Acts 4:13-31

On Easter Sunday lead pastor Keith Welton teaches from Acts 4:13-31, and how worldly power causes problems for Christ's followers, but how the power of the resurrection overcomes the world.

If you missed last week's sermon from guest speaker Mark Pfaller, The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength, you can watch it here.

Sermon Notes

No matter the size of your church, Easter is a special day. It is a celebration and reminder of Jesus' rising from the dead. He conquered the grave. Great feats are celebrated. National champions are celebrated. Achievement in movies is celebrated so certainly, the one who overcame death ought to be celebrated. It is a one-of-a-kind work, that only a one-of-a-kind individual could achieve. And it changes everything for us. 

Without the resurrection hope in the afterlife is like hoping for a unicorn. Wishful. Based on nothing. If the resurrection happened then it means we can have hope of an afterlife. It means there is a power at work in the world that is more than in my present body.” Keller, Growing My Faith in the Face of Death.

The resurrection is a display of power. Power over death. Death is our greatest threat, so overcoming it means overcoming all things that threaten us. 

Everybody wants power. Everything needs power. Your phone, car. Computer. More power means more capability. 

The resurrection is the display of God’s power overcoming sin and death and the first and foremost thing that should drive our lives. 

Power is desired by All

People want power. If they find power, they can control. Money is power. Title means power. 

Power: the ability to do something or act in a particular way; the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events: "she had me under her power"

Capacity, ability, capability. Unable. Incapable. Incapacity. 

Make your car go. Need gas for power. Need ability to make people do something. Law gives you power. Someone is doing something wrong then you need power to stop them, keep them from hurting you, etc. 

People want power to do what they want. The play for power is on full display in the Bible.

Jesus was tried and condemned, not because he was doing good, but because people in power got uneasy. The religious leaders of the community felt Jesus’ increasing power and the decrease of their power. The Roman authorities feared Jesus would rival them. Jesus’ power threatened them. The greatest threat to earthly power is divine power, and especially when the divine is in opposition to the earthly. 

The play for power is on full display at the crucifixion. And now after the crucifixion the same people are fighting to preserve their power. 

In Acts 4 Peter and John are going to the temple and they see a man crippled from birth. The man asks for money and they go to him and pray that in the name of Jesus he be healed. It causes a great scene and Peter tells everyone that it is not them and  their power but the power of God in Jesus. They are mere witnesses to Jesus. The rulers and leaders of the people have Peter and John brought in so they can question them and they command them not to teach any more in the name of Jesus. The shift of attention and power to the disciples is unsettling for the leaders.

The disciples are apprehended, charged, and threatened. Not for healing a man but because people began looking to them. Their power. 

The disciples have seen and experienced something that has changed their allegiances in the world. No longer do they view the political and religious systems of the day as ultimate powers. God has intervened and set them free. Throughout the book of Acts, the disciples are caught in the swirling tides of competing groups of power--emperors, kings, nations, Rome, philosophers, classes of people, races. And their commitment to Jesus supersedes all of these. 

The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean the removal of all opposing powers. There are still people who oppose God and his people. Don't be surprised by that.

Right now the same power play is at work in the world.

The same play for power is swirling around you. The world is pulling at you in many ways. God is seeking to pull you out of it. 

G. K. Chesterton Quote: Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.

We are caught in the fight. Pulled in different directions. May be scared and concerned. Why doesn'tdoesnt God do something??

If the gospel story is true, and God is restoring all things through Jesus Christ, he is bringing justice to evil and restoring the broken, then it will be opposed by those who are opposed to God. It will be a clash. 

Paul Brand, an orthopedic surgeon, spent the first part of his medical career in India and the last part of his career in the US. “In the US… I encountered a society that seeks to avoid pain at all costs. Patients lived in a greater comfort level than any I had previously treated, but they seemed far less equipped to handle suffering and far more traumatized by it.” Tim Keller, Growing My Faith in the Face of Death

The disciples were not surprised, nor traumatized, nor did they see these obstacles and attacks as a sign that Jesus was not with them or that he was not raised. They viewed it as an opportunity to follow him in suffering. 

God did not eliminate evil and suffering with the resurrection. Jesus will do that when he returns and judges the world. Until then, God allows it to continue, and one of the reasons he allows it is for his mercy. If God destroyed every act of disobedience when it occurred you would not be here. We live in a time where people are vying for power, lying, cheating, stealing, coercing, attacking. 

God’s Power Unmatched

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17 NIV). God’s power is being revealed through Jesus and his death and resurrection. 

Several things point to God’s power being unmatched. 

God will use a rag tag group of disciples to change the world.

Even more amazing is the genius of the accounts of him. A band of no- name, uneducated, fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, with nothing in common, come together and write the most influential works the world has ever seen. 

These guys were not in AP classes. They weren’t even in school! Kids, God can do amazing things when you line your life up with his will. Shows the power of God.

Peter Wwilliams says, “There is enough genius in the Jesus story to remake the world. But we need to ask: does the genius reside in the authors, or have the authors basically reported the genius of their hero, Jesus? Both options are somewhat miraculous but one of them involves a Miracle Maker who can explain the feat.” Glenn Scrivener, The Air We Breathe, p 216. 

Everyone should celebrate the resurrection

It is either the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead, or it is the celebration of a bunch of nobodies concocting the greatest  and most influential story the world has ever known. You can't have an in-between of partly true and partly a lie.

If you want to see the power of God, you look to the resurrection.

God’s power displayed in the resurrection. The crucifixion of Jesus is the greatest act of evil ever known. The only sinless, perfect person, one who deserves our respect and admiration and allegiance, is betrayed and crucified. And yet God uses this to bring about the greatest good ever imagined, the salvation of his people. God triumphs over evil. He triumphs over the strategies of people. God did not remove evil, but he is overcoming it through the resurrection. 

