Acts 4:13-22 The Challenge of Authority
At the beginning of this study, we now find ourselves with Peter and John before the Sanhedrin Council. (The Great Council.) Are all the members there? It can't be said for certain. We do know that some of the Council members are not against the apostles. In any event, Peter's last statement is, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
What an awesome statement. But Peter spoke by the Spirit of the Lord, and this statement reaches into the very heart of ancient Judaism.
In this study we want to consider what is taking place between the apostles of the Lamb, and the religious leaders in Israel. This is Acts009 - Acts 4:13-22 The Challenge of Authority.
Vs13: "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."
...The council was amazed at the boldness of these men. The word 'confidence' is the word 'parresia.' Parresia speaks of an open, unrestrained, uninhibited, confidence in speaking. It means to speak plainly and boldly. (It does not carry a meaning of irreverence or cockiness.)
Side note: This is the word given to believers in regard to their approaches to God. "Therefore let us draw near with confidence (parresia) to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb4:16)
..."Understood they were uneducated and untrained men."
It was obvious to the council that Peter and John had not been trained in the rabbinical schools, or they would never have been so direct. The rabbis were trained to quote other rabbis, etc. No one spoke on his own authority. (This was a feature that attracted the people to Jesus. It says, "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." Matt7:28,29)
Perhaps we need to make a point. Some of the most powerful preaching and teaching today will be found in small country churches where the minister lacks any training in the skills of eloquence. It is not our skill of speech that accomplishes kingdom work. It is the Lord's voice to be heard in our speaking. This helps explain why the Lord will often use someone who seems to be so ill equipped, while passing over those we think should be used. (Such a mystery, this.)
Peter later writes, "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God." (1Pet4:11 - Utterances is from a Greek word logion, which speaks of the very voice or utterances of God. It refers to a divine oracle. Thus we are to let the Lord speak through us. Remember what the Lord said; "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.")
... "Began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."
This may make for a nice sermon, such as, will people recognize us as having been with Jesus, but that is not what the issue is here. The Lord's disciples were often seen with Jesus, and some of the Council of seventy had seen them before this time. So it began to dawn on them who Peter and John were.
But, once again, we also need to keep in mind that not all the seventy members were against the disciples. Two members had provided for the burial of Jesus. Were they present at this meeting, or had this Council been hastily called together? Perhaps the last is more true.
Vs14-16: "And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, 'What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.'"
... No one could refute the evidence of the healed man. He was well known to everyone who visited the temple.
... "They had nothing to say in reply."
This takes us back to an instruction Jesus had given the disciples earlier in that they would not need to prepare beforehand for a defense; "For I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute." (Luke 21:15)
Someone had asked Charles Hadden Spurgeon to write a defense of the gospel. His reply went something like this, "The gospel doesn't need to be defended. It is like a caged lion. Just turn it loose, and it will take care of itself." (That has been my understanding. To deal with error you only need to preach the truth.)
Vss17,18: "But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."
... The Council was left without defense or argument. The only measure now was to issue a 'supreme' command. No more teaching in the name of Jesus. (Can you imagine trying to put out the sun with a garden hose? No one can stop the true ministry of Jesus Christ.)
Vss19,20: "But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."
... Here is where we need to talk about the challenge of authority as it related to the moment. Israel was in conflict. There was no Davidic king, and the priesthood was a mockery. The Herods were not Jewish. They were Idumeans who had been forced to convert to Judaism. And while the king and the priesthood were the recognized authorities, that is, put in place by the Romans, they did not represent the God of Israel.
This helps us understand why John the Baptist began his ministry in the wilderness. And why when he saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he spoke of them as a "brood of vipers." (Matt3:7) Jesus also spoke of them as an evil and adulterous generation. (Matt16:4 - The word for generation is genea, which speaks of a family)
Another point needs to be made with regard to true authority. Jesus was from the house of David, and as Messiah, He had rights to the kingdom. This is one reason that the new covenant is referred to as "the kingdom of the beloved Son." (Col1:13)
When Pilate placed the sign over the cross, which read, "The King of the Jews," the authorities were vexed. But the sign was true. Jesus is king of both the Jews and the Gentiles. Israel crucified her king. But this was all in the plan of God. For now His kingdom is not of this world. And we will once again see the kingdom restored to Israel. (We talked about this in Acts001.)
Finally on this point of authority --- In the resurrection appearances, Jesus appeared to James alone. This James was His earthly brother. One reason for this appearance is that the Jewish Church was going to need someone they could look to in a unique way, while the Church herself was expanding in all the earth.
But why James? The Jewish people would see James in a very special way. First, he was the brother of Jesus. Secondly, he was from the house of David. There is no question that the Lord covers all bases. (I believe the Pastors in Jerusalem were of the family of James until the second destruction of Jerusalem during the Bar Kohba rebellion in 132 a.d. Kohba was a false messiah.)
Vss21,22: "When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed."
.... The Council was backed into a corner. All they could do at present was make threats. Once again we see the wisdom of God. The rulers in the Israel would be left without excuse. They are charged with crucifying Jesus.
This study was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added October 22, 2004
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