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The Essence of the Gospel

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 3, 2024 12:01 am

The Essence of the Gospel

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 3, 2024 12:01 am

Forbidden by the priests to preach in Jesus' name, Peter declared, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Today, Derek Thomas reflects on the essential message of the gospel and the necessity for us proclaim it boldly.

Get Derek Thomas' DVD Teaching Series 'The Life of Peter' for Your Gift of Any Amount

Meet Today's Teacher:

Derek Thomas is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and Chancellor's Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is featured teacher for the Ligonier teaching series The Life of Peter and author of many books, including Heaven on Earth, Strength for the Weary, and Let Us Worship God.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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When civil government or religious establishment is saying, you cannot preach in the name of Jesus, what are you to do?

Peter and the apostles answered, we must obey God rather than men. And so, what does he do? What does Peter do? What does John do?

They preach the gospel. This week, we've seen the faith of Peter weaken. We've seen him speak before he really thought about what he was saying. And it's been an encouragement, as we can all relate to Peter in our own lives. But today, we fast forward in the life of Peter, seeing a change, a boldness, which is also an encouragement for each of us in our day to stand firm. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and this is the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. From his low points to his high points, the life of Peter is so instructive for us.

It's a life that is filled with practical insights and theological richness. So, I encourage you today, on the final day of this offer, to request Derek Thomas's complete 19-message series on Peter when you give a donation of any amount at Well, here's Dr. Thomas on the bold preaching of Peter and the gospel that was on his lips. We're in Acts chapter 5 now. We'll be looking at the second half of chapter 5 from verse 17 through to verse 42. We'll find Peter and John arrested and imprisoned a second time in this chapter. Back in chapter 4, in our previous lesson, they had been released from their overnight imprisonment following the healing of the 40-plus-year-old cripple in the temple, and they were ordered not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus.

And Peter, of course, had clearly said that that was not possible. Their response in verse 20, we cannot speak but what we have seen and heard. And they've been threatened and so on. Some time has passed.

Maybe a few weeks have passed. The whole incident with Ananias and Sapphira—very scary. And the story of that in Jerusalem would have caused some of the weaker believers to pull back a little from Peter and John. We read in verse 14 that more have been added to the church. And in verse 16, that people are coming from far and wide, news of the resurrection, news of what was going on.

These thousands of people now that have come to put their faith in Jesus Christ. And then we pick it up in verse 17. But the high priest rose up and all who are with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy, they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

It's the same Greek word as the one in the previous chapter. But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the Senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison. So they returned and reported. We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors.

But when we opened them, we found no one inside. Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people. Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name. Yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered, We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things.

And so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. And after him, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him.

He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone. For if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.

You might even be found opposing God. So they took his advice. And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name, and every day in the temple and from house to house they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Well, first of all, in this chapter, chapter 5, we have to take note of something because there's a tension here. It begins in chapter 4. It now creeps into chapter 5, and it's the limits of obedience, the limits of obedience to the powers that be. Not so much the powers of Rome at this point, but the powers of Judaism, the elders, the Sanhedrin, the high priest. There is a clear principle in Scripture that we are to obey God rather than to obey man.

That's exactly what Peter had said. We must obey God rather than men. When civil government or religious establishment is saying, you cannot preach in the name of Jesus, what are you to do?

Luke, I think, brings this issue now to a head. In verse 29, Peter and the apostles answered, we must obey God rather than men. We must obey God rather than men.

Now, there is a counter to that, and it's not here in the chapter, but it is elsewhere in the New Testament. It's in the words of Jesus that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar's. Jesus took a coin, and he said, whose coin in paying taxes? Whose head is on the coin?

And it was the head of Caesar. And he went on to make a principle, render to Caesar what is Caesar's. You are to pay your taxes, however irksome that may be.

You are to do that. You're not at liberty to say, well, I'm a Christian, so I'm not going to pay my taxes. Paul underlines it in Romans 13, render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. What justifies a revolution from the powers that be? The American revolution. Jefferson and Madison thought it was right.

