In our days in America, we are living in a unique time in the history of the world. We are living in a land filled with riches. We are living in a world full of convenience. We are living in a time of free speech, where you can speak much about Jesus and little will be your trouble. Yet, the warning of the Bible is this: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).
Today, in America, we face little of this. We can be bold and speak about Jesus, knowing that we are protected by our constitution from persecution. The first amendment of the constitution guarantees us freedom of speech, especially as it relates to religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This amendment keeps many of us in America from facing the religious persecution that Paul promised would come to those who seek to live a godly life. But this is America. This is unique to us. There have been many places throughout all time, where telling others about Jesus is against the law, and will earn your jail time. There are many countries today, in which preaching Jesus can land you in prison.
Last week, I spoke to you of one of the most famous people ever to face persecution: Richard Wurmbrand. He was jailed (and tortured) in Romania for over a decade. When he was released, he formed an international organization, “Voice of the Martyrs,” which has brought worldwide attention to those who are persecuted in other lands.
This week, I want to tell you the story of an obscure man, who faced Christian persecution. I’m almost sure that you have never heard of this man. He lived in Nepal in the 1970’s. I don’t even know his last name. His first name is Kamal. Thomas Hale tells his story in his wonderful book about his work as a missionary in Nepal, entitled, “Living Stones of the Himalayas: Adventures of an American Couple in Nepal.” Hale tells his story like this:
When Kamal was fifteen, a man sold him a Nepali New Testament, saying: “This is a religious book; it will be good for you to read it.” Kamal took his new book home and began to study it. When he came to Matthew 5:43-44, he was surprised to discover Jesus’ saying: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
“I had been taught to seek out my enemies and destroy them,” Kamal told us. “This teaching was just the opposite.”
Then he came to Matthew 18:11 and read the words, “The Son of Man came to save what was lost.” And in a flash Kamal realized that this was the God who came to save sinners and not destroy them and that this was the God he must follow. “From that day on,” Kamal related to us, “I accepted Christ as God and determined to obey Him. I stopped worshiping idols and threw away my holy thread. My father, of course, disowned me and turned me out of the house, telling me that I was never to enter again. So I found work in a government office in the village, but because I kept preaching about the God who saves sinners, the police and the governor of the district came and arrested me. I was released from prison after a few days, but I lost my job. After that I had to leave my village, and even the district, because of the opposition of the police.”
Kamal then told us how he had become an itinerant preacher, traveling on foot from village to village, encouraging small isolated groups of believers and sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. During this period he was harassed by the police on numerous occasions.
[He and another man, named Pastor Suman] had gone together on a preaching tour to the far-western part of Nepal and had been passing out literature to anyone who showed an interest. One man who was particularly interested was a local police official. Posing as an ordinary citizen, he approached the pair and asked them for something to read. Suspecting nothing, they gave him one of their pamphlets, whereupon the police official, proof in hand, arrested them for illegal religious activities and clapped them in jail. And there they stayed for thirteen months, out in a little town in far-western Nepal, days away from friends, relatives, and other believers.
As far as anyone knew, the two might be incarcerated for the maximum sentence of six years, since they had been engaged in evangelism. The last pastor imprisoned had served five years. Thus, when news came that the pair were to be released after only thirteen months, many thanks were offered to God for answering the prayers of His people. In addition, we later learned that during their stay in jail the two men had led twenty-six fellow prisoners to faith in Christ.”
This is literally one of thousands and thousands and thousands of stories that could be told. From the days of the apostles until today, there have always been those who have been persecuted. Many down through the ages have been arrested. Many have been brought before a court of some sort.
Well, this morning, as we come to our text of Scripture, we will see the apostles being brought to trial. Indeed, this is the title of my message this morning, “The Apostles on Trial.”
Last week, we saw the apostles arrested and placed in jail, where they spent the night. The religious leaders of the day were planning on bringing them in from jail for questioning the next day. But God had other plans. An angel in the night set them free and told them, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20).
