“We must obey God rather than humans!”
Acts 5: 27-32
Today’s text comes from the book of Acts chapter 5, a portion of the lectionary reading from last week. From this text, we see the obvious change in the attitude of disciples in the face of threat, different from the text we looked at last week when Jesus visited them for the first time after his resurrection. We saw in John 20:19, that they locked themselves in a house for “fear of the Jewish leaders”. When the disciples saw Jesus being arrested at Mount Gethsemane, they all fled. When they heard that Jesus was crucified, they locked themselves in a house for the fear that they might get killed as well. It was not written anywhere those Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus also wanted to kill his followers. I do not think it was their intention to kill Jesus’ disciples, either. For one thing, they themselves did not claim to be Son of God. As we all know, Jesus was killed because He claimed that he was the Messiah and the Son of God. Without obvious threat, these disciples were still afraid; they hid from the eyes of Jewish leaders for fear of them.
These disciples, who were so afraid for their lives, had been changed. They became so bold, not being afraid of anything or anybody anymore. It was the same people, but their attitude had been changed, –from being fearful to fearless. How this difference came about? They received the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised before he was ascended into heaven. As they were told not to leave Jerusalem to receive Holy Spirit, they waited in Jerusalem gathering together and prayed in one mind and heart in one place.
In order for us to receive the Holy Spirit, we have to gather together and pray together in one place in one mind and heart at church. Jerusalem is where the temple of God is, where God put His name in. In other words, Jerusalem is where God is, symbolically. We have to gather together and pray together earnestly in order for us to receive the Holy Spirit. I wonder when was the last time we gathered together and prayed together for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit at this church? Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot really have true belief about God in our heart. We cannot really know God’s love at our heart. Vague knowledge about God in our brain cannot drive out fear or timidity from us when we witness who God is. Truth the matter is if our knowledge about God remains at our brain level only, then, it does not even occur to us to share or witness about God. How many of us really witness Jesus’ love with people around us, people at work, with our neighbors or people we meet in the street, at the airport or coffee shop when we get to talk with people there? We need to gather together and pray together to receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Without knowing the joy of salvation being convinced from receiving the Holy Spirit, we cannot be bold in our Christian living, like these disciples we see here in our text. After they received the Holy Spirit, they were no longer afraid. They became bold, instead. Acts 5, prior to our text, fearlessly, they taught, preached, healed the sick in the streets, homes and public areas. So, they were arrested, and the Jewish leaders put them in public jail. But the story did not end there. During the night, the angel of the Lord opened the prison gate and told them, “stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life.” As they were instructed, they obeyed and were preaching in the temple courts. Do we see the difference in them here from how they had been before they received the Holy Spirit? Instead of fleeing, they went to the temple courts and telling people about “the new life” given to them by Jesus the Christ. They were released from prison, but they did not run for their life. Instead, they went to the temple court witnessing about Jesus the Christ. That’s what happens if we truly know about Christ and his love by receiving the Holy Spirit.
I received a little booklet last week from Cornerstone Ministry which I support monthly. This organization does many things, including helping North Korean defectors, but their main ministry is to evangelize North Koreans by smuggling Bibles into North Korea and teaching the bible to North Korean defectors or North Koreans who come to China border to get food in secret. My heart was thumping as I realized that the little booklet was made of letters sent by North Koreans to Cornerstone Ministry through those bible smugglers who come to China under the pretext of obtaining food, legally if they have the document to come to China or illegally if they do not have the document. In this booklet, I found a letter written by someone who was facing impending death because of his or her faith. This booklet did not include their full name, only their last name to keep their identity secret. The letter starts like this, “Lord, I will go to you soon. Although I haven’t lived long, I do not have regrets. Before I knew you, I only lived for food, but now I am thanking God for the life you have helped me to live for the life eternal. Until I knew you, my eyes had been focused on life on earth, but you showed me the life in heaven and helped me to live focusing on heaven. Before I knew you, I was despaired, thinking that this life was the only life I was to live, and the life I was living then was so miserable and hopeless, living under the shadow of death always. But now I am thanking and praising you always no matter what I go through because of the faith I have in you because you have given me the most beautiful and precious name of our Lord Jesus. I am coming to you soon, and my heart is pounding with joy. How can I express my happiness seeing your face very soon face to face? You who have given me life through your death, I am coming to you following your footstep! My only love and hope, I know that I will die and disappear like morning dew from this earth, but I also know that you will dispel the darkness from this land and fill this land with your light and glory in your own time! My Lord Jesus, I commit my life into your hands; receive me into your kingdom!! I am coming to you, Lord, I cannot contain the joy I am having in my heart. How I wish I could shout!!!
Being persecuted and facing impending death, how many of us can have the joy and happiness this person expresses? How many of us can witness boldly, instead of running away when the opportunity was given, like these disciples in our text today, risking their life? Holy Spirit is the key for us to live a life of victory in Jesus.
Vs 27-28, they were arrested again and were brought before the high priest, the head of the Jewish leaders. The high priest questioned disciples saying, ”We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name”. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” To that, vs 29, Peter and other apostles replied, “we must obey God rather than human beings!”
A couple of things we have to know: 1) We will be attacked by Satan if we start witnessing Jesus Christ. Apostles were put into jail when they started preaching, teaching and healing in Jesus’ name, by those who were against God and His Son Jesus Christ. Satan would not bother us if we keep silent about Jesus. As long as we are not doing what Jesus ask us to do, Satan will leave us alone; we will not have difficulties or hardships being attacked by Satan. But if we are silent about Jesus even though witnessing about Jesus has given to us as the great commission, then, when we stand before the great throne of God, Jesus will be silent about us, too. If we are silent about Jesus, then, that means we do not have much to do with Jesus.
2) If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we obey God, instead of obeying humans. Obeying God is not possible if we do not know that it is God whom we have to fear, who has the power over our soul and body. Without being filled with the Holy Spirit, we fear for our physical body on this earth, which would last only temporarily. We worry about our security, health, career, and life on this earth, and not caring for the life that will last in eternity. We do not automatically have the life eternal with God just because we attend church, but only those who keep the commandments and obey God will have the life eternal with God.
3) How can we receive the Holy Spirit? By obeying God! To those who obey God, God gives the Holy Spirit. Vs 32, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” People in the world say that the time has changed, so we should change the bible to accommodate our lifestyles. But our Bible says that our God is not changing God. God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore, God is the same God. Let those who have ears, let them hear the word of God!!