The Irrationality of Unbelief
A Sermon on Acts 5:17-32
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 …
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 …
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.
- The passage describes the reaction of the high priest and Sadducees to the apostles' preaching and miracles. They were filled with indignation and imprisoned the apostles.
- Unbelief is not due to intellectual reasons. Many intelligent people believe the gospel. Unbelief has been present throughout history.
- Unbelief is not due to lack of knowledge. Unbelief was present even before modern scientific discoveries. Knowledge does not address fundamental questions about human existence, God, morality, and the afterlife.
- The real cause of unbelief is irrationality, not intellect. It is a matter of feeling and prejudice, not reason. The high priest and Sadducees reacted with anger and jealousy, not open-mindedness.
- Unbelief manifests itself with intolerance, not openness. Society today tolerates moral perversions but not the gospel.
- Unbelief is marked by hatred and rage, not calm objectivity. The gospel is ridiculed and attacked, not discussed rationally.
- Unbelief relies on force and authority to suppress dissent, not reason or evidence. The high priest and Sadducees imprisoned the apostles to stop their preaching.
- The gospel presents the truth about life, God, human existence, and eternity. It offers life and salvation. To reject this is irrational.
- Unbelief is futile because it pits itself against the power of God, not just human messengers. God delivered the apostles from prison. The gospel has outlived all attempts to destroy it.
The Book of Acts
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.