ACTS CHAPTER FOUR
The Witnessing Church
Suggested Teaching Objectives:
1. To teach how Christians and churches should react to persecution and opposition.
2. To inspire pupils to use every opportunity to witness for the Lord.
3. To teach that God's power through yielded, dedicated Christians is still sufficient to cause the world to "sit up and take notice."
4. To show that salvation is wholly and only through Christ.
5. To show the importance of loving each other as Christians in a sacrificial way.
6. To show the importance of each of us as individuals in dedicating our lives so that our church will be a witnessing and empowered church.
Introduction: In the first three chapters, we see the marvelous manner in which God blessed the early church. The Holy Spirit had come upon the believers. They had witnessed with boldness and on every side, people were turning to Christ and being saved. The Devil hates to see such thing--s, he stirred up the religious leaders of the day to bring intense persecution upon the church. He does the same today. He often works through church members to stir up trouble and hurt God's work.
From now on, there is a definite pattern in the Book of Acts. The christians go out to witness, a great work is done, then the enemies of the Gospel begin to persecute them. In our lesson today, we see how the early church reacted to it's first opposition.
I. WITNESSING TESTED -- Verse 1-4
Verse - 1 - In chapter 3, the lame man had been miraculously healed and caused a great gathering of the people in Jerusalem to see and hear of it. Peter used the occasion to preach to them. We ought to use every opportunity to speak for Christ. The opposition (Satan's crowd) was composed of the religious leaders. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Cf. Mark 12:18-27.
Verse 2 - They didn't like the message of the resurrection. Christians are not generally persecuted for being good. They are persecuted when they press the attack and witness for Christ using arguments for the necessity of people trusting a risen Saviour.
Verse 3-4 - Peter and John were put in prison overnight. No doubt, they wondered what would happen to them but they knew a risen Saviour who was watching over them. As a result of Peter's preaching, 5000 were saved. When trouble comes to us, God always gives us something to brighten our situation.
II. WITNESSING THROUGH PETER --Verse 5-12
Verse 5-7 -Now they are brought before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. Just a few days before, Peter had cowered at the accusation of a little maid that he was a follower of Christ. (Matthew 26:69-73). These leaders wanted an explanation of the miracle. Peter did not cower this time. He was on fire for the Lord . What would you do if you were Peter? What do you do every day amongst your friends? Do you boldly witness for Christ?
Verse 8-12 -Peter again preached Christ. He began his message courteously. He referred politely to the good deed and to their question. Then he gave a bold, clear-cut, uncompromising answer to their charges. He merely proclaimed the truth. Jesus Christ, whom the Jewish authorities crucified - but whom God raised from the dead, had performed the miracle.
Keep in mind that what Peter and John were being tried for was such that if they were found guilty, the prescribed penalty was death. Deuteronomy 13:1-15, esp. vs.5.
The stone refers to Christ. Psalm 118:22; I Peter 2:8; Daniel 2:35 & 45. He is now the Foundation and the Head of this movement. There is no other name. "What's in a name?" Shakespeare asked. Everything--if the name is Jesus. There was a new body for this lame man in that name. There was new life for Paul in that name. And for you and me, there is salvation, comfort, strength, peace and a home in Heaven. Cf. John 14:6.
III. WITNESSING THROUGH A MIRACULOUS WORK -- Vs. 13-17
Verse 13 - The boldness of Peter and John in the face on these circumstances was indeed a miracle of Divine grace.
Verse 14-16 - The fact of this man, previously lame from birth (40 years) now standing and completely well was undeniable. The world will"sit up and take notice" if we as Christians, will be bold in our testimony, exalting Christ. The results of such boldness (changed lives) will also cause the world to "sit up and take notice.
IV. WITNESSING FORBIDDEN -- Vs.17-22
VERSE 17 - These men thought these Christians would scare easily and many do. They thought if they threatened them, they would quit witnessing. But Peter and John were not scare-able now. They had met Jesus, had been with Him, and were now walking with Him and would not be stopped by threats.
Verse 18-20 - They must do what God would have them do. He was now first and foremost in their lives. They had to witness of what they had seen and heard. We should all have that same determination.
Verse 21-22 - People were glorifying God as a result of this miracle and the religious leaders were afraid to go against them. True prophets of God do not allow public opinion to deter them from doing right.
V. WITNESSING EMPOWERED -- Vs.23-37
Verse 23 - Christians should desire to assemble together.
Verse 24-31 - The early church, on this occasion, earnestly and with one accord prayed. They praised God for His greatness and the mighty works which He had afore done. (vs.24-26). They reminded God of previous opposition to His plan.(vs.27-28). They asked for boldness in witnessing, for signs and wonders so that things happened when they witnessed. Cf. Mark 11:24. "Ye have not, because ye ask not." James 4:2. This was not a selfish prayer. It was centered on God's honor and glory, and the success of His work. God gave them boldness (31) and signs and wonders were wrought. (vs.34-37;5:1-16).
Verse 32 - The Christians were united and they had great love for each other even to the extent of giving what they possessed to each other as they had need. James 2:14-17.
Verse 33 - Great Grace (unmerited favor) was upon them. They were pleasing to God and God was blessing.
Verse 34 - Every need of every disciple was met. The Holy fire that burned in their hearts for souls even touched their pocketbooks.
Verse 35 - They brought their offerings to the church (Apostle's feet). The church made the distribution on the funds for His work.
Verse 36-37 - This man Barnabus, gave all and in succeeding chapters, we see how God greatly used him. God may not take all we have but He wants us to be willing to give ourselves, all we have to Him. He will greatly use any who will so dedicate themselves to Him.
CONCLUSION: God wants His churches to be a witnessing church as this one was. Churches are made up of individuals and as they are, so is the church. What kind of church am I making mine to be? What kind of a church would mine be if every member witnessed as I do? We must realize that as an individual, we make our church.
Certainly, we'll have opposition. But earnest prayer and determination can overcome any opposition. Let's dedicate ourselves to take this task of making our church a witnessing church and let's begin to make it so, this week.