In Acts 5, we have obedience illustrated in the lives of the apostles. They were dragged before the High Priest in verses 16 and following. The charge? Preaching the Gospel and healing the sick. When the angel of the Lord came and released them from prison during the night, he instructed them to go back to the temple and preach the “words of this life” (vs.20). If I had been beaten and thrown into prison, I would have escaped the city at the first chance I had. But not so with the apostles – they obeyed the instructions from the angel and returned to the temple the next morning to the preach the Gospel.
You can imagine what the response was when the High Priest discovered that they were at it again! He was not happy. He was incredulous that they had disobeyed his warning to stop preaching the Gospel (vs.27-28).
Not afraid, the response was given in verse 29:
“We ought to obey God rather than men.”
So simple. So profound. So often not the case. How many times do we bow to the wishes or demands of society? We don’t want to stand out, so we choose to blend in. Preaching the Gospel isn’t popular, so we just hand a tract instead (if we do anything at all). We don’t want to confront sin, so we find a way to gloss over it or not deal with it.
I like what Gamaliel said in verses 35-39. Though he was a Pharisee, he was very wise in the counsel which he offered. He said,
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
I know that sometimes I get very worked up when I come across something that I don’t like. A political view that I think is wrong. Someone spewing wrong doctrine. People in powerful positions who water-down or twist the truth. I don’t need to worry about them. Yes – stand for what is right. But really, if it is of God, I cannot destroy it. And if it is of men, it will come to nothing. I just need to rest in the Lord (Ps.37:7).
The last thing which I noticed in this story is the final response of the apostles. They were beaten before the authorities let them go free. They didn’t upset, or discouraged, or angry. In verse 41, they were found “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” And in verse 42, they returned right away to preaching the Gospel. What an example they set for us, not only for response to persecution, but also that in trials we may “count it all joy” (James 1).