Counted Worthy to Suffer Dishonor
So the apostles were again in the temple teaching the people the “words of this Life,” just after being jailed for doing so the previous day. One can picture Peter beginning, “Now, as I was just about to say….” When the officers discovered that the apostles had departed the confines of the jail for the roomier precincts of the temple, they came to escort them to appear before the council, but not by force for fear of the people. The apostles were willing to go.
We read that the high priest reminded them of their previous instructions, not to teach “in this name,” for they had filled Jerusalem with their teaching and “intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (a very ironic statement given Matthew 27:25). The apostles responded as they did at their last arraignment: “We must obey God rather than men.” But that wasn’t what got them into trouble; it was this: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (read: those who repent and believe). And so you have the resurrection (first in importance), the crucifixion, the exaltation, the doctrine of regeneration (repentance and forgiveness), and the Holy Spirit, all packed in one wallop, while pinning the blame for the crucifixion on the council as well. The council was not amused. But before taking drastic measures, Gamaliel, a respected teacher of his day advised them to do nothing, rehearsing the account of two previous ruffians whose seditions came to naught. Better to let God deal with them than us. And allow me now to quickly warn that though Gamaliel’s advice saved the apostles from certain death, it is not a principle for Christian living; indeed, I think Gamaliel advised as he did as a matter of expedience. Anyway, such an attitude can lead to indifference or just plain passivity in the face of evil. There may be times when such a position might be the prudent one to take, but it is not a universal principle; God may call us to take a stand.
And finally, after being beaten, we hear these words: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Jesus said the same (Matthew 5:10-11). Persecution is the Christian’s badge of honor. It means that God counted that one worthy of walking the via dolorosa with his Master. God thus honored those apostles. Perhaps He shall so honor us one day.