The Boldness of Peter and John
In Acts 4, Luke informs us that the Jerusalem leadership was surprised at how unhesitatingly the apostles Peter and John responded to the challenge of their preaching and miraculous works. The little clan of cowardly men who had mostly hidden while Jesus was being tried and crucified had turned into a fearless group of proclaimers of the resurrection:
Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (v. 13).
One is brought to ask, when reading this brief report, what factors there were which had so radically altered the mindset of these ordinary men to make them such powerful proponents of Jesus of Nazareth. Several things come immediately to mind, looking both here and elsewhere in the New Testament for the deeper explanation of their change:
1. They Were Bold Because They Had Been With Jesus. The relationship sustained by them in the Master's companionship had a lasting effect upon the apostles. Jesus was no ordinary man, though they were quite ordinary men, so he was the one who determined that the disciples needed to change, and would be changed by him. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3,5). Again, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). In every way, their time with Christ was a life-altering experience. This is equally true for us today. We must change in a positive direction on a constant basis: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18).
2. They Were Bold Because They Had Been With Jesus And He Was Bold. There never walked the earth a man who was more completely fearless than Jesus. Every human being has known the feeling of fear in his heart. This one who walked among men and was God in the flesh had no fear of what man could do to him. He offered the disciples the perfect example of spiritual courage. During the final week of his earthly life he confronted the "powers that be" in the temple and repeatedly called them "hypocrites" (read all of Matthew 23). When events were sweeping him toward death, he bravely told Peter to, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" On. 18:11) And, as he stood before Pontius Pilate, who reminded him of his power over life and death for accused men, Jesus said: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" On. 19:11). The disciples were bold, because their Master had been bold!
3. They Were Bold Because They Had Been With Jesus And He Had Taught Them Boldness. Jesus taught his disciples about many different things. One of them was spiritual bravery, or boldness. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). Often in his teaching he said to them, "Fear not." For example, early in their relation-ship with him, Christ showed them a draught of fishes the like of which these fishermen had never seen. They were astonished and afraid of what sort of man this might be, who possessed such power. To this he said, "Fear not"(Lk. 5:10). Undoubtedly the Lord would often say the same thing to us in the different troublesome circumstances of our lives. In fact, he does, through the words of the New Testament.
4. They Were Bold Because They Had Been With Jesus After His Resurrection. Imagine how emboldened the disciples must have been by seeing Jesus after the resurrection. When they saw him alive, they knew that he was possessed of power over death and that nothing could ever hurt them. There was nothing over which he did not ultimately hold sway. He could say, "All power (authority) hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18); and, "Fear not, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:17,18). They had seen and talked to the risen Christ, no wonder they were bold! All of his claims had been vindicated. God had vindicated him by raising him up from death to reign as the Sovereign of Life (Acts 2:22-24, 31-32)!
5. They Were Bold Because They Had Been With Jesus When He Ascended To Sit At The Right Hand Of God. Their eyes had beheld as Jesus was taken up from them into heavenly glory: "And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10, 11). They were emboldened to know that he was now with the Father in heaven, and that he would come again. Not only so, but they also knew that he was seated on the right a hand of God as the Messiah-King of Old Testament promise (Mk. 16:19; cf. Ps. 89:2-3, 35-37).
6. They Were Bold Because Jesus Was Still With Them. Before he left the disciples he promised them: "I will be with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). Once more, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you" (Jn. 14:18). At all times when confronted with adversity, they could say with Paul: "The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me" (2 Tim. 4:17). The Lord is with us yet today in all our earthly sorrows, trials and tragedies.
7. They Were Bold Because Boldness Does Not Grow Out of Knowledge But Out of Faith. These men stood in the presence of the distinguished elite of Jerusalem. They were "unlearned and ignorant men" in comparison to those who accused and judged them. Yet, they were bold. The reason they could be bold, although they were certainly outclassed educationally and intellectually, was that knowledge is not the key to courage. Faith is the key to courage! Today we will often be outclassed academically and in other ways, yet our spiritual courage is not dependent upon our education or mental ability, but upon our faith in Him who died and rose again to fill us with courage! As Paul said, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (2 Cor. 4:13, 14). Boldness does not grow out of knowledge, but out of faith: people who have faith are the people of courage! Let us try to develop this wonderful virtue in our own lives.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 15, p. 18-19