Growth through Joyful Suffering

Dr. Brent Aucoin February 3, 2019 Acts 5:17-6:1
Outline

Acts 2:41 - So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:47 - …and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 4:4 - But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Excerpts from Psalm 2

1 Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand…against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them… 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion...”10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment…11 Worship the Lord with reverence…12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,…How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Acts 5:11-13 - And great fear came over the whole church…but none of the rest dared to associate with them.

Acts 5:14 - And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.

3 crucial understandings about Gospel suffering that enable believers to have joy in the midst of opposition

I. Understand the Reason for Suffering—the Gospel Confronts This World’s Value System

Religious leaders: “…and they were filled with jealousy.”

God to the disciples: “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple.”

Religious leaders: “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood (Jesus) upon us.”

Leaders hearing the gospel: “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”

A. The Gospel proclaims there is a different authority, Jesus Christ, than ourselves

1 Peter 2:5 - …you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

B. The Gospel of the new community proclaims we are not righteous and cannot get to God through our efforts—this requires humility in contrast to the pride of man

II. Understand the Hope in the Suffering—the Gospel Wins Every Time

A. The miraculous release of the apostles to proclaim the Gospel

Romans 8:35-39 - Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

B. The unwitting prophetic words of the “enemy”—“If this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown. If it is of God you will not be able to overthrow it.”

III. Understand the Result of the Suffering—the Joyful Spread of God’s Church

Part of my responsibilities here at Faith is to travel to various locations and speak on Biblical counseling. When I can, I take my family when the location involves the possibility of seeing God’s creation, culture’s and people.

When I went to San Francisco to speak, I took my family and we also visited various national parks around that area.

Perhaps one of the most glorious and majestic creations of God in California is the mighty sequoia trees

The size and growth of these trees are breathtaking!!

The General Sherman (pictured here) is the largest single stem tree on earth by volume…

How do such strong and long-lasting trees grow and continue to reproduce themselves??

Part of the fascinating answer to that question is the affliction and suffering caused by fire.

In the case of the mighty sequoia fire actually is a part of their reproduction.

Research has revealed a divine design in which fire plays an important role in the germination and the spread of its seeds of life for the survival of the giant sequoia.

The sequoia’s seeds of future life are contained in small, green cones

awaiting the opportunity to spread and these cones grow near the crown of the trees, the cones open up with the heat of fire and release their seeds.

Like the mighty Sequoia God has planned into our life as Christians that we grow and multiply the new life of Jesus Christ through the fires of suffering and the affliction from the opposition that exists to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Turn if you will to Acts 5:17 which is on page 95 of the back section of the bible in the chair in front of you.

We will read the rest of Acts 5 in just a moment, but our text starts off with the fires of suffering …“But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates and they were filled with jealousy.

The fires of opposition are arising…

None of that is necessarily good news unless the coming fire would actually produce more growth….for God’s plan

This year we have chosen the annual theme of

Growing What God Has Given

And we have chosen as our initial series a study on the first few chapters of the book of Acts.

Acts—The Exciting Growth of Christ’s Church

Today we are concluding our Acts series by considering

Growth through Joyful Suffering

Since this is our last time in the book of Acts for this series I do want to take an extended amount of time to review.

I am not going to get to the three points for a while…so hang tight…

The book of Acts describes how God is creating a “new community” called the church.

The new community is founded on the basis of

the person of God’s Son, the resurrected Jesus Christ,

and his Jesus’ work on the cross with provides forgiveness of sins

….this new community which has received God’s grace has been reconciled to God and is being transformed by that grace to be a light in a dark world.

Pastor Viars spoke to us at the beginning of the year from Acts chapter 2 where we find… the man, Peter, who originally denied Christ, proclaiming the resurrected Christ to a mass of individuals gathered from around that world on a particular holiday in Jerusalem.

That holiday is known as Pentecost and that day this new community built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, called the church, was birthed with a great number of souls.

Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

And to that, at the end of Acts 2, the text says,

Acts 2:47 “…and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

The singular message that Peter and the disciples were preaching was …

This man Jesus of Nazareth, whom the people crucified, is indeed the long awaited Messiah. And the people’s wicked act of crucifying him was actually God’s planned event of Jesus being the sacrifice for sins.

One of the greatest acts of oppression and suffering God used to turn into the singular act of redemption which is the only hope for man.

Furthermore, the proof that Jesus was the Messiah is that God raised this man from the dead and has set Him as Lord over all.

