In this class, we will discuss Acts 4:1-23 and notice the encounter Peter and John had with the Sanhedrin (Jewish leadership) and how disturbed they were by the apostles' teaching of Jesus Christ.
All right, we are at Chapter 4 in the book of Acts. And we have covered the two sermons that Peter has given in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. And in the last class, we talked about the keys that Peter was bringing out regarding the resurrection of Christ, and the implications of the Jews and their part in that, a lot of that was repeated in Chapter 3. And keep in mind now that what began in Chapter 3 was when Peter and John went into the temple at the hour prayer, the evening sacrifice, the ninth hour, which is 3:00 in the afternoon. And that's when the lame man who was there, Peter healed him and that created a great sensation among the people as he got up and leaped and walked. Everybody knew him, he was probably one of those fixtures at the temple of one who was begging.
And then Peter, they all kind of move and gravitate over to this area of the temple right here on the eastern end of it called Solomon's Porch, z large portico area, huge columns that were in there. And in that is where the events of Chapter 3 took place. I did show you some pictures on that, anybody that is watching this online and maybe want to refer to it earlier, a class on this when we showed some pictures of how that probably looked. But we're still in the temple area, and what's important to realize is we now move into Chapter 4 is that we are still at about on that same timeframe. It's past 3:00 and it's moving toward the evening hours. And so, a lot has happened, with the healing, with the commotion, with the sermon, and it has attracted the attention of the Jewish authorities. And so, we're still on that particular day, late in the afternoon, and that's important to remember as we see what happens here. As we open up in Chapter 4, then in verse 1.
Acts 4:1 It says, "As they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them."
This is the power structure of the temple and the first-century community of Jews or Judaism in Jerusalem at this time. We have a captain of the temple, we have the Sadducees, and at this particular point, it'd be good just to kind of review a little bit about the different political parties that we're dealing with. We've got a mention here, a captain of the temple. This guy is kind of like the police commissioner. The Jews were allowed to run their own affairs in Jerusalem, and especially in the temple, a very sensitive area. And they had their own kind of police force, if you will, among the Jews. And this individual, the captain of the temple would've been a priest. And he had, let's say, the highest policing authority to keep the order among the people there so that the Roman authorities, the Roman government, and the legions wouldn't have to interfere.
Now, you should understand something, again, I'll just point in on the map here. The Romans did keep a garrison of soldiers in the temple. That is why you have right here, the Antonia Fortress. There's no remains of that. There's actually a wall that was probably a part of that fortress that you can see if you ever go to the Temple Mount, but there's otherwise no other remains of it. But it was an elevated garrison that allowed the Roman soldiers to look down over the temple area. And if there was a disturbance, a riot, then they could come down and break it up. And we will find that they do that later in the Book of Acts when Paul is there giving an offering and the Jews all gang up on the Apostle Paul at that time, and the Roman soldiers come down. But at this point with the apostles, with Peter and John and the preaching that they're doing, the Romans don't get involved, but it is, let's say, a lesser force of the Jews allowed to police their own affairs until it would get out of order and then the Romans would step in.
The one thing you should remember and know about the Roman Empire and the Roman legions is that order was paramount. They didn't like riots, they didn't like insurrections, rebellions at any point, place, or time within the empire. I'm talking about the whole Roman Empire of the day. They met it with full force. That's why the image of Daniel, of the Roman Empire, first in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Chapter 2 where the Roman Empire is portrayed as that portion of that figure, which is iron, remember? And then in Chapter 7 of Daniel, the fourth beast that Daniel sees, identified as the Roman Empire, is a great and dreadful and terrible beast with teeth of iron who rips and snorts and stomps. And it's a perfect illustration of the Roman Empire and the legions and their interest on keeping order. And that's how they became an empire and endured so long is they met with the full iron force of their power, any threat to them. And so, that's kind of operating a part of the background here.
