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Acts 4:18-20 Compelled to Speak

Posted by Matt Postiff November 21, 2009 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Bible Texts 
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

The early chapters of Acts record several persecutions against the church. In ch. 4, the apostles Peter and John were jailed and interrogated by the Sanhedrin. In ch. 5 the apostles were incarcerated again. After a miraculous release, they were brought before the Sanhedrin. This time they were beaten and reprimanded. In all three cases, the Jewish authorities were disturbed and angry that the apostles were preaching and teaching about Jesus (4:2, 5:17, 5:28). A fourth persecution came about on the occasion of Stephen's preaching (Acts 6-7).

After each persecution, the believers still spoke of Jesus (4:29, 5:20-21, 5:42, 8:4). They were not doing so from a childish spirit of rebellion against the authorities, as if to spite them, but they were compelled to speak by God, as our passage in 4:18-20 shows. Instead of considering their witness as an optional Christian activity, they saw it as a matter of right and wrong. It was right to obey God, not the authorities, because God through His Son commanded them to be witnesses (1:8). They could not help but speak of what they had witnessed. It had changed them, it was changing thousands of others (2:41, 4:4, 6:7), and it was poised to change the world.

Certainly we ought to feel the apostles' compulsion. Inside as believers we know we ought to speak about Christ (5:29). But spiritual laziness, lack of preparation, fear of men, peer pressure, or threat of persecution too often sideline us from doing what we know to be right. It would do us all well to consider the apostolic compulsion to speak of Jesus, and to determine whether we are likewise compelled or not. We should be so compelled. After all, the Lord's command to be a witness did not expire with the apostles, but extends to us. MAP

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