4:1 The priests [mostly Sadducees] and the captain of the temple guard [a high-ranking Sadducee; kept order in and around the temple] and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people [at Solomon’s Colonnade (cf. Acts 3:11)].
4:2 They [especially the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead] were greatly disturbed [irritated; annoyed] because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead [this teaching contradicted beliefs of the Sadducees].
4:3 They seized [arrested] Peter and John, and because it was evening [too late to hold an official inquiry], they put them in jail until the next day.
4:4 But many who heard the message [religious leaders arrested the messengers but could not stop the message] believed, and the number of men [not counting women and children] grew to about five thousand.
4:5 The next day the rulers [perhaps Sadducees], elders [heads of families] and teachers [scribes; professional interpreters of the law] of the law [these made up the Sanhedrin; same council that had condemned Jesus to death (cf. Lk. 22:66); consisted of seventy regular members plus the high priest] met in Jerusalem.
Within hours of Peter’s and John’s arrest, the same council of men that had condemned Jesus to death (Luke 22:66) assembled in Jerusalem. Charged with the responsibility of protecting the Jewish faith, the powerful members of the Sanhedrin (see Acts 4:15) met to assess this latest threat to the faith. The seventy-member council served as the supreme court of the land with the current high priest serving as the presiding officer. Although the members of this elite intellectual group knew the Scriptures, they had failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
4:6 Annas [a former high priest and father-in-law to Caiaphas] the high priest [high priests retained title for life] was there, and so were Caiaphas [the ruling priest; cf. Jn. 18:24], John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.
Annas was among the dignitaries present that day. Although deposed from the priesthood by the Romans, he retained the title high priest for life. He was perhaps the most powerful political figure among the Jews and functioned in something of a “godfather” role. Caiaphas, the current high priest, and his father-in-law Annas were instrumental in the conviction of Jesus a few months earlier. These men now met to consider what to do about Jesus’ troublesome followers.
4:7 They had Peter and John [and the healed man as per 4:14] brought before [or “in the middle” of] them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this [the message and the miracle of healing of the lame man]?”
After spending a night in jail, Peter and John were summoned before the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas, the presiding officer, most likely started the interrogation. He asked by what kind of power or what name they had used to heal the lame beggar—suggesting they might have used a magic formula such as those used by exorcists.
4:8 Then [in response to their question] Peter, filled with [empowered by] the Holy Spirit, said [under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 10:18-20)] to them [note that Peter was respectful…]: “Rulers and elders [members of the Sanhedrin] of the people!
Jesus had promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would give them the words (Luke 12:11-12) and wisdom (Luke 21:14-15) to defend themselves when they encountered opposition (Matt. 10:18-20). Peter experienced the fulfillment of that promise as he stood before the Sanhedrin. Filled or empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter stood his ground and spoke the truth courageously yet courteously.
4:9 If [or “since”] we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple [one who was weak, helpless, powerless, and dependent on others] and are asked how he was healed [made whole; this word is translated “to be saved” in verse 12],
Ironically, Peter and John were called to account for performing an act of kindness. The religious leaders could not deny that the lame man had been healed because he stood before them as Exhibit A (see Acts 4:14). They knew the man and had likely walked past him every time they entered the temple complex (see Acts 3:2). Perhaps some of them had even given him alms or prayed for him. Yet Peter and John did for this man what no one else had been able to do—they healed him in the name of Jesus.
While God may not use us to heal someone, we can meet others’ physical needs in many ways, such as giving clothes to people who need them, providing food for hungry people, and building homes for the homeless. Such acts of kindness often open doors that allow us to share the gospel with others.
4:10 then know this, you [rulers and elders] and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth [Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah], [Peter the accused became Peter the accuser…] whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
Peter addressed his reply to the Sanhedrin as well as to all the people of Israel. As he stood before an assembly of the most important religious leaders in Jerusalem, Peter the accused became the accuser. Without hesitation he attributed the healing to Jesus the Christ—a term that clearly identified Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. The religious leaders and the people had crucified Him but God raised Jesus from the dead, thus affirming that He is indeed the Messiah and God’s own Son (see Rom. 1:4).
