Authority But Not “Our” Authority

24 Oct

After Peter’s testimony before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, the rulers took note that Peter and John had been with Jesus. They were surprised with the Apostles’ boldness. They had marveled at Jesus’ boldness despite the lack of formal education (John 7:15) He spoke with authority, but not authority conferred upon him by any of the Jewish rabbinical schools. The rulers were faced at this time with a similar phenomenon in Jesus’ disciples. Boldness is one of Luke’s favorite descriptions of believers (Acts 2:29; 4:13, 29, 31; 9:27, 29; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26; 28:31). The Greek word (G3954 or G3955) means to have assurance or confidence; to speak freely etc., and this boldness is always used in connection with the Gospel and testifying to the fact that Jesus is Lord (cp. Acts 9:27-29).

The high council immediately recognized they were not dealing with a simple healing or exorcism but with men who “had been with Jesus!” They were very concerned over what the Apostles were saying because of the stand the rulers had taken against Jesus. If these men were believed by the Jewish populace, the rulers stood in jeopardy of being blamed for the unjust execution of Jesus. The Jewish leadership was not impressed with miracles for the same reason men in leadership positions today are unimpressed. They simply don’t believe in God. The Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection and therefore were not held liable for their actions by any God. If God doesn’t reward anyone for good, he wouldn’t judge him for evil. If they believed in God, he was irrelevant. He was simply unconcerned about what occurred on earth. Therefore, miracles cannot occur—there must be another explanation.

The Sanhedrin had convened in order to chastise the Apostles, but to their embarrassment, they suddenly realized they were powerless to contradict them in that the man once lame from birth was miraculously healed at age 40 by Peter through the authority of Jesus! Moreover, the people revered them, so the council could do nothing but let them go (Acts 4:21) unless they wanted a violent uprising against them in the Temple—something the Romans would be compelled to investigate and replace the current ruling family with another to ensure the ‘Pax Romana’. The best the leaders could hope for was that the Apostles would be afraid of their threats and obey their commands and nothing more would be said in Jesus’ name.

Miracles alone convince no one. They are signs that point our attention to God. One is convinced, not by the sign, but by the truth spoken in the name of God. If one is not convicted of the truth, he will not be compelled to change his heart through a miraculous sign (cp. Matthew 13:14-15). The rulers warned the Apostles to stop teaching in Jesus’ name. In doing so, they rejected Peter’s and John’s eyewitness testimony to the resurrected Jesus and his ascension to his Messianic throne (cp. Matthew 13:16-17). Peter and John in context of Psalm 118 boldly concluded it is better to obey (trust) God rather than men (cp. Psalm 118:4-9)\

These are the seeds of later confrontation. This business has not been settled here and both sides know this, but nothing more can be done publicly by the Jewish leaders at this time.

It is sometimes concluded that the 3000 converts on Pentecost (Acts 2) and the 5000 in Acts 4 represent local Jews dwelling in Jerusalem. Some have even pointed to the fact that the Christians were becoming a sizable community and could no longer be overlooked. This point of view, however, is not logical. As Acts 2 points out, Jews from all over the world attended the annual festivals at the Temple. It is because many of the converts were Hellenists or Grecian Jews that the Gospel spread so rapidly throughout the world. How many of the converts were local to Jerusalem is pure conjecture. The importance of the Jerusalem church for the purpose of spreading the Gospel throughout the world cannot be overestimated.

After being released by the Sanhedrin Peter and John returned to the believing community and lifted up their hearts in prayer to God (vv.23-24). Their prayer shows a remarkable similarity to the prayer of Hezekiah in 2Kings 19:15-19. Both address God as Creator (Acts 4:29a & 2Kings 19:16-18). Both address the problem facing the believers (Acts 4:29b-30 & 2 Kings 19:19). Both submit the petition desired (Acts 4:31 & 2Kings 19:20), and both receive an expression of God’s assurance that the petition would be answered in favor of the believer.

Ultimately God defended his people in both prayers. However, in Acts 4:25-28 the Messianic Jews address a matter not addressed in Hezekiah’s prayer. They quoted Psalm 2, a Messianic Psalm, and applied it to what occurred to Jesus at the crucifixion. The 1st century believers understood the rulers of the Jews, Pilate and Herod were representatives of the whole world acting against the Messiah. The rulers of the Jews had not repented and a line was drawn here between believers and unbelievers among those who are called God’s people. The Messianic Jews clearly understand their predicament as the kingdoms of the world v/s the Kingdom of God. They identified with Jesus against whom Psalm 2 says the whole world gathered.

The disciples requested boldness in preaching the word of God. They expected God to work signs and wonders through them which would have the tendency to disarm those who opposed the Gospel, just as it had done concerning Peter’s and John’s arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin. Immediately afterward the house in which they prayed shook, and the disciples took this as a confirmation, and they began to preach the word with boldness. This was the authority of God confronting the authority of men in a world in rebellion against their Creator.

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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Acts of the Apostles


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