The Great Escape and Another Stabbing Sermon

Acts 5:17-32

But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” And upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates had come, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned, and reported back, saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. But someone came and reported to them, “Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, lest they should be stoned). And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Even within a matter of little more than mere moments, history repeats itself. For now, jail can neither contain the apostles, nor their message. This is now the second time that Peter and John, this time with the rest of the apostles, are remanded to custody. It is also the second time Peter responds, “We must obey God rather than men.” The prayer for boldness has been answered. Nevertheless, it is the first time we see an angel opening up the gates of a prison, letting the apostles out, then locking it behind them.

“Russell P, it’s just like the angel rolling away the stone from Jesus’ tomb.” Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers struggle to show the similarities, but why struggle? The major similarity is simply an angel opening up something. But at the tomb, it was not to let Jesus out but to let people in. Context is king and there are thousands of similarities in Scripture, but dividing rightly, through an expository exegesis of examples confirms contextual connections, whether real or make-believe. All Scripture is tied together with a weave, not a straight line. That’s where the mega-church pastors fail. They don’t consider the context, and worse yet, they add things to the Scripture and make all sorts of false claims and promises, reading things into the Scripture rather than drawing things out from the Scripture.

Like an article I read last week about the situation in Iran and Saudia Arabia where it was written that Saudia Arabia is the largest oil producing country, which was once true but is now patently false, mega-church pastors preach and promise prosperity citing scriptural sources which are taken out of context. As the modern, mainstream media make up facts based on outdated and unverified information, the mega-church pastors preach on part of a particular Scripture here and a piece of scripture there, stringing them into something that the author never intended. Both the mainstream media and the mega-church pastors need to dig deeper, doing real research. Mega-church pastors don’t consider the context, it’s how they come up with with all sorts of false promises.

Here, we do consider the context, aspirations of author, genre, examples and then divide rightly the word of truth. Therefore, when the context begins with a conjunction, we must understand its function. Especially when the context begins with the word “but,” we can reasonably assume that the current content is contrary to the previous passage.

In the very early, Jewish church, the apostles were persuading people that Jesus was the Messiah by many miracles and messages. “But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail.” Jealous jerks! Can I write that? Is that found in the context? Perhaps I would do better to not use a slang term for, “foolish fellows” but considering the context, it’s a fairly close connotation. What is Luke’s aspiration to his audience by writing, “But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail?” Is it not to evoke emotion? Is it not to see that which Jesus has said is coming to pass? Is it not to highlight hypocrisy?

I have not written the following for a while but I am reminded that: the Bible is not written like a manual for a 2006 Toyota Corolla. It spans thousands of years of history, has multiple genres and certainly evokes emotional experiences. It is an absolute masterpiece of literature and should be read with that in mind. Therefore, when the high priest and Sadducees are purposely presented as jealous, petty and spiteful by Luke, we take him at his word because he is narrating–the genre steers the ship.

Nevertheless, we don’t see haughtiness or hostility from the apostles and Peter, though we do see highness from the Holy Spirit, when questioned by the Sadducees. Rather, we see the truth presented, powerfully and purposefully. If I were in the shoes of the apostles, I would go on a ravenous rant, saying something like, “you insolent people, you put us in jail out of jealousy for doing nothing more than speaking the truth! You’re the ones who are wrong and you’re arrogant about it.” But not Peter. With respect but with boldness, he speaks the truth. But, I am getting way ahead of myself.

We need to see the Sadducees. Who are they, from where did they get their power and prominence, what do they believe? These are things of which the first-century church would have known but we have to do a little research, unlike the mainstream media and mega-church pastors. Our introduction to the Sadducees is from John the Baptist–“you brood of vipers…” What a great place to start. Jesus told the Sadducees that they didn’t know or understand the Scripture. Here’s a fun game we can play: Name That Sadducee. But first, name an apostle, name a New Testament writer, name a Old Testament Prophet, name a woman who followed Christ, a New Testament convert, someone who opposed Paul, a Pharisee, a high priest. Now, name a Sadducee.

