Jehovah Is Our Ruler!
“We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—ACTS 5:29.
1, 2. What apostolic position do Jehovah’s Witnesses take when human demands conflict with the divine will?
JEHOVAH GOD had allowed 12 men to be taken before a high court. The year was 33 C.E., and the court was the Jewish Sanhedrin. On trial were the apostles of Jesus Christ. Listen! ‘We ordered you not to teach on the basis of this name,’ says the high priest, ‘but you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.’ At that, Peter and the other apostles declare: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29) In effect, they said: “Jehovah is our Ruler!”
2 Yes, Jehovah is the Ruler of Jesus’ true followers. This is made clear in the Bible book Acts of Apostles, penned in Rome about 61 C.E. by “Luke the beloved physician.” (Colossians 4:14) Like the apostles, Jehovah’s people today obey their heavenly Ruler when human demands conflict with his will. But what else can we learn from Acts? (In personal study, we suggest that you read the portions of the book specified in boldface citations.)
Jesus Commissions Witnesses
3. When Jesus’ followers were “baptized in holy spirit,” what was their prime concern?
3 The apostles could take a firm stand for God because they had been strengthened spiritually. Christ died on a torture stake, but they knew that he had been resurrected. (1:1-5) Jesus “showed himself alive” and taught Kingdom truths in materialized bodies throughout 40 days. He also told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for baptism “in holy spirit.” Preaching would then be their prime concern, as it is for Jehovah’s Witnesses today.—Luke 24:27, 49; John 20:19–21:24.
4. What would happen when the holy spirit arrived upon Jesus’ followers?
4 Not yet baptized in holy spirit, the apostles wrongly thought of earthly rule to end Roman domination when they asked: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (1:6-8) In effect, Jesus said no, for ‘it did not belong to them to know the times and seasons.’ ‘When the holy spirit arrived upon them,’ it would empower them to witness about God’s heavenly Kingdom, not one on this earth. They would preach in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, “and to the most distant part of the earth.” With the spirit’s help, Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing such work on a globe-encircling scale in these last days.
5. How would Jesus come in the same way he departed?
5 Jesus had just issued that worldwide preaching commission when he began to ascend to heaven. That ascension started with upward movement away from his disciples, and later Jesus entered into his heavenly Ruler’s presence and into activity in the spirit realm. (1:9-11) After a cloud obscured the apostles’ view of Jesus, he dematerialized his fleshly body. Two angels appeared and said that he ‘would come in the same manner.’ And so it has been. Jesus’ disciples alone saw him depart, even as only Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize his invisible return.
Jehovah Makes a Choice
6. How was a replacement chosen for Judas Iscariot?
6 Soon the apostles were back in Jerusalem. (1:12-26) In an upper chamber (perhaps in the home of Mark’s mother, Mary), the 11 loyal apostles persisted in prayer with Jesus’ half brothers, his other disciples, and his mother, Mary. (Mark 6:3; James 1:1) But who would receive Judas’ “office of oversight”? (Psalm 109:8) About 120 disciples were present when God chose a man to replace Jesus’ betrayer, Judas, restoring the apostolic number to 12. The choice had to be one who was a disciple during the time of Jesus’ ministry and a witness of his resurrection. Of course, the man also had to acknowledge Jehovah as his Ruler. After prayer, lots were cast over Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas. God made the lot fall upon Matthias.—Proverbs 16:33.
7. (a) How was it that Judas “purchased a field with the wages for unrighteousness”? (b) How did Judas die?
7 Judas Iscariot certainly had not acknowledged Jehovah as his Ruler. Why, he had betrayed God’s Son for 30 pieces of silver! Judas returned that money to the chief priests, but Peter said that the betrayer “purchased a field with the wages for unrighteousness.” How so? Well, he provided the money and the reason to buy the “Field of Blood,” as it was called. It has been identified with a level plot on the south side of the Valley of Hinnom. His relationship with the heavenly Ruler completely ruined, Judas “hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3-10) Perhaps the rope or tree limb broke, so that he ‘pitched head foremost, noisily bursting in his midst’ when he fell onto jagged rocks. May none of us be a false brother!
Filled With Holy Spirit!
8. When were Jesus’ disciples baptized in holy spirit, and with what effect?
8 What about the promised baptism in holy spirit? It occurred at Pentecost 33 C.E., ten days after Jesus’ ascension. (2:1-4) What a thrilling event that baptism was! Imagine the scene. About 120 disciples were in the upper chamber when ‘suddenly from heaven a noise like that of a rushing stiff breeze filled the house.’ It was not a wind, but it sounded like one. A tongue “as if of fire” sat upon each disciple and apostle. “They all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues.” When that baptism occurred, they were also begotten by holy spirit, anointed, and sealed in token of a spiritual inheritance.—John 3:3, 5; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 1 John 2:20.
