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Feb 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 31, 2016 – Acts Chapter 4

Our Off-Road Faith

On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and 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 corner stone. And there is no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
 Acts 4:5-12

Intro: I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine

He’s a good person – very perceptive and compassionate
– he is a man of God – and someone who needs order in his life
• he likes things neat and tidy and for day to be arranged
– for awhile, he was responsible for grandson one day a week
• he found arranging a schedule for a three-year-old a difficult project
◦ when he asked his wife for help, she told him, “Just take him out and go have an adventure”
• this isn’t babysitting – it is entering the world of a grandchild
◦ seeing through his or her eyes
◦ it is remembering how to have fun and how to be amazed

God doesn’t babysit us – he enters our circumstances
– he says, “Let’s have ourselves an adventure. Let’s find out where this road takes us”
• a highly structured, tightly controlled Christianity isn’t an adventure
◦ a Christianity consisting of cliches isn’t an adventure
◦ an excessively emotional Christianity isn’t the adventure we’re after
– an adventure is entering and exploring the unknown
• it is risk and challenge, hardship and danger,
◦ it thrill and accomplishment (at least the accomplishment of overcoming our fear)
• Christianity was meant to be an adventure
◦ why do you think Paul told us to put on armor?

The Christians in Jerusalem, directed and moved by the Spirit, were discovering the adventure
– they were willing to learn where the road they were on would lead them by taking it
– as to God’s will, they were learning it by living it

The road they were on led them into trouble

Trouble with the authorities isn’t adventure we hope to have
– v. 2, the “Sadducees” had a vested interest in the message of resurrection (v. 1 & cf. 23:8)
• they also had a majority position of influence in Israel’s religion and political structure
– the opposition of the Council (or Sanhedrin, v. 15) posed a significant danger
• they were the end of Jesus’ ministry

There are significant parallels between the interrogation and Luke 20

First, in Jerusalem Jesus’ authority was also questioned by priests, scribes and elders

Tell us, by what authority You are doing these things, or who gave You this authority? (Lk. 20:2)

Secondly, like Jesus, Peter reframed the question
- he clarified the reason they were being examined:

a benefit done to a sick man who was made well (v. 9)

• the by-the-book rigidity of these leaders caused them to overlook important details
◦ a woman with a twisted spine (Lk. 13:14), a cripple and a blind man (Jn. 5:10-12; 9:24-34)
• did they really want to go on record for putting people on trial for doing good?
– Jesus had also subtly reframed the question put to him
• he asked them whether John the Baptist’s authority was from heaven or men
• they failed to catch his redirection
◦ they were thinking of purely human authority — those in charge of the temple
◦ they they had not even considered heaven’s authority, which stumped them

Third, Peter quoted the same passage Jesus did in Luke 20
– reading Luke 20 carefully, we see that Jesus’ parable revealed his authorization (Lk. 20:9-19)
• when Peter quoted the passage from the Psalms, he personalized it

He is “the stone which was rejected” by you, “the builders” (cf. Ps. 118:22 & Lk. 20:17)

– the training Peter and John received from Jesus paid off

Besides these parallels, there are two other noteworthy statements in this section
– Peter took the examination straight to Jesus, who was the answer to both their questions
(a brief reminder, that in scripture a name was synonymous with the person)
• Peter and John were authorized to act in this name
– at last we see Peter as Jesus saw him (when the Lord changed his name, Mt. 16:17-18)
• but this is the same man who denied even knowing Jesus
• how are we to understand him becoming this new person (his true self)?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit . . . . (v. 8)

God’s Spirit, working through us, reveals a use of our gifts we never knew possible
– I have a guitar that moans and complains when I play it
• I can think that if I owned a better guitar, my playing would sound better
• but when my brother-in-law picks up my guitar and plays it, music comes out of it
◦ I hear the hidden potential of the instrument
◦ of course, it cannot play itself, but it can make these beautiful sounds when played well
– when we are “filled” with the Spirit, God breathes himself into us
• this is not something small – it is larger than universe
◦ and in the process, we discover a stronger self – a new self, the true self
• as for Peter, he has risen from the ashes of his denial

The council found itself in a dilemma

They were determined to stop spread of this movement
– but they could not deny that “a noteworthy miracle” had occurred
• in verse 21 tells us they could not find a basis on which to punish them
– so they created a basis – their own command as Israel’s high Council

Everyone comments on two inspiring moments in this section, so I’ll be brief
– the Council could see that Peter and John lacked rabbinical training and credentials (v. 13)
• so how to explain their amazing “confidence”?
• they knew these men had been “with Jesus” – that what they had, came from him
◦ don’t underestimate value of contemplative prayer
◦ of what happens in our lives by simply spending time with Jesus
– the logic of Peter’s brave response (vv. 19 -20)
• he set the entire hearing and its process in a heavenly light — paraphrased:

“Deliver your judgment. That’s your job. In the meantime, a job has been thrust upon us and we cannot stop telling the story of our experience. But make sure you take into consideration that our orders come from God and to us, his commands take priority over yours.”

The next bend in this road took them back to their companions

After delivering their report, everyone plunged into prayer
– the biblical quotations at the beginning of their prayer put their situation into perspective
• they were living in the truth of the Scriptures, because they put themselves there
– the old familiar passages pulsated with here and now relevance

Helmut Thielicke observed that they had certainly “heard those old scriptures, and yet they did not know them. . . . [But] now these scriptures uncovered the secrets that people had unknowingly carried around with them.”

• but still, the Bible isn’t a roadmap for this adventure
◦ there is no map for a wilderness journey or sailing the high seas
• the Scriptures are lights – the north star and fire by night (Ex. 40:36-38)
◦ we follow the light of scripture and find our way (Ps. 43:3)

Their prayer was not for protection, but confidence (v. 29)

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness  (v. 31)

A footnote regarding the church: it became a community

Luke comments that abundant grace was upon them
– the evidence he gives is their empathy, generosity and witness
– Luke also provides an example; a man already recognized by the Apostles
• Barnabas is a “Son of Encouragement,” comfort or consolation

Conc: Our adventure with God begins with Jesus

What is required from us a willingness to be filled with the Spirit
– and when filled, he will sometimes take us off-road
• this adventure does not make life easier, but it does become more productive and fulfilling
• and it will likely prove to make life better for others
– perhaps you are not interested in adventures, that you have “enough excitement” already
• but do you always want to follow the herd single file through the turnstiles?
◦ don’t you ever find yourself looking for an open gate to freedom?
• besides, no one escapes the last adventure into the world beyond
and all we know is that waiting for us will be a face we recognize and arms we’ll fall into

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