The Collapsing Council’s Confirmation

Acts 4:13-22

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. “But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.” And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

One cannot make this stuff up! Isn’t considering the context cool? How much a greater insight do we have when we consider the context? Peter and John, to this point, have one recorded miracle. Jesus healed hundreds. Peter has two recorded sermons, Jesus spoke constantly. Peter and John were jailed for one night, Jesus was put to death. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus but Jesus never denies his disciples. Peter and John were the students, Jesus was the master. And while Jesus was stripped, scourged, beaten, whipped, punched, spat on, mocked and crucified because of these men, they were silent after hearing from the Holy Spirit through Peter. Peter silenced the high priest and the elders by saying and doing the same things that his master did. Jesus continually left the elders silent nevertheless, they killed him; it’s a cause for pause.

When doing a cursory reading of Scripture, we tend to gloss over the important details and forget about other important details which we have read in the past, partly because we don’t read it daily. What’s worse is we rip verses out of context and distort them to mean something of which the Scripture never intended. But when we slowly and methodically read through the Scripture the way in which it was written, ignoring chapter and verse breaks, considering the context, genre and examples, we unlock the caged Scripture. We see that which the Holy Spirit intends for us to see. Today’s text is a great example. We picked up where we left off last time, at a verse break, that was not in the original text, to see that which we saw last time is confirmed. Peter was very bold, even the elders saw it. Notice; “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”

In addition, we see something else, because we have studied the book of Matthew and considered expository exegesis of examples from the other gospels. When Jesus was with them, they lacked this boldness and power. Yet now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, a few short weeks ago, they seem to have supernatural abilities. We should have seen this coming.

“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.”

We must let the Bible interpret the Bible and let the Bible explain the Bible, and not let mega-church pastors tell us what they think the Bible says. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers claim to have special insight, authority and revelation concerning the sacred Scripture. But I find that ironic because the high priest, the Pharisees, the scribes and the Sadducees claimed the same thing, but in today’s text we read; “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”

I admit it, I laugh at this text a little bit, each time I read it. Face it, God used the dirty, smelly, uneducated, young fishermen as his tools to stand up to the educated, clean, religious people. Like I said, one cannot make this stuff up. My testimony is this: I went to college to study religion, with the hopes of being a youth pastor some day. Heading out 670 miles from home, I hoped to find faith, instruction and enlightenment. What I found was disillusionment at its deepest and darkest depths. What I found being taught was not the gospel of grace, but the very nature of the teachings, for the most part–there are always diamonds in the rough, were counterintuitive to the gospel of grace. Things that we should stand against as Christians were being promoted. Things like nepotism, cronyism, favoritism–if one was beautiful with a beautiful singing voice, they were put on display, front and center and given a microphone. If one’s father was a prominent pastor, the rules didn’t apply to him. If one’s father was a wealthy, prominent person, they were given the keys to the university, figuratively speaking, meaning that they had the freedom to skip classes, convocation, their dorm room could be a mess while everyone else had to keep their rooms pristine–inspected three times a week. “Cleanliness is godliness!” That is, unless you have a rich father. I could go on and on but I don’t want to sound bitter because I am not. I have my time spent there to thank for my spiritual awakening, which happened progressively over the next two decades. But it all started there and it is there​ that I learned that the pen is mightier than the sword. Rather than sit in the street, blocking traffic, I took my protest to paper by way of a mundane homework assignment. At the time, this university had a dubiously legalistic policy of not allowing men to have beards, I’m not sure what the policy was for women with beards. But if one had a doctor’s note, one could be given a written permit, that must be carried and presented upon request, that would allow one to have a beard. Unless one was a member of the beloved football team. Then one did not need a doctor’s note–it was automatic permission. I wrote a paper on the hypocrisy. I used Scripture in its context and the paper, which was sloppily written and had its fair share of typos, was passed on all the way to the top, so that the next year, beards were acceptable for all, including women, I believe. Since then, I have held to the belief that a good argument can change people’s minds. Unless we are learning for ourselves, we only know what we have been taught. Yet much outdated dogma remains in our Christian institutions. Many “isms” come and go, some of them die hard, some die easily. Even Gamaliel knew this. Lord willing, we will discuss this further when we see Peter in front of the council again, a few short paragraphs from now. Some things are temporary, like the temple. Yet others are forever, such as Jesus’ words and scars. Peter understood this.

“But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, saying, ‘What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.’ And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.'”

We can’t stop! They can’t stop because they are eyewitnesses to the truth. Truth trumps traditions. The elders of the people, after being silenced, sent them away to council together about what to do. That’s very clever. If someone silenced you by their argument, by all means, find like minded individuals and talk about them behind their back where they can no longer defend their beliefs. Certainly don’t consider their argument, which has silenced you, but team up against them. I am obviously being facetious, sarcastic to the extreme. Yet this is exactly the way we all operate.