The apostles responded in obedience. Early the next morning, at daybreak, they went to the temple and began to preach the gospel to those who were present. Our text begins halfway through verse 21, with the change of scene. In verse 21, we are brought into the courtroom. Let’s read what happened.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
My first point comes from verses 21-26, in which we see the religious leaders, ...
That is, gathering all parties into one place, so that the court can convene. Because, before you have a trial, you need to have a judge, you need to have the accused, and you need to have those prosecuting the case. In verse 21, we see the gathering of the judge and the prosecutors.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel,
We have seen this high priest before. He presided over the first trial of the apostles (which we saw in chapter 4). His name was Annas. He was the father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was officially in charge of the trial. Certainly, there were others of the high priestly family who had come for this trial as well (see Acts 4:6). We read that the “council was there.” This is often what we call, “The Sanhedrin,” the 70 elders, who were appointed to rule over Israel. The whole political body was gathered there to hear and rule in the case.
The only ones they lacked were the defendants. They were called for at the end of verse 21,
"[They] sent to the prison to have them brought.
This was a summons for the court police to go the prison, bind up the captives, and transport them safely to the court, so that they might appear for their trail. Then comes the turn of events.
But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.”
This was totally unexpected. They were expecting to find the prisoners n their cells. But they were not. Furthermore, there were no signs of escape. There were no open doors. There were no unlocked doors. There were no holes in the wall, or tunnels through the ground. (Which means the angel closed and locked the door after the disciples left). The prisoners were simply gone. It was unexplainable.That’s why we read in verse 24, ...
Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.
It was unexplainable, because it was miraculous. There were no explanation as to what happened. And, as they were trying to understand these things, we read of someone breaking into the courtroom with a discovery.
And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”
This was most unexpected. But I’m sure that there was at least some measure of relief to know that the prisoners were located. But on the other hand, it certainly was disconcerting. How did these prisoners escape? Why are they still in the temple preaching? So, they sent once again for the prisoners. This time, however, they went not to the prison, but to the temple. We read in verse 26, ...
Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
This was different than the scene would have been within the prison. Within the prison, the apostles would have been shackled. They would have been forced to come with the captain and the officers. But not so in the temple area. The apostles were surrounded by a crowd, who were listening to the apostle preach.
No doubt, they were hearing about the miraculous release from prison. Because the people had seen them taken captive only the evening before, when the high priest rose up and ordered the arrest of the apostles (verse 18). No doubt, they were explaining about the angelic appearance, and how the angel “opened the prison doors and brought them out” (verse 19). They certainly told how the angel had commanded them to come right here to the temple and preach to those present of “the words of this Life” (verse 20), which is exactly what the apostles were preaching to the people: the words of life. Their words may have been something like this:
“God raised up Jesus, who was crucified in Jerusalem. Yet, God raised him from the dead. We saw him alive! He is the Messiah that the Lord has given to us. If you come to him. If you repent and believe, he will forgive your sins and bring you into his kingdom!”
And right then and there, as they were preaching, the captain and the officers approached the apostles. Words were exchanged. The authorities requested for them to come to the council. The apostles went, without making any fuss or resisting in any way. They didn’t need to be shackled. They didn’t need to be forced to go. Their word was enough. They would follow them into the court.
You say, “Why did they do this?” They did not have to go. They had the crowds on their side. who would not permit the officers to take them away by force. They were under no compulsion to go. So, why did they go? I believe it was to demonstrate their submission to the governing authorities. They weren’t looking to mount an insurrection against the government. They weren’t looking for a takeover. They were looking for peace. They were looking to bring peace to Israel, through the message of life in the Messiah!
So they went. And court was convened. In verses 27 and 28, we see, ...
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.”
The high priest begins with some context. He brings them back to the first time that Peter and John stood before they religious council. He said, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name.” This is almost an exact quote from Acts 4:18, "They called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." This is how Luke described the situation.
Now, here's a subtle point. The religious authorities were not able to bring themselves to say the name of Jesus. Listen to how they deliberated back during the first trial, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name” (Acts 4:16-17). They didn't mention the name of Jesus. They simply said, "this name." Here in verse 28, at the second trial, they spoke in the same way.
