The Annoying Gospel

Acts 4 represents the first official opposition to the followers of Jesus, the first persecution of the new Christian Church, and it isn’t Rome who persecutes, but Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders are greatly annoyed at the preaching of the gospel. Why were they so annoyed? Here are three reasons:

First, they are annoyed that the apostles are teaching without authority. At least, that’s what they think. And so they ask in verse 7, “Who said you could do this? Who signed your papers?” This is a legitimate worry. They are preaching sermons on the temple grounds! Israel already had teachers and religious authorities, who, by the way, had given a very different verdict concerning Jesus. Who are these fishermen to start teaching?

But we cannot sympathize with the temple leaders, because in Matthew 28, we read that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus. Acts tells us that Jesus used this authority to send the Spirit to fill the apostles to be His witnesses. And so while the temple leaders have a good question, Peter has a better answer: in whose name? In the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Second, they are annoyed that the disciples were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. Now, this crowd of temple leaders is full of Sadducees, a group that didn’t believe in the concept of resurrection. Not just Jesus’ resurrection, but the whole idea of resurrection. So in their minds, not only are unauthorized men teaching, but they are teaching false doctrine! Of course they are annoyed: if these men are right, then there is no point in being a Sadducee anymore. Either these men must be silenced, or the Sadducees will have to change their lives. And in their pride, they aren’t about to change.

But throwing the disciples in prison cannot un-resurrect Jesus anymore than covering your eyes means that the sun disappears. Jesus is alive, and the proof of that is that people are being healed in His name, by His representatives! Dead people do not heal people, and so Peter argues that it is the Risen Christ who has healed the lame man.

Third, these men are annoyed because there is no other authority, no other name that offers salvation. Because Jesus has all authority, Peter and John are not going to bargain for half the speaking rights in the temple – half Sadducee “no resurrection” sermons, half “Jesus is risen” sermons. That will never work, because Jesus is the only name that saves. And so the disciples are willing to be annoying, willing to be thrown into prison, willing to disobey the authority of the temple leaders, because they are absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way.

Really, all of these reasons why the gospel is annoying boil down to one: the gospel is annoying because it confronts our sin. In this way, the gospel is meant to be annoying. The offense of the gospel is that it unsettles proud sinners, and this is not a problem with the gospel, it is a problem with us. Wherever we struggle to believe the good news, or find ourselves embarrassed by having to rebuke sin, or feel the sting of the exclusivity of the gospel, we find those areas in our lives where we don’t think or believe or love like Jesus does. And wherever we find that the gospel irritates us, we are the ones who need to change, not the gospel!

The gospel is annoying to sinners, but that annoyance is good. Good, because the right kind of annoyance is God’s grace in revealing our sin. What starts in annoyance ends in holiness, by the power of the Spirit. At the end of the encounter with the temple leaders, the disciples are preparing to disobey the religious leaders in order to obey God. The religious leaders are annoying God by their unbelief, and as a result, they are impotent, unable to silence the apostles as they preach the annoying, amazing message of the Resurrected Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 by CJ Bowen