Please turn to Matthew 21:12.

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple,

And overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Both at the beginning of His ministry and then again at the end, the Lord Jesus went into the temple and physically attacked some of the corruptions of the Jewish religion.

He sent the money of the exchangers rolling and scattering around the courtyard.

He forced the people selling the sacrificial animals out of the temple.

He created a furor, calling the businesses under attack, the work of thieves.

And He called the temple, the House of HIS Father.

I’m reasonably sure that the businessmen who were working in the temple were there under the authority of the temple government – the priests.

They were like Christmas kiosks in the local shopping mall.

They were paying rent, and perhaps commissions to the temple officials.

And in some cases they were merely managing businesses that were owned by the priests.

When those priests caught up with the Lord Jesus, they demanded to know about His authority.

Notice verse 23:

“And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

Those Jews were aware of something which seems to have been forgotten by people in our day.

It is very important to recognize and respond to proper authority.

Those Jews were sticklers for authority.

It didn’t mean that they were correct in their application of authority but they knew of its importance.

This evening, let’s think briefly about authority, or the Biblical doctrine of government.

This won’t be a thorough study,

Because we’re going to confine our thoughts for the most part to Acts 3 and 4.

But hopefully we’ll all leave here with a framework for further investigation.

Let’s think about the Government of MEN, the Government of NATURE and the Government of GOD.

And let’s begin with the GOVERNMENT OF NATURE.

Properly speaking, there ain’t no such thing:

(Guess that that isn’t really proper speaking, is it?)

Creation or nature doesn’t have a legislature or parliament; it doesn’t have a king or even a mother.

But I bring it up, first, because it’s hard to have a three point sermon with only two points.

And then because nature does have its laws, whether it actually enacts those laws or not.

What am I talking about?

Well, I go back to my old standard – gravity.

There are laws found in nature which we are forced to follow, whether we like it or not.

Gravity is one of just many.

But when we learn that law and apply that law along with other related laws,

We can put 300 people in the air for 6 hours & fly from Spokane Washington to the other Washington.

If for some reason we chose to disregard the law of gravity half way to DC,

We can either land in Denver or we can smash into a corn-field in Nebraska.

There is a kind of natural government.

But despite the laws of nature, there really isn’t a government in nature.

Or if there is it is a puppet-government.

Those laws did not begin as bills to be hashed out in committee, and presented to the congress of creation.

Those bills were not passed by congress and the senate and then signed by the Creator, becoming Law number such and such.

Rather, the laws of nature were unilaterally and sovereignly decreed by the autocratic God – Jehovah.

In most cases we can live by those laws – or we can die.

The law says that when we mix oxygen and spark we make explosions.

We can live with that, or we can die with that.

The law says that if we build a dam on the river, we better make it strong.

We can live with the laws of hydrology or we can die with them.

And that brings us to the crippled man in Acts 3, where we see another aspect of the government of nature.

This man was born a child of Adam.

Oh, Adam preceded him by a few hundred generations, but he was his grand-father nevertheless.

And when Adam sinned, he polluted his blood-stream and his blood line.

Just as was his father, this lame man was born a sinner.

That sin was visible in his case through his infirmity.

Sin can display itself in hundreds of different ways:

One man is an alcoholic while another has a different addiction.

One man is a good-for-nothing lazy sluggard and another man is a never-resting work-a-holic driven incessantly by avarice and greed.

One man is retarded and another is just plain old stupid.

One is an irreligious atheist and another is over-religious and superstitious.

In every one of these illustrations sin has been accomplishing her nefarious work, according to the government of nature.

But here is the lesson to be learned:

The government of nature is inferior to the government of the sovereign God.

The law of nature said that this sinner was going to be crippled all of his life.

He was now 40 years old and he had never walked.

But Jehovah, who decreed the law which said that sin is troublesome and dangerous, said, in this case, “I’m going to overturn that law in this particular case.”

I hope that you can see that this is a fantastic precept:

There is nothing that the omnipotent and sovereign King cannot do if he chooses.

The laws of nature are nothing but pawns in the Lord’s hands.

And there is nothing wrong with requesting Him to pardon sinners and cancel laws.

He may not agree with our prayers, because He is sovereign, but there is not necessarily any sin in asking.

There are laws in nature, but they are only tools in the hands of the Lord.

Next, let’s think about the GOVERNMENT OF MAN.

After the healing of this man, Peter was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Eternal Lawgiver.

He took full advantage of that to tell several thousand people, about God the Father, and about His Son Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The disciples preached with confidence, conviction and conclusion.

There were about 5,000 people who believed what they were saying in addition to the 3,000 from Peter’s earlier sermon.

