1 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. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 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. 11 He is "`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' 12 Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.

16 "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. 17 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." 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

21 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. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

23 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. 24 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. 25 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? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' 27 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. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

31 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. 32 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. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 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 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.  Version: New International (British) Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • As Peter has used the natural opportunity to share his faith following the healing of a lame man (Acts 3), the religious leaders are upset (v.1ff).
    • Although most Jewish leaders accepted the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, they did not admit Jesus' sovereignty in the event (v.2).
    • They arrest Peter and John (v.3).
    • Despite this apparent set-back, the church continues to thrive (v.4).
  • The leaders challenge the apostles on their authority (vv.5-12).
    • This reminds us of Luke 20:2, where Jesus' authority is questioned.
    • Peter accepts the offer to preach!
  • The leaders are taken aback by the boldness and knowledge of the apostles(v.13ff).
    • They were not, after all, products of the official academy (v.13).
    • Yet the evidence of the healing was incontrovertible (v.14,16).
    • Time to confer (v.15)!
  • The leaders then try to silence the apostles (vv.17ff).
    • Peter and John baldly refuse (vv.19-20).
    • In fact, all Christians truly impelled by the Holy Spirit cannot help but speak about Christ. (See also Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16.)
    • At this point, the Christians enjoy a degree of popularity among the crowds (v.21; 2:47). This time of favor will not last.
  • On being released, the apostles update the church, and all pray for boldness (v.23ff).
    • They acknowledge that it is God who has ultimate authority, not the leaders of the nation. In fact, the tension between the authorities and the church reminds them of Psalm 2.
    • They pray for courage (v.29) and miracles (v.30).
  • The meeting was "shaken" (v.31). Is this a physical shaking or a spiritual one? Perhaps both.
    • They were willing to respond to the implicit imperative of their own prayer, continuing to preach boldly in Jerusalem (v.31).
    • Not only was their preaching powerful, but also their love; materialism and selfishness did not discredit the message, but shone as a radiant spiritual example for all to see (v.32,34ff). Though not compelled, church members from time to time liquidated assets in order to meet the needs of poorer members.
    • The apostles performed miracles (v.33). In Acts, every miracle is done by an apostle -- or else in the presence of or through the agency of an apostle.
  • One of the generous, more well-to-do members, was Barnabas, about whom we will read much in later chapters (9:27; 11:22ff; 11:30; 12:25; 13:1ff; 15:35ff).

Advanced:

  • It is clear from v.6 that the "dynasty" of Annas controlled religious affairs. At this time, Caiaphas was the titular high priest, yet his father-in-law Annas, previously holding this office, was still ruling behind the scenes. In the O.T. the high priest holds his office until death, but in this period the Romans determined who served in what was now a temporary position.
  • Regarding v.13, many ask whether a Christian leader ought to attend seminary. Click here for some thoughts.
  • Often it is alleged that the N.T. is "anti-Semitic," laying blame on the Jews rather than on the Romans for the execution of Christ. V.27 is one of many passages that disprove the charge. Here it is clear that the Christians considered the Romans culpable. Moreover, often the phrase "the Jews" (especially in John's gospel) refers to the leaders of the nation, who misled their people. not to the Jews as a whole, many of whom were still becoming Christians at this time.
  • Against those who claim that Acts portrays the early church as socialistic, here is my response. The difference between socialism and communism, on the one hand, and what the Bible teaches, on there other, is that what the Bible teaches is totally voluntary and emanates from within -- while socialism / communism must be imposed from without. Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:42-35 are a good display of the former.

Thought questions:

  • Do I accept the truth of Acts 4:12, or am I fuzzy or sentimental in my thinking about the narrow road?
  • Do I have the spirit of Acts 4:20?
  • Have I ever sold property and given all or part of the proceeds to the church, in order to support needier brothers and sisters?

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