And so, when we see the captain of the temple and the Sadducees come upon them, we've got now the beginning of the power structure, at least within the Jewish community, that is beginning to come against the Church. And that's what's happening here and this is our first indication of that. Now, later, the Romans will be involved and Paul will be a prisoner. And as he goes out in preaching, then he will interact or encounter Rome and it's powered its government, and he'll have to deal with that, we'll talk about that. But for now, it is in Jerusalem, it's in the confines of the temple, and it's the Jewish authority. And we find identified here, this kind of this police captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees come upon them. All right.
So, the captain of the temple is a chief official. He has an authority over most of the priests, but under the high priest, he was probably second in terms of rank to the high priest of the time. And usually, the people that were a part of this were a part of the Sadducees as well, the cast of the Sadducees, the political party that is the dominant upper-class party of the time, the Sadducees, and they're mentioned here. Now, you will also encounter, and we know from the gospels, we have another group of people, we'll see these in Acts called the Pharisees. All right? And they are not explicitly mentioned at this point, but the Sadducees are. Now, verse 2 says.
Acts 4:2 "Being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead."
So, "they" are the authorities. They're upset, they're disturbed, and what is it they're disturbed? Because the apostles are preaching. They've got a crowd around them, and they are preaching Jesus and the resurrection from the dead. This is a core to their preaching. This is the core of the gospel. Again, this is why we have in our mission statement of the United Church of God, that we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. And there is one gospel, it is the Gospel of God called by Paul and Romans, but it includes the very truth of Christ's life, death, and His resurrection, as well as His position as king, and the coming king, and the king of the Kingdom of God that will be brought to this earth. We will see all of this develop as we go through the Book of Acts and the preaching of the Church.
But here in these sermons in the early part of the book, it's very clear the focus that is there, and this is what is upsetting them because this is the power group that engineered the death of Christ. They thought then that that would do away with the problem and the impact Jesus was having among the Jews, not only in Jerusalem but in Galilee throughout Judea. And as we see in the gospels, they engineered His death. And now, his followers, the disciples haven't given up. They haven't gone away, you know, they didn't go back fishing or collecting taxes or whatever their previous employment was. They've stayed at the job. And we have a viable church that we have been witnessing here and the Sadducees are very upset about that.
Now, a little bit about the Sadducees. Most of the priests that were in Jerusalem working in the temple, descendants of Levi and the Levitical priesthood that were all a part of the entire temple worship structure, most of those priests were of the Sadducee persuasion, let's say the party of the Sadducees. And the Sadducees had certain inherent beliefs that they had developed over a long period of time, several generations during this period leading up to where we are now in the first part of the third-century A.D., the life of Christ now into the life of the Apostles. The Jews have gone through a few hundred years of being back in the land after the Babylonian captivity when they were allowed to go back during the time of Cyrus and then with the work of Ezra, Nehemiah that we read about in scripture. And as we are beginning now to get into in the Book of Daniel with the Jews there, Daniel 11 talks a great deal about the impact of the Greeks upon the Jews in the land. And so, they are developing an inherent culture and have over a period of several years.
Other groups will develop that are not mentioned in the Bible. We've talked about this, the Zealots and the Essenes. The Zealots were more militant, they led to the rebellion beginning in 65, 66 A.D. against Rome. The Essenes were the Dead Sea people. We talked about this the other day. They thought everybody else was pretty liberal. Up here, the Sadducees, Pharisees, and they said, "A pox on your house we're going down to the Dead Sea," and they established their commune down there. We know about them because of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the remnants of that community that archeology has developed.
But back to the Sadducees. They had certain beliefs that they had developed by this time. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection, that's one very key. All right? They didn't believe in a resurrection. So, with the Church preaching about the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, that they engineered the death of, this is a major clash. They obviously don't even want any mention of that, but it counters even their inherent belief of not believing in a resurrection. Now, the Pharisees did believe in a resurrection, and we will see this come into play again later in the Book of Acts when Paul is arrested in the temple because Paul's a Pharisee, but he knows that his crowd is mixed between Pharisees and Sadducees. And he throws like a little bomblet into the discussion what he was preaching, which was the resurrection of Christ. And that got the Pharisees and the Sadducees arguing among themselves and he kind of skated out of that, but we'll talk about that story later.
