As usual, the passage can be read here.
I’m reminded of a story I heard a few years ago. A young man who had recently become a Christian was taking a Christmas RE exam in school. As he read the questions, he was overcome by thinking of God’s grace so he simply wrote on his paper; ‘I know nothing. God knows everything. Merry Christmas!’ When the exam paper was returned at the start of the new term, the examiner had written on the paper; ‘God gets full marks. You get no marks. Happy New Year!’
The young man in the story may not have been wise in his approach to exams but his theology contained some truth. God does know everything and whilst it isn’t true to say that we know nothing (God has revealed so much through his word and his son the Lord Jesus), it can sometimes feel as if we are in the dark. It is wonderful that the apostles were set free from prison but all of them would go on to suffer for the cause of Christ and many would give their lives for him. Many would experience prison at a time when they would not be miraculously set free. The challenge for the apostles and for us is to trust God – even though his ways are past finding out.
It is possible to act in good faith and yet remain in error, you can be sincerely wrong but there can be no doubt as to the motivation of the high priest and his associates. Luke reveals they were filled with jealousy. It wasn’t as if the apostles were seeking glory for themselves, at every opportunity they constantly pointed to Jesus as the source of all the good things that were happening. These men were seeking to take the attention away from Jesus and have it for themselves and in this they were repeating Satan’s original sin;
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)
Like the apostles, when we are seeking to proclaim Christ, we are involved in a battle;
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
The release from prison was for a clear purpose. The angel told the apostles;
“Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
I’m sure there were lots of things the apostles could have done. Run as far away as possible being one, but the call was to tell the full message of new life. In other words, the gospel was the absolute priority. There were other issues in the early Church of course but the gospel was by far the most important. They recognised the key issues;
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (4:12)
There was an opportunity to share the message and the first believers seized it. The door would not remain open, things were about to become even more difficult but they were focused on using every opportunity available.
Go forth and tell!
O Church of God, awake!
God’s saving news to all the nations take.
Proclaim Christ Jesus, Saviour, Lord and King,
That all the world his worthy praise may sing.
Go forth and tell!
God’s love embraces all;
He will in grace respond to all who call.
How shall they call if they have never heard
The gracious invitation of his word? (James Seddon)