The Indispensable Doctrine
Scripture: Acts 4:1–12
The Indispensable DoctrineActs 4:1-12
March 31, 2013 • Resurrection Sunday
Pastor Randy Smith
The dictionary defines it like this: "not subject to being set aside or neglected," "absolutely necessary," "essential." The word in mind is "indispensable." What things come to your mind that are indispensable? A teenager to help you operate your new smart phone? A patient attitude when driving south on the Parkway Friday evenings during the summer? A new boardwalk along the shore? A church service that ends on time because of holiday plans?
Here is what some people much smarter than I would claim are indispensable: John F. Kennedy - "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Dwight D. Eisenhower - "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." And Donald Rumsfeld warns - "Don't think of yourself as indispensable or infallible. As [it has been said] said, the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men."
Well, I don't believe any of you came to church this morning to hear about what other people say are indispensable. We are in a church, and our concern is what God has to say. It is through the Bible that God clearly affirms that He is indispensable and the Bible is indispensable. So, on this Resurrection Sunday morning, I'd like to show you from the Word of God, the indispensable truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This morning we'll do a study on this indispensable subject from Acts chapter 4.
As we get started, we need to back up our narrative to chapter 3 where this story begins. In this chapter two of our Lord's first disciples, men by the names of Peter and John, were going up to the temple - the hub of all Jewish religion and culture. While there, they come across a man who was crippled from birth begging for money. Peter replied in verse 6, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - walk!" (Ac. 3:6). Immediately this man, according to the Scripture, rises up, enters the temple and starts leaping all over the place praising God in the temple, no doubt at the top of his lungs.
Then while he is clinging to Peter, having already engendered the "wonder and amazement" from the crowds, Peter uses the opportunity to publicly tell the people about Jesus Christ. He says, beginning in verse 13 of Acts 3: "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses" (Ac. 3:13-15). The response Peter expected from them? Verse 19,"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." Some radical things to say to these Jewish folks! You know there has to be some opposition on the way!
And the moment we turn the page to chapter 4, we see it coming. People have chronicled this as the first open opposition to the apostles' message. Verses 1 and 2, "As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them" (stop right there).
Now, these antagonist individuals were not your run of the mill thugs. These were the big wigs of Judaism. This would be like having the attorney general, a handful of police chiefs and half the Senate confronting you all at the same time! The priests were the men called to represent God. The captain of the temple guard was inferior only to the high priest. He was in charge of maintaining order in the temple precincts. And the Sadducees were the chief religious and political group. They were very liberal in their theology. All they cared about was cooperation with Rome to maintain their control and power.
Verse 2 tells us they confronted the apostles because they were "greatly disturbed." In the original Greek the word means terrible mental anguish. This is sort of like when you tell your kids no red Kool-Aid in the living room, and then you enter 5 minutes later and it's all over the new white carpet because they were clowning around! So obviously something the apostles did really ticked these guys off. What could it have been? Healing a crippled man - that sounds rather noble! Teaching about Jesus - that sounds rather innocent! The answer is "yes" to both of these because they are both interrelated. The Jewish leaders were upset because, as verse 2 says, "they were teaching the people" about Jesus and had "exhibit A," a man miraculously healed as evidence of His power standing right by their side with an amazed crowd hanging on their every word.
Specifically, according to verse 2, what they were proclaiming about Jesus was His "resurrection from the dead." This is what bothered them because this indispensable truth of the resurrection set Jesus apart from every other religious figure. You see, if God left all the other spiritual leaders in the grave, moreover even the great Jewish leaders like Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David and Isaiah, men that these Jewish leaders revered, what does it say about Jesus Christ who not only predicted His resurrection but also assisted in it? Does it not qualify Him to stand head and shoulders above His peers? Does it not imply that He cannot be ignored? Does this indispensable truth not command that He must be indispensable in your life?
