Read: Acts 4:1-22
Consider: Acts 4 recounts an incident in the life of the early church when Peter and John were teaching in the temple. This led to confrontation with the Sadducees who were concerned that the apostles were teaching the people about the resurrection. We know from Mark 12:18 that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees would have had two concerns:
- The apostles were teaching the people that the dead would be resurrected (contrary to their beliefs);
- The apostles were using the resurrection of Jesus as proof that the dead can be resurrected (something all the Sanhedrin would want to suppress).
The Sadducees found themselves in conflict with the apostles and had them arrested and imprisoned (Acts 4:3). Despite their oppressive tactics we read: But many who heard the message believed, so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand (4:4). This must have been galling for the Sadducees, as they would have expected their intervention to dissuade people from believing in Jesus.
Opposition often has the opposite effect from that intended. This is seen in the reaction of the apostles when they are brought before the rulers, elders and teachers of the law. Instead of keeping quite and being contrite in the presence of the religious elite, we read of Peter speaking boldly about Jesus: Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (4:12). Do you see the transformation that has taken place in Peter? He was the same Peter who had denied Jesus three times, yet he wasn’t the same person! Peter (and the other apostles) had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In Acts 4:8 we read that Peter was ‘… filled with the Holy Spirit …’. Peter’s boldness did not come from within himself, but from submitting himself to the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It would be easy to think that Peter’s boldness had little or no effect on the members of the Sanhedrin. Yet we read of the members of the Sanhedrin: 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 (4:13). Despite this, they told the apostles not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Their opposition had an unexpected effect on the apostles, who told the Sanhedrin: ‘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 (4:19-20).
What about you? Does your life and witness clearly show that you have been with Jesus? How do you react to opposition from those with whom you share your faith? Do you lose your confidence? Or do gain in confidence, relying on the Holy Spirit’s power and strength to speak boldly? Are you willing to speak of what you have seen and heard?
Pray: Father, we see a boldness in the early apostles’ lives that relied on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. We pray for our churches and congregations that there would be an increased reliance on the Holy Spirit, to equip us for the task of sharing our faith. Amen