Chris W. Dial on Acts 4-6: Can you really handle the truth?
An actress recently accused actor Chris Pratt's preacher of preaching hate. The hate he preached was that homosexuality is a sin. How is the truth hate? If it was said in a hateful tone, I can see how it might be confused with hate. But if it was just stated that homosexuality is a sin, how is that hate? Or could it be, that she is afraid of the truth? Could it be that she is not the only one ?
We all say that we want to hear the truth. But think about it. Do we really always want to know the truth? I mean, do you really want to know what your fourth grade teacher thought about you? That is, if she or he remembers you. To be honest, I sure didn't like it when my fourth grade teacher told me what she thought of me at Sam's Club one time. Or, when the mother of a former classmate told me what she thought of me. Some truths we want to know, if it feels good to us. But if it doesn't feel good, we just as soon not hear it. Just like the synagogue priests and rulers didn't want to hear what Peter and John had to say in the temple.
In Acts 4, they had Peter and John arrested for teaching the people about Jesus and His resurrection from dead.The next day, when they questioned them about what they were doing and why, Peter spoke to them while filled with the Holy Spirit. They were so amazed by them, they didn't know what to think. So they had them go wait outside their chambers while they talked about them. In fact they said among themselves, "What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is a manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name." But Peter basically said, "Look, we can't help but tell people what we have seen and heard. We have to follow Jesus."
The leaders let them go. Then they went and told their friends about what the chief priests and the elders told them. Then prayed and glorified God. The religious leaders were afraid that what the Apostles were teaching would spread throughout the area, and undermine their hold on the community. They were afraid the truth would take away their power.
In Acts 5, another type of truth is being hard to handle. Just telling the full facts. At the end of Chapter 4, Barnabas, a Levite, sold a field and gave all the money to the Apostles. At the first of Chapter 5, we meet a couple by the name of Ananias and Sapphira. They sold a piece of property too. But unlike Barnabas, they kept part of the proceeds, but made out like they had given the whole amount to the the Apostles. To paraphrase the old commercial, "It's not nice to lie to the Apostles, and especially not to the Holy Spirit". Peter told Ananias, the field was his to do with as he wanted. And so were the proceeds. So why did he lie about it all? He told him he lied to God. As soon as Peter said that, Ananias died. Some men took Ananias' body out. While they were gone, Sapphira came in, and she lied too. The men got back just in time to carry her dead body out to join Ananias'. This is the typical lying that we are familiar with. Hmm, but I wonder. What about when someone asks how we are doing? And we say we are doing fine. Even though we are hurting, sad, depressed, or in inner turmoil. Isn't that a form of lying? Are "little white lies" really okay? Isn't it trying to hide the truth of how we are really doing? And what if someone asks you why you did something? What do you tell them?
In the last of Chapter 5, the Sanhedrin does it again. They become jealous of the Apostles, and the amount of people following them. So they have them arrested and brought before them again. They asks them why they are teaching Jesus again? And filling Jerusalem with their teaching and "bringing this man's blood upon us." Peter told them the truth, the way it is, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." The Sanhedrin wanted to kill them. But Gamaliel, a respected Pharisee council member, let them in on another truth. He told them, " Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. In the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" (Statement paraphrased.) They listened to him, charged them not to speak about Jesus again, and then set them free. The Apostles let them rejoicing because they were persecuted for Jesus' name.
Unfortunately for Stephen, a newly appointed deacon, he becomes a victim of two lies. Because men are afraid of new truths he is teaching. First, while filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen did great wonders and signs in front of the people. When some men identified as Freedmen opposed him, they could not withstand the wisdom that the Holy Spirit had given him. So they lied when they told some men that Stephen had blasphemed God and Moses. Then they got these men to say that he spoke against the holy law, holy places, the law of Moses, and how Jesus would change the customs that Moses gave them. Because of their lies, this sets up Stephen to have to defend himself in Acts Chapter 7. Is it these men are afraid of change? Or are they afraid of the truth of Jesus' teaching of the truth? Some people are afraid of God's commandments, because it means they can't live life the way they want to. Still others pick and choose what commandments they will obey. Because the truth of the matter is we only want to obey God when it suits us. And when it is convenient for us. If it interferes with how we want to live our lives, or how we choose to worship God, then we choose to ignore that commandment. Instead we prefer ala carte obedience, where we pick and choose the commandments we will obey, or not obey.
As children of God, we should not have any trouble with "Truth". But for some reason we do, sometimes. We say, " I don't have trouble telling the truth." But the fact is, we do. In certain situations, or conditions, we have trouble with the truth in either dealing with it, or telling it. I have had to pray to God several times, asking Him to help me deal with truth, especially this truth we call reality. Sometimes there are situations when I have needed His guidance and help in dealing with a truth I didn't want to deal with. Or a truth I didn't want to face. Such as a relationship that had turned sour, but now I have to deal with that person in a true way, and based in reality. Instead of just passing it off, imagining it will all be okay later. Imagining, or believing that everything is okay, when it isn't, is the lie. Dealing with it, is the reality. And believing something is okay to do or say, when it isn't, is not living in the truth, or reality.
Next Steps: Discussion Questions
In Acts 4 Peter and John are arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin. What would you do if someone told to stop talking about Jesus?
In Acts 5 we meet Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about how much they got for some land they sold. Do you think God really cares how much we give or don't give?
Also in Acts 5, Peter and the other Apostles get arrested. Once again, they are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked why they are teaching about Jesus. This time Gamaliel is there, and he warns them that these men maybe backed by God, and they could be found opposing God. Why were the Sanhedrin really trying to stop them from talking about Jesus?
Chris W. Dial
Chris W. Dial was born in Miami, Oklahoma but grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible. He attends Journey Church of Christ and works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office in the Records Department.