Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment. We’re in the Book of Acts. Dave, last week we almost got through chapter 5, but let’s pick up with Acts:5:41 and then let’s see if we can launch into chapter 6, okay?
Tom: Verse 41: “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
We know from the verse before, and talking about it last week, they were beaten—just as a kind of “Okay, guys, we’re going to beat you up, but don’t do this any more, and go on your way. But they, with joy in their heart, got right back after it. Boy, that brings some conviction on my heart!
Dave: It’s amazing, Tom, it’s another one of the many proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These guys are not going through this on a fake resurrection. They didn’t just make this up. “Oh wouldn’t it be nice? We could start a new religion. I mean, you know, Jesus is dead and in the grave and that’s the end of him. Why don’t we pretend that he rose from the dead?”
Tom: “…and get beaten for it!” Come on!
Dave: That’s not going to happen. And not only beaten for it! They died. Every one of them died as a martyr, and no one is fool enough to die for what he knows is a lie. Okay? So again, we have a powerful proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He spent 40 days with them. And they know that He’s alive, okay?
Now, as you mentioned, Tom, this is just so amazing. They’re counted worthy! They were rejoicing that they were counted worthy. I find it interesting: it doesn’t say “to suffer beatings” [but] “to suffer shame” for His name. I guess that’s one of the worst things, you know. You’re kind of ashamed to go around now. You’ve been beaten by the priests. You’re an outcast from society. They don’t want you. Shame…it says, “Jesus despised the shame…” These men, they’re rejoicing that they were worthy—counted worthy? Wow!
Tom: Dave, in this situation—and I think we have to explain this to our listeners, if they don’t know. This wasn’t just a “grit your teeth'”: “Okay, I’m really going to be rejoicing here because this is what I need to do….”
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: They had a true joy! This was not something that they manufactured or worked themselves into some kind of altered state. They had a true joy!
Dave: That’s a good point, Tom. We had a young man sharing in our fellowship Sunday who talked about that. There should be real joy in following Christ and serving Him—not something, as you say, where we grit our teeth and we try to act joyful…
Tom: Or conjured up in our own mind…
Dave: No! This is sincere. These men are really glad that the Lord is allowing them to suffer for His sake, for His name. And then it says, “daily in the temple, every house…they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Apparently, it’s not just Peter, James, and John, the leaders, but it’s everyone. And when we get to chapter 8, there’s a persecution that arises after Stephen. Stephen is martyred. They stoned him. And the disciples were scattered, and it says (chuckling), “They went everywhere, preaching the word of God.” So you’re not going to put these people down! They have, Tom, some real conviction. They know Jesus. They know what it’s all about. And I’m afraid we have an awful lot of churches today—seeker-friendly, sometimes they’re called. They’re very large, huge. People come by the thousands. How many of them would count it joy to suffer for the sake of Christ? No. They haven’t been presented with that kind of Christianity. They’ve been offered a Christianity that is going to make them popular, that will make them successful.
I remember Kenneth Copeland saying…and insisting that Jesus called him to preach the gospel of prosperity. That’s not what you find in the Bible. It’s convicting to read this…
Tom: But, Dave, it’s also a lesson here…
Dave: …it’s inspiring…
Tom: I hope our listeners are getting some of this, grasping it… You see, if I manufacture something that seems to make me feel good…
Tom: …and it’s going to get me through certain kinds of things, what I’m doing is, really, I’m missing out on true joy—on something that the Lord really works in our hearts, something that no circumstance can take away. That’s the reality. And that’s the concern that I have. And, you know, in programs past we’ve talked about Joel Osteen and he’ll never do a negative message. It’ll always be upbeat and self-indulging and reinforcing and so on. And he does that, and he’s really taking things away from those he is preaching to, because they’re losing out on the reality of the joy of Christ.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Tom, you’re making a very good point, and you keep bringing us back to it. This is not “positive thinking”; this is not “possibility thinking.” This is a relationship with Christ that is so real they wouldn’t trade anything for it, and they are literally rejoicing at the privilege of suffering for His sake who has suffered for them
Tom: And it’s not that they enjoyed suffering! There was something that transcended that that was a reality, and I guess that’s my point, Dave.
Dave: You know, one of my dear friends years ago, Richard Wurmbrand—I don’t know how many of our listeners would remember him; I think his first book was called Tortured for Christ; he was 14 years in Romanian prisons, in isolation for a number of years, beaten something horrible. I mean, I saw with my own eyes the holes in his body from red-hot pokers that they drilled into him just to torture him—he said there were times within his cell after he’s been…well, you know, they’d beat him on the feet, which is a very sensitive place, among other things; I mean, the torture was horrible. “Sometimes,” he said, “the presence of Christ and the joy of the Lord was so real” that he danced for joy in his cell! After being beaten brutally. This is what these men are experiencing here.
Well, Tom, let’s move on. I hope it makes some sense. Maybe we have someone listening: this is not the Christianity you’ve been told about. The Christianity you’ve been promised is just all positive. It’s all success. It’s joy, but not this kind of joy but the joy of this world. Well, it’s not the real thing.
And Acts:6:1: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring in the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Whoops! Now we’ve got a whole change.
Tom: “Let’s take care of business. Let’s get down to it.” This has to… go about preaching the Word, and how we’re going to administer that, and who’s going to function, and how they’re going to function. It’s a very practical thing, Dave.
Dave: Right. So, we go from these men, who have denied self to take up the cross, and we come to people, some disciples, and they’re murmuring and complaining because the Grecians aren’t getting a fair deal. The Hebrews, the Jews, are getting a bigger piece of the pie than the Greeks are. Well, uh oh, now…I hate to say it, but the church is beginning its decline. At the beginning of chapter 5 you had Ananias and Sapphira, who kept back some of the money. It was all theirs, Peter said, “You could have had all of it.” But they lied. They pretended to have given everything that they…the price that they sold their property for, but they kept some of it. Well, they were proud. They wanted to get some glory for giving everything in the eyes of men. And if you want to please men, you want to get glory from men, you will not have glory from God. You’ll be led astray.
Now, it’s kind of going downhill, isn’t it?
Tom: Well, it’s when men have to take over and accomplish things, and so on, not led by the Spirit, Dave, but dealing with issues of the flesh. That’s what happens.
Dave: Well, there’s jealousy here. And selfishness. “I’m not getting my fair share.” Well, the twelve called a multitude of the disciples unto them, and there are thousands of them, and said, “It’s not reasonable that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables.” (What are you going to have us out there, divvying this up, and making sure everybody gets a fair share?) “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business.” So now, as you say, we’re going to have to have someone intervening between these selfish individuals making sure that they all get their fair share. It’s a downward path, now, Tom, and it’s a tragedy.
Tom: Well, it is, but I think it’s important to explain, Dave, and next week, we’ll pick it up from here.