The Church facing opposition from within, by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

The fact remains that Satan is still attacking the believers, and as he does, he uses a dual plan: deception from within (Acts 5:1-16) and persecution from without (Acts 5:17-34). Satan is a liar and a murderer, and we see him operating in both spheres in this chapter. The main purpose for this material is to do an expository study on Acts 5:1-16 with an emphasis on reflecting on the opposition within. Here, we see Satan operating as the serpent, using believers within the assembly to hinder the work of the Lord.

The sin of deception (verses 1 – 2)

Ananias and Sapphira wanted to gain the reputation for being more spiritual than they actually were. When the others brought their donations (4:34 – 37), these two were jealous and wanted the same recognition. Please keep in mind that their sin was not stealing money from God, because Peter stated in verse 4 that it was in their own power to use the money as they wished. Their sin was hypocrisy, trying to appear more spiritual than they really were. They had wanted others to believe they had sacrificed everything when they had only given a portion.

 
The Spirit of discernment at work (verses 3 – 4)

Peter was a man with Spirit – given discernment.  Sin is always discovered in one way or another. This couple had not mentioned anything openly, but the terrible sin was in their hearts. They had lied to the Spirit of God who was graciously working in the hearts of the believers, leading them to sell their belongings and share with others.

 
The consequence of deaths (verses 5 – 11)

This was not a case of “church discipline” since God dealt with the sinners directly. The two deaths illustrate the kind of judgment the Messiah will exercise during the kingdom (Jeremiah 23:5 and Revelation 19:15). Unlike local church discipline, where the pastor and the church investigate a matter, give an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness, and seek to restore the erring ones, this was a definite case of divine judgment. It is interesting to compare this chapter to Joshua 7, where the covetous Achan tried to hide sin from God and was killed. Great fear fell on the church (verse 11) as people saw the hand of God at work.

The testimony (Acts 5:12-16)

The assembly was now unified and magnified, and it therefore multiplied. This will always happen when an assembly is purged of sin. Satan works inside the church and tries to divide it, disgrace it and destroy it.  But if we let the Spirit work, we will detect the devil’s operation and avoid church problems. A local church must have standards and must let the Spirit lead. Note that Peter is the key man at this period of church history.  Even his shadow was thought to bring healing.

Conclusion

Satan still opposes the work of the church from within. Paul warned the elders that wolves would come in from the outside to attack the flock.  Also, men would arise “from among you” to harm the church (Acts 20:29 – 30). The greatest danger the church faces today is not so much opposition from without, but sin from within. Thus, it is important to seek God’s guidance in receiving new members and in disciplining those who stray.

Questions

  1. In which practical ways does Satan oppose the Church from within?
  2. To what extent can the sin of hypocrisy in the form of seeking attention hinder the growth of the local Church?
  3. How does the phenomenon of divine judgment in Acts 5:1-16 compare with that of church discipline practiced in some local Churches?
  4. Is it possible to lie to the Holy Spirit in the local Church and in which ways can that be possible?

Essentials of being part of covenant community of givers, by Rev Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

Acts 4:32-37 describes the early community of believers in Jerusalem. In this study, essentials of communal living are looked at with particular attention to unity in mind, belonging to the Church as covenant community of givers and keys to giving that meet practical needs in the community of believers.

The church as covenant community of those united in mind (Acts 4:32)

Acts 4:32-37 pictures essentials of communal living. The first characteristic is that the early community of believers were united in mind. Jeremiah 32:39 portrays unity as a distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the New Covenant.  It is most probable that the unity of “one mind” described in Acts 4:32-37 alludes to 1 Chron 12:38-39 that describes the beginning of the Davidic kingdom.  For the passage portrays that whole nation is of “one mind” to make David king, as demonstrated in their eating and drinking together for three days with David.  Unity of mind does not mean there was no differences in opinion. It could be said that differences of opinion are inevitable among human personalities and can actually be helpful if handled well. The passage therefore brings out the importance of spiritual unity. For it is this virtue that brings out loyalty, commitment, and love for God and his Word. This means that without spiritual unity, the church could not survive.

The church as covenant community of givers

The passage shows that none of the early believers felt that what they had was their own, so they were able to give and share, thereby eliminating poverty among them. The idea was that  they would not let a brother or sister suffer when others had plenty. In this light, concerning our possessions, Christians should adopt the attitude that everything we have comes from God. And so we are to share what is already God’s.  Again, worth noting here is that the early church was able to share possessions and property as a result of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit working in and through the believers’ lives.

Keys to communal sharing

Worth noting here is that this way of communal giving is different from communism as practised in secular countries. The keys to the faithful sharing in the community are that, in the first place, their sharing was voluntary. They did not give out of compulsion.

