Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1403
June 30, 2019 Acts 4.1-22
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“That Annoying Gospel”
That Annoying Gospel
We have been on a journey since Easter with Jesus and the disciples as the disciples experienced life post-resurrection and through the appearances of Jesus and the ascension as well as the beginning of the church at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit. We pick up today in Acts 4 after Peter and John had healed a man in Jesus’ name and Peter preached a sermon about Jesus. The leadership of the Jews is described as annoyed because people were hearing the gospel of Jesus and coming to believe in him. They were so annoyed that they arrested Peter and John.
It is not just that they are annoyed, but greatly annoyed. They were tired of this threat to the status-quo. They are worn out by the vast numbers of people coming to faith. Three thousand one day, five thousand another, and there seemed to be no way to stop it without taking drastic action like arresting those who continues to heal and preach in Jesus’ name. Have you ever considered the gospel as annoying? It seems an odd word to use, but when we consider it and even consider how certain things may annoy us, it is certainly apparent that the world and those who do not believe the gospel are annoyed by it. When I think about being annoyed I think about things that grind away at my nerves: a rattle in the car, a disruption in plans, an interruption in mid sentence, politics, bad manners, inconsiderate drivers. Lots of things might be annoying. Lots of things are irritating. But as a believer I have not considered the gospel to be annoying (see 1 Cor 1.22-24). Yes, it annoys the priests and temple leadership in Acts, and it annoys politicians, and advocates of abortion, and advocates for lifestyles that clearly are against God’s intention for human fulfillment, because they cannot get believers to accept as normal that which God does not. They cannot convince everyone to be tolerant of every behavior in society and every sin that is accepted by the world. We are the annoyance because we are the ones who have also come to believe what Peter and John have preached in Acts 3-4.
My reaction to those who are annoyed by the church is something along the lines of Psalm 2. It might not seem nice or appropriate in today’s politically correct climate or even in the climate of much of the church that things we have to walk a line of niceness, but look at how God reacts to those who are annoyed with Him.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
God laughs at their annoyance! I imagine God shaking His head with a grin as if to express the hopelessness of their rage and vanity and opposition to the Lord. Every person and group who goes against God is to be pitied for sure, but it’s okay to laugh as well. I don’t mean to say that we laugh as if they have no hope of salvation, because God can and will work miracles, but laughter at the notion that they think they know better than God. Laughing at the insanity of killing the unborn. Laughing at all the topics that go directly against the truth of Scripture. It is something of a sad laughter on our part. It is the laughter that comes when a fool opens his or her mouth and we find it hard to fathom how stupid someone can be.
The gospel might even annoy us from time to time because it keeps us in check on living in righteousness and faithfulness. It is not the same kind of annoyance, but more like a loving presence that sticks with us, some have even described it as a haunting presence in the most positive sense of something sticking with us. But the world sees it quite differently.
The World and the Gospel
The world opposes the gospel message. The world opposes the position of the Bible on just about every issues. The world hates the gospel because the gospel is powerful and the gospel is truth and the gospel is dangerous when preached to power. Jesus said in John’s gospel,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (15.18).
Hating Jesus is just like hating the gospel and being annoyed by it. We see the annoyance and hatred every day as forces seek to transform our society away from the Judeo-Christian tradition to a humanists system. We see it as people around the world are persecuted and even killed because they will not renounce faith in Jesus. We see it in all kinds of ways large and small that seek to stop the gospel from influencing people and systems.
Shall Not Prevail Against It
Here is some good news about the gospel and those who oppose it, the opposition shall no prevail against the gospel. Take just these two statements from Jesus:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt 16.18).
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt 5.17-18).
This is why the opposition to the gospel is laughable! Nothing shall defeat Jesus’ church. Not one part of Scripture will be thwarted. The disciples know this full well. They will not stop preaching the truth and they know by the power of the Holy Spirit that nothing can stand in the way of God’s purposes. This is the same confidence that we can take into any situation we face today. Peter and John have so much confidence in the truth that they are willing to preach directly to the very people who would have them arrested. In one sense this is how Peter and John laugh at them, by preaching the message of Jesus and daring them to oppose it. And they cannot! They don’t know what to do because they realize something more is going on here. These two uneducated and common men are rattling off the history of Israel without flaw and injecting Jesus into that history in such a way that people are seeing Jesus as the promised Messiah.
What can they do? A warning – don’t preach this gospel anymore.
No Other Name
But this warning has no effect on the disciples. They know that there is no other message to preach but Jesus.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4.12).
No other name. The world tries to say (and even some within the church) that there are many ways to God. That is not what the Bible teaches. There is no other name and Jesus is the name.
This is the message of the disciples and the message of the true church. Jesus is the Savior. Only in Him are we saved. It is even in the most well known verse of the Bible, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16). Whoever believes in Jesus! Not Mohammad, not Buddha, not anyone else, Jesus alone. And this is message for which the disciples risked jail and death.
We Cannot But Speak - The Gospel
The disciples finally respond to the leadership,
They can do nothing else but preach Jesus. They can do nothing less than follow Jesus and lead others to do the same. They can do nothing less than follow the teaching of the Bible. They can do no less than worship the true God. They can do nothing less than follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. For they are not ashamed of the gospel.
We have also found ourselves in this position. It is why we left one denomination for another. We could not but live by what we have seen and heard in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What the other parts of the church are doing is laughable, like that in Psalm 2. Our stance and that of most of the church universal is an annoyance to the world and the powers that be.
But that is the true battle we face. In VBS this past week we taught Ephesians 6 and the armor of God.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
This is every bit a description of the disciples and the church in Acts and today. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces behind all that oppose the church and the Bible. Our gospel is truth, righteousness, readiness with the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God. This is the solid rock upon which we stand and there is nothing the world can ultimately do about it. We are annoying, not for the sake of annoying, but for the sake of the gospel and if that annoyance can bring one more person to faith, so be it! May we continue to live and preach and teach this annoying gospel, for it is the only hope for this fallen world. Amen.