A Church on a Mission: Can I Get A Witness?

by | Oct 30, 2022 | Podcast, Sermons

Information about this sermon:

Preacher: Rev. David Ball

Scripture: Acts 4:1-22

Summary: You have heard it said that we should “Kill people with kindness”, but most often that is just a self-righteous way of taking vengeance on those who have wronged us. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to bear witness to the loving-kindness that Jesus has shown us by saving us from sin and death.



[Music] on this Reformation Sunday offer of this prayer that Martin Luther offered to the Lord and a prayer of God’s word being opened up to our hearts Lord God Heavenly Father govern and guide us through your holy spirit that we hear your word with our whole hearts receive it and become Sanctified through it so that we may put all our trust and hope in Jesus Christ your son be protected from all offenses and pride and finally be saved through your grace in Christ through your son Jesus Christ Our Lord amen invite you to be seated

have you ever been a witness maybe it was a car accident yeah that you you happen to see happen and so you pulled over and waited for the the police to come so that you could give a statement to them a witness of what had happened maybe you saw someone shoplifting and you waited and you gave a statement to police about what you had seen I remember the first time that I was a a witness I was about probably like 10 years old and we had gone out to get some food and to bring it back to the house and as we were pulling up into the driveway and we saw our garage door was open and as we pulled in there were a bunch of people in there who were helping themselves to things enriched by you know my mom kind of slammed on the horn I was freaking out you know she she she locked the doors hit the horn I was just like stop you’re gonna make the Mad yeah you know that was terrified they ran away there’s big police chase but when the police came I was able to yeah they asked me what I had seen and what I had noticed and what I heard anything they could take down and use and they did eventually catch them that was good when we went to federal court with the the city of Jack’s Beach and if you don’t know that story you need to attend the next discovering Church of our savior class um that’s a whole long story but when we went to to court the federal court because of the city of Jacksonville Beach had broken a federal statute and tried to keep us from being here on this property I was called to take the stand and to to Bear witness to what I had seen and I had heard from City officials have you ever been a witness

