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The Scriptorium

The Blinding Power of Sin

What's wrong with these people? Acts 4.13-17

No Other Name: Acts 4 (3)

Pray Psalm 12.1-4.
Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
Who have said,
“With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own;
Who is lord over us?”

Sing Psalm 12.1-4
(Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Help, Lord! The godly cease to be; they who believe in Christ are few.
Falsely the wicked confidently flatter, deceive, and mock Your truth.

Stop, Lord, the lips that utter lies, all those who speak with boasting tongue!
See how Your holy Word they despise, while their own praises they have sung.

Read Acts 4.1-17; meditate on verses 13-17.


1. What did the religious leaders see in Peter and John?

2. What did they decide to do?

I supposed we’d be amazed, too. These men were Galileans, for crying out loud! Rubes, not religious leaders.  Fishermen, not theologians, like these judges! “Where do they get off preaching to us! After all, their only ‘credentials’, such as they were, were that they had been with…but let’s not go there.” Look at the evidence! A healed man standing there. Two fishermen boldly taking on the religious leaders of the day. A “notable miracle”, indeed!

The apostles are dismissed while the leaders deliberate. But they only deliberate about one thing: This has got to stop! Didn’t they care that others might also be healed? Didn’t they want to hear a bit more about this Jesus from those who’d known Him? No. No, they did not. They wanted all this to stop. Now.

So the religious leaders made an epic decision: “Let’s tell them to stop preaching.” See what I mean about comical? This is utterly laughable to think that the words and threats of mere men could keep the Gospel from going forward. Well, it was in Peter and John’s day, anyway.

Does being with Jesus make a difference? By being with Him we participate in Him, in His Presence and glory, and there we are transformed, as Peter and John were, by the Spirit of God working with the Word of God in our lives (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Nothing can substitute for being with Jesus if we are to be faithful witnesses to His resurrection.

The religious leaders were completely flummoxed at the courage and conviction of Peter and John. Yet, despite the miracle and the bold preaching, they determined to try to contain the threat to their authority and status. The religious leaders had a problem, all right, but it wasn’t Peter and John. It was the blinding power of sin.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The religious leaders, then and now, have another problem too, and that is the incomparable power of the Holy Spirit working through ordinary people.

Think of it. The religious leaders certainly were. All their training, all the education, all the preparation, all the church politics, all the self-seeking displays, and that putrefying preening were no match for ordinary people full of the love and grace and wisdom of God. “Oh, the depth and the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11.33).

And how absolutely irritating this was to the religious leaders of the day. Sadly, their belief system was fueled by the father of lies, our enemy Satan. Jesus said to folks of the same ilk, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8.44).

Let’s review this situation: Peter and John are duly noted as uneducated, untrained men. They, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit have performed a “notable miracle” that, as an inconvenient truth, everybody has seen! The leaders’ astute conclusion: perhaps this happened because they had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4.13).

And here is where their genius becomes evident. The light bulb goes on, and poof, they’ve got it! We’ll command them “that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” (Acts 4.17).

Sure enough. That’ll do it.

But it didn’t do it then.

But would it do something today?
Would the church be silenced by such a warning?
Would we?

Not if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1.7).

Our backgrounds, our educational status, our prosperity or lack of it, our standing in the community,
nothing is relevant.

Only our relationship with Jesus matters.
Can people tell that we have been with Him?

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1.18).

For reflection

1. What does it mean for you to be with Jesus? What can you do to get more time with Him?

2. How had being with Jesus affected Peter and John?

3. We don’t expect everyone who hears us to believe the Gospel. But does this mean we should not share the Gospel with everyone? Explain.

What stupidity to suppose that those who had tasted of the struggle would now take fright! And it would be even greater stupidity if, after their initial failure, they expected to accomplish something after such a specimen of oratory. The more they wished to hinder, the more it prospered. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Act of the Apostles 10.

Pray Psalm 12.5-8.
Thank God that His Word is reliable, powerful, and true. Ask Him to fill you with His Word and Spirit as you go forth into your Personal Mission Field today.

Pray Psalm 12.5-8.
(Hamburg: When I Survey the Wonderous Cross)
Rise up, O Lord, and rescue all Your precious children sore distressed.
Save those who faithfully on You call; grant them deliv’rance, peace, and rest.

Your words are pure and proven true, like silver seven times refined;
You will preserve Your Word ever new, and keep the heart to You inclined.

Proudly the wicked strut and stand; Your indignation builds on high.
Men may exalt their wicked plans, but You will judge them by and by.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. For more about what Jesus is doing at the right hand of God, order a free copy of our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? (click here).

You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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