Read: Acts 3 and Acts 4
The Priesthood was controlled by the Sadducees. They did not believe in angels, spirits or resurrection. The Sadducees were humanists or materialists. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were more literal about the word. They were more spiritual, (or sought to be). Jesus got persecuted mainly by the Pharisees because he was always violating their traditions about the law. He spoke against the traditions which upset the Pharisees.
The Sadducees stirred up problems against the early church because they were preaching the resurrections and the miracles that were being done in the name of Jesus were proof that they were offering that Jesus had risen from the dead, so the persecution of the early church was more with the Sadducees. Because the high priest was a Sadducee they were upset about what they were teaching about the resurrection of the dead.
Acts 4:4-5: While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees.2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children. 5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.
We look at the characteristics of the men that God uses, knowing that it is our desire that God would use us in the accomplishing of his eternal purposes. We have only one life that will pass away and realize that it’s only the things that we do for Jesus Christ that are going to last. All that we gain in the material realm we will leave behind. The works of our flesh are wood hay and stubble, they’re going to burn. The only lasting things, eternal things are those things that are done for the Lord. That is why we stop and analyze life, our own lives, in particular, we realize that we want to count for those things that are eternal. And thus it is our desire that God will use us in the accomplishing in His eternal purposes here on earth that we might lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven. If we will submit ourselves as instruments in God’s hands, we want to go all the way, life full-on. For God to accomplish the ultimate in our lives through us. Not just a halfway effort, but a total effort for the Lord.
There is only one period in church history when the church actually reached its generation with the message of the Gospel. It was the early church. Paul wrote to the Colossians said the Word of the gospel has come to you as it is in all of the world. In the church’s age of 30 years, it reached the entire world. With all of our advantages of modern media, communication, internet, we have not been able to reach half of the world with the message of Jesus Christ. So what made them effective?
In the book of Acts, we see the men God used mightily. What are their characteristics that we can emulate them? They were men of prayer, faith, who did not seek glory for themselves. They were men of the Word. They had a good grasp and understanding of the Word. These are things that are necessary in our lives in order to be used effectively by God.
There is one more characteristic in Acts 4:8, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. The place where Peter was standing was in the council of the Jews, their Supreme religious court. These people are the religious rulers of the nation, so they rule the nation because there was no real King. They looked for the religious leaders for their ruling over them. Peter had been here before.
Matthew 26: 69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. 73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” 74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
Peter discovered what Jesus had said earlier in the garden:
Matthew 26: 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Here we see a demonstration of Peter’s weakness in the flesh. In the face of a little servant girl who kept the door, he denied his Lord. The weakness of the flesh. The council was a powerful council. He was too timid to acknowledge he was a disciple of Jesus. Now Peter is not outside looking in, he’s on the inside no he is the one on trial. He standing in the fire. He is not denying His lord, but he is boldly proclaiming his lord to the religious leaders and the fact that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ.
What’s the difference?
He is boldly accusing the council, quoting them their own scriptures of their mistake. When they saw his boldness, they marveled. He was “filled with the Holy Spirit”. That is the difference in anyone’s life who is filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a tremendous difference in the weakness of our flesh, and the power that is in the Spirit of God. The power in our own ability and the power in God.
This is the power that Jesus is talking about in Acts 1, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem.”
Luke 12: 11 “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”
We see Peter is empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit and see the necessity of the power of the Holy Spirit in any endeavor that we might attempt for Jesus Christ. Jesus said apart from me, you can do nothing.
One of the most frustrating and difficult things is to attempt to do the work of the lord in the energy in the ability of the flesh. You will discover what frustration is all about.
Some musicians have written the best songs in a matter of hours when in the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. This is similar to preaching. Sometimes it just flows, and other times it’s a labor. When it’s a labor, sometimes it’s just best to close the books and pray or do something else.
It’s a wonderful thing when there’s the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit and being able to rely and depend on it, knowing that in us that is in our flesh there is no good thing. And unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. One day we will stand before Jesus Christ to be rewarded for our works. And it says what “sort” they are. Those works that are don in the ability and the energy of my flesh will never survive the fire by which our words will be judged. Those works that were don in the flesh with the ability in the flesh will never survive the fiery trial that will try our works.
God does not recognize nor is he interested in the works of our flesh.
Genesis 22:2 2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
What sounds wrong in this scripture?
As you know Isaac wasn’t Abrahams only son. He had another named Ishmael. Ishmael was a product of the flesh and was not recognized by God. Just like all the works you produce in the flesh that are not recognized by God. Isaac was the son of promise. The spiritual, miraculous son that came with the power of the Spirit of God is what was recognized by God.
So with our works. Those that are wrought with the spirit of God working through us, God recognizes, God acknowledges and God will reward us for them. Yet those works and many times they are great but are not done in love.
Revelation 2:2-4 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
This was a working church, well organized, lots of committees. But Jesus said, I have this against you, you have left your first love. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is Love. So there was an absence of the Holy Spirit and unless they repented and go back and do them right he would remove his presence from that place.
There are many churches who have wonderful works, social programs etc., but there is that lack of the Spirit, and you have the works of the flesh. So often in these kinds of situations, you are doing out of pressure what you often resent, but you are doing it because you don’t want to be bugged. And if you don’t do it you have to answer to someone on why it’s not being done, so it’s not done with a willing heart but in resentment. How can you ever expect God to recognize works that you feel pressured or forced to do and you griping and resenting doing them?
Filled with the Holy Spirit, yielded to the Holy Spirit, it’s not works, it’s just beautiful fruit being produced in your life. Works motivated than anything other than God’s love in the Spirit will profit you nothing.
1 Corinthians 13: 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Paul said in Romans 4, that if Abraham was justified by his works, he would have cause to boast, but not in the Lord. He would boast of his own works. Abraham believed God and his faith was accounted for righteousness. It wasn’t in his works, but a righteousness in faith in Jesus Christ.
Had Peter been able to stand the pressure when he was first accused of being Jesus’s disciple, he might have said, yes, I am his disciple, so what? He could have boasted. Yeah, I could have been killed, but I stood my ground. He would have had something to boast in, but the Lord let him see how weak he was. Sometimes He does that to us. He lets us see how weak we are. Many times he doesn’t come to the rescue until we have given up.
If he comes any sooner, our tendency would be like, well I knew I could do it all along, I just have to make up my mind and do it myself. As long as you have that hope of well, maybe I can, if just try it this way, God will let you sink and until you cry like Peter, help I’m drowning, God will reach in and lift you up. You have to realize that you can’t do it.
When you come to that point, then when God steps in and does it for you, there is no place for you to boast. All you can do is give the glory to God for what he has done. He wants to work through you. He has chosen to use human instruments, but he can’t work through you until you come to that place where you realize you can’t do it, you’ve run out of ideas and energy, and God starts to move. It’s exciting to watch what God can do when we become fully yielded. The power of God’s Spirit works in our weaknesses.
2 Corinthians 12: 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
It’s interesting that we detest our weaknesses. We get upset with ourselves and our weaknesses. We get upset and try harder and harder thinking we can do it.
There are many, many examples in the book of Acts where men were filled and led by the Holy Spirit. Men of prayer, of faith, who come to the cross, not with ambition for ourselves, but who have good knowledge of the Word, and filled with the Holy Spirit whom God can use.
There is nothing more rewarding, fulfilling and exciting in life than knowing that God has used you to accomplish His purpose.