After John and Peter healed a lame man and Peter preached to the Jews who came together after that marvelous miracle, the Jewish leaders took the two apostles into custody and interrogated them (Acts 3:1-4:12). When the members of the Sanhedrin council watched and listened to them, what did they observe? “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” (4:13). This text shows three things that the opposers of Jesus’ Cause saw in two of His most well-known followers.
First, the Sanhedrin saw the apostles’ BOLDNESS. In the face of opposition and danger, these men proclaimed the way of salvation that comes only through Jesus. The courage of the first-century followers of the Christ was one of their outstanding characteristics. A later team, Paul and Barnabas, also had the habit of “speaking boldly in the Lord” (Acts 14:3). Other references to disciples’ boldness are found in Acts 4:31; 19:8; 28:31.
In the church today, we need members who will speak boldly to the lost about God’s word. We must not sit back and try to analyze whether or not people will like the truth that we present. Our task is to sow the seed – teach the gospel to all who will listen, regardless of their response to it. Sure, it is easier to teach the truth when we are confident that people who hear it will respond favorably, but our job is to tell the good news to every person without fearing their reaction (Mark 16:15). It requires commitment and courage to open our mouths and do that.
The church needs gospel preachers who will courageously preach the word, like Stephen did (Acts 7), both “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul understood the need to preach boldly, so he asked other saints to pray for him to do that: “. . . that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18,19).
We need courageous Christians in our homes. We need parents who will have the wisdom and courage to train and discipline their children and set a godly example for them to imitate. Saints of God need to act boldly in their place of study or work. It takes courage to refuse to lie when pressured to do so. It takes courage not to listen when others are telling and laughing at dirty jokes. It takes courage to put God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). Such boldness comes from trusting in the Lord and having complete confidence that He will help us and bless us as we do His will. Now, back to John and Peter.
Second, the Jewish leaders observed the apostles’ LACK OF FORMAL TRAINING. They referred to those two as “uneducated and untrained men.” “Uneducated” [“unlearned,” KJV] points to them being illiterate [Thayer, word no. 62], that is, not having received a formal education in the Jewish schools in which Rabbis were trained. The word “untrained” [“ignorant,” KJV] comes from a very interesting sounding Greek word – ἰδιώτης, read as “idiōtēs,” which is defined as “in the N.T., an unlearned, illiterate, man as opposed to the learned and educated: one who is unskilled in any art” [Thayer, word no. 2399]. So, the leaders of the Jews counted the apostles as untrained, illiterate idiots.
Do you lack special, advanced educational training? If so, do not feel badly. Some of Jesus’ apostles were in the same category. That sounds like good company to me. On the other hand, perhaps you have been blessed to be given the opportunity to study in educational institutions. Be thankful for the privilege (many are just as intelligent as you are, but for various reasons were never given a chance to pursue such an education), but do not be lifted up with pride because of it. A person’s character and faithfulness to God have nothing to do with the level of formal education which he has or has not received.
Here is another thought. The apostles whom the Master chose included fishermen and uneducated people. Surely not many individuals or companies that desire to have a maximum influence on the world would start with a core group of people like those whom Jesus selected. Obviously, our Lord looks at matters much differently than mere humans do (Isaiah 55:8,9). Members of the church who approach materially rich and well-educated people with kindness, but in turn treat the poor and uneducated with rudeness, totally lack the spirit of the Christ and sin in so doing (James 2:1-9).
Finally, the council members also saw the apostles’ WALK WITH JESUS. Our text says “they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Do you and I walk with the Master? Are we with Jesus? I mean, of course, do we abide in Him (John 15:5) by abiding in His teaching? (2 John 9). Do you and I act as the light of the world? (Matthew 5:14-16). Can others see the Christ living in us? (Galatians 2:20). Do our friends and others in our lives even know that we are soldiers in the Lord’s army?
We know what the Jewish leaders saw in John and Peter. What does the modern world see in us?
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.