Online Bible Commentary
We Cannot But Speak
Acts 4:13 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. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name." 18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 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. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. (NKJV)
Peter and John have just been used by God to heal a lame man. The lame man was healed by his faith in Jesus Christ. The three men then went to worship in the temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish temple goers were amazed to see that the lame man was healed, and questioned Peter and John upon leaving the temple. The disciples credited Jesus with the healing and began to preach to the crowd.
As they preached, Peter and John were approached by “the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees” (v. 1). The religious leaders were “greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (v. 2).
Peter and John were arrested for their preaching and brought to trial. Those present were “rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest” (vv. 5-6). Annas was the high priest to whom Jesus was first taken. Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas. Caiaphas presided at the trial of Jesus.
During the trial Peter and John were bold in their declaration that Jesus had healed the lame man. Now, in this passage, we see that the religious leaders “marveled” that these “uneducated and untrained men” were capable of such boldness (v. 13a). They wrote it off as a result of being “with Jesus” (v. 13b). However, this was not the case. The disciples’ new found boldness was the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Seeing the lame man standing, healed, with the disciples, the religious leaders could not find fault in this act of kindness (v. 14). After dismissing the disciples, the religious leaders “conferred among themselves” (v. 15). They could not deny the miracle that so many had witnessed (v. 16). However, they were concerned that this movement would spread “among the people”, threatening their authority (v. 17a). So they decided to “severely threaten” the disciples to no longer preach in Jesus’ name (v. 17b-18).
The disciples responded that it would be wrong to listen to these men rather than God (v. 19). They said that they “cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (v. 20). The religious leaders then “threatened” the disciples again before releasing them (v. 21a). They could not punish them because the crowds had “all glorified God for what had been done” (v. 21b). This was a huge public event, since the lame man had been a presence in the community for his entire life, of “forty years” (v. 22).
So, the religious leaders wanted to destroy the credibility of the disciples and their new movement, but they could not. They could not deny the miracle. They could not deny the experience of the disciples, the lame man and the crowds. The healing was real. The experience was real.
In the same way, men cannot deny our personal experiences of Christ working in our lives. They can try to explain things away. They can try to destroy our beliefs. They can even pass laws against our religious expression.
But, as did Peter and John, we must continue on. We know how Christ has worked in our lives. Our experiences are real and they cannot be denied by anyone, because they happened to us. They are our own personal experiences and no man can deny that. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.