Sermon on Acts 4:13-22 – “Right in the Sight of God”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, October 24th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Scripture reading:

[Act 4:13-22 ESV] 13 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. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 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. 17 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.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 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, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 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. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

I. Common Men

Uneducated, common men.

The Apostles were common men.

This, and their boldness, astonished the Jewish religious leaders.

The leaders wanted to oppose the disciples, but they knew that they could not; their having just been a man healed in their midst.

They admitted that a miracle had taken place.

But they warned against anyone speaking in the name of Jesus.

This led John and Peter to say “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.”

Clearly, the disciples implied, they must listen to God.

To go against God, for the religious leaders, was to go against conscience also, because they knew that this miracle was done by the power of God.

There is an emphasis in the New Testament on the Christians, especially their leaders, as common men.

Why is this?

The point is made that the power does not reside in them, but in God.

Common men do not deserve to be worshipped.

Common men may even have their view overlooked. Or in those days, they were not allowed to voice their views at all.

Paul explains in 1 Corinthians that as a common man, the spread of the Gospel is not due to his actions, but to the power of God.

[1Co 2:1-5 ESV] 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

So the Christian does not merely replace the opinion of one man with the opinion of another, but the Christian has (and follows) the Word of God.

So we praise God for what he has done. Paul, again in 1st Corinthians says “Christ did not send me to baptized but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

Salvation comes through the “foolishness of the Gospel.” (That is what non-Christians think of the gospel – that it is foolishness). Salvation does not come through the wisdom of man. The Greeks seek wisdom, but salvation comes through the Gospel of Christ. Therefore God is to be praised, not men.

The men, called of God — the Apostles and prophets — are servants of god, but not to be worshipped. We are to worship God alone.

These were common men.

Fishermen, a tax collector, and, in Paul’s case, a tentmaker

Furthermore, the Apostles were largely from Galilee, a province, not a cosmopolitan center like Jerusalem. They were simple people. They were not hatching a plan to make a Jesus myth or anything like that. Neither were they wealthy to persuade others, nor great orators of convincing speech.

This all adds to the power of the Gospel. For it is the message itself, and not the messengers, that is powerful.

Yet, God uses “common men.”

He uses you and me for His purposes.

I’ve been called to preach the Gospel, and for this I am greatly thankful to the Lord.

We’ve all been called to love one another

And we’ve all been called to make disciples of all nations

And we’ve all been called to our profession and place in the world

Don’t let the fact that you may be a “common man” or a “common woman” make you think that you are of no worth or that you cannot be used of God. God uses each and every one of us for His purposes. And it may be you that He uses in some grand way to help a person out or to bring a person to the faith. And even for a single conversion there is rejoicing in heaven. They lost sheep has been returned. And God can use any person in His kingdom to spot that lost sheep, to help that lost sheep be returned to his pasture with His shepherd who maintains his life.

The same Spirit that lived and worked in the Apostles, Peter, John, and the rest, is also in you. The Holy Spirit guides us today as He guided them in the 1st century. We have that in common with those common men.

I. Right in the Sight of God

The Apostles, though common men, looked to the authority of God, not the authority of man. It was not to greater men that they looked, but to God himself who had sent His son Jesus Christ and who had just healed a lame beggar.

This idea of doing what is right in the sight of God over that this which is right in the sight of men is a point made against with great strength not only here but also in the next chapter in Acts.

Similarly the high priest there says “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

See the arrogance of these leaders. Never in history as the side of censorship and book burning and oppression been in the right. Leaders who are afraid of alternative ideas are afraid of the truth. They want to be the standard of truth, rather than God.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

This principle is not new. Remember the midwives in the Exodus:

Exodus 1:17 – “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.”

This indeed is a great principle. We are not to bow into the pressures of the world to obey its teachings. We must obey God and His teaching as we find in the Scriptures.

The pressures may be great, but there is no capitulation.

I admit however, that in some cases, it may be difficult to discern whether some command of man is opposed to the word of God.

And we have to realize that this command to obey God rather than men is referring to when there is a conflict. It is not a prohibition against obeying another’s command. In various places in the Scriptures it speaks about obeying (1) a child is to obey his parents, (2) a slaves is to obey his masters (3) (4) a wife is to obey her husband, (4) every person is to obey the governing authorities, and (5) all Christians are to obey those who rule over them (their elders) because they watch for your souls.

Clearly by this point the apostles did not see the High Priest as ruling over them. He did not watch out for their souls, but watched out for himself. The biggest concern of the scribes and Pharisees was to keep a low profile so as not to stir up the Romans who could take away their positions of power.

The scribes and Pharisees were not obeying God. They were fearing man (the Romans) more than God. Even though they had seen the miracle in front of their very eyes – a man over 40 years old healed, not by his youthfulness, but by the power of God. And they knew that these disciples were followers of Jesus. If they put 2 and 2 together they would have concluded that Jesus is God and the very messiah they were looking for. But these men, not common by elite, were blinded from the truth.

So the Lord saves the weak, the common, the simple man.
And the man who thinks he is strong, and elite, and wise and smart, goes his own way apart from the way of the Lord and leads down the path of destruction.

The Apostles, chosen of God, cannot but “speak of what we have seen and heard.” It is as if they are saying “You can’t shut us up, but it is now our very nature to speak of Jesus Christ.”

And the power and authority by which the lame beggar was healed was from God alone. There was no need to ask permission of the authorities. They do not have a say in this matter.

The Lord blesses the common man and calls us to obey Him, to follow His path rather than make out own. Praise the Lord that He has chosen us for salvation in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.