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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 4 - Verse 13
Verse 13. Boldness. This word properly denotes openness or confidence in speaking. It stands opposed to hesitancy, and to equivocation in declaring our sentiments. Here it means that, in spite of danger and opposition, they avowed their doctrines without any attempt to conceal or disguise them.
Peter and John. It was they only who had been concerned in the healing of the lame man, Ac 3:1.
And perceived. When they knew that they were unlearned. This might have been ascertained either by report or by the manner of their speaking.
Unlearned. This word properly denotes those who were not acquainted with letters, or who had not had the benefit of an education.
Ignorant men—idiwtai—. This word properly denotes those who live in private, in contradistinction from those who are engaged in public life, or in office. As this class of persons is commonly also supposed to be less learned, talented, and refined than those in office, it comes to denote those who are rude and illiterate. The idea intended to be conveyed here is, that these men had not had opportunities of education, (comp. Mt 4:18-21,) and had not been accustomed to public speaking, and hence they were surprised at their boldness. This same character is uniformly attributed to the early preachers of Christianity. Comp. 1 Co 1:27; Mt 11:25. The Galileans were regarded by the Jews as particularly rude and uncultivated, Mt 26:73; Mr 14:70.
They marvelled. They wondered that men who had not been educated in the schools of the Rabbins, and accustomed to speak, should declare their sentiments with so much boldness.
And they took knowledge. This expression means simply that they knew, or that they obtained evidence, or proof, that they had been with Jesus. It is not said in what way they obtained this evidence; but the connexion leads us to suppose it was by the miracle which they had wrought; by their firm and bold declaration of the doctrines of Jesus; and perhaps by the irresistible conviction that none would be thus bold who had not been personally with him, and who had not the firmest conviction that he was the Messiah. They had not been trained in their schools, and their boldness could not be attributed to the arts of rhetoric, but was the native, ingenuous, and manly exhibition of deep conviction of the truth of what they spoke; and that conviction could have been obtained only by their having been with him, and having been satisfied that he was the Messiah. Such conviction is of far more value in preaching than all the mere teachings of the schools; and without such a conviction, all preaching will be frigid, hypocritical, and useless.
Had been with Jesus. Had been his followers, and had attended personally on his ministry. They gave evidence that they had seen him, been with him, heard him, and were convinced that he was the Messiah. We may learn here,
(1.) that if men wish to be successful in preaching, it must be based on deep and thorough conviction of the truth of that which they deliver.
(2.) They who preach should give evidence that they are acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ; that they have imbibed his Spirit, pondered his instructions, studied the evidences of his Divine mission, and are thoroughly convinced that he was from God.
(3.) Boldness and success in the ministry, as well as in everything else, will depend far more on honest, genuine, thorough conviction of the truth, than on all the endowments of talent and learning, and all the arts and skill of eloquence. No man should attempt to preach without such a thorough conviction of truth; and no man who has it will preach in vain.
(4.) God often employs the ignorant and unlearned to confound the wise, 1 Co 1:27,28. But it is not by their ignorance. It was not the ignorance of Peter and John that convinced the sanhedrim. It was done in spite of their ignorance. It was their boldness, and their honest conviction of truth. Besides, though not learned in the schools of the Jews, they had been under a far more important training, under the personal direction of Christ himself for three years; and now they were directly endowed by the Holy Ghost with the power of speaking with tongues. Though not taught in the schools, yet there was an important sense in which they were not unlearned and ignorant men. Their example should not, therefore, be pleaded in favour of an unlearned ministry. Christ himself expressed his opposition to an unlearned ministry, by teaching them himself, and then by bestowing on them miraculous endowments which no learning at present can furnish. It may be remarked, further, that in the single selection which he made of an apostle after his ascension to heaven, when he came to choose one who had not been under his personal teaching, he chose a learned man, the apostle Paul, and thus evinced his purpose that there should be training or education, in those who are invested with the sacred office.
(5.) Yet in the case before us there is a striking proof of the truth and power of religion. These men had not acquired their boldness in the schools; they were not trained for argument among the Jews; they did not meet them by cunning sophistry; but they came with the honest conviction that what they were saying was true. Were they deceived? Were they not competent to bear witness? Had they any motive to attempt to palm a falsehood on men? Infidelity must answer many such questions as these before the apostles can be convicted of imposture.
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