Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In Acts chapter four we find that the fledgling Christian movement has been growing explosively. This is a problem for the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They have been denying Jesus’ claims about his death. They have covered up the fact that Jesus’ body could not be found three days after his execution. They managed to intimidate many of Jesus’ followers for about seven weeks. But at Pentecost the signs of the Holy Spirit had gathered many who became convinced that the rumors of resurrection were true. The care of the followers of Jesus for one another, for their community, and for what was certainly looking like an historical account of a resurrection were striking. In a short time there were about five thousand trusting in Jesus in and around Jerusalem.
How did the disciples accomplish this? When arrested and interrogated, Peter and John refused to claim credit. All the credit for this mass movement was due to Jesus, who had risen from the dead and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell and empower his followers. The apostles were not the saviors. They boldly told the assembled court exactly what they had been telling the people of Jerusalem. It is only through trust in the Lord Jesus that they would find salvation.
The power of salvation lay not in reason, nor in obedience, but in trust. Trust that Jesus had accomplished salvation through his death and resurrection. This is liberating to a people who have toiled all their lives to bear the burden of God’s law. All their striving, all their doing, was not able to live up to God’s standard as revealed in the Law and Prophets. It is only Jesus’ obedience, the work of God the Son, on their behalf, that they would bind God’s law fulfilled.
Does this mean that God’s law is invalid? Does it mean that God set up an impossible demand to get his jollies from the failure of every generation of Israel? Not at all. It means that God’s law, which is good and perfect, could only satisfy if kept perfectly. It means that God had to keep it himself or we would be without hope. It means that when God the Son kept the law perfectly and declared it to be for you and for me, it was indeed finished. It means that the demands of God have been fulfilled and his promises are in play.
This is a message which the Sanhedrin could not accept. They remained darkened in their understanding. They insisted that we must be able to do something to save ourselves through obedience to God. They failed at the task of Abraham, who believed God and was justified by faith. Yet this Gospel of Jesus cannot be bound by any court. It will prevail regardless.
Peter and John were eventually threatened and released. They, having been fearless in telling the Jewish court about Jesus, continued in their mission, the work of the Holy Spirit, telling the people of Jerusalem and the other places they went about salvation through Jesus alone. That’s the message of the Church. It’s the message which brings salvation and life. It’s our message today, if we dare to take up trust in the claims of Jesus. It’s what our world needs.
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