Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students
The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.
Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.
“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.
“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.
“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”
The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.
Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.
An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.
In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.
The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”
Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.
Like their brothers and sisters in Smyrna the believers in Pergamos had suffered persecution, and one of their men had died for the faith. Pergamum was called the city “where Satan has his throne.” Surrounded by worship of Satan and the Roman emperor as god the church at Pergamos refused to renounce their faith, even when Satan worshippers martyred one of their members. In spite of intense suffering, this church had remained true to God. They refused to drop incense on the altar and say, “Caesar is Lord.”
The Lord’s description of Himself (“He who has the sharp, double-edged sword,” Rev. 2:12) would surely encourage the people. It was more important the church fear Christ’s sword than the Roman sword (Rev. 2:16). Just as the Romans used their swords for authority and judgment, Jesus’ “sharp, double-edge sword” represented God’s ultimate authority and judgment.
2. Accusation (vv. 14–15)
Despite their courageous stand against persecution the believers in Pergamos were not faultless before the Lord. Satan had not been able to destroy them by coming as the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), but he was making inroads as the deceiving serpent. A group of compromising people had infiltrated the church fellowship, and Jesus Christ hated their doctrines and their practices.
These infiltrators are called “Nicolaitans,” whom we met already at Ephesus (Rev. 2:6). The name means “to rule the people.” What they taught is called “the doctrine of Balaam” (Rev. 2:14). The Hebrew name Balaam means “lord of the people” and is synonymous with Nicolaitans. Sadly, this group of professed believers “lorded it over” the people and led them astray.
Understanding the story of Balaam helps us interpret this insidious group more accurately (Num. 22–25). Balaam was a true prophet who prostituted his gifts in order to earn money from King Balak, who hired him to curse the people of Israel. God prevented Balaam from actually cursing the nation—in fact, God turned the curses into blessings—but Balak still got his money’s worth. How? By following Balaam’s advice and making friends with Israel, and then inviting the Jews to worship and feast at the pagan altars.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” was their philosophy. The Jewish men fell right into the trap and many of them became “good neighbors.” They ate meat from idolatrous altars and committed fornication as part of heathen religious rites. Twenty-four thousand people died because of this disobedient act of compromise (Num. 25:1–9).
The Lord accused the Christians in Pergamos of sinning, of committing “spiritual fornication” by saying, “Caesar is Lord.” Of course, this compromise made them welcome in the Roman society and protected them from Roman persecution, but it cost them their testimony and their crown. A group in that church said, “There is nothing wrong with being friendly to Rome. What harm is there in putting a pinch of incense on the altar and affirming your loyalty to Caesar?” Antipas refused to compromise and was martyred; but others took the “easy way” and cooperated with Rome.
Believers today also face the temptation to achieve personal advancement by ungodly compromise. The name Pergamos means “married,” reminding us each local church is “engaged to Christ” and must be kept pure (2 Cor 11:1–4). We will see later in Revelation that this present world system is pictured as a defiled harlot, while the church is presented as a pure bride. The congregation or the individual Christian that compromises with the world just to avoid suffering or achieve success is committing “spiritual adultery” and being unfaithful to the Lord.
3. Admonition (vv. 16–17)
Antipas had felt the sword of Rome, but the church at Pergamos would feel the sword of Christ—the Word (Heb. 4:12)—if they did not repent. This is not a reference to our Lord’s return, but to a present judgment that comes to a church when it is disobedient to the Word of God. The Lord had presented Himself as a “sharp, doubled edged sword” (Rev. 2:12), so the church could not have been ignorant of its danger. As with the previous churches the closing appeal is to the individual: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” (Rev. 2:17).
The longest message was sent to the church in the smallest city! Thyatira was a military town as well as a commercial center with many trade groups. Wherever societies were found, idolatry and immorality—the two great enemies of the early church—were almost always present too.
The city boasted a special temple to Apollo, the “sun god,” which explains why the Lord introduced Himself as “the Son of God” (the only time in Revelation this title is used). John had to deliver a message of severe warning and judgment to this congregation, which explains the description of the Lord’s eyes and feet.
1. Approval (v. 19)
The believers in Thyatira were commended for growing in good deeds. They were involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others. What’s more, their works were increasing and characterized by faith, love, and patience; so the church was not guilty of mere “religious activity.”
2. Accusation (vv. 20–23)
The Lord found much to expose and condemn in the assembly at Thyatira. No amount of loving and sacrificial works can compensate for tolerance of evil. The church was permitting a false prophetess to influence the people and lead them into compromise. It is not likely this woman was actually called “Jezebel,” since such an infamous name would not be given to a child. The name is symbolic: Jezebel was the idolatrous queen who enticed Israel to add Baal worship to their religious ceremonies (1 Kings 16–19). The seductive teaching of Jezebel was similar to the “doctrine of Balaam” which the Lord condemned in the church of Pergamos (Rev. 2:14). She taught believers how to compromise with the Roman religion and the practices of the society, so Christians would not lose their jobs or their lives.
It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. The Ephesian church was weakening in its love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly at Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided in the church. “Speaking the truth in love” is the biblical balance (Eph. 4:15). Unloving orthodoxy and loving compromise are both hateful to God.
Not only was the church at Thyatira tolerant of evil, but it was proud and unwilling to repent. The Lord gave the false prophetess time to repent, yet she refused. Now He was giving her followers opportunity to repent. His eyes of fire had searched out their thoughts and motives, and He would make no mistake.
In fact, the Lord threatened to use this assembly as a solemn example to “all the churches” not to tolerate evil. Jezebel and her children (followers) would be sentenced to tribulation and death! Idolatry and compromise are, in the Bible, pictured as fornication and unfaithfulness to the marriage vows (Jer. 3:6; Hosea 9:1). Jezebel’s bed of sin would become a bed of sickness! To kill with death means “to kill with pestilence.” God would judge the false prophetess and her followers once and for all.
3. Admonition (vv. 24–29)
Not everyone in the assembly was unfaithful to the Lord and He had a special word for them. They had separated themselves from the false doctrine and compromising practices of Jezebel and her followers, which Christ denounces as “the depths of Satan” (note the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:10). The Lord had no special demands to make; He simply wanted them to hold fast in their resistance to evil. “Until I come” refers to Christ’s return for His people, at which time He will reward them for their faithfulness (Rev. 3:3; 16:15; 22:7, 17, 20). This is the first mention in Revelation of the Lord’s coming for the church, the event we commonly call the Rapture (1 Thes. 4:13–18). In contrast, the reference in Revelation 1:7 is to Christ’s return to earth in judgment, to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:11).
The believers in Thyatira are promised authority over the nations, which probably refers to the fact God’s people will live and reign with Christ (Rev. 20:4). When the Lord sets up His kingdom on earth, it will be a righteous kingdom with perfect justice. He will rule with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:8–9). Rebellious men will be like clay pots, easily broken to pieces!
As we review these first four messages to the churches, we can see the dangers that still exist for the people of God today. Like Ephesus, we can be zealous and orthodox, but at the same time lose our devotion to Christ. Like Thyatira, our love can be increasing, yet lacking in the kind of discernment that is necessary to keep the church pure (Phil. 1:9–11). Like Pergamos and Thyatira, we may be so tolerant of evil that we grieve the Lord and invite His judgment.
Would we have selected Smyrna as the most spiritual church of the four? Probably not, yet the Lord did! We need to remind ourselves not to judge God’s people by wrong standards because only the Lord can see the heart (1 Cor. 4:5).
God’s exhortation to these churches (except Smyrna) is, “Repent!” It is not only lost sinners who need to repent, but also disobedient Christians. If we do not repent and deal with sin in our lives and in our assemblies the Lord may judge us and remove our lamp stand (Rev. 2:5). How tragic it is when a local church gradually abandons the faith and loses its witness for Christ! “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches!”
In Part 3, we will look at Christ’s message to the next church.
If you have ever moved to a new community and had to select a new church home, you know how difficult it is to examine and evaluate a church and its ministry. Imposing buildings may house dying or dead congregations, while modest structures might belong to vibrant assemblies on the march for the Lord. The church we think is “rich” may turn out to be poor in God’s sight (Rev. 3:17), while the “poor” church is actually rich (Rev. 2:9).
Only the Head of the church, Jesus Christ, can accurately inspect each church and know its true condition because He sees the internals, not only the externals (Rev. 2:23b). In these special messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor the Lord gave each assembly an “X ray” of its condition. They are commended for their strengths and warned about their flaws. But He intended for all the churches to read these messages and benefit from them. (Note the plural “churches” in Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.)
The Lord was also speaking to individuals, and this is where you and I come in. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Churches are made up of individuals and it is individuals who determine the spiritual life of the assembly. Before Christ judges the world, He must judge His own people (Ezek. 9:6; 1 Peter 4:17). A purified church need never fear the attacks of Satan or men. As we go over these messages, we must apply them personally as we examine our own hearts.
The Ephesian assembly had enjoyed some “stellar” leadership—Paul, Timothy, and the Apostle John himself—but the Lord reminded them He was in control of the ministry, placing the “stars” where He pleased. How easy it is for a church to become proud and forget pastors and teachers are God’s gifts (Eph. 4:11) who may be taken away at any time. Some churches need to be cautioned to worship the Lord and not their pastor!
1. Approval (vv. 2–3, 6)
This was a serving church, busy doing the works of the Lord. No doubt their weekly schedule was filled with activities. It was also a sacrificing church, for the word labor means “toil to the point of exhaustion.” The Ephesian Christians paid a price to serve the Lord. They were a steadfast assembly, for the word perseverance carries the meaning of “endurance under trial.” They kept going when the going was tough.
The Ephesian church was a separated people, for they carefully examined the visiting ministers (2 John 7–11) to see if they were genuine. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in from the outside, and even arise from within the church (Acts 20:28–31) and John had instructed them to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1–6). Indeed, Satan has his false ministers, and the church must be constantly alert to detect them and reject them (2 Cor. 11:1–4, 12–15).
The Christians at Ephesus separated themselves not only from false doctrine, but also from false deeds. Jesus commended the church for hating the wicked practices of the Nicolaitans. This was a sect who “lorded it over” the church and robbed the people of their liberty in Christ (3 John 9–11). They initiated what we know today as “clergy” and “laity,” a false division that is taught nowhere in the New Testament. All God’s people are “kings and priests” (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6), and have equal access to the Father through the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19). We will meet this dangerous sect again when we study the message to the church at Pergamos.
