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Bible Commentaries
Acts 4

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


Peter, and John are put into prison. They are examined before the Council, threatened, and dismissed. The Lord gives a gracious Token of his Presence, in answering to their Prayers.

Verses 1-4

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. (3) 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.

Reader! Mark in the awful characters of those men, the malice of hell, at the success of the Gospel. Can the imagination conceive any higher proof of the desperately wicked state of the human heart, than is here shewn? To imprison those Servants of the Lord, for so illustrious a miracle as Jesus had wrought, by their instrumentality. But, Reader! you will stop at the surface of this matter, if the Lord the Spirit doth not lead you deeper, to see, that all men by nature, and unawakened by grace, are the same. Both Sadducees, and Pharisees; Priests of the law, and mere Professors of the Gospel, unacquainted with the plague of their own heart, are all the same. All such as are grieved, as well as those of old, whenever, and wheresoever salvation is freely and fully preached, in the alone name of Jesus, without complimenting their good works; but solely ascribing salvation by grace alone, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

But turn from such characters, to behold the blessedness of those servants, whom the Lord so highly honored. Oh! happy Peter, happy John ! surely your prison became a palace, and your chains, chains of gold, while the Lord was thus loading you with such distinguishing honors! I apprehend, that the five thousand, here said to have believed, were in addition to the three thousand, recorded on the day of Pentecost: so that both together, made eight thousand. Oh! the wonders of that wonder-working God the Holy Ghost? Well might the Evangelist close his Gospel with saying, that the Apostles went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following, Mark 16:20 . Reader! think what a melancholy contrast the present hour of the Church affords. Here we read but of two sermons, and what a harvest of souls were gathered in. And what multitudes of sermons are now preached, and no conversion follows. To what cause are we to ascribe it? Is it not because, unaccompanied with the ordination and blessing of God the Holy Ghost? And can it be otherwise? If the Holy Ghost be not honored. If men preach unsent by Him, and his presence be not implored, neither his blessing asked; no, nor his Almighty ministry acknowledged: can it be a matter of surprize, that Ichabod is on our Church doors, and the glory is departed from Israel? 1 Samuel 4:21 . Oh! that the Lord the Spirit would give us a little reviving in our bondage; that he that hath ears to hear, may hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, Revelation 2:29 .

Verses 5-7

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

What an awful Council this was become, composed of such awful characters. The Reader should be told, that this Council consisted, or ought to have consisted, of seventy Persons, the true Elders of Israel. It was first formed, by the Lord himself. See Numbers 11:16-17 . But, now we find a motley crew; Scribes, and Pharisees, and Sadducees. For their character, as given by our Lord himself: See Matthew 23:0 throughout: See also Acts 23:8 . Before such awful characters, the highly honored servants of the Lord Jesus Christ was brought. And I would have the Reader remark the blessedness of being so brought, because it afforded the opportunity for the Apostles to preach, and the Church, in all after ages, to read the record of what they said, under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost. And I beg the Reader to remark with me how upon numberless occasions the Lord permits, yea, appoints the malice of men, to proceed to a desperate length sometimes, for the greater manifestation of his glory, and his peoples' good. If the Reader will turn to a single verse in one of the Psalms, and beg of the Almighty Author of Scripture, even God the Holy Ghost, to write it in the tablets of his heart, to have recourse to as may be needed; he will find great blessedness in it. The verse is Psalms 105:25 . He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants. Oh! how often hath this sweet Scripture taught my soul to look through the cobweb malice of men; and to discern the hand of a gracious, wise, and love ordering Lord, Ezekiel 1:26-28 .

Verses 8-12

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, (9) 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. (11) This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

