Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (verses 29-32)
Courage. Fearlessness. Passion. Commitment. All of these come to mind as I read this passage. But perhaps especially one other word:obedience. This is the essence. The apostles know their commitment lies with the Lord God himself and no opposition from earthly authorities will keep them from giving obedience to him.
Obedience to the angel’s instructions led them back into the Temple to preach early that morning after they had been miraculously set free from prison. Obedience caused them to stand their ground before the Sanhedrin, giving an in-your-face defence of their actions and, in the process, accusing those same religious leaders of opposing the purposes of Almighty God. Obedience will compel them, after being flogged and prohibited from speaking in Jesus’ name, to courageously continue to do that very thing “day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house” (verse 42).
Remarkable when you think of Peter’s dramatic failure of allegiance before the cross. Fearful of human perspective (in that instance a little servant girl), he denied even knowing Jesus. Not now. Peter, along with his brothers in Christ, refuses to be diverted from obedience to the One who is Lord over all.
Remarkable, too, against the background of Ananias and Sapphira’s stark failure of allegiance, who chose to live in deceit rather than open-hearted obedience. Their sudden deaths made clear that following the Lord is serious business, not to be toyed with.
The end of the chapter makes plain the apostles’ determination. Having been ordered, explicitly, “not to speak in the name of Jesus”(verse 40), they immediately go out and do so, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”(verse 41). This is courageous, fearless, passionate, committed obedience.
O Lord, may I do the same. Raise my sights to clearly see that the stakes are high. Each step, every moment, is an opportunity to move further in obedience to the King.
I confess my own distraction which so often dulls me to the significance of this next moment. Please, strip it away that I might live with eyes on you for each step – this next one, and the one thereafter.
Reflect: What threatens to distract you today from full obedience to the Lord. Surrender it into his hands. Ask him to strengthen your obedience for this day.