By Brooke Holt
“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.’” (Acts 5:27–29)
The book of Acts tells the story of the early church—how a group of frightened disciples went from hiding behind locked doors to preaching, teaching, healing, and building a community of faith in Jesus Christ. Acts begins with the promise of the Holy Spirit, followed by the ascension of Jesus. In accordance with all the words of Jesus, the disciples waited together for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The day of Pentecost was worth the wait as the Holy Spirit fell upon them. With new boldness and power, Peter declared what God had done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then he and the disciples spent a full day baptizing the three thousand people that came to the Lord that day.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples went about teaching, preaching, healing, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paralyzed men found themselves walking, even leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:1–10). While many people were delighted to hear the Gospel message and see the mighty works now being done by the disciples, the chief priest was upset at the proclamation of Jesus Christ. By the fifth chapter of Acts, the disciples had already been imprisoned twice.
But not even prison could hold back the power that was with the disciples. While Peter and the apostles were locked in jail, an angel came during the night, opened the prison doors, and gave them these instructions: “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). The disciples did not question or fear but obeyed. They went to the temple and taught the Word of the Lord. There, the captain of the temple and the high priests found the disciples and brought them in for questioning.
After the first imprisonment, the disciples were charged not to continue their teaching about Jesus Christ (Acts 4:17–18). Clearly, they had not heeded the chief priests’ instructions. Peter and the disciples then made clear whose instructions they would obey: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Just as Jesus obeyed his heavenly Father, not the religious leaders, now the disciples would continue to obey the Lord. Their choice to obey God would mean more imprisonments, beatings, persecution, and even martyrdom. Yet, they remained undeterred. Better to obey the sovereign God than fallible man.
How do you receive the disciples’ example? Are you committed first and foremost to obeying God? God’s Word calls us to obey the laws of our land (Romans 13:1–7). But when it comes to true allegiance, our primary devotion is to the Lord. When the world tells you that sin is just a “choice” and Christianity is “intolerant,” you must choose how to respond. As the disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to speak the truth in love and obey God in faith (Ephesians 4:15). His way is always perfect and right.
Do you find yourself torn between the way of God and the way of this world? Where do you need to choose obedience to God today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Could you use some hope right now? Join Peter’s first audience—“elect exiles” undergoing persecution—and experience the apostle’s powerful call to follow Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, knowing your Living Hope is not a distant one, but a daily, glorious, life-giving reality! This unique six-week small group Bible study, A Living Hope: A Study of 1 Peter, helps you uncover the priceless promises written specifically to the struggling and the hurting, with pastoral gentleness and bold confidence for the future. This study of 1 Peter will help you become utterly convinced that Jesus is the only sure, true, incorruptible, and permanent hope for you.
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