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"The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander -- everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: 'Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?'" Acts 4:5-7 (The Message).
Get the picture? All the religious 'who's who' in Jerusalem, in full regalia and in all their blustering authority, confront the apostles who have done something they did not authorise. Man-power and God-power go head to head. Which one is God going to back?
We must remember, according to the teaching of the Apostles Paul and Peter, that the governing authorities are ordained by God and delegated by Him to maintain order in society. Therefore, no matter what they do, God backs the government because He put them there. But, of course, He also holds them accountable for what they do because He makes the rules and, if they do not uphold and obey them, they are culpable.
But now Jesus has put a spanner in the works. He came to re-establish God's kingdom on earth. This kingdom takes precedence over the kingdoms of the world. He commissioned His disciples to announce this kingdom and invite people to enter it by way of faith in Him through His sacrificial death. This kingdom is one of righteousness, joy, peace and power which they had just demonstrated by healing a crippled man.
The kingdom of God is not about maintaining order. It's about restoring everything that is broken. Broken bodies, broken spirits, broken lives, broken relationships, broken hopes, broken dreams, everything broken by the Fall stands in line for the power of God to restore. What happened to the crippled beggar and what happens to millions of people around the world is a foretaste of the final and complete restoration of all things when Jesus returns to finish what He began.
Who does God back in this conflict? The apostles, of course! The religious hierarchy threw all the power they had at the apostles but it could never match the power of God. It was His determined purpose to set up His kingdom in the hearts of men. He was revealing the true nature of the King by healing hearts and bodies. No threats, intimidation, persecution or imprisonment could stop His emissaries from delivering the message to whoever would receive it.
Even if they lost their lives in the process, they had nothing to lose. Death held no fear for them because Jesus had conquered death and delivered them from its terror, as Paul said, "‘for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.'" Philippians 2:21 (NIV).
What these poor benighted religious leaders did not realise was that the apostles were actually supporting them in their role as governing authorities. Every new member of God's kingdom signed on to be law-abiding citizens of the state as well as obedient children of God. They should have been rejoicing and supporting the apostles instead of opposing them and shutting them up in jail.
Such is the nature of deception! What the religious leaders wanted was not true allegiance to God but the power to control the hearts and consciences of people; and they were losing it. They were determined to control at any price - even resorting to murder again as they had tried to get rid of Jesus. Would they never learn!
To try to oppose God is as foolish as trying to empty the ocean with a thimble. Not even the most powerful civil authority or religious force can prevent God from achieving His goal. Hitler tried and lost. Communism tried and failed.
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ,
and He will reign for ever and ever."
Revelation 14:15b (NIV),
is the triumphant cry of heaven.
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