Jesus warned us that following Him would get us in trouble, and He didnt promise that He would always get us out. But He did promise He would be with us in that moment, and would speak through us. He said when we stand before our accusers He would empower us and make us witnesses for Him. And this is exactly what we see happening here with Peter and John. Basically, theyre in trouble, standing in front of Israels highest court, for doing what Jesus did.
When we become believers and begin to live out our faith to the point that we make a difference in other peoples lives, we become part of a great spiritual war. Those who are looking for the true God, like us, but those who arent, dont. I mean they really dont, and some, particularly those with a lot to lose, can get very hostile. And its not that they dont understand what were saying or have doubts thats whats happening is real, its because weve become a threat to their way of life. They like what they have and theyre not going to let anyone, even God, take it away without a fight. And thats where you come in. Youre the one whos bringing God into their world. Youre the one disturbing their peace of mind. So, youre the one who must be silenced. The promise were seeing today is that God wont let that happen. When you need Him, Hell fill you with the Holy Spirit and give you the words to speak.
What did Jesus promise? (Mt 10:16-20)
Before we watch Peter and John answer their accusers, lets listen to what Jesus promised to them, and us.
(v16) He tells us to try to avoid trouble. We should be careful not to create an unnecessary crises, and we should live morally-clean lives so people cant attack us for being hypocrites.
(v17) We should be very careful who we trust, even among religious people and our own family, because we are dealing with a deep, primal struggle which is a more powerful force inside the human heart than friendship or family loyalty. There are people we would never suspect, who actually hate God and will attack us if we bring Him too close.
(v18) People will often use various kinds of courts to silence us. It allows them to attack us without exposing their real motives. We might find ourselves in religious or secular courts.
(vs19-20) When we are in a situation where we have to answer for our faith, we dont need to plan what were going to say. We can be absolutely certain that Gods Spirit will be close to us, and will give us the words to speak.
The promise at work (Ac 4:5-14)
What happened to Peter? (v8)
Heres what I think happened to him. In that moment, Peter spoke prophetically. In other words, he spoke as the Spirit gave (him) utterance (Ac 2:4), only in this case he didnt speak in tongues, he spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic. As he stood there he felt strong and unafraid, even though this court could have had him beaten, jailed or executed if they chose. His mind was clear and he was able to perceive what was happening spiritually. The judges had asked him a question, and he was determined to answer it as clearly as he knew how. He fully understood why he had been arrested, and he knew this wasnt about him. As he stood there, God reminded him of how Jesus had answered some of this same group of people when they accused Him (Mt 21:23, 42-46). He remembered the verse of scripture Jesus used to show them that it had been prophesied that they would reject Him. And he could feel Gods love for them, and knew he must love them enough to put his own life on the line. He had to warn them that they couldnt pretend to be ignorant about Jesus any longer. The time had come for them to decide. Would they repent and acknowledge Him as their Savior, or not. And then he just started talking, and it only took him 90 words (in Greek) to say everything he was told to say. And then he stopped, and trusted God to take his words and to use them to reach out to these troubled men.
Answering our accusers
There are moments when each of us will be put on trial. It probably wont be a formal courtroom, but each of us will face situations when we have to bear witness to our faith. People will ask questions, sometimes hard questions or dangerous questions that put us on the spot. As were talking, others may stop to listen, and we know that what we say will be broadcast quickly. This kind of encounter can be very frightening, and we may wonder how we got ourselves into this, but here we are and theyre waiting for us to say something. This could take place at a family gathering, in a classroom, with a co-worker, on a hike or in a fishing boat, in a job interview, or even in a courtroom. Sooner or later, when they figure out what you are, when someone they know gets saved or healed, or baptized in the Holy Spirit
the questions will come. And there may be anger and harsh accusations behind the questions, but youre the one theyre asking. So what do you do? You do exactly what Peter did.
Doing what Peter did
Peter had a night in jail to prepare himself, and you might not have that same luxury. You may barely have time to shoot up a quick prayer in the back of your mind, but before you open your mouth, remember Peter, and that Jesus made the same promise to you, and then listen to your heart, not your head.
1) Dont rehearse what youre going to say, refresh your spirit by turning your thoughts to the Lord. Remind yourself Hes with me!
2) Address the fear that wants to come, and treat it like any other temptation. Refuse to give it place, take every thought captive (2Co 10:5). Dont listen to it, rebuke it and look at Jesus.
Some adrenaline may be needed to focus your thoughts so dont worry about your pounding heart or sweaty palms.
3) Remind yourself of your promise. What do you have a right to expect God to do? What does He have a right to expect you to do?
4) Monitor your heart. Do you love them? Dont try to make something happen, or impress them with your brilliance, or win the argument. God wants to call them to Himself through you.
5) Tell the truth. If you cant answer the question, say you dont know, but heres what you do know.
6) Start with what you have. It may be a simple statement or just a few words, and as you begin to speak the rest of the words will come in a flow and you will hear yourself be more eloquent and precise than you would normally speak.
7) Keep your mind focused on what God has given you to say, not what they think of you.
8) Stop when He stops. If you keep talking, your flesh will take over and you can ruin everything. Then trust that the Lord will use what youve said. Dont be uncomfortable with silence.
How will I know if Ive done it? (v13)
Its simple. Like peter, youll remind them of Jesus. They wont come away from that encounter impressed with you, but impressed with Him. Listen to Paul:
But thanks be to God who
manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to one an aroma from death to death, to another an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2Co 2:14-16).
Now lets listen to Jesus once more, only this time lets hear Him in Marks gospel:
When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Mk 13:11)
And finally, lets listen to the Lord speak to us through the prophet Isaiah:
No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage (your birthright as a believer) of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication (to show that someone is correct, to defend their honor or their rights, to avenge in justice) is from Me, declares the Lord (Is 54:17).
1) Have you ever been in a scary situation where you had to explain your faith? Did God help you in that moment? Tell us what happened.
2) What are some of the common questions people ask Christians? Pick one and tell us how you might answer it.