Standing Up for Christ by Pastor Roger Rohde April 23, 2017

Standing Up for Christ

Acts 5:29-42

Martin Luther was called to meet at what is known as the Diet of Worms in

  1. There was at this gathering 206 nobles and church officials. It was an

intimidating sight – one man before 206 accusers. The format was not a debate,

but 206 individuals speaking in one voice calling for Martin Luther to recant of all

the things he had written. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Luther asked for

time to reflect that he might wisely act in accordance with God’s Word. The

meeting was adjourned until the next day. Luther prayed that night: “There is no

strength in me. This is Your cause, O God, not mine. On You I rely, not on man.”

The next day Martin Luther again stood before 206 individuals as they asked him

to recant of the things he had written. This time Martin Luther spoke and ended

his presentation with these words: “Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the

Scripture or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have

often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am satisfied to

the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is

unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I

cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”

Peter and John in our text are like Luther at the Diet of Worms. They are

standing before the high priest, all his associates, and the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:17).

These men were calling for Peter and John to cease their proclamation of the

Gospel. Like Martin Luther these men refused to deny Christ and His Word. Our

text shows us what led people like Peter, John, and Martin Luther to stand up for

Christ.

One who stands up for Christ recognizes that the Lord is the ultimate

authority.

Peter and John are in a position that we do no envy. They have been using

God’s power and declaring God’s Truth, and now are arrested for it. This is the

second time it has happened to them. Prior to our text the high priest, his

associates, and the Sanhedrin had arrested them and told them not to speak of

Jesus anymore. Freed the first time, they continue to teach about Jesus in the

temple courts. The leaders were outraged by this and arrested Peter and John a

second time. The high priest said to them: “We gave you strict orders not to

teach in Jesus’ name.” The apostles responded: “We must obey God rather than

men.” Martin Luther, Peter and John all recognized Jesus to be the ultimate

authority to Whom they were accountable.

One of the reasons people don’t stand up for Jesus today is that they do

not behold Him as their Creator and the One to Whom they are ultimately

accountable. It is no accident that Luther in his meaning to the First Article of the

Apostles’ Creed noted: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has

given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all

my senses, and still takes care of them…. He richly and daily provides me with all

that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and

guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine

goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my

duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

When we know and believe that all we are and have is from God, we know

Him to be our ultimate authority to Whom we are accountable. His command to

us is clear: Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing and by teaching them

God’s Word. When authorities forbid us to share God’s Word they are not acting

as representatives of God. We are called upon by God to be faithful to Him by

sharing His Word in season and out of season (II Timothy 4:2). We are always to

speak God’s Truth, but we are to do it with a spirit of love for this is the will of

God.

One who stands up for Christ proclaims the message of salvation. The

apostles did not present to the world their opinions, but the very things they

witnessed concerning Jesus. He was crucified on the cross and rose again from

the grave. He ascended into heaven and offers the forgiveness of sins, life and

salvation to all who believe in Him. It is noteworthy that the disciples proclaim

these things because they were witnesses to them.

Many times we excuse ourselves from standing up for Jesus, because we

claim we don’t know enough and have no idea what to say. Earlier in Acts 4,

when Peter and John were arrested the first time, those who tried them noted

that they were “unschooled, ordinary men.” God does not say we have to have a

degree in theology or Biblical studies to witness for Him. In a court of law people

are called to witness to that of which they are personally aware. The disciples

had witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection and knew the eternal benefit that

these events brought all mankind. We, too, our witnesses to these things as we

just went through Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We know

what the cross of Calvary means and the significance of the empty tomb. Like the

disciples of old we are to witness to the reality of sin and the saving grace of God

in Christ Jesus.

One who stands up for Christ knows that God’s purposes will always be

accomplished. This truth is acknowledged by Gamaliel in our text. Gamaliel was a

Pharisee who did not believe in Jesus as the Savior. Nevertheless, he knew that

no human being could stop God from accomplishing His purposes. He notes that

men like Theudas and Judas the Galilean had large numbers of people who

followed them. Yet, after a period of time these leaders died and the people who

followed them disbanded. Gamaliel’s advice: “Leave these disciples of Jesus

alone! If their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail, but if it is from

God, you will not be able to stop it!” This truth is worthy of our attention.

The strength to stand up for Christ and achieve the purposes for which He

called us to witness is not in our hands but God’s. Martin Luther noted that in his

prayer before he spoke at the Diet of Worms: “There is no strength in me. This is

Your cause, O God, not mine. On You I rely, not on man.” It is important as we

witness for Christ to remember His promise to us: “My Word will not return void,

but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”

(Isaiah 55:11).

It is just as important to remember that one who stands up for Christ will

encounter persecution in his life. In our text we see that as the disciples faithfully

proclaimed God’s Truth as God commanded, they were not free from

encountering persecution. Before they were let go with orders not to proclaim

the name of Jesus, they were flogged.

Somehow we have the mistaken idea that if we witness for Christ correctly

we will not know any persecutions in our life. The disciples in our text did

everything right. They witnessed to Christ as He had commanded. They spoke

the truth in love. Yet, that didn’t spare them from being persecuted.

Experiencing persecution for the Christian faith is not something a Christian seeks.

Yet, it should not be something he avoids. Jesus clearly tells us in the Bible: “If

anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up the cross and

follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

As we stand up for Christ we will encounter persecution and not everyone

will be receptive to the Gospel we share. Yet, God calls us to share it because

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by

which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

No one comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6).

God grant us strength to stand up for Christ, to be bold in our testimony of

Him, and to clearly share the message of salvation He has called us to share. Let

us not hide our faith under a bushel to avoid conflict and gain worldly approval,

but let us share God’s Word so that the hearts and lives of people can be changed

and blessed for all eternity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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