The believers at Ephesus were a suffering people who patiently bore their burdens and toiled without fainting. And they did all of this for His name’s sake! As we examine this congregation up until this point, you may conclude they are just about perfect. However, the One among the lamp stands saw into their hearts and He had a different diagnosis.
2. Accusation (v. 4)
This busy, separated, sacrificing church really suffered from “heart trouble”—they had abandoned their first love! They displayed “works … labor … and patience”, but these qualities were not motivated by a love for Christ (compare with 1 Thes. 1:3). What we do for the Lord is important, but so is our motive for doing it!
What is this “first love” they had forsaken? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the “honeymoon love” of the husband and wife (Jer. 2:1–2). While it is true that mature married love deepens and grows richer, it is also true that it should never lose the excitement and wonder of those “honeymoon days.” When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger.
Just think of it: it is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer “for My name’s sake” and yet not really love Jesus Christ! The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration. Labor is no substitute for love; neither is purity a substitute for passion. The church must have both if it is to please Him. But the Ephesian church had fallen and was not living up to its heavenly position in Christ (Rev. 2:5). It is only as we love Christ fervently that we can serve Him faithfully.
3. Admonition (vv. 5–7)
Our “first love” can be restored only if we follow the three instructions Christ gave. First, we must remember (literally “keep on remembering”) what we have lost and cultivate a desire to regain that close communion once again. Then, we must repent—change our minds—and confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Third, we must repeat the things we did at first, which suggests restoring the original fellowship that was broken by our sin and neglect. For the believer, this means prayer, Bible reading and meditation, obedient service, and worship.
In spite of the privileges the church of Ephesus had enjoyed, it was in danger of losing its light! The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be. “I will come” is not referring to the Lord’s return, but to His coming judgment then and there. The glorious city of Ephesus is today a heap of stones and no light is shining there.
Revelation 2:7 makes it clear that individual believers within the church may be true to the Lord, no matter what the majority is doing. In these seven messages the “overcomers” are not a “spiritual elite,” but rather the true believers whose faith has given them victory (1 John 5:4–5). Sinful man was banned from the tree of life (Gen. 3:22–24), but in Christ we have eternal abundant life (John 3:16; 10:10). We enjoy this blessing now and we will enjoy it in greater measure in eternity (Rev. 22:1–5).
The church of Ephesus was the “loveless church,” made up of careless believers who neglected their love for Christ. Are we guilty of the same neglect?
The name Smyrna means “bitter” and is related to the word myrrh. The Christians at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, but their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God. The assembly at Smyrna was persecuted for the faith, which explains why the Lord emphasized His death and resurrection as He opened His message. No matter what experiences God’s people may have, their Lord identifies with them.
1. Approval (v. 9)
The church at Smyrna was not having an easy time of it! The church in this city struggled against two hostile forces: a Jewish population strongly opposed to Christianity, and a non-Jewish population that was loyal to Rome and supported emperor worship. The members were persecuted because they refused to compromise and worship the emperor. Smyrna was an important center of the Roman imperial cult, and anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would certainly be excluded from the society.
The believers in Smyrna suffered affliction and poverty. The word affliction means “pressure” or “crushing weight.” It resembles the persecution of God’s people in Egyptian slavery (Exod. 3:9; 4:31) and their exile in Babylon (Deut. 4:25–31; 28:47–68). As a result of affliction, these Christians were reduced to unemployment and poverty. The word used here for poverty means “abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing.”
But they were rich! What a comfort it was for the Christians at Smyrna to know that Christ knew all about their sufferings: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” They lived for eternal values that would never change, riches that could never be taken away. “As poor, yet making rich” (2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9). Their suffering for Christ only increased their riches.
2. Admonition (vv. 10–11)
No words of accusation were given to the congregation in Smyrna! They may not have enjoyed the approval of men, but they certainly received the praise of God. Jesus commended the church for its faith in suffering and gave solemn words of admonition as they faced increased suffering: “Don’t be afraid!” More suffering was in store for the Smyrnians at the hands of the devil. The word devil means “slanderer,” “accuser,” or “adversary.” In the Old Testament the devil is like a public prosecutor (Job 1–2; Zech. 3). In the New Testament, he is the source of all falsehood and deception. God is allowing Satan to test the faith of Christians, providing the opportunity for them to show their commitment to suffer for Christ.
Jesus assured the church He knew the devil’s plans and He was in complete control of the situation. Some of the believers would be imprisoned and tried as traitors to Rome, yet their tribulation would not be long. Their affliction was to last only for “ten days.” In the Bible, ten days signifies “a brief time” (Gen. 24:55; Acts 25:6). The important thing was faithfulness, standing true to Christ no matter what the government might threaten to do.
The Lord reinforced the promise given by James (James 1:12) and assured His people there was nothing to fear. The “crown of life” was the winner’s crown awarded at the annual athletic games. Smyrna was a key participant in the games, so this promise would be especially meaningful to believers living there. Because they had trusted Him, they were overcomers—victors in the race of faith (Heb. 12:1–3)—and, as overcomers, they had nothing to fear. Even if they were martyred, they would be ushered into glory, wearing crowns! They would never face the awful judgment of the second death, which is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).
It costs to be a dedicated Christian, in some places more than others. As end-time pressures increase, persecution will also increase; and God’s people need to be ready (1 Peter 4:12). The world may call us “poor Christians,” but in God’s sight we are rich!
In Part 2, we will look at Christ’s message to the next two churches.
Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.
Dec 23, 2019
If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.
His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.
This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.
Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.
The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship
Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.
The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)
John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.
To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.
Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.
One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.
He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.
As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.
Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”
Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.
This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.
The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.
This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.
P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia
I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?
Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
Despite a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 117,000 people from around the world expressed an interest in committing their faith in Jesus after hearing the Gospel through virtual events hosted by evangelist Nick Hall and his young-adult ministry Pulse during the week of Easter.
Pulse led two major events during the week, namely, Leader Check-In and a Good Friday service that featured several high-profile Christian speakers, including Francis Chan, founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, who now lives in Hong Kong.
“I’m guessing this is the strangest Good Friday you’ve ever had,” Chan told viewers during his quarantined Good Friday presentation broadcast in nearly 100 countries, including Japan, China, Nepal, Thailand, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Russia, and was translated into 40 different languages.
“You’re used to being in a church building with a crowd of people celebrating the cross of Jesus, but I actually think that there’s something fitting about you being alone because most of you are watching this by yourself or maybe with your family in just a small group,” he said, noting that being alone can be a golden opportunity to connect with God.
“That’s why there’s something good about you being alone right now. It’s one thing to yearn for Him and scream for Him when everyone else is there because the crowd may move you to that. But this Good Friday [it’s good] for you to have some quiet and some isolation so that the core of your being, not just your lips, the core of your being will connect with Him,” Chan said.
Other speakers featured during the Good Friday service were: renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias, bestselling author Max Lucado, NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. Worship was courtesy of Christian singers Lauren Daigle, Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.
“We were literally getting smartphone photos from all over the world — from Nigeria to India and China — of families gathering in their living rooms, around 18-inch cathode-ray TVs, laptops and HD screens watching our services,” Hall said in a release shared with The Christian Post about the collective reaction to the event. “The doors to our church buildings may have been closed, but the church has not closed. We are living through a Great Quarantine Revival, and I think God is just getting started.”
At the Leader Check-In event hosted on April 8, ministry leaders and pastors were encouraged ahead of the Easter weekend. Bible teachers and bestselling authors such as Ann Voskamp, Beth Moore, Chan, David Platt, Rodriguez, Priscilla Shirer and Lecrae offered practical advice anchored in the Word of God.
“This Easter may have been the most significant in a century,” Hall said. “The fields have never been more ripe for harvest as people search for hope and meaning during this global pandemic. It may very well be the greatest opportunity we’ve had to share the Gospel — but we will miss it if we don’t care for our pastors and ministers now.”
James knew his readers needed patience. They were facing persecution because of their faith. In Part 1, we saw two examples of patient endurance: the farmer and the prophets. Today, we will look at the third example.
As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
You cannot persevere unless there is a trial in your life. There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys. If we want the blessing, we must be prepared to carry the burden and fight the battle.
I once heard a young Christian pray, “Lord, please teach me the deep truths of Your Word! I want to be lifted up to the heavens to hear and see the wonderful things that are there!” It was a sincere prayer, but the young man did not realize what he was praying. Paul went to the “third heaven” and learned things too marvelous for words; and as a result, God had to give Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor. 12:1–10). God has to balance privileges with responsibilities, blessings with burdens, or else you and I will become spoiled, pampered children.
When do “blessings” come? In the midst of trials we may experience God’s blessings, as did the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3); but James taught there is a blessing after we have endured. His example was Job.
The Book of Job is a long book and the chapters are filled with speeches that, to the Western mind, seem long and tedious. In the first three chapters is Job’s distress: he loses his wealth, his family (except for his wife, who told him to commit suicide), and his health. In chapters 4–31, we read Job’s defense, as he debates with his three friends and answers their false accusations. Chapters 38–42 present Job’s deliverance: first God humbles Job, and then He honors Job and gives him twice as much as he had before.
In studying the experience of Job, it is important to remember Job did not know what was going on “behind the scenes” between God and Satan. Job’s friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. “There must be some terrible sin in your life,” they argued, “or God would never have permitted this suffering.” Job disagreed with them and maintained his innocence (but not perfection) during the entire conversation. The friends were wrong: God had no cause against Job (Job 2:3) and in the end, God rebuked the friends for telling lies about Job (Job 42:7).
It is difficult to find a greater example of suffering than Job. Circumstances were against him. He lost his wealth and his health. He also lost his beloved children. His wife was against him, for she said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). His friends were against him, for they accused him of being a hypocrite, deserving of the judgment of God. It even seemed like God was against him! When Job cried out for answers to his questions, there was no reply from heaven.