“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us” (Acts 5:28).
They could not bring themselves to speak the name of “Jesus.” All they could say was “this name” or “this man.” Everyone knew who they were referring to. Everyone knew that they were talking about Jesus. But they would not utter his name. How ironic it is that Peter told them, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Salvation comes through the name of Jesus. But they cannot even say the name of Jesus! Such was their hatred toward Jesus. Such was their hatred toward these disciples of Jesus, who didn’t stop speaking about Jesus.
Instead, these disciples spoke much about Jesus. They spoke so much so that the high priest said, "You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching" (Acts 4:28). The high priest meant this as an indictment. But, in reality, this was a back-handed compliment, that these apostles had done exactly what Jesus had commanded them to do. Before Jesus left them, he told them, "You will be my witnessed in Jerusalem" (Acts 1:8). And here they were, being told by some unbelievers, that they have “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching.
That is, everyone in Jerusalem knows about their message! Everyone in Jerusalem heard about Jesus, who was crucified, dead, buried and risen from the dead! Everyone in Jerusalem heard “the words of this life!” that Jesus was alive and well, exalted and reigning in heaven! Everyone in Jerusalem knew that Jesus called them to repent and believe in him! Repentance is the very thing that these religious leaders refused to do. They refused to believe in Jesus. (They couldn’t even mention his name). Such was the hostility toward the Lord.
But thousands in Jerusalem were believing and creating such a stir, that not a soul was left in ignorance. Oh, that this might be true in our day. That we “have filled Rockford” with your teaching. Oh that there would not be a soul in the Rockford area that was ignorant of Jesus, and his message of life. Oh, I fear that we have a long way to go. As I mix and mingle and talk with people, how few understand the gospel. How few there are who understand enough to be saved. Oh, Rock Valley Bible Church, let us pray to be his witnesses.
Look at the final charge that the high priest brought to the apostles. First, he said that they were disobedient to their charge to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. Second, he said, ...
... you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
Here, by saying “us,” he is talking about the religious leaders. He says, “You followers of Jesus, have pointed the finger at us, as the guilty ones.” Indeed, this is true.
Remember, in Acts 2, when Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost? Peter said, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified!" That is, you put him to death. You are guilty of this man’s blood. But that wasn’t the only time they said this. After healing the lame man, he said, "you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses" (Acts 3:15). That is, you put him to death. You are responsible for killing Jesus. But these weren’t the only times. Peter also told them, "Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by him this man is standing before you well" (Acts 4:10). The religious leaders were responsible for crucifying Jesus! We read of how the apostles were directly accusing them of this to their face.
We can only assume that what we have read in chapters 2, 3, and 4, which has been recorded for us to read, is the same message that they spoke in the many times that weren’t recorded! "Yes! You religious leaders! You are the ones who killed Jesus. You are responsible for his blood."
How quickly these religious leaders forgot that this is exactly what they wanted to be known. When Pilate was interrogating Jesus, he found nothing wrong with him. Repeatedly, Pilate tried to release Jesus. He came to the crowd and said, “I find no guilt in this man.” But the crowds said, “crucify him!” He gave them a chance to release Jesus as a prisoner, which the Romans did each year during the as a sign of good will from the to the Jews. But the crowds chose “Barabbas” instead of Jesus. When again, he tried to release Jesus, Pilate told the crowds, "What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" And they all said “Let him be crucified" (Matthew 27:22). And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:23). Here’s what we read in Matthew 27:24-25, "So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
They were saying,“Pilate, you are having a difficult time deciding to crucify Jesus. Blame us! Let us take the blame. We are the ones who convinced you to crucify Jesus. "His blood be on us and on our children!’” But now, when the apostles are actually saying this, the religious leaders don’t like it very much at all. Isn’t this often the case with sin? You see it as attractive. In the moment, you say and do things that you regret! We have had a great example of this recently with the rioters at the Capitol building. In the moment, they were boasting of their activity. They were posting to social media. But later, when searched down the by the FBI, there were many who have come to regret their actions. Such feelings ought to lead you to repentance, sorrowing for your sin. But such is not the case here. These religious leaders were not repentant. Instead, they were obstinate. They were against the disciples. They didn’t want to hear anything more about the name of Jesus.
