Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. (Act 4:13-22)
Hardened hearts that will not believe. The council is dead set against it. They have nothing to say in opposition. They are confronted with overwhelming evidence, and yet they refuse to believe, and not only that, but they try to get Peter and John to stop speaking to anyone in this name, in the name of Jesus.
This happens more often than not. Usually it happens with people who think they are free thinkers, and yet can’t seem to do anything but parrot Dawkins and the like. It isn’t free thinking. I tend to resent that term. Thinking is thinking, and everyone is free to think. I don’t hold my thoughts captive, I’ll entertain any thought I please. And I have grappled with the tenants of atheism, and naturalism more than most I find who adhere to those notions. I just don’t find the arguments for it to be plausible. And when I hear guys like deGrass Tyson belittling philosophy I’m a little dumbfounded. Being a free thinker has everything to do with being able to think and investigate the thought and thought processes of others, which is where philosophy is nice. Sometimes it shows the errors in one’s own thinking. And by the way, there is no science apart from philosophy, logic is philosophy. It was that sort of blindness on behalf of “scientists” that drove men like Karl Popper, the philosopher of Science in the Twentieth Century, absolutely mad. He once commented that these men could measure anything but even after earning a PHD were unable to think. Being able to think is actually a prerequisite to being a free thinker. But when it comes to God most aren’t free thinkers.
Most? Well I could get on to a theological aside here concerning free will. Lutherans actually believe no one is free when it comes to such things. Things above as we say. You are perfectly free to choose what’s in your Happy Meal, or how you want to plan your day, who to marry and what kind of a tree you want in your back yard, but you are not free in your relation to God, you are not free in regard to good and evil. And therein lies the problem. We are born slaves to sin, and with an unholy fear of God, that does not want to listen to him or have anything to do with him. And part of this is the fact that we want to be lord’s over our own life, and to recognize God is to allow someone else to be lord over our life. If there is a heaven, we want to be responsible for getting there, we don’t much care to let Jesus do it for us. In fact we often treat believing in Jesus as one of those steps we take to get there. In this regard we simply are not free. We are captive to sin, and fear of God rules over our thoughts. (This is not the holy fear of God that a believer has, but an unholy fear, a sinner’s perverted fear of God that goes way too far.) Such a fear will not let a so called free thinker entertain the thought of God. Sin continues to feed this fear with guilt that makes us even more ashamed of ourselves in the presence of God.
This is why we need the gospel and the Holy Spirit. To set us free from sin, and from an unholy fear of God. This is what the gospel does as it forgives our sins and shows us the cross where God himself suffered death to free us from death, and from fear of judgment. The gospel sets us free by showing us that we need not fear God, because God has declared peace and good will toward men. And once you have been freed, well then you often find yourself like Peter and John unable not to proclaim your freedom and speak of him who has set you free. Peter and John are free, and they will not be put back in chains with threats of some council. They will obey God rather than men because they know the oppression of man, they have known it all their lives. The oppression of a crowd that bids you go along unquestioningly with whatever they think is right or wrong, with whatever it is they are doing. No Peter and John no longer have to listen to men or find the approval of men. They will listen to God, and him alone because God has shown them favor, dying for their sins, and forgiving them. Men may be able to put them to death, but they cannot send their souls to Sheol, because Christ has already given them eternal life. Threats will not shut them up, they do not seek the approval of man.