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. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
A council of important and powerful men sat in judgment of Peter and John. The important men seemed to have all control of the situation, but that didn’t bother Peter and John. Bold in Jesus Christ, they refused to bow before the threats of the council.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God gave Peter and John the exact words for the moment. Jesus had promised in Luke 12:11-12: Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. These words from Peter and John were a beautiful fulfillment of that promise.
They said, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. It was self-evident that they should listen to God instead of man. Peter made an effective appeal to this truth. This is an important principle. God has established legitimate authority in humanity. We see this authority in the home, in the church, and in the community. God wants us to respect and obey these authorities, but never in an absolute sense. If doing what people tell us to do would make us disobey God, we are to obey God. We must listen to God before even legitimate human authority.
With this boldness, Peter and John proclaimed, we cannot but speak. Peter and John had to speak of the things which they had seen and heard. They had to, not only because of the inner compulsion of the Holy Spirit, but also because of the command of Jesus. In Acts 1:8 Jesus gave the command to all His disciples, You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem.
What were they supposed to say? They were to speak the things which we have seen and heard. This was not a message that they created. This was the message of who Jesus is and what Jesus did to rescue lost humanity. This was no made-up message; they merely relayed it as reliable eyewitnesses.
There are some things that are so good, we should never stop talking about them. The greatness of who Jesus our Messiah is, and what He has done to save us, is certainly the greatest of all those good things. Not only should we refuse to stop talking about it, God helping us we will also determine to obey God before man. To live in the fear of man is beneath the dignity God’s children and is actually the sin of idolatry. We give respect where it is due, but listen to God before any human authority.