Witness Despite Opposition (April 7)

Acts 5:27-32


John Polhill has some interesting commentary on this passage:

“The apostles had been been duly warned by the court not to continue further witness, and the interdiction had been fully ignored. They were unmistakably culpable. The high priest’s concern about being charged with responsibility for Jesus’ ‘blood’ may have had more significance than appears at first sight. To ‘lay someone’s blood’ on someone is an Old Testament expression for a charge of murder and in accordance with the ius Talionis demanded the death of the guilty party. In essence the high priest was saying, ‘You are trying to get us killed for responsibility in this man’s death’ (author’s paraphrase).

Peter, of course, was not trying to get the leaders killed but rather to get them saved. As in the first trial, his response was more of a witness than a defense. As then, he referred to the basic principle of  obeying God rather than man (cf. 4:19), this time the form being even closer to that of Sacrates’ famous quote in Plato’s Apology 29d. This principle underlies this entire section of Acts. Where God’s will lay in this instance was fully demonstrated in the escape with its command to resume the preaching in the temple. Not impeding God’s purposes would be the main thrust of Gamaliel’s speech. Peter had no choice. He had to remain true to the divine leading. His saying has continued to be used by Christians throughout the centuries, by Christian martyrs making the ultimate sacrifice in obedience to their Lord, and by power-hungry medieval popes exerting their influence over secular rulers. It is a dangerous saying, subject to abuse and misappropriation; and one should be as clear as Peter was about what God’s purposes really are before every using it” (Acts: The New American Commentary, Volume 26, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992, pp. 168-169).

Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Video:
o    The Book of Acts: The Visual Bible (Dramatized video movie, word for word from the NIV text. Available from Keith or the web page).
o    WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)

•    Cotton Patch Gospel Version (In Keith’s office). Excerpt: “The mayor tore into them and said, ‘We warned you in no uncertain terms not to spread the ideas of that fellow. And now look, you’ve agitated all of Atlanta with your ideas, and are trying to pin that guy’s lynching on us!’ “ (p. 95).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Our Church’s Witness to the World - Ministry Focus. Please say to your class, “Your gifts to the church budget and to the Glocal Missions Offering helps support these ministries.”:
o    Share about the work of Steve Clark and Annette among the Karen (Pronounced “Ka-rin”) refugees in Louisville, Kentucky using information from the Glocal Missions Offering brochure and from our website (/labc-glocal-ministries/)
o    Share about our partnership with the Protestant Church in Rabat, Morocco and their work with African refugees using information from the Glocal Missions Offering brochure and from our website (http://www.lexingtonavenue.org/labc-glocal-ministries/)
o    Or choose one of our Glocal Ministry groups of special interest to your class.

•    Missions Video: Show the video of the plight of Karen refugees and the work of Crescent Hill Baptist Church and Steve Clark and Annette Ellard with the Karen in Louisville (on our web site: /sunday-school-supplements/). Some will remember the Karen choir that shared with us in worship a few years ago.

•    Blooming Night Zan: The Formations Study Guide (pp. 86-87) reflects on the story of Blooming Night Zan among the Karen refugees. Listen to an interview with Blooming Night Zan on our website: /sunday-school-supplements/. Note: Steve and Annette and a member of the Karen community in Louisville will share a testimony with us in worship on Sunday.

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.

•    Commentaries in Keith’s office
o    Acts: The New American Commentary, Volume 26, John B. Polhill (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992).
o    Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit, Justo Gonzalez (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001).
o    Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, J. Bradley Chance (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007).
o    Journeying Through Acts: A Literary Cultural Reading, (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997)

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)