Yet, Job endured. Satan predicted Job would get impatient with God and abandon his faith, but that did not happen. While it is true Job questioned God’s will, he did not forsake his faith in the Lord. “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will defend my ways before Him” (Job 13:15). Job was so sure of God’s perfections that he persisted in arguing with Him, even though he did not understand all God was doing. That is endurance.
God made a covenant with Israel that He would bless them if they would obey His Laws (Deut. 11). This led to the idea that, if you were wealthy and comfortable, you were blessed of God; but if you were suffering and poor, you were cursed of God. When Jesus said it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven the disciples were shocked. “Who, then, can be saved?” they asked (Matt. 19:23–26). “The rich are especially blessed of God,” they were saying. “If they can’t make it, nobody can!” Sad to say, many people have that same erroneous idea today.
The Book of Job refutes that idea, for Job was a righteous man and yet he suffered. God found no evil in him and even Satan could not find any. Job’s friends could not prove their accusations. Job teaches us God has higher purposes in suffering than the punishing of sin. Job’s experience paved the way for Jesus, the perfect Son of God who suffered, not for His own sins, but for the sins of the world.
In Job’s case, what was “the end purpose of the Lord”? To reveal Himself as full of pity and tender mercy. Certainly, there were other results from Job’s experience, for God never wastes the sufferings of His saints. Job met God in a new and deeper way (Job 42:1–6), and, after that, he received greater blessings from the Lord.
“But if God is so merciful,” someone may argue, “why didn’t He protect Job from all that suffering to begin with?” To be sure, there are mysteries to God’s working that our finite minds cannot fathom; but this we know: God was glorified and Job was purified through this difficult experience. If there is nothing to endure, you cannot learn endurance.
What did Job’s story mean to the believers James wrote to and what does it mean to us today? It means that some of the trials of life are caused directly by satanic opposition. God permits Satan to try His children, but He always limits the extent of the enemy’s power (Job 1:12; 2:6). When you find yourself in the fire, remember God keeps His gracious hand on the thermostat! “But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Satan wants us to get impatient with God, for an impatient Christian is a powerful weapon in the devil’s hands. You will recall from our study of James 1 that Moses’ impatience robbed him of a trip to the Holy Land; Abraham’s impatience led to the birth of Ishmael, the enemy of the Jews; and Peter’s impatience almost made him a murderer. When Satan attacks us, it is easy for us to get impatient, and run ahead of God and lose God’s blessing as a result.
What is the answer? “My grace is sufficient for you!” (2 Cor. 12:7–9) Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a “messenger of Satan.” Paul could have fought it, given up under it, or tried to deny the thorn existed; but he did not. Instead, he trusted God for the grace he needed and he turned Satan’s weapon into a tool for the building up of his own spiritual life.
When you find yourself in the furnace, go to the throne of grace and receive from the Lord all the grace you need to endure (Heb. 4:14–16). Remind yourself the Lord has a gracious purpose in all of this suffering, and He will work out His purposes in His time and for His glory. You are not a robot caught in the jaws of fate. You are a loving child of God, privileged to be a part of a wonderful plan. There is a difference!
Let’s open to the Word of God, the fourth chapter of Acts, and we’re looking at a chapter that essentially is built around one single theme, the predominant part of this chapter running down through verse 31 looks at the persecution that came against the early church, the persecution that came against the early church.
The Book of Acts, as you know, is the history of the first church. It gives us something about the inception of that church, its birth on the Day of Pentecost, born in a miraculous display of Holy Spirit power. We then looked at the very early weeks and months of the church when thousands of people were being converted. By the time we get into chapter 4, the number may well have exceeded 20,000 people who, in a flurry of Holy Spirit regeneration, were added to the newly born church.
But soon into chapter 4, in fact, at the very outset of chapter 4 where we begin to get an idea of how many believers there are, we also find the first persecution. If I can take you back to the beginning of the fourth chapter, let me read the opening verse. They were speaking to the people: “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. And many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about 5, 000.” Men, there, meaning males. Add females, add to the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost, and those being saved daily, the Lord adding to the church as we learned at the end of chapter 2, and it’s pretty easy to get to a number like 20,000 believers.
They don’t have an organization. They don’t have structure. They don’t have a building. So they’re still collecting in the temple. They pose an imminent threat to the system of Judaism, which has already been assaulted by the Lord Jesus Himself whose name they all proclaim. It was that Jesus that the system and the establishment rejected and had the Romans execute. They had been preaching that He is alive from the dead, and it is by His power that the church has come to life and continue to grow, and it is by His power and in His name as one who is alive that they healed the man at the beginning of chapter 3. This healing of a man that everybody knew was a beggar, a beggar who had sat for a long time. Later in this chapter, it tells us that he was in his 40s, and much of that time, no doubt, had been a beggar and a very familiar site by the gate called Beautiful, sitting there every day, begging. This was a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb, so no doubt started early as a beggar.
The miracle, literally, was known by everyone in Jerusalem, added to the credibility that Jesus was alive, because when Jesus was alive, He was a healer. He was a miracle worker. Now, He was still alive, and He was transmitting His power through the apostles. The threat, then, to Judaism and the threat to the leaders of Israel was very, very serious. They saw it as a religious threat. They also saw it as a political threat. They saw that the impact of this movement exploding in their city, contrary to what they expected; they expected we kill the leader, cut off its head, and the rest dies.
Well, that didn’t happen. He did rise from the dead. The leaders knew that. They bribed the soldiers to lie about it, and now they’re threatened by the reality that not only is He alive, but He’s continued to unleash His power to draw followers, and even to do miracles.
So in chapter 4, we have the beginning of the persecution of the church, which is still going on today. I told you last time that current figures would indicate that there are about 100 million Christians in the world, right now, in this year, that are under persecution. And I’m not talking about those that are socially abused, or alienated. I’m talking about those that are actually under the threat of bodily harm and death. As many as 100 million. Well, all of that persecution which will continue to go on until our Lord comes, and even after the rapture of the church, there will continue to be an antichrist world in which Christians will be slaughtered far and wide. This persecution, all is launched here, and it is launched initially because it is a threat. The growth of the church is a threat to apostate Judaism.
Now, we’ve all known, I think, those of us who are believers who’ve lived in the world at all, we’ve all known a measure of alienation, being ostracized. We’ve all understood that to one degree or another. We know what it is to have to forfeit friends, family. We know what it is to be under pressure not to speak for Christ, or it might threaten our position in the world in some social structure, be it a job, or a school, or whatever. We all understand that. That’s part of the persecution. But the kind of persecution we’re going to see here threatened life and limb.
Now, to start with, I want to just kind of back up from this, as I often like to do to maybe give you a larger perspective on persecution. And by the way, those of you who are under persecution, I trust that the Lord will encourage you by the things that we’re saying in this series. Now, we have to understand that persecution is a trial, all right? Persecution is a trial, and trials are for our benefit. I know that is perhaps not the way we think of persecution. There are people, well-intentioned I assume, who are busy lobbying to get our government and other governments around the world to bring a halt to persecution, to stop the persecution. And while it’s certainly noble to call nations that are killing people to stop killing them, and nations that are threatening people to stop threatening them, imprisoning them, harming them; at the same time, it must be noted that none of this happens outside the purposes of God. This does not lessen the culpability of those who do it. But we need to be reminded that persecution is a trial, and trials have a positive impact. They’re designed by God to that end.
Listen to James 1. James 1 verse 2. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” There is unmistakable revelation that trials produce a tested faith that yields endurance and causes a believer to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
In verse 12, James then adds, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, having stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” So there is a promise that trials produce a perfected faith, and an eternal reward. They have benefit in this life, and they have benefit in the life to come.
Peter understood that. Listen to 1 Peter chapter 4. First Peter chapter 4. “Beloved,” verse 12, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you shared the sufferings of Christ, that would be unjust persecution and suffering. Keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation, for if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” There again, a fiery ordeal. What is this fiery ordeal? Well, Peter is writing a letter to persecuted believers, aliens, chapter 1 verse 1, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who were chosen. These aliens to the world system are under persecution. Verse 5 says they’re being protected by the power of God through faith. They are to rejoice, because now, for a little while, you have been distressed by various trials so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found or result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing more precious in this life than a tested faith. Nothing worth than wondering if you’re saved. Worrying if you might not be a true believer.
How can you be sure? You can be sure if you’ve gone through a fiery ordeal. You can be sure if you’ve gone through an extreme trial, you’ve gone through a great test. You can certainly be sure if you’ve gone through dire circumstances of persecution and your faith is rock solid, and it survives, and it endures, and it grows, and it is perfected. And then, you rest secure in the confidence of that assured faith.
Trials produce that, as well as we see in all of those, an eternal reward. So here are the writers of the New Testament telling us that we should, in the midst of trials, rejoice, that we should, in the midst of trials, welcome their product, their fruit their result, and that we should look forward to our heavenly reward. The apostle Paul talks about a terrible trial he was experiencing in 2 Corinthians 12. He says, “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” Paul’s response, “If power is perfected in weakness, if faith is perfected in trials, then I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Then he says this: “Therefore I am well-content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with difficulties, and with persecutions for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
He knew that persecutions brought about spiritual strength. Persecutions brought about a tested faith. Persecutions brought a tested faith. Persecutions produced a greater eternal reward. He also knew that persecution was inevitable in preaching the gospel. Philippians 2:17. “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” If I lose my life getting the gospel to you, I rejoice.
Similarly in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. What sufferings is he talking about? It was all persecution. Beaten with rods, whipped by the Jews, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from robbers, rivers, everywhere he went. Natural disasters, natural and supernatural enemies, demons. He found joy in all of that, in all of it, because in his weakness, he became strong. And as he became strong, his faith was perfected, and his joy came out of the confidence of a perfected or assured faith. He also had great hope for his eternal reward.
Listen, the world hated Jesus. He said that. They hated Him, really, with an insatiable hate that could only be satisfied when they had Him dead, and then He rose from the dead and continued to live through the apostles and through His church. And so, as Paul said, believers who follow after Christ receive in their bodies the wounds intended for Christ. We take the blows meant for Him. It isn’t that they hate us; it’s that they hate Him, and He’s not here, so they attack us. But it is in this sense that all believers who suffer persecution must view their persecution. It is designed by God to produce a perfected faith. It is designed by God to produce maturity, assurance, joy, and eternal reward.
