“Boldness” (4:13) means courage, the thing the apostles were showing when they went right back to preaching Christ after being jailed for preaching Christ. Just 40 days earlier they weren’t so bold (Mt. 26:56). But the Lord had told them that if He rose, they’d rise too (John 11:25), so they no longer feared death. We don’t have to fear death either (II Cor. 4:14).
Why did Israel’s religious leaders marvel that “unlearned and ignorant” apostles could be bold? To answer that, we have to figure out what they meant by “unlearned.” They called the Lord unlearned (John 7:14) because He hadn’t been to their schools. But people said He was bold (Jo. 7:25,26) because He was able to use the Bible against leaders who claimed to be experts in the Bible (John 7:23).
And that’s what the apostles did too (Acts 4:10,11). The Jews would know what the psalm they quoted meant. They knew God promised to lay the foundation stone of Messiah in Israel (Isa. 28:16) for them to build the kingdom church on. But they also knew from Psalm 118:22 that God predicted they wouldn’t build the church on Him, but that God would make Him the cornerstone of the church anyway.
And when the apostles quoted the same psalm the Lord did to answer the rulers (Mt. 21:23,42), the leaders knew they had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Nobody since Him had been able to tie them up in knots using their own Bible like the apostles were doing here!
Not even the Lord’s enemies could say anything against the healing of the lame man (Acts 4:14), for they knew it was a legitimate miracle. Compare that to modern “healings” you see on TV, where you don’t know the person being healed, so you don’t know if he was really sick or injured.
Israel’s religious leaders decide to have a closed-door meeting (4:15), in which they confessed they didn’t know what to do with the apostles (4:16), for they had performed a “notable” miracle, and everyone in town knew it. So they decide to tell them to stop preaching Christ (4:17). Obviously, nothing had changed since the Lord’s day, when those same leaders refused to believe, and didn’t want anyone else to believe either (Mt. 23:13).
After the private meeting was done, Israel’s leaders called the apostles back in (v. 18). But how did Luke (who wrote the Book of Acts) know what they said in that closed-door meeting? The Spirit could have told him (cf. II Kings 6:12), but it is also possible that some of those leaders later got saved (Acts 6:7) and told Luke.
Now since Israel was a theocracy, those religious leaders were also their civil leaders, and God’s people are always supposed to obey our civil leaders. But Peter and John refused to (Acts 4:19), for they knew that we have to draw the line and say no when our leaders tell us to disobey God (Ex. 1:15-17; Dan. 3:18; 6:10).
Notice that neither Daniel nor his three Hebrew friends need-ed to do what their leaders said to do. They didn’t need to go behind closed doors to talk over whether or not they should obey the command to disobey God. Obeying God had become like second nature to them. How? By learning God’s precepts (Ps. 119:104). If you’ll learn God’s precepts, obeying God can become like second nature to you too!
Peter went on to tell the leaders that even if God hadn’t commanded him to preach Christ, he couldn’t help but speak about the lame men he’d seen the Lord heal, etc. (Acts 4:20).
Fear of the people saved the apostles from these leaders (v. 21), just as it had the Lord (Mt. 21:45,46).
The man they healed hadn’t walked in forty years (Acts 4:22). We don’t have miracles like that in the dispensation of grace. But what we do have is examples of men who haven’t walked with God for forty, fifty, sixty years or more—and then get saved and begin to walk with Him.
If you’ve been saved many years but haven’t been walking with God, why not start now? You’ll be eternally glad you did.
Video of this message is available on YouTube: Apostolic Boldness – Acts 4:13-22