Last night my wife and I were reading Acts 4 when I noticed something I hadn’t seen before (or saw and forgot…who knows when you have a newborn…). Acts 4 follows Acts 3, where Peter and John heal a lame man who’s more than 40 years old (Acts 4:22). He’s lame, asks for money, they command him to rise up and walk, and he does (Acts 3:1-9) in full view of thousands of onlookers (Acts 4:4). Everyone knows the guy because he’s been lying on his mat for decades (Acts 3:10) and then Peter preaches the good news of the resurrection of Christ in the temple (Acts 3:11-26). Then, in Acts 4 Peter and John are called before the Sanhedrin the next day and read them the riot act (Acts 4:4-13) Then, comes this passage:
14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
Now that’s an amazing apologetics text with some amazing implications to apologetics and evangelism.
– The facts were irrefutable.
– The guy who was healed was standing in plain sight.
– The Sanhedrin recognized that it was a sign, meaning a divine sign (an act of God).
– They knew that it was “evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”, meaning that the whole city knew the guy and would eventually hear about it.
– They admitted that they could not deny the reality of the healing.
– The facts of the healing weren’t in question. The facts were plain and irrefutable. So did the Sanhedrin recognize he facts that were glaring them in the face and submit to the obvious and irrefutably proven conclusion that Peter and John were speaking on behalf of the God that they claimed to worship?
Not for a second.
– Instead, they attempted to suppress the apostolic interpretation of the facts. They didn’t tell them to shut up completely, just to shut up about Jesus.
– When that didn’t work out well, the Sanhedrin threatened them. The Sanhedrin knew that Peter and John were speaking on behalf of God and they hated it. The people knew that Peter and John were speaking on behalf of God and the Sanhedrin hated it.
Unregenerate people can see the facts of reality (including the facts of science, history, etc.) and the facts are never the problem. The interpretation of the facts; the unregenerate person’s hatred of the God to whom the facts point is the problem. The carnal mind is unable to see the facts of reality rightly; not rightly in relation to other facts (i.e. that’s why they can balance their checkbook, do successful research, etc.) but rather rightly in relation to God’s interpretation of all facts (namely, scripture).
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “just the facts ain’t enough” Unger