The Unstoppable Gospel | James Stevenson

Acts 5:12-42

The Apostles Heal Many

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

The Apostles Persecuted

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.


The Unstoppable Gospel

The apostles had really riled the religious leaders because they took no notice of their threats and punishments for proclaiming that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They simply went on doing it!

Gamaliel warned the rest of the leaders against killing them, with a good fence-sitting position: if this is just human activity it will die out, but if it’s of God nothing will stop it. How true that was! The Gospel was found to be an unstoppable force. All through the book of ‘Acts’ we see it being spread, right to the end where Paul, in house arrest, is still proclaiming and teaching about Jesus Christ.

Throughout the world today, the Gospel is spreading like wildfire. New churches are springing up in China, Thailand and Muslim countries every week, in spite of opposition.

It began in those earliest days with the empty tomb, and will continue to sweep through the world until Jesus returns and all will be made new. It is unstoppable – the question for everyone is whether or not to be part of it.

Do we respond like the apostles, submissive to this force and obedient to God’s leading? Or like the religious leaders, trying to quench it? Or are we ambivalent like Gamaliel? – perhaps we honestly don’t know and need more time to think about it before we commit ourselves.

The effect of the culture around us can be like a wet blanket on our faith. We might want to be part of all this, but feel awkward, rather silly, when we think about sharing our faith in Jesus with our friends.

The story of those apostles can encourage us: a few months earlier, they had nearly all abandoned Jesus and were living in fear of their lives, but now nothing deterred them. It is OK to feel uncertain, timid and have lots of questions, but it wouldn’t be OK to just stay like that. There are lots of ways of moving forward. For some of us it will mean sitting down with someone and thrashing out the questions we have; others will want to get to grips with a book of the Bible, maybe using some good Bible notes. For some, it will simply mean asking God for the help of the Holy Spirit to give us courage and determination.

The Gospel is an unstoppable force – will we join in with it?

James Stevenson