Acts 4 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. And as they spake unto the people,
the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people,
and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them,
and put [them] in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed;
and the number of the men was about five thousand.
...and they laid hands on them, and put them in hold...-
Rather than being receptive to the offer of restoration through repentance, and rather than turning to Christ, the leaders of the nation took action to silence His apostles {His 'sent ones'}.
     The role of the Sadducees is noteworthy. During Jesus' earthly ministry, the Pharisees had led the opposition against Him. Here the Sadducees are in the lead. They were aggravated by the teaching about "the resurrection from the dead," which was contrary to their belief system (Acts 23:8). The Sadducees had a low regard for God's written Word, rejecting all but the five books of Moses. Jesus had answered their unbelief, by quoting what Moses wrote (Mark 12:26,27). Now, His resurrection was a clear demonstration of their error. While there is no record that any Sadducees turned to Christ, some of the priests and Pharisees eventually did, probably because they were more attentive to the scriptures (eg. Acts 6:7; 15:5; Joh 5:39).
     The arrest of Peter and John marks the beginning of the first persecution of believers (Joh 15:20). The GK words, in the phrase "laid hands on them," suggest that they were not treated gently. As persecution intensified with time, believers would be treated with increasing harshness.
Howbeit many... believed... about five thousand.-
The Lord was still adding to the church, even in the face of persecution. While the ruling authorities rejected God's Word, it was the preaching of the same Word which brought others to faith. While five thousand men were counted among the new believers, there may have been a large number of women and children who also believed, at the same time.
5. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,
and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest,
were gathered together at Jerusalem.
7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked,
By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
...on the morrow... their rulers, elders, and scribes...- The Sanhedrin was assembled.
...and Annas... and Caiaphas...-
The presiding elders were the same men who had condemned Jesus to death, only two months prior (Joh 18:13,14,24). Peter and John had been present on that occasion. Vivid memories of that night must have risen up within them.
...By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? -
The question was intended to intimidate: 'Who do you think you are? Who gave you authority to do this? What kind of power {GK=dunamis, strength, force} are you using?' (Perhaps the implication was that the apostles were under demonic or occultic influences, which would have been punishable by death. Lev 20:27)
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them,
Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man,
by what means he is made whole;
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel,
that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead,
[even] by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,
which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said...- (see Luk 12:11,12)
The natural tendency, when confronted with an insinuation of guilt, would be to respond in nervous self-defense (eg., Joh 18:15-18, 25-27). But now, Peter, enabled by the Spirit, speaks boldly. The Holy Spirit spoke through him, directly to the national leaders of Israel, with unsettling clarity.
...if we... be examined of the good deed done...-
Whereas the rulers' question had implied some kind of wrong doing, the matter at hand was a miraculous healing, which was nothing but good.
...this man stands here before you 'whole' {GK=sozo, 'completely rescued'} out of his 'impotent' {ie., diseased, weakened} condition... the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth... even by Him...-
The means of healing was through faith in this Person. The same Person...
  • "whom ye crucified..."
  • "whom God raised from the dead..."
  • whose rejection was prophesied in Scripture.-
    In v.11, Peter quotes Psa 118:22, making clear that it applied to the assembled rulers.
    They were guilty of rejecting and crucifying the One who is the chief corner stone of that which God is building (Eph 2:19-22; 1Pet 2:6-8).
  • who alone has authority and power to save (v.12).-
    If anyone ever had need of salvation from the wrath of God (and we all do), it would be those rulers who had condemned and killed the One whom God had sent (v.10; 3:13-15).
       Despite their wicked action, and as attested by His resurrection, the truth remains that Jesus is that Savior, and there is no other. Faith in His name {person and authority} is the only means of salvation. Therefore, seeing our desperate need of salvation, it behooves us (as individuals and as a nation) to repent and turn to the rejected Christ, "whereby {lit., in whom} we must {ie., it is imperative, it is of necessity to} be saved {GK=sozo, rescued out of calamity ('sozo' is translated 'made whole' in v.9)}.
       The leaders of the nation had now been confronted with the message, which had been delivered on the previous day to the people of Israel (3:17-23).
       What would they do?
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John,
and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled;
and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them,
they could say nothing against it.
...they were unlearned {GK=agrammatos, lit. 'unlettered'} and ignorant {GK=idiotes, common, uneducated} men...-
The rulers were surprised by what they heard with their ears: the boldness of these men, who they judged to be illiterates from the lower classes of society, who lacked the formal education of which they prided themselves. They were well aware that Peter and John were disciples of Jesus. The rulers had been offended by His teaching, though it was beyond their comprehension (Mat 15:12-14; 11:25; 1Cor 1:27).
and beholding the man which was healed... they could say nothing against it.-
The rulers were confronted by what they saw with their eyes. The healing of this man was a clear sign in confirmation of the truth spoken by Peter. They could not contradict it publicly. But behind closed doors, the content of their hearts was revealed.
15. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council,
they conferred among themselves,
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men?
for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them
[is] manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny [it].
17 But that it spread no further among the people,
let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
...we cannot deny it.- Yet, they would not accept it.
They saw the sign with their eyes, but refused to believe. As then, so now... Unbelief, concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is not a matter of faulty evidence, but of the obstinate will of a sinful heart.
18 And they called them, and commanded them
not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19 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.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
(cp. 1Joh 1:1-3)
The rulers rejected the Truth and opposed its proclamation, commanding that they should not mention the name of Jesus "at all."