Next, the giving did not involve all of their private properties. They gave as much as what was needed. The case in point is what Barnabas did. Last but not the least, the giving was not a membership requirement in order to be a part of the church. However, they gave because they saw themselves as saved and belonging to the covenant community of believers.

Conclusion

The spiritual unity and generosity of these early believers attracted others to them. Worth emphasising here is that this organizational pattern about the early church is not a biblical command for every Church to follow. Rather it offers vital principles for the contemporary Church to follow.

Question

  1. How can we be one in mind in our local churches?
  2. To what extent can we learn from Barnabas in order to be faithful members in the community of giving.
  3. Giving is not a requirement to be part of God’s Church. But one cannot claim to be part of God’s church but fails to practice giving. Discuss.

Boldness in defending the Gospel, by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

This study on Acts 4:13-31 focuses on the boldness of the Apostles as they faced the Sanhedrin. Reading Acts 4 shows that boldness serves as the theme of the chapter.

Boldness after walking with Jesus

In verses 13 – 17 the disciples were told to leave the council of the Sanhedrin while they considered the case. They were impressed with the boldness of the apostles. This is significant inasmuch as Peter had denied his Lord in fear just a few weeks before. The phrase “unschooled and ordinary” (verse 13) literally means “untaught and unlettered”.  That is, the apostles had not been instructed in the official schools of the rabbis. Yet, they knew so much more about the Scriptures than did the religious leaders. The leaders also realized that these men “had been with Jesus” (verse 13) in the Garden and during His last week in Jerusalem before His death. However, they faced an even greater problem: how could they explain the healing of the beggar? They could not deny the miracle, so they decided to silence the messengers.

Boldness in loyalty to Jesus

The apostles did not accept this verdict of the opposition.  Their loyalty to Jesus, their Lord meant more than any protection from the government. The judges finally had to let them go. The boldness of the disciples, the power of the Word, and the testimony of the healed beggar were too good a “case” and the judges had no answer.

Boldness through corporate prayer (4:23 – 31)

True believers always return “to their own people” (1 John 2:19). The assembly did not lament because persecution had begun.  Rather, the believers rejoiced and prayed! Note that in verses 25 – 26 they referred to Psalm 2, which is a Messianic Psalm, speaking about the day when the Messiah shall return to rule with power. Believers today ought to imitate the first believers in their praying, for they tied their praying to the Word of God (John 15:7).

They prayed for boldness, and God answered by filling them with the Spirit. This was not a “second Pentecost,” for the Spirit came to fill with power and not to baptize the believers. The Holy Spirit also gave them a wonderful unity, so much so that they sold their goods and shared with those in need. This “believers’ communal living” was another proof of the presence of the Spirit, a sample of what will happen in the Kingdom age when all nations have the Spirit and unselfishly love one another. This “communal living” has no relation to Marxist communism. Please note that this sharing of goods was a temporary occurrence and is not required by the church of Jesus today.

While believers today are to have the same spirit of love, they are not expected to sell their goods and form a separate community. In 11:27 – 30, the believers at Antioch sent an offering to the Jerusalem believers (Romans 15:26,

1 Corinthians 16:1 – 3, 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 4 and 9:2).  When Israel rejected the message, this gracious working of the Spirit gradually disappeared. The pattern for New Testament church giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8 – 9, 1 Timothy 5:8 and

2 Thessalonians 3:7 – 13.

Conclusion

“Boldness” seems to be a key thought in this study. The early believers received this boldness as they were filled with the Spirit (verses 8 and 31), prayed and were loyal to Jesus by relying on the word of God. You and I may have boldness in our walk and witness if we feed on the Word, pray and surrender to the Spirit. We may have boldness on earth because Jesus gives us boldness in heaven (Hebrews 4:16 and 10:19).

Boldness in defending the Gospel

Introduction

This study on Acts 4:13-31 focuses on the boldness of the Apostles as they faced the Sanhedrin. Reading Acts 4 shows that boldness serves as the theme of the chapter.

Boldness after walking with Jesus

In verses 13 – 17 the disciples were told to leave the council of the Sanhedrin while they considered the case. They were impressed with the boldness of the apostles. This is significant inasmuch as Peter had denied his Lord in fear just a few weeks before. The phrase “unschooled and ordinary” (verse 13) literally means “untaught and unlettered”.  That is, the apostles had not been instructed in the official schools of the rabbis. Yet, they knew so much more about the Scriptures than did the religious leaders. The leaders also realized that these men “had been with Jesus” (verse 13) in the Garden and during His last week in Jerusalem before His death. However, they faced an even greater problem: how could they explain the healing of the beggar? They could not deny the miracle, so they decided to silence the messengers.

Boldness in loyalty to Jesus

The apostles did not accept this verdict of the opposition.  Their loyalty to Jesus, their Lord meant more than any protection from the government. The judges finally had to let them go. The boldness of the disciples, the power of the Word, and the testimony of the healed beggar were too good a “case” and the judges had no answer.

