While the new faith was gaining popularity and favor among the people of Jerusalem (Acts 2:47), it was in
conflict with the religious rulers of the city. It's teaching about a resurrected Christ was unacceptable to the Sadducees who did not believe in the
possibility of any kind of resurrection. And the public teaching of Peter and John brought out the jealousy of the priests. (The apostles were encroaching upon
their turf.) They considered the apostles to be "unlearned and ignorant" (Acts 4:13) probably because they did not attend the rabbinical schools that they attended.
(Although we might say they had their "Master's degree" from having been with Jesus for over three years.)
As this story unfolds we can see the "power
struggle" between the apostles and the rulers being played out.
Power play -
round one. Vs. 1-16
1. In the first round, the rulers were insinuating that the apostles had "crossed
the line" of religious authority. They asked, "By what name (authority) have you done this?" (Vs. 7.) In his response, Peter suggested that the
rulers had actually been the ones that "crossed the line" by rejecting the stone (Jesus) which is now the head of the corner. (Vs. 10-11.) In fact,
Peter went on point out a "new line" that the rulers were not yet aware of when he asserted that there is no other authority except Jesus that can
save. (Vs. 12.)
2. The miracle of chapter 3 had occurred around 3:00 pm (Acts 3:1) and Peter and John were arrested by the temple
captain at eventide (or about 6:00 pm). During those three hours the crowd had gathered, Peter had preached, and many had been persuaded to believe. How many
men were recorded as having been believers according to verse 4. Could this great increase in numbers been part of what had alarmed the priests?
3. In verse 6 we learn that the highest ruling religious leaders of the city gathered to examine the authority with which Peter and John had
healed the lame man. These were the very men who had plotted the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus. In verse 9, Peter made it clear that they were being
examined about a "good deed." Is it normal for people to be arrested and examined for doing good deeds? What kind of effect do you think Peter's
reference to their arrest for doing a "good deed" would have had on the leaders? Would it have knocked some of the wind out of their sails?
4. Does Peter turn the tables on the leaders in verse 10? Read verse 12 again. Was Peter
saying that this new faith of Christianity excludes all those religious people who seek salvation in some other authority except Christ? When it comes to line
drawing, verse 12 is too narrow for many. But who drew that line?
5. Logically, "for every effect there must be a cause." According to Peter, what or who was the cause behind the miracle of
chapter 3? According to verses 14 and 16 were the religious leaders unable to deny the validity of the effect or miracle? Discuss the logical dilemma that the
rulers faced in trying to deny the cause (Christ) of the effect (the undeniable miracle.) To
admit the miracle was valid was to admit that the message Peter preached about a resurrected Christ was correct.
Power play -
round two. Vs. 17-22
1. In the second round of discussions the rulers countered by
drawing a "new line" of their own, coupled with a threat not to
cross it. What did they command Peter and John not to speak or teach at all? (Vs. 18.) What was their response? (Vs. 19.) The essence of their response
was: "Which line do you think we
should pay more attention to fellas.... your line or God's?"
2. When one's
authority is being threatened, many will use their authority to produce threats. In this case, the threats are idle. The rulers knew that they had no legal
grounds to punish these men for doing a "good deed." But they did not want them to "speak at all" in the name (or authority) of Jesus.
Look ahead at Acts 5:28. What was it about their preaching that really bothered these rulers?
3. When we are made to chose between crossing a line that God has drawn and a line that man had drawn, which should we chose? According to
verse 20, Peter and John had seen and heard things that they could not keep quiet about. Have you ever wanted to tell something to others so much that you felt
like you might explode if you didn't say it? Well that is probably about how these men felt. They would die before they would be silent. Discuss how this in
itself helps to validate their claim that Jesus was resurrected.?