Burning Coals: Bearing A Faithful Testimony Part 3

Read Part 1, Part 2

In our last blog, we closed by comparing sections of Peter’s public sermons up until this point. Our goal was to show that Peter is being consistent in his approach. He presents the same message in the same way, whether to peasants, merchants, or rulers. Let’s continue in our exposition.

Based on Acts 5:27-32

Acts 5:27-32

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The centerpiece of the Gospel is that the only begotten Son of God gave himself to be crucified as a punishment for the sins of the world. He was nailed to a Roman cross to bear the sins of all mankind. The Sanhedrin, with a few exceptions, are the men responsible for the betrayal of Jesus Christ into the hands of the Romans. For us, this is in the distant past. It is ancient history. We will never be walking down the street on our way to temple prayer and see one of the men that betrayed our Lord to His death. And while we should love all men and desire our enemies to bow before the Lord, we are not robots. We might find it emotionally difficult to love the centurions that whipped and mocked our Lord if we actually knew them. Also, not all are sanctified to the same degree. Some are immature in their understanding of the Christian Faith. There is a reason Jesus has to instruct us to love our enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

There is a reason Paul will need to remind us that we were enemies of Christ when he died for us. 

Ephesians 2:1-7

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:6-8

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is a reason why Paul will have to re-enforce Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemy in the Gentile churches.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.(Romans 12:14, 17, 20-21) 

Loving our enemy is not our natural response. It took the incarnation of Christ to demonstrate divine love fully. It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for this kind of love to exist in sinners. Let me remind us that the ultimate example of love only just happened in our text. The crucifixion was less than a year ago at this point. Its imprint is new. Its impact is still developing. The Sadducees do not understand this divine love. But they understand they are being presented as those who betrayed the King of Israel to blood. Peter has personally called them to their faces the builders that rejected the cornerstone. They are not political fools. In fact, they are consummate politicians. They know the conclusions that should be drawn if they were the ones on the other side making the claims. Their behavior is classic projecting. The Sanhedrin has the apostles standing before them on trumped-up charges looking to, best case, hand them over to the Romans for crucifixion, worst case, have them serve a long sentence in the public prison. And just to put it on the record, their fears are not completely unfounded. The captain of the temple and the guards were just nearly stoned for trying to re-arrest the apostles in the temple. (Acts 5:26)

So there it is, the real motivation for the apostles’ arrest. In particular, Caiaphas, the high priest, and the Sadducees are afraid that the apostles might become successful enough that people come to believe their version of the story of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. It would not be good in Judaism to be thought of as the men who killed a prophet that turned out to be the Christ. They might end up having to pay with something more than thirty pieces of silver if you catch my meaning. They do not believe in any way that Jesus is the Christ. But they are aware that tens of thousands now do. 

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. Look for Part 4 of “Burning Coals: Bearing A Faithful Testimony” soon.

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May God be with you!

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