What a blessed discourse is here! Behold, Reader, the wonderful effects of the Spirit's influence. This is the same Apostle, whose timidity was such, when only confronted by a poor servant maid, that he was tempted to deny his Lord; and now, boldly chargeth the whole Jewish Council with the murder of Christ. Can your heart desire a more decisive proof, that the change was wrought by God the Holy Ghost? See that Scripture, of Jesus's promise, Mark 13:11 . And observe how the Apostle, by that sweet figure of the Stone, Jehovah promised to lay in Zion, would lead them to their own Scriptures, in confirmation of the truth as it is in Jesus. See Isaiah 2:16 ; Matthew 21:42 ; Psalms 118:23 . And observe how the Apostle intimates, by declaring that there is salvation in no other, that their rejection of Jesus will bring on, and fulfill, that other Scripture, to the same amount, where the Prophet declares, that he shall be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both houses of Israel, Isaiah 8:14 . Blessed Lord Jesus! do I not daily see thy solemn words concerning this Stone fulfilled? Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder, Matthew 21:44 . Lord Jesus! do thou grant to my poor soul, that while thou art still a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, to many who call themselves Christians, after the holy Name, but have never felt the power of thy holy Spirit, teaching them the plague of their own heart; I may be enabled by thy grace, to build my whole hopes of salvation on thee, the Rock of ages: convinced, most fully convinced, that there is salvation in no other; neither any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved!

Verses 13-22

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (14) 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, (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. (17) 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. (19) 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 showed.

I pray the Reader never to lose sight of that most precious doctrine, that it was God the Spirit speaking in the Apostles, and by them: for without this steady eye to the Lord, we shall be apt to ascribe the boldness of the servants, to their own strength; and forget the source from whence they derived it. I admire the different apprehension of words in the world's dictionary, from that of grace. Those doctors of the law, it is said, perceived that those Apostles were unlearned and ignorant men. Yes! In relation to human sciences, and vain philosophy, falsely so called, Peter and John had received no education. But the Holy Ghost, in giving his testimony, concerning that wisdom which is from above, and which maketh wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus; speaks very differently. He saith, that the precious things of his inspired word, and which to carnal men are hard to be understood, it is the unlearned and unstable, (that is, in divine science,) wrest as they do also the other Scriptures to their own destruction, 2 Peter 3:16 . And here was a striking proof of it! For while those great men stood confounded and ashamed, unable to say anything in their own justification; the poor Apostles silenced, and overawed them all! Reader! doth not the same doctrine, and from the same cause, operate in the present hour? The weapons of our warfare (said Paul,) are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, 2 Corinthians 10:4 . And how otherwise should it be, that we sometimes see weak things of the world confound the things which are mighty, and foolish things confound what the world esteems wise; were it not that God hath chosen such for his instruments, to make manifest, that the excellency is of God, and not of men. Oh! the blessedness when men, taught and influenced by God the Spirit, come forth in the Lord's name, sent by the Lord's ordination, and crowned with the Lord's blessing upon their labors! 1 Corinthians 1:27 .

Reader! it is sometimes profitable, to get behind the curtain of carnal men's council, not indeed to learn their works, but to see how dreadfully alarmed they are. And here the Holy Ghost hath given us a short, but full relation, what frequently passeth there. For be assured, the conference of those convicted minds, as here represented, is a true statement of what every day, more or less, passeth among the unawakened in the world. They could not deny the miracle as a matter of fact, neither disprove the greatness of it. And one might have thought, that with such a conviction before their eyes, they would have embraced the Apostles, and sought mercy from the Lord. Ah, No! the thing was impossible. Yea, so impossible, that God the Holy Ghost hath caused the reason to be recorded no less than seven times in his sacred word, Isaiah 6:9-10 ; Matthew 13:14 ; Mark 4:12 ; Luke 8:10 ; John 12:40 ; Acts 28:26 ; and Romans 9:8 . And the same holds good forever. And the Lord, at the very beginning of his Scriptures, with the first dawn of revelation, writes down, as with a pen of iron, and the point of a diamond, the unalterable cause: I will put enmity between thee and the woman: and between thy seed and her seed, Genesis 3:15 ; John 8:43-44 ; 1 John 3:8 .

Verses 23-30

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: (25) 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. (27) 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, (30) By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

What a beautiful and lovely picture is here drawn, of the primitive Church! Reader! do observe the expression; their own company. Yes! The whole Church is One, and so the Great Head of the Church describes her, Song of Solomon 6:9 . And contrast this, to the account given of Judas the traitor, whose fall is immediately followed with the consequence, that he might go to his own place, Acts 1:25 .

