Today: [Acts 4:1-21:] Clash of Cultures: After the day of Pentecost and the miracle healing of the man at the gate Beautiful, trouble crops up for Peter and John. You would think that all would be rejoicing at the miracle in the Temple but those who should have applauded Peter and John have them thrown into jail and threatened with bodily harm. Is this what you would expect if a healing such as this took place in your church? Would the police be summoned? What would be your response? We can learn from Peter and John and their example of grace under fire at the hands of the Sadducees.
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[Act 4:1-21 KJV] 1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put [them] in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. 5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, [even] by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 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. 14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 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. 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 be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 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.
After healing the man at the gate Beautiful Peter and John draw the unwanted attention of the sect of the Sadducees. Who were the Sadducees? The Sadducees were a Jewish religious sect that flourished from about 200 BC until the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. A priestly and aristocratic group, the Sadducees owed their power to a political alliance with the Romans, who ruled their land. They opposed the Pharisees’ use of Oral Law and held only to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and trusted only in Hebrew texts and not the Septuagint which they considered a corruption of the books of the Torah. They also differed with the Pharisees on many theological tenets: for example, they did not believe in the resurrection and the immortality of the soul. What is interesting is that their name derives from that of the high priest Zadok who was appointed the high priest in David’s day. For this reason, they held a close affinity to the throne of Israel before the captivity and the governance of Judea afterward up to the time of the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem.
The Sadducees barely tolerated the Pharisees, and now they see in Peter and John the emergence of a new and popular cult around the life of Jesus who they saw as an itinerant rebel whose death they had conspired with the Romans to bring about. In frustration and anger, they show an uncharacteristic lack of restraint by laying hands on Peter and John themselves and bringing them before their council after leaving them held in chains overnight. Even though they did this in a very threatening way, it was too late. Through the miracle performed on the lame man and the preaching of Peter 5000 converts were added to the original 3000 that came to Christ on the day of Pentecost.
How do you think this type of unrest and scandal would be handled in today’s religious climate? If you were in a meeting and saw a cripple walk but then saw the platform speakers taken away under charges of inciting unrest and breaking the law, do you think that would result in 1000’s coming to the altar, or something else? In spite of the turbulence of their times, these people in Jerusalem were credulous in nature. They were hungering and thirsting for something more than what they had known in their corrupt, politicized religious culture.
The following day Annas the high priest and his father-in-law Caiaphas and others related to them gathered together to judge Peter and John. Notice that verse 6 says they are all kin. It is common to see families come together in opposition to the work of God. It is said that blood is thicker than water and in religious controversies, this often proves very true. Family members will stand by their own even when they know their parents or brothers, etc., are entirely in the wrong only because blood relates them. What makes them think that such a thinly spread commitment to Christ will actually breach the bonds of death and bring them to heaven? Our commonality in Christ should be stronger than any other relationship even family. The early church believers every single one were not only ostracized by society but expelled from their own families, disowned by parents, abandoned by children and spouses for their new found faith in Christ. Indeed that level of commitment demonstrates for us the source of the courage of these same men and women when they paid for their faith in Jesus with their lives.
Annas and Caiaphas were the same conspirators who had put Jesus to death. It is no doubt a certainty to them that they likewise could do so with Jesus’ followers. In order to make the connection between John and Peter and their Master, the question is asked what name by which they had performed this alleged miracle. We don’t know what answer they expected to get, but Peter not only answered – he answered filled with the Holy Ghost and thundered the name of Jesus back at them like a Holy Ghost howitzer cannon. They no doubt were a-taken back, and Peter presses his attack. He then declares with absolute daring with skills of oration beyond his upbringing that this same Jesus was the stone set at nought by these so-called builders that is now despite all they had done to destroy Him – He is now the head of the corner not just of the Jewish nation but of all human society and creation itself. Before the council can take a breath, Peter continues declaring that the is NO OTHER NAME under heaven whereby one may be saved (or, reconciled to Divinity).
The belief in God was universal in Peter’s day among Jews, Greeks, and Romans. These three great pillars of Western Society are brought under the scrutiny of the cross, scrutiny that likewise we fall under today. Does it matter what you believe? Is it possible to be a good man like Mahatma Gandhi and be saved whether you believe in Jesus or not? Is it possible to be a wise man such as Buddha or Confucius and make heaven your home? What if you are a believer Mohammed and have never heard the name of Jesus? In your ignorance does God wink and extend the clemency of the Cross regardless? What if you are an absolute believer in Christianity and a believer in Jesus as a historical figure and even believing in the resurrection but reject the New Birth – can you still be saved if you do not believe in Salvation through the New Birth and the authority of the name of Jesus? We need to answer these questions because the world is answering them and calling our faith into question.
Uninspired men full of their own ideas stand in our pulpit, and they answer these questions in their false wisdom, denigrating what they consider the simplistic tenets of faith that men once held dear. Our seminaries are answering these questions and turning our lettered scholars who no longer believe in the efficacy of the shed blood of Christ.
Do we believe in the infallibility of God’s word? Do we accept that God by the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to recount this episode and the words of Peter as incumbent upon us as the words of God Himself that there is NO OTHER NAME by which man must be saved except the name of Jesus? This challenge is as viable and potent now as it was then and one we must embrace if we claim that our spiritual DNA springs from the narrative that we are studying today.
The Sadducees are momentarily stunned by Peter’s demeanor and his erudition. They knew these men to be unlearned and ignorant men. IT is said in v. 13 that they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. What a testimony that we would do well to covet. I remember a day when speaking on a Sunday morning in the second church I pastored. After over 20 days of fasting, I spoke with an anointing and passion that was unusual even for those that knew me so well as this congregation did. My mother was in the sanctuary and approached me after the service with tears in her eyes repeating to me these very words “I perceive you have been with Jesus!” I will never forget that moment. I pray it might be repeated again and again.
After examining them further and realizing they could not overthrow Peter’s words or call the lame man’s miracle into question they were at a loss. They straitly charged Peter and John to cease with their preaching and healing, and they flatly refused, whereupon they nonetheless threatened them and let them go. What are we to conclude from these matters? Remember that Peter and John were under persecution by their own countrymen and not strangers. How will you respond if God so worked in your life that those who rule over you or those you before time greatly respected decide to come against you so fiercely? If you are ever going to be used of God in such a way you can absolutely be sure that this will happen and your determination must be to demonstrate your reliance on the Holy Spirit and grace under fire that Peter and John do in this opening clash of cultures between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of Light.
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