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The Scriptorium

The Old Ways Still Don't Work

But we're still susceptible to them. Acts 4.17-21

Sin, Surge, Suffering, Rejoicing: Acts 5 (4)

Pray Psalm 142.1, 2, 5, 6.

I cry out to the LORD with my voice;
With my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble…
I cried out to You, O LORD:
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are stronger than I.

Sing Psalm 142.1, 2, 5, 6.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
With my voice, O Lord, I cry – hear my plea for mercy, Lord!
My complaint mounts up on high, bringing You my troubled word:
Refrain vv. 5, 6
Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
O receive my plaintive song!

Read Acts 5.1-21; meditate on verses 17-21.

1. What happened to the apostles?

2. What did they do when they were set free?

He’s not in the picture here, but the devil is behind the scenes, up to his old tricks. Which still don’t work. He sowed the seed of jealousy into the religious leaders (yawn) and they arrested the apostles and locked ‘em up (vv. 17, 18). We can almost hear the devil boasting among his henchmen, “That’ll fix ‘em!”

Well, no. Satan may have power to cloud and corrupt the hearts of self-centered men, but Jesus Christ has all power in heaven and on earth – even over locked prison doors (v. 19), even over Satan himself.

Released from detention, the apostles are sent right back into the fray (v. 20), and they go in obedience to the angel’s command. Like their Master before them (Jn. 6.68), the apostles – and we their spiritual descendants – had the words of life. Undaunted and unafraid, they returned to the temple and picked up right where they left off.

I find this portion of chapter 5 rather comical. When you look at it as a contest between Satan and the Lord, it’s a joke. Satan has learned nothing. He has no real power over the Kingdom of God. His old ways are as dumb and useless as ever. But he’s still after it. He never quits.

The adversary has many ways to try to stop the ongoing work of Christ, but the Lord has more resources and power to defeat him again and again. We need to draw on that power by pursuing holiness, going out to serve our community, being willing to suffer if necessary, and staying on task with our mission.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The only time the old ways work is if we succumb to them. Then they work against us, not for us.

Note here what the religious leaders were indignant about (Acts 5.17): They were not suffering apoplexy because of grievous sin in their own lives, or a sin of someone in their congregation. No. They were “filled with indignation” because a multitude of sick people and those tormented by unclean spirits” were healed by the apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reminds one a bit of the chief priests, scribes, and the elders plotting to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him, but “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26.3-5). They weren’t concerned about the trickery or murder plot; they were only concerned about upsetting the folks because of the religious feast. Wouldn’t want any unpleasantness to spoil a religious holiday.

Is it possible that we in the church today get caught up in these same old ways?

We can get truly exercised about the Ten Commandments not being allowed on the courthouse steps, or about any number of things that we find reprehensible; however, we are not equally obsessed about our own sins and shortcomings (Matt. 7.1-5) .

Is the Law of God stamped permanently on our hearts? (Ex. 20.1-17)
Do we keep His Word, and treasure His commands?
Is His Law the apple of our eye?
Do we write His Words on the tablet of our hearts? (Prov. 7.1-3)

We must really guard against becoming like the Pharisees and Sadducees. We must make sure that Satan’s old ways still don’t work. We must be sure that we keep the laser beam of judgment on our own hearts so that we are not filled with indignation about all the wrong things.

Jeremiah has some bad and good news for us regarding the situation at hand: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” We can. Know it. Then repent, be filled with His Spirit, and go forward in victory because God says: “…I will set My eyes on them for good…” “…I will give them a new heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 17.9; 24.6, 7).

For reflection

1. Why do you think the religious leaders were so upset at the apostles? Do we see anything like this today?

2. What can you do to always keep the “laser beam of judgment” shining into your own soul?

3. From this passage, how does the ongoing work of Christ continue even when the world and the devil oppose it? What are the implications of this for your walk with and work for the Lord?

There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visit his people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveries from sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that we may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honored with the services of our life. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 5.17-25

Pray Psalm 142.3, 4, 5-7.
Pray that God will free your soul from any prisons of fear, doubt, or sin, and that His Spirit will fill and empower you to praise and serve Him throughout this day.

Sing Psalm 142.3, 4, 5-7.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
When my spirit faints away, You my falt’ring pathway know.
Where I take my journey they traps have hidden to my woe.
Refrain vv. 5, 6
Lord, You are my Refuge strong!
O receive my plaintive song!

Lord, look to my right and see: None takes notice of my plight.
Is there refuge left for me? Is my soul out of Your sight?

Hear my cry, Lord, I am low! They are strong who seek my soul.
Jesus frees from every foe; He will keep and make me whole!

Out of prison lead me, Lord; thanks and praise to You shall be.
Righteous men armed with Your Word will Your grace bestow on me.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. For more about what Jesus is doing at the right hand of God, order a free copy of our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? (click here).

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If you find Scriptorium helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this daily ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal or Anedot, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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