“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.”Acts 4:16-17
Peter and John recalled and threatened:
So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.Acts 4:18-22
Firstly, I will pick up on an unanswered question from several Gems ago related to the passage we have just finished. A few people have commented or asked, thinking that I have forgotten to comment on it. Are you going to deal with what Luke means by Peter “being filled with Spirit”? No I hadn’t forgotten. Rather, I plan to pick it up at a later date. The idea of the coming of the Spirit to us personally and His infilling comes up a number of times in Acts. Hence, I plan to wait for a more focused time rather than deal with it at the first mention. I often do that on other topics as well. Sometimes I don’t intend to comment on certain items but then I end up doing just that because someone has asked or made comment. Matters that no-one comments on or questions, I simply by-pass.
Some of you have also commented on the fact that you felt there was nothing in this section before us that you needed to question. Yes that is true too. There are times when there is nothing to question. When the text is clear and the issue is more a matter of us doing what we understand the writer or the Holy Spirit is telling us to do. Other times there are deep questions we have to ask first to make sure we understand clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of God. He doesn’t mind you asking. In fact I believe He likes us to ask. Sometimes not asking is more a matter of a lack of faith than asking. Reading through the text and having no questions can mean simply that you understand all the implications, after which you only have to put the principle into practice in your life. That is why the questions I gave you in the last Gems are so helpful. They keep us sharp and focused.
I guess you would say, true to form, I had a number of new questions that came to mind as I have been reading this section over and over this time around. Namely:
What did the members of Council mean by “not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again” and later “commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus”?
It seems an extraordinarily strong prohibition. The warning the council gave the disciples was a strict command from the Supreme Jewish Court – more serious than “contempt of court” in this day and age. The command was strict and permitted no exception of any kind. The present infinitives indicate they were to stop doing something they had been doing up to when the statement was made. It was linear and applied for all time. Doesn’t that seem a little excessive? Just look at the English translation of the the statement.
Furthermore, what are the implications of “we must warn them” followed by “The council then threatened them further . . .” ?
- Lame from birth (3:2) now we are told. Why does Luke add the fact that the lame man was more than 40 years old? Why is this fact important to our understanding?
- Does it remind you of something?
- Having discussed all we have about the council and their motivation, etc, what do you conclude were their prime concerns in this case?
Following the questions, I noticed a number of things:
The difference between verses 4:17 and 4:18 – Jesus or “this name”? Five out of 34 versions translate ‘Jesus’ in verse 17. Those five versions are CEV, GNB, GW, MSG and NLT, along with one Indonesian version, BIS. But when it comes to verse 18, all 34 versions translate ‘Jesus’ for this verse. Why the difference? It is clear when you look at the original Greek text that the name ‘Jesus’ is included in verse 17 and not included in verse 18. I will comment on what I think is going on here in the next Gem. Ponder the difference in the meantime. Was it deliberate or just a fleeting, unimportant feature of the use of language?
Take note and weigh up the nature of Peter’s response and his answer to the council. It is masterful. Take time to meditate on it yourself first. Then I will put it together for you.
Did you pick up on the most important of the Application Questions that I gave you, which every one of us needs to apply when we read this passage?
I hope so. If not go back and look again and see if there is not a glaring question you need to ask yourself when reading this passage.
When you’re going through a rough time and you start to wonder where God is, remember the teacher is always quiet during the test!Rick Godwin
Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.Corrie ten Boom
There isn’t enough room in your mind for worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.Anon
Don’t dare to be different, dare to be yourself – if that doesn’t make you different then something is wrong.Bruce Lee