1And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 4Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. 5And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders and scribes, 6And 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. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
The boldness of the disciples of Christ is the theme of the fourth chapter of Acts. When their opponents saw the boldness of the apostles, it reminded them of Jesus. They remembered the courage Jesus displayed during the exercise of His ministry. Boldness may be understood in two ways: first there is good boldness as illustrated by Peter in the lesson, then there is a coldness that has no virtue in it, such as someone who says, “I always say what’s on my mind no matter whom it hurts,” or “I always speak the truth, no matter the consequences.” Certainly, we should speak the truth in preference to speaking a lie, but if we can’t be bold in a way to glorify God, then we should be quiet. A Christian does not seek to destroy, but to build and heal. In courage, as in all things, we should be like Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit we can manifest this quality in our lives. Though we may be threatened by circumstances, He grants us the strength and grace to obey God.
The early church in the period immediately following Pentecost enjoyed a high tide of spiritual vitality. The lives of its members constituted a glowing advertisement of the power of the Gospel to transform lives and to lift them to a high plane of blessing. These Christians were attractive to others in their simplicity and godliness because their profession was real and their lives genuine. The church gained new converts daily. When a high tide of spiritual life pervades the church, even unsaved people walk in an overwhelming feeling of reverence of God’s Word and recognize God’s holiness. But even though the then known world could see a transformed group of disciples, and the disciples knew full well that God had made full provisions for strength, they remembered also what Christ had told them in Mark 13:9 before He left to go back to the Father.
Mark 13:9 (Jesus speaking)
But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
Here we see them in today’s lesson as they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious court of Israel, just a short time before the Lord Himself had been arraigned before the same council. Now having healed in Jesus’ name they must stand trial for preaching Christ and His resurrection, so the apostles were held for investigation and thrown into jail till morning.
Meanwhile about five thousand persons had been converted through the Spirit-filled preaching of Peter and John and the testimony of the lame man who was healed. It was too late now to stop the floodtide of faith. There’s not enough room in all the jails of Jerusalem to hold all those who that night were telling about the power of God.
So Peter and John were called before a court of dignitaries to explain the miracle of a lame man healed, a 40-year old man, a walking miracle, ample evidence that something indeed had happened. The power assembled in the courtroom, which was made up of seventy-one members, including the High Priest as President. It was awesome, but it was no match for the power of Jesus.
As they questioned Peter and John, nothing was hidden. They did not have any regrets nor were they embarrassed. They openly identified themselves with the Christ of the cross and of the empty tomb. Neither were they afraid to accuse the Sanhedrin of engineering His death. After all, that is precisely what they had done, but to accuse the authorities took courage. Christ knew that such persecutions would happen and told the apostles to be prepared for it.
Matthew 10:16-18 (Jesus speaking)
16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
We do know that the imprisonment of the apostles was only a beginning of a long list of persecutions against the church. These persecutors continue to the present with martyrdoms experienced on many continents. What would we do if the authorities arrested us and took us into custody? Just how bold would we be? If we were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us? The words of Peter and John were not the words of fishermen. They spoke like philosophers or competent lawyers at a trial. Their composure and speech testified of learning and understanding. They had stamped on their characters the features of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit removes fear and cowardice from a Christian and empowers him for witnessing boldly. The Holy Spirit also compensates for our lack of knowledge and education in spiritual things. He causes others to take note of the Christian’s life, undeniable evidence that they have been with Christ. If people can take notice of us, that we have been with Jesus, it will be easier for us to turn them to the Lord and if our lives are to have the power that is needed to win souls to Christ and the power to withstand persecution that comes in this country soon, then we must be sure that we meet regularly with the Lord, that the great source of power is not stopped and that it continues to flow through our lives to others.
Even one man transformed by Christ, no matter how limited his eloquence, he can give a convincing demonstration that speaks volumes. Are we, as believers, a striking likeness of Jesus Christ? Many lives lived for Christ have been beautifully and eloquently written, but the best “life of Christ” is His living biography written out in the words and actions of His people.
The apostles felt constrained to speak about Jesus. He lived in their hearts and they could not be quiet about Him. If they were forced to choose between being loyal to Christ or being faithful to the decrees issued by a nation, there’s no question about what their decision would be. They would obey God. We are responsible to God for our opinions and our conduct.
After Solomon had sampled life in all of its variety, he concluded that what is right in the sight of God is the most important thing.
Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
When the Sanhedrin released the apostles, they returned immediately to the church and gave a full report of the things that had befallen them. The believers realized how serious the situation was and joined together in prayer, seeking Divine intervention.
The church is a place where we can share our burdens and our victories in Christ, a beautiful picture of today’s Golden Text: “Lord, grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness they may speak Thy word.” They did not ask the Lord to remove their problems nor to relieve them of threats, but they asked for boldness to testify and for confirmation of their message by signs and wonders.
Last week we studied about “The Marriage of the Lamb”. Next Sunday we will study about “The Millennial Reign”. Sandwiched between these two beautiful lessons is “The Battle of Armageddon” which is needful to study, and be sure that we have our reservation made to go in The Rapture in order to miss The Tribulation.
This old prophet had the secret of a happy life and here it is for us: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” The meaning is “although the Chaldeans invade the land and burn up the vineyards and olive yards and hinder the harvest, steal the flocks, and rob me of every earthy possession, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” Will you and I say that in the day of calamity?
We must say, “I will rejoice in the Lord.” This joy implies knowledge.
The apostles were men of destiny, as all Christian are. They had an inner, spirit-inspired compulsion to tell the Good News. Those who have met the Lord Jesus and been blessed by Him are His best advertisement. The true Christian certainly does not lack a message to share. Opposition to the apostles’ message did not put a damper on it.