The Animosity of the Religious Leaders Part 3 of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Their question was legal, but they did everything they could to avoid admitting that a miracle had taken place (v. 14). They were evasive, and merely referred to the miracle as “this.” They were probably disrespectful as well, so their question might be paraphrased, “Where did common people like you get the power and authority to do a thing like this?” It was once again a question of “By whose name?” After all, the apostles might be in league with the devil! Even Satan can perform miracles! Having decided to follow that strategy they pretended that the inquiry involved a case of exorcism. The view held by Judaism at this time was that all illness and afflictions were caused by demons. The only way to cure a person was by exorcising the demon who caused the trouble. In reality, the Sadducees were not opposed to the use of a name or a power to cure a person in some sort of a magical way. The real issue, though, was the disturbance of peace. It is recognized, however, that other persons may identify the issue as an attack on the Sadducee’s position on the resurrection. Nevertheless, the question about the name, gave Peter a clue for his defense.
This incident marks the first real persecution encountered by the apostles—the first fulfillment of the many prophecies Jesus gave them of the persecution that was sure to come:
• “Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15.20).
• "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Matt. 10.16, 17).
• “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.” (Mark 13.9).
Mark 15.40 tells us that on one occasion the apostles were brought before the council and were severely beaten and were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus. But with each persecution, the Church grew stronger, and in 2 Timothy 3.12 the apostle Paul made this positive declaration: “YES, AND ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION.”
True believers will suffer persecution throughout this Dispensation of Grace; but the most horrible persecution will take place during the Great Tribulation period, after the Church is raptured, and the antichrist sits on the throne in Jerusalem, declaring that he is God. The Jews will gather in Jerusalem, and they will have peace for approximately three and one-half years, after which they will encounter such persecution as the world has never known up to that time. In Matthew 24.21, 22 Jesus declared: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. AND UNLESS THOSE DAYS WERE SHORTENED, NO FLESH WOULD BE SAVED; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.”
“In the midst” simply means in the presence of the great council of religious leaders. Peter and John were brought before the body of men who considered themselves to be the custodians of the Laws of God and claimed the right to regulate the religious affairs of Israel. These religious rulers had tremendous influence over the people, and the masses feared their displeasure. Realizing this the council hoped to intimidate Peter and John by questioning them.
By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
In other words, “What supernatural force did you employ to heal this man? He has been a cripple since birth, yet he now stands before us completely whole! What name did you use to bring about this healing?”
The Sanhedrin could not deny the fact of the miracle, because the healed man stood in front of them. In fact, afterward, they would admit that they could not deny this was a miracle (v. 16). Everyone had known him for many years, there was no denying he had been a hopeless cripple all his life, and certainly, none could deny the perfection of his healing. He stood within the circle of the council with the light of salvation on his face and gladness in his heart. We can be sure he would not deny the miracle of his healing, nor would Peter and John deny their part in it.
The phrasing of the question itself acknowledged that a miracle had been wrought. The Sanhedrin made no effort to deny the miracle, but their question constituted a refusal to accept the explanation given by Peter and John in Solomon’s Porch. Peter had declared that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had sent His Son into the world; but they had rejected Him and delivered him up to be crucified. He further declared that God had raised Him from the dead and that it was “through faith in His name” that the crippled beggar had been given “perfect soundness.”
The council discarded that statement in its entirety. They refused to believe Peter’s testimony; and ignoring the fact that he had already told them by what means the man had been healed, they demanded that he tell them by what power (or in what name) the miracle had been brought about.
The council was acting in accordance with these instructions which had been given to Israel under the Mosaic system. In their spiritual blindness they fitted Peter and John into the description of the false prophet, the “dreamer of dreams” set forth in the Law of Moses (Deut. 13.1-5). According to that law, they were to search and inquire diligently; and if these men were trying to lead the people to follow another god the death penalty must be passed upon them for attempting to turn men from Jehovah, the true God, to a false god. Therefore they asked the two apostles, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost,
Peter spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Peter is again “filled with the Holy Spirit”—filled to deliver a special and specific message. He was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost—“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4); and would experience another filling before the day ended—“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4.31). He wasn’t baptized with the Holy Spirit at this time—that had already been accomplished, and it only happens once. However he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and there must be many fillings of the Spirit if a believer is going to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ. You and I need the filling of the Holy Spirit. That is something we should seek after; it is something we should devotedly want. Don’t tarry and wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They had to tarry and wait until the Day of Pentecost when they were all baptized into one body, but today if you will turn to Jesus Christ, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and placed into the body of believers the precise moment you are regenerated—“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12.13). Paul instructed the Ephesians, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5.18, 19).
I repeat—there is one baptism, there are many fillings of the Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit will fill us any time, any place, if we need the filling of the Spirit to glorify God—whether it is for delivering a sermon or witnessing to an individual. Anytime God calls on us to minister, the Holy Spirit will fill us, speak to us and through us, and work through us if only we will allow Him to do so. He does not speak today in the same way in which He dictated the Word of God to the holy men of old, but He does speak to our hearts, and He speaks through us when we are completely yielded to Him.
Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
There is no doubt in my mind that as Peter stood before this council composed of the rulers and elders of Israel, he remembered the night his Lord had stood before this same council, the night when Peter had followed “afar off.” He had dishonored Jesus that night—he had denied Him, swearing, vowing that he had never known Him (Luke 22.54-62)—but now before the same council, in the same room, he was being given an opportunity to honor and glorify the Savior. He had truly repented of his sin of denial—the scriptures tell us he “went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22.62); and true repentance gave him boldness to stand and witness for Jesus without fear.