He Can’t Be Stopped (Acts 4)
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He Can’t Be Stopped
What’s on your sign? If you had one message to tell the world, one sign to hold up that everyone might see, your most important words in the most critical moment–what are you writing on your sign? I’ve seen a lot of signs lately, as I’m sure you have, across the media. Signs that have said . . . Justice Equals Peace . . . I Can’t Breath . . . Black Lives Matter . . . Blue Lives Matter . . . All Lives Matter . . . Defund the Police . . . Silence is Violence. I even saw a few signs that said, “I want a haircut”.
I have no comment on those phrases or signs, except that a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in my office thinking, struck by the reality that I have not seen the name Jesus written on any of the signs–not one sign that even hinted toward the Gospel. And I was discouraged. Are people missing it? Are they missing hope, true justice, ultimate peace? All of those come in one name–the name of Jesus.
Turn to Acts 4. I want to show you two men, holding one sign with one name on it–the name is Jesus. Why? “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” (Acts 4:12). This tells us that Jesus of Nazareth, is the only name with power, that can save, above all other names–and He cannot be stopped.
Acts 4 provides us a strong testimony–Jesus Christ cannot be stopped. Governments cannot stop Him. Politics cannot stop Him. Religious cults cannot stop Him. Persecution cannot stop Him. So you can be sure . . . when viruses spread, when terrorism strikes, when a nation is divided and declining, Jesus Christ cannot be stopped! Shouldn’t He be the one we proclaim? Shouldn’t He be the first we point to in the midst of adversity? Shouldn’t He be our emphasis? Shouldn’t He be on your sign?
1. His MESSAGE can’t be stopped . . . so PROCLAIM it Verses 1 to 22
Let me set the scene for you. Peter and John, two apostles (messengers) of the Lord Jesus Christ, are doing incredible work in Jesus’ name. Peter preaches the sermon at Pentecost and three thousand are saved. They publicly heal a man who had been lame since birth, the city cripple. Then Peter preaches another message after the healing and five thousand repent and believe.
The JBI takes notice (the Jewish Bureau of Investigation, otherwise known as the Sanhedrin). This is comprised of three groups– the rulers (the state, the top of the Jewish government power structure), the scribes (or the schools, the academia), and the elders (the sacred or religious elites). They were led by the chief priest Caiaphas, the current JBI Director.
When did we last see the Sanhedrin gathered like this under Caiaphas? The arrest and unjust trial of our Lord Jesus Christ. Caiaphas asked Him point blank, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” And Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself…” Caiaphas tore his robe, declared Him a blasphemer, and personally saw through His crucifixion. Caiaphas is a bad dude. He oversaw and initiated the plan, the execution, and the entombing of Jesus. He has power, influence, and the last time the Sanhedrin gathered like this in a trial, it did not go well for the defendant. This is a big moment.
The Sanhedrin really has one question, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Brilliant question–it gets right to the issue. Who cares that thousands of people have been instantly transformed. Who cares that the city cripple has been healed. Tell us–what was that name you mentioned? Are you talking about that podunk prophet of Nazareth? Are you healing in the power of the lying lunatic that we indicted, killed, and buried? He sets the ball on the tee for Peter to hit out of the park.
But before we get to Peter’s answer, we ought to note something. Where was Peter during that last, infamous trial before the Sanhedrin? He was cowering in the shadows denying His Lord—three times. He said himself, “I [curse word] do not know Him!” Peter’s lowest moment . . . a coward and a denier of the name of Jesus. Now where does the Lord have him? Only God can make a hero out of a coward. Here’s his second chance–the grace of God, and Peter will not fail Him.
Peter says, “You want to know why this man is healed? You want to know what name we proclaim? Let me be crystal clear–we proclaim Jesus!” . . . “‘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 here before you in good health. 11He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12And 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.’” (Acts 4:10 to 12).
The message is clear–it cannot be misunderstood. Jesus, the one from Nazareth–the one who is the promised Christ, the one who taught your scribes with authority, the one who out-pastored your chief priests, the “blasphemer” you crucified proved Himself the redeemer. God raised Him from the dead. He is the only way, truth, and life–no one comes to the Father but through Him.
Jesus Christ is our message–Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Only by His life, death, and resurrection can you be saved. There is salvation in no one else. There is hope, justice, and peace in no one else. There is no other name under Heaven that is more worthy, more deserving to be on our sign. If we tell the world nothing else, tell them about Jesus. “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
Do you want to know what brings ten thousand people into the Kingdom of God? Not a cultural movement, but a Gospel message. Believe in Jesus and be saved. Look nowhere else. Are you weary and heavy laden? “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Are you oppressed, treated unfairly? “How blessed is he . . . whose hope is in the Lord . . . Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:5 and 7).
Are you self-righteous, thinking you are good enough to enter Heaven on your own merit? Luke 18 tells you to see your sin, sell your idols, and follow Jesus. Salvation in Jesus is the good news message with power. Peter preaches it and the JBI is left speechless.
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men [1 Corinthians 1:27, “God uses the foolish things to shame the wise”] . . . they were amazed . . . 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 16 [and the Council said], ‘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’” (Acts 4:13,14,16).
The sad irony is that they audibly say, “We cannot deny the miracle,” while they continue to deny the message. No wonder Jesus weeps over that generation of Israel. “And they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus . . . 20[and they said] ‘we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18, 20). The Gospel message cannot be stopped. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:9, while he was arrested and in chains, “The word of God cannot be chained.”