Well, having presented their case, it was now time for the apostles to respond in their defense. This is my third point, ...
What I love here about the response of the apostles is that these words were really the words of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised them, "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" (Luke 12:11-12). This was the very hour that Jesus was talking about! Jesus told them, "Don't worry! The Holy Spirit is going to give you the very words to say." And so, here are the words of the Holy Spirit (spoken by Peter):
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Peter begins by justifying their defiance to the Sanhedrin. He said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This should have come as no surprise to the Sanhedrin. The disciples had warned them the first time they were brought in that this is what they would do. Peter and John told these same people, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
For the apostles, speaking to others about Jesus was something that compelled them. They couldn't stop doing it if they tried. Further, it was a matter of obedience to God. This was our Lord’s marching orders:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
And in speaking about Jesus, and in filling Jerusalem with their teaching, the apostles were merely doing as they were told by the Lord. As Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). This was not “might” obey. This was no “should” obey. This is “must” obey. In other words, deep in their conscience, they were compelled to preach the gospel to those in Jerusalem. They saw it as no other option. They had to do it.
Obeying God rather than men is the principle of civil disobedience. It’s the principle of a higher authority. God is the higher authority than the government. When our governmental authorities tell us not to do something commanded by God, we disobey our lower authorities and obey our higher authority, the Lord. When our governmental authorities tell us to do something prohibited by God, we disobey our lower authorities and obey our higher authority, the Lord.
We must obey God rather than men. It’s easy in principle, it’s difficult in practice. Over this past year, many have thought long and hard about this verse as it deals with the governmental restrictions placed upon us due to COVID-19, particularly as it relates to gathering together. We are commanded to gather together.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The Bible calls us together. I'm sympathetic to those joining our worship online. Some of you are even a long way away, in other states or in other countries, even. I'm also sympathetic to those who have faced some travel difficulties today (with its temperatures being so low on this particular Sunday). But here's my challenge to those of you online (if it's by choice). How are you going to “stir up one another to love and good works,” while you are at home. It means making some calls, emails, or texts.
I learned this during the summer during my Sabbatical. Online worship can be a vertical experience, which is great. But church is not only vertical. It is also horizontal. And so, at home, you are getting a verbal element to worship (maybe, if you are following along), but it's difficult to get the horizontal element to worship while you are at home.
Certainly, COVID-19 has brought on some difficulties with this. At first, when we didn't know much about the disease, we didn't know if it was safe to be together at all. The government said, "Stay at home." So, we stayed at home. During those first few weeks that we were ordered to be at home in our worship, I received a call from a pastor who was reading through my sermons on the internet. He was preaching through 1 Peter, way out someplace in Colorado. He was reading my sermon on 1 Peter 2:13-17, which speaks about this whole principle.
1 Peter 2:13-15
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
In that sermon, I talked about gathering for worship. I said, "Of course, if the government tells us that we cannot worship, we will still gather for worship. Hebrews 10:24-25 is a clear command for us to worship together." This pastor read this and then called me up a week into our "shelter in place" orders and asked me, "What are you all doing? Are you worshiping together?" I said, "No, we are not." He said, "Oh, we are. We are worshiping together." (Remember, he was in far, distant Colorado in a small church) He was confronting me with my own words. The government told us not to gather for worship, but the Scripture is clear that we must.
"We must obey God rather than man" seems clear. We should obey the Lord when it comes to worship. Yet, it wasn't so easy in the early days of COVID-19, when we didn't know much about the disease. Then, the summer came, which sent us outside. When we were permitted by our government, we came back inside with some appropriate safety measures in place. We have sought to balance what seems right.
