Acts 4:19

ESV 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,
NIV But Peter and John replied, 'Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!
NASB But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment;
CSB Peter and John answered them, "Whether it's right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide;
NLT But Peter and John replied, 'Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?
KJV But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

What does Acts 4:19 mean?

Peter and John are challenging the Sanhedrin—the judges of Judaism—to choose between God and themselves. They're telling the chief priests that their wishes are contrary to the God they claim to worship. They're telling the lawyers that they are ordering Peter and John to break the law. They're telling the religious authorities that they no longer recognize their authority; they now follow God directly.

This is the beginning of a huge paradigm shift among the Jesus-followers. This day, Peter and John willingly obey Jesus, the Son of God, over the priests, elders, and scribes. They not only have the Holy Spirit behind them (Acts 2:1–4), they have the history of God's prophets who affirm that Jesus is who He said He is.

Soon, however, they will have to question their misconceptions about the Law itself. First, they will travel to Samaria where the half-Jews worship hybrid gods. They will watch as the people they least expect repent of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14–17). These are people that only recently John and his brother James had offered to consume with fire (Luke 9:51–56).

Soon after, they will have to accept and forgive their worst enemy. Saul is a Pharisee with such zeal for God he makes the members of the Sanhedrin look ambivalent. For a time, he persecutes the Jesus-followers, trying to get them to blaspheme against God (Acts 26:11), and voting for their execution (Acts 26:10). But Jesus meets with Saul, and Saul responds. When he comes to Jerusalem, the disciples are afraid of him. They learn to accept that the man who once flew into a rage trying to destroy them is now a brother in Christ (Acts 9:1–31).

Finally, the apostles will have to forego any idea that Jesus is only for the Jews. Peter will receive a vision releasing Christ-followers from kosher laws and from segregation from Gentiles (Acts 10). This will prove to be a hard transition as the Jewish leadership of the church comes to grips with community with brothers and sisters without a Jewish background (Acts 15).

All these changes—these releases from laws, regulations, and ancient prejudices—start here as Peter and John stand before their governing authorities and reject their authority in favor of God's.
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