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As If They Didn't Know


Acts 4:5-12
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus s the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Story: The religious leaders decided to let Peter and John think over for an evening in the local jail. As if that was going to affect their testimony the next day. Following “due process,” the judge invited the apostles to explain their behavior – as if they didn’t know exactly what had happened. Here was the apostles’ chance to maneuver a bit, to oil their way around the name of Jesus and attribute this miracle somehow vaguely to God, which the Pharisees would probably have accepted. But, of course, Peter and John were filled with the Spirit, and the Spirit’s work is to testify about Jesus in and through the followers of Jesus (cf. Jn. 15:26, 27). Note Peter’s emphasis: a good deed has been done to a crippled man. Isn’t that kind of important to keep in the purview here? We need always to make sure that good deeds back up our proclamation of the Gospel. But this fact didn’t cut any ice with the Pharisees, who were bent on squelching this Jesus thing. The apostles could have healed every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem that afternoon, and these religious leaders would still have been after them because of the name of Jesus. So Peter puts it right in their faces: “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Then the indictment: “whom you crucified...” Peter turns the tables of the trial and makes God, not men, the Judge: “whom God raised from the dead...” This is really skillful, bold defending of the faith. Then the Gospel: only in the name of Jesus must (note that, Greek: dei, “it is necessary” that) men be saved. Period. Take it or leave it. I rest my case.

The Structure: Imagine the shock those religious leaders must have felt. I wonder if any of them began to have second thoughts about what they’d done, or what they thought they’d done. Mere human power has no defense for the proclamation of the Gospel supported by the evidence of the Kingdom’s presence and progress – healing, conversions, bold witnesses, undeniable and irrefutable facts, conviction of sin. These walls – those protecting the religious leaders – would need a bit more battering, but soon enough, they would come down as well (cf. Acts 6:7).

What do you think is the primary reason so many believers are not bold witnesses for Christ these days?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Here We Go Again


Acts 4:1-4
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

The Story: What does it say about the tight grip and informing network of the religious leaders that they were able to react so quickly to this situation? These men were serious about preserving their status (cf. Jn. 11:48), and they were going to nip this thing in the bud – again. They hoped. So as Peter and John are doing the follow-up from this sermon, they are taken into custody and charged with “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Guilty as charged. Note that they were arrested near evening. Peter and John had gone up to the temple in the middle of the afternoon. They had been working this crowd for several hours, and that helps to explain why their ministry bore such wonderful fruit (v. 4). Now the cat is out of the bag. The Holy Spirit is afoot in the world, and nothing will be able to stop the advance of Christ’s rule on earth as it is in heaven. Peter and John knew this, and they had absolutely no fear that the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who thought they had stopped the work Jesus began to do, would have any more success impeding the work He was continuing to do.

Structure: The religious leaders seem almost comical here as they fuss about to try to silence the preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. Rather than scorn these men, however, we should look upon them with sadness and pity, for the depth of their spiritual blindness is great, as we shall see. Perhaps if we can sympathize with and have compassion for these men, we might be able to do the same with folks like them in our own times.

How do you think you would feel if this happened to you? How could you have the kind of boldness and confidence Peter and John show in this chapter? What’s preventing you from becoming a more consistent witness for Christ with the people around you?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Things to Come


Acts 3:22-26
“Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

The Story: Peter assumes an authority for his words which is the same as that of the Old Testament. He explains that Jesus is the promised Prophet Who has life in Himself and Whom to disobey is to perish. Again we see Peter inserting this warning of judgment: You’ve heard the Good News; reject it to your peril. We have to include the bad news along with the Good, if only to keep the whole truth in a proper perspective. Moses was speaking about Jesus. Just as Jesus was being promised in the covenant with Abraham and proclaimed in the prophets throughout the Old Testament. The mention here of “all the families of the earth” being blessed not only ties into the covenant with Abraham but serves to foreshadow events to come in the book of Acts. Jesus must first bring the blessings of salvation to the people of Israel. From there, it’s to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)! But again, just to be clear: No blessing, no forgiveness, no hope of promise without repentance, turning from wickedness to the holiness and righteousness of God.

The Structure: So Peter’s first sermon wasn’t just a fluke, a momentary burst of courage perhaps sustained as much by adrenalin as by a real and transforming spiritual experience. No, he’s a changed man, a bold man, a caring and urgent man – a man on a mission. Peter is like that generation who invaded the land of promise in the book of Joshua. Whereas previously the people of Israel (and Peter) demurred and denied the Lord and His promised land, now this new generation was full-steam ahead, all faith and fearlessness, taking on giants and laying the foundations of the Kingdom of God. Just like Peter.

Do you lack boldness in the Lord in any area of your life? Are you willing to seek the Lord for boldness to be His witness?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Who’s the Ignoramus?