It was the right thing to do, to revolt. But here is a spiritual issue. The state, at least the Jewish state, and they have been told quite categorically not to preach in the name of Jesus. And they cannot obey that.

A line has been crossed. To refuse to do that would be to disobey God, because clearly Peter and John and the apostles were commanded to preach in the name of Jesus. There's salvation in no other name but in the name of Jesus. How could they not preach Jesus? But in doing so, they would be disobeying the powers that be.

There are times when we have to do that. The Hebrew women in Exodus chapter 1, refusing Pharaoh's orders to kill the male infants. If they hadn't disobeyed, there would be no Moses. There would be no story of redemption. Imagine the Old Testament without Moses. There would be no first five books of the Old Testament.

There'd be no deliverer out of Egypt. So, Daniel, refusing to obey the edict regarding prayer and opening his window praying three times a day. Or Esther coming before the king on behalf of the Jews in violation of the law.

There's a tension. Paul is very specific in Romans 13. To refuse the king is to refuse God. But then there are times when we have to refuse the king and to obey God rather than men. Perhaps in our culture, in our time, right now, we wrestle with that. We wonder, what are the limits of obedience?

We've wrestled through it in that era of the pandemic. We wrestled with overreach, government overreach, into the church and into spiritual matters, telling you what you must believe and what you cannot believe with regard to all kinds of things—gender and the role of men and women in church and a whole lot of other things. There's a limit to obedience. There's a limit to obedience.

In verse 29, we pick it up again. Peter and the apostles answered, we must obey God rather than men. And so, what does he do? What does Peter do?

What does John do? They preach the gospel. If you were to ask the question, what is the gospel?

That's a great question. I preached a series of sermons. It was over a summer. The senior minister was on sabbatical, and I was preaching the morning services for about 12 weeks or so. And I wanted to preach a series of sermons on the gospel. And at the end of it, I asked the congregation, because I wear a professor's hat, in a hundred words or less, I want you to write down and hand in at the end of this series, what is the gospel? It was wonderfully instructive. Some were good answers.

Some were not good answers. What is the gospel? You could do no better than cite Peter's sermon here in verses 30 and 31. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. This is the third time Peter's accused the Jews of, his fellow Jews, of killing the Lord Jesus.

By hanging him on a tree, God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. That's a good summary of the gospel. And what you see about it is an obsession with Jesus. It's all about Jesus. Jesus coming into this world, Jesus dying on the cross, Jesus resurrected from the grave, Jesus exalted to the right hand of God. It's an obsession.

It's like when Paul says in Philippians, this one thing I do, he's obsessed about one thing, and the one thing that Peter is obsessed with is Jesus. You may perhaps have read the life of Audubon, the celebrated American naturalist, and you may have a coffee table book, they're not cheap, with drawings of birds that he did. He spent a major part of his life preparing this incredibly valuable work on the birds of America.

And he tracked these birds into their remotest haunts, painted them from nature, lived in crane breaks and swamps and prairies, even among some of the Native Americans. Exposed to all kinds of dangers and all simply that he might become a complete ornithologist. He was in Paris for a season raising money. He was there for quite some time, and his diary is filled with gloom. He hated it. He didn't like Paris.

He didn't like the Louvre or some of the magnificent buildings in Paris. The only entry in his diary that had any kind of light was that he saw a flock of pigeons, and the sound of their wings filled him with a sense of joy. He was in London. Same thing, his diary is filled with gloom until he sees a flock of geese, and his mind is captivated once again. This man's soul was full of birds, nothing but birds. It's what gave him joy. It's what completed him.

I'm not defending that. I'm just saying he had an obsession, and I think that we need, as Christians, especially in this time in which we live, we need that kind of obsession. We're obsessed with Christ, none but Christ. Notice, too, the emphasis on the death and resurrection of Christ, central to Peter's understanding of the gospel, that he died and rose again. It'll become part of the narrative of the gospel for the Apostle Paul, for example, in Romans chapter 6. We died with him. We were buried with him.