In Mark 13:13, we read, “You shall be hated of all men for my sake.” In 2 Corinthians 1:5, the afflictions of Christ overflowed toward us. To the Corinthians, Paul says he was always bearing in his body the dying of Jesus Christ. He says to the Galatians, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.” He even prayed for more, that I may know Him, and fellowship of His sufferings. Philippians 3:10. For the Christian then, persecution is a noble expectation. It produces growth and glory, and maturity, and assurance, and blessing, and encouragement, and reward, and is part of who we are. It is one of the privileges of our union with Christ.
Some of you may be saying, I never thought of persecution that way, but that is the Bible’s way to think about it. That is how the church learned to think about it, through the very revelations of Scripture that I’ve just recited for you.
Now, as we come to chapter 4 of the Book of Acts, the church is going to learn this. The church is going to learn the blessing and benefit of persecution. Those who were persecuted in the past have all entered into the eternal reward, and if they were here, they could give testimony of the glory of that reward. The sufferings of this world, they have learned, are not worthy to be compared with the joy that will be ours in the presence of the Lord. We have a far greater weight of glory awaiting us.
Well, the early church is beginning to learn this. And as chapter 4 unfolds, there are some principles that arise as we watch how they handle persecution. I’ve identified seven of them, and I gave you three last time. We’ll work on giving you the rest this time. One could simply ask the question: how did the early apostles and the early church handle persecution? By what means? The answer is here. First of all, we started in verse 5 to look at the response, and the first thing I told you last time was, this is the first principle of facing persecution: be submissive to it. Be submissive to it. That is precisely how they responded. When everybody gathered together against them and confronted them, they saw it as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the Sanhedrin. They wound up sitting in the middle of the gathered rules and elders and scribes of Jerusalem, with Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, two other of the elite blue bloods related to the high priestly family. All of them from that descent. They took Peter and John, placed them in the middle of the encircled Sanhedrin, and began to ask them questions. This is the first necessary response that the Lord providentially has brought me to this place and this is going to give an opportunity that probably couldn’t be gained any other way.
There was no resistance. That’s what we see here. It’s really an argument from silence. There’s no struggle here. They knew that even as new believers, that God had allowed this. They were content with that. They waited for God’s purpose to be unfolded. This is God plan. Everything they’ve seen has been God’s plan. From the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and then it was all explained that this is the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, and they understood all of that for the first time. We see them pour out references to the Old Testament. For the first time, the apostles do that in the Book of Acts because they understand it.
So it’s all coming clear to them, the whole unfolding plan of God, and they submit to it. The second thing we saw last time, the second principle that rises out of this persecution is they were filled with the Spirit, verse 8. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them. They were beyond their own strength, like Paul. They were in the midst of weakness. They had no human resources. They had no one who would get them out of this situation. They didn’t know what they were to say, but they remembered the words of Jesus who said, “Take no thought in what you’ll say. I’ll put the words in your mouth.” That, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So there, we find Peter yielding up fully control to the Holy Spirit.
Now, that’s not just some kind of nebulous expression. What it means is peter didn’t try to operate in his own strength, in his own wisdom. In fact, it parallels James 1. You remember in the next verse, after we read that trials have a perfecting work, producing endurance in a completed faith, we read immediately after that, these very familiar words from James. Remember them? “If any of you lacks,” what? Wisdom. Let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it’ll be given to him, but he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, for that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
In other words, throw yourself completely, trustingly on the power of God, which means: yield to the Holy Spirit, in the midst of the trial, in the midst of the struggle. So, we saw that last time, the necessity of calling on God, and crying out to the Holy Spirit to take over and fill your life, and give you the words and the understanding and the wisdom to deal with it. This is triumphant.
The third thing and last point that we looked at last time was, in the midst of persecution, boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel. Boldly use it as an opportunity to present the gospel. Verse 8, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them. And this is bold: “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man is has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all of the people of Israel that buy the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. He, that is, Jesus Christ, is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” This is really so powerful.
How emboldened are these disciples? You say they’re essentially just in the church for weeks. The church is newly born. They’ve just been literally given the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They received the indwelling Spirit. They’re filled with the Spirit. How in the world could they have such assurance and confidence and boldness? The answer? They knew all that the Old Testament had said but didn’t understand its meaning. They knew all that Christ had said but were shaky and foggy about its meaning. But when Christ rose from the dead, met them in the upper room, and for 40 days explained the meaning of everything, all of it came together in completion. Now, their theology is full, and rich, and historic.
Jewish people who are converted to Christ are the only converts who can drag their former religion into the new one. If you’re a converted Buddhist, you can’t bring anything with you. If you’re a converted Hindu, you can’t bring anything. But if you’re a converted Jew, you bring everything and you understand it, and that’s what was happening to them. They were new in the sense of New Covenant converts, but they had such a vast education that now all had become clear. They understood the plan, the purpose. There is Peter there in verse 11, rattling off Psalm 118 verse 22 to show again this experience of now for the first time understanding even isolated portions of the Old Testament. They preached the exclusivity of the gospel.
What did they do in persecution? Soften the message? No. Broaden the message to be inclusive, so no one is offended? No. They preached the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ and in no one else. Now listen, they start throwing around Old Testament verses, and they do this with confidence, and this shakes the rulers in the Sanhedrin. Verse 13. Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
Now understand, they, like the rest of the Jews, had been raised on the Old Testament. They knew the content without knowing the meaning. But now, all of a sudden, with their teacher after His resurrection explaining it all to them for 40 days, with the Holy Spirit becoming an internal resident truth teacher, they are profoundly educated in an understanding of Scripture. And so, they speak with confidence about salvation in Christ and Christ alone. And this shocks the Jewish Ph.D.’s who are supposed to be the only ones who can speak with certainty. They’re astounded that these uneducated Galilean fishermen say what they say with such boldness, such confidence, and who talk like they knew what they were talking about. They’re really stunned by this. They obviously know that this is beyond what they should expect, and they began, end of verse 13, to recognize them as having been with Jesus. They were like Jesus. Confident, assured, authoritative.
Remember in the Sermon on the Mount, what shocked the crowd as He spoke as one having what? Authority. They saw the same boldness in the apostles they had seen in Jesus. They saw the same forthright fearlessness they had seen with Jesus. And neither Jesus nor these men had ever set their foot in any rabbinical, authorized school. And yet, they taught as if they had authority. Certainly, none of them, not Peter or John, or any other apostles, in one sense, could handle the Old Testament the way Jesus did, but this is what they were used to from Jesus. None of them could be as assured and as bold and confident as the omniscient Son of God, but it was very much the same.
That leads to a fourth principle. Be obedient to God no matter the cost. Be obedient to God no matter the cost. The leaders have a problem on their hands. They are looking at the man who had been healed standing with Peter and John. He’s still there. Remember? That’s how the scene started, right? Well, when Peter and John came to the Sanhedrin, they brought the man, the living illustration. They didn’t know what to say in reply. They were in no position to deny the miracle. There’s the man. Can’t deny that. They’re not in any position to question the disciples’ understanding of the Old Testament. They could’ve repented. They could’ve said, “We were wrong. Obviously, Christ is alive because His power is at work.” They didn’t. They have to figure out a way to deal with this.
So, in verse 15, they ordered them to leave the council, and then they began to confer with one another. They take them out of the room. They don’t set them free. They just get them out of there so they don’t hear the deliberations. And they say, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” Does that tell you about unbelief? How stubborn is unbelief?
All right. The miracle happened. It’s a notable miracle. The whole city knows it’s a miracle. We can’t attempt to deny the miracle. What are we going to do with these men. This is a tough problem. Oh, by the way, there’s no law against healing people. There didn’t need to be a law against it ‘cause nobody could do it. There’s no rule against a good deed. And furthermore, Peter and John were popular with the people. How popular were they? 20,000 people by now or about that make up the church which, as far as they’re concerned, doesn’t appear as a church, but a mass movement against them by the populous. They can’t kill these men or they’re going to have a revolution on their hands. That’s not good. They can’t let them go, and at least they can’t let them go doing this, teaching and healing. They’ve got to come up with something, and this is the brain trust now of Judaism. So, they come up with a solution, verse 17, “‘But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.’ And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
That is the inevitable moment in persecution. Is it not? Every martyr came to that moment in the past. Every martyr comes to that moment in the present. We read it in the papers all the time. ISIS finds Christians, they bring them in, they say “denounce Christianity, embrace Islam or we’ll chop your head off.” That moment comes in persecution. Will you deny Christ? Will you deny Christ? You read the history of the persecution of the church, and that moment comes back again and again and again. They brought them in, commanded them never to mention the name of Jesus again.
Kind of an interesting little turn. The early believers had to be commanded to be quiet about Jesus; modern believers have to be commanded to say something about Him. We’ve come a long way from the fire of the early church, I fear. They still despise His name. They still hate Him, and they can’t get rid of His name, they can’t get rid of Him. So, they warn them. The warning implies some kind of threat, some kind of response if they fail to obey, to speak no longer to any man that name. What they mean there of course is public speaking. The verb is used to refer to actual public speech. No more preaching. So they put a ban on preaching. There are bans on preaching all over the world today. There always have been in the life of the church. So they threatened them with some unnamed retribution if they don’t stop preaching. A ban on preaching. I wonder how far away that is, even in our own country.
So how do they respond? Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.” Boy, that is well-crafted, isn’t it? They might’ve been fishermen, but they were pretty shrewd. You need to make another judgment, gentlemen. Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you or to God. That’s it. You say, well, wait a minute. The Bible says that we are to be subject to the powers that be for they are ordained of God. Romans 13. The Bible says that we are to be subject to the king and all rulers, and to submit to them and be good citizens. First Peter chapter 2. We are to come under authority. God is ordained government. They don’t bear the sword for nothing, and we’re to be model citizens and not revolutionaries. And so, this would’ve been the time for them to say okay, we will submit because the Bible tells us to submit. We are to honor the king, and the governor, and those that are in authority over us. God has ordained all authorities for the preservation of life.
