But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20 NASB)
Obedience is the hallmark of the believer in Christ. Obedience is also the expectation of God for His people and for His church. So, it stands to reason that God’s people need to know what obedience to their Savior, Jesus Christ looks like and then go out and do it.
1. It involves obedience to Christ in word.
Now when they had heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter preaches Jesus with his words and he preached repentance and faith in Christ. The very act of repentance is an act of saving faith because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God according to Romans 8:7.
Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
So, the heart that sees its need for repentance is a heart that has been changed by the power of God and it is a heart that has true faith in Jesus Christ. Repent is a term meaning to have a change of mind or purpose. It is a turning from sin to God. This can only be accomplished by the conviction of sin and faith in Christ.
John MacArthur says the following about repentance, “Although Peter’s hearers feared God’s judgment, true repentance involves more than fear of consequences. True repentance hates sin for what it is as an affront to God. Knowing that sin is evil and that God hates it, motivates the truly repentant person to forsake it. Genuine repentance thus forsakes sin and turns in total commitment to Jesus Christ. Repentance is a change of mind that issues a change in behavior" (MacArthur, 1994. p.73).
2. It involves obedience to Christ in deed.
There were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
It is not enough to just say or preach what we believe but our obedience must be active and visible and in accordance with the truth of God’s Word. We do not submit to religion, we do not submit to tradition, we do not submit to man but we always submit to God’s Word and to Christ and that submission as we just saw with true repentance will issue forth a change in behavior in the life of the believer.
(2:42) – The people were devoted to the apostles’ teachings and those apostles wrote the New Testament. In our day, Pastors preach that same teaching. So, it was authoritative then and it remains authoritative today.
Walking according to the truth will have many results in the life of the believer and in the church including continuing in one mind, fellowship, etc. It will cause us out of our obedience to Christ to see the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters and to reach out and meet those needs.
3. It involves obedience to Christ even if it goes against established or traditional religion or false authority.
(Acts 3:1-10) - They were going to the temple because it was the 9th hour (3 pm) and that was when you “go to pray.” We have too many traditions and religious legalism that stifles true obedience to Christ because man determines that what he wants is more important.
Thankfully, Peter and John give us a great example of what obedience looks like when we put Christ above everything else. They could have said, “Oh, sorry poor lame beggar, but we can’t help you because we have to go into the temple to pray and that is what we do and we can’t change for anything. After all, we have always done it that way.”
No, they broke from routine, they broke from tradition, they broke from the established “religion” of the day, and true obedience to Christ was demonstrated and the power of God was seen.
This true obedience produced genuine praise for God and great glory to God as well. God gets no glory in the traditions of men that seek to supplant the Word of God in a believer or in a church.
When they have placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?"
We see in (4:7) that the rulers of the day saw Peter and John as not being worthy or having any authority to do what they did. They were basically saying, “How dare you do this without our approval!”
4. It involves obedience to Christ even when there is satanic opposition.
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:1-4 NASB)
As they were speaking to the people… (Peter and John were in the act of obeying Christ when their opposition came). Any opposition to Christ or His Word is sin. Peter and John experienced satanic opposition or obeying Christ rather than man.
Sometimes the attacks and the persecution and the opposition in the spiritual war can feel overwhelming at times but we must press on and press forward. Why?
Satan wants us to feel defeated. He wants us to quit. He wants to pressure and intimidate us into thinking that all of our obedience and all of our effort and all of our sacrifice isn’t worth it. Satan will use anything he can both in and outside the church to attempt to intimidate believers into obeying man rather than Christ.
But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:17-20 NASB)
They are thrown in jail, they are persecuted, they are commanded to stop. It is sad to think that so many who have named the name of Christ throughout the 2,000-year history of the church have succumbed to the temptation to obey man rather than Christ. They no doubt rationalize it or reason within themselves to develop a proper excuse, or at least it is what they tell themselves.
However, Scripture knows no such excuses. Our only response to Christ should be obedience and our obedient response to any man in any position of worldly authority should only occur if they are in harmony with God's Word and commands. Any man, any system of government, any rulers, any authority that commands us contrary to Scripture should not be followed for like the apostles we need to obey Christ rather than man in those cases.
No matter what level of satanic opposition we face, no matter how hard the spiritual battles get, we must never compromise the truth of God's Word to please man. God is the ultimate source of authority and is the only righteous judge and to be right with God is of far greater value than being in right standing with a created being, especially if that created being is commanding us to disobey our eternal heavenly Father.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 1994.