1 Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example. 3 So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 5,000.
5 The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. 7 After they had Peter and John stand before them, they asked the question: “By what power or in what name have you done this?” 8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” 13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And since they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in response.
15 After they had ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin , they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign, evident to all who live in Jerusalem, has been done through them, and we cannot deny it! 17 However, so this does not spread any further among the people, let’s threaten them against speaking to anyone in this name again.” 18 So they called for them and ordered them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them, because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done; 22 for this sign of healing had been performed on a man over 40 years old.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:13
Take a moment and read that key verse again. When first reading it, you may think that Peter and John were getting a “back-handed” compliment by being called “uneducated” and “untrained.” However, look deeper. Look at who the audience was. Look at the situation. Look at the speakers. Look at the evidence of God and His presence.
I love a good confrontation—in a movie or book, that is—not a personal one. Maybe it’s the fact that I try to avoid unnecessary confrontations, but when one arises I can’t avoid, I get this adrenalin rush (fight or flight feeling). When I feel I’m right and I have all my debate points prepared for presentation, I feel confident in the confrontation. When I go on mere emotion and rushed response, I miss the mark.
We live in a world that thrives on confrontation. Any hour of any news channel will reveal the topic of the day that’s to be debated. Retrieve your remote and find any reality show—confrontation. Even our scripted entertainment builds its premise from disagreements and discord within our current society.
However, if believers only to take cues of how to deal with debates and confrontations from these entities, we’ll only add to the confusion of conversation within our faith.
Full disclosure here: I teach persuasion theory and presentation practices on a college level, so perhaps this topic gets me on my soap box more than it may for you. Nothing frustrates me more as a teacher than to hear my students address a topic they know nothing about and for which they have little or no passion.
So for me to read this speech given by Peter to a large audience of men who were seen as experts in their field, I’m fascinated. Breaking it down, I see that Peter and John were prepared for this moment.
Peter—yes, this is that Peter—the one who denied Jesus three times. Those denials came in small, direct confrontations from people who weren’t experts in this field. In this passage, it was Peter’s time again. He was prepared for the questions, the possible rejection, and the probable punishment.
Had his education level changed? Had his training changed? Not in the eyes of these experts. However, God had better equipped Peter for this moment.
Since the three denials, Peter had seen the resurrected body of Jesus, received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), and been empowered by God to heal and directly perform miracles. The experts of the religious members may not have seen these areas of growth in Peter’s training.
Intimidation was projected. Look at the action verbs used to describe the experts’ demeanor—trying to use actions to help their perception of authority over Peter and John:
- “Sadducees confronted them”
- “They seized them and put them in custody until the next day”
- “Let’s threaten them”
- “Called for them and ordered them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus”
- “After threatening them further”
Respect was returned. Peter’s response to their actions was respectful and direct. He didn’t avoid the question posed to him (verses 7-12). Neither did he try to spin the answer to avoid further critique or confrontation.
He answered the question with facts: his known relationship with the risen Jesus (verse 10); his knowledge of the prophecy (verse 11); the presentation of the foundation of his faith (verse 12); and the result of his present predicament (verse 14; the man who was healed).
Peter and John knew their authority wasn’t with these men, but instead it came from God (verse 19). They didn’t let these men take the roles of judge and jury for their behavior. They saw God as their only authority.
This trait of confidence didn’t go unnoticed by the experts. They recognized his faith in his courageous, concise communication of Jesus—a confrontation without compromise.
- Can you recall a recent time when you allowed your boldness to confidently communicate the gospel? Or did you try to spin the confrontation?
- Do you think that spinning the truth of the Scripture is the same as Peter’s three denials?
- Think of one way you can prepare for your next confrontation with the “experts.” How will you begin to accomplish that today?