Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’
Acts 4:18-20 (NIV)
Read: Acts 4:1-22
Consider: Peter and John had healed a lame beggar (Acts 3) and were then teaching the people in the temple when the priests, temple guards and Sadducees arrived. We are told in Acts 4:2 that: They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. What had caused the Sadducees particularly to be greatly disturbed? Was it that Peter and John had performed a miracle? Was it that they had dared to teach the people in the temple? Was it that they were teaching the people about the resurrection of the dead, using Jesus as the example? While there might have been an element of disturbance brought about by each of these things, we are told that it was the teaching on the resurrection that irked them the most.
Have you wondered why this should be so? Elsewhere in the gospels we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (see Mark 12:18). So what disturbed these men was that the apostles were teaching something contrary to their own beliefs. Their solution to this problem was to put Peter and John in prison (4:3), to question them the next day (4:5-14) and then to intimidate and threaten them by commanding them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (4:18-22).
In the reading did you notice the question put to Peter and John when they were brought before the rulers, elders and teachers of the law? Their question to the apostles was: By what power or what name did you do this? (4:7). Of course Peter was not about to waste the opportunity and he tells them clearly that the beggar had been healed in the name of Jesus; whom they had crucified and whom God had raised from the dead (4:8-11). Peter does not do this in his own strength. We are told that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (4:8). What a transformation from the man we see in the gospels, who denied Jesus three times.
In Acts 4:13 we read: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. God was able to use rough fishermen to speak about Jesus. The fact that they had been with Jesus was evident in their lives and witness.
Do you ever worry about your ability to tell others about the good news of the gospel? This episode in the life of the early church should convince you that God can use anyone who is willing to speak up for him. We can be an effective witness if we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us. But what do you say? Look with me at what Peter and John said after being commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus. In Acts 4:20 we read: As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. God does not require eloquent oratory, or grand speeches. Your personal testimony, about what God has done and is doing in your life, can have a powerful impact on those with whom the message is shared. Take encouragement from these words: But many who heard the message believed … (4:4).
Pray: Father, we thank you that you do not require us to be eloquent orators, but to speak openly and honestly about our experience of Jesus in our daily lives. May your Holy Spirit use our words to bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ. Amen