last week the truth is we’re all Witnesses we’re all Witnesses it’s not an option when we’re followers of Jesus Christ we are all his Witnesses in this world is there a question of if it’s only a question of whether for good Witnesses or we’re bad ones but in its simplest terms what does it mean to be a witness for Jesus in this world in this most simplest terms it means to speak of what we have seen and what we have heard concerning Jesus our savior nothing less nothing more or to tell others about what we have seen Jesus do in our lives and about all that he has told us concerning life and salvation and putting our faith in him our lives are the testimony of the power of Jesus’s birth and life and death and Ministry his resurrection and Ascension and Jesus is calling us to share our testimony with the world but the world is lost and fearful and to be about this work until he comes again to judge the living and the dead in Acts 4 verses 1 through 24 or the 22 where we continue in the aftermath of Peter and John’s healing of the lame man in the at the temple last week touched Chuck preached on Peter’s witness of Jesus to the people who were gathered in Solomon’s Portico that day they were more the common folks those who had just gathered there for worship and were making their way to the temple but today we shift from the common folks that that were that were encountering this testimony of this witness to Peter and John’s witness to the authorities and to those who were in power to authorities and those who were in power and the response is very different than what they got from preaching and witnessing about Jesus and his resurrection the reaction and response is very different between the two groups the everyday regular people were more open to receiving the good news of Jesus Christ his gospel but the Power Players the authorities those who were in charge were far less receptive the news they received about Jesus from Peter and John it wasn’t it wasn’t good news to them it was actually more threatening then it was good and as a result they didn’t receive it the same way that the majority of the common folks had received it but to see how they responded and to learn a little about the obstacles I think that we’re up against and being Jesus’s Witnesses in this world we need to dig deeper into this passage together so I invite you to open up your bulletin to this passage or open your bibles if you brought them and follow along as we work through these verses now this is a much larger much larger passage and a section this morning and so I’m not going to go verse by verse as I’d like to do it’s going to be a little bit more section by section and verses one through two we’re told that as Peter and John were speaking to the people the priests the captain of the temple and the Sadducees Came Upon them now Peter and John’s witnessing to the regular people had gone on for several hours before this group came up to them the healing of the lame man we were told earlier happened at three in the afternoon and then later this passage we’re told by the time that this group comes upon them it’s evening time so we’re not told exactly why they came but it’s reasonable to presume that the word had finally gotten to them about this great commotion that was taking place in around the temple and while we don’t know for certain why they came we do know that when they did come that they were annoyed they were annoyed they were anointed Peter then John were teaching and proclaiming Jesus in his resurrection from the dead now when we say that they were annoyed this isn’t just the you know the annoying fly that’s flying around your head that you just can’t seem to swipe away they were offended they were offended by by it they were deeply troubled by it they were greatly pained by what was happening here but before we look at why they were so offended and they were so pained by this who exactly were these people well first we have the priests we’re told these are the leaders of the of the temple Services they were responsible for teaching the people of God’s law and they were the ones who prayed to God on behalf of the nation when the Great needs arose in Israel so they these are some pretty important people right secondly we have the captain of the temple we’re told this was the leader of the temple guard the temple had its own guard they made sure that no one was interfering with the temple worship or stealing from the temple because the temple was filled with with great wealth they were also the ones who were who were charged with keeping things under control so that there wouldn’t be any riots there wouldn’t be any commotion anything that could get them in trouble with the the Roman authorities and third we have the Sadducees the Sadducees were one of Israel’s religious sex groups they were they were wealthy Aristocrats sorry I’m so used to watching risk the cats with the kids it always trips me up they were in bed with the Romans they embraced Roman rule they embraced the the culture they sought to benefit and to prosper from their relationship with them anything they could do to make the Romans happy and to make sure that they were in a place of power they took it they were the ones who controlled the temple worship the high priest whoever was to become a high priest was a part of the Sadducees they were they made up the majority of the Sanhedrin which was kind of the religious governing group in Jerusalem’s religious life the Sadducees didn’t believe in an afterlife therefore they they did all they could do in the present to make sure that they were living their best life and anything they could do to get for themselves they were doing these three groups of people were all the ones who were greatly offended and troubled by Peter and John’s witnessing about Jesus and they were upset and annoyed by it and offended by it because it threatened them and threatened them to threatened their power their influence their position their status their control their security their wealth their comfort it threatened them their way of life how exactly did Jesus’s resurrection threaten them in this way because if Jesus died and in fact did come back to life he’s the one who has the ultimate power he’s Sovereign over all things and their power would be undermined if Jesus died and came back to life he was ultimately in control of everything even death itself and their control again would be undermined if Jesus did come back to life it threatened their way of life their prosperity their status their loyalties their security the whole system that they were using for their benefit it would undermine it all can you remember as a parent really getting angry when your child talked back to you some of you can remember because it just happened this morning um or if you can’t remember having a child because yours were so wonderful they never possibly would have talked back can you remember maybe talking back to your parent when you were a kid now parents we parents rightly get upset right and probably pretty angry about this our children because they’re being disrespectful but if we’re willing to be honest I think that the anger actually is coming from a much different place our greatest concern is for order and control when that’s threatened by a child we get angry we get angry if all we really cared about was the the well-being of this child and them growing up to be respectful people we wouldn’t get so angry we just kind of lovingly correct them and move on but it has this tendency at least for me maybe I’m just telling on myself it has this tendency to hit a different place to hit a different place in my heart I get angry because it’s some sort of insubordination and I’m more important than that and I deserve honor and I deserve respect and the back talk just threatens my power in my position and my status in the family and I’m not standing for that I mean if I let them get away with it the next step will be total Anarchy

