At the beginning of this year I asked God to give me a word for the year. After meditating quietly for a while I got the word ‘Presence’ When Moses was in the wilderness with the Israelites he said to God that he didn’t want to journey any further if God did not come with […]
Acts 4:13-22 AMP Now when the men of the Sanhedrin (that is the Jewish High Court) saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained [ordinary] men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus.  And seeing the man who had been healed standing there with them, they had nothing to say in reply.  But after ordering them to step out of the Council [chamber], they began to confer among themselves,  saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that an extraordinary miracle has taken place through them is public knowledge and clearly evident to all the residents of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.  But to keep it from spreading further among the people and the nation, let us [sternly] warn them not to speak again to anyone in this name.”  So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak [as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority].  But Peter and John replied to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must judge [for yourselves];  for we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard.”  When the rulers and Council members had threatened them further, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because [of their fear] of the people, for they, the people, were all praising and glorifying and honouring God for what had happened;  for the man to whom this sign (or attesting miracle) of healing had happened was more than forty years old. Acts 4:29-31 AMP And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence,  while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.”  And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage.
Acts chapter 4 is such a great chapter, there are so many things you can take from it. It has so many facets that I’m sure our minister could do a whole sermon series just on this one chapter
Verses 1 – 4 tell of how on that day 5,000 men, because only the men mattered in those days, 5,000 men believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were saved. We may assume that there at least that number of women plus several thousand children, so maybe 10, 11 or 12,000 people came to Christ that day. By way of thanks, Peter and John get arrested and thrown into jail for the night. But were they bothered? No, I expect they added a few more believers during their night in jail because they were fired up and unstoppable. Verses 8 – 12 are a complete mini gospel all on their own telling the story of Jesus in five short verses 13 – 22 is the trial before the Sanhedrin and a lesson in defiant apologetics. 29 – 31 shows how powerful spirit filled prayer brings a powerful and earth moving response from the Lord. And finally 32 – 37, a model for the church about the love of the brothers and sisters, their fellowship and their sacrificial provision for each other.
Three things to take from the parts of passage we read above.
Verse 13. Now when the men of the Sanhedrin saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained [ordinary] men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus.
The Sanhedrin were in awe of these uneducated men. Why? Because they could see that they had been with Jesus. They grasped the fact that they had been with the Risen Lord, it does not say that it was reported to them, nor does it say that they had foreknowledge that they had been with Jesus, it came to them as a realisation, these men were so different to others of their class, they had such boldness, eloquence and authority when they spoke that the only explanation was that they had been with the Risen Lord. Their very appearance said everything about them. They must have been so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were leaking, and anyone who saw them knew that they had been with Jesus. Even the Sanhedrin, who were a stiff-necked people with hearts of stone.
Verse 19, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must judge [for yourselves];  for we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard.
Why would they want to do that? They had been threatened and ordered by the highest court in the land not to speak of Him again. Why? Simple, because they were not under earthly authority, they were under heavenly authority. It reminds us of when Jesus said in Luke 19.40, If I may paraphrase it a little, If we keep silent, the stones will cry out in praise. They had no fear of men only a fear of the Lord.
And finally, Verse 23, When the rulers and Council members had threatened them further, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because [of their fear] of the people, for they, the people, were all praising and glorifying and honouring God for what had happened;
The fear we have here is a mortal fear, fear for their own safety, they were frightened that the people would turn against them and may even start a riot and attack the Sanhedrin. What we do not have here is any fear of the Lord. The Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the day had no fear of God! Now in biblical terms, a fear of the people is quite different from a fear of the Lord. Fear of people is all about personal safety and self-preservation, a fear of the Lord is a reverential fear, and awestruck veneration because of God’s holiness. So, here we have the so called holy men, (that’s holy with a small h), the holy men of Israel showing no fear in God but only self interest in their own position and fear of the mob.
Now the peroration. (That’s a new word I learnt this week). We are not the religious leaders of our day, who preach a gospel to keep us safe and not to offend the ears of those who hear, we want to preach the uncomfortable and true gospel with the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, so that people will be astounded, and begin to recognise that we too have been with Jesus. And secondly, we want to pray as they prayed, when they prayed they prayed in the Spirit, they went to the mercy seat with Christ seated under the wings of the Cherubim, not as Moses did, in the tent of meeting in the desert, but into the heavenly realms, and so, verse 31 again, and when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage, and that is my prayer for us all today.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
Following Jesus requires listening for his voice. The problem is that we let too many other voices drown out Jesus’ voice.
First is the voice of compromise. It says, “Everything is negotiable.” With Jesus, however, there is no dealing. No negotiation. No compromise. With him it is all or nothing.
Second is the voice of expedience. It says, “I have other affairs to attend to, for I am a busy person.” Our agendas are full. We are a people of pragmatism. Let’s get on it and get it over with.
Third is the voice of politics. This voice asks the question, “Is it popular?” The voice of politics lacks the courage to stand up for what is right.
But finally, there is the voice of God. The still small voice speaks to the heart, saying, “Follow Jesus.” It is the voice rapping on the door of our heart asking us to obey. It doesn’t plead or demand or beg. It yearns, but it does not yell.
How many people do you think leave a church service in which the gospel is preached, knowing they should respond to Jesus but don’t? Our hearts can become calloused. The more we refuse to listen to God, the harder our hearts become. Ignore the voice and fail to heed it, and eventually the voice of God can hardly be heard.
Pilate heard so many voices that day as he pondered what to do with Jesus. He heard the voice of compromise, the voice of expedience, and the voice of politics. So many voices. He even heard the voice of God. How could he not? Jesus was standing right in front of him.
18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.