SUFFERING FOR HIS NAME
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
Jesus had told his disciples in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep your’s also.”
The disciples no doubt remembered this saying of Jesus. They had been brought before the authorities of their day. They were upset because of the evident blessings of God upon them (4:4). They were upset because the apostles were teaching that Jesus was the only way to be saved: Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” You know when you teach that Jesus is the only way to be saved you get the Moslems, the Buddhists, all the cults, and all the other religions of the world. A man doesn’t like for you to kick his dog nor criticize his religion. When you tell a man that the only way to go to heaven is through Jesus and the man’s religion does not include that statement of faith, what do you think he figures you are saying? It does not take him long to figure the thing out.
So the council sent them out of the room and had a little private meeting: “verses 15-16 “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.” These Christians were hard to handle. God had by their hands worked a miracle that no one could deny. Their behavior was so above reproach that they could find nothing with which to accuse them.
So what did they do? Verse 17-18 says, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” This was an attempt to stop the spread of the gospel. The Apostles were not preaching healing, they just healed as they preached the gospel. It was the message that the council wanted to stop. The message was being received: verse 4 of this chapter says, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” You would think that the general public would not object to what they would call a religion that made people better neighbors. But it did make them a difference. They could not stand the message of the cross. They commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
How did the servants of Jesus respond to these threats? “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (verse 19). The apostles claimed to be under God’s orders. Man was trying to give them his orders. These orders were contradicting. When you run into contradicting orders you have to decide who you are going to obey. As you know, they went with the Lord. The Lord continued to bless. Miracles continued to accompany the message they preached and souls continued to be added to the fellowship (5:14). The high priest (5:17) was incensed that these men would not obey him. So he went after them again this time throwing them into prison (5:18). But the Lord send an angel to get them out (5:19) and to make matters worse the angel had a message from the Lord to them, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (5:20). He told them what to preach and where to preach it and to whom to preach it.
It might be objected. “But Lord you just turned us out of prison. If we obey you, they will just throw us back in prison. In fact Lord, if you don’t mind, I’ll just go back through these doors and go back to my cell. That way I’ll avoid the process. You see Lord, the jail is not as bad as the process. They process you with a whip!” Well, the apostles said nothing like this. They just obeyed the Lord and disobeyed the high priest and his party.
Now when someone told the council that the men who had been thrown in prison were out, and of all places, in the temple preaching the gospel to the people again, they did not receive that message very well. They sent and had them brought back before them again “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (verses 28-29). Here the matter of who to obey comes up again. YOU KNOW CHRISTIANS STILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE. This time it made them (the council) so mad that they began to consider murder (5:33). And out of the blue comes this man by the name of Gamaliel. He reasons successfully with the council and gets the apostles off with a beating (5:40) and with one more attempt to bring them under their authority by commanding “that they should not speak in the name of Jesus” any more (5:40).
That brings us down to our text: “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” That’s an odd way to respond to a beating. And to go further the next verse says: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (verse 42). What can you do, if you are the high priest, and you can’t get folk to mind you? You beat them and put them in jail and you reason with them and as soon as you turn them loose they begin to do again what you just told them not to do. And to add insult to injury as we would say, they rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. I imagine the blood pressure of that high priest needed Dr. Luke’s medical attention about now.
This is the story of the church. You just can’t stop God’s people. They are under heaven’s orders and are constantly getting in trouble because of the message they are commanded by heaven to preach. Christians have suffered in our day under totalitarian Marxism. Bro. George Vins who spoke in our church and stayed in my home shortly after his release from prison in Russia spent eight years in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus. His father Peter Vins, suffered in prison before him and died in captivity in 1943 in a labor camp in Siberia. His mother Lidia Vins was arrested and tried in 1970 and 1971. George Vin’s son, Peter, also served a year in prison for the sake of the gospel. Paul said in 2 Tim. 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Our suffering may be different but it is still there. There is also a price for us to pay. Let’s pay it with joy as we wait on his coming.
God bless you.