yeah I’m definitely more like Mr Banks and Mary Poppins you know if you can’t remember remember the song that he sings the life I lead it’s kind of more the beginning of it the last part of it I’m not going to sing it but the last part of it is a British bank is run with Precision a British home requires nothing less tradition discipline and rules must be the tools without them disorder catastrophe Anarchy in short you have a ghastly mess meanwhile in the story right meanwhile the kids run away and everything’s in disarray and he has no idea he doesn’t yet get it right he cannot yet see the truth about himself and what’s really going on in his own his own home that’s the threat that these three groups in power were feeling and so they had Peter and they had John arrested to restore the order to stop this threat of undermining their power and their Authority everything had to be kept and order or else there’d be Anarchy the Romans would get upset and then their whole lives would be messed up but the reality was they arrived too late they arrived too late many of those who had already heard for the past couple of hours about Jesus and his resurrection they had put their faith in him we’re told the numbers had come to about 5 000 men you know before we move on to the next day and Peter and John’s witness before the high priests and the and his Council you know I thought it might actually help to track the growth of the early church so far because we’re being told some numbers here right and so I went back and asked and kind of looked at where things were coming after Jesus’s Ascension we know there were about 120 followers of Jesus that were with the men and women after Pentecost and Peter’s Proclamation there were told about 3 000 Souls were saved and came to the Lord and from then until his healing of the lame man were just told this that the Lord added to their numbers day by day those who were being saved we don’t know exactly how many by the end it was we just read this morning by the end of Peter and John’s teaching and preaching here another 5 000 men were added to their numbers of those who were being saved and so I mean this heart is not exact science here but we’re up to over 8 000 people in a very short amount of time right I don’t know about you but when I when I look at this and I think about church growth and the numbers of what was happening here I get a little depressed Elisa about church growth you’re known as being a leader of the church and what we’re supposed to be doing what are what are we doing wrong that we’re not seeing this happen well we’re probably doing a lot wrong but I think we need a little historical context here as well according to Robert walking former very respected professor of history from the University of Virginia from the very imperfect and limited data that we do have available to us we know that by the end of the first century there were around 10 000 known Christians in the Roman World which made up of 60 million people so just some perspective there that’s point zero one seven percent over over 70 years that happened between what we’re talking about now at the end of the the first century by 200 A.D for what numbers we can tell they’re about two hundred thousand followers of Christ that’s point three six percent of the whole Roman population by 250 A.D there were 1 million Christians about two percent by 300 A.D about 6 million Christians that’s 10 then after the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity those numbers exploded to today you know 1500 years after Constantine even more 1600 years after Constantine there’s 2.38 billion Christians in the world that’s about a third of the population of the world so so what’s the point so why why am I taking the time to to share these statistics that you’ve already forgotten I think it’s important to keep things in perspective this is incredibly rapid growth that we’re reading about in Acts it was special it was special in fact the the like of which it will not be a scene again and at least in percentage and a Time amount of short amount of time perspective so what should we take from this Is that real Church growth and by that I mean those who are being saved this is a really important distinction those coming to Faith In Jesus for the first time not just believers who were dumping [ __ ] from one Church to another to the latest greatest you know hottest thing where they want to be it’s historically a slower process it’s a slower process that we can I think get out you know feel a lot of anxiety about it we can get it out of context I’ve heard it said that we greatly overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and we greatly underestimate what we can accomplish in five years and I think that’s really helpful but witnessing for Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit truly transforms lives it isn’t a Sprint it’s a lifelong Marathon long faithfulness in the same direction as Eugene Peterson used to talk about these statistics also tell us this that the two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t know Jesus they don’t know the power of the Resurrection our witness is done by a long shot we have so much work to still do but now going back to Peter and John as they were brought before the Jewish Council when they came before the council they were asked this question by what power or by what name did you do this

the religious rulers concern was all about power and authority that’s what they were concerned about because that was what they rightly since that was was the direct threat that they were facing in that moment but Peter then responded in four ways number one Peter made it clear that this healing was not an act of power it was an act of power but that’s not the way they needed to primarily see it he told them they needed to see it it was a good deed this Good Deed from God and the other way of saying it is this act of kindness by God what God did was an act of goodness and kindness for this lame man these men in power received it as a threat and as an affront to their own authority and power not as God’s act of kindness and goodness towards his people they couldn’t see the goodness they couldn’t see the kindness they couldn’t give praise to God the way that the people had done before

