“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’” (v. 29).- Acts 5:17–42
At Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He amplified this by saying that the Jews he was addressing had been guilty of crucifying Him, and that His resurrection and ascension meant that Jesus was Lord of Lords (Acts 2:36). Doubtless this caused consternation in Jerusalem, but only 3,000 people joined this new sect, so the rulers of the Jews let it pass.
Then Peter healed a lame man. Large numbers of people became excited. Peter preached the same message, a message of condemnation but also of hope (Acts 3:26). The Jewish rulers called Peter in before them. Peter preached the same message to them (Acts 4:10–12). The Jews commanded Peter not to preach this message, but Peter told them that he would not stop (Acts 4:18–20).
More and more people were converting, and more and more people were being healed. If Peter’s shadow fell on a sick person, he was healed (Acts 5:15). [In the old covenant, you became unclean—ceremonially dead— if you came under the shadow of a “leprous” house or entered the house containing a dead body. Now the shadow of God’s new house—His people—heals.]
Consequently, the Jewish leaders had the apostles arrested. But during the night a messenger from the Lord released them. This messenger encouraged them to continue preaching, and the next day they were again faithfully proclaiming the Gospel (Acts 5:17–21).
When the Jewish leaders heard that the apostles were preaching again, they again had them arrested. The officers escorted them courteously, fearing the people. Peter might have called for a political insurrection, but he did not do so. The apostles were single-minded. Their world-transforming message was the Gospel, and their world-transforming method consisted of word and deed. They were not deflected from their course by revolutionary temptations.
The Jewish leaders again told them to be quiet, but Peter said that they had to obey God rather than men. The apostles were whipped, but “day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:42).
Acts recounts the heroic deeds of the early church. Central to these feats was the abiding trust in the power of God. When you are fearful in the face of opposition, do you become angry at God for abandoning you, or do you turn to Him for strength? Ask the Spirit to make you always aware that God is on His throne.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 15:58
1 John 2:3–6