In the early days of the church the apostles were arrested by the religious leaders for preaching the gospel and healing people.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. (Acts 5:19-21)
I’m sure most people, if they escaped from jail, would not go and stand in a public place and draw attention to themselves. They would run away and hide. The apostles were obedient to God, and willing to take the risk. They didn’t even run when the captain of the temple guard came to fetch them. (Interestingly, the soldiers were afraid to arrest them this time, they just politely asked them to go with them.)
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “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.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:27-29)
They didn’t know what the outcome would be, but they would not disobey God for fear of men.
You may say that it was easier for them, since God had performed miracles and had spoken to them directly. Today, that doesn’t happen to most of us. Or does it? When you give your life to Jesus, he performs a miracle. He changes your heart, forgives your sin, and makes you a child of God. Even if you never experience healing or any other miracle, that is enough for you to know God is real. And he speaks to us in many ways, but most of all, through the Bible.
What was the outcome of the apostles’ defiance of the authorities?
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 Christ. (Acts 5: 40-42)
They weren’t put to death, but they did suffer – they were flogged. In spite of that, and the continued danger, they kept sharing the gospel. There are many places in the world today where Christians are under threat of suffering or death, and we should do everything we can to support them. Most of us are not under any such threats. It puts a different perspective on the things we fear.
Spend some time this week reviewing the decisions you’ve made in life. Were there times when you could say, “I obeyed God rather than man”? Do you recall times when you chose against God’s apparent will because of the insistence of other people (including parents) or because you feared that others would ridicule or pity you? Ask God’s forgiveness for those times.
Evaluate carefully the decisions you make this week. Are there situations in which you will be tempted to compromise because of peer pressure? Pray for God’s help to stand firm.