The One And Only Salvation Under Heaven
July 14, 1996
日本キリスト教団 大阪のぞみ教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Osaka Nozomi Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA. Translated August 13, 2009
1. Today I read to you the first half of chapter four. This passage is a continuation from chapter three. In chapter three, an individual came to the forefront. He was a man born unable to walk. Every day he used to beg in front of the temple of God. While he was in front of "The Beautiful Gate" at the temple, he used to feel that he himself had nothing whatsoever to do with the grace of God. Every day he expected no more than to obtain alms, nor did he have any hopes for eternity. But then, he met Peter [and John]. Through Peter, in the name of Jesus, he was healed, he was delivered, and he was changed into a person who lived praising God. Christ changed his life forever. Right after that, a crowd of people had gathered around him. Peter proclaims Jesus Christ to the assembled people. Peter tells them of the risen and now living savior, and exhorts them, "Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins will be erased!," (verse nineteen). And he states that God's servant Jesus was sent so that he might separate each person from evil, and grant the blessings that were once promised to Abraham, the blessings that extend to all the peoples upon the earth. It is that next part that I read to you today.
2. Peter and John's being led by the spirit of God and proclaiming Christ brought upon themselves some unexpected difficulties. [An account of] that is written in chapter four. After the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees drew near, they arrested and jailed the two men. No charges were confirmed against them. Nor had the arrest gone through legitimate procedures. It was clearly an unjust detention. Then the next day, they would be hauled before and cross-examined by the supreme court called the Sanhedrin.
3. As viewed from a human perspective, it turned out they were put into an undesirable situation. This was the first crisis with which the primitive church had come in contact, after having just hardly been born. However, even that undesirable place had become a place for them to bear witness to Christ. At first it was not possible for "the members [of the Sanhedrin], the elders, and the scribes of the law" themselves, as listed in verse five, to go forward and come to the apostles in order to hear of the Christ. But, miraculously they all would assemble and get to hear the message of Peter and his group, and also they would get to see right before their eyes the man who had actually been healed and delivered. This was not an opportunity that Peter himself could have wished for. It was an opportunity that had truly been given to him. And this very thing surely happens.
4. When we seek the faith life that is filled with the Holy Spirit, when we are led under God's perfect rule, and when we begin to seek to be used for God's work of salvation, God leads us in accordance with his will. It may be that we, like these apostles, will at times be led into unexpected difficulties and problems. Also, anybody put into different harsh situations, just like it was with Peter, needs to know ahead of time that it is possible for such places to turn into a place of witness, that such places can become a place where God's work is manifested.
5. Peter and John were led into hostilities with persons of power and influence. The apostles were made to stand right in the center of these persons and were interrogated by them, "By what authority and in whose name did you do that sort of thing?" Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks forth. The Holy Spirit certainly was alive and at work in him. It was the first crisis that had come upon them, but filled with God's power, love, and joy the apostles gave witness, and even the healed man gave silent witness while there in that place. What a scene that was, so filled with the glory of God! If we remain in our own self-centered self-willed faith lives, there may be few difficulties, but neither will we come in close contact with God's real world, nor will we see God's mighty work of salvation, nor will we worship the divine glory and be given true joy. If [our] faith life is the kind where we are only idle and walking around on our own feet in the shallow places in a river, then I don't think we can ever experience the rich and abundant flow of the waters of life. Is that what we're looking for? If it is, then that's too bad for us, we ought to be sad enough to mourn. I would like for us to carefully consider what we should be looking for and wanting.
6. The Holy Spirit first of all manifested himself mightily within Peter. God does something. Peter is the vessel for it. How did the Holy Spirit work within him?
7. First, the spirit of God gave Peter the wisdom and the necessary words. As far as this goes, Jesus himself had already given a statement about it. In The Gospel According To Luke, foreseeing what would come later, Jesus had made the following statement. "... the people will grab at you and persecute you, they will hand you over to synagogues and jails, they will drag you before kings and governors on account of my name. It will be an opportunity for you to give testimony. Therefore, make this determination in your heart, that you do not prepare your defense ahead of time! For, I will teach you the words and the wisdom, the likes of which they cannot resist or argue against, no matter the opponents," (Luke 21:12-15). Those words came true on Peter.
8. The text says, "The members [of the Sanhedrin] and the others saw the bold attitude of Peter and John, and what's more, discovering that they were two ordinary and uneducated men, they were astonished, and furthermore, they also understood that they had been with Jesus." In referring to them as uneducated men, it means that they had not received a professional education in the law. In referring to them as ordinary men, it means they were unlicensed, unqualified men. No one is competent, because of learning, to testify to Christ's salvation. No one can do that because of licensure or qualifications. God fills the Holy Spirit into an uneducated ordinary person, and causes him or her to speak by granting divine wisdom. How we so very much need the wisdom and the words that were given to the apostles! We must totally abandon the idea that we can give a witness for Christ by our own wisdom and knowledge, ability and experience. At the same time, we must abandon the idea that we cannot give a witness for Christ just because we're missing these qualities. The Holy Spirit alone [can] give us the necessary wisdom and [can] give us the words.
