The early disciples of Jesus faced all kinds of pressures that might easily have put them off following Jesus. The incidents recorded in this chapter in Acts are typical of what they faced – and what might face some believers even now.
Their perseverance and determination to announce the Gospel and live under the rule of God comes as a real challenge to 21st Century believers in Western Europe.
v 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them.
A great reputation isn’t everything! The events recorded in the first verses of the chapter – the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira – had perhaps scared people away. Their lack of honesty and integrity, followed by immediate judgment, doubtless made people stop and think. However, in the very next verse we find ‘Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.’ And at the beginning of chapter 6 we find the growth of the church continuing. There was something dynamic about the life of the church and the message that was being preached that convinced people of the truth of the Gospel.
The fact is that the good reputation of the church combined with the life that was being demonstrated drew people to faith in Jesus. So while a good reputation isn’t everything, it does matter. A church noted for its generosity and care is on the right path to being effective in proclaiming good news to a somewhat sceptical population. If those who claim to follow Jesus aren’t themselves being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit then there is a disconnection between the message and the messenger! The Gospel message is validated by the Gospel living of the messengers. This is what Jesus was speaking about when he said ‘In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.’