number two Peter made it very clear this act of goodness and kindness from God was done in the name of Jesus they made it clear who was doing it this wasn’t about them this was about Jesus number three that Jesus was still at work in the world healing even though they had put Jesus to death Jesus was and is still very much alive healing people just as he was before he had been killed he’s still at work in other words showing his goodness and his kindness to his people and number four Peter then says the healing of this blind man was just a picture of the greater act of kindness and goodness his ultimate kindness is salvation for all people who put their faith and trust in Jesus in verse 12 Peter said there is there is salvation and no one else for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved now for those who love logic I know there’s some of you out there he’s included who love logic and debate Tim Keller summarized this summarize Peter’s testimony this way he does it from Peter’s perspective kind of towards the the council and again there’s four here these main points of this logic he said you can’t deny that we have power and authority or that this man or this man would not be healed number two the power comes from Jesus who you do know did this all the time during his ministry and if he’s still healing today that shows that he’s still alive despite your efforts to kill him and if you offer and he offers not just physical healing but spiritual healing the one who can heal like that he can save you how will you escape if you reject him and then in verse 13 we’re told their reaction to what they had just heard now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated common men they were astonished Peter and John were uneducated common men at least from the perspective of the religious rulers in the aristocracy they were they were the upper class they were well educated they had they had Elite positions they had honor and Authority they had the support of the Roman authorities they had the wealth and that was their confidence that was their security that’s where it came from and yet here these two men they had none of it they had none of it but they possessed a confidence and a boldness to make this clear argument before them they Peter and John hadn’t earned it they hadn’t bought it they hadn’t sold their souls to attain it they hadn’t paid the dues it was clearly given to them by God’s grace alone but the Sadducees didn’t realize and didn’t know was that this was the power of the holy spirit that was at work in them it was what Jesus had promised them back in Luke 21 that we read in the Gospel reading he said you will be brought before Kings and governors for my name’s sake this will be your opportunity to Bear witness settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict it’s really hard this is a fulfillment of that and Peter and John and that is so hard to imagine I don’t know like about you but like I just racked myself going over and over in my brain before I’m about to go talk to people about something about how I should say it what I should say what kind of arguments I should make what they might say in response and how I should I just kill myself thinking about all that stuff but here Jesus saying you don’t need to worry about that the holy spirit is going to give you the arguments he’s going to give you what needs to be said and no one will be able to withstand or contradict it so seeing the healed lame man staying standing beside them and having heard this testimony they had nothing to say in opposition so they commanded them to Peter and John to leave the council and then in discussion they could not figure a way to be able to maintain their power their status their position and their Authority while at the same time punishing Peter and John like they wanted to so instead they ordered them not to speak or to teach at all in the name of Jesus to which they answered we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard

it’s like Martin Luther standing and saying here I stand I can do no other we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard and so they let him go they let him go there were two very different groups of people from last week to this week two very different responses to the witness of Jesus of his resurrection last week we saw the regular people saw the act of Jesus goodness and kindness towards that that lame man and they received Jesus his ultimate Act of goodness and kindness towards them for their salvation they put their faith and trust in him over five thousand men were told but the Sadducees the priests and the temple Captain all with power and authority were threatened and treated Jesus’s goodness and kindness is nothing more than a power play nothing more than a power play for their position for their status and control you know I don’t believe that this is a commentary on who we should and should not Target and our witness of Jesus’s goodness and kindness towards us but it does speak of the great obstacle for most of us and certainly to those that were witnessing to and that is the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ it’s a threat it’s a threat it’s a threat to our own power it’s a threat to our own status to our own sense of control because Jesus is Alive Jesus is Alive and he’s healing Our Lives ultimately he’s the one who is in power he’s the one whose name is honored above every other name including our own he’s the one therefore who’s in Ultimate Sovereign control of all things prince it’s much easier to witness the hope of the Gospel to the people who are at the bottom of life much easier those who know that they lack power those who have destroyed their reputations by some failure those who know they don’t have full control of their lives it’s why Jesus said in the Beatitudes blessed are those who are poor in spirit but to those which makes up the majority of people we interact with daily who are educated come from a place that they’ve worked hard they’ve earned everything that they’ve got who enjoy the successes in life and the system that they know they can control and they can thrive in the gospel is a threat the gospel is a threat because Jesus is the name above every name including our own he’s the one who’s control we cannot even we cannot earn his approval we can’t manipulate him so that we’ll get everything that we want in life Jesus calls us to nothing less than to come and die to die to ourselves die to our desire for power and influence and position and security and wealth and comfort and to turn to him is the only hope that we have in life

a life with God forever it’s hard to witness to those who who like the system that they’re in and have benefited greatly from it but while it’s hard well it’s hard we’re called to continue to Bear witness to them to Bear witness to the hope of Jesus but how what can we learn from acts 4 1 22 about how we are to Bear witness to that which we have seen and that which we have heard I think in Peter’s argument as we find our answer we are to witness to the goodness and kindness of Jesus ultimate healing work in our lives we are Jesus’s testimony to a lost and a fearful fearful world because we were lost but now Jesus came and he found us he by his grace rescued us from death and has given us life life with the father he’s given us a living hope that no one can ever possibly take from us you heard it said I’m sure many times right kill them with kindness kill him with kindness but you know most often we just say that right there’s a self-righteous way of getting revenge against those who have wronged us that it’ll truly shame them when when we’re kind to them and that’s not what it means to share the gospel as followers of Jesus Christ we’re called to Bear witness to the kindness and the goodness of Jesus in our lives don’t kill anyone with kindness share with them the life-giving kindness of God and his son Jesus Christ that he has shown to you that he’s shown to me and that he longs to show to them amen


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