Acts 4:13-31

Peter rejects the command to stop preaching about Jesus Christ

Background: In Acts Chapter 3 Peter and John had healed a lame man at the temple gate and as Peter and John preached, explaining the miracle, they were interrupted by the priests and temple guard who held them overnight for questioning by the Sanhedrin the next morning. When asked to defend their actions the Holy Spirit filled Peter, enabling him to speak with pursuasive authority regarding Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:17-20, Acts 4:8. .

13 Now 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.

[When they saw the boldness of Peter and John] The members of the Sanhedrin were experienced jurists and could readily discern between true and false testimony. Peter and John impressed them as true witnesses who knew what they were talking about.

[ Unlearned and ignorant men,] Not in the sense of being stupid, just lacking an advanced education. Most Jewish youngsters were well grounded in the Torah through home schooling or by classes taught at the local Rabbi's home. Peter and John were fishermen from Galilee and had little need for formal education beyond the primary level. In this case the Sanhedrin recognized knowledge and understanding beyond what would be expected of ordinary men. Mark 1:16-20.

[That they had been with Jesus.] For about three years the apostles lived with Jesus. They absorbed much from Jesus' public teaching and also had the benefit of casual interaction.

14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

[They could say nothing against it.] The questioners found themselves in an awkward position. To dispute the healing would have made them appear foolish, yet acknowledging the miracle meant implicitly acknowledging Peter's testimony that Jesus Christ was indeed God's Messiah and that they had made a mistake in rejecting and crucifying him. How could these experts in the Scriptures, who professed to know the mind of God, admit to having made a mistake regarding the will of God? Compare with the healing of the blind man in John chapter 9.

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

[But that it spread no further] A coverup! The Jewish leadership had made an error and rather than admit it and correct their position they preferred to suppress the truth. They were misleading an entire nation, causing millions to miss the opporunity for salvation through Christ Jesus. Compare with Matthew 28:11-15.

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more then unto God, judge ye.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

[Commanded them not to speak] Remember, Satan is at work in all of this.Unconverted people are condemned already. John 3:18, John 3:36. All Satan has to do is keep them from hearing the truth.

[Whether it is right in the sight of God] Was Peter promoting civil disobedience? No. Peter refused to accept the command to be silent regarding Christ because he and John had been going about their witness in a perfectly legal way. If it were not so the chief priests and elders would have had an excuse to punish them harshly.
In 1 Peter 2:13-17 Peter tells Christians to obey civil law.
Some use the sermon on the mount as an excuse to take vigorous (even illegal) action against evil in the world. They concentrate on salt's preservative properties (allegory for opposing evil) and light's ability to drive out darkness (again opposing evil). In actual fact, Christ is talking about salt's ability to make things taste better and light's ability to make life more pleasant. A sunny day warms the heart. Even a candle helps us avoid stubbing a toe on the furniture. Matthew 5:13-16, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34-35. Notice the conclusions drawn. In 1 Peter 2:15; "For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." and in Matthew 5:16; "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven."

Testifying for Christ is a direct command to Christians, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, and superceeds man's (Satan's) prohibition, but the New Testament nowhere instructs us to use force or violence to impose Christian behavior upon the unregenerate. First, present the Gospel so that people might be born again, then the Holy Spirit who will live within them will modify their behavior.

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.

[When they had further threatened them] Hoping they had thoroughly intimidated Peter and John, they let them go free..

23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

[They lifted up their voice to God] The first part of their prayer honored and glorified God.

25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

[Against his Christ] In the middle section they acknowledged that persecution of Christians is really aimed at Christ, John 15:18-19. They rejoiced in the power of God, noting that even those who had intended evil were unwitting participants in God's plan.
The quote from David is found in Psalm 2.

29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

[Grant unto thy servants] The last part of their prayer was a request for boldness and supernatural assistance in carrying out their mission.

31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

[Filled with the Holy Ghost] This is not a backward reference to Pentecost because the physical manifestations were different. At Pentecost there was a sound of rushing wind, tongues of fire and apostles speaking in languages which were unfamiliar to them. Acts 2:1-4. In this case the building was shaken.
When a person is born again his spirit is regenerated by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within him permanently. This verse indicates that there are times when people may receive an additional refreshing of the Holy Spirit. John 3:1-7, Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19..

[They spake the Word of God with boldness] The result of the original filling and this refreshing was the same; bold, effective proclamation of the Gospel. Satan would like to misguide us into wasting our energy chasing additional manifestations of the Spirit as though that were the goal of our Christian experience. In fact, God has promised to provide what we need at the appropriate time. The goal of the Spirit is to enable us to proclaim the Gospel.


This page updated 10/28/2007

Copyright (C) 2007 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved