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The Book of ACTS

Chapter 4

THEME: First persecution of the church; power of the Holy Spirit

This chapter shows the result of Peter's second sermon. Five thousand (5000) people were saved. Then the apostles were arrested and put into prison. This persecution was because of the Sadducees, and the reason for it was the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Rulers of the Jews offended by Peter’s sermon.

Acts 4:1-2 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. (KJV)

Who was it that led in the persecution of the Lord Jesus and finally had Him arrested and put to death? It was the religious rulers of the Jews, the Pharisees. They were the enemies of Christ (Phil.3:18; Jam.4:4) as He walked here on Earth. It seems that some of the Pharisees were saved. We know that Nicodemus was. Joseph of Arimathea may have been a Pharisee. We know that Saul of Tarsus was one. There surely were other Pharisees who came to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The captain of the temple . . . the Levitical guard, the Levitical priests and the Sadducees, all were angered at the apostles for preaching through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (KJV)

The biggest enemies of the preaching of the Gospel are not the booze people or gangsters or unbelievers. The biggest enemies of the Gospel of Christ are false preachers and 'religious' leaders and the liberals who CLAIM to be born again. They are most certainly enemies of the preaching of the Gospel. The apostle Paul warns us. Phil. 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. (KJV) . . . Concision = conflict, division, dissension, discord, rebellion. Phil.3:18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (KJV)

The Sadducees of that day and the "Sadducees" of our day try to make trouble for anyone who preaches Jesus as the One and Only Saviour (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12), and His Resurrection. We can preach Jesus as a nice, loving, sweet Person, no problem. But when we preach Him as the mighty Saviour who is the One and ONLY Way of salvation, who came to Earth, denounced sin, died on the Cross for the sins of men, and then rose again in mighty power . . . big problem! Enemies of Christ do NOT want to hear the TRUTH! When the apostles preached it, the Sadducees arrested them and brought them to the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jewish nation.

Acts 4:3-4 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. (KJV)

All this was happening on Solomon's porch of the Temple, following the sermon which Peter had delivered. If there were 5000 men who believed, think of how many women and children might have believed. This was a great multitude that turned to Christ.

Solomon's porch was a portico was on the east side of the temple. Josephus says it was part of the original structure of Solomon [Antiquities, 20.9.7]. I could not find anything more there.

I am reluctant to criticize Simon Peter. I can't help but love him. He was used mightily by God. This was NOT an evangelistic meeting like today, where numbers are turned in rather carelessly. These were TRUE converts. There is nothing like this on record from that day to the present day, and I don't it will be exceeded as long as the church is in the world.

A sudden disturbance by a body of angry and probably armed men rushed in, pushing through the crowd and grabbing Peter and John. This is just the first of a series of persecutions. We would naturally expect to find the parties to this violent outburst identical with the chief persecutors of Jesus, and think that the same motives which had excited opposition to him would bring about the same against His disciples.

The Pharisees were Peter's worst enemies. The Sadducees had been indifferent to his mannerisms, but here we see it is the Sadducees who were leading the attack on the apostles. We will soon see the leader of the Pharisees interfering to save them from threatened death. We will see an unexpected change in the position of the parties.

The captain of the temple, with his guard, was no doubt under the orders of the chief of the officiating priests, and executed the arrest.

Acts 4:5-6 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. (KJV)

We have seen this crowd before. Annas and Caiaphas are the sneaky guys, who condemned Jesus to die. The prisoners must have been arrested late in the afternoon, so all proceedings were adjourned till the next day. Peter and John had the night in prison to reflect on the trial.

This was the great Jewish Sanhedrin, and the parties named are the officials who made up that tribunal. Who John and Alexander were is not known. Annas and Caiaphas are characters in the history of the trial of Jesus, and also mentioned in the pages of Josephus, the Jewish historian. Between Josephus and Luke there is an apparent disagreement in reference to their official position at this time. Luke calls Annas the high priest, and Josephus says it was Caiaphas. According to Josephus, Valerius Gratus, the immediate predecessor of Pontius Pilate, had removed Annas from the high priesthood, and after having appointed and removed three others, one of them, Eleazar, the son of Annas, finally left Caiaphas in office, when he was superseded by Pilate. The Apostle John informs us that Caiaphas was son-in-law of Annas. According to the law of Moses the high priest held office during life; hence, in deposing Annas, the Roman governor violated the Jewish Law, and the act was religiously null and void. Annas was still high priest by right, and for this reason is so stated here by Luke. The Jews, also, recognized his right, by taking Jesus before him for trial, though he, not daring to claim the office, sent them to Caiaphas. In his Gospel (Lu.3:2), Luke also mentions them both as being high priests at the same time. This is best explained by the fact that one was rightfully entitled to the office, and the other was exercising it by illegal appointment.

The kindred of the high priest included not only the chief members of his immediate family, but also some of the former high priests, who were all probably connected with the one high priestly family, and thereby entitled to seats in the Sanhedrin.

Acts 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? (KJV)

Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin. So far, the lame man had been healed, and Peter had preached his second sermon. The Sanhedrin demands to know by what power and by what name they do these things.

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, (KJV)

Notice: Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. He was NOT baptized by the Holy Spirit at this time . . . that "one time event" had already been accomplished on the Day of Pentecost. Here, Peter is FILLED with the Holy Spirit. You and I also need the daily filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph.5:18). That is something we should seek, day by day! It is something we should truly desire! IF you are "born again" you have already had the baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor.12:13). You do NOT have to "tarry and wait" until the Day of Pentecost . . . for that too was a one time only event! Today if you will turn to Jesus Christ, you SHALL be baptized with the Holy Spirit and placed into the body of believers at the very moment you are regenerated. 1 Cor.12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (KJV)

Acts 4:9-10 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. (KJV)

Peter is bold and does a good job of speaking to these men. So many times in the past, when Peter opened his mouth, he put his foot in it. BUT this time, he does NOT! He has his ". . . feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). He is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he is saying everything RIGHT! He asks: "Are we on trial for the good deed we did for the lame man?"

Acts 4:11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (KJV)

Then Peter goes on to point out two things about the Lord Jesus.

  • #1. He was crucified and raised from the dead. The Sadducees did NOT want to hear that! Neither do millions in today's world!
  • #2. Christ Jesus is the Cornerstone. Jesus had said, ". . . Upon this rock I will build my church . . . " (Mat. 16:18). WHAT, WHO is the rock? The Rock is Christ. It is NOT Peter as many falsely teach!

This is the stone . . . WHAT is is the Stone? Is it the church? Is it Simon Peter? NO! it is the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He IS the Head of the corner. Jesus accomplished this by the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the MAIN point to the preaching of the Gospel.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (KJV)

Let's go back to the birth of Jesus and the instruction of the angel: ". . . thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Mat. 1:21). JESUS is the Saviour of the WORLD whether people believe it or not!

JESUS was His Name at the beginning. When you accept the Name, you accept all that it implies in the Person who is involved. Peter makes it very clear. When someone comes to Christ Jesus, they come to Him for salvation! There is NO other Name under Heaven that can save you.

  • #1. The law CANNOT save you!
  • #2. Religion CANNOT save you!
  • #3. A ceremony or rite or ritual CANNOT save you!
  • #4. Baptism CANNOT save you!
  • #5. NO Work can save you.
  • #6. Heritage CANNOT save you.
  • #7. NO amount of money can buy salvation. It is FREE to ALL who believe! (Eph.2:8-9; Rom.3:24; 6:23).

One and only One alone, the Name of Jesus can save you. Jesus is the Name of that Person who came down to this Earth to save His people from their sins. When any person (whosoever) comes to Him in faith, that person is saved. There is NO other place or person to turn to for salvation. If you want eternal life in Heaven, you must go to JESUS!