Do you have another message–something else you think is more important for the world than the Gospel? Is your hope, your faith in another system, structure, or person? “I can’t stand it when Christians have more hope in their political party than in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Paul Washer). His message can’t be stopped, so proclaim it.
2. His plan can’t be stopped . . . so trust it Verses 23 to 31
“When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, ‘O Lord, it is You’” (Acts 4:23 to 24). How often do you say that? When there is success in business, success in ministry, or success in family relationships? Before pointing the credit elsewhere, or taking it yourself, do you say, “It is You, Lord”?
Commentators suggest this is a song they sang, first quoting Psalm 146, then Psalm 2. They sing of God’s sovereignty in three areas. God is sovereign over . . .
“O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them” (verse 24). It always starts here–God as our great Creator–sovereign over His Creation. “For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods. 6Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:5 and 6).
Those of you who have spent ten minutes with a toddler and toys know this simple phrase, ”It’s mine.” The implication is–if it’s mine I have control over it, and I do what I want with it. Our God has the patent on creation, all of it–because He made it–it’s His. Therefore, all of it is under His control, and He does what He wants. God even has sovereign control over his enemies.
“Who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? 26The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ 27For 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, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:25 to 28).
Caiaphas was but another pen God used to write history–a utensil in His hand. Caiphas and Pontius Pilate thought they had power, influence, control–not sovereign power. “Whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” God does this with nations–He’s done it before. What about the great Assyrian Empire? God says, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is my indignation.”
Assyria was the disciplinary agent He used to spank Israel. “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away” (Job 12:23). Are you looking for someone to blame for the rapid decline of our nation? God is working and still writing His story.
3) Gospel advancement
“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence” (Acts 4:29 to 31). Notice the apostles request–“grant that we may speak your Word with confidence.” Phillip Brooks writes, “Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
Another thing–stop praying for more Gospel opportunities, but pray for courage and boldness to take advantage of the dozens of opportunities you get daily, and God will use your faithful Gospel witness.
Not, “God, show us and the people more signs and wonders.” What is going to change the sinner? What is going to grow the Church? What is going to expand the Kingdom? Not government control, not culture control, not more signs and wonders–speaking His word with boldness and trusting God is in control. What’s the mission? Make disciples, Matthew 28. How? “Teaching them all that I commanded you.” Speak the Word–share the good news of Scripture to participate in God’s Kingdom expansion plan.
“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:10). Let me tell you something–God gets what He wants! He wants to save sinners and He will not be stopped. He will do it through the power of His Gospel message advancing.
I played football in high school. I was a slot receiver, the 4 back. We had this play called the 45 counter–I loved it because I got the ball. I remember the practice coach introduced the play to us. He walked us through the play and had us run it a few times against a practice defense. In order for the play to work, the 4 needs to be patient, allow the pulling guard to come through and blast open the 5 hole–it’s just a split second.
I ran the play a few times and simply refused to wait. “It just won’t work, Coach.” I’ll never forget–the coach grabbed me by the facemask and said, “Run the play the way it’s designed or I’ll find someone else who will.” The heavenly coach has come to you this morning with His playbook. He’s undefeated with it. Whatever the defense does, His plays cannot be stopped. Are you on His team? Are you going to run His plays the way He designed them, or will He have to find someone else?
Businesses have their strategies. Politicians have their agendas. The world rises up with its godless philosophies and movements. God’s got a plan–global kingdom expansion through men and women who speak the Word. His plan can’t be stopped, so trust it.
3) His church can’t be stopped . . . so join it Verses 32 to 37
“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:32 to 33). Did you notice in verse 24, “They lifted their voices to God with one accord”?
What is a necessary result of faithful Gospel witness? A unified Church. If the Church is angrily divided, it’s because one party or both has abandoned the priority and centrality of the Gospel. The further you move away from the Gospel, the more divided you become. The closer you are to the true Gospel, the more unified you become. On a triangle, if the top point is the Gospel–the two bottom corners will be farther from each other as they travel farther from the top point.
Philippians presents the key to Church unity. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). The Church is too concerned with secondary and tertiary issues–whether they are political issues, preferential issues, or theological, speculative issues. “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).
A Christ-centered, Word-saturated, Gospel-preaching, unified church will not be stopped. Despite counterfeit religious opposition. Despite government-initiated persecution. Despite cultural passive-aggression. What do you think Peter was thinking, seeing the Church expand like this, and remembering the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” His Church can’t be stopped, so join it.
Do you need courage, Christian? Are you struggling with some doubt? Are you overwhelmed by a nation declining? Have we forgotten Christ’s word? “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” (John 16:33).
Acts 4 provides the testimony we need to remind us that Jesus is our message, so we must proclaim Him. God’s Word tells us this was the plan all along, so we must trust it. Jesus’ Church is unified in Gospel witness, so we must join it. In the name of Jesus, and by His power, these cannot be stopped. Don’t worry, don’t fret, don’t be discouraged.
I confessed earlier that I was discouraged. That day in my office, I was thinking about the fact that I had not seen any signs with the name of Jesus on them. But you know how the Lord works. And I’m not making this up. That very same day, I was driving down Newport Road when I saw a crowd of African-Americans on the corner holding signs. They weren’t wearing black shirts, but red shirts–curious. As I pulled closer, I saw one man–an older, black gentleman, holding these two signs in is hands. “Need Hope?” and “Ask me about Jesus!” He can’t be stopped! Let’s pray!
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