The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. (Acts 4:1-2)

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what NAME did you do this?” (Acts 4:5-7)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot  deny it. But to stop this THING from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this NAME.”

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the NAME of JESUS. But Peter and John replied, “WHICH IS RIGHT IN GOD’S EYES: TO LISTEN TO YOU OR HIM? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:12-20)

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the NAME that is above every NAME,

that at the NAME of JESUS every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  (Philippians 2:9-10)

The authorities who initially arrested Peter, John, and the newly healed beggar were all Sadducees. Most of these priests and guards were appointed by the Romans to carry out the administrative functions of the Temple in a manner that complied with Roman rule. The Sadducees’ key theological positions included believing only in a Kingdom of God in this life, not in a heavenly, future Kingdom with a Messianic King. It follows that they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead or the supernatural.

These men were greatly disturbed because the astounding healing of the lame beggar in the Name of the Resurrected Jesus threatened their worldly position of leadership and the Temple order they had been commissioned to maintain.

But the Sanhedrin ruling body, which also included Pharisees, could not deny the miracle done in the name of Jesus, the teacher they thought they had eliminated. Now they needed to stop those who had been with Jesus. Their solution was to command Peter, John, and the healed man not to speak or teach the name of Jesus. For emphasis, they thought it necessary to threaten them with vague repercussions for spreading the “thing”.

Why would removing Jesus’ name from the teaching of the disciples be so effective in stopping the “thing”? Philippians 2:9-11 emphasizes the sweeping authority of the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit ignited the hearts and minds of Peter and John to proclaim they must obey God rather than “going along to get along” with these politically and religiously important, influential men.

A religious spirit similar to the one inhabiting the members of the Sanhedrin can infect present day Christian thinking. Some have labeled it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This spirit urges us to deny the authority and power of the name of Jesus and stop spreading the “thing”.

Here are representative beliefs of those affected by this spirit. As you read them, examine your own thinking and ask the Holy Spirit to help you boldly honor the name of Jesus rather than “going along to get along” with the world around you:

  • Belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives
  • People are supposed to be good to each other (i.e., moral)
  • The universal purpose of life is being happy and feeling good about oneself
  • There are no absolute moral truths
  • God allows “good people” into Heaven
  • God places very limited demands on people
    (Source: Soul Searching by Smith & Denton)

By Kathleen Petersen

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