     Surely, concerning other matters, the rulers of the nation would teach that obedience to God is paramount. But their hearts were hardened. They would not receive the eye witness testimony of Peter and John (v.20). Neither would they accept the evidence standing before their own eyes (v.10).
21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go,
finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people:
for all [men] glorified God for that which was done.
22 For the man was above forty years old,
on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.
The rulers, while willfully blind to the truth of God, were nevertheless cautiously sensitive to public opinion.
23. And being let go, they went to their own company,
and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
"Their own company" refers to the company of believers, the church of called out ones (Acts 2:44-47).
24 And when they heard that,
they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,
{GK=despotes}, thou [art] God, which hast made heaven, and earth,
and the sea, and all that in them is:
25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said,
Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth stood up,
and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed,
both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles,
and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
29 And now, Lord
{GK=kurios}, behold their threatenings:
and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal;
and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
...and when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God...-
The early church, being in close fellowship with the Lord, turned naturally to Him in their crisis. Too often, today, the church explores its political, legal and public relations options, and then, as an after thought, offers prayer. Have we forgotten wherein is our strength? (Psa 28:5-9; Heb 4:15,16)
Observe the simplicity of their prayer, as they went directly to Him. They prayed...
  • with one accord... (v.24a)- They were agreed together as they approached His throne (Mat 18:19).
  • with Worship and Praise...(v.24b)- They acknowledged Him as:
    1. Lord {GK=despotes, the One in absolute control}, who is also our Lord {GK=kurios, ruler, master, v.29}
    2. the Creator God, who is all powerful and has every right to do His own will.
  • informed by God's Word...(v.25,26)-
    They quote from Psa 2:1,2, acknowledging God's Word to be true.
  • with understanding of God's Will...(27,28)-
    They saw God's Purposes revealed in His Word, and how they applied to their present situation. They believed His promises concerning the future, as Psalm 2 also foretells the establishment of Christ as King and the judgment upon those who oppose Him.
  • with Confidence that the Lord knew their present circumstances perfectly...(v.29a)
  • with a Request...(v.29b,30)- Their single request, that God's Word would be made known, was certainly according to His revealed Will.
    Their single request had two aspects:
    1. Grant boldness to speak thy Word.-
      They did not ask for relief from their present distress. Rather, they requested power to proclaim the Word more strongly. Without doubt, they understood that this would further enflame the wrath of the rulers against them. But, as servants, they were not to be occupied with personal ease, but with the task committed to them by the Master (Acts 1:8).
    2. Confirm the message supernaturally (with healings, signs and wonders)...-
      They desired, above all, that their countrymen would also place their faith in Jesus. For Jews, who believed the prophets, such signs, like the healing of the lame beggar, should have enabled them to identify Jesus as the Messiah.
      - The Lord begins to answer the second aspect of their prayer, a few days later, in 5:12-16.
      - The answer to the first aspect came without delay.
31 And when they had prayed,
the place was shaken where they were assembled together;
and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Were they surprised to be so shaken, filled and empowered?
Most believers would be surprised, today. We have not because we ask not... or because we ask amiss (James 4:2,3). Are we not distracted by the things of the world and divided by our fleshly differences? Though we often mouth the words, we lack the single minded desire that "Thy will be done..." and ask, instead, according to wills that are not aligned with His. But it need not be so (Joh 15:7).
32. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul:
neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own;
but they had all things common.
33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus:
and great grace was upon them all.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked:
for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them,
and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid [them] down at the apostles' feet:
and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas,
(which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,)
a Levite, [and] of the country of Cyprus,
37 Having land, sold [it], and brought the money,
and laid [it] at the apostles' feet.
This is an example of Christ's church, His body, at the peak of health and strength.
the multitude... were of one heart... one soul...-
Though they came from diverse walks of life, the innermost desire and purpose of every believer was centered on Christ.
with great power gave... witness of the resurrection... great grace...-
The resurrection of Christ was at the center of their message.
The power to witness was great, because it flowed from God as He poured great grace {ie., favor} upon these who sought His will with their whole hearts.
...they had all things common...- (see Acts 2:44,45)
These believers regarded all that they possessed, as belonging to the Lord. As He led them, individuals sold personal possessions, houses and lands, to provide financial support for their common cause. They were probably motivated by an expectation that the Lord would return very soon, in response to the nation's repentance and turning to Him (3:19-21). While they prayed and worked selflessly toward this end, they did not yet know that the nation would continue in their rejection of Christ, and would soon turn to persecute His servants. Yet, in God's wisdom, their present sale of possessions would make it easier for them to depart, when the time of dispersion came.
Joses... Barnabas {HB, lit., son of prophecy; ie., one who speaks and applies God's truth}...
...son of consolation {GK=paraklesis, comfort, encouragement, lit., 'called to the side of another'}.-
Barnabas, a Levite, was a descendant of the priestly line. It may be that his family had fled to Cyprus during the Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. It is likely that he was one of those who came to faith in Christ upon hearing Peter's first message at Pentecost (2:8-14,38,41).
     He was apparently a man of substantial wealth. His given name "Joses" {meaning 'exalted'} reflected his lineage and station in life.
     However, the apostles called him "son of consolation," to better describe his character. Barnabas took pleasure in assisting and supporting the apostles and other believers, whose purpose in life (like his own) was to make Christ known. Later in Acts, we will see Barnabas come alongside, first Paul and then Mark, to encourage them to grow into the ministries that the Lord had for them.

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