The In-Between Years - Part 28

Series: The In-Between Years

February 28, 2021
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years — Part 28

Last week, Peter and the apostles, freshly sprung from jail, stood in the temple and spoke to the people all the words of this Life, just as they had been commanded by the angel who released them.

That got them arrested again and brought before the high priest and the council. As always, they took the opportunity preach the gospel, the words of this Life. Here’s what they said… 

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29–32 (ESV)

We saw how tucked between the lines was an allusion to the OT — cursed is everyone who hangs on tree —  and a nod to the Greeks — leader and savior is a title used of the mythic hero Hercules. Jesus is the hero of all heroes. He doesn’t just have powers, he possesses all power and authority as the author of Life. Yet, he did what no Roman hero would ever do. He humbled himself to the point of laying those powers aside, allowing himself to be cursed in our place.

And how did the high priest and the council respond to the good news that Jesus is leader and savior, that he became a curse for them so that they could know forgiveness?

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  Acts 5:33 (ESV)

That went well.

We are going to park at this verse today.

The Greek word enraged is rare in the NT. It comes from a Greek root word meaning to be sawn in two. It’s used one other time in the NT, and it’s also in Acts. The situation and response are almost identical.

A fellow named Stephen is chosen as a deacon in Acts 7. As he goes about speaking to the people all the words of this Life, he is brought before the same council, the Sanhedrin. Like Peter and the apostles, he preaches Jesus…

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  Acts 7:54 (ESV)

Our guys here will ultimately be let go, but at a price. Stephen won’t make it out of that situation alive, becoming the first church martyr.

Imagine hearing something so confrontational, so infuriating, it’s like being hacked in two. It makes you want to kill someone!

It’s hard for us in the modern Western church to imagine something like the gospel doing that, especially so in America. But the entire NT is framed from the perspective of persecution. It is assumed that the world at large will be sawn in two by the words of this life…

Jesus said…

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  John 15:1820 (ESV)

Paul wrote pastor Timothy…

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)

Why is that?

In the bigger picture, there are dark forces competing with and against God’s kingdom. This goes all the way back to the beginning when God made it all and it was good. What God made involved two realms, heavenly and earthly. And each of those realms were inhabited by beings he made to be his imagers both above and below. Some of those higher order heavenly beings — more than just the average angel — decided to rebel against God. One of the ways they did that was to entice God’s earthly imagers — Adam and Eve — to rebel as well. And they’ve kept it up ever since.

This is what Paul refers to when he writes to the Christians at Ephesus…

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

These rebellious angelic forces have worked throughout history setting up their own kingdom and leading people away from God’s true kingdom. But all of a sudden 2,000 years ago God himself shows up in the person of Jesus, the God-man, who defeats these powers on the cross, setting in motion an invincible movement that will one day bring an end to their monopoly. That movement is fueled with Holy Spirit powered words, the words of this Life, and they come together to make a message that can transform us fallen imagers into the sons and daughters of God we were intended to be. Imagine how hard these dark beings fight against that. One in particular most of all. He’s known by many names: Satan, the devil, the Serpent. He fancies himself the god of this world…

4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV)

So the words of this Life are an affront to the heavenly rebels who oppose the Author Life and truth. Makes perfect sense they would entice humanity to reject his message.

On a more personal level, though, those who speak the words of this Life will be persecuted because folks by their fallen nature folks don’t like admitting they need saving. And they certainly don’t like being told what to do.

2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.  Proverbs 21:2 (ESV)

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6 (ESV)

Incredibly, the gospels, the book of Acts, and all of history make it clear those most resistant to and repulsed by the gospel are religious folks! The religious leaders in Jerusalem thought they were righteous enough to be right with God. But Jesus said…

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:20 (ESV)

It gets worse. Jesus also said…

48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

Good isn’t good enough because the “goodest” of the good is less than the perfect perfection of God. God can’t be in relationship with less than perfection.

These don’t sound like the words of the Life, Pastor Brad. They sound like words of death.

YES! You are getting it. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about this, but it needs to be repeated again and again. Most folks are all about the how our sins are forgiven on the cross, but they don’t realize if that’s all Jesus did for us, we’d still be in trouble because in addition to payment for our transgressions God requires a perfect record of obedience to his Law.

Just as we could not pay the debt required for sin forgiveness and Jesus paid it, we could not produce a perfect performance record so he provided it…

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Matthew 5:17–18 (ESV)

Jesus didn’t come to get rid of the Law so we could know God (it doesn’t work that way). He came to fulfill it. That means he kept every single tenet of God’s word down to the crossing of every “t” and the dotting of every “i.” He’s the only person ever to do that. And when we call on God to save us, Jesus’ report card wipes out ours and takes its place. Making us perfect in God’s eyes and able to be in relationship with him.

This is why I always say Jesus came to die the death we should have died, but he also came to the live the life we should have lived. 

These are the words of this Life!

