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Rejoicing to Suffer in His Name (Acts 5:33-42)

May 28, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon demonstrates why the Gospel is an offense to an ungodly world. Pastor Carter cautions against the misconception that enduring persecution is contrary to the Christian life. The focus of this sermon is on three important things to understand about following Christ: 1) the displeasure of the Council, 2) rejoicing after persecution, and 3) the fellowship of His sufferings.

The Displeasure of the Council

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When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33; ESV).”

While they marveled at the miracles performed, eventually, the council became angry with these early believers. In fact, the council was enraged so much so that they desired to kill and silence these believers. Why were they so displeased? The council had warned the disciples not to preach in Jesus’ Name, because they understood that Jesus’ teaching was in direct opposition to theirs.  Therefore, just as they plotted to kill Christ, seeking to silence Him and cover up His Resurrection, the early believers faced this same satanic spirit from the council when presented again with this Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 28:11-15; John 8:31-59).

Rejoicing after Persecution

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the peopleAnd he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose upHe was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose upHe too perished, and all who followed him were scatteredSo in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God! So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing(Acts 5:34-40; ESV).

Oftentimes, the Lord uses even the rulers of this world to prophesy or speak prudently according to His plans, unbeknownst to them as to the weight of what they were saying (Proverbs 21:30).  Gamaliel, who was the mentor to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3), sought to patiently abate the rage of these councilmen by reminding of them of the failures of Theudas and Judas the Galilean.  However, just as Caiaphas before him, Gamaliel’s words gave credence to Christ. Like Theudas and Judas the Galilean, Christ died.

However, unlike Theudas and Judas, Christ rose from the dead, reassuring His followers that He has all authority (John 11:47-52, 18:14; Matthew 28:18-20).  For this reason, when the council decided to beat the apostles, and send them on their way, the apostles did not become sadden or despair. They rejoiced. They rejoiced in that they knew Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, with the hope that they might also be made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10).

The Fellowship of His Sufferings

“…that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:41-42; ESV).

The early believers endured much persecution for the sake of Christ, yet they rejoiced in the midst of their sufferings, because Christ called them blessed (Matthew 5:10). Their suffering had an expected end, fellowship of Jesus Christ, to which they continued to preach that Jesus is the Christ. Christ came to suffer and rise from the dead the third day that those whom God had chosen would have eternal life in Him (Luke 24:46-47). With this mind, the early believers understood that if Christ had paid their debt and reconciled them to God the Father, their reasonable service was to live a life pleasing to God rather than man. When that meant being beaten, bloodied, exhausted, or even killed, they counted these things as a necessary loss for obtaining the joy of knowing the grace of God through Jesus Christ, Amen (so be it).

Have I been counted worthy to suffer for Him?

The problem with the world is not that they have investigated Christianity and found it lacking, but that they have not investigated it all (G.K. Chesterton). Instead, they would rather silence the voices of Christ’s disciples, than investigate our claims, because the world knows that if Christ is right, then they are deadly wrong. To stand up for Jesus in an ungodly world will cost you (e.g. maybe a relationship, finances, family, death, etc.).

Has your faith ever cost you anything? Persecution and suffering for Christ is practically foreign to American Christianity. However, suffering is a sure reality for the faithful Christian, along with courage in the One who saves and absurd joy in knowing He is faithfully working out His good in us according to His unfailing love for us, despite our present circumstances (Romans 8:36-39).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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