Acts 3:17-21
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

The Story: Peter actually says that his hearers “practiced ignorance,” not only in killing the Lord, but in everything else they did as well. They were living in darkness and unbelief, under the canopy of the Lie, and not in the Light of God. So Peter – and the Lord – is willing to cut them some slack. Their rulers, too (that “ignorance” must have grated on any rulers in the audience, I suspect). The coming of Christ brings light and truth and understanding into the way of things (Eph. 4:17-24). But to enter that experience one must repent and turn away from every sinful practice, giving evidence of forgiveness in their hearts, and opening their souls and every aspect of their lives to the refreshing blessings of the Lord. These blessings are all to be enjoyed in Jesus, Whom we may know, enjoy, and follow now, and Who is one day coming to take us unto Himself forever. This, Peter explained, is all in line with the prophets; he’s not making this up. We can turn to those same prophets to help skeptics and scorners today to see that God has truly appointed Jesus for the salvation of lost sinners. If, that is, they are willing to repent and believe the Good News.

The Structure: It’s refreshing to see the Good News of Jesus grounded so firmly in the teachings of the Old Testament. Covenant, law, prophets, promises, great men, familiar stories – the Apostles saw Jesus in all these, and so should we (Jn. 5:39).

Do you think about ways of beginning a conversation about the Gospel with the people you see each week? What might be some interesting ways of doing that?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Infectious


Acts 3:16
“And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”

The Story: Here we receive a lesson in the infectious nature of faith. Faith displayed tends to help generate faith in the unbelieving. Remember, the man who was healed was not expecting to be healed, not even after Peter had begun speaking to him. It was Peter’s faith which emboldened this man to make the effort to stand. It was Peter’s invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, echoing in this man’s ear, that led him to give his hand to Peter and undertake something he had never been able to do before. Peter’s faith sparked the lame man’s faith, just as the faith of a bold, unflinching, and loving witness can frequently melt the hard heart of a resolute unbeliever. If our faith were more visible, confident, celebratory, and, well, “wonder-full,” would that help our skeptical and scornful generation to believe in the Good News of the Kingdom?

The Structure: The ongoing work of Christ looks a lot like the original work of Christ, doesn’t it? That’s as it should be. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom near, the Apostles began to spread it around, and now it falls to us to extend the reach of this faith-full enterprise to our skeptical and unbelieving age.

During the week gone by, in what ways have you seen the Kingdom of God extended to others through your faith?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
What's the Big Deal?


Acts 3:11-15
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

The Story: Almost everything about Peter’s sermon on this occasion would fall under the condemnation of contemporary church consultants. Too much Old Testament. Too hard on the listeners, too condemning. Not enough humor. No stories or jokes or even a poem. Too much implied theology. And so forth. Peter is almost too cool here as he seems to be saying to the astonished people, “What’s the big deal? What’d you expect, what with Jesus rising from the dead? Isn’t this just the same thing He did, and which He now continues to do?” A new reality has broken into human experience, and the Apostles get it, while the crowds can only look on in amazement. The Good News is about God and what He is doing, not about men and anything they might accomplish. But Peter comforts them, eh? You sinners! You murderers! You who prefer the scum of the earth to the Messiah of God! That ought to get their attention. Then look at the lovely, powerful way Peter connects Jesus with God’s covenant and the Holy and Righteous One glimpsed and anticipated throughout the Old Testament. He was here. You killed Him. God raised Him up. This man walks. What’s the big deal? Peter gave room for the Spirit to convict his hearers, but also to instruct and convert them.

The Structure: Of course, the Kingdom of God is a big deal – the big deal, we should say. But it’s the “new normal” in the world, even though most of the world remains out of sync with the ongoing work of Christ. It’s just a matter of time, though – time and faithfulness on our parts.

What’s your church’s vision for the coming of the Kingdom in your community?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Wonder and Amazement


Acts 3:9, 10
And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The Story: Well I guess! Wouldn’t you be filled with “wonder and amazement” at such a thing? We note that the people “saw him walking and praising God.” The life of faith is meant to be flaunted, displayed, proclaimed, and celebrated. It is not merely a private affair, as some of Christianity’s detractors might like. The healing power of the Gospel releases energies of joy and worship that come to the attention of the watching world when they are put on display in the everyday settings of the world. Most folks in this situation who had come to the temple to praise God were doubtless planning to do so formally, as a group, following a prescribed liturgy or program. Then leave. This man’s praise was so genuine, earnest, and constant that people flocked to see the fuss. When they recognized the man lame from birth, and saw what he was doing – remember: these folks had passed by this fellow every day for years – they were “filled with wonder and amazement.” Wonder, because something had happened which they could not immediately explain; amazement, because what had happened seemed to be like something from another world. Which, of course, it was.

The Structure: The Lord continued to use signs and wonders like this in carrying out His ongoing work of establishing the Kingdom of God. There is no reason to think He has stopped doing this today. We might, however, expect the signs and wonders to be of a sort more characteristic of what is likely to cause our own generation to experience wonder and amazement. Perhaps if we did a bit more public celebrating and rejoicing in the Lord, the people we know might take that as a “sign” of something they could not explain, something to cause them to “wonder”?

Who would be the people most likely to observe such “signs and wonders” in your walk with the Lord? Have you asked the Lord to let you show Him to them?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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