An exercise fraught in futility; we are never specifically told that any certain person was a Sadducee. Perhaps the high priest was a Sadducee but no one was ever named as a Sadducee, and this silence speaks volumes. They were the hypocrites of hypocrites. The one thing that they should have had going for them, belief in the Scripture alone, Jesus said they actually didn’t, because they did not know nor understand. “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the living not the dead,” quoted Jesus to highlight their hypocrisy. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection of the dead, therefore Jesus pointed out that they didn’t believe the Scripture. Paul also used this unbelief against them in Acts 23.

“But perceiving that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” And as he said this, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.”

In my first draft I went on a hypothetical, futuristic rant. I wrote to young people who are alive today but supposed it was the year 2049, when they would be middle aged. I wrote to them to remind them how the dogmatic dispensationalists along with their arch enemies, the entrenched environmentalist, said that they would not be left on earth. What I wrote is less important than why I wrote. Do not be misled, like the American public was this week by a parody from a U.S. Congressman, who claimed he didn’t make false statements or lie but “parodied” based upon his “interpretation.” It is exactly  the same when it comes to the mini ice-age, I mean the hole in ozone layer. I’m sorry, I meant to write, gobal warming. Nope, still not correct–climate change. Wherein, man is evil and guilty and must change in order to escape the hell on earth. This is a parody of dispensationalist dogma, which sees the end of the world because people are evil, ever increasingly in the church and won’t turn to their dogma. Both are a parody of the true gospel, which says, only God is good, man is utterly sinful, Jesus paid the price for sin with his blood and those who believe him and endure the tribulation to the end, will be saved. Many pastors and preachers,  theologians and teachers claim that all one needs to do to be saved is to, “pray this simple prayer after me…” But what does the bible say? Not that. Also notice; what does Peter say to the Sadducees?

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Jesus said, “you must be born again.” We will come back to this.

History repeats itself, first “science” said that the earth was flat and the overly literal, dogmatic diocese agreed. Because the Bible says things like “the four corners of the earth,” the pontificating parishes persuaded the people that the earth must be flat, forgetting this precludes the possibility of a global flood. Fast forward a couple thousand years and the narrative became depleted ozone and then, overnight, an argument of an overabundance of ozone. But we had the solution, catalytic converters on cars, that were forced by legislation, which would convert harmful hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide into harmless carbon dioxide–after all, vegetation needs co2. And now, like 30 years ago concerning the depleted ozone, we have a female child telling us that we will not be forgiven by her generation for our inaction to reverse our pumping of co2 into the atmosphere. It is a parody of Matthew 24. What she fails to realize, because she has been lied to and not told the truth (unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught), is that it is actually a direct action from governments which has caused the exponential increase in the release of co2. Which is actually not a release at all but a mandated manufacturing.

Although I say I won’t (hypocrisy) let’s continue to consider politics. A U.S. Congressman “parodied,” using his interpretation of what was said on a phone call, what he thought was said by the U.S. president. In actuality, he lied–he misquoted the president. Now let’s continue considering the current culture of Twitter, the ‘Gram and Facebook. It is primarily one big argument. But more importantly, let’s take an honest approach to looking at ourselves in the evangelical church–as a parody of the Sadducees, jealousy reigns supreme. Notice the context.

“But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail.” The fascist wants to silence the socialist and the socialist wants to silence the capitalist and the capitalist wants to silence the communist and the communist wants to silence everyone. Pick a cause, any cause, and give that cause ultimate authority and it will shut down all opposition; why? Jealousy and jealousy of the most petty kind. Rather than zoom in on politics, sexism, racism, feminism, communism or any other “ism” born out of jealousy, let’s look at ourselves in the evangelical church.

What truly motivates us, the gospel or getting our way? Are we like Peter and the apostles, persevering under persecution or praying for personal prosperity? Are we humble yet bold like the apostles or stubborn like the Sadducees? Remember that the Sadducees claimed to know the Scripture but the “first and the last and the ruler of kings on earth” said that they didn’t, and he used the Scripture as proof. Nevertheless, even though confronted and challenged by their long-awaited Messiah, they refused to change their ways, even amongst the apostles who provided more proof of their error, and now, they cease to exist. Much like global-warming disciples and dogmatic dispensationalists should cease to exist in the year 2049, because of their dogma. Nevertheless, hundreds of other causes will rise to take their place. Everything parodies the true gospel. Men will do almost anything to get their way, from preaching up to and including violence.