But that has limits, folks, when what men tell you to do is contrary to what God tells you to do. Then, who do you obey? You be the judge. Whether it’s right in the sight of God to give heed to you, rather than to God, you judge that. How did Daniel face that? Daniel was told: do not pray. Daniel answered that question, “I have a higher authority.” Daniel, by nature, was a submissive young man. He had demonstrated that in his training in Babylon. He was a well-rounded noble, accommodating man, and rose to a prime ministership in an alien country. But when it came to being told not to do what God commanded him to do, that’s where he had to obey the higher authority.
So what does someone do in persecution? First, you boldly proclaim the message that brought about the persecution, and secondly, with holy courage and boldness, you take your stand. You have, really, no choice. When the culture tells you you cannot proclaim the gospel, when the culture tells you you cannot read the Scripture, when society forbids you to name the name of Jesus Christ, or when society demands that you do something God forbids like allow homosexual marriage. That is an oxymoron. You have a higher authority.
Listen, they knew that they had a responsibility to government. It was Peter who wrote those words: submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. He wrote that. He understood that. But when obeying that government makes you a violator of Christ’s command, you cannot be obedient. You must not be obedient. You will not be obedient. Chapter 5 verse 29, it comes up again. Further persecution. Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” We must obey God rather than men. I say this not only to you, but to persecuted Christians around the world who may hear this message. When they command you to stop speaking the name of Christ, you cannot obey them. When they command you to stop preaching the gospel, you cannot obey them. When they command you to accept something immoral, something unjust, or something unrighteous, you cannot obey them.
Here we are in America, and some professing Christians have so little courage that the voice of their neighbors sound louder in their ears than the voice of God. The real secret here is the tribute once paid to John Knox. He feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man. Well, that was Peter and John. They obeyed in faith, leading the results to God. That’s boldness.
A couple of other things come out of this. Little dialogue here. It shows how opposite Judaism was from God, because they were put in a dilemma where doing what the leaders of Judaism told them to do would be absolutely contrary to God. Again, another way to demonstrate how ungodly Judaism was. It also let them know that their superficial self-designed authority was meaningless in God’s kingdom.
So, verse 20, they say it as clearly as you can say it: “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” That’s how John described his experience with Christ. First John 1:1. You remember how he begins that epistle? “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” Christ. We saw Him. We heard Him. We touched Him. We handled Him. The Word of Life. We cannot speaking about Him. This, of course, is where persecuted people have to take their stand. And if it means off with the head, burned at the stake, whatever it means, there’s no choice. Paul put it this way, 1 Corinthians 9:16: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” I bring judgment down on my own head. I’d rather be judged by man than by God. I’d rather have the condemnation of an earthly tribunal than to have the condemnation of the heavenly one.
We can’t. We can’t stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard. We can’t. When they had then, verse 21, “threatened them further, they let them go.” Why did they let them go? Finding no basis on which to punish them, “on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened.” There is a mass movement going on. There are the people who have become true believers and are now making up the church, but the whole city, the whole area is electrified by this incredible miracle, and they’re all glorifying God for what happened. Doesn’t mean they were all believers, but they all knew it was a work of God because they knew the man, verse 22, the man was more than 40 years old on whom the miracle of healing had been performed. That means for decades, they had seen this beggar in his lame condition. So they threatened him, but we don’t know what the teeth in the threat might be, but they didn’t put any. They didn’t say we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that, because they were afraid of this mass movement, this populace.
So, they just released them. If you look over at 40, it’s a similar situation. Only this time, they put some teeth in their demands. They called the apostles in, and they flogged them. They whipped them, and then ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So, the first time, they think the warning might scare them. The warning doesn’t scare them. The next time, they whip them and give them the same command.
That doesn’t stop anything. Then, as you know, eventually they began to kill them. But at this point, they do nothing. Verse 23. When they had been released, they went to their own, their own friends and family, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. They just gave a report. They had stood their ground. They had been bold. No threats could’ve deterred them. This is an appropriate response to being brought to the brink in persecution when your life is threatened.
Wonderful story of John Chrysostom, summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius, threatened with banishment if he didn’t stop preaching Christ. He is said to have said this: “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” The emperor said, “Then I will slay you.” “Nay. You cannot slay me, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” “Then, your treasures will be confiscated.” “That can’t be. My treasures are all in heaven, where no one can break in and steal.” “Then I will drive you from men, and you will have no friends.” “You cannot do that either. I have a friend in heaven who said I will never leave you or forsake you.” Ultimately, Chrysostom was banished to a remote place on the edge of Armenia. And all he did when he got there was preach. All the time. So they determined they had to banish him further into a terribly obscure place, and he died on the journey. No threat could break his spirit, and no threat could take him away from obedience. Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution. Boldly obey Christ in the face of persecution.
So what did we learn? Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, and be boldly obedient, no matter what the cost.
There’s a fifth principle, a fifth principle. Bind closer to other believers, verse 23. “When they had been released, they went to their own companions,” friends, “and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” You know, persecution produces unity. Go over to verse 32. As this persecution accelerates, the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. Not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own. All things were common property to them. With great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and abundant grace was on them. There was not a needy person among them. All who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. This is an incredible coming together. Persecution does that. It produces unity. They clung tightly to one another, dependent. The persecuted church is the united church because it draws its strengths in that corporate fellowship. Persecution inevitably produces unity. It forces believers to circle the wagons, to cling to each other, to hold on tightly.
Persecuted church, then, because expressive of its love. It becomes stronger in its union. Persecution then makes the church collectively strong. So, the fifth principle, just in that one little verse: “Bind yourselves closely together with other believers.”
Two more. Number 6, thank the Lord. Thank the Lord. When the message was given and they heard it, verse 24, they lifted up their voices to God with one accord. There’s the unity. And they said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David your servant said,” Psalm 2, “‘Why did the nations rage and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
What was their response? Just immediate praise to God. Immediate praise. They pour out true worship. They address God as Lord, not the usual Kurios, Lord, but despot. It becomes the English word, “despot,” referring to one who is the absolute ruler of slaves, the absolute master of all. They see themselves as slaves, and they praise their master. They praise their God with one accord, who is the creator of the entire universe, the God who has all of the rulers of the world and nations of the earth in the palm of His hand, the God who allowed them to gather against His Christ. And in their gathering, they accomplished His purpose, which was predestined. This is where theologians get the invisible hand to describe the providence of God, verse 28, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to accomplish.
This is praise. This is blessing God. Their response to the report then, is to praise the Lord, to lift up their praise. They recognize the guilt of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, the people of Israel. But behind it all is the invisible hand of God, affecting His predestined purpose.
This is so critical in persecution, to see that this is part of a scheme, a plan, a purpose unfolding, that God ordained before the world began. Listen. This is where your comfort comes from. This is not outside the plan. This is inside the plan. This is not outside the power of God. This is inside the power of God. This is His purpose, it is His plan, it is by His power and His will. The Old Testaments prophesied that the world would gather against the Messiah, that the kings of the earth would take their stand and the rulers would gather together, and they did, and who are those rulers who gathered against Jesus? Herod, the Idumean; Pilate, the Roman; the Romans and the Jews. The world gathered against Him, just what is prophesied in Psalm 2, and raged, the Gentiles raged, the Jews raged. But all they did in their rage was what God had predestined to occur. This is where the one in persecution finds final, ultimate comfort. This is in the plan of God. That’s how the Book of Genesis ends, in the story of Joseph. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for God. Psalm 76:10 puts it this way: He causes the wrath of men to praise Him.
So, how do you handle persecution? Be submissive, be Spirit filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, be obedient at all costs, bind yourselves together with other believers, and praise the Lord for His purpose and providence in it all.
And then, the final note. Amazing. Pray for greater boldness. Pray for greater boldness. Verse 29. “And now, Lord, take note of their threats,” after all the praise and affirmation, then comes the request. What’s your request? Get us out of this.
No. Here’s their request: “Grant that Your slaves,” your douloi, “may speak Your word with all confidence. Give us greater boldness.” That’s the prayer of a persecuted believer. Give us greater boldness, greater boldness. Amazing. You are despots. You are the absolute ruler. We are douloi. We are slaves. We are committed to whatever Your Word says. We will speak Your Word with all boldness and confidence. And Lord, undergird that speaking. Extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus. Undergird our preaching with more miracles, more wonders. Keep it up. And you know that that is what was happening.
If you go back to the end of chapter 2, we know that there were wonders going on. Verse 43. “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Scripture wasn’t written yet. They needed to be validated. They were validated by the miracles, and so they cry out to God: do more miracles to undergird our preaching. Give us greater boldness, and do more miracles.
Their prayer was answered fast. Verse 31. This is heaven’s response. “When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness.” Verse 32. “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.” Powerful. Too many to number, now. Bold, fearless, undaunted, confident, courageous, trusting in the purpose of God. They are triumphant.
This is how to face persecution. The church, throughout its history, has demonstrated a similar triumphant character. We rejoice in the faithfulness of the saints because we’re here today because of that faithfulness. Faithful saints preserve the Scripture. Faithful saints preserve the credibility of our Christian faith. Faithful saints wrote the books illuminated by the Holy Spirit that explain the Scripture so that it could come to life through the centuries and be brought down to us. We look backwards and see many faithful persecuted believers, but we need to realize that there are many today living. There will continue to be many more in the future. Maybe some of you, who knows.
I was glancing through a book that just came out in the last couple of days called “The Upper Room,” which gives an account that I wrote of John 13 to 16. I was reminded of a little story I put in there about a young man in our church here who used to like to go down to Los Angeles and tell people the gospel. He was in the middle of Los Angeles, and he was at 7th and Broadway, and he was giving the gospel and passing out gospel tracts and sharing the gospel. And somebody came along and bashed him in the back of the head, fractured his skull, and killed him. Tried to save him by drilling holes in his skull, but they couldn’t. That’s a few years back. That’s how it is for some people right now in our world, and it could be our legacy in the not too distant future. But we can rest on the truth of the testimony of the early church in the fourth chapter of Acts, can’t we? What a great gift this is.
Father, thank You again for Your Word. We always say that, and we always mean that from the bottom of our hearts. Thank You for its glorious insights, revelation, truth. Be with persecuted believers. Use this message wherever it can be a help and encouragement to bring glory and honor to You through the faithfulness of Your persecuted saints, and give us courage and strength when we face the hostility that comes against Your glorious name. We ask these things for the sake of Christ. Amen.