9. About what did the spirit-filled disciples speak?
9 This event affected Jews and proselytes in Jerusalem from ‘every nation under heaven.’ (2:5-13) Amazed, they asked: ‘How is it that each of us is hearing in the language of his birth?’ It might be the tongue of such places as Media (east of Judea), Phrygia (in Asia Minor), and Rome (in Europe). As the disciples spoke in various languages “about the magnificent things of God,” many listeners were astonished, but mockers suggested that they were drunk.
Peter Gives a Stirring Witness
10. The event at Pentecost 33 C.E. fulfilled what prophecy, and does this have a modern-day parallel?
10 Peter began to witness by showing that nine in the morning was too early to be drunk. (2:14-21) Instead, this event was a fulfillment of God’s promise to pour out holy spirit upon his people. God inspired Peter to point to our time by adding the words “in the last days” and “they will prophesy.” (Joel 2:28-32) Jehovah would give portents in heaven and signs on earth before his great day, and only those calling on his name in faith would be saved. Similar outpouring of the spirit upon anointed ones has enabled them to “prophesy” with great vitality and efficiency today.
11. Regarding Jesus, what was done by the Jews and by God?
11 Peter next identified the Messiah. (2:22-28) God attested to Jesus’ Messiahship by enabling him to perform powerful works, signs, and portents. (Hebrews 2:3, 4) But the Jews had him fastened to a stake “by the hand of lawless men,” Romans not heeding God’s law. Jesus was “delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God” in that this was the divine will. God resurrected Jesus, however, and disposed of his human body in such a way that it did not experience corruption.—Psalm 16:8-11.
12. What did David foresee, and on what does salvation depend?
12 Messianic prophecy was further emphasized as Peter’s witness continued. (2:29-36) He said that David foresaw the resurrection of his greatest son, Jesus the Messiah. From an exalted place at God’s right hand in heaven, Jesus had poured out the holy spirit received from his Father. (Psalm 110:1) Peter’s hearers ‘saw and heard’ its operation in observing tongues as if of fire above the disciples’ heads and hearing the foreign languages they spoke. He also showed that salvation depends on acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Messiah.—Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:9-11.
Jehovah Gives the Increase
13. (a) To be properly baptized, what did Jews and proselytes have to acknowledge? (b) How many were baptized, and with what effect in Jerusalem?
13 How effective Peter’s words were! (2:37-42) His hearers were stabbed to the heart for having consented to Messiah’s execution. So he urged: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” Jews and proselytes already acknowledged Jehovah as God and their need for his spirit. They now needed to repent and accept Jesus as the Messiah in order to be baptized in the name (recognizing the office or function) of the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit. (Matthew 28:19, 20) By witnessing to those Jews and proselytes, Peter used the first spiritual key Jesus gave him to open the door of knowledge and opportunity for believing Jews to enter the heavenly Kingdom. (Matthew 16:19) On that one day, 3,000 were baptized! Imagine that many witnesses of Jehovah preaching in the small territory of Jerusalem!
14. Why and in what way did believers have “all things in common”?
14 Many from distant places lacked provisions for an extended stay but desired to learn more about their new faith and preach to others. So Jesus’ early followers lovingly helped one another, even as Jehovah’s Witnesses do today. (2:43-47) Believers temporarily had “all things in common.” Some sold property, and the funds were distributed to any in need. This got the congregation off to a fine start as ‘Jehovah joined to them daily those being saved.’
A Healing and Its Results
15. What happened as Peter and John entered the temple, and how did people react?
15 Jehovah supported Jesus’ followers by means of “signs.” (3:1-10) Thus, as Peter and John entered the temple at 3:00 p.m. for the hour of prayer associated with the evening sacrifice, a man lame from birth was near the Beautiful Gate asking for “gifts of mercy.” ‘Silver and gold I do not possess,’ said Peter, ‘but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ The man was healed instantly! As he entered the temple “walking and leaping and praising God,” people were ‘filled with ecstasy.’ Perhaps some recalled the words: “The lame one will climb up just as a stag does.”—Isaiah 35:6.
16. How were the apostles able to heal a lame man?
16 The surprised people gathered at Solomon’s colonnade, a covered portico on the temple’s eastern side. There Peter gave a witness. (3:11-18) He showed that God empowered the apostles to cure the lame man through His glorified Servant, Jesus. (Isaiah 52:13–53:12) The Jews disowned “that holy and righteous one”; nevertheless, Jehovah resurrected him. Though the people and their rulers did not know that they were putting the Messiah to death, God thus fulfilled prophetic words that “his Christ would suffer.”—Daniel 9:26.
