The Message of Life
After the resurrection, Jesus met with the Apostles and His followers at different times and in different settings over a period of forty days. 1 Corinthians 15:6 tells us that on one occasion He met with five hundred of his followers at one time. At the end of this forty day period Jesus ascended into heaven. In chapter 28:18-20, Matthew tells us that Jesus shared the following with His disciples:
18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The early chapters of Acts tell us how Jesus’ disciples started to fulfill this mission.
For example, Acts 2 tells how Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, filling them with the power of God. Immediately, the Apostles began boldly preaching that Jesus was the Messiah. Seven weeks earlier, the Apostles hid in a room with the doors locked, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, they became as bold as lions. What is more, their ministry was effective. The first day of preaching saw 3,000 people converted.
A side note here, 2.2 billion people call themselves Christian in the world today. If we go with 2000 years since the first days of the church, 2,000 years would be approximately 730,500 days. 2.2 billion divided by 730,500 days is roughly 3,011 Christians per day. This does not account for all the Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. Nor, does it account for those who say they are Christian but do not know Christ. I only point this out to say that the Holy Spirit is still active, still working and still bringing people to the knowledge of Christ.
Back to the Apostles, they continued daily in the temple speaking to the people about Jesus. This, of course, got the attention of those who had killed Jesus. Acts 4:2 tells us, “These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead.”
Therefore, they took Peter and John before the Council and threatened them, warning them of the dire consequences of continuing to teach in Jesus name.
Then Peter, who had denied He even knew Jesus for fear of these men, said, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
Acts chapter 5 finds the Apostles continuing in their ministry. Not only were they telling people about Jesus, they were also healing the sick. People were crowding to hear the message and to be freed of their afflictions.
The Lord still works the same way today. All over the world, Christians are crowding into churches, buildings, rooms and homes to hear the message and to praise the name of Jesus. Some face the prospect of terrible persecution, even death. Others just face the prospect of having to get the family out of bed and moving on their one day off. We do not line the streets with the mattresses of those who are sick. However, there are hospitals around the world ministering in the name of Christ.
We need to trust the Holy Spirit to both empower and lead our ministry. He has done this from the start and He will continue to do it until Jesus returns. This is part of Jesus’s promise to be with us until the end of the age.
The Apostles’ ministry raised the jealousy of the Sanhedrin. Acts 5:17 tells us, “The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.” These were the wrong people to make jealous. They had the Apostles arrested and thrown into jail.
There are those in our world who are imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their testimony. When Paul was imprisoned for telling people about Jesus he said, “I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God's ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:20)
There are many ways in which we are silenced. Here in the United States, we are not silenced by prison, but we are silenced by other pressures and attacks. Please notice with me that in the verse above, Paul says, “. . . as I should.” Peter and John had responded to the threats of the nation’s leaders with, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?” (Acts 4:19) It was Peter and John’s understanding that they were obligated to tell others what they had seen and heard. Pressures to silence us come in all forms and sizes. However, we must never forget that this is our job. We must tell others about Jesus.
Here we need to go back to the story in Acts 5. There is a key point that we must not miss or mistake. The message is the words of life.
The high priest and his officials put the Apostles in the public jail, but in the middle of the night, an angel of the Lord came and let the Apostles out of jail. Then the angel said, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” (Acts 5:20) This is a key point. The resistance was to this message.
The counsel convened in the morning and sent to the jail to have the Apostles brought before them. The jail was locked, but the Apostles were not there. Then it was reported to the council that the men they had put in prison were in the temple teaching. They immediately went and once again arrested the Apostles. What they accused the Apostles of is important. It is the key to our understanding. The high priest said, “Didn’t we tell you to never again teach in this man’s name?” (Acts 5:28)
Here is the conflict. The angel, speaking for God, said, “Give the people this message of life!” However, the human authorities said, “Never again teach in this man’s name.” This conflict is a battle. It is fought in our hearts and minds every time we have an opportunity to speak. It is fought in prisons and police stations around the world as human authorities still forbid believers to teach in His name.
There are huge issues facing us in our culture here in the United States. Should we talk about economics and taxation? Should we talk about protecting the unborn? Should we talk about marriage and what it is and is not? Should we talk about race and politics? Do not get me wrong, we should and do take positions on these issues. However, these are secondary issues. These issues are not as important as the message of life. The Apostles were willing to give their lives to spread this message, and all of them except John died for their testimony.
We see in Peter and the Apostles’ reply to the high priest the importance they placed on the message. Pay close attention because not only do they answer, they give a synopsis of what the message is. Peter said:
We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him. (Acts 5:29-32)
Consider these words with me.
We must obey God. After the resurrection and in numerous places, our Lord told us to speak the message of life.
Peter sums up the message of life. Jesus was crucified. God raised Him from the dead. God put Jesus in the place of honor at His right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so that people would repent and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these truths and so is the Holy Spirit.
Has Jesus made a difference in your life?
Do you talk about it? You do not need to be a theologian or an apologist. You are the authority on your life. You know better than anybody else what Jesus has done for you. There is no need to talk about things you do not understand, because you are a living, breathing, walking, talking testimony to the power of God to transform lives. Whether your story is plain and simple or spectacular and dramatic, God brings into your life those who need to hear your story, your testimony.
The Jewish leaders were furious at Peter and the Apostles’ assertion that they would not stop talking, and decided to kill them. This is when the reasonable voice of Gamaliel won the day. He told them, “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5:38-39)
This is exactly what has happened. The thing that started after the resurrection when Jesus said, “All authority is given unto me,” is definitely from God. Those who have opposed the spread of the Gospel have found themselves fighting against God. However, those who give testimony to the message of life find themselves cooperating with God. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. He guides us, empowers us and brings fruit.
We are all under obligation to share the message of life, to tell what Jesus has done for us.
Is there anything stopping us from speaking the message of life?
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.