29th August 2023
John Piper asks
Shall We Listen to Men or God?
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition... Acts 4:13-22
Forty years the man had been unable to walk. Yet now he was leaping and running and praising God, because Peter had said, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk."
A great crowd had gathered. Peter had preached a powerful sermon. About 2,000 people were converted, and Peter and John were arrested and put in jail overnight.
The next morning they appeared before the court.
Now in the text we see three things that are amazingly relevant for our life in a secular world.
The first thing we see is a description of Peter and John - the kind of people they were to stand up to the authorities.
On the one hand Peter and John were speaking with straight-forwardness, and confidence and courage and clarity. And they were doing this in the presence of people with power and esteem and scholarship - the rulers and the elders and the scribes. It simply stunned the authorities. These men spoke as though they had the authority on their side.
Then they remembered that this Jesus, whom they had tried to get rid of was just like that.
The second thing we see is the way people often respond when the evidence for truth mounts against them.
Here is something really amazing, and yet very common in the world.
Verse 17 describes the behaviour of a people who are not interested in the truth, but only in the benefit that they get from falsehood. It's like saying: "O look, there's smoke billowing up the stairway from the basement; quick let's close the door and have dinner." Or: "Look, people with cancer are being healed by this new drug; quick let's ban it from the world."
When people are getting some benefit from a wrong, they turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the mounting evidence that they should change.
And the third thing we see is how the disciples respond publicly to the unbelieving rulers of Jerusalem.
This must have been an utterly exasperating and maddening response to the rulers. Why is that? Because it assumes something that the rulers refuse to assume. Peter assumes that he has to choose between listening to God and listening to the rulers. This assumes that the rulers are not speaking on God's side.
Peter doesn't express any apology for this assumption at all. He just says it. And with a kind of disarming simplicity, he speaks as if they must operate on his assumption.
The basis for Peter's response is the utter assurance that Peter has that Jesus is alive, that he is Lord of the universe, that he healed the man, and that obeying him comes before obeying any human ruler.
How is this all relevant for us today?
In order to be bold and forthright and clear in what you say for Jesus in public, you do not need to be formally educated or unusually skilled. What you need is real fellowship with Jesus - real experience with Jesus, the kind of experience that enables you to say: "I cannot but speak what I have seen and heard."
Let us get the idea out of our head that scholarship makes a man or a woman bold, courageous, straightforward, and clear. There is no positive correlation between advanced education and courageous clarity.
Jesus is the truth we need to see, and Jesus is good - radically good. The more you have real dealings with him, the more confident you become in the truth.
It is still true today that those who benefit from wrongdoing and wrong-thinking will usually turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to contrary evidence for what is right and what is true.
Christians should stand up in public and tell God's truth as they see it without worrying that secular listeners may not even agree with our most basic assumptions.
Our calling is not to win or to borrow the assumptions of the world. Our calling is to stand up and tell it like it is in the eyes of God.
The Bible says that the law of God is written on the heart of every person. It says that everyone is created in God's image. There is reason to believe, then, that your witness to the truth - will trigger something deep inside of people.
It will have the ring of truth in their heart of hearts, though it may be temporarily suppressed in unrighteousness. And who knows what God may be pleased to do if his truth is spoken boldly and clearly by tens of thousands of Christians?
We are not called to win; we are called to witness.
Un-edited version and Bible references avaiable, on request
John Piper (@JohnPiper)
is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.
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