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"The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn't come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn't have stood for it -- they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old. "As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priests and religious leaders had said. Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer:..." Acts 4:21-24a (The Message)
This was the acid test for the apostles. How would they respond to this new development? They were enjoying the favour of all the citizens of Jerusalem, believers and unbelievers alike. Now the Sanhedrin was taking them on, just as they had taken on their Master.
As followers of Jesus, they had watched and listened to His response to the irrational rage of the Jewish religious hierarchy. Even when they arrested, tortured and killed Him, He neither resisted nor bad-mouthed them. He was representative of another kingdom which overrode the worldly kingdom they represented.
Peter and John politely listened to the rantings of the religious rulers but made it clear that they had no intention of obeying them. They had a higher authority to which they were accountable and He was backing their obedience by replicating through them what He had done through Jesus.
There was a strong bond between the believers that was not only a unity of faith but also a bond strengthened by sharing their resources and doing life together. When they were in trouble, they had one another's support in love and prayer. Peter and John went straight back to their 'family' to report what had happened and, no doubt, to discuss their response.
Their first recourse was to God. This is a reflection not only of how well they had learned their lessons from following Jesus but also how powerfully the Holy Spirit was leading and transforming them. The old Peter would have reacted as he did in the garden when the soldiers grabbed Jesus. He lashed out with his sword and slashed off Malchus' ear. That was his natural human instinct, but not any more. The old Peter had been replaced by a new model, an imitator of Jesus.
They had learned from their Master that the kingdom of God, not their earthly circumstances, was central in their lives. Whatever was happening to them was serving God's purposes in bringing "up there, down here". That's how Jesus viewed life. He was never fazed by the imperfections He encountered. They always served a higher purpose -- an opportunity for God to put His glory on display.
As leaders of the infant church, it was their opportunity to show their people how to deal with those who stood against them. Retaliate? No! Revenge? No! Resist? No! Stand? Yes. They had their mandate from Jesus. They were to be His witnesses to the world. As they stood firm in their commitment to obey Him, every obstacle would give way through His power in them.
That is the essence of 'spiritual warfare' -- obedience to the Master in the confidence that His kingdom overrides the kingdom of darkness and will give way because Jesus is Lord.
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