So, the Sadducees are kind of the dominating class. They also did not believe in the coming age of the Messiah. They were not looking even in their day for the prophecies of the Messiah to be fulfilled. Why? Because they thought that that had already been fulfilled beginning with the Maccabees and the revolt against the Greeks back in the second-century. This is the timing of Antiochus Epiphanes and the abomination of desolation that we've begun to talk about in the Book of Daniel. And they then developed a belief that that was the age that began the Messianic Age, and has continued under their descendants.
Now, in the first-century A.D. here, they with their dominant position claim to represent the orthodoxy, the dominant teaching of the Jewish community at the time. And so, the idea that as the Church preaches Christ resurrected, and that He is king and He is going to come again and reign, this runs flat into the face of the aristocratic group. And they can't abide that because people are now believing in a resurrected Messiah who will look to come and reestablish the kingdom of Israel and they've got to put this out.
So, the Sadducees who hold some prime seats in what is called the Sanhedrin...The governing body among the Jewish groupings at this time is called the Sanhedrin. It's kind of like their congress, their council, got to make sure I get this spelled right, Sanhedrin. And this is what Peter and John are going to be brought before right now. They're going to be brought before the council, the ruling body of the Jewish authority at this time. And they, again, want to squash all of this because they want to keep the order and not have it spill over, and the Romans come in. And so, this is what they are afraid of. And, you know, the work of the apostles, Peter and John is quite annoying to the Sadducees because of what they are teaching. So, we look at verse 3.
Acts 4:3 And it says, "Then they laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day for it was already evening."
So, as I opened up by saying, we're still in the same day as the beginning of Chapter 3 in terms of the time sequence. And so, it's getting toward dark and twilight and, you know, they don't want to deal with it when night comes. You have to understand, put yourself into a first-century ancient world setting, when darkness came, the streetlights didn't come on. Why? Well, obviously, there were no streetlights, no electricity at that time. Oil lamps would start to burn, but that was nowhere near enough to illuminate the city or any neighborhood and even the temple with enough light to carry on the business. And so, it created a whole different atmosphere and structure than what we might be used to today when, you know, our lights automatically come on and we move into nighttime, but in most cases, you know, we can carry on a lot. We play football and baseball and carry on our business because we've got an electrified world today.
But because it was evening and it was time to kind of just shut things down, they said, "Let's just put them in custody." Now, let me say a word about what being put in custody meant in the ancient world. They're put in jail, and they had holding rooms probably close by the temple. We know, again, from the story with Paul, that up in the Antonia Fortress, that Paul was held there. I doubt that they took Peter and John there, that would've turned them over to the Roman authorities. They probably had somewhere in the precincts of the temple area holding cells where they could keep the apostles in custody until the next day.
Understand something about a prison in the ancient world. A prison in the ancient world and the idea of a penal system, nowhere near what we have today. People were not sentenced to 20 years, 10 years, probation after 5, or something like that. If you were arrested, if you were convicted of something, and you were either released and it was a quicker trial than what we would be used to today, or if you were to be...and you were sentenced to condemnation, or you found yourself in custody and in jail, your case was going to be adjudicated. It was going to be tried pretty quickly. And if you were found guilty, judgment was going to be carried out pretty quickly. In other words, you were not going to be hanging around for 5 years with appeals, 10 years for appeals in the Roman world. If you were sentenced to death, right away, that's carried out.
And we'll see when we come again to Paul's arrest at the end of the Book of Acts, he's left in Rome in a house arrest and he stays there for some time. He's not been tried. When Paul was then arrested a second time, brought back to Rome, he was put into a different prison, today it's called the Mamertine Prison in Rome. And it was from there that he was taken to be very likely beheaded according to the traditions. So, the apostles being put in custody here would've been very rudimentary, crude custody. Maybe in chains, it doesn't say, but that could have been possible. Now, verse 4 goes on.