4:11 He [Jesus Christ] is [cf. Ps. 118:22] “‘the stone you builders rejected [implies contempt or scorn], which has become the capstone [or cornerstone; the reference point for aligning the other stones in the building].’
4:12 [cf. 1 Tim. 2:5] Salvation is found in no one else [cf. Jn. 14:6], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Without concern for any negative consequences, Peter proclaimed that salvation comes only through Jesus. Other religions may have prophets or charismatic leaders, but only Christianity offers the world a Savior who is uniquely qualified to save people from their sins.
In an age that celebrates tolerance and pluralism, we must be ready to face the heat of political incorrectness and possibly the charge of ‘hate crime’ as we witness to Christ’s exclusive claims. Salvation is not available from any political, religious, or ideological leader. Salvation is found in no other name under heaven but the name of Jesus.
4:13 When they [the members of the Sanhedrin] saw the courage [boldness] of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled [did not have rabbinical training], ordinary men [laymen], they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The members of the Sanhedrin were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John. Peter spoke with confidence and articulated his defense with an eloquence that puzzled the influential Jewish scholars. They recognized that these ordinary fishermen had no formal rabbinical training nor did they have any religious credentials.
Perhaps some of those present had heard Jesus teach in the temple complex and wondered, “How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn’t been trained?” (John 7:15). And now, the uneducated and untrained followers of Jesus displayed a similar ability to speak and gave evidence that they had been with Jesus.
4:14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say [the evidence left them speechless].
4:15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.
4:16 [perhaps Gamaliel (cf. Acts 5:34; 22:3) was the source re: what was said in this meeting] “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked [the Jewish Council members were obviously concerned and in a quandary]. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.
4:17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further [they wanted to maintain the status quo; damage control] among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name [Jesus’ name].”
4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded [probably used intimidating tone] them not to speak or teach at all [to completely or entirely stop] in the name of Jesus.
The members of the Sanhedrin found themselves in an awkward predicament. Peter and John had not broken any laws and had the support of the people. In order to save face and to try to contain the situation, the council decided to scare Peter and John into silence. They called them back into the room and ordered them to completely stop preaching or teaching in the name of Jesus. This warning would serve as the foundation for taking additional punitive action against them should they disobey the order (see Acts 5:28,40).
Satan’s agenda remains the same today—to silence and discredit God’s people. Sadly, too many in the church have become entangled in that agenda.
4:19 But Peter and John replied [they boldly rejected the ban on speaking in Jesus’ name], “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God [the will of the Council was at odds with the will of God; cf. Acts 5:29].
The Sanhedrin had asked Peter and John to do the one thing they could not do—to remain silent about Jesus. Peter and John were not interested in doing what was popular, expedient, or safe. They were interested in doing what was right in the sight of God! Therefore, because the order of the Council was at odds with Jesus’ command to witness (Acts 1:8) they rejected the ban on speaking about Jesus. In so doing they joined the ranks of the Jewish midwives (Ex. 1), Moses’ parents (Heb. 11:23), Daniel, (Dan. 1 and 6), and Daniel’s three friends (Dan. 3)—all conscientious objectors who disobeyed authorities in order to serve God.
4:20 For we cannot help speaking [because they were utterly convinced of the truth of the gospel] about what we have seen and heard.”
Peter and John could not remain silent, regardless of the consequences. They were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ entire ministry. They knew that He was resurrected from the dead and were utterly convinced of the truth of the gospel. Like Paul, they felt obligated to those without Christ (see Rom. 1:14) and would not keep the good news about Jesus to themselves.
4:21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God [this should have made the religious leaders happy] for what had happened.
4:22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old [accentuates the significance of the miracle and why the people were thrilled that he had been healed].