There are some churches that have defied the governmental authorities throughout this entire season of COVID-19. Some churches embraced Acts 5:29 and have chosen to gather in worship with no masks at all! We have sought to work out things here with COVID-19 with an understanding of what masks are. They are an expression of love.
Wearing a mask today is an acknowledgement that I understand that I don't know if I'm contagious or not. But out of love to you, I will wear a mask to stop any spread of COVID-19. I remember telling a Christian friend this very thing and was mocked for it. This friend believed that wearing a mask was wrong submission to governmental overreach, as if Acts 5:29 applies in this situation. I read online this week someone who said, "My Bible-based religious beliefs morally prevent me from wearing a COVID-19 mask/face covering. (Nothing more needs to be said.) 'We ought to obey God rather than men.' Acts 5:29."
So, this verse, Acts 5:29, has been interpreted in different ways during this COVID-19 pandemic. It's easy to understand, but difficult to apply. We are still working out how to apply it.
Let's get to more of Peter's defense. In verse 29, Peter addressed his defiance of the authorities to continue preaching. In verses 30-32, Peter gets to his defense. He said, ...
The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
Note what Peter is talking about here. With a broad, general outline, Peter is talking about the resurrection of Jesus (verse 30). He also speaks about the death of Jesus, even saying "whom you killed." The accusation against Peter is that he was filling Jerusalem with their blood. Sure enough. Peter said, "you killed him." Peter also talks about the exaltation of Jesus (verse 31). Then, in verse 31, he talks about the implications of these things. He talks about repentance and forgiveness. He finishes by saying that he is a witness.
This looks a lot like what Peter said on other occasions. Peter spoke about death, resurrection, and exaltation. Consider the following passage:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Peter talks about the life of Jesus in verse 22. In verse 23, he speaks of the death of Jesus. In verse 24, Peter speaks of the resurrection of Jesus. In verses 25-32, Peter proves the resurrection from Psalm 16, how Jesus was not abandoned to the grave and corruption. Then, Peter continues by mentioning the exaltation of Jesus, where he now sits at the right hand of God. This is similar to our text, when Jesus speaks of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus. Peter continues with an offer of forgiveness in verse 36. This pattern is similar to what Peter says in chapter 3.
Acts 3:14-15, 19
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. ... Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.
Peter speaks about the life of Jesus, in that he was holy and righteous. He speaks about the death of Jesus in verse 14, having been killed by the Pharisees. He continues on to mention the resurrection in verse 15. In verse 19, Peter brings home the implications: repent and believe for forgiveness of sins. Peter's broad outline is message is (1) Life; (2) Death; (3) Resurrection; (4) Forgiveness. This has been the general pattern throughout every one of Peter's sermons:
- Life of Jesus
- Death of Jesus
- Resurrection of Jesus
- Exaltation of Jesus
- Offer of Forgiveness
Note well that in the preaching of Peter, he follows the same general outline, but it is not a canned speech. The words aren't the same, as if he speaks some sort of formulaic presentation of the gospel. In fact, if you notice closely at the wording in our text in verse 30, you see that Peter switched the order of some terms, "The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree" (Acts 5:30). In his sentence structure, Peter mentions the resurrection before the crucifixion.
Further, there are facts that Peter shares that are a bit different on every occasion. Here in Acts 5:30, Peter mentions Jesus being hanged on a tree. He hasn't mentioned this fact in any of his previous sermons. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 21:23, which says, that "a hanged man is cursed by God." In Galatians 3:13, Paul picks up this imagery, quoting the Old Testament, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." Paul said that this means that Jesus became a curse for us. So, in Peter mentioning the tree, we see how Peter isn't merely repeating some type of formula in his preaching. Rather, he follows a basic outline and filling in details as the Holy Spirit inspires.
Continuing on in Acts 5:31, we see Jesus speaking about the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God, that Father. Of course, this implies his ascension. Though Peter doesn't quote Psalm 110, the exaltation of Christ is confirmed in this passage. Now Jesus is exalted as Leader and Savior. He is the one who has gone before us. He is the one saving us from our sins. He is giving repentance to Israel. He is the one offering forgiveness of sins. God is the one who God grants repentance (see Acts 11:18). God gives faith. God grants forgiveness.
