“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (KJV, Acts 4:13).
Acts 4:13 has to be one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture for those who would aspire to the ministry or the work of the Lord. This is especially true for those who are without a formal degree and/or some type of “credentials.” However, not to put the cart in front of the horse, why don’t we break down Acts 4:13 into its various parts?
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John”
Here, we see an instance in which Peter and John were being observed by more than one person. The text at hand speaks of “they.” But who are the observers in question?
In its context, the Bible says, “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem” (Acts 4:4-5) .
Immediately after the previous verse, we can read of the way that Peter and John were placed in the midst of the people listed in Acts 4:4-5. Thus, Peter and John were surrounded by a large group of people. They were greatly outnumbered in both physical strength and also religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the response of Peter and John is commendable.
It should be noted prior to getting into their response that the crowd would not have been a tame crowd. The crowd would not have been comprised of gentle Jews. Not long prior to the events recorded in Acts chapter 4, the same crowd was responsible for the crucifixion of Christ.
These people were the same people before whom Peter would have cowered in fear toward the end of the Gospel accounts. These Jews were rather militant and zealous for their faith. Among them were Caiaphas and Annas, two individuals who were greatly opposed to Christ and responsible for His death.
Not only that, but kindred of Caiaphas and Annas were present, as well. The text also tells us of the rulers and elders and scribes that made up the crowd. These individuals likely would have been members of the Sanhedrin. More could be said about the challenging situation in which Peter and John found themselves, but hopefully the point is clear.
But what does the text say? Did Peter cower in fear yet again? Did Peter and John keep silent in the midst of such adversity? On the contrary, the Bible tells us that the two men responded with boldness. The crowd witnessed the boldness of Peter and John. But what does this mean, and how can the Christian be bold today?
The Greek word that is used for boldness is parrhesia and it denotes confidence and courage. It speaks of an absence of fear. It also carries the meaning of being free in speaking (and thus speaking one’s mind).
In this sense, Peter and John were perceived as being bold. They were not timid in front of their enemies. They did not shrink back, but instead, they were courageous in the midst of adversity.
“and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men”
Not only did the crowd take note of the boldness of Peter and John, but the crowd also noticed that the two men were unlearned and ignorant. To say that the crowd “perceived” that Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant is to say that the crowd was able to “comprehend” or that they were able to “seize with their mind.”
Thus, the people laid hold of the fact that Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant men.
But to say that Peter and John were unlearned is also to say that they were illiterate. It is to say that they were without a letter and/or learning. It may carry the meaning of being unlearned in the Jewish schools. It may also carry the meaning of not being able to write and would constitute one who would need someone else to write letters for him, which is exactly what Peter did in the case of 1 Peter.
When the Bible tells us that the crowd believed that Peter and John were ignorant, it uses the Greek word idiotes, which often denoted someone who was not a state official, but instead would have been deemed a private person. The ignorant person, or the idiotes, would thus have been someone who was unlearned and one who lacked professional knowledge.
Thus, when Peter and John spoke out in front of the large crowd, their way of speech was telling. Peter and John were deemed to be unlearned and unprofessional in the way that they spoke in front of the religious elite. Nevertheless, this is not the end of the story.
While Peter and John were deemed to be unlearned, the members of the large crowd still marveled at what was taking place. To say that the crowd marveled also carries the meaning of admiration. The same Greek word that is used to depict marveling and admiration in Acts 4:13 is also used in 2 Thessalonians 1:10.
Scripture says, “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe…” (2 Thess. 1:10) .
Second Thessalonians 1:10 speaks of the second coming of Christ, the saints beholding the glory of God, and admiring Christ in all His glory. While it would not be right to say that the crowd believed in Jesus on that day, it is clear enough that the onlookers stood amazed at what they were witnessing.
“and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus”
At the outset of this devotion, it was said that Acts 4:13 has to be one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture for those who would aspire to the ministry or the work of the Lord.
This is especially true for those who are without a formal degree or some type of “credentials.” We have finally reached our reason as to why this statement is true. Did you catch the wording of Scripture that has commenced?
Our verse for the day started with a large crowd of the religious elite observing the conduct of Peter and John. Peter and John were bold in the name of Christ, but at the same time, they were perceived as unlearned men. However, the verse does not stop there. The people still marveled at these men because it was clear that Peter and John had been with Jesus.
At the end of the day, this is all that truly matters. All the teaching and learning in one’s life will amount to nothing if it cannot be said that this individual has been with Jesus. To be with Jesus is to have the light of Christ. To have the light of Christ is to be a light in a dark world. To be a light in a dark world is to make a difference and stand out.
Have you been sitting at the feet of Jesus? Do you love to be there? The only way that Peter and John would have ever made a difference is if others could see Christ in them.
This is exactly what took place when they stood in front of the crowd. It was obvious that they were ones who had been with Jesus. Jesus had rubbed off on them, and the crowd could perceive Jesus coming out of Peter and John.
Peter and John most likely would have carried themselves like Christ. Their mannerisms would have likely changed, maybe they would have strung words together as Christ did, and their tone of voice would have been quite similar. In all that Peter and John did, they would have sought to emulate their teacher like a faithful disciple.
The question is, are you doing the same? Can others see Jesus in you?
Father, I thank You for Christ. What an amazing Savior I have in Jesus Christ. I thank You for His death, burial, and resurrection. I thank You that You have made a way for me to be like Him. I pray that others would see Christ in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.