Tom: We’re going through the Book of Acts, this is our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we are in Acts chapter 4. Dave, we’ll pick right up with verse 19. Acts:4:19: “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
Dave: That’s a very powerful response. They have commanded them in verse 18: They should not speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. And Peter says, “Well, we’re going to obey the Lord, I mean, Look guys, should we obey you or should we obey God?” Now, of course, they would have a big argument there, because they don’t believe Jesus is who He claimed to be, but He has proved that He was. I mean, He did the miracles, He fulfilled all the scriptures, and they don’t want to admit that.
Tom: Plus, they are only interested in themselves, in their own position, and so on.
Dave: Yeah, so this is not impressing them. It should have convicted them in their hearts, but it doesn’t mean anything. So they threatened them further, verse 21, in other words, what Peter said didn’t change them, didn’t convict them. They threatened them further and 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 for the man was above forty years old on whom this miracle of healing was showed.” So, here’s a man who was lame from his mother’s womb, more than 40 years old, and he is instantly healed. Now, it’s pretty hard to argue with that.
On the other hand, Christ had done even greater things. Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead, for example, who had been dead for four days, and they were going to kill Lazarus to end that testimony. So, these are men with very hard hearts, as you say, they are protecting their own nest, building their own nest, their own kingdom. And in fact, back in John 11, “Those who were with us, then remember, one of the things they said was, We can’t let this man go, the Romans will come and take away our position, that will be the end of our nation,” they said. Well, that was a bit of pride. No, they were the ones who were really preventing of the restoration of the nation by their rejection of the Messiah, in fact, they had crucified Him.
Tom: Verse 23: “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.”
Dave: What would come next? Well, they are complaining, I mean, “This is really going to be a tough road to follow, a heavy load to bear. I mean, Look, look, we’ve stuck with Jesus, and they crucified Him, and now they are going to be after us—I mean, they just beat us up in the council—Guys, I don’t know, you think we really want to do this?”
Tom: Dave, how would a marketing firm handle this?
Dave: Yeah, “I think they ought to change the tactics, change the message. It’s not going to fly, guys! It won’t go well over TV, you can’t write books about this, come on! Follow us, and you get beat up! They will crucify you, and they will stone you and scourge you. That’s for the sake of Christ, but still, I mean, there’s got to be a better way—something more positive that we can—How are we going to attract people to this?”
Tom, amazingly, it was Tertullian, I think, who said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and we have seen that recently in Sudan. Some Muslims saw how the Christians bore up under their hatred, persecution, and death, and they realized that exposed to them what Islam really is and that this must be the truth, because look at their lives, look at the love. Jesus said, ‘By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.” And you don’t find that in the Muslim world, for example, you don’t really find it out there—Tom, you were in Hollywood, you didn’t find a great love for one another among the stars and the directors and everybody wants to help everybody else, you know…
Tom: Selfless throughout.
Dave: Hardly, but we’re supposed to demonstrate that as Christians, because this is Christianity, this is the life of Christ being lived in us. So, Tom, wow, “This is going to be a hard sell, guys—how are we going to attract people? What venue are we going to use to attract people to become followers of Christ?” Well, why don’t you read what they actually said?
Tom: Verse 24: “And when they heard that, (that is, what the chief priests and elders had said unto them)…
Dave: …and done to them—beat them up.
Tom: Correct. “And when they had heard that, they lifted 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: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 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, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 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.”
Dave: Well, they are not intimidated. It’s like Hebrews 11 says that “Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.” Now he was, you know, Pharaoh’s adopted son—he could have been the next ruler—wow! A lot of wealth, a lot of pomp and power, and he esteemed the reproach of Christ. That’s interesting, because, had he even heard of Christ? Christ hadn’t come, but that’s what it is. “He counted it better to suffer with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” And these disciples have made their choice. They really believe what Jesus has taught them; they really believe that He rose from the dead. You couldn’t say they are going to do this for a dead Savior.
Now Tom, there are many proofs that the Bible is true and that Christ rose from the dead, but this certainly is one of them. These people are going to follow a dead Savior? They are going to follow Him so that they are going to be beaten and scourged and hated, and they will die as martyrs—all of the apostles did—as martyrs? You’re going to do that for a lie? Because the basic message was that “He is alive. We have seen Him! He rose from the dead.” Now, you’re going to give yourself…you are going to die for what you know is a lie? It doesn’t make sense.
So, these people had a powerful witness, a powerful testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that He was, in fact, living His life in them. I’m sure the rabbis thought “These guys, they are going to shut up.” No, they are not going to shut up because as Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
It’s very inspiring reading, Tom, but it is also convicting reading. We were talking about today’s church, the music and so forth, the seeker-friendly, and how to draw people in and give them what they want to hear, and so forth. It is just the very antithesis of what we are reading in the Bible, and maybe those who teach it ought to reconsider that, and maybe we need to get back to the truth because if, as Oswald Chambers said, “In trying to get the world to accept the gospel, we manufacture a gospel that’s acceptable to the world, then maybe it’s not the real gospel at all.” Maybe there is something very serious involved here that we ought to think about.