We continue with our sermon series “The church goes out”. With preaching from Nathan Gordon and our service led by Beverley Sills.
The book of Genesis records the introduction and spread of sin in the world, and the New Testament depicts the unfortunate reality of persecution of Christians amongst the early church. Throughout the Bible there are many examples of people persecuting God, people persecuting people and nations persecuting nations. Both the Hebrew and Greek word for persecution implies a pressing or pursual to oppress and dominate others who share a different belief. Many generations have since passed from the Acts of the apostles; however, persecution continues to rear its ugly head around the world in a variety of ways.
This morning as we peruse the first encounter of hostility towards the church of Jesus Christ and contextualise persecution around the world today, let us examine the following points.
Remain level-headed with moments of success – v1-2
- After the incredible miracle of a lame man in chapter 3, persecution was right around the corner
- “They were greatly disturbed” = having had the normal pattern or functioning disrupted (KJV uses the word Grieved)
- Caution especially for new Christians
Whether in ministry or life in general it’s important to remain calm and poised as life can spiral very quickly in another direction. Whilst we celebrate the miracles, the signs, and the wonders God can perform, we recognise the enemy will do all he can to disturb and interrupt the harmony amongst the body of Christ.
Recognise the offensive side of the Gospel message – v3
The Gospel message is the most beautiful news anyone could ever hear, however to some the Gospel is offensive, here are 3 reasons why.
- The Gospel means confessing we are sinners (Romans 3:23)
- The Gospel means confessing we can’t do it ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- The Gospel means confessing that we need a saviour (Romans 8:3) (Acts 4:12)
The religious leaders were so outraged they decided to take further action
- V3 KJV “and they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day.
- Persecution often involves verbal or physical abuse
Rejoice in God’s protection and blessings of the church – v4, 17-22
- The early church grew from 3,000 in Acts 2 to 5,000 in chapter 4.
- Ramifications of Peter’s sermon to the onlookers in Acts 3
- The Sanhedrin commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus
- Peter & John refused to bow under pressure and continued to proclaim the Gospel message.
Persecution continued to rise amongst the early church but God through his unfailing mercy allowed the church to experience rapid growth throughout both Jewish and gentile nations. Today, let us continue to trust many lives will come to know Jesus Christ in our community and the church will continue to grow for His glory despite the obstacles in our way.
1) What was the main issue that upset the Sadducees in Peter and John’s preaching? 4:1-4.
2) Look again at Acts 4. What gave Peter and John their remarkable courage? Is this courage just available for apostles or could we have it today?
3) Acts 4:12 says that Jesus is “the only name” by which we can be saved.
a) Why might that kind of exclusive claim be hard to embrace? (Think empathetically through the lens of your unbelieving friends)
b) Why is that kind of exclusive claim crucial for the church to hold on to?
4) Why did the rulers find it hard to suppress the Apostle’s message?
Acts 4:13-16, 19-22
5) Have you ever been in a hostile environment for the sake of the Gospel? If so, explain how you handled it.
Sermon Title: Persecution – causes and solutions
Bible Reading: Acts 4:1-22
Preacher: Nathan Gordon
Worship Leader: Beverley Sills