This Man Jesus is the one with whom everybody must reckon now as the Resurrected Messiah

The resurrection of Jesus changed everything for the disciples.

The disciples go from fairly unstable weak men, before the resurrection, to bold powerful proclaimers of Jesus Christ.

Again the resurrection changed everything…which BTW is a fact that doubters of the resurrection of Jesus Christ have to explain about the whole transformation in the disciples….what changed them??!!!

Now, as God was creating this new community founded upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, God had promised that great powerful signs and wonders would accompany the disciples to authenticate the message.

So God provided the world with 1. eye-witness testimony from the apostles who had seen the resurrected Christ along with 2. convincing proofs of signs and wonders.

All of that evidence has been recorded in Scripture for our faith to rest on sure reliable historical events.

In Acts 3, Peter performs a miraculous healing of a lame man….

And as Pastor Viars taught us, the ultimate significance of this is not that a lame man can walk again but that in Jesus sinners can be righteous.

And Pastor Viars taught us that the more we fix our gaze on Jesus the more we can see the needs around us and meet them like the lame man.

The proclamation of Christ with the signs and wonders was shaking the world.

The text records

Acts 4:4 “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”

Now, this growth caused a stir among the religious leaders.

The religious leaders saw the boldness of Peter and the disciples

Remember these disciples were uneducated and untrained men

The religious leaders also made the salacious accusation J that these men had been “with Jesus”

So,

  • The religious leaders could not understand the boldness of Peter and the disciples
  • The religious leaders could not deny the signs and wonders
  • The religious leaders were also fearful of the people turning their attention to the disciples and this new community

So the religious leaders took the bold actions of saying, J “Stop it”

But Peter and the disciples said, “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And they don’t stop speaking

The disciples pray for boldness in the face of the threats and they put their experience in the context of Scripture.

They reflect on Psalm 2 in Acts 4

I am going to read a portion of Psalm 2 because it accurately depicts what is going on and what is continuing in our text today.

Excerpts from Psalm 2

            1Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand …against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”

4          He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. … 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion...”...

10        Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; …11 Worship the Lord with reverence…12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, …. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

In the face of an increase threat the disciples continue preaching and the new community grows as God uses the bold and confident proclamation of Peter and the disciples

We then get a brief glimpse as to what this new community is like.

God’s love shown through Christ creates a community of changed people who love like Christ and meet needs like Christ.

Individuals like Barnabas who give generously to meet the needs of one another so that nobody in the new community could say, “I have a need.”

The new community is different from the world. THAT’s THE POINT OF WHAT GOD IS DOING

Obviously, for the masses of people, this new thing on the block is attractive, join this group and you won’t have any needs….And you too get to be a part of all these signs and wonders and healings

The new community is drawing the crowds.

With the masses turning, some of the crowds are serious about repentance and some are not

God does something to show the world how seriously He desires the purity of this new community.

A couple named Annanias and Sapphira plot to deceive and God quickly strikes them down dead.

Your pastors spoke to you about this in the sermon on Growth through a Holy Purification.

God exercised the radical discipline, in part, to strike fear in the crowds who may be just attracted to the signs and wonders and are not truly repentant.

Acts 5:11 states,

Acts 5:11–13 “And great fear came over the whole church ….but none of the rest dared not to associate with them.”

Yet, still, God grew His new community Acts 5:14 says,

Acts 5:14 “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”

The numbers are too great to count now. God is establishing His new community…now we arrive at our text….

Acts 5:17

                17           But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. (Note the opposition is driven by jealousy. The leaders are experiencing a loss of respect/influence among the people)

                18           They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. (This time instead of saying “stop it” they put them in jail, the fires of suffering is are increasing, however on this occasion the Lord causes a jail break)

                19           But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said,

            20        “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” (God tells his disciples to go to the center of Jewish religious and social life—God places them at the heart of the power struggle—the temple to proclaim the message of Life in place of the current system of death) 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.

Now (draw out the humor) when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought.22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back,        23saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside. (the message of Life will not be imprisoned! It will be proclaimed squarely at the center where the powers of the reign of death)”

24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this.25 But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).

                                [The humor of this scene is apparent. Think about Psalm 2—the leaders devising their plans but God is sitting in the heavens and laughing. The men are preaching the Gospel at the heart of their system—the temple….The Gospel wins. God will make sure of it.

