Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. – Acts 4:13-22
Let’s shut this down! That was surely the intent and concerted effort of the Jewish leaders over against these Jesus followers who were healing and proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
As I consider why they might have had those thoughts, two ideas emerge. First of all, they may have been sincerely concerned about what appeared to them as false teaching. They were uncomfortable because their understanding and deeply held beliefs were not just being challenged; they were being undercut. They believed they were doing the right thing by opposing these who in their minds were false teachers.
It might have been, also, that they were pretty well situated in life and saw that this new teaching upset their place of security and success. They were threatened by this new teaching for they would lose influence, status, and standing if their system was shown to be invalid.
So how do we make certain that some new teaching or insight isn’t actually of God, and worthy of our embrace? How do we know whether truths we have long held are actually to be defended? What if God is doing something new? How do we stay calm, cool, and correctable while holding fast to the truths we confess?
Part of the answer lies in the manner in which they treated Peter and John. They couldn’t do it in public. They feared the people. The resorted to private sessions of the ruling council. They did this outside the view of the common folks. It seems likely that they were worried more about self-preservation than about truth.
If I am to be humble, yet bold in my confession of faith, I must hold those two attributes in dynamic tension. There is a paradox here that we all need to embrace. We hold to the truth of Scripture firmly, but regularly check our motives and our understanding of Scripture to see if what we hold to be true is true. We remain constantly confident and correctable. A challenge to be sure, but part of our calling as followers of Jesus.