The city of Jerusalem was in an uproar, and the courts
of the temple grounds were utterly shaken. During Pentecost,
the apostles of Yahshua the Messiah had proclaimed salvation
and resurrection from the dead in the name of the man Yahshua
who had been hated by the Jewish leaders and murdered to
quell any uprising from the people.
Now thousands were believing and being baptized into the
Community of Messiah. Jerusalem had never seen such a marvel.
Household after household was being established throughout
the region. Men, women, and whole families were moving into
the area from countries all around the Mediterranean world,
selling their homes, their farms, and possessions, and giving
all to meet the needs of the new community.
What an upheaval this was to those of the Jewish high priestly
order! Even some from among the priesthood had believed.
They had joined this sect and were participating wholeheartedly,
with unabashed love for one another, in demonstration of
a life together. Their common life was the talk of the town.
Then, sometime after the day of Pentecost, there was more
explosive growth. Another two thousand joined the community.
The apostles had again preached salvation in the name of
Yahshua the Messiah, right in the Court of the Gentiles.
The whole city was aware of what was taking place, but they
didn’t fully understand what caused these people to
start living together. They could see the contrast between
the cynical, yet powerful, religious leaders of Jerusalem,
and the simple devotion and love of the new followers of
Messiah. The Pharisees and religious leaders knew something
had to be done quickly. This was worse than when Yahshua
Himself was alive!
Several thousand within the region of Judea now claimed
faith in this Messiah, and as a result they daily served
and cared for one another, laying down their lives for one
another. Their love for one another flowed out of the forgiveness
they had received for their own sins. They had no higher
preoccupation than this: to daily give themselves to meeting
the needs of the brotherhood. They worked with unlimited
vision and zeal.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
This new life was what Yahshua meant when He taught His
disciples about the gospel of the Kingdom. The community
in Jerusalem was a foretaste of God’s reign -- His
Kingdom on earth. The greatest witness, far beyond the
miraculous cures at the apostles’ hands, was the miracle
of this new life together. Their oneness of heart and unselfish
love and care for one another were the works only God could
bring about. These were the greater works Yahshua had spoken
of in John 14:12. It would be the outstanding witness of
His life on earth.
Social, educational, and language barriers fell before this
love, losing their power to divide mankind. All those who
believed were together and shared all they had together.
Going from house to house they fed and clothed one another.
They worked together, serving each other in deep gratitude
and thankfulness for this new life. They shared a mutually
supportive economic structure that expressed the reality
that they were seeking first the Kingdom of God and His
righteousness. And just as the Savior had promised, all
their needs were abundantly supplied through their common
life without having to strive for them as the Gentiles did.
In obedience to the gospel, they had left all behind them
and had received a hundred times more in exchange for what
they had given up. This proved the genuineness of their
faith, showing that they were also forgiven and washed clean
of all their sins. They no longer lived for themselves
or sought their own occupations, but were employed with
the daily preoccupation of building the Community of Messiah,
a brand new life and culture.
The Many Other Words
The apostles faithfully preached the “many other words”
of the gospel, teaching those who heard to obey all that
Messiah had commanded. They were repeatedly warned and
taken into custody to quench their zeal, but nothing could
hinder the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was upon them.
It wasn’t long before the tension escalated and the
religious leaders in Jerusalem decided that enough was enough!
They conspired together to destroy the disciples and bring
an end to the confusion they were causing among their Jewish
brothers. They would be thrown into prison and then it would
be decided what should be done with these men who were promoting
this new religious sect among the Jews. They marched in
carefully, so as not to cause a riot, and took Peter and
John into custody.
The Whole Message of this New Life
In the midst of their suffering, in the stillness of the
night, from within the darkness of the prison walls, an
angel appeared and the doors opened.
“Go, stand in the Temple Courts,” he said,
“and tell the people the full message of this new
life.” (Acts 5:20)
There was no stopping them now. The whole message of this
new life, which was being lived out in community right in
front of the eyes of the people of Jerusalem, could not
be hidden. The angel commanded that the whole message of
this new life had to be explicitly understood by those
who were seeing it. The consequential effect of their witness
and behavior must not be lost on the people of Jerusalem.
The authority of that angel came upon them and the apostles
knew what to do. They took a fearless stand and began
boldly teaching about this new life of community right there
in the temple courts. The people of Jerusalem needed someone
to explain the significance of this new life and where it
came from so that they too could be saved. Otherwise, the
people of Jerusalem would not have understood it.
The message could now be fully proclaimed because that life
was already in existence. The angel could not have given
Peter this command before the community in Jerusalem was
established. The witness of the Kingdom was an observable
life together in community and was an integral part of
the good news. That’s what the angel was telling them.
So, the gospel needed to be articulated in clearly defined
terms that explained the reality of the life it produced.
Of course, the life the angel was speaking of in Acts 5:20
was none other than the life the Holy Spirit had caused
to be described in the previous chapters. You can read about
it yourself in Acts 2 and 4!
What Message Would You Proclaim?
But let’s put the shoe on the other foot: What if
the angel were to come to you? What would you confidently
go out to proclaim? How would you explain your “life
in Christ” to the people of the modern world? Would
it be in words very similar to Peter’s that day, full
of his testimony of the vibrant life of the Community of
Jerusalem? Or could you only tell them about your Sunday
School class and Sunday worship service and your Bible study
on Wednesday night? Or how you try to be a good witness
at your job, and are faithful to pay your tithes? But do
you really suppose that the Holy Spirit would have described
in such detail the vibrant community life of the church
in Jerusalem if it were not an example to be imitated?
Peter had a confidence that all believers are to have. No,
all believers are not apostles as he was, but all should
have the confidence of knowing that the gospel they preach
is lived out as a witness, observable by all, just like
the church in Jerusalem -- the Community of the Redeemed.
That was the witness of those who believed. They lived together,
sharing all things in common, being devoted to the teachings
of the apostles and their fellowship, to the breaking of
bread, and to prayer at their daily gatherings.
Their life was “set apart” and distinct from
the common Roman or Judaic lifestyle, a life that stood
in stark contrast to the principles that governed modern
society. It was the result of obeying all that Yahshua commanded.
Their acceptance of His sacrifice on their behalf and their
obedience to His commands for discipleship was the basis
for the Holy Spirit to be imparted to them.
Wherever the veritable gospel was preached, this pattern
of the life of Messiah in community would be the result.
The words of the gospel, together with the life of community
(which is the fruit of that gospel), is the witness of the
Body of Messiah on earth. You can’t have the one without
For more on the name Yahshua, see Name Above All Names
Acts 2:41-47 and Acts 4:32-37
Matthew 24:14; Luke 4:43; Matthew 4:23;
9:35; Mark 10:29-30
Witness – evidence; the testimony of one who presents
John 13:34-35; 17:21-23
2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 4:16
Explicate – to make
clear the meaning of; explain, understandable,
to make sure, plain (from a Latin root meaning
Luke 4:43; Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 6:33
Integral – necessary for completeness; essential;
central part to complete.
2:14; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians
Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:21,23; 8:51;
15:7-14; 1 John 2:3-5; Revelation 22:14
Luke 14:26-33; Matthew 10:34-40; Mark 8:34-38;
10:26-30; John 12:25-26
Acts 5:32; John
Veritable – agreeable to
truth or to fact; actual; real; true; genuine,
Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-35;
1 Thessalonians 2:14