Acts 4:19, 20: "But Peter and john answered and said unto them,
whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
For we cannot but speak of things which we have seen and heard."
The healing of the lame man in Acts 3 is a miracle which brings the first wave of opposition
to the early church.
The church should never worry when its voice is challenged by the world,
but rather should worry when its voice is not challenged.
The church must never learn to live in peaceful coexistence with evil,
for to live in that way is to die.
In this Scripture passage, we see the courage of the church displayed as its members
exhibit genuine Christian conviction and courage.
The Church Fears No Earthly Power.
(Acts 4:1-9, 19, 20, 23-29)
Because the disciples continued to preach Christ and His resurrection,
they are thrown into jail by the leaders of the Temple who have vested interest
and hearing a truth proclaimed that threatens their interests.
Perhaps the reason our Christianity seldom gets us into trouble is that most of it is just talk.
As a result of this confrontation, the conspirators command the disciples
to stop speaking in the name of Christ. (Acts 4:18)
Some similar things happened in the early history of our nation.
In the state of Virginia, which was settled first by members of the Church of England,
and which was a state church for a while.
Two Baptist preachers were jailed in Virginia because they had no Episcopal license to preach.
Patrick Henry came to the courthouse during the trial to defend these men.
Holding the indictment in his hand, he stood up in the court and asked,
"What is the indictment against these men?
Preaching the glorious gospel of the Son of God!
This is the indictment.
Are there no thieves going around unarrested and unconvicted?
Are there no murderers upon whom to visit the vengeance of the law,
that you must indict and try these men for preaching the gospel?"
His impassioned plea resulted in the release of those two Baptist preachers.
The Christian has no choice.
Listen again to the answer of the early church: "Whether it be right in the sight of God
to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Acts 4: 19, 20)
H. G. Wells once said, "The trouble with so many people is that the voice of their neighbors
sounds louder in their ears than the voice of God."
It was said of John Knox that "He feared God so much that he never feared
the face of any man."
A Papal envoy threatened Martin Luther by saying that his followers were deserting,
then asked Luther, "Then, where will you be?"
Luther replied, "Then, as now, I will be in the hands of God."
The Christian has one Lord.
Peter makes it clear that the impotent man has been healed through the name of Jesus Christ.
(Acts 4: 9)
The disciples lift their voice to God, and call him, "Lord."
The disciples quoted Psalm 2 which describes the rage of the heathen in the words
used to speak of the neighing of spirited horses who may trample and toss their heads high,
but in the end will have to accept the discipline of the reins.
The disciples realized that they cannot afford to pay attention to the loud shouting
of worldly voices for their Lord is Lord over all.
The Church Exalts The Name Of Jesus.
(Acts 4: 10-12)
Peter refers to those who questioned him as "the builders." (Acts 4:11)
In seeking to build a religious faith, they have discarded the very foundation stone -- Jesus Christ.
Then, Peter makes a mighty sweeping statement:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven
given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
This verse is a mighty strong statement to the educated who study all religions,
and affirm that great men have arisen in each of them.
Yet, the church today still proposes to tell the world that a man is not free to choose any religion,
and be found all right in it.
Neither is a man free to choose whether or not he will accept the law of gravity.
All a man has to do is jump off the top of his own house, and discover this law is valid
whether he wants to accept it or not.
So it is with the leadership of Christ.
The narrowness of the opportunity for salvation is illustrated by the story of a pilot
who came back from overseas during World War II.
He he had been shot down over Germany, and had spent nine months in a German prison camp.
He was relating his experiences during his training days in which he was instructed
in the use of a parachute, but never actually used one.
Then the time came, in combat over Germany, when surrounded by many enemy fighter planes
that his own plane was struck and burst into flames.
He knew that he had to jump.
Because he was surrounded by enemy planes, he had to delay opening his chute
until he had fallen several hundred feet into a cloud bank.
When asked how he could do such a thing, having never done it before, he said,
"I could do it because I knew it was my only chance."
This reflects the attitude of the early church.
When Peter stood up to address the opponents of Christianity, he held up before them
the Lord Jesus Christ whom they had crucified, whom God had raised from the dead,
and said to them, "He is your only chance!"
E. Stanley Jones was correct when he narrowed the choice to "Christ or chaos."
The Courage of the Church Amazed The Ungodly.
(Acts 4:13, 14)
Man is different when he has truly been with Jesus, and has developed a Christian conviction,
and would speak with courage.
These men, though uneducated, had learned something which the rest of the world did not know.
Though the ungodly crowd was amazed by this conviction, they were not silenced
for they went off to plot and to connive against the early church.
Yet, they could not escape being impressed by the courage they saw in the disciples.
Such courage is always impressive.
It is something of the courage spoken of by Achilles to another Greek warrior after being warned
that he would die if he went into battle.
His reply was, "Nevertheless, I am for going on."
The Church Considers The Kingdom To Be Greater Than Their Possessions.
We cannot help being inspired by the reckless faith of the early church.
"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul;
neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own;
but they had all things common." (Acts 4:32)
It is also interesting to see that following that kind of unity, we read:
"And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)
Many of those early Christians sold their property and brought the money from the sale
to be used by the church.
This is not communism because, communism says, "What's yours is mine."
Christianity says, "What's mine is yours."
The loner, the Christian who refuses to associate himself with any organized group of Christians,
needs to see that without a community of believers there can be no genuine Christian action,
no place of worship, no real advance, and no forceful threat to evil.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "In the pioneer days of the west, we find an unfailing rule
that after a community had existed for a certain length of time, either a church was built
or else the community began to go downhill."
Through ever storm and every earthly upheaval, the Gospel survives, and the Church lives on.
As we behold the Church, we might listen again again to the music of the old hymn,
"Oh where are Kings and empires now of old that went and came?
But, Lord, thy Church is praying yet, a thousand years the same."
Thus we must continue to say with conviction what the early church affirmed:
"Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto [the world] more than unto God, judge ye.
For we cannot but speak that things which we have seen and heard."
In the book "Miracles in Black," we are told of an African convert who was left
at a new mission station to carry on the Lord's work with a cannibal tribe.
It was the dry season when Joao Mbaxi took over, but soon the tropical rains would be coming.
Month after month went by, however, without a cloud appearing in the sky.
Then came the time for the normal dry period.
By now everyone was suffering, and many were on the brink of starvation.
In all the years they had worshiped their ancient gods, the rains had never failed them,
and so Joao was told that he must leave the country and take "the white man's God" with him.
The courageous Christian refused to go.
Then, flushed with anger, the chief warned,
"If your God doesn't make it rain by sunrise tomorrow, we will drink your blood and eat your flesh!"
So Joao went to his hut, and prayed for divine help with great urgency.
Meanwhile the members of the tribe waited for the morning when the Christian leader
would become the victim of their horrible feast.
Just before daylight, thunder was heard in the distance, lightning flashed across the sky,
and abundant rain refreshed the entire region!
As a result, Joao was able to continue his work for Christ.
Most of the great stories in the Bible are of those courageous men and women who stood up
and were counted for the right.
We need people who will speak up for the truth.
We need people who will stand for the right.
We need people who are willing to be counted.
In these uncertain and difficult days, we need courageous Christians.
We need strong courageous Christians who are willing to stand against the trend and stand for the truth.
"God give us men that these times demand.
Men whom the lust of office does not kill.
Men who have honor and will not lie.
Men who will spurn flatteries and sin.
Men who stand tall and live above the fog.
Men who stand for the right though the heavens fall.
That's what we need today. "
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White