Scriptures

Acts 4

Introduction

“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:1-4

Peter And John Before The Sanhedrin

In the previous chapter we saw that the apostles Peter and John entered the temple where there was a lame man by the Gate Beautiful, who they healed.

While Peter and John were still preaching, a bunch of men fully armed came into the temple area and arrested them, 2 Timothy 3:12. Now who were these men?

Luke tells us there were priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. We know who the priests were, they were descendants of the tribe of Levi and they were assigned by God to serve God in the temple.

The Sadducees were proud, secular materialists who denied the existence of a spiritual world, holding that neither angels nor demons existed, denying any such thing as the resurrection, and rejecting the Old Testament Scriptures, except for the parts of them which had political usefulness, and also refusing the traditions of the elders.

And over a period of time, through wealth and political power, they had gained control of the religious apparatus which ran the temple, the office of the high priest being regularly filled from this group.

Who was the captain of the temple guard? He belonged to one of the chief-priestly families of the Levites and in the temple, he ranked next to the high priest. In other words, he was the main man with authority in and around the temple area.

Luke tells us the apostles were arrested because they taught the people and preached the resurrection by preaching about Jesus.

Where are the Pharisees at this time? We can’t be certain where they were at this point but perhaps they were absent because the apostles were teaching the resurrection. The Pharisees were the teachers of the law and they believed in the resurrection whereas the Sadducees didn’t.

And what we will see as we go through the Book of Acts is that the Pharisees seem to be sympathetic towards the church and some of them even obeyed the Gospel, Acts 5:38-40 / Acts 15:5 / Acts 23:6-9.

Luke tells us that it was now evening and Peter and John apparently having preached for nearly three hours find themselves in jail until the next day. I want to raise an important point here, remember when Jesus was on trial, what time of day was it?

In Matthew 26:47ff tells us that it would have been around midnight when Jesus was arrested, and He was hurried to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where in expectation of the capture, a company of chief priests, scribes and elders members of the Sanhedrin were already assembled.

The trial of Jesus was illegal because they were supposed to wait until the next day for trial. But I guess if you have a hidden agenda and you don’t want to be reminded to do things right, you will always find a way around it.

The religious leaders had one rule for Jesus and another rule for the apostles, which is a practice that mustn’t be allowed to govern the Lord’s church, 1 Timothy 5:21.

The apostles healed the lame man then preached the resurrection of Christ, then they were arrested. Despite their arrest, God caused the preaching of the gospel to bring forth fruit, as Luke reports the number of men who believed came to about 5,000.

“The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Acts 4:5-7

When Peter and John were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin, the elders, that is the heads of noble families were in attendance. Annas is there, Caiaphas is there. We know nothing about John and Alexander.

This was not a normal court room, this was the high court consisting of 70 members, plus the high priest, that oversaw matters concerned with the temple and its worship. It was, in fact, the chief political force among the Jews.

Because all these people were in attendance, this tells us that the incident in the temple where they healed the lame man was taken very seriously. And notice this also, they never questioned whether or not the miracle took place. They were more concerned about under whose authority it was performed, Mathew 10:17-20.

They ask, ‘by what power or what name did you do this?, this repeats the same question they asked Jesus earlier ‘by what power you do all these miracles?’ Mark 11:28.

Were they interested in truth? No. They are interested in power, they do not care about a man that was healed. Do they want to rejoice along with the others? No.

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.'” Acts 4:8-11

Peter is defending the Christ in front of authorities and he is saying that what the rulers had done was not in accordance with the will of God, you killed Jesus but God raised him from the dead. Peter was an in your face preacher who just got straight to the point.

Peter filled with God’s Spirit tells them it was through Jesus, the very person they had rejected and crucified. It was through Jesus’ Name that the man was made well, and Peter wanted the council and all of Israel to know that profound truth.

In fact, to reinforce that truth upon these leaders he quotes from Psalm 118:22. He wanted to show the Sanhedrin, that they as the religious builders, had rejected the very stone which was chosen by God to be the head of the corner.

The words of David, in his Psalm certainly point to Jesus, the Messiah, the stone who was rejected by the religious leaders in His day, Isaiah 28:16 / Daniel 2:34 / Matthew 21:42-43 / Mark 12:10-11 / Luke 20:17 / 1 Peter 2:4-7.

Note that the KJV uses the words, has become the ‘head cornerstone’. The head cornerstone was used to set the orientation of the entire building, for from the head cornerstone the building was erected. This again points to Jesus who is the head cornerstone of His church, Matthew 16:18-19 / Ephesians 2:20 / 1 Peter 2:7.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Hell is not afraid of my name, hell is not afraid of your name but all of hell is terribly afraid of Jesus Name. Because it’s only in Jesus Name can a person receive spiritual healing, or salvation. That’s a truth that everyone on this planet has to accept or deny.

“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”. Acts 4:13-15

Here are a couple of apostles, not trained or well-schooled by any rabbis or scribes, except the greatest teacher of all who was Jesus, yet they dared to interpret Scripture with great boldness. And because of that boldness in their interpretation of Scripture the council noted they had been with Jesus.

And notice also that you cannot deny the facts. The council could not deny the miracle because the formerly lame man stood before them healed. And because they spoke the truth in love, they silenced their enemies. And so, in a state of panic they order the apostles outside while they conferred.

What are they going to do? Are they going to kill the healed man and deny the whole thing? No, they couldn’t kill him and deny the miracle because reports of the healing were wide spread.

