Today’s reading is Acts 4.
This chapter continues the story we started yesterday. Remember that Peter and John were going to the temple to pray and by the power of Christ, Peter healed a man who had been unable to walk for his entire life and then used the attention from the man’s healing to call people to repentance and faith in Jesus.
This chapter described the fallout from that event. The religious leaders who engineered the Roman execution of Jesus were very unhappy to see his power on display through the disciples and to hear the message about Jesus going out through them (vv. 1-2). In response, they jailed Peter and John (v. 3) but the gospel did its work as “But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand” (v. 4). Unable to deny the miracle that had happened (vv. 5-16), the religious leaders of Jerusalem commanded them to stop evangelizing (vv. 17-18).
What if they would have stopped? Verses 19-20 describe how Peter and John refused to obey the command to stop teaching about Jesus. Verse 33 says, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” which shows that they did not stop spreading the gospel message. But what if they had?
First, the advance of the gospel would have been much different. Jesus had said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, so he would have chosen others to spread the gospel even if the disciples had been disobedient. We can see that somewhat in his choice of the Apostle Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
Second, and more importantly, I think the unity, selflessness, and joy of the early church as described in verses 31-37 would have dissipated. When the church gets focused on itself, conflicts and strife come in. Satan wants to disrupt God’s work and get us off mission by stirring up conflict and strife. When we’re reaching outside of ourselves, however, there is a lot less time and energy available for internal factions, arguments, and strife. Outreach and evangelism isn’t going to ward off problems; those are inevitable in a fallen world. But spreading the gospel keeps us focused on Jesus--his work and our need for his power--which helps us keep our focus off of ourselves. So let’s not forget that we are here to introduce Christ to the world. This Sunday gives you an excellent opportunity to do that by inviting someone to come to church, hear the gospel, and be saved if God wills.