IN THE NAME OF CHRIST
Read Acts 4:1-22
What is it that makes the Sanhedrin so nervous that they are asking "By what authority did you do this?"
- Was it Peter and John, the two fishermen from the hill country up north? Surely the well-placed, privileged blue-bloods of the Sanhedrin wouldnt be intimidated by these yokels who still stink of salt air and fish. Annas, Caiaphas, and the inner circle of have the air of education about them. The grooming of the finest schools, the robes and laurels of hard-earned study and scholarship. Peter and John dont even have a change of clothes. Annas, Caiaphas and the religious blue-bloods speak proper Aramaic with a distinguished tone of confidence. Surely they are not threatened by the burly tongued talk of these rubes with the thick Galilean twang.
- Maybe it wasnt Peter and John themselves, but they did notice that these men had been with Jesus.
- And like Jesus, Peter and John are at the center of unauthorized teaching and healing activity. Peter and John didnt study with the Sanhedrin to earn their Biblical degree. They never filled out a doctrinal questionnaire. They didnt even offer the courtesy of a meeting with the local religious leaders before beginning their ministry. The only credentials they have to offer evident would be the well-known temple paraplegic who has never walked in all his 40 years - and now hes not only walking hes bouncing up and down the marble steps of Solomons Porch! And what makes this so unnerving for the "keepers of the authorized truth" in Jerusalem is all this troublesome talk about Jesus being involved in this undeniable healing yes, the same Jesus they had executed as a heretic and blasphemer.
- And like everyone else, the Sanhedrin noted that these men had been with Jesus.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9 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, 10 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.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."
In whose name?
- In whose name do we find salvation? In whose name do we offer salvation, healing, mercy, service and aid? Do we act and speak in the name of Jesus as plainly as Peter and John did? Do we speak the name of Jesus as if he is still able to speak and act for himself? Do we act on it with the diligence and responsibility of agents who pronounce the name of their superior officer? Do we cite the name of Jesus like students and disciples who mention the name of their teacher? Or do we get distracted by the reputation and influence of our name?
- When the fire broke out next door to our church building in Lake Jackson on Acacia street we knew we had to do something to show we cared. So we raised funds. And since these folks were next door, and since these folks were our next door neighbors we felt some urgency to be the first church to act for their sake of course and because we wanted people to know we genuinely cared and we did! Theres fewer churches more benevolent and compassionate than Lake Jackson Church of Christ.
- Later in that day, my Presbyterian colleague from down the road on "church row," Alan, came by to ask what we were doing to help the victims of the fire. He asked if we might combine our efforts. Well, wed already put our plans in effect, and I admit I was concerned that Alan might suggest we pool our efforts and in my mind that would just complicate things. I had it clearly figured out that I would take the check of our collected funds and present the family a gift on behalf of the good folks of the Lake Jackson Church of Christ.
- Alan clarified wasnt concerned with how the gifts were collected or given, he simply said "Whatever we give we must give it in the name of Christ." I had never thought about that ever! Alan was only concerned about acting in the name of the Risen Lord. His vision was larger than mine. (I shared this insight with the elders of LJCC and they wondered why I would proceed any other way).
- That experience taught me about true authority and the source of real power. Its not the amount of the check, but the name attached to it and I dont mean the account holder but the name of the one in whom a gift is given!
Enable Your Servants to Speak your Word with Great Boldness
- Peter and John arent on trial because they dropped money in the crippled beggars plate. They arent even on trial because they healed they are on trial because they claimed that the power on display is from Jesus. They named names and the name behind the power is Jesus. And that threatened the leaders because it meant the leaders were wrong about Jesus and that invalidates their teaching and authority.
- Peter and John werent trying to discredit Annas, Caiaphas, Alexander and the other elites. They were just telling the story the way they remembered it. They were just telling the truth. Jesus is doing great things and Peter and John are there to talk about it to name it!
- The name we sign to our efforts makes all the difference ...
- When Alan charged me to give in the name of Christ it opened up new possibilities: I was no longer just the official representative or errand boy of a "good deeds institution." Suddenly I had become a spokesman for the Kingdom of Jesus.
- The gift in my hand was more than the limit of LJCCs generosity and capacity to give. It was a gift invested with spiritual authority of Jesus and therefore the possibilities remained endless for the name of the living Christ now backed that check (not just LJCC or FNB)
12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."
19 But Peter and John replied, "Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
By Whose Authority do we speak and Act?
- Consider that question very concretely with all our ministries and even our management efforts: By whose authority do we distribute clothes on Community Outreach Day? By whose authority do we give out food under the bridge or in the office? By whose authority does CURE store up resources to be utilized compassionately? By whose authority do sing and worship at the Way? By whose authority do we teach our children at VBS? By whose authority do send missionaries to other nations? By whose authority do we seek out and hire a minister to lead our mission to the campus of UAFS? By whose authority do we administer a budget? By whose authority do we spend funds and cut checks for everything from curriculum, communion bread, and computer disks? By whose authority do we speak prayers for the healing and comfort of others? By whose authority do we baptize men and women who call on the name of Jesus of Christ?
- If the answer to any of these is the West-Ark Church of Christ then we are at best limited to our own ability and understanding.
- If the answer to any of these is the elders of the church then we are at best limited to what six honorable and prayerful men can do.
- If the answer to any of these is the ministers of the church then we are at best limited to what seven learned and responsible men can do.
- If the answer to any of these is the name of any of the faithful servants who lead and serve our various ministries then we are limited at best by the extent of their abilities and passions.
- But if the answer is "by the authority of Jesus Christ" then we are limited to the saving power and authority of the one who conquered death and who reigns at the right hand of God Almighty!
This is why we acknowledge that our Guyana Medical Mission Team goes in Christ's name just as we are all under the authority of Christ ... Blessing the Guyana Team [... elder prays]
[Link to Guyana Medical Missions of West-Ark.]
Read Acts 4:23-31 Praying for Courage to Trust in Jesus
Who do we listen to? Whoever gets the last word with us is the source of our authority and the limit of our power
Who do we listen to? Whoever gets the last word with us is the one whose judgment we fear
- Peter has been with Jesus and he recognizes an authority greater than the Sanhedrin and a power greater than his fear.
- Peter and the church pray for boldness and Pentecost happens again! The spirit is poured out and shakes the church.
Can we as a church pray for such courage and boldness? How can we not?
Isnt the alternative to pray for calmness rather than courage and to pray for timidity rather than temerity?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 May 2004
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