Friday, May 27, 2011

Acts 5 - Two Bizarre Deaths, Healing and Persecution

This chapter starts with one of the most difficult stories to stomach in the entire New Testament.  A married couple pulls some treachery and winds up dead for it.  There's so much to comment on and wonder about - I'm not sure where to begin.  Why did they do what they did?  Why was it punishable by death?  How did Peter know Sapphira would die too?  Who were the young men who had the job of wrapping up and carrying out dead bodies, and how did they get that gig?  What is the significance of the 'great fear' that seized the whole church, and what, if any, are our modern parallels to this great fear?

How wild is it that Peter, he of the denial and subsequent restoration from the end of John's Gospel account, is now so Spirit-filled that his shadow has healing powers?

Finally, as Peter and the other apostles continue to obey God rather than men (v. 17-32), we can see the storm continuing to brew.  The leaders of the young church are forcing the hands of those in charge, and the confrontation is coming to a head.

Comment below with your thoughts and impressions on chapter 5, and we'll see you next week for chapter 6.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Acts 4 - No Other Name

The story continues and the action intensifies.  Peter and John rocking the boat and being tossed in jail.  The rulers and elders use their best intimidation tactics, but Peter, again "filled with the Holy Spirit" refuses to back down.  Verse 19-20 -  "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Why were the leaders so adamant that Peter and the others needed to be stopped?  I believe the answer is found in verse 12, as Peter's speech includes the line about Jesus, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  That's the issue isn't it?  The exclusive claims of Jesus.  It's not much different today.  I heard a Pastor say this once:  In our society we can talk about God, we can talk about Jesus, just don't you dare suggest that He's the only way to heaven.  That will certainly cause a stir. 

It's too bad really.  If Jesus is the only way to God, doesn't it make sense to be grateful that there is a way to God? 

Next week the action takes a bizarre turn as we read Acts chapter 5.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Acts 3 - A Brewing Storm

Acts chapter 3 gets right to the point, short and sweet.  Peter, with John in tow, continues to amaze as he heals a man who was "crippled from birth".  This act of love gets them all kinds of attention and provides Peter another opportunity to deliver a killer speech, as he proceeds to explain how their faith in the name of Jesus is responsible for the healing.

I especially like verse 19, "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord".  That sounds like a good deal to me - I like having my sins wiped out while enjoying times of refreshing.  Sign me up for that.

I wonder if Peter knew what would go down when he made the decision to heal that beggar.  We'll pick up the story in chapter 4 next week.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Acts 2 - "Brothers, what shall we do?"

The long-promised Holy Spirit, looking like tongues of fire (wow, there's a picture), comes to rest on the disciples gathered together in one place and immediately things are different.  A few things jump out as the narrative continues:

1.  Peter continues to take the lead, addressing the befuddled crowd.  He boldly and clearly explains what's happening and makes the case for Jesus as Savior.  He references newly fulfilled Old Testament prophecy from Joel and David, and his Spirit-led speech is convincing enough to beg the question from the people, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

2.  Peter's reply? "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  Peter pleaded with those gathered, and we learn about 3000 were added to their number that day.  That is exponential growth.  From 120 to 3120 in one day.  Not bad.  (Although I've always wondered how many were nearby who chose to ignore the appeal of Peter.)

3.  The new believers lived in community right away, selling their possessions and giving to anyone as he had need.  They demonstrated the kind of love that Jesus spoke of in John 13, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  Obviously the life the new believers shared had an impact since "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

May our lives similarly impact those around us.