As part of today’s Bible study, we will review Acts 5:17-42 and learn how the disciples were persecuted for their faith. By studying this passage, we will gain insight into how we can remain steadfast in our own faith despite hardship and opposition.
Having seen the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the disciples (especially Peter and John) preached the gospel openly, no longer frightened. Acts gives an account of the hearings.
Because the Sadducees were jealous and feared that the disciples would destroy the synagogic structure, they had them arrested.
The Sadducees were a Jewish sect that rejected the resurrection of the dead.
In Acts 5, a Pharisee named Gamaliel proclaimed in verses 38-39; “if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them..“. So Peter and the other disciples were left to preach the gospel.
Peter & the Apostles are Thrown in Jail – Christian Persecution
But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy.
They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought.
But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.”
Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this.
But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men..” – Acts 5:17-29 NASB
Respect – Earned or Demanded?
In a Vietnam war movie starring Gene Hackman, he told the newly appointed leader of his team, “You have to earn their respect.”
A similar approach was used by the apostles when they approached people.
While the Sadducees and Pharisees demanded respect because of who they were, the disciples earned respect because they honored God.
There is a BIG difference!
Christians are not Immune to Persecution
Christians around the world are being persecuted and even murdered as I write this.
These people suffer and die for nothing more than their belief in Christ. At the time of this writing, a Christian pastor has been held captive in Iran for over two years with no hope of release in sight. Deals have been made with Iran with no regard to our people being held in prison.
This pastor is being mistreated and threatened because he will not renounce Jesus as Savior! I try to stay calm but it’s unbelievable that our congress and president will not even consider demanding his release.
Also, you watch the news just as I do, so you’re aware of the other atrocities against Christians.
The Apostles Find Themselves in Jail
It’s just a hint of what’s happening to the disciples as they are thrown into jail and threatened with death.
Despite God’s empowerment and the ability to do remarkable miracles in Jesus’ name, they were just as vulnerable as Pastor Saeed in Iran.
The Open Doors USA report states that 360 million Christians live in countries where persecution is significant. More than 6,000 Christians were detained or imprisoned and another 4,000-plus Christians were kidnapped last year.
How Bold are You in Your Faith?
We may not die because of our beliefs, but we may be ridiculed (or even sued) for refusing to act in a manner that violates the Bible. A Christian baker, for example, could face discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
With education foundations hiring more and more atheists and condemning Christianity, and with lawsuits coming from every direction because we are “intolerant”, persecution will increase over time.
What Did Jesus Do When Persecuted?
We are not alone. Jesus suffered more than we ever could just to save us. He remained faithful to God and did not retaliate or take revenge against those who persecuted him. Instead, He humbled Himself and prayed for those who hurt Him. He also showed grace and mercy towards them, even as they sought to harm Him.
Telling others about what He did for us is worth some humiliation, right?
It is our duty as Christians to tell everyone about the salvation that is freely offered — even in countries where sharing is prohibited.
Peter and the apostles showed remarkable boldness. Can we do the same?
Love in Christ
Take a moment to read John 3:16 if you would like to learn more about Jesus Christ’s love and life-changing experience.