Posted by: Brad Beaman | January 17, 2008

Warned not to Preach, Acts 4:1-22

You have probably received many warnings before. Some common warnings are: slippery when wet, caution bridge out, don’t remove the mattress tag. Warnings are helpful and we appreciate these warnings.

What we don’t appreciate is when warnings are really threats. If you do such and such we will do thus to you. A threat is more like; trespassers will be shot. The early believers received these kind warnings that were really threats.

This story begins with the account of a dramatic healing miracle described in Acts 3:1-11. Peter and John visit the temple and a beggar is dramatically healed. This crippled man was in such a bad state that he had to be carried wherever he went. People would carry him to the temple gate and leave him there every day to beg.

This was not the only miracle in the very early days of the church. In Acts 2:43 is says there were many wonders and miracles. In this instance however a crowd gathered and Peter used it as an opportunity to preach the gospel.

After the gospel was preached there were two very different reactions. One way people reacted to the message was with joy and encouragement. Many accepted the gospel. It may be that one thousand people accepted the gospel at that time. The Bible says that the number of believers increased to five thousand. There were three thousand that believed at Pentecost so a large crowd (very possibly about one thousand) responded and believed in Christ.

The other reaction to the preaching of the gospel is discouragement from people who resent the gospel. Some people were greatly disturbed by the preaching and they arrested Peter and John.

What was the offence that got Peter and John thrown in jail? Part of the problem is found in Chapter 4 Vs 2. They were preaching the resurrection of the dead in Jesus.

Acts 4:2
They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Pentecost was 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. This miracle is probably about 90 days after the crucifixion. The Sadducees controlled the temple. They were the religious elite. They didn’t believe in a resurrection of the dead. Furthermore they had already spread a false report that Jesus did not rise from the dead and that his disciples stole the body. Anyway you look at it this miracle in the name of Jesus, it made them look bad.

If Peter and John are preaching the truth then: their beliefs are wrong, they are exposed as liars and they actually crucified the awaited messiah.

In Chapter 4 Vs 3-4 we read that it was evening so the temple guards put Peter and John in jail.

Acts 4:3-4
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

Then Peter and John had a whole night to sit in jail and think about what was happening. This is where Luke mentions the great number of believers. They spend the night in jail with the excitement of a great number turning to the Lord.

But there is a problem of being in jail. Peter is not single like Paul. He was married and has a wife to think about. He had a lot to think about since the people who put him in Jail had just crucified Jesus. The last time Peter denied the Lord and he was not going to do that again.

In Vs 5-7 we read that the next day the leaders met. The council consisted of Annas the high priest and Caiaphas.

Acts 4:5-7
The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

The name of Caiaphas is a very prominent name in because of his active role in the crucifixion of Jesus. Now it is hard to imagine how intimidating the questioning by this council would be. Peter and John must have thought they would become the first Christian martyrs.

Peter and John are given the opportunity to deny Christ again or make a potentially life threatening stand for Christ. It will take boldness to proclaim Christ under this situation.

It takes courage to stand in the face of threats. One modern day believer in Christ who faced threats for proclaiming Christ said, “Your ultimate weapon against me is death, but my ultimate weapon is dying. I have my tapes and written sermons and if you martyr me they will spread all over the country. If I die for the cause of Christ the message I preach will ring out louder than ever before possible.”

In Vs 10 Peter spoke the pointed truth. The words he spoke in Vs 9 We are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown a cripple” are very similar to Jesus words John 10:13, I have done many miracles for which do you stone me.

Acts 4:9-10
9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

In Vs 11 Peter quoted their own scripture The stone you builders rejected has become the cornerstone Psalm 118:22. Peter was clearly telling them that Jesus was the messiah and they killed him. All of this was prophesied in scripture.

Peter made a statement that was controversial then and controversial even today. 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” It is the exclusivity of Jesus Christ that can evoke anger. Just prior to going to the cross Jesus prayed if there is any other way let this cup pass from me. If there were any other way to come to God other than faith in Jesus Christ the cross and the suffering Jesus endured would not have been necessary. But there was no other way. There is no other name but Jesus that saves men from eternal separation from God.

They made note in Vs 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Peter and John were not taught in rabbinical school.

One time someone told John Wesley, “God doesn’t need your book learning,” Wesley’s reply was, “God doesn’t need your ignorance either.” The point is not education but having the power of God. Peter and John had the power of God and it was demonstrated in an undeniable miracle that was witnessed openly by a huge crowd of people.

The Holy Spirit gave Peter and John wisdom and boldness. This was the main ingredient in their ministry. Yes they had been with Jesus. This confrontation was reminiscent of their times with Jesus.

Peter addressed these leaders sharply. The leaders had a big problem, Vs 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. They sent Peter and John out and had a conference.

The council had their private discussions: Vs 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. They can’t say this miracle did not take place. That line won’t work. Then what can they do? They can threaten them. They can warn them not to preach in the name of Jesus.

Chapter 4:17-18
But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Today many people live under the shadow of violence in an environment of threats. You can expect opposition when you are on the cutting edge of ministry in Jesus name.

It is not persecution that causes the gospel to spread, but it is bold response to persecution that causes the gospel to spread. We see a bold response from Peter here.

Acts 4:19-20
But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Wow! Here is a holy boldness under God’s leadership. They recognize that there is a heavenly court that is higher that any earthly court.

One day Hugh Lattimer delivered a sermon before Henry VIII. The king was greatly offended by Lattimer’s sermon. The king ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday to make amends for the offence which he had caused.

Lattimer thought much about how he would preach the following Sunday. He remembered he was preaching before the king and he should not offend him.

Then he remembered that he was preaching before Jesus the king of kings and he should not offend Jesus. Ultimately Lattimer chose to offend the king rather than offend Jesus. Ultimately it cost Lattimer his life.

Peter and John were bold, but they were released from prison. We do not read in scripture of Peter’s death but history tells us Peter died for his faith. He was faithful to Jesus unto death.

Peter lived the words he spoke here:
“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

What is our response to warnings and threats? It is a call to boldness in Christ.


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