Why The Early Church Grew (Acts 4:1-37)

The  Persecution: Acts 4:1-7

Verse 1 tells us that first persecution the early church experienced came from the Sadducees. This was not unusual because they did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that the Apostles were proclaiming to the people that day.

The Captain of the temple guard is mentioned in this passage; he was second in command on temple grounds to the High Priest. Rome allowed the Jews to police the Temple grounds. We would like to give you a comparison of the beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Irving Jensen, gives us this account:

Pharisees

Sadducees

Name meant “the separated ones.” Name may come from zaddikum “the righteous ones.”
Largest and most influential sect. Second to Pharisees in prominence -majority power in the Council at this time, the aristocratic minority, educated and wealthy class.
Extreme legalism External legalism
Little interest in politics Major concern was politics.
Operated principally in the synagogues. Operated principally in the Temple. 
Held these doctrines: immortality, resurrection, spirits and angels. Denied: immortality, resurrection, spirits and angels.
Regarded rabbinic tradition highly. Accepted as authoritative only the written Old Testament.

In verse 2 we read of the opposition by the Sadducees concerning the resurrection from the dead. They had Peter and John put in jail for the night. Their reasoning: the Mosaic Law forbade night trials. This was conveniently disregarded in the case of Jesus. Verse 4 tells us of 5,000 souls being added to the church.

The Sanhedrin convened the  next day. Some of the  ones  presiding over the procedures had been the same ones  who condemned Jesus. They wanted to know by what authority Peter and John healed the lame man.

Peter’s Defense: Acts 4:8-22

Peter, filled with the  Holy Spirit. Now  presents his defense. He says that they were on trial for doing good. In verse 10 he  says it was  by the  authority of Jesus Christ that this man was healed. He then refers to Psalm 118:22 where it says that the  Messiah would be  rejected. In verse 12 Peter emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the  hope of the  world. Jesus is the  Blessed Hope, as  Paul calls Him in Titus 2:13. Only  through Jesus can sinful mankind come to the Father. We think back to John 14:6 where it reads, I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

The Sanhedrin took note of the fact that these  men were unlearned. This  meant that they had  not  attended  or were trained in the rabbinic schools. They were not professional scholars. They also recognized them as  being with Jesus. The lame man stood with them, witness to the fact that a miracle had taken place. The Sanhedrin could not  deny that.

In verse 15 the Bible tells us that the Sanhedrin ordered the  apostles out of the chambers so they could  come to a decision. What shall they do with these men? They could not  deny that a  miracle had transpired. They decided to warn them never again to speak in the  Name  of Jesus. They brought  Peter and John back in and gave them the decision.

In verse  19-20 Peter tells them  that he and John can’t stop preaching. The  apostles had been commanded by the Risen Savior (Luke 24:48-49) to proclaim His resurrection and to teach about Him. We are told that they set them  free and that the  lame man’s age was  40.

The Early Church Was A Praying Church: Acts 4:23-31

After their release the two apostles went back to the company of their companions. After relating the  events  of the trial to fellow-believers, they went to the Lord in prayer. First of all they acknowledged  the sovereign power of God. In verse 25 they quoted from Psalm 2. In verses 26-27 there is a  quote from Psalm 2:2. This  brings  out the  fact that responsibility for the death of Christ lay on both Jew and Gentile. Verse 28  tells us that all this was in  the eternal plan and purpose of God.

They did not  pray for the persecution to stop, but, rather prayed for the boldness to speak with  confidence amidst the  persecution.  While they spoke the Word, God confirmed the  Word  with miracles. Verse 31 relates that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It is right and proper to pray for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us.

The Early Church Shared Their Possessions: Acts 4:32-37

The early Christians shared  what they had in common with each other. They said  what is mine is yours. In verse 33 the Twelve were continuing to proclaim the  power of the resurrection. Those  who owned  property would  sell it and give the  proceeds to the  apostles to distribute to the  needy.  That this was  voluntary, we will see in the  5th chapter of Acts.

In verse 36 we  see the  first  mention in  the  New Testament of Barnabus. He was  a Levite from the island  of Cyprus.  His name means “Son of Encouragement.” He  ownedsome land and sold it and gave the  proceeds to the  aposltes to be  used for feeding the  needy. This is  how the  4th chapter ends. If their was a need the  church met it; they helped their own.

There will be  an  additional article based on the  4th  chapter. It will be  called  “Five Reasons For  Chruch  Growth.” After that  article, we will continue  with Acts  5: “Trouble From Within and Without.”

#acts, #studies-in-acts