When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
- Acts 4:13-20
Note: Many translations, such as the ESV, use “Common” instead of ordinary.
“The definition of ‘common,’ according to Merriam-Webster, is ‘falling below ordinary standards’ or ‘lacking refinement or special status.’ A common person lacks distinction. That’s how the Pharisees characterized Peter and John after questioning them.
“The two disciples had healed a beggar instead of giving the lame man money. Astonished, the Jewish council wanted to know by what power they performed such a miracle. ‘Jesus,’ was their answer. ‘There is salvation in no one else’ (Acts 4:12). God frequently chooses to use common people to do extraordinary things. In doing so, the glory goes to the Almighty. As today’s verse continues, when people saw the miracle of Peter and John, ‘they recognized that they had been with Jesus.’
“Will people look at the events, attitudes and actions of your life and recognize you have spent time with the Lord? God used common people then – and can still use ordinary people today. Pray for God to use your life for His glory and to bring others to salvation in Him.”
- Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
I have heard sermons on the subject of who Jesus chose as His inner circle of disciples. They were uneducated, common folk. Maybe some of us let our education get in the way of common sense. Ah, there’s another use of the word ‘common.’ Common sense is in short supply these days, and folks that do not use it lack refinement or special ‘status.’
When I read that dictionary definition of ‘common,’ I remember one of my mother’s countless lectures. She asked how I was, and I said “Fair to Middling.” In her lecture, she discussed the etymology of the two words as they pertained to a bolt of cloth, usually cotton. Since I cannot remember the exact definition that she lectured me with – usually my brain turned off when she had those spells, I think that “fair” was barely passable and “middling” could be used as passable in a pinch, if you ran out of “fair.” I was never to use the phrase again, according to her, because it meant less than good. But if you look up “fair to middling,” you find that it is a Southern expression meaning simply “okay.” I could just never use it around my mother.
The quoted definition of “common” is about in the same boat, but to refer to Peter and John as “common” from the standpoint of the Sanhedrin was probably quite accurate. The NIV uses “ordinary” and other translations use “uneducated.” Being uneducated, in the eyes of the Sanhedrin, is the same as “common.”
Yet, Peter and John were far from common in the eyes of God. They had learned at the feet of Jesus.
People today can learn at the feet of Jesus by studying the Bible and spending time in prayer. It does not take a lot of education to be much more than common. Yet, being common means that we are all humble servants of our Lord. That is an uncommon job title, but one with great responsibility.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.