The following is an excerpt from the Spring 2016 issue of Explore the Bible: Adults. Explore the Bible is a book-by-book group Bible study that encourages participants to let the Word dwell in them and challenges them to live it out in their own context. Preview one month free at lifeway.com/explorethebible.
Countless acts of bravery have occurred in the course of human history. Some have been recorded and acknowledged with medals, statues, or other forms of recognition. At the top of my list of courageous individuals is Jesus Christ. The pain of Jesus’ death was beyond compare. Jesus willingly surrendered Himself as the sinless Son of God and became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). No greater price was ever paid or could be paid by another person.
At the same time Jesus demonstrated supreme courage in suffering, His disciples fell away in fear for their lives. Even Peter, who had pledged to stand courageous with Jesus, denied the Lord three times. But Jesus’ resurrection changed everything. The Risen Christ, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, provided believers spiritual power and courage they had never known before. They would need this power and courage as they faced persecution for Jesus’ sake.
In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John demonstrated spiritual courage by healing a crippled man in Jesus’ name at one of the temple gates. The healing stirred a lot of astonishment among the people. Peter seized the opportunity to explain that the source of the power for the miracle was the Risen Christ. Moreover, Peter challenged the crowd to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus (Acts 3:11-26).
The boldness of Peter and John in publicly proclaiming the gospel put them in direct conflict with the authorities. The two were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning (Acts 4:1-12). The council threatened Peter and John against continuing to preach in Jesus’ name, but Peter courageously answered that their testimony about Jesus was a matter of being obedient to God.
There was a quality about Peter and John that could not be denied. Notice the verbs “observed,” “realized,” “amazed,” and “recognized” in Acts 4:13. The members of the Sanhedrin looked at Peter and John carefully. They “observed” the apostles’ boldness and candor. They watched as Peter spoke openly and without fear. The Sanhedrin also “realized” that Peter and John were not trained teachers or scribes; rather, they were common men of the day, “uneducated and untrained.” Yet their lack of formal training seemed to be contradicted by a bold wisdom and understanding of Scripture that could not be denied.
The religious leaders thus “were amazed” at what they saw and heard concerning Peter and John. This verb translated conveys the idea of surprising wonder. The Sanhedrin literally wondered at the news about Jesus, and they were amazed by the persuasive testimony of these untrained fishermen. Most significantly, the members of the council realized that Peter and John “had been with Jesus.”
Only a few weeks before, Peter and John had been frightened and bewildered men. Now they were poised, articulate, and courageous proclaimers of the gospel. What accounted for the dramatic transformation in these men? The same power that had given strength to the legs of a man lame from birth also gave courage and words to these two apostles. Likewise, men and women today who have been transformed by faith in the Living Christ are empowered to bear witness to His grace and power. Such amazing change may prompt others to ask believers, “By what power or in what name have you done this?”
Excerpted from Explore the Bible: Adults, Vance H. Pitman, general editor © 2015 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.