Forget about the elders for a moment; christians ignore Paul’s words found in 1 Corinthians; “why not rather be wronged,” but give much heed to the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, ripped out of the context to meet our alleged needs. We will go alone, up against someone with whom we disagree, for an outwardly legalistic appearance of adherence to the rippe- out-of-context words of Jesus to confront them. Then, because our motivation was self-centered and not pure, they obviously don’t listen to us. Continuing to ignore the words of Paul, because the truth is we probably weren’t wronged, we find a couple other people who feel the same way about the other person. Continuing to rip Matthew 18 out of context, we form a committee of two or three, because we must maintain the legalistic appearance and not the obvious allusion to how things are to be confirmed, by two or three witnesses, and take council together against our brother. Like the elders, it’s easier to talk behind someone’s back then to have to hear and debate their argument. Then we take our tiny committee and unload on the one with which we disagree, only permitting him to speak when we’re finished dumping our dose of dogma upon him. Which by this time, by design, he is emotionally withdrawn due to being out numbered and put to shame, whether true or false. And what is the end result supposed to be if the two parties don’t agree after this step, according to Jesus in Matthew 18? “Take it to the church.” I have seen the false principles potrayed in Matthew 18 too many times to list. The very fact that I was a witness multiple times is precisely why it was a false principle. That is not that Jesus’ words were false, they are forever true, but that we have manipulated his words to suit and satisfy our own passions. If I was a witness to one going to another in private, clearly they didn’t go in private. But I have written on all of this before. What I have never mentioned but believe should be heard by every christian is the following​: on multiple occasions I have seen Matthew 18 abused but during these abuses I have niether seen the winning of a brother, nor the taking of it to the church, not once. We have all heard it said that, the end justifies the means. But what if the end is worse than the first? And this is also where we are as a culture in the United States. No one wants to discuss or debate, they simply want to silince the opposition. It never occurs to us to look in the mirror first, to see what motivates us. We never consider that we might be wrong, or at least have the wrong motivations. Now we remember and zoom in on the elders.

Simply stated, they told Peter and John to stop. Why did they tell them to stop? What’s the big deal, they healed a man 40 years a leper in the name of some dead guy? Oh that’s right, this dead guy is alleged to be alive, they killed him and the alleged dead guy stood against the elders. Therefore, it’s super simple. They could not have Peter and John talking about Jesus because they would be exposed, lose their power, authority, traditions, way of life, etc. etc. etc.. Nothing ever changes about people in power. So; term limits! I digress.

Like my pastor friend fleeing from his country for speaking nothing but the truth because his government is fearful of what may happen to them if he continues to speak; like the dogmatic dispensationalist calling people like me apostate, because they may lose their ministries if we continue to demonstrate the Biblical context; so are the elders fearful of what may happen to their corner on religion if Peter and John’s testimony spreads. But the elders are smarter than my pastor friend’s government and the dogmatic dispensationalists because they also feared the people. Therefore they let Peter and John go, even though Peter promised proclamation in perpetuity concerning the Christ’s crucifixion.

But there is always a but, they still wouldn’t consider that Peter was telling the truth. Threatened directly and indirectly, by remembering that they put Jesus to death, Peter promised to be faithful to God and not them, and John agreed. Notice, once again, the context. “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.’ And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been peperformed.”

Peter and John did everything the way in which the Spirit lead them. The pious religious leaders did everything contrary to God’s will, yet they confirm that John and Peter were right by their actions. Manipulated by the Holy Spirit but unwillingly, the elders tip their hand and actually allow John and Peter to continue on the mission. They feared the people and not the Lord. I hope the same is true for corrupt governments. And honestly, I hope the same is not true for all the dogmatic false doctrine. I hope that considering the context and reverence for God’s words will change their minds and that we all can get back to the boldness of the gospel, like we see on display in Peter and John. Speaking in tongues, a pre-tribulation rapture and certainly the prosperity promises are not the gospel. The death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins–that is the gospel and we’re given one job to do; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” But Russell P, didn’t he “command” us in Matthew 18? Go ahead, Matthew 18 your brother to death and ignore Matthew 24. Let me know how that works out for you. Know this, I am sorrowful, staring into the mirror of Scripture, knowing that I have not followed Matthew 24 but hypocritically acted more like a ripped-out-of-context Matthew 18 follower. I can tell you how that worked out for me–not well. I hope that I can learn from my mistakes and hope that the next generation can as well, rather than learning these mistakes for themselves. Or worse yet, never learning anything for themselves through the Scriptures. Unless we are learning for ourselves, we only know what we have been taught. Therefore we all make mistakes. The question is, will we learn from them, like Peter, and become bold in the Spirit to properly preach the gospel of grace?

 

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