Jeaus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” But what was the context? Jesus was answering the question asked by the disciples of John as to whether or not he was the expected one. His reply was that the miracles should speak for themselves. But they didn’t and now that we see the apostles in Jerusalem, performing many miracles, including an angelic jail-break, the Sadducees still won’t believe and are jealous. They not only attempt to silence them with words but with actions. Peter has been thrown in jail twice and soon enough, we will see the stoning of Stephen.

History repeats itself, especially when Jesus predicts it, and this angelic jail-break and second stabbing sermon is a divinely promised parody of Jesus speaking to the cities in Galilee after asked by John the Baptist’s disciples if he was the expected one. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

How much moreso for Jerusalem? “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” They rejected the prophets, they rejected the Christ and now we see them rejecting the apostles amongst many miracles.

As a United States congressman parodied the president, saying things of which he did not say, every cause and every belief parodies the Scripture. Every denomination, every religion and even the atheist who denies God, parodies the Scripture. As I am running out of time, let me point out only a few examples. Global Warming; humans are evil and must repent of their pollution. Which is true, but doing so does not mean eternal life. Communism; bread for the masses. But God said, “man shall not live on bread alone.” But I am less concerned with the world than I am with the church. The book of Revelation is clear, the worldly minded man is a parody of the heavenly minded man–mark of God verses the mark of the beast.

Within the church we see much parody. A mega-church pastor tells us we can have our best life now, but that is a parody of the new heavens and earth. The seeker sensitive church is a paralyzed parody of the Great Commission, ignoring that Paul, quoting Scripture, not parodying it, wrote, “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” The church that says, one must speak in tongues to be saved, parodies parts of the book of Acts but ignores the Ethiopian eunuch, the thief on the cross and Abraham Isaac and Jacob (THE LIVING), amongst many other examples. In fact, less, much less people in the Bible speak in tongues than do not. The church that believes in “oneness” and not the eternally Triune God,  parodies the Scripture that reads, “there is one God” but ignores the plurality of the Hebrew and the Greek. The ultra-conservative church, that doesn’t allow struggling homosexual members, parodies the likes of Leviticus and Romans 1+2 but fails to see their sin soaked heart. And last but certainly not least, the dogmatic dispensationalists parody Matthew 24, saying that this generation means the generation alive in 1948. Why is it so difficult to agree that this is not what Jesus said?

How are we supposed to know the difference between parody and the true words of God? Consider the context of the jail break and another stabbing sermon. “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

The Holy Spirit bore witness to it all, and he wrote the book. We must put away all presuppositions and preconceived notions and re-engage the Scripture reading it as it was written, letting the genre steer the ship and considering the author’s aspirations to his audience. We ask humbly of the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment because he wrote the book. We consider the context and examples, especially when what was written is a quote from the Old Testament. We don’t read things into the Bible but draw things out. We learn from the apostles and others, we see what the early church saw.

I am not using the text of Acts 5 to explain current culture. The opposite is true. I am using current culture to highlight the hypocrisy of the Sadducees. Everyone thinks that they are correct and if anyone doesn’t believe that which they believe, they are becoming more and more like the Sadducees, they want to shut them down. I expect this from the entrenched environmentalists but I didn’t expect it from the dogmatic dispensationalists. Taking a page out of their playbook; “I never thought I would live to see the day” that vigorous debate and discussion would turn into any opposing, or even similar viewpoints, being called “mockery” and “scoffing.” To be fair, there are many who do scoff at dogmatic dispensationalists and that is not right, nor is it helpful or edifying. That is also a total Sadducee move. Nevertheless, there are those who lovingly and Scripturally demonstrate the dubious details of dogmatic dispensationalist discourse who are called mockers and scoffers. These people are eagerly awaiting the return of Christ but not before the 7 year, great tribulation which is never mentioned in the Bible.

