaction:
41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Another less literal translation (NCV) reads:
41 The apostles left the meeting full of joy because they were given the honor of suffering disgrace for Jesus. 42 Every day in the Temple and in people’s homes they continued teaching the people and telling the Good News—that Jesus is the Christ.
What Peter and the apostles did per the description in Acts 5 ought to serve as a model for the 21st Century Christ-follower when facing opposition to preaching the gospel. I see at least three takeaways from this account.
First, Christ-followers must “obey God rather than men.” Here, the ESV translates the Greek verb peithaycheö as “obey”, and per one lexicon (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 466). New York: United Bible Societies) it means:
36.12 πείθομαιa; πειθαρχέω: to submit to authority or reason by obeying—‘to obey.’
In other words, a believer must submit to the authority of God and not mankind even if the authority of mankind takes on the form of the government. This requires that a believer must know what God’s Word teaches about salvation through Jesus Christ. Very briefly, the gotqustions.com website (link: https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-doctrine-salvation.html ) reads:
A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation would be “The deliverance, by the grace of God, from eternal punishment for sin which is granted to those who accept by faith God’s conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.” Salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God alone for provision, assurance, and security.
Note the two verses referenced above:
John 14:6 (NET) – 6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:12 (NET) – 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”
Second, a Christ-follower ought to be “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” In other words, to suffer persecution because of taking a stand for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a badge of honor for a believer. Persecution is something a believer ought to expect in light of what Jesus taught in John 15:20 (NASB95):
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
Persecution should be expected in light of what Paul wrote as follows:
2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV) – 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV) – 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Third, a Christ-follower ought to consistently teach and preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ per the example in verse 42. A Christ-follower ought to look for those opportunities to witness in whatever form consistent with 1 Peter 3:15–17 (NET):
15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.
Right now in the United States, Christians have the opportunity to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ without fear of persecution, but that may change, especially if the Biden-Harris ticket wins the election. Let’s take to heart the urgency of the circumstances per Ephesians 5:15–17 (NET)
15 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.
But whatever the circumstances, let’s keep in mind what one commentator (Larkin, W. J., Jr. (1995). Acts (Vol. 5, Ac 5:40). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic) writes:
Who’s in charge? A God who empowers and leads his church in carrying out his mission in spite of opposition.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved.
The Professor Grant Horner Bible Reading System is a great 500 day Bible reading plan. The following link presents a description of the plan ( https://sohmer.net/media/professor_grant_horners_bible_reading_system.pdf). My goal is to briefly share my thoughts on the passage that stands out the most for me each day. For Day 160, John 4:35-36 was the passage that stood out.
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