Tom: In this, our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we are in the Book of Acts and we are in Acts:4:13—I think we covered it last week, but just a little background for us, Dave.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.”
Dave, these were ignorant fishermen, speaking articulately, speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit. And then the Pharisees, those who were officials there, see this man standing healed—and I think we mentioned this last week, he had been there for a while, year after year after year.
Dave: At the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Dave: Right, everybody knew who he was. They knew he had been born lame. They are not happy—the Pharisees, the Rabbis—because the disciples have said this was done in the name of Jesus, “not by our power, but in the name of Jesus, the One you crucified, and God has raised him up.” And they’re not happy about that, but what can they say? It’s an interesting verse, Tom, because, I mean, so many thousands of people have been healed by Jesus, raised from the dead, and so forth. They still managed to crucify Him. In fact, they were even going to kill Lazarus to destroy the testimony, because Jesus raised him from the dead. He had been in the grave four days, and that was a powerful testimony. These guys are not interested in truth; they are interested in maintaining their position.
Tom: Dave, you just made me think of—what about others who came out of the graves as Jesus was resurrected?
Dave: Well, we don’t know that they appeared to any of these unbelievers.
Tom: You think that they didn’t continue to live their lives?
Dave: I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. I think it was a brief appearance—a special reason for it. But I could be wrong, Tom. There are some difficult verses, and we don’t have the answers to all of them by any means.
But this man is standing there and how are you going to say, “Well, wait a minute—this isn’t a miracle.” Well, there he is, and they all know it.
Now, in the case of the blind man who was born blind, John 9, the rabbis themselves didn’t know his background, so they had to call his parents; they asked other people, “Is this the man himself?” and so forth. In this case, the Rabbis are going in and out of the Temple every day, so they cannot deny it, and everybody knows it. So it’s not a case of investigation—this is recognized by everyone. So verse 15: “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 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.” They’re caught, they’re stuck, but they are not happy. So what are they going to do? They’re going to forbid them.
Tom: Intimidate them.
Tom: “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
Dave: Tom, we are dealing with some really stubborn unbelievers, these rabbis. As we said, they are only interested not in truth but in their position. “And this is a notable miracle,” they say. “We can’t deny it.” Well, guys, then if this is done in the name of Jesus, maybe you ought to believe in Jesus to receive God’s blessing. Maybe you can have some more miracles. They are not interested in that. So they are telling them, “We don’t want this idea to spread any further.” Of course, they’re not going to be able to stop that. There were several thousand people who saw this, who witnessed it.
Verse 18: “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Now, Tom, these men…they’ve got Roman soldiers behind them—they had a guard at the grave of Jesus—and they came back telling them, “Hey, He rose from the dead,” and they bribed them to say it didn’t happen. They have temple guards, and so forth. They’ve got power, they’ve got authority, and they are commanding them now, “Don’t you talk in the name of Jesus anymore. We don’t want this to spread.” I love what Peter and John answered, verse 19: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”
“So guys, we’re not out to impress you rabbis. We’re not out to get any honors from men. We are following God.” It reminds me of Paul, remember? Just before the shipwreck, I love the way he says it. They have been throwing things overboard; they’re sure they’re all going to drown and the ship will be destroyed and so forth, and Paul says, “Be of good cheer, the Lord, whose I am and whom I serve, he said an angel will stand before me.” “Whose I am and whom I serve”…these men, Peter and John, they are not going to be bought off or threatened by anyone; they belong to the Lord, they are His, and they are intent on serving Him. And that’s the difference between, you know, wanting to build up our self-esteem and so forth.
Tom: Dave, some people use this verse to address governments and authorities, and so on, saying, “No, we feel that this is going against what God teaches; therefore we’re going to not come under the authority of the government.” Do you see a problem with using this verse here?
Dave: Well, actually, Tom, I don’t, because Romans 13 says we are to obey those that have the rule over us. They are God’s ministers for righteousness. But I think Peter and John are laying out a principle here. If what the government wants us to do would cause us to disobey God, then we’re going to follow God. That’s what we did when we would take things behind the Iron Curtain. You weren’t supposed to do that. They would threaten you, you know, and so forth. I don’t know, Tom. What do you have in mind?
Tom: No, I was just wondering that—you know, people say, “I’m not going to pay my taxes because the government is doing this and the government is doing that, and I’m against the war in Iraq, and therefore I don’t…”
Dave: Yeah, well, that would be a problem because the Scripture says—well, Jesus put it very well; He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” He said, “Obey those who have the rule over you, tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear is due, and so forth.” And He didn’t say anything about the wickedness of the Roman Empire. And I think we get in a little bit of trouble when we start doing that. It is not up to me to tell the government, “Well, you are using this money for the wrong purposes and therefore I am not going to support you.” I mean, all I can say is, Tom, from the Bible, you wouldn’t get that idea.
Tom: Right, but you would get the idea that if the government ever said, “No, you can’t preach the gospel,” I think then we go to jail with a smile on our face, preaching the gospel all the way, Dave.
Dave: Right. We have to obey God rather than men. That’s what the Scripture says, that’s what our conscience tells us, and that’s what the Word of God says. I would rather serve God than any person. I don’t care how great they are or what rewards are being put on us.