9. Second, the Holy Spirit gave an amazing boldness to Peter and those with him. We know that The Acts Of The Apostles is a sequel to The Gospel According To Luke. What a difference there is between the Peter in the gospels and the figure of the Peter that we see here in this text! The names of "the high priest Annas and Caiaphas" are recorded in verse six. Their names bring to mind the events of that last night before the Christ was crucified. When Jesus was arrested and brought to the home of the high priest, Peter had been following from behind at a way's off. Noticing him when he entered the courtyard, a certain servant girl said, "This man was also with him." Whereupon, Peter immediately denied those words and said, "I don't know that man." Somehow he ends up repeating the same thing three times. When he denied a relationship with Jesus for the third time, the rooster crowed. It is recorded that "The Lord turned and looked right at Peter. Peter remembered the words that the Lord had spoken, 'Today, before the rooster crows, you will say you don't know me three times.' Then he went outside and wept wildly," (Luke 22:61-62). This was Peter by his nature. But the guy we see in today's passage of scripture is different. He was changed. The Judean authorities had commanded and threatened Peter and John that from here on they must never speak or teach or do anything else in the name of Jesus. At which time Peter answered them, "Please consider whether or not it is righteous before God to obey you but not obey God. We cannot help but speak what we have seen and what we have heard."
10. If some people are born strong-willed, then some are born weak-willed. Since being strong-willed [may] also [mean] that one is possibly thick-skinned and lacking in consideration for others, it is not necessarily a virtue on its own. What we are seeing here in this text is not just Peter's becoming strong-willed; it is that a genuine courage that goes beyond personality conditions had been given to him by the Holy Spirit. We could even make the case that he was given a freedom uninfluenced by human expectations and words. Peter did not bring about this boldness of his by reflecting over his faint-heartedness, whipping himself to reform himself, and trying his hardest. This was clearly a gift of the Holy Spirit. God had graciously given him genuine courage, boldness, and freedom. We may never experience a life-risking scene like the one Peter was up against. But, there are people, more often than you may imagine, who are unable to give witness to Christ because they are intimidated by human expectations, evaluations, and words. So, what we need is the freedom that is given to us from above, the freedom from fear that is given by the spirit of God.
11. And along with the freedom and the courage which the Holy Spirit had given [them] came an unlimited love and forgiveness. This is another of the works of the Holy Spirit, which we see in them. Peter and those with him had received unfair treatment. The hatred of the Jewish leaders that used to be against Jesus had come to be against the apostles. Surrounded by hostility, they stood right in the middle of it. They were put under contemptuous glances and arrogant attitudes, which were directed towards them as unlearned and ordinary men. But, they did not look out at the hatred with hatred. They did not respond to the hostility with hostility. Peter and John had pointed out their sins to them, just as they had already done with the crowds. They thrust [before them] the truth that they had put Jesus Christ on the cross. However, they did it to speak forth salvation come what may. They did it to impart the savior to them. They did it to impart the savior to persons who had hated them and who were also willing to inflict injury upon them.
12. They said, "Salvation cannot be obtained through anyone else. The name by which we ought to be saved, any other name under heaven, is not given by human beings," (verse twelve). Peter is not giving a challenge for a religious debate. No, he isn't, but rather he is speaking about the one and only who had come for just one purpose. He is speaking about the one who has come to atone for the sins of humankind, bring reconciliation with God, grant fellowship with God, lead [persons] to the kingdom of God, speak for that reason, do great works, die on the cross, rise again, ascend to heaven, and anoint us after having received the Holy Spirit from the father. If peace is salvation, it could probably be given by some other name. If healing from an illness is salvation, it could probably be given by some other name. If getting rid of one's fear of death is salvation, then that could probably be given by some other name. If becoming a pure and good person is salvation, then that could probably be given by some other name. But this one [named Jesus] had come in order to atone for our sins, grant the Holy Spirit, and bring forth relationships with God the Father. Found in this is the salvation that is given through the name of that Man. And those who were surrounding the apostles with hostility were also the targets of the will of God's salvation and of Christ's love. Therefore, Peter and John are speaking, but not with argumentative words born out of hostility, not with words of defense to protect their own hides. They are speaking with love.
13. I'm pretty sure we will not always be surrounded by only persons who receive us favorably. It is not the case that only persons sympathetic to us will be around us. There may be times when we are put into situations where we are misunderstood, maligned, and met by hostility. If such a place could ever be made a place of witness by God, then it will take the love of God that is given through the Holy Spirit. To become persons who can respond with peace to biting words and speak forth God's love and salvation, we will first of all need to be anointed and filled with the love of God through the Holy Spirit.
14. For as long as we looked at this scene, we could not, after all, see change among the Judean authorities. After threatening the apostles more and more, they drove them out. Was [their] witness in the Sanhedrin for nothing? Well, since the descent of the Holy Spirit, during the hardships they had first confronted, not until those moments, they must have sensed the presence of God mightily at work in them as well as through them.
15. We too want to have [God] make us become witnesses like that. We want to pray for that and keeping praying for it. Of course, there is no need to ask for difficult situations on purpose. We want to have [God] make us become persons who just turn ourselves over to God's guidance, be filled with the Holy Spirit no matter the setting, and be able to witness for Christ with peace, joy, and the power of the Holy Spirit.