But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 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. 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.” And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:15-18)
I love this scene of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, desperately trying to figure out what to do with the “problem” of the disciples of Jesus. During the days of His earthly ministry, Jesus Himself was a problem for these religious leaders – this same council had a role in sending Jesus to the cross. Yet, even with Jesus Himself no longer walking and teaching and working among the people, they had an even bigger problem with the followers of Jesus.
In their desperation, these important men made a confession regarding the power of Jesus: we cannot deny it. That exposed the corruption of their hearts. They acknowledged that a miracle in the name of Jesus had genuinely happened; yet they refused to submit to the God who worked the miracle.
All they could do was make a threat and hope that the good news of Jesus spreads no further among the people. Their fear of the preaching of the good news of Jesus was rooted in their own sinful self-interest, not in any desire to protect the people.
Notice the note of desperation in the words, What shall we do to these men? It was a problem they couldn’t figure out. These men did not respond to their threats and intimidation. These men knew the way their Lord and Savior Jesus was treated, but were not afraid. These men showed the power of God in and through their life. You can’t defeat men and women who are this committed to Jesus Christ! They were commanded to stop talking about Jesus, but everyone knew they would keep doing it.
There is something else wonderful about this story from Acts 4. We see it in the words, they conferred among themselves. How did Luke know what the council discussed among themselves after the disciples left the room? Luke probably found out because a member of that same council later became a Christian: Saul of Tarsus. Acts 26:10 gives us reason to believe Paul (Saul) was a member of this council, able to cast his voteagainst the early Christians.
If this is true, we can say that Peter and John had no idea they were preaching to a future apostle and one of the greatest missionaries the church would ever see. It is an example of the truth that we have no idea how greatly God can use us.