Historians tell us that just looking early on the life of the church in the first decade of the church’s life, there are at least five outbreaks of persecution, just in one decade. It all starts in the Jerusalem church, and you can open your Bible to Acts 4 because that’s where it begins. Here in Acts 4 is the first persecution of the church. The church, at best, is weeks, weeks old, brand new believers.
If we think a little beyond that, and let’s take a look at the first three centuries, let’s say, of church history. Historians like to point out ten separate eras of severe persecution of major proportions coming from the dominant power in the world. We know what happened in those early years in the book of Acts, and we’re going to live it together. We know about what begins here in chapter 4 and escalates in chapter 8, and again passes through the death of James and the death of Stephen. We have all of that record, but it didn’t slow down after that. The first official Roman persecution; now we’re getting beyond the Jews.
It’s Jewish persecution that you see in the first part of the book of Acts, but in the latter part of the book of Acts, it’s Roman persecution. It’s in the gentile and Roman world. The first great persecutor was Nero, and that commences about A.D. 67, and punishments for Christians are bizarre. They were sewed in the skins of animals, and then fed to hungry dogs. They were drenched in wax and then lit as torches to light parties.
The next persecution following Nero came from Domitian, and Domitian used the rack to literally separate their body parts. They were seared. They were burned. They were boiled. They were scourged. They were stoned. They were hanged. They were lacerated with hot irons. They were literally impaled on the horns of bulls.
The fourth persecution if we jump ahead a little bit around 162 A.D., beheadings start to appear. The eighth persecution out of, let’s say, the ten, the first 300 years, we see 300 Christians in one group thrown alive into a burning lime kiln to be incinerated.
Persecution went on after that, and it’s always around because Satan, who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the spiritual powers that reign in the darkness of this fallen culture is always after those who confess Christ genuinely. But as we come to Acts 4, let’s back up from all of that. We come to the first persecution commencing the long pattern of satanically-inspired hatred of Christ, hatred of the Bible, hatred of the gospel, hatred of Christians, hatred of the church that has reached a point today where as many as 100 million, at least professing Christians, are under persecution.
Now, admittedly, there are seasons when it is less and seasons when it is more; seasons when it is deadly and other seasons when it is only social. There are seasons when Christianity is tolerated and when it’s not tolerated. There are times when persecution is psychological and times when it’s absolutely lethal. There are times when it’s simply disdain and rejection. But whatever form it takes, there is always going to be persecution because Satan hates God, Satan hates Christ, Satan hates Christians. The kingdom of darkness hates the kingdom of light.
Persecution may be overt, as overt as chopping someone’s head off or blowing someone to bits with a bomb. Persecution may be as subtle, as very subtle as just shunning someone, alienating them, being unwilling to give them respect or a job or an academic position or social acceptance. Persecution today follows those lines in our country, but it has an effect. It has an effect.
I think often we’d be better off if somebody was killing Christians because the real Christians would stand up in that environment. Our Lord said, “The time will come when they imprison you and kill you. Don’t worry about it. When that time comes, you’ll know how to react and exactly what to say because the Holy Spirit will show you what to say. Not only that, the Holy Spirit will strengthen you in that hour because you have a faith that cannot fail. You have a faith that will not fail.”
True believers survive the physical persecution, but Christians easily crumble under the social alienation, which very often produces a compromise that steals their testimony and weakens the church as it endeavors to accommodate the hostility of the world.
I mean this is everywhere all the time going on in our culture. In the culture of the West, the non-lethal persecution that comes against the church in our time, it doesn’t kill us. It just makes us compromise. We fail to preach the truth because we don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want the scorn. We don’t want the rebellion and the resistance. We don’t want the animosity. We don’t want to be look at as some kind of pariah, some kind of outcast. But in the early church, it was real physical persecution on top of alienation.
The early church, you remember now, had exploded onto the world’s scene. There never was a church before the Day of Pentecost. It was born on the Day of Pentecost, and we remember it was born when 3,000 people heard the gospel preached and believed and continued in the apostle’s doctrine of prayer, the breaking of bread, and fellowship. And then daily more and more being added to the church. It all was captive in the sense that everyone who professed Christ was a real Christian. They were captive to Christ, as Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians to bring every thought captive to Christ. It was a captive church.
They were all real believers, and where did they meet? They didn’t have a building. They met in of all places, the temple. They just went to the temple, the massive courtyard in the temple, and we find them, as we come into chapter 3, with Peter and John in the porch of Solomon, which was one of the great colonnades that had a covering over it in the temple area.
They gathered there. They gathered there in the afternoon at the official time of the evening sacrifice, the time of the hour of prayer, chapter 3, verse 1, the ninth hour, and you remember what happened. Peter and John heal a man who was lame, who has been a beggar at the gate for years and years if not decades. Everybody knew the man. They all knew he was lame, and all of the sudden, the man leaps up, verse 8, stands upright, begins to walk, enters the temple, walking, leaping, praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God and they noted that this is the one who used to sit at the beautiful gate of the temple to beg alms. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. And while he was still clinging to Peter and John, as a living illustration of the power of the living Christ, all the people gathered to them as the so-called porch of Solomon full of amazement. And we know what happened; Peter preached the second great sermon in the book of Acts.
He preaches a powerful message, and as all apostolic messages, he preaches on Jesus Christ, who He is, what He did, that He died, and that He rose again, and he indicts, he indicts the Jews for killing the Messiah. Peter did it on the Day of Pentecost in chapter 2. He does it again in chapter 3, and in chapter 2 in the first sermon he says, “Repent, repent, and believe.” This one in chapter 3, it’s the same thing. “Repent and believe, repent and return,” as he says in chapter 3, verse 19.
Then he explains what will happen if they do. Their sins will be forgiven. The kingdom will come. The Messiah one day will return for them in glory. Judgment will be avoided, and all covenant blessings will be realized. So he preaches in Acts 2, an evangelistic sermon. Three thousand people are converted, and then more and more added to the church every day as apostolic preaching goes on. And then this great sermon in chapter 3, and the results are remarkable. Chapter 4, verse 4, “Many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000.” Five thousand men, and this is just counting men.
The term for men – there are two words that can be used to speak of a man. One in anthrpos, but that’s generic and that can be used for mankind. We talk like that. We use the word man in a generic sense. This is not that word. This is andrs, which means males as opposed to females. So, there were 5,000 males. That is distinct from females. That is to say there were 5,000 males who believed. We don’t know how many other women believed. This is explosive.
Now, the church is not just a novelty. Now the church is a massive threat to the Jewish system. You can’t have 10,0000, 15,000, 20,000, who knows, people congregating inside the temple courtyard in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they had just crucified, the religious establishment had crucified as an imposter and a false Messiah.
You can’t have that going on in the temple. I mean this is a crushing blow. This is in reality worse than when Jesus came into the temple and threw everybody out, and He did that at the beginning and the end of His ministry. This is far worse than that. So they have to react, and they do. They react in chapter 4 with persecution. Let’s look at verse 1, “And as they were speaking to the people,” which means this is not just Peter preaching. Peter preached a great sermon, but the rest of the apostles and the rest of the believers. And as I told you back in chapter 2, there were 3,000 who had believed on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 souls; but on this day, there are thousands more gathered. Thousands are gathered because 5,000 men plus women believed. This is astonishing, astonishing and by believing, they are condemning the Jewish leaders that executed Jesus; and they’re condemning them in their own temple.
It’s a stunning reality, and this is what launches 2,000 years of hatred, hostility, and persecution. Temple authorities must do something. So as they’re speaking to the people, not just Peter, but all the other believers and the apostles. And they’re talking about Christ and His death and the fact that He was the Messiah and fulfilled the Old Testament, and then talking about His resurrection; and so the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them. The priests, those are the ones who officiated at all the temple sacrifices.
There were 24 courses of priests, meaning 24 groups of priests. Each group served for 2 weeks at the temple. They were from all over the land of Israel. They were priests leaving all over everywhere in the land of Israel, and each priest would serve 2 weeks a year in the temple offering sacrifices in the morning and the evening. And so these were the priests who were officiating at the time. They composed the first little core of opposers to this massive gathering in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
And then you can throw in the temple guard, the captain of the temple guard, the Sagan was his title. He was the head of the temple police. This is police. The temple was policed very carefully. If there’s one thing Rome demanded as the occupying power, it was order. It was order. Rome was a very tolerant master, and gave a lot of space to the nations that it conquered, and that’s why it did so well in running an empire made up of disparate groups. But the one thing they didn’t tolerate was disorder, and, of course, the one thing that the leaders of the temple operation didn’t tolerate was disorder. And so there were temple police, and then there were the Sadducees.
The Sadducees were the minority religious party, who ran the entire temple operation. The priests worked under their leadership. Now, they were a religious group. They were a religious sect. They only believed that the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses was inspired by God, and the rest of the Old Testament was just commentary on the Pentateuch. Since there was nothing in the Pentateuch about resurrection, they didn’t believe in resurrection. We’ve talked about that.
But they were the operating power and authority in the temple. The priests were the functionaries who carried out the temple operation, week in, week out, day in, day out. The temple police provided the security, and the Sadducees were over all of this. They desperately wanted to keep control of everything because it was to their benefic economically and because if there was peace there, they didn’t get in trouble with the Romans.
So this is the contingent that comes to call a halt to this. Verse 2 describes their attitude, “Being greatly disturbed.” That’s putting it mildly. That is a very strong word, a very strong word. That word occurs only one other place, and that’s in the Book of Acts. “Being greatly disturbed.” And that one other place is chapter 16, verse 18 where it describes Paul’s attitude when he saw a woman at Philippi under the power of an evil spirit, and he was greatly disturbed. You remember that? The woman comes at him. The demon spirit speaks, and Paul, greatly disturbed, silences that demon in Philippi.
This is a strong word. They are troubled. It’s the kind of trouble, it’s the kind of mental anguish that comes to someone who is profoundly agitated by what’s going on; and they were profoundly agitated. What irritated them? Number one, because they were teaching the people. They were teaching the people. You say, “Why would that bother them?” Because they were usurping the authority of those who were the teachers. It would be like you showing up today at a Jewish temple with about 10,000 Christian friends, and launching a class in New Testament theology. That’s not going to go well. You’re not official. You’re not invited. This isn’t your place.
