We have discovered through our study of the book of Acts that the early church had many odds stacked against it. Anyone observing the opposition against the early church would have assumed it would not survive. There is only one answer as to why the church persisted and grew amidst so many obstacles: it was, and is, God’s church, and He protected it.
As the apostles’ ministry during the early church grew, religious leaders became increasingly frustrated and threatened by what God was doing through them. They arrested the apostles and put them in jail (Acts 5:18). To their surprise, an angel came during the evening, “opened the gates of the of the jail, and brought them out” (verse 19). Then, the angel commanded them, “go to the temple and give people this message of life!” (verse 20). They did just that. The temple guards were shocked to find that these men were no longer in prison. They arrested them again and brought them before the high council. As the apostles defended themselves, the council became increasingly frustrated and wanted to kill them. At this point, one of the members, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, spoke up. He said, “Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (verses 38-39). Gamaliel was saying that if their movement were not from God, it would fail on its own. However, if it was from God, there is no way anyone could overthrow it. The council took this advice and let them go.
Gamaliel was correct in his assessment that day. As we know, the church is from God, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. That is why the early church not only survived but grew and thrived. Even today, we can rest on this truth that nothing can stop God’s church. We can be confident that God will always protect His church.
Take time this weekend to celebrate God’s church. Celebrate the truth that even from the beginning, God protected and grew His church. Please join one of our services this weekend and bring a friend. We will see you there!
"The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.
When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”
26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”
40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.
41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”