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Witnessing to the Truth
Sunday school lesson for the week of September 20, 2015
By Rev. Denise Walton
Lesson scripture: Acts 5:27-29, 33-42
God is in control
The purpose of today’s lesson is to recognize that God’s truth prevails. To see more clearly God’s truth, we will revisit the background text to remind the reader of the overall story. I invite you to respond to the primary question that drives our lesson today.
As we read the book of Acts, who is the main character in all of the texts?
Yes, God is the main character. Therefore, we are reading the story of God’s love for God’s people expressed most fully in the birth, life, death, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. God’s love that did not leave humanity alone but sent the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, correct, and empower.
The truth is the disciples have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, heal, and perform miraculous acts. The threat of resistance did not stop Jesus, death did not stop Jesus, and neither will it stop the disciples. God’s will is the gospel being shared in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!
We must obey God
As I read the text today, the high priests and Sadducees have detained the disciples. God responds immediately to this distraction of God’s will.
“An angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. The angel told them, Go, take your place in the temple, and tell the people everything about this new life.” Acts 5:19-20
The disciples return to preach and teach as God had instructed them. The Jerusalem Council convened looking for the prisoners who had been silenced, dehumanized, and put in their proper place.
But this is not the story of the Jerusalem Council and their power. It is not the story of the high priest and their violent jealousy. It is not the story of the Sadducees and their rejection of the resurrection and angels. This is the story of God’s will, God’s love through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the disciples are jailed, and God releases them. They are taken away from the temple, and God places them back.
Peter and John have continued to preach the gospel. The threats and incarceration of the high priest do not stop the disciples but bear witness to the truth. Gamaliel, Pharisee and teacher of the law that expresses God’s truth.
“Here is my recommendation: Distance yourself from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. If it originates with God, you won't be able to stop them. Instead, you will actually find yourselves fighting with God.” Acts 5:38-39
If God is the main character in the story, the disciples are fulfilling the will of God. The resistance is against the disciples and their obedience to fulfill God’s will. But ultimately, the high priests and Jerusalem leadership are fighting against God. To that end, they will not win.
“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ‘Power belongs to you, God …’” Psalm 62:11
Standing in the face of opposition
How do we as disciples of Jesus Christ stand in obedience to God’s will in the face of constant threats and distractions? In the first century, the threat to the gospel of Jesus Christ rested largely with the ruling Jewish leadership.
In what way(s) is the gospel message of Jesus Christ threatened in today’s world?
How can we as disciples see beyond the distractions of sharing the gospel and living the gospel no matter the level of resistance?
How can keep we as disciples stand in the face of opposition and always remember the story and power belong to God?
Naming our God
Bishop Rueben Job, author of “Three Simple Questions,” shares the way we view and name our Gods:
We may name God with our words, or we may choose to remain silent. But either way, each of us names our God by our actions – by how we choose to live. All of us give witness to the god or God who leads us and whom we follow.
Far too often we are content with a god who offers a Band-Aid for our wounded souls rather than the God of radical mercy, justice, and love – who forgives our sins and wipes them away just as soon as we offer that same forgiveness to those who may have wronged us; who not only forgives our sins but also heals our wounded souls, mends our broken relationships, and sends us on our way full of hope, confidence, trust, and strength to transform the world by living in the kingdom of God already being formed “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Far too often we are content with proclaiming and following a god who is too unexciting to capture the minds and hearts of a world seeking healing for its deepest wounds, peace for its incessant wars, direction for its future, and companionship for its deep loneliness.
(Rueben P. Job, Three Simple Questions, Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 2011, pgs. 15-17)
The disciples have a clear message of the love of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach and perform signs, wonders and miracles. Resistance and threats will not overshadow the gospel message. The story is God’s story, the will is God’s will, the direction is God’s direction, and the power belongs to God.
Gamaliel was correct, “If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. If it originates with God, you won't be able to stop them. Instead, you will actually find yourselves fighting with God.” Acts 5:38b-39.
May we all find the courage, despite the risks, to stay focused and ever ready to share the message of Jesus Christ and be witnesses to God's truth.
Rev. Denise Walton serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.