Of the long history of this world, and all the religions of the world, and all the doctrines of these religions, NOT one of them can offer a SURE salvation! There is "none other name under heaven whereby you can be saved." God says so in His Holy Word! If you come to Him, if you trust Christ, then you are saved. That guarantees your salvation. (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13). You either believe the Bible or you don't! Which are you?

What a tremendous Message Simon Peter brought before that court!

Acts 4:13 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. (KJV)

Unlearned and ignorant . . . these men had NOT been to a seminary. BUT . . . neither had Peter! Personally I do not think it is necessary for a person to go to a seminary to teach or preach the Truth of the Bible. Some of the best sermons I have ever heard came from men who had never been to college or seminary!

If a person is called by God to serve Him, God SHALL equip that person for the job He sets before him or her. Peter was proof of this. The Sanhedrin knew that the apostles had been with Jesus. How wonderful to live life that brings attention to Jesus! A fine way to end that message to the Sanhedrin.

Acts 4:14-15 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, (KJV)

There was total silence for awhile, when Peter stopped speaking. Not a man in the Sanhedrin would open his mouth in answer to Peter's very brief but powerful speech. He had brought up every detestable opinion on which they arrested him, yet not one of them dared to contradict his words, or to rebuke him for standing up to them. That silence was painful and embarrassing.

Acts 4:16 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. (KJV)

Not even the Sadducees of that day could deny that a miracle had been done. It is the liberals, living in today's wicked world to deny miracles. But, even today's liberals, had they been there then, would have had difficulty denying the miracle. The liberals of that day said: "We cannot deny a miracle has taken place."

So many today say that if they could just see a miracle, they would then believe. That is NOT true. This crowd wouldn't believe, and people today have the same human nature as these people had. The problem is not a problem of the mind. It is a problem of the will and of the heart. The heart is desperately wicked (Jer.17:9). Unbelief is not from a lack of facts; it comes from the human heart. (Lu.22:67). John 10:25-28 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (KJV)

Acts 4:17-18 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. 18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (KJV)

The motive which controlled the persecutors was a deep desire to maintain their influence with the people. This is quite clear in the conclusion to which they came. The decision was made and acted upon. The apostles were commanded NOT to speak of Jesus, or teach in the Name of Jesus.

It is not known how Luke learned the particulars of the secret meeting which ended in the decision. Gamaliel, Saul's teacher, and maybe Saul himself, and many of the priests themselves afterward were converted. These and other conversions from the ranks of the enemy opened up channels for such information in abundance.

Acts 4:19-22 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. 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. (KJV)

The apostles, if at all worried about their personal safety, might have received this stern warning in silence, and respectfully leave the assembly. BUT . . . they simply and boldly stated that they would keep on keeping on, speak of the things of which we have seen and heard. There was no fear (1 Jn.4:18). This was open and public defiance of their power.

It was a great trial to the proud spirits of the Sanhedrin to take such defiant stand; but because of the people, they restrained their wrath.

The Power Of The Holy Spirit (Acts 4:23-37)

Acts 4:23-24 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. 24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: (KJV)

Peter and John were released and they returned to the church, where they reported all that had happened. Here we have recorded a great meeting of the early church. It is doubtful that the spiritual condition of the church has ever again been on such a high level as it was that day. That is quite clear in their prayer. It is more than a simple prayer; it is a song of praise. "Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:" What a wonderful way to start a prayer! I don't think that many in the church believes that today. The Lord is God. Are you sure that the Lord Jesus is God? Are you? That is VERY important.

The church is NOT sure today. The modern church is fumbling and falling away in apostasy (1 Tim.4:1; 2 Tim.4:3-4). It has lost its power. Today's church is always talking about NEW methods, always trying NEW things to attract people. So many churches today are nothing more than religious clubs. The early church was sure that Jesus is God.

Acts 4:25-26 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. (KJV)

By the mouth of . . . David . . . the Jews gave credit of Psalm 2 to David. David's spirit sees "the heathen, the people, the kings and princes of the earth," . . . David was right! The vast majority are going against God and His Anointed (His Messiah, or Christ). The question David asks is "why." The disciples see the fierce hatred of the group in full operation: the combination of Herod and Pilate (Gentiles, the Roman authority) and the people of Israel, against God's Holy Child, Jesus (Ac 3:13).