                27           When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them,

                28           saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, (remember we said stop it!) and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood (Jesus) upon us.” [Notice the self-righteousness of these leaders who killed Christ, they can not acknowledge their guilt but Peter will offer them forgiveness in Christ’s name in just a moment]

                29           But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

                30           “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.

                31           “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

                32           “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

                33           But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. [Notice the intensity of the response]

                34           But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.

35           And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.

                36           “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.

                37           “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.

                38           “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown;

            39        but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

                                [This is a back door prediction that the Gospel/God wins ]

                40           They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. (stop it and this time to show we are serious we are beating you)

                41           So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

                42           And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ

6: 1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number…

Growth through Joyful Suffering

In the short time we have left let’s talk about

Three crucial understandings about gospel suffering that enable believers to have joy in the midst of opposition

We want to understand the reason for suffering

                                                                                The hope in suffering

                                                                                The result of suffering

The first crucial understanding we must have is

I.                   Understand the reason for suffering—the Gospel confronts this world’s value system

What is all the fuss about friends?

Why is it that people get so offended by the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Did you see the interplay between the leaders, the disciples, and the gospel.

  • Religious leaders: “…and they were filled with jealousy”
  • God to the disciples: “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple.”
  • Religious leaders: “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood (Jesus) upon us.”
  • Leaders hearing the gospel: “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”

Why do the nations rage?

Why are the nations raging against God and His gentle, meek, humble Messiah and those who seek to follow Him?

Why were the leaders jealous?

Very simply—they were losing power and influence among the people.

In their mind, they were the power brokers and they found their identity not in loving God and others…but in being loved, respected and feared by others…

The Gospel comes in and…

A.     The Gospel proclaims there is a different authority, Jesus Christ, than ourselves

Remember Psalm 2…God says…I have installed my king….

If Jesus really is resurrected and if he really is ascended sitting at the right hand of God…Then he really is King and you are not…

The Gospel proclaims there is a different authority than ourselves

The value system of our world says…you are king…

From Genesis 3, Satan says…you will be like God….

The value system of our world promotes the lie that you are your own authority and the Gospel completely contradicts that.

Hence there is conflict….Don’t be surprised…about the opposition…

Secondly…why did God say to Peter and the disciples—go and stand in the direct center of the temple and preach “this message of Life.”

Let’s see what is going on here….

When you continue reading in the New Testament, you will see this same Peter who is preaching in our passage today…will compare God’s new community to a temple which is being built one living stone (or soul) at a time….

1 Peter 2: 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

So, God miraculously releases Peter from being held by the old temple leaders and tells Peter to go and stand in the middle of the old temple to proclaim the message of life to continue the advancement of the “new temple….”

Thus…you have the battle of temples, the clash of communities which is producing opposition and suffering…

But you say, what is so different about these communities that they clash and produce opposition and suffering?

The answer is simply the difference between a community of LIFE ….And a community of DEATH.

At that point in history, the temple and its religious leaders had become a system of death to the people…meaning that they were taking people away from God

Here is how the corrupted temple, and every (say every) world religious system works…you can earn God’s favor by following a set of behaviors and religious rituals which make you good with God

Notice how, when the disciples accuse the religious leaders of murdering Jesus, they cannot fathom that they are guilty in any way…they are the leaders, they are right with God…they are self righteous….

B.      The Gospel of the new community proclaims we are not righteous and cannot get to God through our efforts—This requires humility in contrast to the pride of man.

Here is the bottom line of why there is Gospel suffering.

  • The Gospel confronts man’s rebellious inclination to be his own authority apart from God
  • The Gospel confronts man’s pride in seeking to overcome his broken condition by his own righteousness.

                Now friends, let’s talk practically

Before we talk about suffering and opposition from the world which doesn’t like God’s new community and rages against it…

Let’s talk first about the opposition in your own heart

Are you allowing the Gospel to confront your own desire to be your own independent authority?

[Develop application here]

The second crucial understandings about gospel suffering that enable believers to have joy in the midst of opposition is

II.                Understand the hope in the suffering—the Gospel wins every time

There are two vivid pictures here that show us the ultimate victory of the Gospel in suffering.

The first vivid picture is ,

A.     The miraculous release of the apostles to proclaim the Gospel

Do you remember Psalm 2? The Lord has established His King, why are the nations fighting against God, they are devising foolishness, all the while, the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs

When we read the prison break in Acts did you snicker a little.

