Continued from front page.

Many people knew the man crippled from birth who had spent years begging at the temple gate called Beautiful. After he was miraculously healed, they were astonished to see him walking, jumping and praising God in the temple courts. A crowd had gathered and Peter and John begin to share this message of a new covenant relationship we can have with Christ. They address their fellow Israelites and make the statement that they know they acted in ignorance as did their leaders in crucifying Jesus. This drew the attention of the priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees. They approached Peter and John, greatly disturbed over the fact they were proclaiming in Jesus Christ the resurrection of the dead. They were seized and put in jail.

The high priest, Annas, and his father-in-law, Caiaphas, the former high priest, held the political and spiritual influence within Israel. They are the aristocracy within the Jewish community, overseeing, protecting and governing the temple system. The priests were of the theology of the Sadducees who held strictly to the first five books of the law – Genesis to Deuteronomy. They believed God’s covenant centered on proper temple worship, but they disagreed with the theology of the Pharisees in that they did not hold to a resurrection or believe in an afterlife. They also did not believe in angels or demons. They were experts in the law, but their theology and denial of the resurrection are actually what is preventing them from entering into a new covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our theology can sometimes be an obstacle to experiencing all that God would do in our lives. Jesus warned people about theology becoming a god when He said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). The Sadducees and teachers of the law were, of course, experts in the law, but they saw it as the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s activity. However, the purpose of the Old Testament was to prepare the people for the coming Messiah – Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Old Testament laws. All of the Old Testament was pointing to a destination beyond itself, but the religious elite had studied it and formed a theology that would not recognize the Messiah if He did not come the way they thought He should and was not the fulfillment of the God they had created out of Old Testament theology. They were hindered from actually seeing who Jesus was.

We can memorize Scripture all day long and still not know Jesus. We need to be students of God’s Word, but one of the disturbing trends in our day is the subtle letting go of doctrine. We need to feed and nourish our souls with the Word of God, because Jesus Christ is the Word, and the Word is living and active. Paul writes two letters to his young protégé, Timothy, and stresses the importance of doctrine. He says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:2). This is going to come down the pipeline through generations and some will be taken away from their true faith to follow things taught by demons. Looking over the history of the church, we have seen numerous examples of this in different cults and new age movements.

Our theology and our doctrine are extremely important and cannot be handled carelessly. We need to know the Jesus of Scripture because all kinds of Jesus’s are spoken of in our world today. Jesus also warned this would happen. “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he writes, “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).

Our adversary is very crafty. He seeks to hold the world captive and will do it with chapter and verse of Scripture to twist our theology and contaminate sound doctrine. We see it more and more in our day where a doctrine is formed to suit our comfort and convenience. Though elaborate in its presentation, these are based on myths that take people away from the true God of Scripture. On the very week Jesus was crucified, He had spoken to the Sadducees about their theology, but they chose to believe a theology that did not recognize Jesus, simply because He was not what they expected.

When one’s life is in jeopardy truth takes courage. Before the Sanhedrin Council, Peter and John are interrogated, but speak boldly and fearlessly about what they have witnessed – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only months before, during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, they had been weak, cowardly men, hiding behind locked doors. Peter, who had vowed his undying loyalty to Christ even unto death, denied three times even knowing Jesus. He now finds himself in the same position, wondering what his fate would be. He is being tested again, and asked a very pertinent question. “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) Filled with the Holy Spirit, but facing the possibility of death, Peter declares the following: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed” (Acts 8-10).

Peter then links his response to Old Testament Scripture by quoting Psalm 118:22. “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” What he is saying is that this rejection of the Messiah has taken place right in their midst. He is not advocating a God distinct or different from the Old Testament; but declaring that this Jesus whom they crucified is the one they have been waiting centuries for. He boldly proclaims, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

The difference in Peter facing the Sanhedrin Council and frantically fearing these same men the night of Jesus’ arrest was being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” so much so, the next verse says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” It wasn’t Peter’s sheer determination not to fail again, but it was Christ Himself living in Him that made the difference. Filled with the fullness of Christ, he declares to the elders and leaders of Israel their crime in nailing Jesus to the cross, while extending to them an invitation into the saving life of Christ.

Peter and John are unschooled, ordinary men standing before these experts in the Law who have studied Scripture their whole life, and they are asked to be saved by the name of the very man they had crucified. They reject Jesus and command Peter and John not to speak in His name again. Their response, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 19-20). The apostles were undeterred. With Christ as their strength, boldly and confidently they continued to preach the Gospel message. There is absolute power in the name of Jesus. God has no Plan B, and no other name under heaven by which we are saved.