Throughout the history of the church there is an ongoing battle over the truth. It is proven time and time again that anytime the truth is proclaimed, and the church is moving forward there are those who will do all they can to hinder the work of the Lord. In his comments on Acts 5:12-42, Warren Wiersbe says, “It was the age-old conflict between living truth and dead tradition. The new wine could not be put into the old wineskins nor could the new cloth be sewn on the worn-out garments.” People respond to truth in different ways. In this passage we see five responses to truth that sheds light on the battle for truth that we see in our day.
The Multitudes: Receiving the Truth (v. 12-16). The emphasis here is on the fact that there were multitudes of people who believed. Verse 14 states that there were multitudes of both men and women that came to faith in Christ. There were also miraculous things happening. Things that could only be explained as an act of God. The same can be said of today. There are many who, if given the opportunity, will believe on the Lord Jesus. There are multitudes of people whom the Holy Spirit has already prepared that once they are told the Good News of Jesus, they are ready to receive. When approached with the truth many people will respond positively. The problem is that many of them are never given an opportunity because no one tells them the truth. If we preach the Gospel faithfully, there will be those who will receive.
The Religious: Attacking the Truth (v. 17-28). At every turn, the early church was attacked by the religious leaders of their day. Wiersbe says, “The high priest and his associates had three reasons for arresting the Apostles (this time it was all of the Apostles) and bringing them to trial. To begin with, Peter and John had not obeyed the official orders to stop preaching in the name of Jesus Christ. They were guilty of defying the law of the nation. Second, the witness of the church was refuting the doctrines held by the Sadducees, giving every evidence that Jesus Christ was alive. Third, the religious leaders were filled with envy (“indignation”) at the great success of these untrained and unauthorized men (see Matt. 27:18; Acts 13:45). The traditions of the fathers had not attracted that much attention or gained that many followers in such a short time. It is amazing how much envy can be hidden under the disguise of defending the faith.” My friend, it is sad but true that we see the same attacks upon the church today. Anytime the church is on the rise, there will be attacks from the most surprising people. This is an all too familiar scene: A church is revived, people are getting saved, growth is taking place, ministries are expanding; then it hits. There are those who feel as if they are losing their grip on ‘their’ church. That place where they have attended for years. Now, there are new people that they do not know, there are changes being made that they do not like, there is a vision that is cast that they do not desire, and they are filled with fear over the progress of the church. Fear that they will lose their grasp, and they rise up to defend what they think belongs to them and in doing so they hinder the very work that God desires to do. Such attacks against the church is nothing new. We cannot allow such attacks to deter us or to stop us. We must stand strong and press on for the sake of the Gospel.
The Apostles: Defending the Truth (v. 29-32). Peter made it very clear that it did not matter how much they opposed, the Gospel will still be preached. My friend, the truth is worth defending. The Gospel must and will prevail. The furtherance of God’s Kingdom through the work of the church is worth fighting for. Too many times we roll over in the face of opposition. Imagine the opposition that Billy Graham faced when he had the vision of hosting huge evangelistic crusades. Imagine the opposition that Christian leaders like William Booth, Lottie Moon, Charles Spurgeon, and many others faced. What if they just laid down and cowered in the face of opposition? There are many ‘mega’ churches in America today. How did those churches get to where they are now? How did they grow in such a tremendous way? They certainly did not start that way. It was because somewhere in the church’s they had a leader, they had a pastor who had a vision and believed that with God all things are possible. They had a pastor who did not allow the opposition to deter him from preaching the truth and leading the church to greater heights for the sake of the Gospel. We need such leaders today. We need those who will not cower. What if Peter just rolled over and caved in to the pressure that was coming from those who opposed the work? My friend, we need some Peter’s. We need some men of God who stand for the truth and lead the church forward to reach countless numbers of people to Jesus.
Gamaliel: Avoiding the Truth (v. 33-40). In every difficult situation there is always one who tries to be the peacemaker. Gamaliel thought he was being the wise one. He spoke up and told the others that they should just ignore what Peter and the other apostles are doing and if it is of God, it will succeed, if it is not, then it will fail. “Gamaliel had the mistaken idea that, if something is not of God, it must fail. But this idea does not take into consideration the sinful nature of man and the presence of Satan in the world. Mark Twain said that a lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on her shoes. In the end, God’s truth will be victorious; but meanwhile, Satan can be very strong and influence multitudes of people.” The good thing here is that Gamaliel calmed things down and essentially saved the lives of the apostles. However, he was still avoiding the truth. One of the worst kinds of opposition is silence. Often times there are those who will purposely drag their heels and sit on the side lines or, as is often said, ‘kick the can down the road.’ Rather than dealing with the situation and making a decisive decision, they just ignore things in hopes that it will just go away. I have seen this in churches before where those who oppose the work will just sit quietly in the shadows and not participate. Instead of helping in the work like they use to, they sit on the sidelines. Such lack of action and participation will often discourage others and hinders the work from moving forward.
The Church: Proclaiming the Truth (v. 41-42). It is amazing to see the reaction of the Apostles. They left that meeting rejoicing and continued to preach Jesus. In other words, nothing stopped them from doing what they believed God called them to do. Even with all the threats, they kept on preaching. Even with being stabbed in the back, they kept on preaching. Even with those ignoring them, they kept on preaching. Church: we cannot, we must not, allow the Sadducees and the Gamaliel’s of our day to stop us from our purpose of bringing the Gospel to the world. We must move forward for the cause of Christ!