Acts 5:29-31 “Peter and the other apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”
An astounding change had taken place in these men since the morning Jesus rose from the dead. John described their earlier lack of courage: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…” Not much confidence or determination there. Their only determination then was not to end up executed as Jesus was.
Now they were ready to stand before the highest ruling body of their people and defy their orders with no apparent concern for what happened to them. In the course of time, all but one of them would die an unnatural death, executed for their refusal to stop preaching Jesus’ death and resurrection. What inspires men to display such determination? Certainly not a hoax, a cover-up, something you know to be false. You don’t sacrifice every earthly advantage, you don’t accept rejection, torture, and even death for something you know to be a lie.
Wasn’t their determination the result of the resurrection of Jesus they had witnessed, and concerning which they now gave their witness? “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead.” Here is an event that puts an end to every fear. Here was living proof that life after death is not just a possibility. It is a certainty. In Jesus they had seen what would become of their own bodies. In Jesus they had the promise that God himself was on their side and fully intended to raise their bodies.
For Jesus’ resurrection is more than a display of the raw power of God. That might be a rather frightening thing. You better watch out for a God who can bring dead bodies back to life, if that is all you know about him. Nor was Jesus’ resurrection merely an entertaining magic trick. Of what value is that? “Hey, that was fun. Do it again!”
No, these men understood more than the fact of the resurrection. They understood its meaning. Yes, it demonstrated God’s power and Jesus’ glory, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince…” But the main intent was to demonstrate their love and grace. “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that me might give repentance and forgiveness to Israel.” By his death and resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand Jesus is the Savior who brings us to repent of our sins and grants us full forgiveness for them. Here we know that God loves us. Here we know that we are safe with him no matter what happens. Here we know that he has secured our eternal future. Here we find the determination to obey him no matter what men threaten to do to us. Here we reap the results of witnessing Jesus’ resurrection–they through their eyes, we through their words.
This determination can carry through to every other Christian service or endeavor. Have you ever heard anyone speak of a resurrection faith? Of course, all true Christian faith believes in Jesus’ resurrection, and in ours as well. But when people speak of a resurrection faith, they are talking about letting our faith live out the implications of that wonderful truth. That is what the apostles were demonstrating here. A resurrection faith is brimming with confidence, confident that God is on our side and God is the winner, so in the end we win, too.
That does not mean that our service to him will always be easy. It doesn’t mean that we will always meet with earthly success. It means that even if our service is filled with opposition, and ridicule, and heartache, and setbacks, and even ends in death, we don’t lose our determination because Jesus lives and we win.