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January 19, 2018

Prison Break

by Mark Fulmer

The Apostles Arrested and Freed

"...But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life." And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council and all the senate of the people of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, "We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside." Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles,
they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 5:17-42 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=c08a6106c3&e=82a9a8f891)

 

At the beginning of his message on this passage, our pastor Mark Davis asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” My pulse went up, my breathing got shallow, and I was seconds from a cold sweat. “No!” thought I. “Never!” Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been a few times when maybe I should have been, but just the thought of being locked up does its deterrent work on this generally law-abiding citizen. (Speed limits are not just suggestions, right?)

For the folks in the New Testament church, arrest was a common and dangerous reality. Accompanied by beatings, stonings and civic expulsion, arrest was an ever-present threat for Christians and often only a short-term formality preceding execution.

But why? Being a Christian wasn’t against the law. There was no Roman rule that said following Jesus was illegal. That bit of legislation wouldn’t come about for several decades. Yet the first followers of The Way often found themselves on the wrong side of the dungeon door, usually because of the ire they had caused the religious establishment in town. They were imprisoned because they kept telling everyone who would listen that Jesus was alive and that he was The Messiah.

So there they sat. Imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, the apostles were in a seemingly silenced, hopeless predicament. And you know what happened? An angel showed up in the middle of the night and set them free. I wonder if they thought they were dreaming. Maybe they were so scared they thought they had hallucinated their release. But the punch line of the account is that the angel didn’t just “turn them loose,” but also gave them instructions. “Go and stand in the temple, and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

What? They had been arrested for preaching, freed by a direct miracle of God Almighty, walked past sleeping guards, and then told to go back to the center of town…and preach some more! But this time the audience would be different. They would wind up preaching the Gospel to the very leaders who had attacked them in the first place. They were beaten, roughed up for good measure, and then released.

How did they respond? It’s remarkable. They offered praise to God because they had been counted worthy of suffering for Christ. “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

And that’s the way with the followers of Jesus, isn’t it? God is building His church in and through His faithful servants. God’s Kingdom will prevail, empowered and emboldened by the same Holy Spirit that empowered Peter and the others. Who will you tell today?

###

About the Author

Mark Fulmer

Elder
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Mark Fulmer is an elder at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and along with Steve Vanderhill, teaches the New Creations Sunday School class.

 

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Who Can Argue with These Qualities?

    For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.

    Romans 14:17-18 NLT

    Key Thought

    Who can argue with goodness, peace, and joy? These three virtues are not obtained just by human effort. Yes, a passion to possess these godly qualities is necessary, but the source of these qualities is the Holy Spirit alive in us. Goodness, peace, and joy have their source in God's nature and are made real in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we invite the Holy Spirit to reign over our inner being, our character is transformed to be more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). So let's yearn for the Holy Spirit to transform us to be ever more like Christ and trust that the Spirit's influence will be displayed in our lives through goodness, peace, and joy.

    Today's Prayer

    Father, don't let me be distracted by, or addicted to, food or drink. I want to be sustained and fed spiritually and emotionally by the presence of your Holy Spirit within me. I specifically pray that your goodness, peace, and joy will become more and more apparent in my life as I seek to honor Christ and yield myself to the influence of your Spirit. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Confirmation

    I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit...

    Romans 9:1 NIV

    Key Thought

    We often use hyperbole to make an emphatic point about something that is important to us. Hyperbole is an overstatement meant to get other people's attention. The words of hyperbole can even be jarring to help others understand the emotions behind the words spoken. Paul is about to make an incredibly shocking statement about being willing to be cut off from Christ if it would mean that his own people, the Jews, would know Jesus as their Messiah and Lord (Romans 9:1-5). But, Paul has done his own spiritual inventory: What he says is NOT hyperbole or exaggeration. He means it with all of his heart, and the Holy Spirit confirms it. As The Message puts it, "I'm not exaggerating — Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses." Since the Holy Spirit lives within us and works with our consciences to convict us of sin, to help us discern God's truth when it is proclaimed, and to confirm God's truth within us, Paul can speak with assurance that what he says is the truth. We might stretch the truth to each other, but we cannot lie to the Spirit who lives within us.

    Today's Prayer

    Heavenly Father, I want to speak the truth in love. I know that I need the convicting, comforting, and confirming Holy Spirit to be at work in my heart so that my words are true and redemptive. I ask for this grace in Jesus' name. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.