And those victories infuriated the human government of Jerusalem.

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

Being grieved that they taught the people, & preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day.”

In verse 7 – “When they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?”

“Where did you get the strength to heal this man and by whose authority did you do it?”

Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost replied,

“It was through the power of God through the authority of Jesus Christ.”

But who gave these priests authority to arrest and interrogate the ambassadors of God?

This kind of an interesting but complicated question.

Israel had been nothing but a large tribe of slaves in Egypt when Jehovah chose them to be his special nation.

And He sovereignly appointed Moses and the tribe of Levi to be the governing branch of the nation.

The priesthood was passed from Aaron to his third son, and then to his son, again and again.

There were squabbles between branches of that family, but on and on that choice and authority went.

I’m sure that Annas would say that he was the High Priest of Judah by the authority of God.

But the question was complicated by the presence of the Romans.

As we clearly see in Daniel and other places, the Romans were sovereignly appointed by God to judge Israel and to rule over her.

Now there was a Roman garrison not far from the very temple where the disciples were being judged.

Do you see the word “council” in verse 15?

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,

And as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

When they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves.”

The word council is “sunedrion” (soon-ed’-ree-on).

It is the word that I often use to describe the government of the Jews – the Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin consisted of 70 members plus a president.

There were 24 priests (chief priests); 24 elders from the people and 22 scribes or lawyers.

These 70 men were supposed to be unblemished in morals and body.

Any kind physical infirmity disqualified a member of the Sanhedrin even to squinting.

If the man had a gambling habit, was dishonest or immoral he was supposedly disqualified.

He had to be a father in order to sympathize with domestic problems.

He had to be skilled in theology and have been a judge

And he had to have been ordained.

About 30 years before Christ, the power to ordain was taken from local rabbis and place solely in the hands of the President of the Council.

From that point on the Sanhedrin and the High Priesthood became strictly controlled.

In other words it was politicized.

The Sanhedrin effectively held all three branches of federal powers: executive, legislative, and judicial.

It was an oligarchy which was recognized by Jews throughout the world.

It claimed to have been started in the days of Moses, but if that was true, it wasn’t in the same format which the Apostles and the Saviour had to face.

But here we have the government of man, at least the government of the Jews.

Where did it first derive it’s authority? From Jehovah.

Did it still picture itself as divinely authorized? I’m sure that it did.

But as Peter pointed out, “the stone which is actually the head of the corner was set at nought of those builders.”

The government of man now thought of itself as superior to the government of God.

And that of course is a bg mistake.

Did the government of man, in rebellion against God, have any power?


For example it had power to crucify the Saviour

It had the power to arrest the preachers.

It had power to threaten them with death, just as it did the Lord Jesus.

“Let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”

Did that government have any authority or power over the disciples? Yes they did.

But the King of Kings could impose His will over theirs at any time.

And that brings us to the GOVERNMENT OF GOD.

We see it in the change in Peter and the others before and after Pentecost.

The government of God is over a great many things, one of which is the human heart.

The government of nature has some sway over the human heart, but there is no government of man in control there.

But then there is the Lord

And then there is the sovereignty of God over the effects of sin.

That crippled man was made to walk again because the Lord has complete control over the disease and infirmity.

And because of that, and what the Lord says about these things, we are sure that He has authority and power over the sin which is the source of the misery of this world.

What does Peter talk about in Acts 3:21?

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

The restitution of all things is a statement about the government of God.

The Lord is sovereign over the puppet government of nature.

And he is sovereign over the equally weak governments of men.

At the return of the Saviour, the belligerent nations of earth will beat their swords into plow-blades.

And what Peter says of individuals in 3:23 could be said of human governments as well:

“And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”

When the King of kings returns to sit upon the throne of his father David, he will rule with a rod of iron.

But what about the rule of God today?

Well, it is based upon absolute truth.

When Peter was forbidden to preach his message of eternal life through the dead and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, he replied by saying: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Human governments might outlaw and forbid the law of gravity, but their impotent decrees, will never change the fact of gravity.

And those same governments may forbid the preaching of the truth, but as truth is the foundation of God’s law, the truth must be and will be declared.

And what this ultimately boiled down to was a quarrel over which authority is really the supreme authority.

And Peter reiterated: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”

Peter and John will have to face the wrath of human government.

They will spend several nights in jail, with the threat of immediate execution.

But even if the sinful leaders of men take their lives, that death will be nothing more than promotion to Heaven.

Peter and John will have to deal with the human governments around them.

But those human government will have to deal with the sovereign rule of God.

The Lord, He is King.

The Lord Jesus, He is the true King.

And the Apostles were obviously correct in saying that they were going to serve the Lord.