The irony of the prison scene is amazing…

  • God’s men who were supposed to be securely bound were free
  • Those who were stealthy plotting and devising evil were confounded
  • God’s men who were to be silent were boldly proclaiming at the center of the temple
  • The crowds who were supposed to be cut off from the message of LIFE were hearing the message of LIFE.

The Gospel wins despite opposition

Now, let me just say a word about the miracle here…

God did use a miracle here to release Peter.

The point is not that we should expect miracles like this…

in the early church God was establishing his new community in a powerful way and showing the world that the Gospel wins…..

God says, “ I have established my king, my Messiah…

This picture shows that no matter what the world does, the Gospel will not be in prisoned.

And no matter what the world does to Gospel bearers—even if they take their life—the Gospel bearers will win in the end…

Romans 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?..37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The second picture here that shows us the ultimate victory of the Gospel in suffering is

B.      The unwitting prophetic words of the “enemy”—“If this plan or action if of men, it will be overthrown. If it is of God you will not be able to overthrow it.”

We are now 2000 years later the time Gamaliel spoke these words.

Guess what?

It was of God

God’s new community founded upon Jesus Christ has not and will not be overthrown.

[Application: Develop along the lines of be encouraged because it doesn’t matter what the temporary opposition may seem like and since the world will not win…will you join the gospel team in repentance. “Blessed are those who take refuge in Him]

The third crucial understanding about gospel suffering that enables believers to have joy in the midst of opposition is

III.             Understand the result of the suffering—the joyful spread of God’s Church.

After being beaten, the apostles went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ 6:1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number…

If you remember in a previous sermon, the leaders had accused the apostles as ones who had been with Jesus

Now, the apostles are beginning to suffer like Jesus…

Friends, you know the significance of suffering though...it is precisely the suffering of Jesus—, this conflict of God’s values and the worlds values…that led to Jesus’ shame, His humiliation, His death…This was the fire on the Sequoia that released the seeds for the greatest new birth and growth in history. —the possibility of the forgiveness of sins.

And now…what are the apostles experiencing?

Similar fires…and they know the fires will produce the spreading of God’s message…and they count it a privilege not just to be accused of having been with Jesus but now suffering similar shame like Jesus.

And just as Jesus’s suffering brought about the greatest redemption…

So too their suffering would bring about the spread of God’s plan…and that is where their joy is

…the watching world sees the confidence, joy, of these men in the midst of suffering..and wonders “what gives them hope?”

As we come to a close in our study of the first few chapters of Acts, let me show you where this story of fire and suffering and growth goes..

The religious leaders while persecuting the apostles dare not take their life yet because the crowds are following this new community.

So, the religious leaders turn their attention away from the apostles to the followers of the apostles.

Their thought is, “okay, we shouldn’t kill the apostles right now, because the crowds love them, but we can kill the followers and intimidate any body thinking about joining them. We will cut off the supply of the people through fear and intimidation.”

More clashing of communities…..But the gospel wins

A man named Stephen appears in the next chapter. He is not an apostle. He becomes one of the first deacons in the church.

Because Stephen, not the apostles, was so effective in speaking about Jesus, the religious leaders devise false accusations against him but Stephen powerfully shows how they are wrong. This so incenses the leaders that the first man to follow in Christ’s suffering unto death is not an apostle but a deacon. They kill Stephen.

That act of opposition to godly Stephen results in a mass persecution of the early church which causes the believers to scatter from Jerusalem and guess what….

The Gospel wins…that scattering spread the gospel to the ends of the earth… which you and I have received today.

Also, one man, the apostle Paul who was deeply involved in Stephen’s fiery murder was eventually changed to be the greatest spreader of the Gospel …

As in Jesus—the greatest suffering resulted in the greatest redemption

So to—the greatest suffering for the church resulted in the greatest spread of the church…

The gospel wins.

  • Understand the reason for Suffering—The Gospel confronts the world’s values
  • Understand the Hope in Suffering—The Gospel Wins
  • Understand the Result of Suffering—The Joyful Spread of God’s church.

Dr. Brent Aucoin

B.S. - Mechanical Engineering, Oklahoma State University
M.S. - Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Central Seminary
Th.M. - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D. - Baptist Bible Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA)

Pastor Brent Aucoin and his wife, Janet, came on staff in July of 1998. Brent is the President of Faith Bible Seminary, Pastor of Seminary and Soul Care at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); ACBC certified; instructor and counselor at FBCM; retreat and conference speaker.

View Pastor Aucoin's Salvation Testmony Video