Acts 4:19

Beautiful pond across from York residence. Pall Mall, Tennessee

Friday, 21 January 2022

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. Acts 4:19

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).

Peter and John have just been called in and commanded to not speak or teach upon the name of Jesus. Now they wisely choose to appeal to a higher authority. That begins with Luke recording, “But Peter and John.”

Although referring to both Peter and John in the same sentence is not unusual, it is of note that it is almost always Peter who is then noted as speaking. However, Luke specifically notes John and includes his voice in what is said, demonstrating that the matter is something they both agree to and openly avow. With this noted, Luke continues that it is both who “answered and said to them.”

John is not just a timid bystander allowing Peter to carry all the weight of what is spoken. He clearly has his priorities in line with what is right and is willing to speak out along with Peter, even against the entire council that has gathered to hear their words, and which has now commanded their silence about Jesus Christ. Their bold stand starts with, “Whether it is right in the sight of God.”

This is what is of paramount importance, and their words clearly indicate it as such. The highest human authorities in the land have gathered, those who sit on Moses’ seat, those who minister in the temple, the elders, and so on. They all have rendered a decision concerning a matter, but Peter and John together voice their minds, elevating the matter to one that must be pleasing to God, first and foremost.

The implication clearly is that they believe those in authority before them are – by default – not pleasing to God in their judgment. Their words want to know if it is right in God’s sight “to listen to you more than to God.”

How can this be? It comes back, once again, to Scripture. The words of the author of Hebrews clearly demonstrate that Moses was the highest authority in the land. As these men sat on Moses’ seat, they were sitting in the place of God concerning the law –

“Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Hebrews 10:28

This is why the author of the psalm (as agreed to by Jesus in John) uses the term elohim, or “gods,” to describe such men –

“I said, ‘You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.’” Psalm 82:6

They were elevated to such a position that they were considered separate from the people in this regard, making decisions on behalf of God when in accord with the Law of Moses. However, the Psalm doesn’t end with that. In the next verse it says –

“But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.” Psalm 82:7

They were, in fact, men. Their position was to uphold Moses. But Moses wrote of one to come who would present words introducing a New and better Covenant. Jesus claimed, and then proved, to be that One –

“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, “You are gods”’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” John 10:34-38

This is then what the author of Hebrews tells the people in his next words of Hebrews 10 –

“Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:29-31

The Son of God had come. He had demonstrated His position and authority, and He was now to be heard, confirming the very words of Moses that the council had rejected. So, who should the apostles listen to, God or these men? With this stated to them, they adamantly state, “you judge.”

The apostles had clearly presented their case to the council, proving that the same Jesus whom they had crucified had healed the man. The sign stood as confirmation of the claim that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) and, as such, He was to be obeyed. If a right and honest decision was made concerning the matter by the council, it would be that He – rather than they – were to be obeyed concerning their decision.

Life application: The words of this verse are in accord with the words of Acts 5:29 –

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’”

Though the passage is descriptive in and of itself it states, they form a precept that still applies to all believers. We cannot disobey God, meaning what He has stated in Scripture, and rather obey a lesser authority. For example, though abortion is not directly addressed in Scripture, a moral precept concerning the matter is clearly defined in Scripture. If a society says that its people are to abort children, that must be disobeyed by believers. Abortion is a moral evil that is not to be allowed within the church, even if it is allowed within society.

All moral issues are first and foremost to be evaluated against Scripture. What man decides must be rejected when that decision does not align with the moral basis provided by God.

A second precept to be drawn, once again, from this verse is that the Law of Moses is now fulfilled and annulled in Christ. This is perfectly obvious from what has been stated, right in this verse, from Acts. Jesus had earlier said to the people –

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” Matthew 23:2, 3

If the law were still in effect, Peter and John would be guilty of violating both the Law of Moses and Jesus’ instructions concerning it. But a New Covenant with a new Leader and direction had been instituted. In disobeying the leaders on what they decided, it is a clear indication that this New Covenant had superseded the old. The lesson is to stay away from any teacher who instructs you to obey any precept of the Law of Moses. Our doctrine is to be obtained solely from what is presented in the New Covenant.

Lord God, it is right and proper that we will obey You rather than men. When a law of the land in which we live is contrary to a precept that is clearly presented in Your word, give us the wisdom to recognize it, the voice to speak against it, and the willingness to disobey it rather than to be found disobedient to Your word. Give us both the wisdom and the desire to be obedient in this. To Your glory we pray. Amen.