Study 6 APOSTOLIC VISION AND VOCATION
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 5:12-28
It was not easy to live and witness for Christ in the first century. In many places God’s servants were persecuted, humiliated, imprisoned and beaten because they were faithful to their Lord. In these verses, and particularly Acts 5:17-18, we read of the indignation of the Sadducees who “arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail”. While these servants of the Lord were in prison, however, the angel of the Lord at night opened the prison doors and brought them out, saying, “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life” (verses 19-20). We are basing our study on this commission, which had come from the exalted Lord, and which was conveyed to the apostles by the angel of the Lord. Incidentally, it is interesting to compare the ministry of angels with that of men: the angels are ministers of God who serve Him in His presence and wait to do His will; Spirit-filled men are also the servants of God and should be available to Him for whatever He wants. But angels have their ministry and men have theirs. The angels have their divinely appointed limitations; they can open prison doors and speak to the apostles but they cannot enter into the joy and privilege of preaching the gospel – that is the prerogative of sinners saved by grace, commissioned by the Lord and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Such was the immense privilege of the apostles, and we shall notice several things about these men and about the way they fulfilled their commission to “go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life”.
1. Their Authority
What did they do when the angel commanded them to go and preach? Verse 21 tells us: “At daybreak they entered the temple courts…and began to teach the people”. But what was their authority for doing this? Had they not been forbidden to speak of the Lord (Acts 4:18,20)? Their authority for preaching the gospel was the word and commission of the Lord Himself; and that is your authority and mine for doing the same glorious work (Matthew 28:18-20). It is not presumptuous for us to go to someone else and tell them the message of the gospel. We have divine authority for doing this – every Christian has! When D.L. Moody spoke to someone about Christ, he said, ‘Mind your own business!’ Moody’s reply was, ‘But this is my business!’ – and it is ours also.
2. Their Attitude
Verse 20 tells us that they were not only to “go” but they were to “stand” – in other words, ‘Take your stand!’ It denotes an open, bold confession. Let us ask the question then: Have we taken an open stand for the Lord where we live and work, or are we to some extent secret disciples (Matthew 10:23-33)? It is a costly business for Christians in every country to declare themselves openly on the Lord’s side and to bear faithful testimony to the Lord Jesus – however, look up Acts 5:40-42 and compare Daniel 11:32 (KJV second part)!
3. Their Audacity
Verse 20 tells us they were to speak; and as we have already noticed, they had in fact been forbidden to do so – compare Acts 4:18 and 5:27-28 – and by doing this they faced fury and the possibility of death! Indeed, they “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching. How we need this holy boldness! – for there are voices that forbid us to speak today – not necessarily the voices of rulers, priests, Sadduccees, or the enemies of the gospel (although this is a reality in many countries) – but the fear of man forbids us to speak for the Lord (Proverbs 29:25); a false respectability forbids us from speaking for the Lord; and an inconsistent life may forbid us too (Titus 1:16). What was it that gave the apostles such audacity?
- First, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:20).
- Second, they prayed for holy boldness (Acts 4:29).
- Third, they were determined to obey God (Acts 5:29).
4. Their Audience
What was to be their congregation? Again in verse 20 we have the answer – they were to “tell the people” who would have been different nationally, socially, culturally. They were to preach the gospel to the common people, as Jesus did (Mark 12:37); to children (Luke 18:16); to young people (Matthew 19:16-22); to old people (John 3:4). Wherever there are people, there is our congregation. Salvation is for all who will come and receive Christ by faith, and we are charged with the responsibility and privilege of making this news known.
5. Their Announcement
What was to be their message? Verse 20 again tells us – “the full message of this new life”; or, as one paraphrase has it: ‘Tell the people all about this new life’; that is, about the Lord Jesus who is the life (John 14:6); who came to give us life (John 10:10); and in whom alone is eternal life (1 John 5:10-12). Notice also they were to tell the people “the full message” of the gospel. In other words, they were to proclaim “the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). This is what is greatly needed today, and in verses 30-32 we are told some of the key words of this new life, the gospel:
- (1) “God”
- (2) “Jesus”
- (3) Atonement (“Slew”)
- (4) Resurrection (implied)
- (5) Exaltation
- (6) Repentance and forgiveness
- (7) The Holy Spirit.
What a message to proclaim! Are we doing it? Are we telling the people about our Saviour, and are we living in the enjoyment of the new life which God has commissioned us to proclaim?