The priests and the leaders, they were the official teachers. They were the ones who had the prerogative, and the ones that they affirmed, the ones that they validated. This is highly disturbing that they were teaching the people, especially, notice down in verse 13. You can look at it now. We won’t get there tonight. “They observed the confidence of Peter and John, understood that they were uneducated and untrained.”
Now, those are actually kind of technical terms. They were unlearned. That is, they hadn’t been trained in the law in the sacred writings. They weren’t versed in Jewish theology. They were ignorant of Sadduceean theology. They were ignorant of Pharisaic theology as well. They hadn’t been to the proper schools. They were common men. They weren’t professionals. They were amateurs. They were out of line. Ignorant Galileans, who have stepped into the world of the educated and the wise and usurped the role of teacher right in the temple and teaching doctrine that they had condemned about a man they had killed.
I like these people. I like this early church. I like Peter and John. It bugged them, first of all, that they taught, and then it bugged them what they taught. Go back to verse 2. They were not only teaching the people, but what they were teaching was equally disturbing. They were proclaiming in Jesus. Let’s stop there. They were preaching Jesus. This is a full open public repudiation of the authority of the entire Sanhedrin because the Sanhedrin unanimously had condemned Jesus to death as an imposter. Here, we find that they had taken a position that fully rejects the authority of the Sanhedrin, from the high priest down through the supreme court of Israel. They are proclaiming Jesus.
That they taught was disturbing. What they taught was more disturbing. And specifically, the third thing that irritated them; they were not only proclaiming Jesus, but that He had risen from the dead. This is their message. That’s what Peter preached in the first sermon on Pentecost, chapter 2, verse 24. He preached the resurrection and he gave an exposition of Psalm 16. That’s what he preached in chapter 3, verse 15. He preached the resurrection. “You put to death the Prince of Life. God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses.”
This is especially objectionable to the powers of the temple, who are the Sadducees because they don’t believe in resurrection. So they’re teaching; they’re teaching about Jesus, and they’re saying He has risen from the dead. And thousands of people are congregating around to listen to this. The word is spreading. Thousands are believing, and the leaders are terrified that they’re about to lose their power. So what are they going to do? Well, verse 3, “They laid hands on them.” That means to arrest them. It doesn’t mean they patted them on the back. “They arrested them and put them in jail until the next day.” This would be Peter and John, the leaders, the preachers. “Put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.”
So they had shown up there at the ninth hour. That’s what chapter 3, verse 1 says, and during that three hour period before they were arrested, they had been preaching Jesus crucified, risen from the dead. For three hours, Peter and John had been in the temple. From the time of the evening sacrifice and evening prayer at 3:00 until dark really, they had been preaching, and it had been very effective.
Verse 4, “Many of those who had heard the message, believed. And the number of the men came to be about 5,000.” If you count the women, maybe 10,000, maybe more. Who knows? They were having an effect. Thousands of people converted, genuinely converted. These are pseudo-conversions. These aren’t people who raise their hand. These are people who were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. This is more than the enemy of men’s souls can tolerate. This is more than false religion can tolerate, and so the persecution begins.
But I said a minute ago and I say it again, it’s good. It’s good because it purifies. The threat of death, the cross, death, martyrdom keeps false believers away. We see that later in chapter 5 where nobody dared joined the church because you could die. Persecution manifested in those first 4 verses. Now, the rest of the chapter we see how they handled that persecution, and what I want to share with you tonight, at least in our opening message is to go down at least to maybe verse 12 in the next half hour, and just to show you the practical ways in which those early believers faced this persecution. Really practical.
If we live godly in this world, we’ll suffer persecution, but we can look at several simple principles that play out in this incredible drama of these baby Christians, only a few weeks in the Lord and see where they placed their feet to stand firmly in such a threatening environment. I’ll give you a few of them tonight. Number one, they were submissive to the persecution. They were submissive to the persecution. I mean that’s basic. That’s very basic.
Let me read verse 5, “On the next day, after they had been in jail all night, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem. And Annas, the high priest, was there and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power or in what name have you done this?’”
Now, this is an argument from silence at this point. There is no resistance. There is no resistance. It’s just remarkable to me. There’s no resistance. They laid hands on them. They put them in jail, took them out of jail, brought them before the Sanhedrin, sat them down in the middle. No protest. No resistance. No fighting back. They don’t call for arms.
I think Jesus had made it pretty clear that was not the way to go when He shut down Peter’s effort to whack his way through everybody with a sword. They literally ended up in the Sanhedrin, at the Sanhedrin.
Now, the Sanhedrin sat in a circle. There were 70 members and the 71st member, who would always have the deciding vote if there was a deadlock; there would always be an odd guy to make the final vote, and that was the high priest. So you had 70 regular members plus the high priest. This is the official supreme court of Israel again, the tribunal before which Jesus stood. It’s made up of priests and scribes and elders, people of priestly families. These are the bluebloods. These are the officials, the officers, the people of power.
Verse 6 points to specific characters. There was Annas, the high priest. He was the senior ex-high priest, but like a former president in America, we still call them president, even though they are not in office. Annas still bore the title high priest. He was the power behind everybody. You remember when Jesus was first taken to trial, He went to Annas first. He was a Sadducee, and then there was Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the current high priest, and by the way, the Romans appointed the high priest. So in order to be the high priest, you had to be complicit with Rome. Well, you had to be a betrayer of your own people to some degree. Caiaphas also was the son-in-law of Annas. He had married Annas’ daughter. Caiaphas is the President of the Sanhedrin.
Then there are two named John and Alexander, two important men who belonged to the high priestly family. Some say Alexander is a Greek form of Eleazar – again, that familiar name, the name of Lazarus – who was also a son of Annas and certain manuscripts read Jonathan for John. Annas also had a son named Jonathan. So there’s a lot of oligarchy in the middle of this power structure. This is family rule. It’s an august group, the Jerusalem VIPs. And here in the middle of this august powerful group are Peter and John, representative of the Christians and the trouble-makers because they’re the preachers. So they put them in the middle.
They usually assembled in the precincts of the temple in a place called the Hall of Hewn Stone, and they would place the accused in the center, and they would fire the accusations. What a great opportunity. If you sat in a back room somewhere and said, “The people on the Sanhedrin are lost and on their way to hell; they need to hear the gospel,” how would you pull that off? Well, probably the only way you would be able to give the gospel to the entire Sanhedrin would be to get arrested and be put on trial. So, just another footnote to remind you that persecution benefits the church because it develops a courtroom ministry that leads to a jail ministry.
What an opportunity! How would two Galilean guys, Peter and John, ever hope to be speaking to the most august body in Israel? And they give them an opportunity. They ask the set up questions. “By what power or in what name have you done this?” Perfect. They couldn’t have asked a better question because that’s exactly what they want to talk about. “By what power?” This is a contemptuous question suggesting some magical power. “And in what name? By whose authority?” All authority rested in them in their minds. Where do you get this power? And by what authority have you usurped this temple, this sacred place with your heresies?
The first thing I see here is the submission that recognizes that even in persecution, God is opening up a door. God is providing an opportunity. God is going to glorify Himself in this situation. There’s a second and necessary response to persecution, and that is to find your strength in the Holy Spirit. This should be obvious to all of us. Please notice verse 8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit.” You can stop right there. If you’re in that situation, you want the Holy Spirit in control, right? You don’t want to be mumbling something about your own impressions and your own ideas.
How do you become filled with the Holy Spirit? That’s the default position for a humble, broken, selfless, weak, impotent believer in a dire situation. You just abandon all trust in yourself. It’s when you’re weak that you become – what? Strong. It’s simply yielding up to the control of the Holy Spirit. “Holy Spirit, empower me. Holy Spirit, do what Jesus said would happen. Give me words to say.” Here’s the tribunal that He promised in the upper room. When He said, “Don’t worry about that event. I’ll tell you what to say. I’ll show you what to say.” Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. This is about faith. This is about trust. Don’t be fearful.
What did we see this morning when the disciples didn’t want to go back to Judea because they were afraid Jesus would be killed, and they’d be killed with Him. And He gives them a little proverb, “Twelve hours in a day and then comes night,” and you can’t do anything to lengthen the day. You can’t do anything to shorten the day. That’s fixed. Your enemies can’t do anything to shorten the day that God has given you to minister in His name, and your pursuit of safety can’t do anything to lengthen it. Yield to the Spirit. This is a providence that they are there. They know that. This is a providence that they are there. They want to make sure that the Spirit of God is in control.
So they back up to what I would call the spiritual default position. This is beyond me. This is beyond my capability. This is beyond my power. This is beyond my wisdom. This is beyond my control. Oh God, empower me by your Spirit. Lead me, guide me, help me to say what you want me to say.
There’s a third – and I want to camp on this a little bit – third response, and this I think is most important. First, be submissive because this is all a providence within the will of God in God’s purpose and in God’s time and in God’s way. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Yield completely to the Holy Spirit and to His power and wisdom. Thirdly, boldly proclaim the gospel. Boldly proclaim the gospel.
That’s a little counterintuitive because your life is on the line. They probably could have been dismissed if Peter had said, “You know what, guys, we’re so sorry. We didn’t have a permit. We didn’t get the permit to take over the temple. We’re really sorry we messed with the ambiance. We’re sorry we tampered with you there, so I’ll tell you what. There’s some really nice spots in the hillside. We’ll just kind of go there and we won’t be a problem. We just won’t talk about the resurrection in Jerusalem. We’ll find another strategy so that we can be accepted in the city and so that we can be embraced by the community because we don’t want to alienate everybody or we lose everything.”
I think that strategy has been reinvented and reinvented and reinvented throughout the history of the church in one way or another. They don’t do that. When they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, they’ve yielded up. The Holy Spirit’s message is going to come out and the Holy Spirit’s message, we know what that is. It’s revealed in Scripture to us.
So Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them, “Rulers, elders of the people.” He’s just in charge. “Rulers, elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man has been made well, 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, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone and there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Whoa! This is the third point, boldly preach the gospel in the face of persecution. Of course, you understand what’s at stake, what’s at issue. Not only do you preach the gospel, but what I love about it is you preach the – are you ready? – exclusivity of the gospel after you’ve indicted them.
