By KATHY HORAN|CONTRIBUTOR
In Acts 4 and 5 we see exciting times in the infant church. Their numbers were growing, but so was opposition to the Jerusalem Church. Peter and John had been bold in front of the Sanhedrin and this had a vital effect on the church. Members of the church shared what they had with each other, focusing on caring for the local church.
Barnabas enters the picture and would become a familiar figure in the early church. We are given a contrast between Barnabas and Ananias and his wife Sapphira. You can read in chapter 5 the story of this couple’s deceit and their subsequent punishment from God. There is a lesson here for us, we need to take God seriously, he is not to be trifled with.
A second wave of persecution comes upon the church and the apostles again end up in prison. Through a miracle they escape prison. They have been told again not to preach and teach of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, where are the apostles found? They were standing openly in the temple, teaching the people. When they were again brought before the Sanhedrin and admonished for disobeying the orders of the high priest, they replied,
“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)
They were released, but were flogged before they were allowed to leave. They rejoiced that they were allowed to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. And they kept right on teaching!
Derek Thomas, in one of his sermons, tells this story.
“In the city of Lyon in France, five young men, seminary graduates just graduated from a seminary in Switzerland…they had been traveling back from Switzerland. They had spent a few months in Geneva with John Calvin, and in April of 1552, as they went back to their native town of Lyon, they were arrested and imprisoned. And they began a series of letters by them, as the Five Prisoners in Lyon to Calvin. They were sent to Paris, spent almost a year in a dungeon in Paris, and then in March of the following year, 1553, were sent back to Lyon. And on May 16, they were told to prepare for death. And all attempts to extradite them and free them had been exhausted. This is what they wrote:
“It is true that one can have some knowledge of Scripture and talk about it and discuss it a great deal, but this is like playing charades. We therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His word, but also the practice of it; and that He has granted us this honor, which is no small thing for us who are vessels so poor and fragile, and mere worms creeping on the earth.”
And that day of May 16, 1553, all five were taken out and they were burnt at the stake for their faith.”
That is the boldness of the apostles, it is the boldness expressed in Martin Luther’s hymn.
“Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.”