Acts 5:41-42, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” The entirety of God’s word should grip us as we read and also continue to reform us to be more like Him. Many verses have had a great impact on our lives, many at a time when we desperately needed them. At this point in my own life, it is this verse that has brought me to this conclusion, I don’t want to waste what time I have left.
A little context is the leaders had laid hands upon the apostles and put them in prison. They had been released by a miracle of God and went directly to the temple to teach, cf. Acts 5:17-25. The leaders were enraged, but under the advise of Gamaliel, they let the Apostles be but, commanding them one last time not to speak the name of Jesus, cf. Acts 5:40.
I am 51 years old and have been in the pastoral ministry (bi-vocational) for about 25 years. I have never suffered at the hands of evil men who have told me to not speak the name of Jesus. I have been around some cantankerous (ill tempered, quarrelsome) sheep, and some goats, but nothing like this. And yet, there have been times I have wanted to quit. I have often at times had the attitude of Jonah. Just let them be judged and die. Pay the ship fare and go about my business. There are three points that I see in this text.
First, “so they went on their way.” There is nothing that is going to stop a true follower of Christ from sharing the truth of God. Thousands of men throughout the centuries have planted churches in countless countries under the threat of communistic rule, political or religious persecution. Through countless trials they went their way, preaching, teaching, baptizing and sharing the gospel.
Even in our country today, under the veiled threat of the speech police, pastors speak boldly about marriage of one man and one woman, male and female creation, and life not being taken at the whim of personal inconvenience. Whatever the mantra or babble that comes from the world, we should “go our way” to fulfill what the Lord has set before us to do.
Second, they rejoiced they were considered worthy to suffer for His name. Are these the same men who left and fled at the crucifixion? Are these the same men who sought after a kingdom here? Who argued over who is the greatest? I am grateful that most of us living in America haven’t suffered to this degree, and we should rejoice and shout to the mountain tops. However, the disciples left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer, which means, “suffer shame, entreat shamefully, despise.”
Over the years of ministry, I haver noticed it can be hard to get people to do more than attend the Sunday worship service. Additional Bible studies or at other times, are just simply too much. They interfere with what they have planned, it disrupts their life. If God doesn’t fit their schedule, then so be it. Yet, these men left after being flogged…rejoicing.
Third, they kept right on, cf. Acts 5:42. The ESV uses the words “they did not cease.” I have seen many come and go. Some have legitimately left for other churches for good reason. But the majority have simply got their feelings hurt and left. Not one theological reason can I remember for anyone leaving. Not one. When the goats don’t get what they like, they butt heads and tear up fences and leave.
Some other things jump out from the text. They kept on “in the temple and from house to house” (Acts 5:42), so inspite of just being threatened not to do this, they kept on. How did they do this? How would they press on in the face of threats? They saw things differently. The Holy Spirit was living within them as Jesus had promised. They had power and joy and strength like they had never had before. They didn’t fear man. They didn’t fear mob rule. They just kept on.
It is my hope that men today will rejoice that they are worthy to suffer for Christ and they will “keep on” and cease not to preach the gospel, whether it’s in America where the battle lies for the inerrancy of Scripture, holiness, truth and solid biblical preaching or it’s in the lands where no real bible preaching has ever been heard. I pray men just keep on.