The reason why religious folks hate this is because those heavenly powers have tricked them into believing the path to God is found in our behavior, our good works which leads to pride. They hate being told that’s not good enough.

Okay, back to the gospel enraging folks.The early church was tuned into this. They weren’t surprised by the persecution, even more so they welcomed it as we’ll see. But even beyond that they were hopeful for another response, one we’ve already seen when the words of this Life are spoken. Back in Acts chapter 2, right after the church was born and crowds of Jews gathered to see what the ruckus was about, Peter preached the words of this Life. Look at how those folks responded…

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Acts 2:37 (ESV) 

The same will happen again when Paul preaches the words of this Life to Gentiles …

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  Acts 13:48 (ESV)

One group heard the message and received it. The other heard the message and rejected it, to the point of wanting to kill the messengers. That makes me think. Brings up a question.

What made the difference?

Before I answer that, it’s important to understand the gospel is a message to be heard. Which makes sense when you consider Peter and the apostles were commanded to “speak” to the people all the words of this life. Something we are called to do as well. Paul stressed this when he wrote to the Christians in Rome… 

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:14–17 (ESV)

The gospel, the words of this Life, is meant to be heard but the hearing is more than just an audio issue. It’s cardio. The Bible teaches us there’s a connection our ears and our hearts. The writer of Proverbs wrote…

12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.  Proverbs 23:12 (ESV)

Isaiah prophesied…

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”  Isaiah 6:8–10 (ESV)

Hearing with our ears isn’t the same as comprehending with our hearts. Paul makes clear the heart’s role in being saved..

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  Romans 10:10 (ESV)

The difference between those who accepted the words of this Life and those who rejected it is a matter of the heart. Not just audio but cardio. And just so you know, because this is kind of cool, the Greek word for heart used in “they were cut to the heart” is kardia (car-dee-uh), which is where we get our English word cardio from.

In the NT, kardia never has anything to do with a blood pumping organ. It always refers to our inward selves, the part of us that transcends the physical, the part of us that makes us, really us, and not merely some organic creature comprised of biological material. It’s the part of us science cannot explain and never will.

The words of this Life are meant to be heard and are intended to go straight to the heart if we let them. This is what Jesus had in mind when he told the parable of the four soils. A farmer went out to sow and some seed fell on the path and was trampled. Some fell on the rock, where it grew up, but because there was no moisture, it withered away. Some fell among the thorns, but were choked out and died. Finally, some fell into good soil, took root, grew up and bore fruit.

Jesus explained the parable when asked by the disciples. See if what we’ve learned opens it up a bit for you…

9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.  Luke 8:9–15 (ESV)

Conclusion: I’ve probably spent enough time talking about this one verse in Acts. We will never get through if I don’t hurry up I know, but it’s hard to go fast when there’s so much there. And our verse…

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  Acts 5:33 (ESV)

It just grabs me. It’s so tragic.

You know, most things in life carry a number of appropriate responses. In other words, you can react to things in varied ways and that be okay. For instance, you can watch the Avengers movies and love them. Or you can hate them. Or you can think they’re just okay. I’m not sure about you if you don’t love Marvel movies but whatever.

You can love coffee. Or you can hate it. Or you can drink it when the fancy hits you but you not be crazy about it. Totally fine. Personally I think something’s seriously wrong with you if you don’t love coffee but whatever. The same with books. The same with Ted talks. You get the idea. Pretty much any response is appropriate.

But when it comes to the words of this Life, there are only two legitimate reactions: accept (and they were cut to the heart and and asked what shall we do?)  or reject (when they heard this they wanted to kill them). You may be thinking that’s harsh. I mean come on, just because you don’t accept the gospel doesn’t mean you side with those who want him dead. That’s where you’re wrong.

I’ll say it again: when it comes to the words of this Life, there are only two legitimate reactions: accept (and they were cut to the heart and and asked what shall we do?)  or reject (when they heard this they wanted to kill them).

The very nature of the gospel doesn’t allow for anything else. Jesus didn’t allow for anything else when he said things like…

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6 (ESV)


24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  John 8:24 (ESV) 

Jesus wasn’t being hard or tyrannical, he was just being truthful. Appreciating Jesus is not a legitimate response. Seeing him as a great moral example? Nope. Having good feelings about him? uh-uh. ANYTHING other than accepting him as Lord and Savior is the same as rejecting him, as wanting to crucify him. One pastor posted this on twitter and it crushes us with truth and kind of sums up what I’m trying to say as we close…

“Jesus cannot simply be liked, you either kill him or crown him in your life.” — Tim Keller

Knowing that nothing in between is legitimate, that it’s either one or the other, when it comes to the words of this Life, when it comes to what you’ve done with Jesus, which group would you put yourself in today if you were being brutally honest…

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  Acts 5:33 (ESV) 

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Acts 2:37 (ESV)

The verse I share every week is all you need to know:

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:13 (ESV)

Content Copyright Belongs to Pleasant View First Baptist Church