Victory in the Christian's life never escapes the notice of the enemy. The apostles were healing various ailments, casting out unclean spirits, and adding large numbers of people to this new movement of Christianity. As a result, the religious establishment felt their power and influence slipping away. For decades, the Sadducees and Pharisees maintained a balance of power between the nationalistic Jews and the Romans. They wanted to keep things status quo and they saw this large group of Christians as a major threat to their control.
In an act of jealousy, the religious elite had all twelve of the Apostles arrested and placed in a public prison to be humiliated and threatened. This method of intimidation must have worked well for them in the past, however, they had no idea what real power could do. During the night, an angel of the Lord freed the Apostles, unbeknownst to the guards, and instructed them to return to the "scene of the crime," and resume preaching, teaching, and performing miracles.
Once they gathered the Apostles back in front of the Sanhedrin the indictment from the high priest against them stated, "You have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him" (in reference to Jesus). The Apostles responded back with a statement we would all do well to remember, "we must obey God rather than men." What a courageous statement of allegiance to Christ.
The Bible commands us as Christians to be subject to governing authorities (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14), even if these people are evil. But if the governing authorities command us to do something that would be disobedient to God, then we must obey God, even if it results in our being punished. We should have a much higher reverence for God than we do for anyone or anything else. Persecution did not silence the apostles, nor did it alter their message. There is always the temptation to dilute or alter the message to make it less offensive or to leave out certain critical elements. The gospel is the “good news” that God offers eternal life to all who believe. It is also the “bad news” that eternal judgment (hell) awaits sinners. We dare not leave out essential elements of the gospel, just to avoid an adverse reaction. The Apostles were delivered so that they could go back and proclaim the good news of the gospel. You have been saved for a purpose as well! Pray for courage to share Christ with someone this week, no matter the cost. Press on! Pastor Brian Richard