Tuesday, 18 January 2022
saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. Acts 4:16
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The verse now begins in the middle of a thought that started with the previous verse. Taken together, they read –
“But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, ‘What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.’”
As can be seen, it is the council that has gathered together that has sent Peter and John outside while they confer. With them excused, they begin by “saying, ‘What shall we do to these men?’”
For such a council, the question is wholly inappropriate. They were called together to hear a matter, judge as to its legality in accord with the law, and to then determine the verdict on that matter alone. The verdict was to be “Guilty before the law” or “Not guilty of violating the law.” Only if a finding of guilt was determined would a punishment then be decided upon. And that too was to be according to whatever the law set forth.
Nothing like this is now taking place. To ask, “What shall we do to these men?”, is to decide a punishment without a verdict of guilt. It is obvious that what they wanted was to quiet them concerning the message they proclaimed. But it is a message that was validated as to its truth, as they themselves note, saying, “For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done.”
Rather than “miracle,” the word sémeion, or “sign,” is used. It should be translated as such. It is true that this was a miracle, but miracles are often signs. However, miracles don’t necessarily point to something else. They are often simply a demonstration of power which results in an effect. A sign goes further and points to something else.
In this case, it is a sign because it points directly to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. It is a confirmation of this to the house of Israel. This is evident from what occurred in the healing of the beggar. He did not have faith to be healed. In fact, he did nothing. The record shows that Peter simply saw him and healed him. A miracle? Yes. But it is a miracle that is a sign –
“And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” Acts 3:4-7
After this, Peter spoke to the people clearly stating that it was not they who healed the man, but rather the faith which is found in Jesus (not the man’s faith) that made it possible. This was carefully detailed during the analysis of Acts 3. It is this sign that was given, and the council even acknowledges that it is so. They go further, though, saying that the sign has been done “through them.”
It is an absolute confirmation that the sign points to something else. The sign was done dia, through, them. They were simply the means, not the Source, by which it came about. This is the same thing that is revealed in the confirmation that the Lord was with Moses. He was given three signs while on Mount Sinai. They were given to him to validate that his authority came from the Lord. When Moses presented them to the people, the signs confirmed the messengers –
“So Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. 30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.” Exodus 4:28-31
The people believed that the Lord was with Moses and Aaron. What they ultimately failed to do was to believe the Lord who sent them. The same is true here. That begins to be seen with the next words where they acknowledge that the sign done through them “is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem.”
Everyone who saw the healing of the beggar had to face the stark truth that it was a miracle. But more, they had to acknowledge that it was a confirmation of the power of Jesus, a sign. The apostles denied that they had been the source of the healing. Instead, they openly stated Who the Source was.
The sign pointed to the truth that Jesus is, in fact, alive. As such, it means He resurrected. And because of this, it proves that He is the Messiah. Even the council knew it was a sign. Not only was it evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, but they finish the thought with, “and we cannot deny it.”
Astonishingly, their own words testify to the truth of the matter, and their own words testify against them. They believed the words of the apostles that Jesus worked through them, but just like Israel at Moses’ time, they have failed to believe in the Lord who sent them.
Life application: Head knowledge does not always equate to acceptance of the heart. There are people in churches, denominations, and seminaries all over the world that know what the Bible says about Jesus being resurrected. They know what the doctrine of the Trinity states. They know Jesus is said to be God incarnate. These things are understood by them. And yet, they don’t believe the God who has revealed these things.
Their religion is dead because they have never appropriated the grace of God by simply believing the gospel. Unless the head knowledge becomes belief in the heart, they are as far from God as any pagan. God is not a point of academics. And the things He has done are not simply acts without meaning. The very creation calls out who God is and what He is like –
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
When we pursue knowledge, such as the knowledge of creation, we err if we do not include God in the pursuit. Our contemplation of all things should include God’s handiwork in what we are considering. With that in mind, we will become more and more in tune with a knowledge that goes beyond the mere mechanics of a thing. We will have an appreciation of why God has arranged things as He has.
May we let our every thought and study be guided by the desire to know more about our God who has so carefully arranged the world for man, and who has so consciously worked to return man to Himself through the giving of His Son.
Lord God, help us to see You as we seek out the wonders of life. Help us to appreciate You and all You have created and designed. You are worthy of our contemplations in such things. And so, may we never fail to add You into our evaluation of the things that we encounter from day to day. Amen.