In my last blog post, we last left our heroes, Peter and John, hailed into court before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers of Jerusalem. With them was the formerly lame man who had been made whole. Peter had said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6).
The arrest of Peter and John used the occasion to preach Jesus and the resurrection. It is important to notice that they did not use the opportunity to begin a divine healing service. They did not ask the people to bring the sick and lame for them to heal. They did what God had intended done on that occasion, to preach through Jesus and the resurrection the ultimate healing of the emotional hurt of man by the power of a new and risen life.
This threatening message (threatening in the eyes of the Jewish rulers) caused them to send authorities to arrest them and bring them before the Jewish court. Their Peter boldly charged these men with the death of Jesus and declared to them a great fact. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12 RSV). No other savior has ever been provided for people anywhere in the world, in any age or time, than Jesus. That is the great message Peter preached. Now Dr. Luke takes up the account, beginning with verse thirteen of chapter four:
When they saw the complete assurance of Peter and John, who were obviously uneducated and untrained men, they were staggered. They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus, yet since they could see the man who had been cured standing beside them, they could find no effective reply. All they could do was to order them out of the Sanhedrin and hold a conference among themselves.
“What are we going to do with these men?” they said to each other. “It is evident to everyone living in Jerusalem that an extraordinary miracle has taken place through them and that is something we cannot deny. Nevertheless, to prevent such a thing spreading further among the people, let us warn them that if they say anything more to anyone in this name it will be at their peril.”
So they called them in and ordered them bluntly not to speak or teach a single further word about the name of Jesus. But Peter and John gave them this reply: “Whether it is right in the eyes of God for us to listen to what you say rather than to what he says, you must decide; for we cannot help speaking about what we have actually seen and heard!”
After further threats they let them go. They could not think of any way of punishing them because of the attitude of the people. Everybody was thanking God for what had happened—that this miracle of healing had taken place in a man who was more than forty years old. ~Acts 4:13-22 (PHILLIPS)
The Fearlessness Of The Apostles
Here is a remarkable picture of the perversity of human hearts. I am sure these men, high priests, rulers of the city, would have prided themselves on being logical, reasonable, like men, acting by facts. We always think of ourselves this way. But this account makes very clear that they were utterly self-deceived. Though they thought they were acting from reason, they were operating contrary to reason.
Conference Among Jewish Leaders
The Sanhedrin had few options in this case. They finally concluded that punishment was unnecessary and denial, impossible. Now they had to practice damage control by keeping these two from using that name any further.
Notice how central Jesus has already become in the Book of Acts. Notice how Luke wants to emphasize repeatedly the significance of the Savior by appealing to his name. Thereby highlighting all that he stood for. The gospel was about to become “illegal” in Jerusalem all because of the name.
Let’s not miss the impact of this chapter. Religion doesn’t save. Philosophy doesn’t save. Eternal relationship with God does not rest in the Sanhedrin, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Islam. The exclusivity of verse 12 prevails: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Although the evidence was overwhelming and irrefutable (changed lives and a healed man), the religious leaders refused to believe in Christ and continued trying to suppress the truth.
Don’t be surprised if some people reject you and your active witness for Christ. When minds of people remain closed, even the clearest presentation of the facts can’t open them. But don’t give up, either. Pray for those people and continue to spread the Good News.
Apostles Forbidden To Teach In Jesus’ Name
We may sometimes be afraid to share our faith in Christ because people may feel uncomfortable or reject us. But Peter and John’s zeal for the Lord was so strong that they could not keep quiet, even when threatened. If your courage to witness for God has weakened, pray that your boldness may increase. Remember Jesus’ promise: “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matt 10:32).
The Apostles Released
We know from history that religious and political leaders will always try intimidation because often it works, but not here. The warning, publicly discounted, the threats seemed to do no good, and they had no basis for punishment. Politicians (civil or religious) also have to play to the crowds, and in this case, all the people were praising God for what happened so that any further action would have been a lost cause.
Nevertheless, the Council faced not just a passing conversation but a legal precedent. We shall see as we make our way through this book that the illegality of the gospel repeatedly surfaces, especially in connection with Jerusalem. The Greek text of verse 22 used the word semeion meaning “sign.” Throughout the Gospels and Acts miracles are “God’s signs,” quite evident in the visual presence of the healed beggar.
Two themes have dominated our chapter thus far: exclusive one-way salvation through Jesus with no room for compromise, and the courage of the early Christians to proclaim that message.
Holman New Testament Commentary – Acts
Chronological Life Application Study Bible