Summary: This sermon covers the theme of courage as it relates to the example of Peter and John’s close relationship to God discussed in Acts 4.
Members of the 4th grade class at Spring Hill Elementary School in McClean, Virginia were asked the question: "What Is Courage". Their answer was: "Having faith. Being brave. Doing something when you’re scared of it. Doing something when you think you can’t. Trying something that you’ve never done before. Being nice to people with disabilities. That’s courage!"
This morning I want to talk about the subject of Christian courage. C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
According to Acts chapter 4, verse 13, the Jewish leaders saw the courage of Peter and John. Not too long ago Peter denied that he even knew Jesus not once but three times. Now he is regarded as courageous by the same people who ordered the death of Jesus Christ. What caused this change to happen?
Let’s review the events in Acts and see what has occurred. In Acts chapter 2 we know the believers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Then after that amazing infilling the Holy Spirit gave special courage and wisdom to Peter which we hear about in Acts chapter 3 and 4. With John by his side, Peter healed a crippled beggar, preached the first Christian sermon, spent a night in prison, and then gave testimony to the truth and power of Jesus Christ in front of the same people who ordered the death of Jesus Christ. Amazing!
What helped Peter and John to demonstrate such great courage? What will help you and I live Christian lives of courage? Let’s look first at some things that Peter and John had going against them. The absence of these things in their life shows that they hold no connection to living a life of courage.
Peter and John were not wealthy men. Before they healed the crippled beggar in Acts 3:6, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have...”
Imagine that you lived in a time before credit cards. Some of you here may remember that far back. Would it bring you confidence to have some money in your pocket? It may bring you confidence, but it won’t bring Christian courage.
It’s like Henry David Thoreau said, “Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.” Living a courageous Christian life has nothing to do with the amount of money in your bank account.
Peter and John found themselves without freedom to do as they pleased, for in Acts 4:3 it says, “[The rulers] seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”
Even going to jail and losing their freedom didn’t stop Peter and John from having courage. Do you ever feel strapped by the government and laws of our world? No matter what our freedoms are or aren’t, we can still have courage. When Peter and John kept their courage in jail they experienced God’s help over their circumstances.
In Acts 4:13 it says the Rulers and Elders, “realized that [Peter and John] were unschooled, ordinary men”
This doesn’t mean that Peter and John didn’t have wonderful minds. In their day anyone who didn’t have special training in Greek rhetoric was considered unschooled.
The level of our formal education doesn’t have to stop us from serving God. There’s nothing wrong with having formal education, but it doesn’t have any power to make us a courageous Christian.
Like Jesus said in Matthew 11:25, “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
What is the source of courage then? Money, freedom, and education aren’t excuses for not having it. Peter and John demonstrated that a relationship with God is the only source of true courage. The same is true for us today. No set of resources, conditions, or experiences will ever help us live a life of Christian courage without a dynamic relationship with God.
Let’s see how Peter and John showed that they had a dynamic relationship with God as they displayed the example of Christian courage for us. In every situation where Peter and John were challenged and needed courage their close relationship with God was revealed.
I. They Were Filled with the Holy Spirit
In Acts 4:8 when Peter and John faced the questions of something like a 1st Century Grand Jury we hear, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them...”
Now we know that Peter had the Holy Spirit in him already. That happened on the Day of Pentecost. But when Scripture says “filled with the Holy Spirit”, it refers to a special moment of inspiration where our relationship with God in our inner spirit rises to the world of action. For example, Jesus was talking about this special inspiration in Matthew 10:19-20 it says, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”