These people who conspired against Jesus have only been able to do what God allowed. What he predestined to take place. 

What God predestined, chose before hand, determined in advance. Think you are gaining on someone and findfound out he is simply letting you. 

God laughs at their attempts. He is not intimidated.

God’s power in the resurrection gives us incredible hope, because we believe his providence power can alter our situation.

Psalm 2:9-11 says that God will burst their bonds. 

The disciples sense the power of God. The turmoil of their circumstances is exactly what ScCripture pointed to. It is not about having hardships removed, but trusting God’s power in the midst of the hardship. 

After this scene the disciples, don'tdont go back and gather with their people and try to figure out how to lobby for greater political protection. They are not rallying around a political candidate, but a risen Savior. Politicians are important, but make terrible Saviors.

They consider the threats

They are real threats. But the power at work in the resurrection far outweighs anything the world can throw at them. They have peace and are unshaken. 

The one who is in them is greater than the one who is in the world. I have never experienced a time like we have in our nation right now. People vying for power. Lying, cheating, stealing, political nepotism, where you overlook justice if it means your own party gets a leg up. People care for their ownfor own party more than for justice in general. People want you scared, because if they can make you afraid they can control you. You can live in constant fear of the plotting nations and leaders. Or you can trust in the one who gave his life for you. Those leaders want power and control at all costscost. Jesus was completely righteous, gave his life for you, to free you from the fading power of the world. 

There are various powers vying for your allegiance.

The Romans’. The Jews. The religious leaders. Schools. Bosses. Boyfriends. Classmates. Whom are you going to submit to? Might serve the Lord. You might serve Satan. But you’ve got to serve somebody. 

Notice the disciples’ goal was not to bring power to themselves but to God. They pray to God and call themselves servants, slaves. 

God’s power is displayed in the resurrection. Death is overcome. This is our greatest adversary. 

Any belief in the afterlife is mere wishful thinking without the resurrection. Might as well wish for flying spaghetti. Unicorns. And Ttennessee to win another national championship. US to win the world cup!

Gospel. Jesus died for our sins, but he was completely righteous. It would be unjust for God to let death reign over him. He is raised to new life to show the justice of God. And he died for you, so that if you turn to him, trust in him, you too can be raised to new life.

Power is found in Submission to God

Salvation in Christ is free but it costs everything you have. It’s free in the sense that you don’t have to do anything. Jesus has done all the work to reconcile you. But it costs everything in the sense that you submit your life to him. Fully and completely. Not just part of your life, but the whole thing. He becomes the chief authority in your life.

24 "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 

Despota. Sovereign Lord. Master of everything. Slave to a ruler of unchallengeable power. Edicts of men cannot overturn the decrees of God. 

Jesus is not just a good advisor or example. He is to be Lord. He conquered death after all. You follow his word. You obey him. Don't just nod your head and go live however you want. Do you even know his word? Are you looking to it?

Ill. Juan. We were walking out to lunch and another sales rep came over to him, she had seen some things he was doing, and started to give him a bunch of unsolicited advice. He shook is head in agreement. Yeah ok. Yeah that sounds good. OK I'll do all that. We walked out the door and he turned to me and said, “I ain’t doing none of that.” She had no authority over him. Just an advisor. 

Their commitment to Jesus was a way of life

It was not a life of constant success. They will be opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, beaten, and so much more. Jesus did not die to make you comfortable. He died to save you from the world that is fiercely opposing him and fiercely moving to destruction. It does not like when people go to the other team and will resist them.

You have to choose whom you will follow. You are going to live under the control and power of someone. It might be the world’s, or it might be God’s. There is no in between. Some may feel the disciples are too radical. Heard someone say recently when they were saved and when they were sold out. To be saved means you have sold everything for Jesus. You are submitting to him. 

Kiss the Son. That is an act of humility and submission. Many people don’t want to do that publicly. Many people’s pride won’t allow them to come to a place of admitting they need help. 

The meaning here is that they should express their allegiance to the Son of God, or recognize him as the authorized King, with suitable expressions of submission and allegiance; that they should receive him as King, and submit to his reign. It was in this way that respect was indicated for one of superior rank. This was the ancient mode of doing homage or allegiance to a king, 1 Samuel 10:1. It was also the mode of rendering homage to an idol, 1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2; Job 31:27. The mode of rendering homage to a king by a kiss was sometimes to kiss his hand, or his dress, or his feet, as among the Persians. DeWette. Kissing the hand of a monarch is not uncommon in European courts as a token of allegiance. Applied to others, it means that they should embrace him as their Saviour. -Barnes.

Following Jesus is not about attending service a couple times a year. It is about following him in all of life and seeking to make him known. It involves leaving the world to be a part of the community of believers, to know his words and pray to live it out. 

I got a summons recently to renew my license. Will go to maintain that. Jesus calls you to surrender all you have to him. Stop. Many people treat it like a trip to the DMV. We don’t like to go, but we need to secure a certain status so we go only as needed. We don’t love it, believe it, trust in, seek to proclaim its glories. Fine doing that as long as they don’t ask too much from me. It is a token of service to maintain your power and position. 

Handing control over.

All that has happened here, and the only thing shaken is the room they are in. They are full of the Holy Spirit. Full of confidence in God. Those things go hand in hand. 

The message of Christ transformed the first century. People sold out for it. They gathered together in community. 

The resurrection of Jesus tells us power over death can be found and we find it by submitting or lives to Jesus. 

Acts 4:13-31

13 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. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 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. 17 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.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 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, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 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. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 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, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’[b]

27 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, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 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 (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.