We rose with him. You see it again in Paul's letter to the Colossians, this narrative of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's the core of what must happen if we are to be saved.

And what is the logic of salvation? To give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. The problem with these authorities in their blindness, Luke says, in their jealousy, they were jealous that thousands of people were listening to them. Who was listening to the Sadducees? Not many. Who were listening to the high priest?

Only sycophants, not many. They needed forgiveness. They needed salvation. They needed repentance is what they needed. They need to repent of their sin. They need to repent of their crime. They need to repent in Peter's understanding as a fellow Jew. They need to repent of their involvement in the death of Jesus. It was you who took him by wicked hands and slew him.

But it was all by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. They need the Holy Spirit. Thousands of people in Jerusalem now have come to saving faith. They've experienced the joy of forgiveness. They've become obsessed with Christ, Jesus only. They've seen him as the only way of salvation. It's a wonderful, simple, boiled down, I'm sure Peter said more than what Luke is recording here, but Luke is giving you the essence of what he was saying. And the essence of the gospel is about the death and resurrection of Christ. And you need to believe in him because there is salvation in no one else, but in this name.

You notice at one point that he calls in verse 20, go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. They'd been brought out of prison in a miraculous way. The doors are still locked. The guards are still there. Imagine, they're going the next day to fetch them. They go past the guards. They open the door and there's no one there. They're gone.

How in the world? How did they get out? And then they find them preaching in the temple. And the angel who brings them out says, go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.

And it's capitalized in ESV. The gospel gives life, true life. What life is all about, the fullness of life, life in all of its glory, life that completes you, life that fulfills you. They had been dead in trespasses and in sins, they had religion, but they had been dead in trespasses and in sins, but now they've come to life.

I am the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus says. Sometimes God brings an extraordinary providence. And it's Gamaliel. Perhaps Gamaliel eventually will come to a true saving understanding of the gospel.

I'd like to think so. But he was one of these folk who thought deeply and thought providentially and he brings to pass a memory of two other would-be saviors. And one is Theudas and one is Judas the Galilean.

And they had followers and then they died and the people scattered and it came to nothing. And Gamaliel says in what is a tense moment for Peter and John, you know, you need to be careful what you're doing here. Your decision here could have enormous repercussions. If it's of men, this thing will fail. But if it is of God, then you will be found resisting God.

So, Gamaliel's advice prevails. There's still a hostility. When they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus. And are they going to obey that?

No, of course not. They cannot. They cannot but speak that which they have come to believe because they're filled with the Holy Spirit, because Jesus has become everything to them, because the gospel has become everything to them. And the only way that people can be saved from their sins is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. I'm always staggered by the change that's come about in Peter.

He's a different person. There's no hesitancy here. There's no weakness of faith here. This is not the Peter who looked at the waves and began to sink, O ye of little faith. This is Peter, full of faith, full of courage, full of zeal.

And this is what we want to be like, isn't it? We want to be like this every day for the rest of our lives with courage and veracity and faithfulness, looking to Jesus, running with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. That is what we want to be like, and what hope it gives us as we recognize our own weakness to see what God did in and through Peter. Thank you for joining us for this Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind, where you just heard a message from Derek Thomas's brand new study on the life of the Apostle Peter. It's a 19 message series filled with biblical exposition, theological instruction and practical application, and it was designed to be a wonderful resource for a small group, Sunday school or family study. Request this new series on DVD along with digital access to the messages and study guide when you call us at 800-435-4343 or when you donate online at

This is the final day to request this new series, so give your gift before midnight at The Apostle Peter experienced persecution, as you heard today, and so did the Apostle Paul. Yet in the midst of that persecution, Paul would command Christians to rejoice in the Lord. And that'll be our topic next week as Stephen Lawson joins us to teach on Philippians. That's beginning Monday, here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-03 02:25:52 / 2024-05-03 02:33:56 / 8

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