Acts 4:4 "However, many of those who heard the word, they'd heard their preaching, they believe." They were excited, they wanted to hear more. They probably continued talking amongst themselves. "And the number of the men came to be about 5,000."
So, it's quite a large grouping here who have responded, and you can see why the Sadducees, the temple guard all now were called in and aroused by what was taking place. So, it's a very large gathering that happens. Now, in verse 5.
Acts 4:5-6 “It came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes came together there, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander and as many as were of the family of the high priests were gathered together at Jerusalem."
So, the next day dawns, and we have a convening of a grouping of rulers, elders, and scribes. This would be what would be generally called then the Sanhedrin and what they know now. The best that I've read and determined as to where they were meeting would've not been here in Solomon's Porch, but down in this area, which is the southern area of the Temple Mount. There was another portico here, the map shows it as a royal portico. It would've been colonated. it was not as long as Solomon's Porch, but it was an open portico in there.
And archeologists and scholars think that at this southeast corner, there was an area where the Sanhedrin met, and it was kind of a circular room with benches, stone benches, and room for this small group to meet and conduct their business, and watchers and observers would've been, you know, piled up back in through there. And this would've been kind of high up over the whole area looking out over the southern end of the Temple Mount. And it's a grouping of people that are identified here, the high priest Annas is mentioned. We know of him from the gospels. He is the one along with Caiaphas who engineered the death of Christ. Annas was kind of the ringleader. He was the patriarch of a family and the power behind the power at this particular point. Caiaphas, who was mentioned here by name, we know was his son-in-law, his son-in-law.
And so, this structure of the high priests were passed and kept within the family. it was a family business, right? Thank Jewish mafia, if you will. And frankly, the way they conducted themselves was like a Jewish mafia of the day. They engineered Christ's death, and they're going to be responsible for the death of Stephen later in the book. And now they've arrested Peter and John, and any affront to their authority, they don't like. And so, this is kind of the council, the senate, the supreme court of the people at this particular time. The high priest, who in this case would be Caiaphas, will be the one presiding over this at this particular time. And so, it's a combination of other priests, former high priests, elders, teachers of the law, scribes, that's what the word scribes means, they were teachers of the law. And all of these are the ones who come together and they are the ruling family, and again, the power structure that was involved in putting Christ to death.
Now, in verse 6, there are two other names here, John and Alexander, and we don't seem to know who they are. No one seems to know who they are, no commentary that I have read on Acts has any indication of who these two might be, but we do know about Annas and Caiaphas who are referenced in other works as well as in the gospel there. So, this is the grouping that has John and Peter before them. Verse 7 says.
Acts 4:7 "When they had set them in the midst." So, they're convened in court, probably a semi-circular lecture hall-type situation, tiered seats. And John and Peter are standing in the midst of them, they've been brought in. And they ask, "By what power or what name have you done this?"
By this, they're referring to the healing of that lame man, and then the subsequent preaching that they do. So, they're called out of the lockup, and they are probably not given a decent breakfast and allowed to shower and shave in any way, and probably haven't spent a very restful night, I'm sure as well. So, they're brought in and they immediately have to be put before an intimidating group of people. Think about that. You know, even if, you know, any of us are ever called before into somebody's office, you get called to your supervisor's office, you get called to the principal's office at school or whatever, that's intimidating. You're called before the authorities and, you know, generally you might have a little bit of time to understand what it is and what that you're being called for, but I'm thinking here that Peter and John didn't have a lot of time to prepare, and they probably did some praying and talking amongst themselves through the night.
But what they then respond with indicates that they probably recalled something. This is how I imagine it. If you turn back over to Luke 21, hold your place here. And Luke 21, Jesus encouraged his disciples with something, telling them what to expect when they would deal with opposition and persecution, Luke 21. And verse 14, Jesus tells them, "Therefore settle it." He's talking here of a period of...it's within His Olivet prophecy. And He's talking about a time of trial and trouble and persecution upon the Church. Therefore, He says in verse 14.
