OPPOSITION TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

Acts 4:1-31, 5:17-42; 6:8-15; 7:1-60; 9:1-2; 12:1-24

As earlier mentioned, the Jewish religious leaders did all within their power to stop the spreading of the gospel. But the more they fought the disciples, the more zealous and determined the disciples became. Here, we shall point out the various methods the Jewish leaders used to perpetrate their plans to frustrate the disciples.

 

Arrest and Detention of Apostles (Peter and John) -Acts 4:1-31

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles began to preach very boldly. They were proclaiming Jesus as the messiah and performing miracles in the name of Jesus. The blind had their sight restored, the lame walked, while the paralytic were healed. Some of these miracles brought so many who heard the message to repentance. One of such miracles was the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate by Peter and John.

Immediately the lame man was healed, the people gathered together in amazement and Peter preached to them using the name of Jesus. The priest, the captain of the temple and the sadducees got angry at their teaching. This was because the apostles taught the people proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Peter and John were arrested and put into custody because of this. They were brought into the presence of the elders, the scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Alexander and all the priestly family the following day. They asked them the power or name by which they performed miracle.

Peter, who was full of the Holy Spirit, declared that they performed the miracle through the name of Jesus Christ whom they crucified but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus was then referred to as the stone which the builders rejected but has become the head of the corner, it is only through him that the salvation of man is assured for there is no other name under heaven given unto men by which they must be saved.

The boldness of Peter and John made them to wonder for they understood that they were uneducated and common men but they realized that they were with Jesus. The man that was healed was standing by them and the authority could not say anything evil against them. Peter and John were ordered out so as to give them room to take their decision on them. It was then they agreed to instruct Peter and John not to speak in the name of Jesus any more in order to prevent further spread of Christianity among their people.

On hearing this, Peter and John asked them whether it is right to listen to man than God. They were seriously warned not to preach in the name of Jesus again and were released. The incident was reported to the church. Prayers were rendered by the congregation for power and boldness to face further oppositions. They continued preaching the gospel of Jesus after the prayers with signs and wonders following.

 

The Arrest And Trial Of More Apostles – Acts 5:17-42

The apostles continued in their zeal of spreading the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. The apostles were later arrested by the high priest and his men and they were imprisoned because of envy. As they were in the prison, they were released by the angel of the Lord who charged them saying “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life”. The apostles did as they were directed by the angel. The Sanhedrin met and they sent for the apostles in prison but they were not found there. They were later informed that the apostles were preaching in the temple. They brought them out without violence because the Sanhedrin were afraid of the people in the temple. The apostles having been brought before the Sanhedrin were queried by the high priest saying. “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us”.

Peter and the apostles replied that they must obey God rather than men. Enraged by this comment, the leaders threatened to kill them. Gamaliel, a Pharisee and an honourable member of the council stood up and ordered the apostles to be put outside for a while. He warned the council that he did not see the possibility of the Jewish leaders stopping the apostles as long as their power came from God. He said if it is from men, it will fail but if it is from God, it will stand.

The leaders took his advice, flogged and warned the apostles one more time to stop preaching using the name of Jesus and they were released. The apostles grew even stronger afterwards.

 

Opposition Against Stephen And His Death -Acts 6:8-15; 7:1-60

Stephen, who had been selected with six other deacons to carry out the daily distribution of food and other materials, soon became very aggressive in the work of evangelism in Jerusalem. He was so outspoken that at a time, the Alexandria Jews in Jerusalem could no longer bear his fierceness and wisdom, hence, they brought false accusations against him, with the aim of putting him to death.

 

Accusations Against Stephen

  1. Blasphemed Moses and God.
  2. Spoke against the Temple and the Law.
  3. That he said Jesus will destroy the Temple and change Moses’ Laws. (Acts 6:11-15).
  4. By the law of Jews, these were abominations and punishable by death. Therefore, Stephen was arraigned before the Council.

However, Stephen stunned everyone in the Council when he refused to defend himself, but rather decided to trace the history of the Jews and how their forefathers had persecuted the prophets and how the present generation killed Jesus. He described them as stiff-necked; uncircumcised in heart and ears, always opposing the Holy Spirit etc. (Acts 7:51).

At this juncture, the people became so enraged that they dragged Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death: Stephen therefore became the very first apostle who suffered death on account of the gospel.

 

Saul’s Opposition to the Gospel -Acts 9:1-2

Saul was a young man, a native of Tarsus. He studied law under Gamaliel, the great teacher. His Roman name was Paul. Saul played a significant role in the persecution of christians in Jerusalem and beyond. Stephen was killed under his supervisi?n.

After Stephen had been killed, Saul went from one house to the other in Jerusalem arresting and dragging apostles out of their homes and taking them to prison. With this, so many believers were killed.

This action made many believers and the rest of the apostles to flee Jerusalem. Saul in addition, went to the high priest and demanded a letter of authority permitting him to go to Damascus to arrest the believers. It was on his way that he met Jesus who struck him with blindness. Saul was prayed for by Ananias and he regained his sight and was thereafter converted.

 

Herod’s Opposition to the Gospel -Acts 12:1-24

Another figure who played a remarkable role in attempting to wipe out christianity was King Herod (Herod Aggripa I), who, though not a Jew by birth, was appointed by Rome (the Jews were under the rule of the Romans) to rule Jews. Herod was so violent in his opposition of the gospel that he killed James, the brother of John. When he saw that the killing pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also (Acts 12:1-4).

Peter was arrested and put in prison hoping to bring him out and try him after the Passover Feast. While in prison, the church prayed earnestly. However, the night before Peter’s trial, an angel of God released him miraculously from prison. He went straight to Mary’s house (Mary mother of Mark) where christians gathered, praying for him.

Herod could not understand the circumstances surrounding Peter’s disappearance from the prison, hence out of anger, he executed the prison guards. However, in spite of his opposition, the mission of the church continued to be fulfilled. More men and women were converted.

 

The Significance of Oppositions to the Church and Lessons to Learn from it

  1. Oppositions and persecutions led to the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles and other areas.
  2. It led to the fulfilment of Jesus’ charge to his disciples on the Ascension Day to spread the gospel to Samaria, Judea and uttermost parts of the earth. The death of Stephen scattered the apostles wide and near.
  3. Rather than weakening the church, the oppositions and persecutions made the church to continue to grow. For every dose of opposition, the apostles reacted with a more aggressive effort of evangelism.
  4. The disciples chose to obey God rather than man. This is a lesson for today’s christians.
  5. Christians should not succumb to persecution and opposition, for these are inevitable partners to true evangelism.
  6. The church should always pray and fast on behalf of other members in trouble.
  7. We should be ready to pay even the supreme prize for the sake of Christ.
  8. The Holy Spirit played a vital role in supplying courage and boldness with which the apostles performed the task of proclaiming Jesus.
  9. The death of Stephen, rather than weaken the spread of the gospel, boosted it.
  10. The oppositions led to the conversion of the chief opposer Saul, who later became the greatest evangelist in Christendom.

 

Summary

  1. The Jewish religious authorities as well as other individuals did all they could to stamp out christianity in the Jewish Territory.
  2. The more they tried, the more the work continued.
  3. More men and women gave their lives to Christ.
  4. Some of their plans ranged from harassment, arrest and imprisonment of the apostles to outright killing of some of the apostles.
  5. But all said and done, rather then succeed, their opposition led to big success in the apostles’ effort to spread christianity.