17. (a) What action did the Jews need to take? (b) What has happened since the ‘sending forth of Christ’ in our day?
17 For their treatment of the Messiah, Peter showed what the Jews should do. (3:19-26) They needed to “repent,” or feel remorse over their sins, and “turn around,” or be converted, taking an opposite course. If they exercised faith in Jesus as the Messiah, accepting the ransom, refreshment would come to them from Jehovah as those forgiven of sins. (Romans 5:6-11) The Jews were reminded that they were sons of the covenant that God made with their forefathers, telling Abraham: “In your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So God first sent his Messianic Servant to deliver repentant Jews. Interestingly, since the ‘sending forth of Christ’ in heavenly Kingdom power in 1914, there has been a refreshing restoration of truths and theocratic organization among Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18.
They Would Not Stop!
18. What “stone” was rejected by Jewish “builders,” and in whom alone is there salvation?
18 Angry that Peter and John declared Jesus’ resurrection, the chief priests, temple captain, and Sadducees put them in custody. (4:1-12) The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, but many others became believers, the men alone numbering some 5,000. When questioned before Jerusalem’s high court, Peter said that the lame man was cured “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,” impaled by them but resurrected by God. This “stone” rejected by Jewish “builders” had become “the head of the corner.” (Psalm 118:22) “Furthermore,” said Peter, “there is no salvation in anyone else.”
19. When ordered to stop preaching, how did the apostles reply?
19 An attempt was made to stop such talk. (4:13-22) With the cured man present, it was impossible to deny this “noteworthy sign,” yet Peter and John were charged ‘nowhere to speak or to teach on the basis of Jesus’ name.’ Their reply? ‘We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ They obeyed Jehovah as their Ruler!
20. For what did the disciples pray, and with what result?
20 As Jehovah’s Witnesses pray at meetings, so the disciples prayed when the released apostles reported what had happened to them. (4:23-31) It was noted that the rulers Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate, along with Gentile Romans and people of Israel, had gathered together against the Messiah. (Psalm 2:1, 2; Luke 23:1-12) In answer to the prayer, Jehovah filled the disciples with holy spirit, so that they spoke God’s word boldly. Their Ruler was not asked to end persecution but to enable them to preach boldly despite it.
21. Who was Barnabas, and what qualities did he possess?
21 Believers continued to have all things in common, and not one was in need. (4:32-37) One contributor was the Levite Joseph of Cyprus. The apostles gave him the surname Barnabas, meaning “Son of Comfort,” likely because he was helpful and warmhearted. Surely, all of us want to be that kind of person.—Acts 11:22-24.
22, 23. What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, and how can we benefit from their experience?
22 Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, however, quit acknowledging Jehovah as their Ruler. (5:1-11) They sold a field and kept some of the money while pretending to give the apostles all of it. Knowledge imparted by God’s spirit enabled Peter to discern their hypocrisy, leading to their death. What a warning to those whom Satan tempts to be devious!—Proverbs 3:32; 6:16-19.
23 After this incident, no one with bad motives had the courage to join the disciples. Others did become believers. (5:12-16) Moreover, as the sick and those troubled with unclean spirits put faith in God’s power, ‘one and all were cured.’
Obey God Rather Than Men
24, 25. Why did the Jewish leaders persecute the apostles, but what standard did these faithful ones set for all of Jehovah’s servants?
24 The high priest and the Sadducees now tried to block the marvelous growth by imprisoning all the apostles. (5:17-25) But that night God’s angel released them. And by daybreak they were teaching in the temple! Persecution cannot stop Jehovah’s servants.
25 Yet, pressure was applied when the apostles were taken before the Sanhedrin. (5:26-42) Ordered to stop teaching, however, they said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” This set a standard for Jesus’ disciples, one followed by Jehovah’s Witnesses today. After a warning from the Law teacher Gamaliel, the leaders beat the apostles, ordered them to stop preaching, and released them.
26. How did the ministry of the apostles compare with that of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
26 The apostles were joyful that they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of Jesus’ name. “And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news.” Yes, they were house-to-house ministers. So are God’s modern-day Witnesses, who have also received his spirit because they obey him and say, “Jehovah is our Ruler!”
How Would You Respond?
□ What commission must be fulfilled by Jesus’ followers, past and present?
□ What happened on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E.?
□ When and how did Peter use the first spiritual key Jesus gave him?
□ What can we learn from the experience of Ananias and Sapphira?
□ When ordered to stop preaching, what standard did the apostles set for all Witnesses of Jehovah?