Sometimes it really strikes me—the irrationality of unbelief. The refusal to bow to fact, to rational argument, even the clear hand of God. What is most striking is how the most unbelieving can also be the most religious.
In Acts 4, Peter and John, by the power of Christ, have just healed a man lame from birth, convincing 5,000 people to follow Christ, demonstrating the power of God. But the ruling religious Sanhedrin of Jerusalem arrest both Peter and John and throw them into jail. The religious leaders could not deny the healing. They could not deny the power and boldness of Jesus’ uneducated disciples, but they want to stop them.
They knew about Jesus’ miracles. When Jesus died, they saw the massive temple veil rip from top to bottom. They could not deny Jesus’ resurrection. In Acts 5, Gamaliel, a wise elder member of the Sanhedrin even warned them that if what Peter and John did “is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” They could have reconsidered their position, but they refused.
Unbelief shows little compassion for those freed by Christ from bondage. The religious establishment did not share the healed man’s joy. They did not empathize with his years of infirmity, his inability to care for himself, his wasted talents, his decades of destroyed dreams, the lectures from others about his imagined “sins” that brought his condition, the taunts of thoughtless children. They were lifeless and loveless.
Stone-cold unbelief can strike fear in those who speak truth, especially if the unbelievers have more power, money and political authority.
Don’t we find stone-cold unbelief in our own world today, even in our churches, whether in India or the USA? In both nations, men and women with power and authority care nothing about the God of the Bible and want to hurl Him from His throne (see Psalm 2). At times, they appear to be invulnerable, subject to no other law but their own whims and agendas that drip with unbelief and contempt for God and others they regard as lesser than they.
The early Christians recognized this threat. They saw the odds against them, but they did not flinch before the stronger foe. Peter said, “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They went to prayer, remembering the God who called them is the same God who created the heavens and the earth. They remembered Jesus’ wondrous acts. They remembered how God uses even His enemies to accomplish His purposes. They knew that the stronger power of God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead would sustain them. The scriptures tell us they prayed for boldness to preach, for signs and wonders.
God answered their prayers. He filled them anew with His Holy Spirit. In time, in 70 AD, after much patience and giving the religious authorities forty years to repent of their unbelief, He destroyed their decadent and unbelieving religious structures. In the meantime, the gospel continued to spread to “the uttermost parts of the world” as it does today.
May God help us to continue steadfast in their footsteps before our present opposition. The gospel of Jesus Christ always has the last word.