“But Russell P, the 7 year, great tribulation is mentioned in the Bible.” Except that it isn’t, accept that it isn’t. I will write it again, nowhere in the Bible is there a mention of a 7 year great tribulation. If we take Daniels 7 weeks as 7 years in the far future, which is dubious, the great tribulation would then only last 3 1/2 years. We must be very careful not to be like the Sadducees and claim to know the Scripture when we don’t. Look again at today’s text and consider the examples we saw. I hope this all highlights the hypocrisy of the Sadducees and also highlights the Holy Spirit’s role in life and in the life and ministry of the apostles, which continues to this day. Unfortunately the parody of the Sadducees is also alive and well, not only in the secular world but also in the church. From the not-so-distant past, where southern Baptist churches were segregated to the up-to-date policy of not letting “super-sinners” such as, the struggling homosexual, into church membership. This is a far cry from setting celebratory sexual sinners into service, but repentant people who struggle with with sin. If this is the case, we’re all in tremendous trouble. I have heard too much dubious dogma in my life.

  • Not one single drop of alcohol ever touched the lips of Jesus [He was called a “drunkard.”]
  • Jesus would not wear blue jeans if he was alive today. [He is alive, but has no need for blue jeans. What Scripture gives us one inkling that he wouldn’t wear blue jeans? I’m a carpenter’s son, I wear blue jeans.]
  • Jesus would shave if he was alive today. [Again, Jesus is alive today and according to your dogma of Revelation being in the future, he has a beard.]
  • Jesus has undying love for the nation of Israel but hates homosexuals. [About the nation Israel he said, “all their evil is at Gilgal, I came to hate them there.” And to sinners he said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Please, don’t be dogmatic about this, but understand that it was written in the Bible.]
  • We should have as many children as we can, God said to “be fruitful and multiply. [He didn’t say it to you.]
  • “Stop sinning!” [My response to this is the same response I have to those who think that the earth is overpopulated and to the former vice president of the United States who says we must stop using fossil fuels. “Ok, you go first.” Yes, we want to stop sinning, of course, this is a hope in the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the one who screams it the loudest, only highlights his hypocrisy.]
  • If you prayed that prayer, you got born again. [Beyond the bad grammar, it’s not how salvation works. “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Sounds like semantics but it is with the heart one believes, not asking Jesus to live in one’s heart. Remember, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And, 
    “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.” No, one cannot lose one’s salvation but one can certainly be misled as to their salvation.]
  • Women cannot be pastors. [Ooohh, I sense the tension. Most would assume that I agree with this statement but notice that it is dogmatic. Most people’s minds don’t go where my mind goes–let me drag you into my world. On Gilligan’s island, the skipper, professor, Mr. Howell and Gilligan die. Mrs. Howell finds a Bible and is converted. She then disciples and eventually pastors Ginger and Mary Ann. Is that wrong?]
  • Jesus descended into hell, to fully pay for sin, after the crucifixion. [Mistranslation; assuming hell to be the eternal state of the unbelievers–the lake of fire. And the cross was sufficient–“it is finished.”]
  • King David was small. [No, King Saul was tall.]
  • You must be baptized to be saved. [Again, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”]
  • One must speak in tongues to be saved. [See above]
  • One can lose their salvation. [One doesn’t work their way in, how could one work their way out? If you could, you would, otherwise grace wouldn’t be grace. Consider this question: where’s the line that crosses back from adoption to bastard?]

I realize that I could go on with examples for hours and that I have already written more than double of my self-appointed word limit. All to highlight the hypocrisy of the Sadducees and the approval of the apostles. It’s a simple text but it seems that we in the west don’t get it. Closely consider the context and ask, is a future temple and tradition tribulation God’s plan for Israel’s repentance? Or was it, as the text says, the cross of Christ?

The cross was for all the nations, Israel included. Notice how God put the icing on the cake against the jealous and stubborn Sadducees with another stabbing sermon through the Spirit, in which they didn’t believe, from former fishermen who had been sprung from prison, by an angel. All impossible in the mind of the Sadducees. That is Luke’s aspiration to his audience. My aspirations to the two or three of you is to not be dogmatic but open for a change of mind by daily reading of the Bible. That’s God’s aspiration to his audience, to be being changed and challenged by his words. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught.






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