Pastor Edward Brouwer 9-10-17 “The Name” Acts 4
Introduction—we are continuing in our series in Acts and today we pick up the narrative of John and Peter in front of the religious authorities. The stage is set for a confrontation because Peter and John have performed a miracle in Christ’s name. The disciples are daily gathering in the temple and declaring God’s mighty work in the resurrection of Jesus. They come to the temple gates and meet a man who has been begging there for many years. As a paralyzed man he has no other means of support and is looking for alms, for mercy from godly people. They speak to him, draw his attention and Peter says “I have no money for you, (silver and gold have I none) but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk! And immediately he stands up, walking and leaping and praising God! Peter then goes into the temple court and preaches a powerful message of salvation in the resurrected Christ. Imagine the commotion! The crowds are electrified! And the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, the 71 elders of the people are terrified! So the temple guard arrests them and put them in jail overnight. They meet the next morning to deal with these and this sets the stage for the next chapter….
Read Acts 4:5-21
Today we look at the Belief in the Name, Power in the Name and Boldness in the Name.
Belief in the Name—Peter and John preach that there is salvation in no other name under heaven, in all of human society, by which people can be saved. How did they come to this conviction? They spent 3 years with Jesus, watched him perform miracles, and heard him tell them that He was the long awaited Messiah. So often they struggled with belief—surely this is too incredible to be true? In Matthew 16 Jesus asks his disciples who they think He is and Peter says “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Jesus said “Peter this truth has been revealed to you by my Father”. We come to know everything in life through reason or revelation. We are born without skill to feed ourselves, speak or reason. What we become is a combination of what we have learned! Jesus taught His disciples who He was and then calls them to faith. In Matthew 17 it says “and 6 days later they went to Mount Hermon (the highest place in Israel). Jesus allows Peter, James and John to see with their own eyes this truth. Moses and Elijah in their glorified bodies appear with Jesus. Now faith meets reason! And then Jesus says something curious—“don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead”. Now Peter had many crises of faith—most notably he abandoned Christ on the night of His betrayal. It’s understandable because he, like each of us, is weak human flesh. It reminds me of the famous saying of Charles Spurgeon “Don’t doubt in the darkness what you knew in the light”. But soon comes the big game changer for Peter. In the resurrection appearances of Christ during his 40 days with them after Easter, He proved beyond a shadow of any doubt that Christ was the Resurrected Messiah who would bring “the restoration of all things” Acts 3:21… meaning none other than the reversal of death. The Name of Jesus breaks the power of sin, the Name of Jesus breaks every chain, and the Name of Jesus has power over death itself.
Power in the Name—When Pentecost came, God poured out His Holy Spirit on the believers, power to preach and power to heal. The Kingdom of God is announced! Jesus said to the disciples of John, “the blind see the lame walk, the prisoners are set free! The Messiah has come. Believe that the Father and I are one”. And Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:12-14 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” And after His resurrection Jesus said “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you”. And this reality is what we read about in Acts 3 and all throughout Acts. Jesus performing miracles by His Spirit through His witnesses the disciples. Christian do you believe this? We have power to proclaim healing, salvation and forgiveness in the Name of Jesus. O that we would ask for the boldness of the early disciples to walk in that power.
Boldness in the Name—The Sanhedrin sees this boldness and they are astounded by it. Josephus wrote in Antiquities that anyone who was called before the Sanhedrin was in such deep trouble that they were expected to show up in “mourning cloths”. As if to say “I recognize the gravity of this situation, that I am in such deep trouble with the authorities (who have the power of life and death over me) that I am here to repent! And if John and Peter had simply said “Everything here is done in the Name of the Great God of Israel” everything would have been fine. But what do we see? Peter and John, after being sternly warned NOT to mention the Name of Jesus say “You decide for yourselves, whether it is right for us to listen to YOU or listen to God—for WE cannot BUT speak of what we have seen and heard with our own eyes!” The Sanhedrin is now stuck between a rock and a hard place—because they cannot deny that an incredible miracle has been done in. So they threaten them and send them away.
All this boils down to the Name. It’s only in the Name of Jesus that people can be saved. In our culture this notion is considered absurd! Really? How judgmental and small-minded of you! Surely YOU don’t think you have a corner on the truth! And then they might quote you the Parable of the Blind Men and the elephant: The story goes that a King brings an elephant into a town that has several blind men and asks them to describe it. One, grasping the tusk says “an elephant is like a spear” another touching the truck says “An elephant is like a long snake. Yet another feels the ear and says “an elephant is like a big fan. Another feels the tail and says “an elephant is like a long rope”. And so forth. The point is (they will say) that we are all groping in the dark, everyone has their own experience of faith and NO ONE has a corner on the truth. But as Tim Keller explains in Reason for God…that such “Humility” is really arrogance To say, I don’t know which religion is true is an act of humility. To say, none of the religions have truth, no one can be sure there’s a god, is actually to assume you have the kind of knowledge, you just said no other person, no other religion has. How dare you? See, it’s a kind of arrogant thing to say nobody can know the truth because it’s a universal truth claim. BUT to say, ‘Nobody can make universal truth claims.’ That is a universal truth claim. ‘Nobody can see the whole truth.’ You couldn’t know that unless you think you see the whole truth. And, therefore, you’re doing the very thing you say religious people shouldn’t do.
And here is the Truth. Jesus Christ has come, God in the Flesh to reveal all truth. It is through HIS Spirit that he has revealed the truth. At the Name of Jesus we find healing and forgiveness and eternal life. It is NOT exclusive. But rather inclusive! Because Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by me”, BUT also extends a gracious invitation that anyone who comes in faith will find life. John 3:16 God loved the whole world that whosoever believes in HIM will have eternal life. Have you heard His voice? Live your life this day and every day with that conviction. Pray for Holy Spirit empowered boldness to tell others of the hope and forgiveness you have found.