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Contemporary Christians’ shyness to defend righteousness at the price of their own lives makes it doubtful that they are true followers of Christ. This speaks to the fearful Christians of Cameroon, who remain silent before the barbaric violence government’s armed forces have been using for weeks against peaceful protesters in the Western, English-speaking region of the country. For as the benchmark of Christian discipleship, the early Christians were fearless of Roman persecution–the most barbaric ever seen in history–never surrendering to the imperial edicts that required them to sacrifice to Roman idols in order to save their lives. They all chose death as martyrs by resisting all attempts by the Romans to turn them into idolaters and sinners. For boldness is a revolutionary spirit that is engrained in a true Christian.
Let us study the holy Scripture Acts 4:1-22.
After Yahshua’s death and resurrection, apostles Peter and John went right to the Jewish temple of Jerusalem, where they healed a crippled man and boldly preached the resurrected Christ, directly accusing the Judean highest ruling authority, the Sanhedrin, of having murdered the Messiah. Peter’s teaching attracted the unwelcome attention of the Sadducees, who did not believe that people were resurrected after death (Luke 20:27).
Verses 3-6 The purpose of Peter and John’s overnight incarceration was to convene the Sanhedrin, a 70-member council comprised of the high priest, members of his family, experts of the law (including scribes and Pharisees), and other respected members of the community (elders). They sat in a semicircle as they served as both the supreme court and senate of the nation of Israel.
Verses 5-14: The apostles boldly testify to Christ.
Verses 8-12 Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, would have all to understand, that the miracle had been made by the name, or power, of Yahshua of Nazareth, the Messiah, whom they had crucified; and this confirmed their testimony to His resurrection from the dead, which proved Him to be the Messiah. Peter’s response to the Sanhedrin is an emphatic demonstration of the courage Yahshua had previously promised His followers (Luke 21:12-15). There are three parts to his defense.
First, he characterizes the healing of the crippled man as an act of kindness, brought about by the name of Yahshua. Second, he draws attention to the fact that the same Sanhedrin trying his case has been responsible for the death of Yahshua, but that YAHWEH had vindicated Yahshua by raising Him from the dead. Peter considers their actions a fulfillment of prophecy (Psalm 118:22). Yahshua was the rejected stone that became the crowning stone of YAHWEH’s work. Third, Peter changes the subject from healing to salvation. The physical restoration of the crippled man is a picture of the salvation available to all people through Yahshua.
Verse 13 The Sanhedrin is astonished at the courage of Peter and John. Yahshua had been an insightful and formidable opponent of the religious authorities who had repeatedly debated and criticized Him. Peter and John are clearly ordinary men–but then again, the religious leaders had underestimated Yahshua as well (see John 7:15).
Verse 14 Because the healed man stands before the Sanhedrin, they cannot deny the miracle, but neither would they acknowledge it. Even such a convincing display could not penetrate the Sadducees’ preoccupation with protecting their vested interests.
These rulers of Israel must either be saved by that Yahshua whom they had crucified, or they must perish forever. The name of Yahshua is given to the people of every age and nation, as that through which alone believers are saved from the wrath to come. But when covetousness, pride, or any corrupt passion, rules within, people shut their eyes, and close their hearts, in enmity against the light; considering as ignorant and unlearned, all who desire to know nothing in comparison with Christ crucified. And the followers of Christ should act so that all who converse with them, may take knowledge that they have been with Yahshua. That makes them holy, heavenly, spiritual, and cheerful, and raises them above this world.
Verses 15-22: Peter and John refuse to be silenced.
Verse 21 With all the people praising YAHWEH for the miraculous healing of the crippled man, the council can see no way to punish Peter and John. So it threatens them more and then lets them go.
All the worry of the rulers is, that the doctrine of Christ should not spread among the people, yet they cannot say it is false or dangerous, or of any evil tendency; and they are ashamed to endorse the true reason; that it testifies against their hypocrisy, wickedness, and tyranny. Those who know how to put a just value upon Christ’s promises, know how to put just contempt upon the world’s threats.
The apostles look with concern on perishing souls, and know they cannot escape eternal ruin but by Yahshua the Messiah; therefore they are faithful in warning, and showing the right way. None will enjoy peace of mind, nor act uprightly, till they have learned to guide their conduct by the fixed standard of truth, and not by the shifting opinions and fancies of people. Especially beware of a vain attempt to serve two masters, Yahweh and the world; the end will be, you can serve neither fully.
(by Elder Seme, 12/08/2016 morning sermon)
Lack of Boldness Indicates Absence of the Holy Spirit.
I touch this topic of boldness in my soon-to-be-published book, The Black Founders of Christianity. Why were Christians persecuted so intensely and barbarously? Many reasons can be advanced. Christians were not conformists. They refused to worship Roman and any other gods. They were strict monotheists and rejected all types of idolatry. They held closed meetings. This secrecy led to suspicion by the Roman people; and rumors spread about Christian meetings. A nation ruled by the demons of idolatry would always resent and violently attack the Spirit-filled Christians.
Roman persecutions largely influenced the development of Christianity, strengthened Christians’ faith, emboldened early Christians, and reshaped Christian doctrine. For Christianity did not develop throughout the world till this day because it was adopted as State religion by the Aksum and Roman empires, but because people of all nations tend to view early Christians as revolutionaries, heroes, men and women of unshakable faith, ready to sacrifice their own lives but never yield to the powerful who try to impose upon them pagan beliefs and cultures. Among other things, persecution of early Christians gave rise to the cult of the saints and the love of martyrdom.
The Romans were a barbaric people. The most known barbaric, perverse, homosexual Roman Emperor, Nero, reigned from AD 54 to 68. Nero ordered all types of gruesome and brutal persecutions: Some Christians were condemned to be dressed in animal skins and torn apart by dogs, while others were burned to death in nighttime pyres that provided light for the emperor’s garden parties. Other unspeakable atrocities were committed by the Romans just for the sake of watching Christians die.
Persecutions and massacres strengthened the more faith in these early Christians. Many sought out and welcomed martyrdom. Some Roman authorities often tried to avoid Christians because they “goaded, chided, belittled and insulted the crowds until they demanded their death” (Arthur Frederick Ide, John Paul Smith, 1985, Martyrdom of Women: A Study of Death Psychology in the Early Christian Church to 301 CE. Garland: Tangelwuld. p. 21). According to Droge and Tabor,
“in 185 the proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, was approached by a group of Christians demanding to be executed. The proconsul obliged some of them and then sent the rest away, saying that if they wanted to kill themselves there was plenty of rope available or cliffs they could jump off.” (J. Arthur Droge, James D. Tabor (November 1992). A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. p. 136).
Absence of boldness in denouncing the unrighteousness and wickedness of secular authorities is an indication of lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence in today’s Christendom. Christian churches have become money making businesses that race to befriend the people in government, be those ruthless tyrants. Such people are the modern Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and elders, hypocrites and wicked people to whom Yahshua keeps saying,
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)
(Image: Bound by their love for Yahshua, Peter and John stand firm under temple persecution by Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin)

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