4:23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people [other believers] and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
4:24 When they heard this [the account of Peter and John’s He arrest/persecution] they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord [from Gr. “despota” (used also in Lk. 2:29; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4; Rev. 6:10); reminder that God is powerful and in control],” they said, [cf. Ps. 146:6; Isa. 37:16] “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
4:25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David [cf. Ps. 2:1-2]: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
4:26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘
4:27 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.
4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen [reminder that God is sovereign].
4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness [notice that they did not ask God to remove threats or danger of persecution but to enable them to continue speaking with boldness].
4:30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders [these would confirm their message] through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken [an indication of that God had heard their prayer]. And they were all filled [the purpose of the filling was to empower them to witness] with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
After further threats, the Sanhedrin released Peter and John who went and reported to their own fellowship what had happened. After listening to their report, the believers entered into a time of prayer. They did not pray for relief from persecution but for complete boldness to continue speaking His message.
After praying, the place where they were assembled was shaken—an indication that God had heard their prayer. And, the Holy Spirit filled or empowered those present to speak God’s message with boldness. Boldness follows filling. The Holy Spirit still empowers believers today to speak God’s message with complete boldness.
4:32 All the believers were one [unity] in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own [unselfish spirit], but they shared [they did so voluntarily, lovingly, and spontaneously; an expression of unity] everything they had.
These final verses are a window into the early church and its inner workings. While persecution can have a demoralizing impact upon believers, the arrest of Peter and John drew the early church together. The believers in Jerusalem were of one heart and soul. One of the evidences of this unity was their unselfish and giving spirit. The believers lovingly and voluntarily shared everything they had with those in need.
Sharing financial resources is a way to meet others’ physical needs and also expresses Christian love and promotes unity in the church. The world recently took notice of Christians who responded with outpourings of love, time, and resources in the wake of tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. This is to be a continual lifestyle for followers of Jesus.
4:33 With great power [provided by the Holy Spirit] the apostles continued to testify [apostles maintained focus on proclaiming the gospel; the church did not just focus on the needs of the saints] to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace [enabled these believers to share goods and proclaim Christ] was upon them all.
The apostles maintained their focus on proclaiming the gospel. Ignoring the threats of the Sanhedrin, they continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with the power provided by the Holy Spirit. Their message was validated by the generosity and kindness of the believers to those in need. This unselfish sharing made it obvious that Christ had made a difference in their lives and gave evidence that great grace, or God’s favor and blessing, was on all of them.
4:34 There were no needy persons among them [cf. Acts 4:32b; a testimony to the mutual love among believers; cf. Deut. 15:1-11]. For from time to time [when a genuine need arose] those who owned lands or houses sold [voluntary, spontaneous act of sacrificial love] them, brought the money from the sales
Note: What are some situations that usually cause you to feel more inclined to give sacrificially to help another in need?
4:35 and put it at the apostles’ feet [a gesture of submission to Christ whom the apostles represented; indicates they trusted the apostles completely; implies a giving up of rights to the property/proceeds], and it was distributed to anyone as he had need [Gr. “chreia” can refer to needs in general or someone poor enough to be dependent on others (cf. 1 Jn. 3:17)].
Because of the kindness the believers had demonstrated toward those in need, there was not a needy person among them. Those who had assets such as lands or houses voluntarily sold them and made the proceeds available to the apostles. The apostles in turn distributed these resources to anyone who had a need. In this way the needs of all the believers in Jerusalem were met. No believer in the fellowship had to beg for bread or suffer indignities because of the lack of financial resources.
We give evidence of the Spirit’s work in our lives by sharing our financial resources with others. Sharing financial resources is a way in which to express Christian love and to promote unity in the church. However, giving money should never preclude our personal involvement in the lives of others.
4:36 Joseph, a Levite [tribe with priestly role; in earlier times Levites forbidden from owning land (Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:9)] from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement [a nickname that described his character and his work]),
4:37 sold [a voluntary act] a field he owned [likely that restrictions on Levites owning property were no longer observed at this time] and brought the money [all of the proceeds or the sale] and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Note: What are ways in which you can share what you have with those in need? What could help you become more like Barnabas? How can you involve your family in giving to God’s work?