That is why this is the indispensable doctrine, and that is why we see the apostles continually referring back in their sermons to this indispensable truth of the Resurrection. Look with me at Acts 1:22. The apostles needed to select a replacement for Judas… To bring the number back up to twelve. One of the key qualifications? "One of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." Check out 2:24. In Peter's great speech at Pentecost he says, "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." Skip down to verse 31. King Jesus was acknowledged by King David. "He looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus who God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." The resurrection! And then there is the Peter's second sermon, the one that we are presently considering. Turn to Acts 3:14-15. "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses." And then in verse 26. "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways." 4:2 harkens back to those very comments when it says they were "proclaiming in Jesus and the resurrection from the dead."
Very clear and very indispensable! Without the Resurrection, the Christian faith is just like all the world's religions. With the Resurrection, the Christian faith stands above all the world's religions. Maybe you do not like that. Well, neither did people 2,000 years ago.
Verses 3 and 4, back in chapter 4 tell us the result of this type of preaching. On the one hand, verse 3, "They laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening." On the other hand, verse 4, span>"But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand." There is a lesson taught in these verses. Faithful Gospel proclamation that always runs counter to society (always has and always will) will often bring about some type of persecution.
Today you are persecuted for mentioning the "Easter Bunny!" It is not that the Easter Bunny has anything to do with Christianity, but the Easter Bunny (in the world's mind) is tied to Easter and Easter is tied to Christianity and Christianity is tied to Jesus! So no Easter Bunny because we want nothing to do with Jesus!
However, faithful Gospel proclamation also is used by God to save people when they put their belief in that message. Often we as Christians need to get messed up by the world in order to see some in the world run to the resurrected Jesus to be cleaned up. A false Gospel message cannot and will not be used by God to save anybody. A true Gospel message brings results and despite the persecution, we learn the early church was growing with about five thousand men alone trusting in Jesus.
So Peter and John are in prison. The opposition didn't wait very long. Verses 5 and 6 indicate, "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." This was the gathering of the Sanhedrin - the most elite Jewish leaders of the day, both spiritually and politically. These were the most religious people in the land - the very people who were primarily responsible for the brutal execution of Jesus. Peter and John were well aware of that grim reality that they very well could be next. Often they would assemble in a concentric semicircle. Most likely the case because according to verse 7, Peter and John (along with the man that was healed - verse 14) were "placed" right in the "center."
Now is all of this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, that depends on your view of the Gospel. If you believe the Gospel is there to make you wealthy and prosperous, this is a tragedy. However, if you believe the Gospel is, Romans 1:16, "The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," this situation has to be viewed as an incredible blessing from God. Here are Peter and John, as it says in 4:13, "uneducated and untrained men," about to proclaim Jesus to the most influential people in the land! How in the world on their own could they have achieved a hearing like that?
The two apostles are up to bat and the leaders throw a lob pitch their way. Verse 7, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" They couldn't deny that a genuine miracle had taken place, they just simply wanted to know by what power and in what name the miracle occurred. Actually, they knew the answer, but I believe they asked only to see the apostles hang themselves. You see, if they answered anything or anybody other than God, the penalty according to the law (Dt. 13:1-5) was death. The place goes quiet. All eyes are on Peter and John.
Verse 8, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit" (stop right there). Possibly the best word to categorize Peter's upcoming comments is "boldness." Staring into the face of death, he stands courageous against the enemies of Jesus. Amazing! It wasn't long ago that Peter was the irrational and timid disciple who denied his master three times on that unforgettable evening (Mt. 26:34). Why the sudden change? Most would say it was seeing the presence of the resurrected Jesus. That would be correct. Another reason is that he was surrendering his life to the Lord and was, verse 8, filled with the Holy Spirit. One result of the Spirit's filling is boldly telling people about Jesus. That is true for us today as well!
Peter begins his defense. "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" (Ac. 4:8-10). Permit me to make some interesting observations that testify to the truth and the boldness of Peter's assertions.
Peter's words were very cutting and deeply offensive to the Sanhedrin. First of all, he in a sense mocks them that he is on trial for a good deed done to a crippled man. Second, he blames the very leaders he is standing before for the crucifixion of Jesus, the violent murder of an innocent Man. And third, he again proclaims that "God raised" the very man they killed back "from the dead." Offensive because the liberal Sadducees didn't believe in the any type of resurrection, and moreover, if God raised the very man they murdered (cf. Ac. 2:23-24; 5:30), it obviously implies these very religious people are on the wrong side of the living God! So in other words Peter is asked how this man was made well. And Peter responded that it was the same power that raised Jesus, and in the name of Jesus, that this man "stands…before" them "in good health."
