Acts 4: 1 – 22 (NLT)
“Peter and John before the Council
4 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000.
5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest.7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”
It sure didn’t take long for the opposition to start. Luke likely began the church’s history with this story because this was the beginning of the persecution the church would go through. They are in the temple where everyone there saw the lame man healed. They heard Peter and John witness to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Luke’s record says that the number who believed was about 5,000 men – that wouldn’t include women and children. So, this new church movement was growing quickly. The establishment was furious!
“ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed?10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,
‘The stone that you builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.’ (Psalm 118:22)
12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.
16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.”
As Peter begins to answer the question, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”, notice that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Today, in many churches, there is not a lot of emphasis on the Holy Spirit. It is certainly acknowledged that He exists, and that He indwells the believer, but that is where it ends. Seeking the Holy Spirit’s power in a particular situation is not something many Christians do, yet from what we read in Romans and Ephesians, that is exactly what we should do. As Peter begins answering the temple rulers, his words come from God. I challenge myself and you to think about that. The next time someone asks us a question about our faith, instead of desperately trying to think up the right words to say, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us the words. Remember John 14: 27 as Jesus talks to the disciples right before the crucifixion – “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you”. And also in John 15: 26 – “But I will send you the Advocate —the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me”. Do we believe this to be true? Do we act on that?
The temple leaders were stymied with Peter’s response. They had to have a closed meeting to figure out what to do. First of all, they couldn’t explain how this man who had no education and training could speak so well and know so much. Then they had the lame man who was walking around and praising God – how do you explain that? Peter had even made them look rather mean when he said, “Rulers and elders of our people,are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man?” (v. 8 – 9) Did you put us in jail last night because we helped a man in need?
They had to let them go. They knew doing something at that moment would only cause a riot, and they weren’t ready to deal with that. This wouldn’t mean they were giving up – just postponing things until a more convenient time. Basically, they told them to stop using the name of Jesus, but Peter and John refused to do that. Today we see some of the same techniques to stop the spread of Christianity. Some countries refuse to allow public places of worship. Some control the media such as in Russia today over the war in Ukraine. In Canada 3 years ago, the government told any organizations that didn’t have their members sign a statement that they believed in abortion, they would no longer have access to government funding. That hit a lot of kids’ camps and organizations hard financially.
But it is interesting that the Good News still gets around. People like Peter and John refuse to let governments or organizations stop them. They spoke with the Holy Spirit’s help. God will not be stopped! We too can be vocal when we see governments going against Scripture. It doesn’t mean we have to be loud and insulting in our remarks. Like Peter and John, we can politely state what we believe. We too can ask for the Holy Spirit’s help as we explain our concerns.
Our song for today is Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli.