Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
From the sermon series Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
Based on Acts 5:17-26
A party within the Sanhedrin is starting to have second thoughts about the Sadducees plan to
Besides the miraculous, however, there are the standard political reasons not to be too hasty regarding the apostles until you have the wind right. What political reasons are those? Two words, “the people.” (Acts 5:26). The apostles probably have quite a bit of social capital built up by now in the community. There are quite a few mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, and cousins alive and whole now because of the apostles’ ministry. There are tens of thousands following them as disciples of Jesus. They are quite popular and well respected in Jerusalem. Our passage last week told us that the general populace “held them in high esteem.” (Acts 5:13).
“The captain with the officers” (Acts 5:26) are about to experience the high esteem with which the apostles are held by the people when they go and fetch them for their trial. Luke says, “Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.” (Acts 5:26). This is what I mean by the mood being reset. The apostles return not so much as prisoners but more under subpoena. They come willingly, not in shackles but as respected rabbis.
I think this is what the angelic escape meant to accomplish. The Lord was putting them in a solid position to bear a faithful testimony for his own sake while delivering them from a death sentence at the same time. When tied to the other signs and wonders that the apostles have done, the miraculous escape set some of the older, wiser men among the Pharisees back on their heels a bit. The men behind the apostles’ arrest, Caiphas the high priest and his party, the Sadducees, didn’t believe in the miraculous. That’s one of the key differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees are progressives that deny miracles like the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees are, by contrast, a traditionalist movement. They are conservatives that believe what the Bible says about Sodom and Gomorrah burning, the Red Sea parting, and Moses’ face glowing. I can say, for sure, that the break comes among the Pharisees because a man at the end of this passage, “a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel” (Acts 5:34), speaks on the apostles’ behalf. He ends up saving their life when a large portion of the council seems determined to take it. The alliance between the Pharisees and the Sadducees that has existed since the crucifixion of Christ against the Christian sect comes to an end right here. I think the miraculous escape from jail is the final sign that pushes the pause button on the Pharisees’ side of the council.
Let’s start making some applications.
First, this goes back to last week’s text, but I touched on it more today. Praise God for the full inclusion of women into the New Covenant by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Like Timothy Paul’s companion, whose mother and grandmother were believers before him, many of us likely sit here today through the care and prayers of our mothers and grandmothers. I read chapter 3 of Hudson Taylor: Founder China Inland Mission this week about how his mother and sister prayed for his conversion.
I think of women like Dorcas in Acts 9. She is said to have been “full of good works and acts of charity.” (Acts 9:36). She had a ministry where she sewed garments for other people in need. When Peter went in to heal her, the Bible says that “All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” (Acts 9:39). Then there are also women like Anna, the prophetess whose ministry was one mainly of prayer. She spent her life barely departing the temple, giving her days to “worshiping” the Lord “with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37)
I feel like I mention missionaries like Amy Carmichael and Gladys Alward, often from the pulpit. When she was a teen, Amy Carmichael used to minister in the evenings to the women and children working in the factories in her town. I encourage you, ladies, especially if you are not yet married, to give yourselves to good works for the Lord’s sake. One of the things that feminism has robbed the world and the church of is caregivers. There was a time when Christian women, rather than joining the workforce, chose to give their time in the care of others, choosing to earn a crown of glory instead. Many structural changes in society have contributed to women’s inability to live and minister as God designed them. Gentlemen, we should do all we can to create an environment where the ladies are free to fulfill their God-created callings as caregivers. The church’s ministry increased significantly once the principal caregivers became fully included in the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog post. Look for Part 5 of “Burning Coals: When We Are Persecuted For Doing Good.”
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May God be with you!