Luke 21:14 "Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all of your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist."
So, here's a promise from Christ. "Look, I will be with you through the spirit, through the power of the Spirit, and I will give you a mouth, in other words, the ability to speak, reason, and to defend, and I will give you wisdom that no one will be able to resist or contradict." We're at that moment right here. I could well imagine Peter and John, in a sense, praying about that, talking about this in the hours leading up to being called before and sat in the midst of this group of people. And what we are going to see then is fearless defense given by Peter because in verse 8 it says.
Acts 4:8 "Peter filled with the Holy Spirit,"
And, you know, underline that, you know, whatever you're doing to mark your Bible and understand that, it is God's spirit working with Peter, he's filled with it. Remember, one of our purposes for the Book of Acts that we talked about at the beginning, and what we're looking through as we see is the work of the resurrected Christ in His Church, in His disciples as we go through the Book of Acts. And this is the Holy Spirit empowering them.
Acts 4:8-10 “...And they said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.’” And so, they acknowledged their authority, they understood that they were subject to that. "If we this day are judged to a good deed done to a helpless man by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all and to the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole."
They go over to the attack very quickly. This is their defense. And God is empowering them, giving them the words that it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And he says, "Whom you crucified." And he's looking at the very men who engineered it. This is boldness, this is fearlessness. This is not being diplomatic if you want to look at it that way. They're not diplomatic in speaking truth to power here. They push all the hot buttons. You killed this man by whom this man is raised in His name. God raised Him from the dead. God did that. The Father raised Christ from the dead, and it's by His name that we are saved, he says as he goes on. In verse 12, what he says is…
Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
This is pretty powerful. And of course, Acts 4:12 here is a very key scripture that there is no other name under heaven, that of Jesus Christ, given among men by which we must be saved. That's why we baptize in His name. And we call upon His name in faith for repentance and faith. And when we're baptized, we are baptized in that name. There is no other name under heaven. And so, this is his opening defense that it comes down to at the end of verse 12. And as I say, he's punched all the proper buttons to get them agitated. Nothing has been watered down. And he is… I skipped over verse 11, let me read verse 11. Peter's quoting from Psalm 118:22 here at verse 11.
Acts 4:11 He said, speaking of Christ, "This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone."
And he's applying that verse, Psalm 118:22 to Christ, the stone rejected by the builders having become the chief cornerstone. Now, scholars will debate, is this, let's say, a cornerstone that is put into the foundation of a large building that anchors it there, or is it, let's say, what is called a keystone? If you understand certain principles of architecture, and you see this a lot in the ancient world, you still see it today, but where an arch might be built like this right at this particular point in order to hold together the two sides and the pressures there, is put what is called a keystone, a keystone. And engineering-wise, that particular keystone, and you will see this in buildings, holds that structure together.
Now, a cornerstone would be in the foundation of a building, and it would be a very, you know, large cornerstone that ties together the corner and the walls that go out from it. You can see pictures of the corners of the Temple Mount area today. And there are foundational cornerstones there that are quite huge, large, that have been exposed through the archeology through the recent years that held up this entire Temple Mount platform on which the temple building was built and all the other buildings around there. I could have brought some pictures to show you that, but graphically, this is quite a picture that Peter is painting here from Psalm 118. But he said, "You've rejected that."
And so, your building, he's saying, is crumbling. There's no support, no structure for you. This is a very serious charge that he's making. You've rejected Christ, put Him to death. God's raised Him from the dead. We're preaching in His name, healing in His name, and you're bringing us and charging us and examining us as a result of that. Your structure, he's saying, is going to crumble, and it did. But the structure built by the spiritual building of the Church is intact because Christ is at the head of the Church. He is either the keystone, the cornerstone, you know, it is His body. He is the head of that body and it is being built.
