So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak
[as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority].
The other day I heard Russ Dizdar, ordained to the ministry by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1978, and now an outspoken advocate for Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Ministry (among many other disciplines) say that the most powerful aspect of the Church (found in Acts, Chapter 4) has not been realized. First of all, that's a pretty strong statement; and knowing his honest and direct appraisal of the modern Church, I just had to see exactly what he was talking about.
The chapter begins with the arrest of Peter and John because they have been openly "teaching the people and proclaiming in [the case of] Jesus the resurrection of the dead." You see, they were declaring the power of God to resurrect men from the dead, and had been exercising the authority given to them by Jesus (the Son of God) through the power of the Holy Spirit, and had healed a lame beggar. And because of this attesting miracle of the power of the ascended Jesus, 5,000 men heard the message of salvation and accepted Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). You can imagine how that upset the conventional religion of the day. So, the Sanhedrin (the High Jewish Court) had them arrested, and on the next day, they convened the high priests of the Jewish people to interrogate Peter and John.
Scripture says, "they repeatedly asked, "By what sort of power, or in what name [that is, by what kind of authority], did you do this [healing]?” Peter wasted no time in making it very clear to the Church leaders exactly what happened: "let it be known and clearly understood by all of you, and by all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you [demanded be] crucified [by the Romans and], whom God raised from the dead—in this name [that is, by the authority and power of Jesus] this man stands here before you in good health." (Acts 4:10).
Now, the members of the Sanhedrin recognized that this miracle had been seen by thousands of people, so there was no denying it. But they were unsettled about the threat this posed to their own authority. So they asked, "What are we to do with these men?" And they decided " to keep it from spreading further among the people and the nation, let us [sternly] warn them not to speak again to anyone in this name." Acts 4:18 gives us their charge to Peter and John: "So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak [as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority]."
But Peter and John knew that God had a purpose in these miracles, and that the power and authority of Jesus had been predestined to be passed on to mankind through the Holy Spirit, and they could not deny His will. So they prayed, "And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.”
After reading this entire Chapter, I get what Russ Dizdar is saying. The very same Church leadership that opposed Peter and John teaching the authority and power in the name of Jesus is at work today. Church leaders, whom I respect and admire, are saying the same things that Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, were saying in the First Century... "I don't think it's a good idea that you pursue this line of teaching." But just like the high priests of old, instead of studying it themselves and praying about it, they are quick to pass judgment that it doesn't fit the accepted or mainstream religion of our day.
The religious leaders of yesterday (and today) should have listened to Peter and John! Never did they claim that their actions and their results were by their own power.... it was ALWAYS in the name of Jesus Christ! And so it is today. Those of us who read the Scripture and take Jesus at His Word ... whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father... realize that the authority and power given to Peter and John, has also been given to us.
Jesus didn't say, "You Twelve who believe in me", or "You 70 that believe in me". He said "Whoever believes in Me...". If, as some are of the opinion, this power and authority was only meant for the Apostles, wouldn't He have made that distinction? And to think well, that doesn't apply to us because we have Jesus now, doesn't make sense to me. He was telling the Apostles that He would convey His power and authority to them (through the Holy Spirit) so they could do the works He had been doing because He was going to the Father. We are in the exact same condition as those humble, simple men who followed Him. He was no longer in their presence, and it was their faith in Him that precluded the transference of His Authority and Power to them through the Holy Spirit --the authority to pray to the Father, seeking His will; and the power to carry out His Divine purpose. Just like those normal men, who became Apostles, we have heard the message of salvation, accepted Jesus as our Savior, received the Holy Spirit as our Guide and Counselor, and have access to that same power and authority they did after He went to the Father.
You see, nothing has really changed, except that we are not doing the works He did, and have therefore not done greater things. In fact, we have allowed Satan and his minions to exercise their power and authority, and done nothing to stop them! And, in my mind, Jesus must be frustrated to know that we have been given the Authority and the Power of the Father, just as He was, to carry out the Father's will, yet we don't use it! Could Jesus step in and save every abused child or damaged marriage or evil intentions of man? Absolutely! But He gave us the authority and power to defeat the Enemy In His Name -- because it glorifies Him!!
What has remained the same is the reluctance of religious leaders to examine His Word, and to realize that we have relinquished that power and authority He meant for us to use. Russ Dizdar is right --- the most powerful aspect of the Church has not been fulfilled, and Satan has taken full advantage of it, as he operates unopposed and unchallenged. It's time to take back our power and glorify our Savior!!