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The Irrationality of Unbelief

Collection:
Book of Acts

A Sermon on Acts 5:17-32

The Apostles Arrested and Freed

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (ESV)

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Unbelief and rejection of the gospel flows from a heart that is fallen and corrupt. In this sermon on Acts 5:17–32, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains this central problem that plagues all humanity. For when people say that the gospel is foolish or for the primitive, they are not doing so as free thinkers, but as sinners who reject God and His way of life. This is seen when the apostles John and Peter are put in prison by the Jewish leaders. These unbelieving Jews reject the message of the crucified and resurrected Messiah and they persecute those that believe. This is unbelief manifest in irrationality. They do not put forth arguments, but they simply reject the message and the messengers. So, when those who hear the gospel of Christ reject it with anger and hatred, it should not be surprising for the Bible predicts and explains this rejection. God’s word says that all are sinners by nature and are wholly opposed to God. As it was in the days of the apostles, so it is also true in modern times. All around us people scoff and ridicule the message of a crucified Savior due to unbelief. And this unbelief can only be remedied by the grace of God.


Additional Scripture Translations

Acts 5:17-32, New American Standard Bible

Imprisonment and Release

17But the high priest stood up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and leading them out, he said, 20“Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life.” 21Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple area about daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, that is, all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison for them to be brought. 22But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported, 23saying, “We found the prison locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple area and teaching the people!” 26Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).

27When they had brought them, they had them stand before the Council. The high priest interrogated them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Acts 5:17-32, King James Version

17¶ Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. 24Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. 25Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. 26Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

29¶ Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.


About Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.