The beginning of the fulfillment of Psalm 2 was when they crucified Jesus Christ. Hatred of Jesus and of God has been gathering speed for 1900 years. It is gathering size and momentum. It will finally build up into a mighty and final rebellion of man against God. It is getting just like in the days of Noah, when God sent the Flood; and Sodom and Gomorrah when God completely destroyed those cities! My friend, God's judgment on the wicked is SURE! Believe it!

Acts 4:27-29 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, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, (KJV)

This was a very worshipful prayer and praise service. They all were in one accord (Ac.1:14; 2:1,46; 5:12; 8:6). There were probably many "amens" that day! Consider: they did NOT pray for the persecution to stop . . . they prayed for the courage to endure what ever came their way. They asked for power and for boldness to speak. That early church was quite different from the modern, seeker friendly churches of today.

Acts 4:30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. (KJV)

The apostles not only wanted boldness to speak, but they also wanted God to continue to work miracles, to furnish them and the people, proof of the Truth they spoke. They did NOT ask that He preserve their lives, or keep them from danger. They confidently committed their way to God, wanting to promote the Truth to the people, seeking only that God would be glorified. How things have changed!

Acts 4:31 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. (KJV)

This event that followed was considered by them as proof that God had heard their prayer. The place was shaken . . . meaning violent agitation, such as the raging of the sea, an earthquake, or trees shaken by the wind (Mat.11:7, Acts 16:26, Heb.12:26). This certainly could have been an earthquake. IF the shaking was confined just to the house where they were, is not said, but . . .

  • #1. It was sudden and violent,
  • #2. it was not produced by man made causes;
  • #3. it happened while they were seeking Divine direction;
  • #4. it was an exhibition of great power,
  • #5. it was proof that God could protect them.

Because the convulsion was so great, sudden, and mighty . . . it filled them with awe and was proof of the Presence and power of God. A similar instance of an answer to prayer by an earthquake is recorded in Acts 16:25-26. Also the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-2. Among the Jews an earthquake was always taken as a striking and impressive proof of the Presence of Jehovah (Isa. 29:6; Ps.68:8; Hab.3:6-11; Mat.27:54).

They were all filled with the Holy Ghost . . . again I say, NOT baptized . . . that is a one time event, that happened at Pentecost, they were filled with the Spirit (Eph.5:18) . . . being filled is a daily command. Their being filled with the Holy Ghost, here means that they were inspired with confidence and boldness, NOT that they were endowed with new powers, as in Acts 2:4.

Acts 4:32 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. (KJV)

The number of believers at this time was large. In Acts 4:4, it is said that it was 5000, and the number increased constantly. One heart . . . this means tender union. They had no conflict, opposition or rebellion. One soul . . . this also means close and tender union. How different the position of today's church would be, if that union had continued to the present time!

And they had all things common . . . (Acts 2:44)
"One heart, one mind" . . . (Rom.15:5-6; 2 Cor.13:11; Phil.2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8).

Acts 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (KJV)

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the very heart of Gospel preaching, but it is SO sadly neglected or downright rejected by today's false teachers.

Acts 4:34-37 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. (KJV)

This kind of living was carried out only for a short time because of the great spiritual condition of the church. It is ridiculous to say that we should do this today. It just would not happen! Why? Because there has to be the same high spiritual level, and it is NOT there today. The greedy preachers want it all in many churches. Greed! There HAS TO BE a closer relationship to the Person of Jesus Christ. The early church was able to share possessions and property as a result of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit working in and through the believers' lives. This way of living is different from communism because (1) the sharing was voluntary; (2) it didn't involve all private property, but just what was needed; (3) it was not a membership requirement; (4) it was not a command.

Barnabas is first mentioned here. We will hear more of him later.

Book of Acts

Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28

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