“Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin, to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said, “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
The Sanhedrin are the ruling council and tribunal of the Jews. Do they actually consider themselves to be more important than God? For they believe they should be obeyed rather than God. And as for making them guilty of Jesus’ blood, how can they even deny it, they had him crucified.
What would have happened had they accepted this truth? And their part in it? They would have had to allow the reality of the situation to sink in, and that would be just too terrifying for them to permit.
But, let’s go there, and imagine they had said to the apostles, sit down, please, tell us everything, tell us where we went wrong. Doubtless Peter would have been happy to oblige, and convincingly so. The Sanhedrin priests would then have had to ask the same question as the crowd of men had asked when the Holy Spirit first came to the apostles. “Brothers, what must we do?” And the answer would have been the same, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Then, if they had been able to do that, they would have been blessed by God, they’d have a crushing remorse at what they had done, and an equally crushing sense of having been forgiven, for forgiveness is not merely a conceptual process, an academic one, an accounting practice whereby debt is moved from one column to another.
When experienced, spiritual forgiveness is an exorcism. A removal of the spirit of sin, and a replacement with the Spirit of Grace, that is the Spirit of Christ.
That pride, and the spirit of pride, cannot survive.
Back to scripture.
‘Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
The Sadducees chose pride over life.
The apostles chose life over pride. And obedience to Jesus Christ over all.
‘Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.’
It is not long before the first of their number is to be murdered and martyred for his loyalty, faith, and obedience. And for speaking the truth, of course. For the Holy Spirit spoke through him. That more than anything the wicked cannot stand.
‘…Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.’
‘…A man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.’
Was falsely accused, and brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, where false witnesses were brought against him.
‘Then the high priest asked him’, “Are these charges true?”
‘To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!”
And he proceeded to orate them their history, starting with Abraham, whom the God of glory appeared to, and then moving through Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, then Moses, who told the Israelites;
42 ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’
“But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.”
He continued with the lesson, quoting from the prophets, leading them from Moses to David and then to the final point.
“You stiff necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Stephen Stephen Stephen.
‘Full of the Holy Spirit, looks up to heaven and sees the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look” he says “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
The Sadducees could take no more of Spirit and Truth. They rushed him, dragged him out of the city, and proceeded to stone him to death.
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
And with that prayer on his lips, he was killed by them.
Witnessed by many, and watched approvingly by a particular man, a Pharisee priest, called Saul. The powerful testimony and subsequent murder of Stephen triggers a backlash against the followers of the Way.
‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.’
But like a wind blowing seeds.
‘Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close
43 attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.’
There was one in the city, a sorcerer he is named as. Here is what happened when he saw the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Now for some time a man named Simon had practised sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.”
‘They followed him because they had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptised. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.’
‘When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived they prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.’
They had received the Truth, now they were to receive the Spirit. But not all them, it would seem, for at least one did not.
‘When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
Then Simon answered, ‘Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
‘When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.’
Extract from All People Must Know… Published by Bird Lovegod