Boldness through corporate prayer (4:23 – 31)

True believers always return “to their own people” (1 John 2:19). The assembly did not lament because persecution had begun.  Rather, the believers rejoiced and prayed! Note that in verses 25 – 26 they referred to Psalm 2, which is a Messianic Psalm, speaking about the day when the Messiah shall return to rule with power. Believers today ought to imitate the first believers in their praying, for they tied their praying to the Word of God (John 15:7).

Praying corporately for corporate blessings

They prayed for boldness, and God answered by filling them with the Spirit. This was not a “second Pentecost,” for the Spirit came to fill with power and not to baptize the believers. The Holy Spirit also gave them a wonderful unity, so much so that they sold their goods and shared with those in need. This “believers’ communal living” was another proof of the presence of the Spirit, a sample of what will happen in the Kingdom age when all nations have the Spirit and unselfishly love one another. This “communal living” has no relation to Marxist communism. Please note that this sharing of goods was a temporary occurrence and is not required by the church of Jesus today.

While believers today are to have the same spirit of love, they are not expected to sell their goods and form a separate community. In 11:27 – 30, the believers at Antioch sent an offering to the Jerusalem believers (Romans 15:26,

1 Corinthians 16:1 – 3, 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 4 and 9:2).  When Israel rejected the message, this gracious working of the Spirit gradually disappeared. The pattern for New Testament church giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8 – 9, 1 Timothy 5:8 and

2 Thessalonians 3:7 – 13.

Conclusion

“Boldness” seems to be a key thought in this study. The early believers received this boldness as they were filled with the Spirit (verses 8 and 31), prayed and were loyal to Jesus by relying on the word of God. You and I may have boldness in our walk and witness if we feed on the Word, pray and surrender to the Spirit. We may have boldness on earth because Jesus gives us boldness in heaven (Hebrews 4:16 and 10:19).

Salvation in the name Jesus (Acts 4:1-12), by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

The mention of a name brings about mixed feelings to those who hear it. For names constitute one of the most important forces in the universe. The mention of the name Jesus produces a multitude of reactions: both positive and negative feelings. This study on Acts 4:1-12 highlights the power of the name Jesus that brings about salvation and personal wholeness.

Being ready to proclaim Jesus Christ

The whole context of Acts 4:1-12 is on the healing of the lame beggar at the temple’s gate called Beautiful. After the healing of this crippled beggar, Peter used the interest of the multitudes as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The message centered on the death and resurrection of Christ. In this message, Peter called for repentance and returning to God through faith in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter and John probably were answering questions and giving further exhortations concerning the need for the hearers to come to Jesus Christ.

Persecuted for acts of kindness

Amidst sharing the gospel, some religious leaders and groups, named Sanhedrin and Sadducees decided to thwart their work of evangelization. These were the main religious leaders of the nation. The Sadducees were one of the four parties of religious leaders in Israel (along with Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots). They did not believe in the supernatural and so denied the resurrection of the dead.

It is important to note that not all religious leaders believe in Jesus and are thus willing to defend the name of Jesus. Hence so many systems and some political leaders have the agenda to silence the name of Jesus.

Various reactions about the name Jesus Christ

The name of Jesus has been used both by believers and unbelievers alike. On the one hand, some unbelievers have used the name of Jesus negatively. In this regard some kings have cursed the name Jesus, some multitude has blasphemed it, charlatans have misused the name of Jesus. On the other hand, some believers and for that matter the disciples of Jesus have used the name positively by  proclaiming the name Jesus and the gospel which represent him and his salvation ministry. People can be made whole for eternity only through the name Jesus. Jesus’ name represents Jesus’ life and the entire revelation of him. Jesus’ name thus constitutes the gospel that we preach.

The powerful effect of the name of Jesus

The physical healing of the beggar serves as a demonstration and illustration of our spiritual healing. After being healed, the beggar went “walking and leaping and praising God.” He was a changed man from inside out. He became a new creature in Christ for he was more than just a physically healed man. The whole lifestyle of this man became one of “praising God.” Thus, the gospel of Jesus Christ affects the whole person!

Conclusion and application

There is power in the name of Jesus. There is healing and thus salvation in the name of Jesus. In the light of the power in the name of Jesus, namely, to save, the statement that all religions lead to the same God needs to be questioned. For to Luke, only the name Jesus brings complete wholeness.  Demons and evil Spirits flee when they hear the name Jesus. It is therefore questionable to claim to know Jesus and yet run after other gods.

Questions

  1. What does the name of Jesus mean personally to you?
  2. In the light of Acts 4:12, do all religions truly lead to God?
  3. What are some of the inappropriate ways that, in your opinion, people use the name of Jesus?