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Bible Commentaries
Acts 4

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

Peter and John Arrested

While they were still preaching, armed men came into the temple area and arrested Peter and John. This group included priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. In a footnote, F. F. Bruce said the captain of the temple, "belonged to one of the chief-priestly families, and in the temple he ranked next to the high priest. The temple guard which he commanded was a picked body of Levites. (It was from this body, presumably, that sentries were detailed to guard the tomb of Jesus, Mat_27:65 ff.)" Coffman described the Sadducees as

...proud, secular materialists who denied the existence of a spiritual world, holding that neither angels nor demons existed, denying any such thing as the resurrection, and rejecting the OT scriptures, except for parts of them which had political utility, and also refusing the traditions of the elders. Through wealth and political power they had gained control of the religious apparatus which ran the temple, the office of the high priest being regularly filled from this group.

Luke tells us the apostles were arrested because they taught the people and preached the resurrection by preaching about Jesus.

One might well marvel at the fact that the Pharisees, who had so often challenged Jesus while he walked the earth, were not specifically mentioned by Luke as being in the group which took Peter and John prisoner. Perhaps this was because the apostles were teaching the resurrection, in which the Pharisees believed. In fact, Acts often presents the Pharisees as being sympathetic to the church and even obeying the gospel (5:34-40; 15:5; 23:6-9; 26:4-5).

It was now evening, Peter and John apparently having preached for nearly three hours (compare 3:1), so they held them in jail until the next day. If this was to be a criminal case, the Sanhedrin could not try it at night (Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus, p. 137). Despite their arrest, God caused the preaching of the gospel to bring forth fruit, as Luke reports the number of men who believed came to about 5,000 ( Act_4:1-4 ). The word "believed" is a synecdoche for full obedience to the gospel.

Verses 5-12

Their Day In Court

Luke's description makes it clear that Peter and John were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin the next day. Ash says, "It was the high court of seventy members, plus the high priest, that oversaw matters concerned with the temple and its worship. It was, in fact, the chief political force among the Jews. Most were Sadducees." He went on to note that the scribes were students of the law, including most of the Pharisees on the council. Annas had been, Caiaphas was and, it appears, John was to be the High Priest ( Luk_3:2 ). So, the incident in the temple was taken very seriously. Significantly, they did not question whether or not the miracle took place, but under whose authority it was performed. Ash observes that the Greek indicates they actually asked how men like them could have done such a thing.

Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit," answered with a succinct defense of Jesus' power as the resurrected Lord (compare Mat_10:17-19 ). It was through Jesus, the one they rejected and crucified, that the man was made well, or saved, and Peter wanted the council and all of Israel to know that profound truth. Then, quoting from Psa_118:22 , to show that the Sanhedrin, as the religious builders, had rejected the very stone which was chosen by God to be the head of the corner (see Mat_21:42 ; 1Pe_2:4-6 ). Then, the inspired apostle went on to state that anyone who would ever receive spiritual healing, or salvation, would do so under the authority of Jesus Christ ( Act_4:5-12 ).

Verses 13-18

Commanded To Speak No More Under Jesus' Authority

It was obvious to those in the council that Peter and John had not been trained by the rabbis or with the scribes, yet they dared to interpret scripture with great boldness. Either because of their boldness, their use of scripture, their general demeanor, or some other factor, the council noted "they had been with Jesus." All Christians ought to strive to live so that a similar observation can be made about them. Also, and perhaps most damaging of all, the council could not refute the miracle because the formerly lame man stood before them healed!

The apostles were asked to step outside while the council conferred. They could not deny a miracle had been worked because reports of the healing were wide spread. Neither were they able to refute Peter's arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, but they needed to stop the preaching of Jesus before more of the people turned to follow him. So, they called the apostles back in, threatened them and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus ( Act_4:13-18 ). Boles says, "The original conveys the idea that they were not to let the name of Jesus pass their lips again. They severely threatened them and charged them that they were not to use 'the name of Jesus' at all."

Verses 19-31

Compelled to Preach

Peter and John made it clear that in their view the Sanhedrin had no authority to countermand a command from God. Further, they felt compelled, by the power of the things they had witnessed, to proclaim to all the good news. Because the miracle was such common knowledge and had caused so many to glorify God, the council had no other recourse but to let the apostles go without any further punishment. They simply added a few more threats and let them go rather than risk the people taking the apostles' side (compare Mar_12:12 ). After all, a man who had been lame forty years was now walking ( Act_4:19-22 )!

Upon their release, Peter and John went back to their companions and related the whole story of their arrest and the words of the council. The entire group lifted up their voices in praise to the Almighty Creator. Their expression of praise included a recognition of God's providential working in the death of Jesus. Then, they asked the Father to give them all the strength to preach the truth in spite of the threats of the Sanhedrin. Additionally, they asked that God continue to work miracles through them which would clearly demonstrate the authority of Jesus Christ the Lord. Immediately, the place where they were gathered was shaken, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the word with boldness ( Act_4:23-31 ).

Verses 32-37

Sharing Blessings

Perhaps because Peter and John had overcome this first threatening act of the religious leaders, the church was united. Early Christian unity is very evident in the way they readily shared what they had with their fellow believers. Note, this was voluntary and not forced upon them by some governmental or church order. Instead, each Christian thought of his blessings as gifts from God to be used to the benefit of all the brethren. Interestingly, the generosity of individual members served to enhance the power of the apostles' preaching of the resurrection gospel ( Act_4:32-33 ).

In spite of the teachings of some, it cannot be shown that the church was a commune or that the apostles had control of everyone's property. Yet, individual believers sold land and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed as needed among the family of God. Apparently, Joses, or Joseph, was so well known for such acts of kindness and encouragement, that he was nicknamed Barnabas, or son of consolation, by the apostles ( Act_4:34-37 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 4". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-4.html. 2014.
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