Now, I want to make another point about the direct boldness that he's saying here. As I said, this is not a polite introduction. This is not ecumenical. This is not trying to be inclusive. This is not trying to be all things to all men. He's basically laid out, you're responsible for His death. You killed Him, God raised Him. You're bringing us here and we're having to answer, you know, in His name, we're doing our work there. And then he says, "There's no other name under heaven among men by which salvation comes, and it's Christ." It's almost a drop-the-mic moment and walk away. What else is there to say?
In reading this, this morning, I was doing some reading yesterday in preparation for some writing I've got to be doing about England, the crown and the throne, and queen Elizabeth who died here just a few weeks ago, but I've referenced her funeral before. And I would hope that you would go out and, you know, you would watch...if you haven't seen the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, it's well worth the time. She designed it herself as people of that stature do, a king, or even presidents in the United States. They read scripture that was pretty strong. They read from John 11 where Christ says, "If you believe in me, you shall be saved." And they read from John 14 that "He is the way and the truth." Christ is the way and the truth. And in that audience were Muslims, atheists, agnostics, unbelievers of all different stripes and sorts, and people who didn't care, and she knew they would be there, you have to kind of get into your thinking when she designed what would be read from the Bible at her funeral. And she gave them a pretty powerful witness. And I remember as I was watching, I didn't watch it live, I watched the replay of it later that day, and it was stunning. It was not an ecumenical modern-type religious service meant to appeal to all faiths, and it's an object lesson for us all to think about today. Well, Peter's was not like that at all. Let's go to verse 13.
Acts 4:13 "When they, the Sanhedrin, saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled and they realized that they had been with Jesus."
Now, this is kind of a commentary on Peter and John, the other disciples, and those 120 or so that were part of the original founding of the Church on Pentecost that survived everything from Christ's arrest and death and the weeks after that. And as they look at Peter and John, they said, "These are..." They perceived they were uneducated and untrained. Now, this does not mean that they were illiterate and ignorant, you know, hicks from Galilee. That's not what it means. It just means that they were not schooled in the rabbinical school and processes of the day. They hadn't gone to the Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford of the day, but Peter and John were literate and they were educated. They knew the Torah, or the Old Testament, all of that because there was a high degree of literacy within the Jewish community in the first-century. All of this is documented by historians and modern archeology.
And so, Peter is going to later write two epistles in Greek. And so, he had a working knowledge of that as well as Hebrew, probably Aramaic as well at the time. But he was a fisherman and he was not a scholar and a teacher. But among the Jewish community, there were schools and there were expectations for everyone, even the smallest village of Galilee. All of this is a matter of record. And so, understand that, in a sense, Peter and John had an advantage by not having gone through the rabbinical schools, let's say the theological or divinity schools of the day, the equivalent of that, because they were not then tainted by the philosophical ideological approach of the Sadducees who didn't believe in a resurrection or a coming Messiah, or the Pharisees who had a skewed view of the law. And Christ will have a lot to say about that, and we will touch on that when we come to Chapter 15 of Acts.
And so, they were not schooled all of this, and the slants that they were putting on scripture and truth. Understand something, Judaism in the first-century was not the religion of Moses, it was not what God gave to Moses. Judaism then, and certainly Judaism today, was and is built on layers and layers of human tradition and interpretation and application of the law, the Word, the Old Testament. And this is what, in Matthew 23, Jesus really gives a scathing rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees about, how they put yolks and burdens upon people. And we'll see this in the dispute about and the discussion about circumcision that the Church had to settle in Acts 15. So, Peter and John had an advantage.
I look at it as an advantage that I haven't gone through the divinity schools that are available out there. They wouldn't let me in anyway because I don't believe in the Trinity. And I mentioned that if you go into it, apply to a divinity school of any major denomination, their code is that, do you believe in the Trinity? Check this box. And I couldn't get in, you couldn't get in, unless you said otherwise, I guess, or whatever, or talked your way in. But, you know, we can study their books, we can study the commentaries, and should to learn a lot, but not to learn about, you know, becoming the Sunday keeper, you know, doing away with the law or anything else, but there is information there.
