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Reactions to the Gospel

Acts 4:1-4
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. (NIVUK)

Peter and John had commanded a lame beggar to walk, in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:6-10). Then they explained the good news about Jesus and how He still had power to change lives (Acts 3:12-26). However, not everybody happily praised God for what had happened. The religious leaders with the same temple guards who had arrested Jesus, now seized the apostles and put them in prison overnight.

It was a disproportional response. Peter and John simply spoke about the death and resurrection of Jesus. They were accused of saying that Jesus was alive: but that was not a crime. However, the authorities were shaken because they had failed to eliminate Jesus. He had been, and still was, the biggest threat to their precarious power-holding over the people. They were envious of Jesus, His authentic power, wisdom and love (Matthew 27:18): they refused to accept Him or submit to Him … and so they were determined to stop the apostles from speaking about Him (Acts 5:17-20).

On the other hand, many people were convinced that Jesus was God the Son (Acts 2:40-41). The miraculous healing, Peter's teaching, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit had brought two thousand more people (in addition to the three thousand at Pentecost) to repentance and faith in Jesus (Acts 2:38). They believed He had died for their sins and was raised as the King of heaven. They feared His wrath, and wanted His mercy. Despite opposition, God was at work.

Not much has changed since then. The world is usually happy when believers do good; as long as they do not explain that they represent Jesus. But when they give a gospel explanation for their good deeds, people will react. When God's people do that, some of their friends and colleagues will persecute them for telling the truth; even where authorities claim to protect free speech (2 Timothy 3:12). However, some who listen will find the message compelling, as the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and leads them to the grace of Christ in salvation (John 16:8-9). The worst option of all is for believers to be unrecognised as belonging to Jesus, and unwilling to explain why (Matthew 25:24-30). Our reaction to our Saviour should produce a reaction in those around us. Do not be afraid: God is still at work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Prayer 
Saving God. Thank You for the people who told me about Jesus and why He died for me. I repent of being afraid of other people's reactions and so fail to explain how the death and resurrection of Jesus can bring salvation to all who repent and believe. Please help me to see people through Your eyes, to live an authentic life as a child of God and not be afraid of explaining the gospel of God's grace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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