The Church Faces Opposition

MEMORY SELECTION: “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” —Acts 5:41


WITH the dawning of the Christian era, new interest had been aroused among the Jews in relation to the life and teachings of Jesus. Although their religious beliefs were influenced by the doctors of the Law, they became increasingly aware of the new ministry of the apostles and the message which they gave. And the apostles were eager to preach the new doctrines of Christ.

In one of the recent studies (see Sunday Bible Lesson—March 26) we considered briefly the reaction among the religious leaders of Israel in connection with the healing of the lame man by the Apostles Peter and John. On that occasion an attempt was made by the priests and the rulers of the temple to silence the teaching of the apostles. Having been put into prison and being brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter and John were commanded to cease their preaching activity. The apostles, however, were filled with the Spirit of God and were moved in their determination to continue telling others about the good news of Christ and the message of the kingdom. The opposition of the religious leaders had been met squarely by Peter in his proclamation to them before the Sanhedrin, and a wonderful opportunity was given to preach the message of truth before both the people and the rulers.

There were two main religious groups in Israel at the time our lesson unfolds. The Pharisees were hypocritical, in that they attempted to show outwardly that they were pious and holy, while inwardly desiring the world’s favors. Our Lord Jesus was able to read their hearts and knew that their convictions were not genuine.

The Sadducees were somewhat more educated than the Pharisees and more critical along the lines of faith. They held to some of the divine promises but expected them to be fulfilled in a natural way. They could not accept the Messiah or his teachings; and because they did not believe in a resurrection of the dead, they were quite unprepared to accept the indisputable evidence that the Messiah had indeed been resurrected. They were greatly disturbed by the witnessing activity that had been begun by the apostles, who stressed the reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Furthermore, Annas the high priest among the Sadducees (Acts 4:1,6), together with a group of his supporters, was instrumental in the conspiracy which led to the crucifixion of Jesus. They were filled with indignation (envy—marginal translation, Acts 5:17) and again had the apostles put into prison because of their preaching of Christ.

During the night of their second imprisonment, an angel of God led the apostles from their confinement past the sleeping guards and commanded them to go to the temple and continue their preaching of “all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20)—those wonderful words of life that speak of resurrection and blessing to be accomplished by Messiah and his church in due time. And so they went to explain to the people about their Messiah and the prophecies in connection with Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.

While the apostles were thus engaged in “preaching Christ,” the Sanhedrin convened, and officers were sent to bring the prisoners forward, not realizing the miracle of God that had occurred respecting their escape. When it was learned that the apostles were in the temple preaching, the officers were cautioned to make a quiet arrest of the prisoners to avoid upsetting the people, who were responsive to the things which they were hearing in connection with Christ.

They were brought before the Sanhedrin, and again it was Peter who testified to the truth concerning Jesus and his resurrection. If there be a conflict between the commandments of men and those of God, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather then men.”—vs. 29

Gamaliel offered the moderate advice to the counsel that they should take heed what they would do to these men. He said that if their message was from God it could not be overthrown, and if it were of men it would come to naught. Therefore the apostles were again commanded not to preach Christ, although their lives were spared. God was surely with them, for their message was too good to keep.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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