UNSTOPPABLE COURAGE


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SESSION 5

UNSTOPPABLE COURAGE

The Point God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.

The Passage Acts 4:1-3,8-12,19-20

The Bible Meets Life We are familiar with the cynical expression: “No good deed goes unpunished.” That is not a biblical statement, but good deeds do occasionally get us into hot water. In Acts 4, Peter and John did a good deed that drew attention to Jesus Christ, and that got them in hot water with the religious leaders who opposed them. God gives us courage to stand strong in the face of adversity.

The Setting Peter and John had encountered a lame beggar on their way to the Jerusalem temple at the afternoon hour of prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ the man had been healed. Peter used the opportunity to preach the gospel to those present in the temple. The Jewish religious leaders were offended by Peter and John’s teaching the people in the temple and proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. They arrested Peter and John, bringing them before the assembled Jewish leadership to answer for their words and actions.

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What does the Bible say?

Acts 4:1-3,8-12,19-20 (HCSB) Sadducees (v. 1)—The Sadducees were the priestly party in charge of the temple, were supporters of Rome, and accepted only the first five Old Testament books as authoritative. Cornerstone (v. 11)—The Greek words translated “cornerstone” are literally “head of a corner” and can refer to the first stone or to the final stone in a building project.

Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 1

because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example. 2

So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 3

Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 8

If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed— 9

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy.

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This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 11

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” 12

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide;

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for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

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THE POINT

God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.

GET INTO THE STUDY

10 minutes

DISCUSS: Invite your group members

Notes

to discuss Question #1 on page 99 of the PSG (Personal Study Guide): “What’s the most courageous act you’ve ever seen?” Allow time for each person to respond. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 100): Most of us were taught as kids to “think before you speak.” Sometimes, though, we need to speak even when we know the words will get us in trouble. And that takes courage. Consider Mathew Ayairga. The world reeled from the news in 2015 when 21 men from Egypt were kidnapped and beheaded because of faith in Jesus Christ. Mathew was one of those kidnapped—but it turns out he was neither Egyptian nor a Christian. He just

TIP: A few days before you meet, text, tweet, or communicate to your group members the David Platt quote found on PSG page 105. Let them know this week’s session examines what it means to have bold faith in Christ.

happened to be working in Libya with the other 20 men. A transformation happened, though, on that fateful day. Kneeling on the beach with their executioners behind them, each man was commanded to renounce his faith, but each one died proclaiming Jesus Christ. When they came to Mathew he said, “Their God is my God.” His last words were a courageous statement of faith..7 SAY: “Unstoppable courage. We see it first with Peter and John in Acts 4, and this unstoppable courage has continued on to others like Mathew Ayairga.” GUIDE: Call attention to The Point on page 100 of the PSG: ”God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.” PRAY: Transition into the discussion with prayer. Thank God for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and encourage us as we share with others what we’ve experienced in Christ.

Display Pack Item #10 for use with your discussion of Acts 4:1-3.

PLAYLIST PICK: “You Found Me” by Kristian Stanfill

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 4:1-3 (HCSB)

Notes

Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example. 3 So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 1

LEADER PACK: Call attention to Pack Item #10, “Radical Faith” poster. Share that today’s passage examines an act of radical faith by the apostles Peter and John. READ: Ask a group member to read aloud Acts 4:1-3. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 101): In Acts 3, Peter and John had stopped to minister to a lame beggar on their way to the temple, and this miraculous healing opened more doors for them to speak about Jesus. Peter seized the opportunity to preach Jesus. As he was preaching about the Jewish leaders who had put their Messiah to death and how God had raised Him from the dead, others showed up:

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The priests. These were the ones in charge of operating the temple. The commander of the temple police. This man was essentially the chief of police.

»» ALTERNATE QUESTION: What are some ways people in our culture express their discomfort with the gospel?

The Sadducees. This socially and politically powerful sect in Jewish society didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead.

Peter and John were placed into custody overnight until they would be brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council, the next day. DISCUSS: Question #2 on page 101 of the PSG: “What are the risks we face when we proclaim the gospel?” (Note: We may not be placed in jail for speaking about Christ, but we can face some consequences. Help your group identify what we risk personally, professionally, and materially for the sake of the gospel.) TRANSITION: Earlier in Acts, Jesus encouraged the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Peter now stood in that power and declared the gospel message.

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THE POINT

God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.