In the final phrase of verse 30, we read, ...
And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
Professing to be a witness is a common theme of Peter's preaching. He said in Acts 3:15, "To this we are witnesses." In Acts 2:32 Peter said, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses." He was saying, "All that I have spoken is true! We saw it! We witnessed it." Doesn't it make sense, then, that the theme of the book is "Be My Witnesses"? That's what Peter and the apostles were. That's what we are called to be.
Note that Peter points out that it wasn't merely them who were bearing witness. Peter adds, "and so in the Holy Spirit." That is, "the Holy Spirit" is also bearing witness with them. Remember Luke 12:11-12, that I quoted earlier? These words were the very words that the Holy Spirit gave them to speak!
God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. This was the testimony of the apostles. They were obeying God, not man (Acts 5:32). Thus, they had the Holy Spirit, who spoke through them.
And so, I encourage you all, when speaking to others about the gospel, being a witness, to say these things that Peter says here. Tell others about how Jesus lived a perfect life, holy and righteous. Tell others about how Jesus was crucified by his contemporaries in Israel. Continue on by mentioning his burial, that Jesus was in the ground. Then, speak about the resurrection, that Jesus is not alive and well. Continue on to his ascension and exaltation, that Jesus is now Lord, to whom we need to bow the knee. And if you indeed trust in the Lord, you will receive forgiveness of sins.
So, perhaps I need to rethink a bit about what I say when people ask me what I do. I often say, "I have the greatest job in the world. I'm a pastor. I get to study the Bible and teach it to others and tell them how they can have forgiveness of sins by trusting in Jesus." Perhaps I need to add, "... who lived a perfect life, was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead to be exalted at God's right hand as Lord of all." But then, again, perhaps that's too long and too formulaic.
But anyway, I would encourage you in your talk to think about communicating the broad generalities of the life of Jesus, his life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation.
Finally, let's consider the following verses:
1 Corinthians 15:1-6
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Paul puts forth here the gospel (verse 1), which is of utmost importance. When Paul describes the gospel, he speaks about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He speaks of the proof of the resurrection in the many appearances of Jesus to people on earth, many of whom could give testimony to the risen Jesus.
So, speak these things to others. Tell them the gospel. Tell them the good news of who Jesus was and what Jesus did. The death of Jesus was prophesied by the Scriptures. But these Scriptures also gave us an interpretation of the event: it was for forgiveness of sins. He died as our sacrifice to make us right with God. Paul goes on to speak about the resurrection of Jesus, and how the Scriptures foretold this event would take place. The appearances are mere confirmations that Jesus was alive and real.
So, here's my challenge to you in your bearing witness about Jesus: speak of his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. Speak to others of the forgiveness of sins that Jesus offers to those who would repent of their sins.
This is roughly the outline of the apostles creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. ... I believe in the forgiveness of sins." This again follows the same general outline. The life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and a word about forgiveness. This has long been the standard explanation of the gospel.
Inevitably, when you talk with other people, bearing witness for Jesus, they will be filled with objections and questions that are difficult to answer. "Can you solve the problem of evil? How can God condemn those who never heard? What about the Nephilim? What about this contradiction in the Bible?" All of these questions are a bit of a distraction from the news you need to tell about Jesus. So, keep these things in mind as to what you need to keep central in your conversations: "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can believe and trust that his resurrection guarantees our forgiveness of sins.
The outline of the good news that the apostles shared is good enough for us to share as well.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on February 14, 2021 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rockvalleybiblechurch.org.
 Thomas Hale, Living Stones of the Himalayas, pp. 124-126.
 See my sermon on 1 Peter 2:13-15, "You and Your Authorities," preached on January 13, 2008. Here is a link to the message: http://sermons.rvbc.cc/sermons/2008-002.
 See my blog article: https://enjoyinghisgrace.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/a-sign-of-love/.
 See https://tntrafficticket.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Mask-religious-exemption-brochure-2pp.pdf.