But Peter and John, coming at it from the background that they had, working men, salt of the earth, honest people, people of the land, they are demonstrating something here that is really like an Amos. Back in...I don't know, have you've gone through...you have gone through Amos. Remember Amos said, "Look, I'm a sheep herder. I wasn't raised in a king's house," and yet he stood before the king and gave him what for in the name of God. And he had the advantage of having not been trained or brought up in the elite structure of his day. That doesn't limit God from using anyone. When Paul writes later in 1 Corinthians 1 about, you know, the fact that our calling is not, you know, from the mighty and the powerful, the noble, he says, "Not many of those are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty." That's who we are.
So, what Peter and John are doing here are demonstrating a great deal of conviction, commitment, and courage. What Don Ward, one of our elder statesmen in the church, calls his three Cs of commitment, conviction, and courage. We even used that in a GCE theme a few years ago, commitment, conviction, and courage. That's what they're doing. They're convicted of Christ's resurrection, and by the spirit, they're certainly committed to what they believe, and they have the courage to stand up in front of this august group of people, a very intimidating group of people, and speak, as I said, truth to power. And they do it, and they do it convincingly at this point.
Acts 4:14 Goes on to say, "Seeing a man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it."
Too many witnesses, too many knew that this was a legitimate situation. This was not some fake miracle of somebody who had faked some psychosomatic-type condition for any period of time, and then suddenly was healed or felt that they were cured or whatever it might be. This was something they couldn't say anything against.
Acts 4:15-16 Says, "When they had commanded them to go outside of the council, they conferred among themselves saying, ‘What should we do with these men? For indeed a notable miracle has been done through them, is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it.’”
They couldn't deny it, but they were not going to let it change their heart. Their heart was pretty hard. They didn't want this, as is said in verse 17.
Acts 4:17 "But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them that from now on they speak to no man in this name."
So, this is their judgment, arrived at in secret because it says that they put them out. Verse 15, they commanded them, Peter and John, to go outside out of the council, and so they had an executive session. And they said, "Let's command that they speak no more in this man's name." Now, at this point, the logical question arises, how did Luke know what happened in a private session when he wasn't there, Peter and John were not there? Think about that. How did this get out?
Well, we're not told, but we could guess because there was probably a man there by the name of Gamaliel, who we're going to be introduced to a little bit later, who is a wise man and a member of this Sanhedrin. And he later is going to utter a favorable comment about the Church that gets him off the hook again. Could be that Gamaliel told one of his students, whose name was Saul, what had happened. This is who is going to be the Apostle Paul. And we know that Saul had gone to the rabbinical school or the philosophical Pharisaical school of Gamaliel, whom we know from history as well as the scripture, was a very highly esteemed teacher at this period in Jerusalem. And Gamaliel would've been a member of the Sanhedrin, and were he there that day, it could be that he tells Paul. Paul tells Luke as they become companions later on. That's one possibility as to how this information from an executive session gets out so that Luke can record it. So, verse 18 then goes on.
Acts 4:18-20 “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all, nor to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge, for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’”
And this is kind of...it's not an echo because they're saying it later, but in Acts 5:29, later on, they're going to basically say the same thing, we have to obey God, not man, when they're brought again. And that's when we'll see what Gamaliel has to say. But they threaten them. They say, "Don't speak anymore in this name or teach in the name of Jesus." And basically they say, "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard."
Acts 4:21-23 Says, “That they further threatened them.” It doesn't record what that threat was. “Then they were released finding no way of punishing them because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done, for the man was 40 years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.”
So, they're released with a threat, and this sets up any future action that they could take legally. And they will arrest them again, but they still take no action at that time. We'll read though where they will take plenty of action later on, but that's another part of the story.
So, we'll end here at verse 23 because I want to take the full time to be able to go into the report to the Church and what happens here in the next few verses. It's pretty powerful, and we'll talk about that next time, next class. But this is the first effort of the power structure of the Jews to shut down what is being done in the Church, and as we know from the story, it just doesn't happen. So, with that, we're done. How's that for timing?