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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Acts part 8: Filled with the Holy Spirit.



Building the right foundation part 8

Acts 4:5-31

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they enquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

English Standard Version Anglicised



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I am grateful to Mark Thomas for his exposition of this passage last week whilst I was away. His coverage of the issues found within has opened the way up for me to lay a foundation concerning the filling of the Holy Spirit as found in the book of Acts. As I have said previously Acts is an accurate history of the happenings beginning at the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and concluding 30 or so years later with the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul in Rome shortly before his execution.
Luke is a wonderful example to all historians in all generations because he records the facts as they actually happened and without any personal comment. Unlike present media news bulletins we will find no expert comment or personal explanations within Acts but simply a record of the facts. This is most helpful in many ways because we read just what happened but it does leave us with the problem that some of the recorded events are acceptable to God and others are not. Therefore we must always discern what is going on in the light of the truth of the teaching passages of scripture before we can accurately judge whether a certain event recorded in Acts is useful for our theology. For this reason we can only safely use any of the narrative passages of scripture for doctrinal purposes when they are in line with the clear teaching of scripture elsewhere. We must never from the book of Acts alone do what many others do and attempt to build the church of today solely by the events of this history because we will most certainly fall into error by doing so. One of the many confusions in the church of today is our understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. For this reason I am truly grateful for the opportunity to spend our time this morning observing what it meant on the day that Luke is recording in Acts 4 and then to see how it might apply to us in the 21st century church in Cornwall.
In my last study we considered an ordinary day in Jerusalem but one which ended up spectacularly with the healing of a lame man, the conversion of 5000 men plus women and children which in turn caused the annoyance of the religious elite and consequently the arrest of Peter and John. We are now concerned with the next day when Peter and John had spent the night in prison. They were brought before the most powerful religious leaders of the day who wanted to know where their power for healing came from and in whose name that they accredited the miracle to. The background to this is that all Jews were looking for Messiah whose coming would be authenticated by signs and wonders which would include the blind being made able to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and the dead to rise. The priesthood were the custodians of these promises and so it was their responsibility to check out any such signs. So far so good, the religious leaders might seem to be doing what they ought to do but they show their real intentions through their deliberations recorded in verse 16 where they really wanted to punish Peter and John even though they recognised that a notable sign had been performed . They could not deny the fact of the miracle but they did not want the credit to be given to Jesus. For this reason and their fear of the people they banned Peter and John from speaking in the name of Jesus. These religious leaders were intent on rejecting the Lord Jesus as Messiah, they were deliberate in this and were unwilling to recognise the signs given by God proving Jesus to be the awaited Messiah due to their own bigotry. These men were the fulfilment of Psalm 118:22 where the builders of the faith were guilty of rejecting the most vital piece of God's building. The cornerstone is the stone that holds all of the building together, it is unique and is the only one that one will do the job. Peter boldly told them that Jesus of Nazareth was God's Chosen Anointed One and that it was only by and through His name that any can be saved. These religious leaders rejected Him out of hand!
You might at this point be wondering what has all of this got to do with being filled with the Holy Spirit? Before we come to that it is important for us to understand that even the greatest of signs performed by the Apostles and also previously by Jesus had never been enough to persuade these men that Jesus is the expected Messiah or Christ. They enjoyed the signs but did not want the Saviour.
There is still a great desire for signs and wonders in particular amongst Christians who read Acts and use it as a paradigm for church practice today. The belief being that if we were more like the early church then more people would be persuaded by the miracles and that many more would be converted. That might be a commendable desire but it does not hold water because as we can see from the passage and also as Paul teaches in Romans 10 14-15 that it is by the declared Word that people are normally saved. It is for the bold preaching of the Word as recorded in verses 8 and also 31 of our passage that believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.


In verse 8 Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and then he goes on to preach a powerfully applied gospel message to these religious leaders. It is when we understand exactly who they were that we begin to understand why Peter needed this special infilling of the Holy Spirit. These men Annas, Caiaphas, John (or Jonathan), Alexander and all of the high priestly family were the most powerful religious dynasty of New Testament days. For any of us who have read the New Testament we cannot help but to recognise the names of Annas (or Ananias) and Caiaphas as they crop up from time to time. In actual fact they are all of the same family, Annas being the patriarch. He had 5 sons and a son-in-law Caiaphas. Annas was the High Priest for 10 years appointed by a certain Quirinius in 6AD. Quirinius was governor of Syria Luke tells us at the time of the birth of Jesus. It was shortly after the birth of Jesus that Annas was appointed to be the High Priest. This in itself flies in the face of scripture which teaches that the priests were to be appointed by God alone from the Levitical line. The very fact that Rome was appointing Jewish priests shows the state of the faith at the time; but it is the family of Annas that is of particular interest. They were a very wealthy family and of great influence. Even though Annas was removed from office by the then governor in 15 AD he was still able to appoint Caiaphas to be his successor and then following Caiaphas his 5 sons. The last of which was Annas the younger who was assassinated in AD 66 at about the time of the end of Acts. This means that all of the problems that Jesus and the early church had with the priesthood was with this one powerful family. When we know this then many things fall into place.
The family were extremely wealthy and owned a market on the Mount of Olives, they also had a market in the court of the Gentiles within the temple of Jerusalem. It was them that were understandably angry when Jesus cleared them out of the Temple. For this act they wanted to kill the Lord. (Mark 11:17)
It was with these same men that Judas made his deal to betray Jesus and was also the same people who organised the arrest of the Saviour. They stirred up the crowd to demand His crucifixion and made sure that He died upon the cross. For them that should have been enough because Josephus records in his history that they were Sadducees who of course did not believe in the resurrection. But now the thing that they wanted least of all was for a following of the Lord to be growing as the church clearly was. They needed to be rid of these protagonists of the gospel. For this reason Peter and John were in dire straights.
What would they do when asked to declare their allegiance?
As God always does with His people He enabled them by filling them with Himself and giving them the boldness as He had done for so many others throughout the scripture. Peter filled with God's Holy Spirit told the the truth without compromise and God preserved their lives. When they were finally warned not to speak in the name of Jesus Peter rejected their order and told them that they could do no other than to speak God's truth whatever their orders might be. Upon their release Peter and John went to the church where they prayed together for the necessary boldness to continue preaching in the name of Jesus. The result of their prayer was that the place that they gathered in shook as at Pentecost and God by His Spirit filled them in order that they speak the Word with boldness. That word was then effective as we shall see next time. The truth is that:
God fills His People with His Holy Spirit in order that they declare Jesus as the only way of salvation.
Because
The work of the Holy Spirit is always to point to God's redemption which is found in none other than Jesus Christ.


Application:
Peter and John had to take the gospel to ruthless and antagonistic people, to do so God enabled them by His Spirit. They were filled not for their own benefit but for the furtherance of the gospel and the building of the church. We also need the true filling of God's Spirit today, not for our entertainment but that our desperately needy community might be saved!
Read the prayer made on that day again and pray it for our own needs as we present the gospel here in our own community!
Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”



AMEN

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