ACTS 4 = BOLD PROCLAMATION
Bible Background: Acts is an ongoing encounter between the forces that put Jesus to death and the power of God which raised him to life. This scene is the first conflict between the apostles and local authorities. It follows on the healing of the crippled man at the temple (chap. 3), after which Peter & John are arrested.
Digging Deeper: 1. The authorities who interrogate Peter & John are the same ones who put Jesus to death. (Elders and Scribes are part of the Jewish Council-the Sanhedrin.) They still think they are in charge! This is exactly what Jesus told the disciples to expect (Luke 12:11-12) and he promised them the Holy Spirit would help them know what to say!
2. Indeed, Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.8) and speaks with boldness. His speech follows a pattern: a) He addresses all the “people of Israel”. b) He assigns blame for the death of Jesus. c) He tells how God raised Jesus up! d) He interprets scripture to back up his claim that God has vindicated Jesus by raising him up (Psalm 118, “the stone that the builders rejected”). e) The message of Jesus entails salvation (The healed man is actually ‘saved’ in the Greek.) f) There is a ‘necessity’ to all this as part of the overarching purposes of God.
3. Peter’s boldness is refreshing, especially after his cowardice on the night of Jesus’ arrest. He is no longer afraid to be connected to Jesus. What makes this boldness possible? An easy answer would be the Holy Spirit. A deeper look would also reveal how his belief in the power of the resurrection has transformed his life. When have you felt emboldened by the Holy Spirit?
4. In an age of semi “religious tolerance”, what are Christians to make of Peter’s claim that “There is salvation in no one else?” We do not fall for the wimpy and dishonest statement that “all religions believe pretty much the same thing.” Nor do we dismiss all other religions as simply inferior, with ours being the ‘best’ or the only ‘true’ religion. Honest respect and dialog with people of Jewish and Muslim faith helps us be clear that we are more open to others because we belong to Jesus-not less open. It also helps us face honestly how Christian history has sometimes witnessed clearly to the cause of Christ, and sometimes has not.
5. It seems that the good deed in this story has been overlooked: a person who was crippled and impoverished has been given new life and new joy! That’s the power of God and the Good News of Jesus at work! How do we sometimes miss ‘good news’ because it came from a source other than our own religion or party?