We Cannot But Speak
Peter and John were speaking before the greatest tribunal among the Jews in the land. One might be a little intimidated. I have had a few occasions in which I was at court on behalf of someone else and the room, the language, the legal regalia of the persons in charge, … well it’s all very unsettling, to say the least. No doubt these priests were used to being respected, feared, and obeyed. I imagine most were content to walk in and say, “Yes, sir,” “No sir,” and “Thank you, sir,” and then happily walk away unscathed. Not so, these apostles. Now we noted yesterday that Peter and John addressed these men with respect, but they also addressed them with the truth of the gospel, that is, the good news that through the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and only through that name, and through faith in that name and repentance from sin against that name, must one be saved. The Savior of the Jewish nation (and of Gentiles as well) had arrived and was now calling them to himself. Good news, indeed!
And they spoke with boldness; they seemed not the least bit afraid or intimidated. The council was shocked in that these men were obviously uneducated (i.e., not that they were stupid, but that they had not been trained in the Law by a noteworthy teacher), but also recognized that they had been with Jesus – the man they had recently condemned to death by the hands of the Romans and whose “movement” they apparently thought they had quashed. But here his followers were standing before them having healed a man born lame, having done so in Jesus’ name, and worst of all, preaching the resurrection from the dead in Jesus’ name.
And what were they to do? They could not deny the miracle. But they certainly could not have these men preaching in the name of Jesus any longer. So they threatened them: Preach any longer in this name at your peril. But Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And in these words the Christian has his liberty to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It derives not from the law of the land nor from any government; it derives from our Lord himself. Of course, such testimony may cost one life, limb, or livelihood. And I certainly believe that one should be prudent (i.e., not reckless) regarding place, time, and to whom. But we must ultimately stand for the truth of God’s word even in the face of persecution. The Christian’s magna Charta, and God’s command, is simply this: We must obey God rather than man.