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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 4

John Baugh

August, 2009

 

Acts 4

(The New American Standard Bible)

 

Significant events in Chapter Four

 

Peter and John Arrested

1As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.

 

The place where the beggar was healed was very public. There would have been many people walking through the gate in order to enter and leave the Temple. There was no way that the miracle and Peter's subsequent sermon to those who gathered to see what was happening would not draw a large crowd, including the Temple officials and guards and in fact, it did. The person who is called the captain of the guard here was an official known as the Sagan. He reported to the high priest and it was his responsibility to keep order within the Temple. His presence at the scene of the miracle and sermon (along with the Sadducee officials of the Temple) indicated a concern for stopping whatever was taking place, and he did (stop it).

The preaching of Peter would have been very offensive to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. They were an extremely powerful group within the Temple and having them against you guaranteed bad things would happen.

It was nearing early evening when Peter and John were arrested and so they were to be held in Jail overnight, pending a hearing the next day.

 

4But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

 

Regardless of the outcome, many heard what Peter said that day and believed on Jesus. In the shadow of the miracle Luke reports is this miracle of 5,000 men who heard and accepted and believed.

 

5On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?"

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, 9if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11"He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

 

The next day, Peter and John wee brought before the Temple Court, administered by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. It is notable that these were the people who tried and found Jesus guilty, not more than 2 months previously. The Sanhedrin was the high court of the Jews. There were 71 members who sat on the Sanhedrin. It was limited in authority only in that it could not pass the death sentence except against a gentile who trespassed on the inner courts of the Temple. The head of the Sanhedrin was the High Priest (Annas) who was present for this hearing. The rest of the membership included the Sadducees, Priests, scribes (experts in the law) Pharisees and Elders. Luke tells us that there were also persons of high-priestly descent (chief priests)

This the group assembled that day. They were the ones to whom Peter spoke. There is no doubt that he knew these were the men who tried and asked for Jesus' crucifixion. For him to address this group in the manner he did was an act of great courage. There is no way that he did not understand that his life was in jeopardy as he spoke.

 

Threat and Release

13Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17"But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name."

18And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

21When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

 

The Sanhedrin did not hold Peter and John in very high opinion. In fact. They saw them as nothing more than "uneducated and untrained men". Still there was something about them. Luke says that the Sanhedrin saw confidence in them and that they were amazed by what they observed. Then they recognized that both Peter and John had been with Jesus.

A more compelling piece of evidence was also in court that day. The man (lame beggar) who had been healed was there also, standing with Peter and John. For whatever was said or done, there was no denying the presence of the one who had been lame not twenty-four hours earlier. Luke reports that seeing the man, healed and healthy, those on the Sanhedrin "had nothing to say in reply". And so they sent the three out so that they could discuss the matter in private.

Peter and John presented a dilemma. "What shall we do with these men?" A miracle had been performed and everyone in Jerusalem knows it. It cannot be denied.

It is interesting that the decision was made to send Peter and John away and tell them not to talk about what had happened (As if that would work). And so they brought them back in and instructed them to keep quiet about what had happened. Peter and John gave the only reasonable response when God's Holy Spirit has used you in the way He had used them the previous day.

 

"Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

 

And so the Sanhedrin threatened them again and sent them away. Luke reminds us that there was no legal basis for any punishment as Peter and John were guilty of nothing. They were only praising God for what had happened.

 

23When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.

24And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 25who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?  26'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.' 27"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.29"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,30while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus."

31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

 

Here Luke reports the response of the Church to what had happened to Peter and John.

1 - They had the conviction of the power of God.

2 - They had the conviction of the futility of human rebellion

3 - They had the remembrance of Jesus

4 - They prayed for courage

5 - They received the Holy Spirit

 

Sharing among Believers

32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

 

36Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

 

 

Here, Luke reports the great concern and sense of responsibility the early church had for each other and a desire to share what they had within the community of the church. It was done, not by some legislated act, but by a concern and desire for each other.

 

Also we see here the introduction of the man Joseph, who was a Levite (member of the tribe who were set aside as priests) and known by the Apostles as Barnabas. Barnabas will become a major figure later on in Acts.

 

 

 

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