Acts 5 – By the Spirit We Are Blessed
What did you learn about the Holy Spirit?
- He himself is a witness of Jesus, “given to those who obey Him” (5:32).
- You can lie to the Holy Spirit (5:3).
What did you learn about the Spirit-filled community?
- Even in the aftermath of seeing the cost of lying to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit-filled community grew as people held them in high esteem (5:14).
Notes from Pastor Mark
The very observant of you will have noticed by now that the adjectives for each of our chapters are re-runs! We have drawn them from the year’s worth of preaching that we have been doing on what it means to be a disciple and disciple-maker for Jesus. Way back in the fall when we were studying the “Revolutionary Disciple” as described in the Sermon on the Mount, I pointed out how Jesus started his sermon with the Beatitudes which is another word for “blessings.” You remember, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the spiritually empty, etc.”
Some view this as a check list to be completed in order to receive God’s blessing. But I disagree. If you’ll recall, the chapter starts with these words: “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying…” and then he launches into the “blesseds.”
I think Jesus looked out across that crowd, and this is what he saw: those who had nothing left spiritually, those who were broken-hearted, those who were always getting kicked around by life, those who felt morally empty… and he simply described what he saw and added an incredible gift to each one: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Etc.
In other words, the Beatitudes, instead of describing what we must become in order to receive God’s blessing, are a description of how God meets people right where they are- some in a very broken and depleted state- and offers blessing right out of the chute. God LEADS with blessing. It is not something we have to work to earn; God offers it first. It is called grace, our wonderful Reformation doctrine.
Notice that the last of the Beatitudes speaks of being blessed if you are persecuted for the sake of Jesus. If that be the case, Acts 5:12 and following is full of blessing. We see the Holy Spirit working powerfully through the apostles right in the middle of everything on the Temple mount (5:12). They are highly regarded for what they are doing and saying, but the risks are still high to be identified with Jesus-followers (5:13). Despite persecution, they continue to grow.
As always, however, the religious bigwigs hate it. They arrest them and throw them in prison, but an angel lets them out! Where do they go? Right back out to the courts to teach some more! So, they get arrested again and made to appear before the Sanhedrin. They are ordered to stop talking about Jesus! I love Peter’s response: “We must obey God rather than men.”
The leaders are furious and want to kill them but cooler heads prevail. Instead, they ONLY receive a flogging… which was itself a brutal punishment… and are released. What do they do? Rejoice for their suffering in the name of Jesus… and go right back out again, every day proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.
When we pray for blessing and privilege, we tend to be praying for prosperity and deliverance from persecution. Yet this chapter underscores the Beatitude of Jesus that said, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my sake.” To receive the blessing of Jesus is to receive the boldness of the Holy Spirit to preach in persecution. In this politically correct world, it is STILL considered improper to talk about Jesus. What would it be like if the Holy Spirit inspired more Chapel Hill folks to “get in trouble” because they refuse to stop talking about what Jesus has done for them?
(BTW, the chapter starts with a very disturbing story about what happened when a couple lied to the Holy Spirit… about your money or anything else. Is there any part of YOUR life about which you are trying to deceive the Holy Spirit? Consider the seriousness of that and knowing that Jesus extends grace and forgiveness to you, confess that to Him.)