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:
|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.”