We Must Obey God Rather Than Man, Acts 5:27-33

Pride constantly deceives us, making us think ourselves more important than we are.

These words are from the second time in the Acts of the Apostles that Peter and John had been arrested for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. The first time was after Peter had cured the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. On that occasion they were ordered not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John, emboldened by their faith in Jesus and filled with the courage of the Holy Spirit, responded to that order saying: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20. On this occasion, they reiterate this truth saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29)

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The leaders of the Sanhedrin were at a loss here as they were confronting the mystery of God’s love and they were frustrated and perplexed. Pride is a terrible thing. It constantly deceives us, making us think ourselves more important than we are. When that false sense of self is challenged, we can get defensive, angry, resentful, and we will do whatever we can to get rid of who or what discomforts us. And the irony is that these emotions are, in reality, rooted in fear, fears of many kinds.

It is clear that Caiaphas and the leaders of the Sanhedrin feared the challenging message and example that Peter and John were proclaiming in the name of Jesus, and were filled with resentment toward them. They felt threatened. They feared the power of the very name of Jesus, and the obvious power and authority it gave his followers. They feared the loss of their own imagined importance and their own positions of power. And so they should in the face of the great mystery of God’s love.

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There is an old song by Dionne Warwick that opines, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing there’s just too little of.” The Apostle John tells us that “God is love” (1Jn 4:8). He also tells us in chapter 3, verse 16 of his Gospel that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” It is God’s love that is revealed to us in the flesh in Jesus Christ. This is the truth.

Is it sufficient for us to merely know this? No. It is only with a growing faith in Jesus that this love can be known. Only through faith can this love grow in us. It is in believing in his love for us that his will begins to grow in us and becomes our will. When God’s love grows within us through faith, we become able to model that love in our own times to a world that so desperately needs to see this love in action.

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Peter and John tell the Sanhedrin, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This is what Jesus is calling us to do today. This truly is what the world needs now, and yes, there is far too little of it. Like Peter and John, we too are called to be his love at work in our world today, towards ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and at our places of work.

It is in and through our faith in Jesus, that we will become emboldened to tell of God’s love, not just with our words but even more powerfully in and through our deeds toward one another. “Beloved let us love one another for love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love…Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-9,11).

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