Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Godly Disobedience
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 4:15-31
Sometimes human leaders tell us to do things God has told us not to do, or they tell us to stop doing things God has told us we must do. And then they force us to choose whether we will obey them or God. By nature, Christians prefer to be peaceful and obey civil and religious authorities, and the Bible tells us that under normal circumstances that’s the way we should live (Ro 13:1-7). But there may be times when the spiritual health of a leader declines or the mood of a culture or society darkens to the point that open hostility arises toward the God of the Bible. His moral standards and His claim to be our rightful ruler and judge always has, and will until this age ends, offend unbelievers. What seems so right to us can really make people angry, and sometimes that anger erupts into persecution. When that happens, believers become openly criticized and watched. Unreasonable demands are placed on them, and they’re forced to choose who they will obey.

This is exactly the situation confronting our forefathers and mothers in this passage in the Book of Acts. They were being forced to choose who they would obey, and threatened with severe punishment if they chose to obey God. So their response provides a very important model for us, because not only did the threats directed at them fail to stop them from proclaiming Christ, but God Himself responded in a dramatic way, that showed how pleased He was with them. Clearly, there are times when believers must engage in godly disobedience to human authority.

Facing the council (vs. 15-22)
• DBS (Sun-Wed)
A) The council’s goal: stop the spread of faith in Jesus
B) The council’s method:
1) Try to induce fear. Notice:
• They had no proof they could bring out to show that Jesus had not risen from the dead.
• They had no scriptural response to counter the prophetic passages that the Messiah will suffer (those had to be developed over the centuries that followed).
• They show no trace of conviction that they may have been wrong in their opposition to Jesus.
• They had no explanation for the miracle that had taken place (Lk 16:31)
2) Avoid public scrutiny so their real attitudes wouldn’t be exposed
C) The apostles’ answer (vs 19, 20)
Peter and John show us that there are boundaries to obeying human authority. There are times we must say “no!” Every person has to decide this question for themselves: when human authority clashes with God’s authority who will I obey? Peter and John tell the council that they had no choice but to obey their Master who told them to be His witnesses (Ac 1:8).

Facing their Master (vs 23-31)
• DBS (Thurs-Sat)
When the church gathered and heard Peter and John’s report, their response was to immediately turn to God in prayer. Notice they didn’t hold a planning session or take a vote. They prayed, and what they said to God shows us their faith and their courage. In the future the persecution would grow so intense that many would be forced to flee for their lives (Ac 8:1), but that moment had not yet arrived. For now they were being told to stand firm. Let’s listen to their prayer:

1) Their God: their prayer revealed what they believed about God. He is their:
• Master: rightful owner
• Creator: powerful beyond comprehension
• Foreknower: He knew this would happen and would use it to fulfill His plan
• Controller: He would take charge and direct these events
• “Big God, little devil/Big devil, little God”
2) Their request: Their prayer revealed what they believed God wanted them to do.
• See their threats: Ask for protection
• Empower us to speak: Ask for holy boldness
• Extend your hand: Ask for more miracles to glorify the name of Jesus
3) God’s response: The place was shaken, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly (probably prophecy and tongues).

Facing our changing society
No one can miss the fact that our society is changing around us. We’re following western Europe in becoming a post-Christian culture. Things that were once wrong have become “right” and things that were once right have become “wrong.” So we need some coaching on how to live in this new environment. As we watch and listen to the early church they show us the way forward.
1) Choose Masters: each of us must settle in his or her own mind where the boundaries are, and be prepared to practice godly disobedience.
2) Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Mt 10:16)
• Don’t stir up unnecessary trouble. If there’s going to be a fight, make sure it’s about God’s clear command.
• Don’t give the devil the opportunity to discredit you by being impure (1Pe 2:11, 12)
3) Focus on people, not politics
• China
• Zimbabwe
• Netherlands
• Our call is to change a society the “old fashioned way,” one soul at a time
4) Keep our eye on the ball: make disciples
• Refuse to let anyone pull your hope and your energy off of bringing people to Jesus
5) Take the log out of our own eye (Mt 7:5)
• Let’s tone down some of the harsh criticism of our unbelieving society and address our own glaring failures. When we do, our godly lives will preach for us (“living prophetically”).
• At this point, the western church has a huge “log” in its eye:
- our lack of personal holiness
- our lack of spiritual power
- the forgotten gospel (where is the new heart?)
- our lack of good works: service, mission, care of the poor, care of our own family members...
- ignorance of the Bible
- our lack of intercessory prayer
- our lack of love for one another
6) Thank God for His assignment
• This is my generation
• This is my city, my state, my nation
• This is my church-family, among whom I hear the Word, worship, serve, fellowship and pray

Praying with them
If you and I had been in that room, would we have had the faith and courage to pray that prayer with them? Or would fear have gripped us and left us looking for ways to compromise in order to avoid being persecuted? Would we have asked for boldness to keep on speaking or would we have begged for protection? Whom would we have chosen to obey? As you and I listen to their prayer it presses each of us to give an answer. If we’ve already decided who we’ll serve, and are ready to ask for boldness, not safety, as we face our future, let’s join them in prayer:

“And now, Lord. Take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Ac 4:29, 30)

1) Have you ever had to take an unpopular stand for Jesus? Did God come to help you? What did you see Him do?
2) Have you been able to thank God for where He’s put you, or do you wish you lived in the past or the future or someplace else in the world?
3) Is there an issue where you are struggling to know where God’s boundary is? If you would like to discuss it with your Life Group feel free to mention it.

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