The indictment comes. “If we are on trial today for a benefit,” a good deed, “done to a sick man.” Just to remind you that you’re calling us to this tribunal for doing a good deed to a sick man. If you’ve arrested us for a good deed, this is an unjust court, right? If that’s the reason we’re here, this is an unjust arrest.
So, first, he indicts his indicters. This is boldness. But if that’s why you’re indicting us, “If that’s why we’re here because we did a good deed for a sick man and made this man well, then let it be known to you, all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucified.” And the “you” is emphatic here. Not the Romans, you. “Whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health.”
If we’re here, first of all, unjustly for doing good, then let me tell you by what power we did that good and by what authority. We did it by the name, the authority, the power of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. What does Christ mean? Messiah, the Messiah, your own Messiah’s power, your own Messiah. Jesus the Nazarene is your own Messiah. It is by His power, which they know very well. Why? Because he spent His whole life doing what? Miracles. And he raised Lazarus from the dead, and they all knew about that because it was that resurrection of Lazarus after he had been dead four days that precipitated their executing Him.
So Peter accuses the Sanhedrin of the killing of their own Messiah, and indicts them for being far from God, far from God. The very Messiah that you killed is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, which became the chief cornerstone. They sentenced Jesus to death. They killed their own Messiah. That is a constant message. We heard it in chapter 2. We heard it in chapter 3. We hear it again in chapter 4. We’re going to hear it again in chapter 5. No punches are pulled.
Chapter 5, verse 30, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.” You killed Him, chapter 2. You killed Him, chapter 3. You killed Him, chapter 4. You killed him, chapter 5. In the face of the most severe persecution, there’s no tamping down the message. Why? Because sinners have to be indicted for their crimes. They must repent if they are to be saved, and that’s where he comes in verse 12, “And there is salvation.” There is. You see how that verse begins? “And there is salvation,” for even you. There is salvation.
Yes, as he quotes Psalm 118:22, “”You have rejected the stone, which has become the chief cornerstone of the kingdom.” Yes, Messiah is the chief cornerstone of the spiritual temple of the apostles and prophets that Ephesians talks about; but there is salvation, however. There is salvation in what? No one else.
Sometimes that’s hard to say, particularly, in a religious environment. Could you walk into a house of false religion and say, “You, have rejected the only Savior? You must repent. There is salvation only in Jesus Christ”? Could you announce that to a synagogue congregation? Could you announce that in a mosque? That’s what they did in the most sacred building one could argue in the world. The point is simple. You asked us by what authority and in what name we did this? It is in the name of the one you killed, God raised, who is now alive, and it is by Him and His power that this man was healed. What is that saying? Jesus is not dead. He is what? He is alive, and there is salvation in no one else.
That’s the exclusivity of the gospel. It’s so disturbing to me how many times I hear professing Christian people, even ministers want to somehow soften that exclusivity up. “Well, who am I to say who God will accept? I don’t know. That’s up to Him, not me.” People say silly things like that, heretical things like that to make money. Peter knew is life was on the line. So did John, and they wouldn’t say that. “There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” We must be saved. We can be saved, but in only one name.
Through the years I’ve preached on this and written on this. No gospel, no salvation. No Christ, no salvation. Apart from Christ and the gospel, no salvation. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” He said. “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”
In persecution, how do we respond? First, with submission knowing God has a plan and that God is going to open a door even in the persecution and maybe take me to a tribunal that I would otherwise have no access to. Secondly, fall with all your weight and all your weakness on the power of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Holy Spirit to fill you, empower you, and give you the things to say. Thirdly, this is the one that is most defining, boldly present the gospel. Do not compromise the gospel.
Thinking back to the upper room just in conclusion, in John 15, Jesus said this in verse 18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. The slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they’ll keep yours also. But all these things, they will do to you for My name sake because they don’t know the one who sent Me.” Verse 23, “He who hates Me, hates my Father also.” Then in verse 25, “They hated Me without a cause.”
Verse 16, “These things I’ve spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue,” social persecution. “An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering service to God. These things, they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember what I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning because I was with you, but now I’m going to Him who sent Me.” I’m leaving, and I’m telling you these things so that you’ll be ready.
He closes that 16th chapter by saying in verse 33, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” The worst that can happen to us is that they kill us, and that would be our ultimate triumph, right? If you live a godly life in the world, you will be confronted, and you will likely be persecuted. Submit to that with a gracious attitude. Don’t retaliate. Christians don’t need to get an army and go kill Muslims, and individuals don’t need to return persecution with hatred. They are the mission field, not the enemy. Submit to the Spirit and boldly preach the gospel. Leave the results to God. Well, that’s how it all started. We’ll see next time more about how it goes on.
Father, again, tonight just a real joy for us to be together and think of the testimonies and just singing the songs of praise and testimony as well. We’re so grateful for the fellowship, grateful for these precious folks who are here so faithfully, who are taking in the truth and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. Lord, give them opportunity, even through persecution to speak boldly the gospel.
Give them opportunity through persecution to be able to reach people they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. Give us a love that defines your attitude toward your enemies. We’re told by our Lord Jesus to love our enemies because when we do that, we’re like you, our Father. Even people in the world love those that love them. Help us to love even our persecutors.
We think about all of the martyrs of the past. We think about all those credible stories in Fox’s Book of Martyrs when we read of the love of Christians toward their persecutors and the boldness of Christians in the face of death, and the triumph of Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit even in the fires and under the sword. This is our faith. It withstands all of that as we learn in Hebrews 11. It is a triumphant faith. It is a bold faith, and I ask that you would give that triumphant faith and that boldness to Christians all over the world, true believers in Christ who are being persecuted.
Help them to be submissive, see it as an opportunity to advance your church as a purifying reality in your church, as a providential opportunity to give the gospel. Help them to find strength in your Holy Spirit and to boldly preach the gospel no matter what the price. Lord, may we begin to hear testimonies of the impact of persecuted Christians who don’t retaliate, who don’t fight back, but who entrust their souls to a faithful Creator when they’re unjustly persecuted, even as you did Lord when you were unjustly executed and committed yourself to your Father.
We ask, of course, for protection for your gospel, your Word, pastors, leaders, true saints, but at the same time not at the expense of their boldness or of the purity of your church. Do your work in your church to your glory. We are so blessed to be a part of it. We thank you in Christ’s name. Amen.
The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God’s deliverance from death during the time of Moses.
Origination of Passover
Moses had been instructed to lead God’s people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh’s disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God’s ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.
In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God’s instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death. This is what the Lord said:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14)
The Seder Meal
The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Pesach, or Passover, is the Seder.
The Seder meal consists of six highly symbolic elements: matzah, a roasted shank bone, parsley or green herbs, the top of a horseradish, charoset, and an egg. On each plate are three pieces of matzah (a special type of cracker or unleavened bread). Two of these pieces represent the traditional loaves used in the ancient Temple during festivals and the third piece symbolizes Passover. The roasted lamb bone connotes the sacrificial Passover lamb. Herbs symbolize springtime growth. The horseradish represents the bitter years of slavery in Egypt; charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used in Egypt; and the egg represents the chagigah (a secondary sacrifice prepared along with the Passover lamb).
The Biblical Accounts
Accounts of what happened can be found in all four gospels — Matthew 26:17-27:10; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:1-65; John 13:1-18:27.
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BY JEFFREY P. TOMKINS, PH.D. * | SEPTEMBER 10, 2019
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and a top predator on the remote Indonesian islands they inhabit. Their sensory system allows them to detect large prey, such as deer, over seven miles away. Although Komodo dragons are cold-blooded reptiles, they can rapidly increase their metabolism to near-mammalian levels for amazing bursts of speed and even long strenuous runs. Because of their highly venomous bites, all they need is one good chomp on their victim’s leg or foot and the poisoned prey will soon be the lizard’s lunch.
The Komodo dragon’s unusual traits have made scientists eager to sequence its DNA to see what sorts of genes it contains and how it compares to other creatures. This sequencing was discussed in a recent scientific publication.1
When the researchers compared the newly sequenced Komodo dragon genes that were common among reptiles, they found many startling traits specific to the Komodo dragon and many of these genetic novelties were associated with its remarkable mammal-like ability to exhibit high levels of sustained physical activity. Because the gene variations are unique to the Komodo dragon and very different from other reptiles, the genes were deemed to be the result of “positive selection”—a magic evolutionary phrase.2
A creature’s environment has no God-like ability to create new useful genetic information for complex multi-genic traits like those associated with complex metabolic functions. Evolutionists basically substitute the magic words “positive selection” or “natural selection” for something only an omnipotent God can do.
The researchers also used other magic words to explain their non-evolutionary findings as noted in this comment from a press interview in which they stated, “Our analysis showed that in Komodo dragons, many of the genes involved in how cells make and use energy had changed rapidly in ways that increase the lizard’s aerobic capacity.”2 In this case, the term “changed rapidly” means the genes were so different and unique that the idea of random mutational processes combined with the mystical paradigm of nature supposedly “selecting” for them could not account for the great differences observed.
It’s also highly noteworthy that the researchers reported actually throwing out data in their selection analysis where the variation was deemed “unreasonably high.”1 The data was actually manipulated to show less variability and, therefore, more in line with the evolutionary model. The stark reality is that these genes—specific to the Komodo dragon—were engineered to produce their unique God-given traits. No sign of evolution existed in the data even though the researchers cherry-picked it to favor evolution.
The bigger evolutionary (phylogenetic) analysis the researchers did comparing the Komodo dragon DNA to other reptiles, birds, and mammals also made no evolutionary sense—the patterns and groupings were totally different than predicted by standard evolutionary models. By all accounts, the data showed that Komodo dragons were created uniquely with their own specific God-given engineering.
1. Lind, A. L. et al. 2019. Genome of the Komodo dragon reveals adaptations in the cardiovascular and chemosensory systems of monitor lizards. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 3: 1241-1252. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0945-8.
2. Guliuzza, R. 2010. Unmasking Evolution’s Magic Words.Acts & Facts. 39 (3): 10-11.
3. Gladstone Institutes. 2019. Komodo dragon genome reveals clues about its evolution. Phys.org Posted July 29, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.