Summary: A study of men exhibiting courage when under pressure.
“As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
“On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’
“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.”
Fear is known to everyone. Some fears are justified; many are irrational. There are people who suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Such individuals probably are uncomfortable in the services I lead. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is a fear of long words. Other fears are ablutophobia, a fear of bathing, washing or cleansing; astraphobia, fear of thunder and lightning; and atychiphobia, fear of failure. It would be unfortunate if you experienced chaetophobia, fear of hair, when in my presence. Others have experienced decidophobia, fear of making decisions; and many people suffer from dentophobia, fear of dentists or dental procedures.
Christians, especially as they live in the light of eternity, cannot help but be courageous. That this is so becomes abundantly clear when we consider the assertion made by the Apostle Paul which is recorded in his second Letter to the Christians of Corinth. The Apostle attested, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-8].
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Christians will be marked by boldness. When they believers were threatened after the incident that is described in our text, the disciples returned to their friends. Together, the believers prayed, and what a prayer they presented before the Master. “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” [ACTS 4:24-30].
Simply stated, their prayer was, “Make us bold!” It is as though they said, “Master, enable us to disregard threats and persecution, remaining focused on You and Your will. Enable us to fulfil the charge we received to declare your Name to all peoples. One must love the concluding summary of the manner in which God granted what they asked. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” [ACTS 4: 31].
I need to pause for a moment to dispel a myth of modern evangelicalism. Among evangelicals an error of epic proportions persists. There is a perception that when one is “filled with the Holy Spirit,” they lose control over themselves. Nothing could be farther from reality. In the New Testament, we have multiple examples of people filled with the Holy Spirit.