The Council’s Response:
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognised them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves. “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 4:13-17
Two very interesting words[ἀγράμματος] agrammatos “untrained, without grammar, unlettered, illiterate, unlearned” [ἰδιώτης] idiotes “ordinary, ignoramus, ignorant, rude, unlearned”.
The meanings of agrammatos:
- illiterate, unable to read and write, uneducated.
- Untrained, without formal training, hadn’t completed Rabbinical school.
Idiotes has a number of possible meanings:
- Layman, untrained, non-professional, tradesmen without academic skills,
- A commoner, not an officer, a private person, an ordinary person, a plebian, someone who is not in an official role, who had nothing but their own personal affairs to deal with.
- ignorant, not well informed about life, common and without public knowledge.
Do you see the issue here? The Council were amazed at the learning of these two disciples. The things they taught were clear and concise and challenging. The Council did not challenge them on the basis of the facts of what they spoke. Neither did they take issue with the theological arguments Peter and John put forward. They said nothing about the links made to Jesus Christ being the Messiah. Peter had made it abundantly clear in what he said about what was happening and the interpretation of the events – that Christ was the Messiah. Notice the Council don’t refute one single fact claimed by Peter, who had been very forceful and direct.
- 2:14 –make no mistake about this. . .
- 2:16 – what you see was predicted long ago
- 2:22 – People of Israel listen . . .God publicly endorsed Jesus . . . as you well know
- 2:36 – Let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah.
- 2:37-38 – What should we do then? Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
- 3:12 –We didn’t heal this man by our own power or godliness.
- 3:16 – Faith in Jesus name has healed him before your very eyes.
- 3:17 – Friends what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance.
- 3:19 –repent of your sins and turn to God
- 4:10 – Let me clearly state to you he was healed in Jesus Name, whom you crucified. . .
- 4:11 – Jesus is the Cornerstone
- 4:12 – There is salvation in no [allos] or no [heteros] name. There is only one name under heaven by which we must be saved.
(See Gem 1423 for an explanation if you haven’t seen it already or have forgotten)
After all this the Council were amazed:
- because of their boldness
- because these men were without special training, men who had not been training in the Rabbinic Schools
- these men were commoners, plebs, ordinary riff raff people
- were speaking in this amazingly clear and comprehensive, big picture way.
Yes, the boldness of Peter and John was a factor. Also too, the fact that the healed man was standing nearby. Don’t miss the irony of what Luke wrote. I will say it again in order to reinforce the fact. “The fact that the formerly lame man was standing nearby.” Did you still miss it? Now with emphasis – the formerly lame man, the man who was healed and STANDING nearby. It was very obvious to all concerned. To the leaders, this man was an embarrassment. He embodied in more ways than one the fact that he had been healed. This man should not have been STANDING but he was. Testimony to the fact something had happened. The question the leaders had asked Peter and John at the morning court was, “By what power, in whose name have you done this?” The issue is not the healing. That is why they have not bothered to question the man. They don’t actually want to interview man because that only highlights the leaders’ problem. Peter makes it very clear to them what authority is behind the action by a masterful demonstration of Holy Spirit led preaching during which he makes plain the leaders’ culpability. But they don’t even react to that. Look at the bold portions above. Imagine being a leader and hearing those statements. What would your reaction be? I think I would be incensed if the case I were bringing to the court was bonefide and these men were preaching heresy and propaganda and this upstart Galilean preacher was nothing more than a subversive itinerant who had been stirring up trouble. That is what they had claimed before the Roman court. If that were truly the case, you would think they would throw the book at these two upstarts who were following in the ways of their master. But the wonder of it all is that they don’t. They don’t really do anything. Why not?
Let me remind you of the other questions I came up with for this segment:
- What role did the healed man, standing there, play in all of this?
- Why was it the Council could say nothing?
- Why did they order Peter and John out of the chamber?
- Why do they say, “What should we do with these men?” Why did they have to do anything?
- What were their alternatives?
- Isn’t the evidence stacked against the council? Why do they persist in continuing the façade?
- Why must they take disciplinary action? What game are they playing?
- Why do they handle this incident with kid gloves when at other times their response is harsher?
Compare some other similar incidents (Acts 5:12-26, 5:40-41) and see how their response on this occasion was very different. What was behind it?
They ordered Peter and John out of the court so they can confer among themselves and decide what to do. Theyclearly didn’twant their discussion and decision making process to be known. If it were made clear before a real court of law their case wouldbe thrown out. A mistrial would be called.
What were the alternatives available to the leaders?
- Declare the men guilty of heresy and false teaching related to Jesus and proceed to a real trial in a Roman court if they want the death sentence like they wanted for their Master.
- Fall on their knees and repent in order to be saved. As if that was likely to happen.
- Confess that the duplicity and “propaganda” is with them, not with the two disciples.
- Confess they the leaders were wrong and let these two innocent men go.
In Acts 4:2 we see that Peter and John were arrested because of a theological issue but the following tone of the narration by Luke indicates there is more to it than that. This is not a theological issue. Think about what Luke has told us. They use the word “propaganda”. The dictionary definition of propaganda is ideas or statements that are false or exaggerated and spread in order to help a cause, a political or religious leader or government or institution. The ideas, facts or allegations are spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.
I will pause here and let you be the judge. Oh, I am sure you can tell there is more to come in the next Gem. We are not finished with this matter yet. What is really at the heart of the problem?
The surest way to save face is to keep the lower part shut.Anon
A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.Zig Ziglar
Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.Eleanor Roosevelt
You can make progress or you can make excuses, but you can’t do both.Johann von Goethe
Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.Elton Trueblood