And to make his point even more rock-solid, in verse 11 he quotes from the Jewish Old Testament, their own Bible, as to the error of their ways! Peter conducts a Bible Study with these men! Citing Psalm 118:22, Peter said, "He is the stone which was rejected by you ["by you" was added to the text by Peter], the builders, but which became the chief corner stone."
When buildings were constructed back then, oftentimes the final stone placed was the one that held the entire structure together. Builders would search high and low discarding stones as they went, to find this important, essential stone for their construction.
So in quoting this prophecy about Jesus, Peter is declaring that the most important piece of God's revelation to man was rejected by the very people who should have seen Him most clearly and esteemed Him most profoundly! But it was God the Father who saw God the Son rejected by His own people. He saw the Son crucified on a cross, thrown away like a rejected stone on a killing hill called Calvary. And it was God the Father who refused to leave His Son in an old dusty tomb and picked Him up, raised Him from the dead and put Him in the most important place as the corner stone. That is why we read in Philippians 2, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).
So are Peter and John leading the people astray with some unproven and make-believe stories? Absolutely not! They are in line with the very words of God. God has communicated to His people about the coming Messiah that would be rejected by those who should have embraced Him, validated by the fact that He conquered death by coming back from the grave. What other religious figure has accomplished that?
And though His death on the cross was plotted by the Jews and accomplished by the Romans, we know that it was the plan of God to crush His Son whereby the Son would take sin upon Himself, bear the penalty and provide a way for sinners to be forgiven through His atonement. So if Jesus is who the Bible claims He is, how can there be salvation in the name of anyone else? Who else died to put away our sin to reconcile us with a holy God? Whose sacrifice was victoriously validated by coming back from the dead just as the Scriptures predicted?
No wonder Peter concluded by saying in verse 12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
You know, I find this so interesting. The apostles could have been released immediately and they knew it. As a matter of fact, in chapter 5 we read about them being flogged for their faith (Ac. 5:40). But what do we see? Not only to they express faith in Jesus Christ, they also go so far that only those who have faith in Jesus Christ will be saved from the wrath of God in hell! There is no other name given by which we may be saved! Eventually, Peter would pay for that truth with his life! I mean after all, how foolish would Peter have been to die for proclaiming his faith if there are, as reported, many roads that lead to God?
I know these statements are not politically correct today, but the exclusivity of salvation in Christ was clearly taught by Jesus Christ and His closest followers. And if we truly love people, we will do the same, despite the rising opposition.
The section continues in verse 13: "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply" (Ac. 4:13-14).
And what do you have to say? Either Jesus is a liar or a lunatic or He is Lord of all! There are no other options!
Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Do you understand that you, like I, need a Savior? That Someone needs to take away our sins if we ever have any hope of entering God's holy presence? Do you understand that only Jesus paid that penalty for us at the cross? Do you understand that He receives all who confess His name and turn to Him in righteousness? Do you understand that He stands ready to forgive you for every sin you have committed - past, present and future? Do you understand that He promises to be with you forever sticking by your side closer than a brother?
You know I didn't grow-up in a Christian family so often I am asked what or who the Lord used to draw me to Himself. I can't say it was one event, but rather I believe it was a series circumstances that I was exposed to. One of them I remember distinctly was in 1985 when our college rugby team from Wisconsin was invited to play at a tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the LSU campus. It was February and when the tournament concluded we all went to New Orleans for Marti Gras. I can still remember in the midst of all the partying, a young lady holding up as sign which simply read, "Are you really living for Jesus?" I'll never forget how much that statement got me thinking!
So I ask you the same question. On this Resurrection Sunday, are you really living for Jesus? Do you know the risen Lord? And if you do, is resurrection power presently transforming your life so you are truly living for the risen Savior?