As we continue on with the fifth chapter of Acts, we see the Apostles face more and more persecution. This Sunday we will focus on Acts 5:12-42. The first five verses tell us just how many miracles the Lord was carrying out through the Apostles at the time, and this helps us understand why the high priests are so angry. The Apostles were traveling around, proclaiming the name and identity of Jesus and healing people at the same time! They weren’t flying under the radar by any means.
After this encouraging passage, we are told that the Apostles are imprisoned by the high priest because he is jealous of what the Apostles have been doing. The Apostles aren’t in prison for long, however, because in verse 19 we read that an angel of the Lord rescues them that very same night. The angel releases them from prison and charges them to “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
They obey the angel, but they are arrested again. This time they are questioned by the high priest and beaten before being released.
The past few chapters of Acts have been full of highs and lows. It’s tempting for me to want to label the stories where the Apostles heal people as “encouraging,” and label the stories about the Apostles being arrested and beaten as “discouraging.” But the more I think about these labels, the more I am challenged to redefine my categories.
Of course, stories about believers being physically harmed because of their faith will never be as easy to read as the stories about sick people being made healthy again. But if we come at these stories in the right way, we will be able to see God acting powerfully in both.
So in Acts 5:12-42, we see the Apostles be imprisoned, beaten, and threatened. But do you know what we also see? We see the Lord refusing to be stopped by humans.
Difficult passages like these show us that God’s plans cannot be thwarted by people’s actions.
God wanted them to spread the gospel. So when the high priest and council threatened Peter and John in chapter four, God gave them the boldness to continue speaking. When the council imprisoned the Apostles, God sent an angel to free them so that they could continue preaching. When the high priest and council wanted to kill the Apostles, as we’re told in Acts 5:33, God moves a Pharisee named Gamaliel to speak and convince them not to kill them.
The book of Acts proves that people do have power over one another. We can hurt each other emotionally and physically. But Acts also proves to us that God stands in ultimate authority. We humans are not so powerful that we can prevent God from carrying out his will, and that is one of the most encouraging facts of all.