Provoked mightily by all this, the Chief Priest and those on his side, mainly the sect of Sadducees, went into action, arrested the apostles and put them in the town jail. But during the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, “Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life.”
Promptly obedient, they entered the Temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel’s senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn’t find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, “We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside we didn’t find a soul.”
The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?”
Just then someone showed up and said, “Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?” The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them.
Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, “Didn’t we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man.”
Peter and the apostles answered, “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things. The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey him, corroborates every detail.”
When they heard that, they were furious and wanted to kill them on the spot. But one of the council members stood up, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, a teacher of God’s Law who was honored by everyone. He ordered the men taken out of the room for a short time, then said, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. Not long ago Theudas made something of a splash, claiming to be somebody, and got about four hundred men to join him. He was killed, his followers dispersed, and nothing came of it. A little later, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and acquired a following. He also fizzled out and the people following him were scattered to the four winds.
“So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”
That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus’ name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.
~Acts 5:17-42 (MSG)
We traveled from Beijing to Guangzhou on the train. Never was I ever on a train like this one—so dirty, so dilapidated. I passed the time looking out the grimy windows at seemingly endless apartment complexes—crude cement boxes stacked on top of the other. It was spring, but it wasn’t warm and the gray overcast skies added to the feeling of gloom. When I could, I’d take a quick looks at my fellow travelers—their gray and brown clothing, their weary faces. Earlier that day in the train station, I was horrified to see a group of male prisoners, manacled together and chained to a pole like so many dogs. I couldn’t even imagine what a miserable experience prison could be in this country.
My overall impression of China was one of darkness, gloom, depression, and utter hopelessness. I’d come to China with work colleagues to meet with Chinese Christians and attend a House Church service. We’d brought suitcases of Bibles. Illegal Bibles.
Later, in the darkness, in the rain, we wound our way through narrow back alleys. Praying, thinking, wondering what it would be like to do this week after week, month after month, year after year. I’ll admit that I was afraid, understanding that our nationality wouldn’t protect us from what could be a very unpleasant experience with the Chinese authorities.
Finally, through a door, up a staircase, and into an ordinary room packed with people sitting on all manner of chairs, many sitting on the bare floor with their backs leaning against a wall. The service had started and the focus was on the speaker at the front of the gathering. He held the people’s attention with his quiet, yet passionate words, all in the Cantonese dialect of Chinese. This was Samuel Lamb. The singing…not particularly tuneful or beautiful, yet from the heart. The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable. The people’s hearts open wide.
Lin Xiangao, better known in the West as Pastor Samuel Lamb, has now passed on, but his legacy remains. It was in 1955 that he was accused of being a “counter-revolutionary” and sent to prison for his faith. He spent many years in hard labor in the coal mines. When he was released from labor camp in 1978, he returned to his home in Guangzhou, but he returned alone because his wife had died while he was in prison. At that time, Samuel Lamb was not well known, but that didn’t matter. He couldn’t stop and he would never stop. Samuel Lamb himself stated that the more his church was persecuted, the more it grew in size: from 400 in 1955 when he was first imprisoned to over 3,000 by 1993. Twenty-five years later, in 2013, 30,000 Chinese Christians attended his funeral—an unstoppable throng of Believers who were paying tribute to a humble servant of Christ.
The people I had the privilege of worshipping with that night were risking their lives for the cause of Christ. This was the modern book of Acts church—the persecuted church. Unlike me, these people knew full well what the inside of a Chinese jail looked like. These Chinese Believers were doing what is described in Acts 5:29-32. They were saying loud and clear to the Chinese government the same thing that Peter and the apostles said boldly to the Sadducees: “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven.” (MSG)
So how about you? Is God asking you to be all in? Is God asking you to have a Jesus conversation with a hurting colleague or friend? Risk it. Maybe He is asking you to commit an act of random kindness in the name of Christ. It’s okay to feel awkward or even rejected by the world if it means obeying him. Maybe he is asking you to give of your resources until it hurts…just a little bit more than is comfortable. Give it. Risk it. It doesn’t seem like so very much to do when you think of what others have sacrificed and risked for the cause of the gospel.
You can do it. You can suffer for Jesus. Why? Because of what He suffered for you.
This is true—when you give yourself fully to God He’s got your back. You don’t have to worry. Paul knew that. The Chinese Christians knew that and still know that. You too can be as confident as a Chinese Believer, as committed as a Christian in the early church. Let go of self and give yourself over to God.
God, I know you created me, that I am your beloved, and that I can trust you. I owe my life to you and I fully know you have my back. I wholly believe the words of Philippians 1:30, “There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.” Lord God, please teach me how to suffer well. In Jesus name, Amen.
You’ll find more about the Underground Church and about the impact of Samuel Lamb’s ministry in China on the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) website here: A Tribute to Samuel Lamb I’d also like to suggest a song for your personal worship: I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad.
Today’s post was written by Cindy Koopmans.
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Brian, for 38 years. She has three grown boys, two sweet daughters-in-law and a gorgeous little grand-man named Oliver Brian. Cindy teaches fifth grade at Sorrento Elementary and serves at the Mount Dora campus as their Worship Coordinator. Cindy’s passion is music, so her happy place is at the keyboard. She also enjoys reading (so many books, so little time), thrifting, and hanging out with Kramer the wonder Bichon. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life Mount Dora campus.
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