In chapter 12 of his sermons on the book of Acts, James Montgomery Boice writes of the confrontation between the apostles and the Sanhedrin following the instance on which God had miraculously freed the apostles in prison as set forth in Acts 5. He immediately returned to the temple area and began to teach. Sanhedrin, angry and confused, demanded that the apostles appear before them again. Verse 28 records at the Sanhedrin reminded them of the strict orders to stop teaching about Jesus. Peter, in verse 29, famously responds with, “We must obey God rather than men.” Peter than preaches the basic gospel message to the Sanhedrin:
Obviously, the reason the disciples began with the kerygma (the basic facts of the Gospel: the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus) is that they knew, as we should also know, that a person must first come to Jesus Christ as Savior before he or she can take on the burden of his teachings. It is true that we cannot have one without the other. But less a person first believes in Jesus as his or her Savior and thus has the new life of Christ within, that person cannot even begin to live the life Christ commanded. As a matter of fact, unless you first pressure sin and find forgiveness, you only go into increasing sin, which is what these leaders did.
The apostles did not tell the Sadducees to “do onto others as you would have others do unto you.” Instead they told him to repent of their sin and come to Jesus Christ for cleansing from it. That is the message we have been given for perishing world today.
Boices’s observation has practical effects from biblical counseling. One must never attempt to counsel an unbeliever to lead a life pleasing to God. The unbeliever must first come to God in Jesus Christ and be reconciled to God, before he or she can receive the Spirit and thus lead a life pleasing to God. Christian life is not merely a life of moral behavior. Rather, a life pleasing to God is a life lived to the glory of God. Such a life can only be had but one is received eternal life through Jesus Christ.