The Animosity of the Religious Leaders Part 5 of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
By using that quotation from Psalm 118 (v. 22), which he had just quoted, he denied he was leading men away from Jehovah; and claimed that he was acting in harmony with the foretelling of their ancient scriptures which was the bulk of the message he had delivered in Solomon’s Porch. The rulers were as a result put on the defense! They had rejected the only Savior of Israel and they were preventing the completion of God’s building. Thus no other way of salvation is open to people—“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2.5).
Salvation delivers the believing soul from sin:
• “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1.21)
• “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5.31).
I believe the beggar was not only saved from a long and painful illness, but was also genuinely saved. This greater and more important salvation, salvation from sin, comes only through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Jesus had the power to heal the body, that was not His primary purpose for coming into the world. He came to save men from sin, to give His life and shed His blood, that whosoever might accept His finished work might have everlasting life. Peter now stresses this great truth by assuring the people that the lame man had been healed by the power of Jesus, and then pointing out that only by that same power can men be saved from eternal death and hell. There are only two religious paths: the broad path of works salvation leading to eternal death, and the narrow path of faith in Jesus leading to eternal life—“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7.13, 14).
Certainly, this was a favorable occasion, one which afforded a glorious opportunity for Peter to introduce the message of the gospel to the great council of the nation Israel. He knew the leaders of Israel believed that salvation would come through the Messiah—but they refused to believe that that Messiah was Jesus. Therefore Peter assured them that it was through the power of the name of Jesus that the lame man had been made whole physically—and then went on to the great truth that only through the name of Jesus could men be made whole spiritually.
That was a great message by Simon Peter, and this is a fine note on which to conclude that message to the Sanhedrin.
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
The assessment of Peter and John as uneducated laymen (“unlearned and ignorant;” not “unintelligent and illiterate”) reflects the spiritual pride of the professionals in theology, but does not mean what many people suppose. These men hadn’t been to a theological seminary, but the Sanhedrin noted that they had been with Jesus. How wonderful it is to have a life that somehow or other calls attention to Jesus. The Sanhedrin admitted that Peter’s defense was both skillful and powerful but since Peter and John had not been trained in one of the rabbinical schools, their obvious abilities were due to their training in the “unofficial school” of Jesus.
Now, the Sanhedrin had a problem. They were in a dilemma; no matter what they decided, they were trapped. First, they could not deny the miracle, because the man who had been lame was standing in front of them—completely healed and bubbling over with praise for God for healing him. Secondly, they had no explanation for how “uneducated and untrained” men could perform such a mighty deed. Peter and John were simple Galilean fisherman, not professional scribes or authorized ministers of the Jewish religion. They were known to be disciples of Jesus of Nazareth—but He was DEAD! The council took notice of the courage and confidence of Peter and John, as well as the powerful effect of Peter’s words; and everything about these men only served to bewilder and astound them. It was highly unusual for unschooled laymen to speak with such effectiveness and authority.
The members of the Sanhedrin, with a couple of celebrated exceptions, namely Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, had so hardened their hearts that the message of Peter’s words did not reach them. They hated the name of Jesus, and these apostles of His had stood before them and declared that name to be above every name, the only name by which men can be saved. This was the great council of the Jewish nation that was so revered by the people, yet these unlearned and ignorant men accused them of crucifying their Messiah—Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In Proverbs 28.1 we read, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” God’s witnesses should not be reckless, but like the apostles of old, we should be bold when witnessing to unbelievers. The book of Acts contains the record of a number of God’s men who courageously witnessed for Christ in the face of severe persecution—even in the face of death. For example, Chapter 5, verses 40-42, tells of how the apostles were beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus; yet they spoke daily in the temple and in every house, “teaching and preaching Jesus Christ.”
Though Peter and John were carefully scrutinized by the men who set on the Sanhedrin there was that within them which could not be seen with the eyes or comprehended by lost sinners—they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That means they had clear vision, absolute certainty, strong passion, and unflinching courage.
“And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” I wish that could be said about me, that the first time anyone meets me they would say, “Tom Lowe has been with Jesus”—that my life, my speech, my face would show that I have been with my Lord and Savior.
14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
In Chapter 3, verse 2, we noted that the crippled man was carried daily to the Temple gate “to ask alms of them that entered into the Temple.” We know from verse 22 of this chapter that the man was more than forty years old, and during that time someone—some friend or relative, perhaps—had carried him each day to his accustomed place by the Temple gate. We can be certain that the men who sat on this council had seen him there every day, year after year, and there was no question that the man was lame. Everyone knew him, everyone knew he had never walked. Now that same man stood before them, and only minutes before he had been leaping, walking, and praising God for his healing! Certainly, it was impossible for the council to deny the mighty miracle that had been wrought. They “could say nothing” to repudiate the miracle because living evidence stood before them.
It is important to note that the miracle, of its self, was not proof of the resurrection of Christ or even of the truth of Peter’s message. Satan can perform miracles—“Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2.9, 10)—and false prophets can do wonders (Deut. 13.1-5). The miracle and the message, in the context of all that has been going on since Pentecost, was one more evidence that Jesus Christ was alive and at work in the church by His Holy Spirit. In both sermons, Peter used the Old Testament to support and explain his claims, and this is one evidence of a true prophet of God—“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8.20). Miracles are not a substitute for the Word of God (Luke 16.27-31).
The council thought they could silence the two apostles by threats and persecution, but the apostles were only experiencing what Jesus had promised—“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10.19, 20).
15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
The council did not seek for truth, but instead looked for some way to avoid the truth of Peter’s message. Had they honestly considered the evidence and meekly listened to the message, they might have been saved, but their pride and hardness of heart stood in the way. Some of the chief priests and elders had experienced a similar dilemma during Passover when they had tried to trap Jesus in the Temple (Matt. 21.23-27). Some people never learn! But their response is proof that miracles alone can never convict or convert the lost sinner. Only the Word of God can do that (see John 11.45-53; Acts 14.1-20).