So now, what happens when we begin to believe God, and allow the Spirit to do miracles through us, for the purpose of testifying and witnessing to Jesus, as we have seen so far in the first three chapters in Acts? Not only do you come to the attention of the crowd, which gives you a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ, but you come to the attention of the high and mighty.
This time it was not the Pharisees who had Peter and John arrested – they are absent from the list recorded in Act 4:1. It was the Sadducees. The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead (Mat 22:23). So the theology of Jesus that the disciples were preaching went against the theology of the religious leaders of the day. Peter and John were preaching the wrong doctrine, that is what got them in trouble! Have you ever been in trouble because the doctrine you preach, which is confirmed by the Scriptures, went against your denomination or your friends or your colleagues? Well, you are in good company.
It still amazes me that what the issue was for the religious leaders, was doctrine, and position – someone was getting a name and a following and it wasn’t them – and the fact that a notable miracle had been done in the name of Jesus slid right by. They were so blinded by pride or power or religion, that they missed the hand of God pointing to something when it was in front of them. We are talking about the good folks here – the church goers. The experts. The megapastors or heads of mega ministries. It was not the atheists and the drug dealers that were missing the hand of God, but the paid church people.
The leaders’ response to Peter’s bold testimony, was to threaten them, and to charge them to teach no more in the name of Jesus. They were threatened by the good church men, by the leaders of the congregation, by the professional theologians. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, but he was speaking truth under the inspiration of the Spirit.
Listen, God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, who think they are wise (1 Cor 1:27). Don’t ever let a doctor of theology cow you into submission of the fear of man rather than the fear of God. There is nothing wrong with a profession in the church. But be on your guard, it seems they tend to go astray, doesn’t it? Knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1) and feeds pride, and the ones who go astray begin to feel secure in their knowledge and in the letters behind their name rather than in God, I think. If you have letters behind your name, keep love and lowliness as your sister, and keep pride far from you, and you will be okay.
So Peter and John, when they are released, go back to the church and pray for even greater boldness to preach and teach, and even greater miracles of healing to be performed, than what has already gotten them in trouble! Notice what they do not pray for – they do not pray for the opposition against them to end. They expected, because of the prophecy in Ps 2, to be opposed by kings and leaders. But they prayed that their own boldness and faith might not falter! And for even more and greater signs and wonders to be accomplished through them! And God was pleased with this prayer, as we can see, because the place where they were gathered was shaken with power.
Now let’s back up to Peter’s response to the religious and political leaders telling him not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus. He says, “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, (Act 4:19-20).”
I have heard it preached, based on Rom 13:1-2, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities,” that whatever the government tells you to do, you must do. In fact this argument was given by many at the Nuremberg Trials, who obeyed the Nazis and persecuted the Jews, They argued that they were merely being obedient to their government as God commands believers to be. But how were Peter and John submitting themselves to the governing authorities, by telling those governing authorities who had commanded them to teach no more in this name, that they would obey God rather then men?
The Scriptural principle is, governing authorities were set up by God for a specific purpose – and that is to promote what is right, to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (Rom 13:3). Evil and good as God defines it, not as man defines it. The authority is from God, after all (Rom 13:1), and it is His definition that is to be weighed in the balance. He defines sin and righteousness in the Torah, the first five books of Moses.
So when the governing authority is governing within its God- ordained boundaries, they will be a terror to evil works, but a praise to that which is good. By all means, let everyone be subject to the governing authorities in all that is RIGHT. But when a governing authority asks you to do something wrong, as they asked Peter and John to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus, then they have stepped over their boundaries and asked you to do something God did not ordain them for, and it becomes our duty to do what is right, regardless of what the governing authority has told us to do or not do. This is the entire principle and argument of the founding fathers in pursuing the American Revolution against the British crown, and it is the entire judgment of the nations at Nuremberg in hanging the Nazi war criminals who were only obeying their governing authority. (A movie, Judgment at Nuremberg, was made of the Nuremberg Trials – anyone who has not seen it must see it!)
And since we are on the topic of politics, Act 4:32-37 is the Scriptural basis many use to promote the political philosophy of communism: from each according to his wealth, to each according to his need. I maintain that communism as a political philosophy is not only flawed but unscriptural and evil. How can I reconcile my belief with Scripture?
Communism, such as we read in the books of Acts, can only be administered by the Holy Spirit of God. When God leads you to sell your things, and lay their proceeds at the apostles’ feet, then you are giving your possessions with a cheerful and free heart (no man is ever to give under compulsion, for then it is not giving, is it? — God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Cor 9:7).
But a government agency is not the Holy Spirit. In communism in practice, a government agency forces you under threat to sell your possessions or give up your possessions. This is in opposition to Torah, which has sanctity of private property ownership built into its framework (Thou shalt not steal, Ex 20:15). Communism, administered by the fallen human nature, always turns bad, it always ends up building up a nobility class which oppresses the rest of society. In fact, every form of human government goes down that road. No matter how well a system begins, it ends up with a few gathering power to themselves over the many. This is why Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” It requires a constant struggle to keep power from accumulating to the few.
Okay, that is enough of a soapbox for today, LOL.