Acts 4:13

Memorial bust of Sgt. York

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Only the words of Peter are recorded, but from this verse it appears that both Peter and John had spoken. As Peter is the main focus of the ongoing narrative, it is his words that Luke has focused on. With this understanding, it is probable that John had spoken previously at the temple as well. This is a side issue, but it is at least worth noting.

The focus is on Peter specifically to stand as a testimony that he, as the apostle to the circumcision (meaning the Jews), had witnessed and presented the gospel to them. In their national rejection of Jesus, the focus will then switch to that of Paul and to the effective evangelism of the Gentiles. For now, and understanding this, Luke continues by saying, “Now when they saw.”

The verb is a present participle and should be rendered as such, “Seeing now…,” or “Now seeing…” It is a reference to the council that included the rulers, elders, scribes, high priest, and others of the high priestly family noted in verses 4:5, 6. This gathering is then to be considered the most educated and sophisticated group of people in the nation. What they saw (meaning saw and heard) concerns “the boldness of Peter and John.”

The word signifying “boldness” means more than just being outwardly brash or offensive, but rather it reveals a confidence in what they were conveying. There was no ambiguity, equivocation, or peevishness in them. What they said was plainly stated and would have been plainly understood. With this defining them and their words, it notes that those of the council “perceived.”

The word translated as “perceived” signifies to lay hold of something, and thus to understand or apprehend. Despite their eloquence and confidence of speech, the council had become fully aware “that they were uneducated.”

The word, found only here in Scripture, literally means “unlettered.” This means they had not had any formal rabbinic training. And yet, what they had spoken forth was based upon Scripture and was spoken in the proper context. One would expect Peter’s citing of Scripture to be a “pick and choose” approach that presented a few verses out of context, but this was not the case. This continues to be seen in the next description of them which says, “and untrained men.”

It is a new word in Scripture, idiótés. One can see the immediate connection to our modern word “idiot,” of which it still bears a similar meaning to that of the Greek. It signifies a person who lacks education or proper instruction. Because of this, his words would be poorly structured and easily misunderstood.

However, despite being unlettered and unlearned Galileans – apparent idiots in comparison to them – the apostles spoke with an eloquence and flavor of speech that amazed the council. As such, “they marveled.”

It is the same word used in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, and they began to speak in tongues. At that time, it said –

“Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?’” Acts 2:7

The fluency of speech in other languages of that passage has turned into a fluency of speech and oration in this passage. In both instances, the reaction is to be awestruck to the point of wondering greatly. One can almost hear the mutters among the council, “How can they know these things? They are just country bumpkins!” But this process of thought brought them to a new comprehension. As Luke next records, “And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

Here, the same word is used as was cited when the crowd recognized the beggar who was healed in Acts 3:10. It was as if a light had switched on. In essence, “The same awareness of the Scriptures that we saw in Jesus is also in them.” And, of course, it should be so. The same Author of Scripture filled them both. This is something Peter carefully records later in his second epistle –

“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21

The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture, and the Holy Spirit filled Jesus, and now He fills the apostle with the understanding and ability to rightly communicate this word to those they encountered. This is explicitly stated of Jesus in Luke 4:1, and it was just noted of Peter in Acts 4:8.

The fact that these men had been with Jesus should have clued them into the fact that more was going on than would normally be realized. But their minds rejected what they perceived in Jesus, instead finding offense at Him –

“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. 54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ 57 So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:53-58

Life application: It should not be expected that believers today will suddenly be filled with the Spirit and start to rightly quote Scripture when challenged by others. The passage before us is descriptive. It simply describes what occurred in order to establish the basis for the faith, and to demonstrate that even with an active working on the part of the Spirit, the leaders and people of Israel rejected their Messiah.

Today, we have the whole counsel of God, and we are expected to know it. And, we are expected to not only know it, but to handle it properly. There are countless professors of theology that do neither in both colleges and seminaries around the world. They are untrained in proper theology because they are first unschooled in the word.

Those who grow in the word first will be able to avoid this happening to them. They will know when faulty theology is presented. Even if they do not necessarily know what is correct, they can at least weed out that which is incorrect.

Learning proper theology is hard work, but once it is obtained, then right doctrine can be applied to that theology. The most important aspect of this process is to be properly learned in Scripture. Therefore, read the Bible. Keep reading the Bible. And then, read the Bible more. Never stop reading this word. It is a safeguard against the poor theologies that abound in the world today.

As a final note, be sure to read the Bible.

Lord God, give us the strong hunger to desire Your word at all times. Help us to be wise and to set it before us when we rise. Help us to be discerning and to contemplate it throughout the day. And, Lord, help us to consider it once again before we retire at night. May our days be filled with reading and considering Your precious word. Amen.