Acts 4:1-3 Commentary Speaking for Christ can lead to confrontation. Verse 1: After healing the lame man outside the temple complex, Peter and John went into the temple accompanied by the healed man. As Peter and John spoke to the crowd, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted the apostles. The priests likely were just those priests on duty, serving at the temple that afternoon carrying out the sacrifice. The commander of the temple police was himself a priest and was second in charge behind the high priest. He assisted the high priest in his duties and was ready to step in should the high priest become incapacitated. The commander and his officers (chosen from among the Levites) oversaw the temple environs—keeping order and protecting property—and had the authority to make arrests. The Sadducees were one of the major influential Jewish parties in the first century. They held only the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis–Deuteronomy) to be authoritative, did not believe in angels or demons, and rejected the teachings about resurrection and life after death. They were in charge of the temple in Jerusalem. They came from wealthy families who supported the Roman government and enjoyed considerable economic benefits from that partnership. Verse 2: Apparently it was not the healing that concerned the Sadducees. What had provoked or frustrated them was the apostles’ teaching about the resurrection from the dead. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the primary emphasis of the apostles’ preaching. After the crowd had gathered around them in the temple that morning, Peter focused on Jesus as the Messiah and said to the people, “You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:15). The idea of a resurrection, especially connected to Jesus, was what really concerned the Sadducees. The focus of messianic thought and teaching in that day was on the restoration of Israel. But essential for this restoration was rebellion against the ruling nation of Rome. And if Rome moved against Jerusalem or the nation of Israel as a whole, everything the Sadducees enjoyed—especially their status, influence, and wealth—could have been taken away from them. Primarily because of their self-interests, they sought to suppress any messianic teaching. Additionally, the Sadducees believed they alone had the responsibility and authority to teach and interpret the Scriptures. The Sadducees most likely disliked that these followers of Jesus were not only teaching a faulty doctrine (in their thinking), but also were doing it in the temple, where the Sadducees felt they alone had authority. Verse 3: Thus the Sadducees seized (or arrested) the apostles (and perhaps the lame man as well) and put them in custody. Because it was already evening it was too late to bring a case against the men or to question them about their actions. Peter and John would spend the night in jail (or some type of holding facility) until the Jewish religious council, the Sanhedrin, could convene the next day.

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 4:8-12 (HCSB)

Notes

Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” 8

READ: Ask a group member to read aloud Acts 4:8-12. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 102): The next day, Peter and John stood before the Jewish religious leaders, who asked a single question, “By what power or in what name have you done this?” (v. 7). Peter had only one answer: Jesus.

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Peter referenced Psalm 118:22 when he talked about the stone rejected by the builders becoming a cornerstone—and he referred to Jesus as “the stone rejected by you builders” (emphasis added). They had executed the Messiah.

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Peter was clear in his emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection of the dead. Despite the Sadducees’ rejection of this doctrine, they could not refute the truth.

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Peter went one step further with the truth: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it” (v. 12).

ALTERNATE QUESTION: When have you had an opportunity to speak boldly about Jesus?

DISCUSS: Question #3 on page 102 of the PSG: “In a culture that values tolerance above all, how do we boldly and lovingly communicate the message of verse 12?” DISCUSS: Question #4 on page 103 of the PSG: “How would you describe the role of the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel?” TRANSITION: The Sanhedrin wanted nothing more than to stop Peter and John from further testifying about Jesus. The next verses reveal the apostles’ response.

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THE POINT

God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.

Acts 4:8-12 Commentary Proclaim faith in Christ as the only way to receive eternal life. Verses 8-9: The Sanhedrin brought Peter and John in to question them. The religious council demanded to know “by what power or in what name have you done this?” (v. 7). Peter and John responded to the council’s question with extraordinary courage. Luke notes that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This was not the permanent indwelling of the Spirit that happens for all believers at the moment of salvation. Rather, the phrase refers to a special empowering a person would receive to fulfill God’s purposes. Verse 10: Peter restated what he had explained the previous day to the crowd in the temple. He wanted the men on the council, as well as all the people of Israel, to know that the lame man’s healing had happened by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Peter wasted no time moving from who Jesus is to what the Jewish leaders had done. They had murdered Jesus. Many if not all of the men on that council had felt threatened by Him during His years of ministry. Thus they condemned Him to death and actually turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified. But God raised Jesus from the dead. The Jewish leaders had taken life but God had given life. Peter was clear in his emphasis on the resurrection of the dead. Despite the Sadducees’ rejection of this doctrine, they could not refute the truth. Verse 11: Peter then referenced Scripture as evidence of what the Jewish leaders had done. He didn’t quote Psalm 118:22 verbatim, but used its words to emphasize the failed responsibility of the rulers and elders. Jewish religious literature actually referred to teachers of the law and community leaders as builders. They were responsible to God for building up the house of Israel—guiding the people to grow in relation to God and to others. The Greek words translated “cornerstone” are literally “head of a corner.” The cornerstone is the first stone that is set for a foundation in a building. All other stones are placed in relation to it. If the cornerstone is faulty then the rest of the foundation will be as well because it sets the standard. But God did not provide a faulty foundation on which to build. Despite the leaders’ defiant rejection of Jesus as Messiah, God made Him the standard on which everything would be based in God’s kingdom. Verse 12: Peter clearly emphasized the truth about Jesus—He alone brings salvation. Through salvation in Jesus Christ, a person is restored to a right relationship with God, is freed from the power of sin and death, and receives the gift of eternal life. This individual is also given a new nature, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, through which he or she is able to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 4:19-20 (HCSB)

