The apostles continued to face opposition for proclaiming the gospel. They also continued to experience the power of God.
It would have been very difficult for the apostles to preach Jesus as a "life-enhancer." The people saw the controversy. The early preachers were imprisoned. They were publicly shamed and beaten. The gospel message was clearly scandalous.
None of this discouraged the apostles. They saw the power of God through the persecution. It confirmed their testimony. They were instructed by God to continue preaching and teaching the truth. They were never encouraged to soften the message. They were not told to make the message more pleasing to the ear.
In Acts 5 the high priest and his associates are filled with jealousy. They have all of the apostles forcibly arrested. During the night an angel opened the prison gates and led them out. The angel told them:
"Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." (Acts 5:20 NASB)They obeyed. They began teaching in the temple around daybreak.
They didn't teach some of the message. They didn't teach just the parts of the message that they liked best. They didn't teach only what resonated with them. They didn't teach just the parts that made their hearers feel comfortable.
They taught the whole message of this Life.
The Council thought the apostles were still in prison. That's where they left them. When they sent the officers to bring them in for questioning they found the prison gates locked and the guards at the door. But no one was inside.
They were confused. Then someone told them that the apostles were standing in the temple teaching the people. They brought the apostles before the Council for further questioning.
Peter gave a summary of the whole message:
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:30-32 NASB)This summary filled the Council with rage. They intended to kill the apostles. However, one member of the Council persuaded them to be more prudent. They had the apostles severely beaten and sternly warned to stop preaching. Then they released them.
The apostles responded by rejoicing.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41 NASB)The apostles knew that this punishment was shameful. The Council intended it to be. The public knew it too. That was the point.
The apostles couldn't preach Jesus as a "life-enhancer." It wouldn't have made any sense.
No one would think being publicly shamed for the name of Jesus was an enjoyable benefit. They continued to preach:
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42 NASB)
Two Observations on the Apostles Approach
- The Apostles taught both publicly and privately. The text says the taught both in the temple and from house to house. They used all the venues available to them to reach as many people as possible with the message. Although some tried to shame them they were unashamed of the message.
- The Apostles preached Jesus as the Christ. The Christ is the Anointed One. The Messiah. The Promised One. Where were these promises made of the coming Messiah? In the Old Testament Scriptures! In order to preach "Jesus as the Christ" required teaching how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promises.
There are other ways to preach Christ. The apostles spent a lot of time with Jesus. They could have spoken about the cool experiences they had watching Him multiply the loaves and fishes. They could have explained that despite their current difficulties following Jesus has blessed them because of __________ (fill in the blank).
They didn't follow this methodology. They didn't preach themselves or their experiences. They preached Jesus as the Christ.
As "the Christ" Jesus is no mere life-enhancer. As "the Christ" Jesus is the life-giver. The gospel is not a call to a better life from your current one. It is a call to life from death.
The apostles knew this. They obeyed God and preached the whole message of this Life. There was power behind this approach. Not a manipulative power. Not a rhetorical power. The power of God for salvation.
Will you follow this approach and likewise preach Jesus as the Christ? Are you willing to do what it takes to get equipped to share the whole message of this Life? Are you prepared to rejoice when (not if) you suffer shame for the Name?