The Apostles Arrested and Freed
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (ESV)
- Pastors in prison.
The world is not indifferent or neutral when it comes to the Lordship of Jesus. Jesus told us that the world would hate his Church because it first hated him (John 15:18). Sometimes that hatred is hidden. At other times it is exposed through public persecution such as is recorded in this text. The Apostles found themselves thrown in prison for preaching the Gospel. Even after being physically beaten by the officials, they would not quit preaching the Gospel.
- The gates of hell do not prevail.
Persecution and imprisonment are no match for Jesus and his Gospel. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail (Matthew 16:18). Neither will prison gates hold back the work of the Spirit in the world. God is able to send his angels to help his people whenever they are in need. The imprisonment of the Apostles only served to demonstrate the greater power of God which resulted in great witness and testimony.
- Godly disobedience.
God has placed rulers and authorities over his people for their good. Consequently, we are to humbly submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4, 1 Peter 2:13-15). However, whenever our governing authorities command us to disobey or restrict us from obeying, we are bound by the Scriptures to disobey them and obey God.
- What motivated the high priest and Sadducees to imprison the Apostles? Explain why this was such a big deal.
- What does this text teach us about angels? How might this encourage you? How might it be a distraction?
- Can you give some practical examples of when you might have to disobey the government? How does this text encourage you?
Call to Worship
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you. (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
Almighty and most merciful Father, we have strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. O Lord, have mercy on us! Spare those who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. And for his sake, O merciful Father, grant that we may hereafter live a godly and righteous life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources are tools for families to use to help connect Sunday’s sermon to the rest of your week, fostering conversations and habits of worship.