Notes

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 19

READ: Ask a group member to read aloud Acts 4:19-20. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 104): The religious leaders had in front of them a once-crippled man standing on two strong legs. The leaders were awe-struck, but they wouldn’t admit defeat. By prohibiting Peter and John from speaking about Jesus, the religious leaders were providing the basis to take further legal action should the apostles continue spreading the gospel. Peter and John’s response displayed unstoppable courage: “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (v. 20). They simply couldn’t not share about Christ. ALTERNATE QUESTION: How can we discern whether we’re trying to please God or please people?

DISCUSS: Question #5 on page 105 of the PSG: “Where do you see God directing our group to demonstrate a greater level of courage?” (Note: Identifying a group of people, an apartment complex, or a neighborhood can help cast a vision for ministry for your group as a whole.) DO: Instruct group members to complete the activity on page 105 of the PSG on their own. If time permits, allow volunteers to share their responses. HE IS WITH US:

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In what way do you most need the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit? _____ To pray more effectively for those who don’t know Christ _____ To easily recognize opportunities to share the gospel when they arise

in daily conversations

_____ For boldness and clarity to share about Christ _____ To courageously step out of my comfort zone when mission

opportunities arise

_____ Other: ___________________________

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With whom is God calling you to share the gospel? Record their name in the space belowyour notes, then commit to pray for opportunities to have spiritual conversations with him or her.

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THE POINT

God gives us courage to speak boldly for Christ.

Acts 4:19-20 Commentary Speak boldly for Christ in spite of opposition. Verse 19: The council then dismissed the apostles and the healed man from the room (Acts 4:13‑15). They talked among themselves about the best thing to do. But apparently there was no thought of believing the apostles’ words about Jesus. The best they could do was to try to keep the message from spreading. They decided to threaten the apostles and forbid them from preaching or teaching in Jesus’ name again. So they called the men back into the courtroom and delivered their decision (vv. 16-18). The apostles’ undaunted response should have been no surprise to the assembly, given the boldness with which the men had previously spoken. Peter and John challenged the religious leaders to decide for themselves what was “right in the sight of God.” It didn’t matter what the religious leaders thought was right. Peter and John’s concern was for what God says is right. The apostles defiantly responded, asking the leaders whose words should have priority in the apostles’ lives, the Sanhedrin’s or God’s? Verse 20: Despite the council’s demand, Peter and John could not comply with it. The men clarified that they were ”unable to stop speaking,” which was almost a double negative with the sense that “we cannot not speak.” They were compelled by their experience with Jesus and His commission to them. To communicate to others what they had seen and heard as His witnesses was now their primary purpose in life, and they were determined to fulfill it. Peter and John had likely considered the potential consequences of their disobedience to the religious leaders, but it did not matter to them. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of old (Daniel 3:1‑30), they were resolved to trust God and do His will no matter the cost.

Interested in learning more? Previous Biblical Illustrator articles “The Sanhedrin, Their History and Function” (Summer 2008), “Temple Personnel in the First Century” (Summer 2007), “Who Were the Sadducees?” (Winter 2004-2005), “Peter’s Messages” (Fall 2000), and “Peter’s Miracles” (Fall 2000) relate to this lesson and can be purchased, along with other articles for this quarter, at www.lifeway.com/biblicalillustrator. Look for Bundles: Bible Studies for Life.

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5 minutes

LIVE IT OUT SAY: “How can you courageously stand for Christ this week?”

Notes

GUIDE: Lead group members to consider the responses to the Bible study listed on page 106 of the PSG.

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Evaluate your own actions. As you go through the week ahead, ask yourself, “Whom did I strive to please today?” Commit to being a God-pleaser rather than a people-pleaser.

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Read up on the exclusivity of Christ. To better understand why Jesus is the only way to heaven, read Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias (W Publishing, 2002).

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Identify two or three mature, courageous Christians. Have coffee and ask them what they’ve learned about communicating the gospel courageously.

Wrap It Up
 SAY: “Extraordinary courage makes a mark on history. Over two thousand years after the ministry of Peter and John, we know about Jesus because they and others like them had the courage to keep speaking when told to keep silent. When we follow their example, we don’t just make a mark on history, we impact eternity.”

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