Home > Uncategorized > Acts 5:17-42: Obeying God versus obeying man

Acts 5:17-42: Obeying God versus obeying man

This is a good chapter to read when you feel depressed as a Christian and think the world is being unfair. Things were very rough for the first-century church as they were often beaten and persecuted and even tortured for their faith. Perhaps the day will come when this becomes standard operating procedure for us in America. Meanwhile, fellow American Christians, be thankful you live in a free country.

For some people, God is a humorless person not unlike those unsmiling portraits you see of Johann Sebastian Bach


(Seen here suffering from musician’s block)

or of Andrew Johnson

(After having been told that his predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, and not him would be featured in the future $5 bill)

But, honestly, God has quite the sense of humor. After all, in this segment of Acts chapter five the officials imprison the Apostles for preaching and go to the jail the next day and see–GASP!–they’re gone! An angel, we learn, bailed out the Apostles but apparently forgot to file the proper exit paperwork so that the officials knew about it. And what’s even funnier is where the officials discover the Apostles: back in the Temple, preaching.

To me, the humor in this chapter’s right up there with Balaam’s donkey speaking to him and Balaam in Numbers 22 being so angry he doesn’t seem too startled by that. (For me, a donkey speaking in King James English is very hysterical).

“Guys,” the authorities said, “We told you specifically NOT to preach about Jesus and to quit telling people that we killed an innocent man. This doth get very oldeth. Don’t y’alleth agree?”

Then, in verse 29, Peter and the other Apostles respond with what’s become a rallying cry for many Christians through the centuries: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

There are laws that must be obeyed, so long as they don’t conflict with Scripture. Being told not to preach clearly conflicts with the Great Commission.

Finally, in verse 34 we read of how the authorities convened and heeded the advice of a well-respected “doctor of the law” named Gamaliel, a Pharisee. Gee cautions the authorities to be careful, citing examples of Theudas and Judas and how they were killed for their radical teachings, and how their followers were dispersed.

Gamaliel advises in verse 38 for the Apostles to be left alone. “If their preaching is of man, it will eventually fade away,” he said. “But if it’s from God, you’re wasting your time trying to crush it, and you’d be fighting against God.”

With that, the officials beat the disciples and told them in no uncertain terms: DO NOT PREACH ABOUT JESUS!

The Apostles left, thankful to suffer persecution for Jesus, but also continuing in the Temple and in every house they were in to preach of Jesus.

Gamaliel’s advice reminds me of the fruitless attempts by the Romans and, in the past 100 years, the many attempts by communist governments to crush the Christian church. Those attempts have failed, because the Christian church is of God.

Richard Zowie finds it hard to believe that in October 2011 he’ll have been a Christian for 30 years. He has three other WordPress blogs and has been a writer since 2000. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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