“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
(Act 4:1-2 ESV)
I’ve been thinking about evangelism a great deal this past month. I’ve preached on it a couple of times, and I’ve written blog posts on this topic. We also recently heard from Colonel John Eidsmoe, who shared with us on the topics of God and government, along with matters of faith and the Constitution. So all of this has been rolling around in my mind as I read the above text.
Peter and John were, initially, going to the temple to pray. And, while entering, the Lord used them to heal a man who’d been lame from birth. This, for obvious reasons, caused a stir among the people and provided Peter with the opportunity to preach to them.
However, as they were speaking, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them. They were annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day. And as they were questioned by the rulers and the elders the next morning, Peter used this opportunity to share the gospel also with them.
Because of the miracle they had performed, the rulers and elders could say nothing against them. But they wanted to stop Peter and John from teaching in the name of Jesus. So they charged them to speak no longer in the name of Jesus. But Peter replied to this charge, saying: "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."
I don’t think that any of us have been arrested for proclaiming the gospel at this point. However, we do see that many in our society are annoyed by our teaching in the name of Jesus. Like the rulers and elders of the Jews, they want nothing more than to silence us.
They do this in many ways. They do this by applying social pressure. They do this by filing lawsuits, trying to remove the expression of the Christian faith from the public square. They enact laws, trying to define the truth of God as hate speech or as discrimination.
The question we must ask ourselves, as we face this pressure, is this: How will we respond to the charge of our society? Will we be silenced? Will we cease our proclamation of the Word of God? Or, like the apostles, will we remain faithful to the Lord’s calling?
As Peter expressed to the rulers, we must listen to the Lord rather than men. Even though men can make life miserable for us, we must remain faithful to God and continue in our proclamation of the gospel.
More than that, proclaiming Jesus and his gospel should be something that we cannot cease. As Peter stated, we shouldn’t be able to help speaking of what we’ve seen and heard. Caving into the pressures of our society shouldn’t even be an option for us.
The apostle Paul expressed a similar sentiment in 1 Corinthians 9:16, where he said: “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
For Paul, there was no other option. Proclaiming the gospel was something he had to do. And the same should be the case for us as well.
As we face pressure from society to cease our proclamation of Jesus, let’s ask the Lord to give us the spirit of the apostles. Let’s ask him for a heart that cannot but preach the gospel. Let’s ask him for the boldness to carry out his call regardless of the commands of men.