“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men 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. Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:16-20

They couldn’t disprove Peter’s arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, but they needed to stop the preaching of Jesus before more of the people turned to follow Him. So Luke tells us they ended up doing the only thing they could do, threaten them.

When we speak in Jesus Name, we’re speaking with the authority of Christ Himself. And when people tell us to stop preaching from God’s Word because they find it offensive, the church needs to stand up and say what those apostles said, ‘judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

For the apostles, preaching Christ was a matter of life or death, Philippians 1:21. Without life after death this resent life makes no sense, that makes it clear why Peter and John are so bold, they had seen the risen Christ, Acts 1:3. Just imagine, if you were to see the risen Christ, what would it do to you?

“After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.” Acts 4:21-23

Just like these religious leaders did in Jesus’ day, they continued to do with the apostles. When Jesus was around they were always looking for an excuse to take Him and find some fault with Him.

On one of these occasions Jesus was sharing with the people the parable of the vineyard owner, the religious leaders knew He was talking about them but they couldn’t do anything because they were afraid of the people, Mark 12:12.

Peter and John made it clear to them that the Sanhedrin had no authority to revoke a command from God. They told them that they felt compelled, by the power of the things they had witnessed, to proclaim to everyone the good news concerning Jesus the Christ.

And so because the miracle was such common knowledge and had caused so many people to glorify God, the council had no other alternative but to let the apostles go without any further punishment.

They simply added a few more threats and let them go rather than risk the people taking the apostles’ side. After all, here was a man who had been lame forty years but was now walking.

Peter and John, instead of lying low waiting for the issue to settle, they kept the momentum going.

The Believers Pray

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “`Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 4:24-28

The entire group lifted up their voices in praise to the Almighty Creator. They just praised God for His providential working in the death of Jesus.

Instead of going into hiding, they recognised that God was with them and no one and nothing was going to stop them doing what God wanted them to do.

Not only did the apostles praise God for what happened, they go on to ask God to help them do what He wants them to do.

Notice the apostles quote David’s words from Psalm 2:1-2. In the Bible, people were generally classed as either Jew or Gentile and so, the nations who conspired were Gentiles, that is, all those nations who weren’t of Israel. Here, we see Luke, quoting these words where he applies them to the hostility of unbelievers against Christians.

These Gentiles nations ‘conspire’, some translations use the word ‘rage’. They appear to ‘band together’ against God’s work through His people, but all their plotting is in vain, all their efforts are absolutely useless, Genesis 11:1-9 / Isaiah 54:17 / Romans 8:31.

Notice they go against the Lord and His Anointed. When we read the above verses, we see this is a clear reference to King Jesus and the church, against which the nations futilely set themselves, Acts 13:33 / Hebrews 1:5 / Hebrews 5:5 / Matthew 3:17 / Romans 1:4 / Revelation 2:26-27 / Revelation 19:15. Jesus Himself clearly alluded to the teaching of this very Psalm, Matthew 22:45.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:29-31

They asked God to give them all the strength to preach the truth in spite of the threats of the Sanhedrin. They wanted everyone to know that all authority belongs to Jesus Christ and no one else. Matthew 28:18.

When we recognize and submit to His authority, we will be given what we need most of all in that moment. We will be given the strength and courage to go on.

Every time in the Book of Acts when God’s people are persecuted or put on trial, you will always see them coming through those times even bolder than they first went in. We should never underestimate the power of prayer, God will not always send us what we want but what we need.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had”. Acts 4:32

After a time in prison Peter and John met up with the other believers and they just thanked God for everything He had done and was doing through His people. They pray even more to God for strength and courage to keep going and when a church prays together, things are going to happen.

Straight away Luke records that the church was united in heart and mind. This means there was a willingness to share. One heart means the same desires. Unity has to do with the way in which we respond to each other. Unity has to do with the way we treat each other. Unity has to do with the way we act together. Unity has to do with the love they had to each other.

They were beginning to enjoy a new kind of unity and this new Christian unity was very evident in the way they readily shared what they had with their fellow believers.

Notice that this time of sharing was voluntary and not forced upon them by some governmental or church order. These early Christians began to think radically different from before about their possessions.

Instead of keeping a tight hold of their own possessions, each Christian thought of his blessings as gifts from God to be used to the benefit of all the brethren, James 1:17. That attitude of generosity is going to have an impact on the people around them.

Not only will prayer give us one heart and mind of generosity but it will also have an impact to enhance the power of the preaching of those individuals we help.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 4:33-37

When they shared, the apostles received strength and courage to continue to preach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Notice that ‘grace was upon them all’, in other words, they were aware of the grace of God and so this is why they treated each other gracefully. God’s dealing with us should be shown in the way we treat each other.

Don’t misunderstand what’s happening here, the apostles were not in control of everyone’s properties. The church gave freely because they wanted to help others.

Individual believers gave as they could, they didn’t sell everything they possessed, that would be nonsense because that would mean that they would then be in need themselves. But individual believers sold land and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed as needed among the family of God.

And apparently a guy named Joseph, who was a Levite, was well known for such acts of kindness and encouragement. In fact he was so well known for them, that he was nicknamed Barnabas, or son of Encouragement, by the apostles.

Why is he mentioned here? He is going to be a prominent character later. People usually remember us by our actions.

Go To Acts 5

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Acts 4:12

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