The 1st Century church was growing and attracting more and more followers. This “movement” was concerning and threatening to the religious leaders who were steadfast in their old ways. The Sanhedrin was a governing council made up of the most prominent Sadducees and Pharisees (two sects of the Jewish faith). These men met daily to rule on religious issues and clarify Scripture. The new Christians didn’t need the Sanhedrin. They were gathering for worship and bringing those in need of healing to the apostles. The Sanhedrin decided that the apostles needed to be stopped so they had them arrested, but before the apostles could be brought before the council, an angel opened their jail cells and commanded them to continue teaching and preaching about the new life that Christ brings. The Sanhedrin had them re-arrested and were all but ready to have the apostles executed, but Gamaliel, a respected member of the Sanhedrin, convinced them that if this movement was of human origin, it would die out in time and be resolved. If the movement was indeed of God, then they would be fighting against God, which was a no win situation. The Sanhedrin had the apostles flogged and warned them not to teach in that “name” again. However, the apostles did not live under the authority of the Sanhedrin, they lived under the authority of God. They continued to preach and obey God as the Holy Spirit empowered them to spread the gospel.
1 Samuel 15:22; Acts 5:15, 19-20, 25, 28, 29-32, 38-39, 41-42
“We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32)
1 Samuel 15:22 states: “Obedience is better than sacrifice,…” Many Christians stay busy doing things for God, making sacrifices. They volunteer every time they are needed. They give their tithe and even beyond. However, sacrifice and obedience are two different things. The apostles were obedient to the mission God had given them, to preach and teach the message of new life in Christ. Because of their obedience, they made many sacrifices. Ultimately, they were obedient unto death, because each one gave his life for the cause of Christ. Obedience isn’t a popular word or idea. Everyone wants to be in control of his/her own life, time, possessions, family, but God requires full obedience. When you profess to be a Christian, the world is watching to see what is going to guide you and what you’re going to submit to and believe in. Some submit to the past; their past dictates the future, and they can’t seem to escape it. Others submit to culture and the ways of the world. But a highly devoted follower of Jesus Christ submits only to the highest authority, no matter the circumstance or the cost. When you fully obey Christ, sacrifice is sure to follow, but don’t be confused. Giving up things, working and serving Christ is not the same thing as being obedient to him.
What does being obedient to Christ mean to you? Why is the Holy Spirit so active in the lives of those who obey? Why is obedience better than sacrifice? Would you rather your child obey you or use money they earned to buy you a birthday gift? Explain. What has obedience/submitting to authority (at school, work, home or legally) cost you? What has obedience/submitting to Christ cost you? Do you recall the 2015 Oregon terrorist who asked his victims to identify themselves as Christians? (Those who did were shot in the head.) What would you have done? Explain. How do you recognize the Holy Spirit’s prompting? When have you obeyed the HS? How did it turn out? When have you not obeyed. Did you have regrets? Why/why not?
Read, pray, obey…repeat daily. Get to know God by spending time with Him. Then you will know his voice.
Lord, you have all authority in heaven and on earth. Help me to be obedient to you no matter the cost. Allow your Holy Spirit to empower me to do your will. Give me your guidance. I pray in Jesus Name, Amen.