Our brother and faithful evangelist, Tony Miano of Cross Encounters, was arrested today in Dundee, Scotland, for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the open air. You may recall that Tony was arrested last summer while preaching the Gospel in England. Reports of other genuine "grace and truth" preaching evangelists being arrested for some form of "disturbance of the peace" or "homophobia" continue to come in from across the United States and Europe.
How should the Church respond when someone is arrested for preaching the Law and the Gospel publicly? They should pray that the arrested evangelist will make the most of the opportunity to uplift the name of Jesus, and that upon their release they will continue to boldly call all men everywhere to repentance and faith in Christ. Read the following Scripture and consider the rather touchy circumstances of Peter’s arrest for publicly preaching the Gospel and the subsequent trial as he stood before the same ruling body that condemned the Lord Jesus to death.
“And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what power or by what name have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:7-12, emphasis mine)
That is beautiful! Peter and John’s freedom and lives were on the line and the Spirit of God empowered Peter to boldly preach the Gospel to the very men that cried out for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. Gospel opposition does not justify a retreat, or mean that Peter, John, or a modern day evangelist has erred in failing to adopt a more “Seeker Friendly” approach. Quite to the contrary, Gospel opposition is a good indicator that the radical message of repentance of sin (thief, drunkard, fornicator, homosexual, lesbian, adulterer, blasphemer, idolater, etc.) and confession of Jesus Christ (fully God, fully man, crucified, buried, and risen on the third day) as LORD and God, was faithfully and successfully proclaimed and heard. Peter and John do not sound the retreat and find a way to make the Law and Gospel less offensive or more palatable for sinners. Motivated by the love of God and the love of the lost, they press in with the Sword of the Spirit and drive home the Gospel message to the highest court.
When Peter and John are later commanded by the ruling government of Israel to cease and desist their public proclamation of Jesus Christ, they respond:
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
Were they rebellious trouble making seditionists against the state who should be disowned by all decent Christians? Not at all. They were under a higher authority, the authority of the Christ, the King of Kings. They were loyal subjects to the Kingdom of Christ. Consider the theocratic royal nature of the Great Commission. The King of Kings gives this command:
“[King] Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authorityhas been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Matt 28:18-20, emphasis mine)
Just like Peter and John, you and I are under the authority of King Jesus, an authority that is infinitely higher than that of England, Scotland, or America. So when the Sanhedrin of Israel or the ruling body of any government forbids the proclamation of the Gospel, we obey the Lord Jesus’ Great Commission command with a clear conscience and boldly preach repentance and faith. For more encouragement and Biblical understanding see Gospel Seditionists Submitting to State Authority.
After Peter and John were arrested, taken before the highest court in the land, and forbidden to preach Christ, an incredible prayer meeting was held. There was no retreat in the prayer meeting. There was no faint hearted fretting or rebuke of Peter and John for publicly preaching the Law and the Gospel and calling down the wrath of the authorities on the Church. There was no Arminian minded talk about what unbelievers might think of this open conflict with the rulers of Israel and how that may turn them off to the Gospel. They recognized that evangelism is spiritual warfare and that conflict is unavoidable if you are going to be faithful to the mission and message of Christ. Their united prayer evidences faith in an all sovereign God who is working all things according to the counsel of His will. Amazingly, their prayer culminates in a passionate plea for GREATER GOSPEL BOLDNESS. Check it out:
“So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ ‘For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.” (Acts 4:24-29, emphasis mine)
That is the exact kind of prayer meeting that should be going on for Tony Miano right now. The world is growing increasingly hostile to the Gospel. The charge of “homophobia” is increasingly made not just by the radical LGBT movement, but by police officers and those in positions of government authority. LGBT activists, atheist activists, Muslims, and Muslim sympathizers are ever increasingly intolerant of the public ministry of the Gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to carry out in season and out of season. The world's hostility or even violence toward the public ministry of the Law and Gospel often results in the police arresting the evangelist rather than those who are committing actual crimes of assault or making threats toward that end. That does not change the Gospel mission, message, or method of the Church (The Mission Of The Church #2).
The church must be Biblically educated and equipped to endure persecution and press on with a bold public ministry of the Gospel. We can’t abandon the public ministry of the Gospel in the face of opposition. We can’t downplay sin because sinners protest their sin being exposed by the light of God's Word. We must expose sin just as the Lord Jesus lovingly exposed the Samaritan woman’s “many husbands” as serial fornication. We can’t cry “peace, peace” with the world's false religions and cults as did the false prophets of Jeremiah's day. We must expose them for the idolatrous systems of works righteousness that they are, and call all men everywhere to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When there are many adversaries and the hour is dark we need to hold fast to the admonition and example of the Apostle Paul:
"Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me." (Phil 1:27-30, emphasis mine)
When arrests come for the sake of the Gospel (and they will come) we look to Peter, John, and Paul’s admonition and example and pray for boldness to stand our Gospel ground. We don’t abandon public ministers of the Gospel in the face of opposition. We look to the early Church’s example and stand by God’s faithful evangelists with unceasing prayer and loving practical support, so that we might be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). May the Lord raise up a new generation of gracious, holy, loving, unwavering, BOLD PREACHERS OF THE GOSPEL and BIBLICAL CHURCHES to support them when they’re in the thick of spiritual battle.
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