And I pray the Reader to notice the grace, which instantly appeared in this assembly of the faithful: the Lord the Spirit led their minds out in prayer. And what a Scriptural prayer it was? The Lord be praised, who caused it to be recorded, for the comfort and edification of the Church in all ages. Here is a double proof of the Almighty ministry of the Holy Ghost, in that He who guided David's pen to write, taught their tongues and hearts to speak. A plain proof that the same Almighty Lord presided over the Church in Old Testament days, as well as under the New Testament dispensation. And let not the Reader overlook, how uniformly those holy men of old, both in their prayers to the Lord, and their conversation with men, kept always in view, the Lord's purposes and decrees concerning the redemption by Jesus, Acts 10:38; Acts 10:38 .

And is not this prayer more immediately directed to the Person of the Holy Ghost, in his Office-character; and though (as all prayer are,) offered up to the whole Persons of the Godhead, through the Mediator, yet with a special eye to the office-work of the Holy Ghost. Let it be remembered, that I do not decidedly say as much: I only ask the question. But, as we are told, that no prophecy came in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, 2 Peter 1:21 : and the Lord is here addressed as speaking those words by the mouth of his servant David; Psalms 2:1-2 , it should seem, to have been immediately a prayer to the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the Apostles, in this prayer, particularly dwell upon the Person of the holy Child Jesus; and his being anointed: both which were the special acts of the Holy Ghost. See Luke 1:35 and Luke 4:18 . And therefore, it was from God the Spirit, who, but a few days, before, had baptized them, and called them by ordination to their ministry, that they now looked for all suited supplies of grace, to give them boldness, and to seal their authority, by the confirmation of miracles. Whether I am correct or not in this opinion, certain it is, that to God the Holy Ghost the Apostles looked for the success of their labors. And it may serve to shew, how necessary it must be, in all the under pastors in the ministry of the Church, both to be satisfied that they have their commission from him; and to him to commit all their services.

Verse 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.

Reader! let you and I attend to the blessed contents of this verse, as not simply referring to the Church then in being, but to the Church of God in all ages. Surely such a testimony was designed to tell all the praying seed of Jacob; that the Lord, who is a prayer-awakening, is also a prayer-hearing, and a prayer-answering God, See Isaiah 65:24 . And every child of God should learn from hence, that the Lord's presence is always with his people, though the tokens of that presence be not shewn in the same way, of miraculously shaking the place of assembly. And as the company then present are said to have been all filled with the Holy Ghost; so such renewings of the Spirit were intended to teach the Church, that as the Holy Ghost's baptism of the Apostles at Pentecost did not supersede the necessity of fresh effusions of grace, so neither doth the regeneration of his people now render unnecessary constant supplies from the Lord. See Titus 3:4-6 . Oh! for the daily refreshings of the Spirit upon ministers and people!

Verses 32-37

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (33) And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (34) 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.

What a golden age to the Church must this have been! How sweetly the love of God in Christ wrought upon the heart, when the streams of such a fountain diffused themselves in all directions! And how graciously the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace, when the Apostles were enabled to shew miracles in witness of the truth; and the people with one heart and soul shewing forth no less the miracle of mercy wrought in them by the Holy Ghost. Oh! for the renewal of such Pentecost seasons, if it were the Lord's will and pleasure! Oh! for many, many such as Barnabas to arise, as sons of consolation, in the distressing times of the present day. And, oh! that the Lord the Spirit would return to this our sinful land, and thereby fulfill that sweet promise, that by a pure language his people might all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent, Zephaniah 3:9 . Nothing short of this can do to restore health to Zion. No arm, but the arm of Jehovah the Spirit, can cut Rahab, and wound the dragon, Isaiah 51:9 . Without the outpouring of the Spirit, no heart of stone can be softened, nor the Christ-despising generation in which we dwell be removed. But, if the Lord in rich mercy will pour out of his holy Spirit upon us from on high, then will our wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest, Isaiah 32:15 . Reader! shall we not then say to the Holy Ghost, in his own most blessed words, Awake! awake! put on strength, 0 arm of the Lord! Awake, as in the ancient days, in generations of old, Isaiah 2:9 .

Verse 37


Let us ponder well those precious things contained in this Chapter, which are so freely given to us of God! And let us particularly keep in remembrance, that all that is here recorded of the prosperity of the Church, arose from the blessed Person and Office-work of God the Holy Ghost! We behold him here, under many of those most gracious characters in which the Lord Jesus promised him before his departure. As the Lord the Spirit is the Founder, so is He the Governor, Preserver, Teacher, Comforter, Sanctifier of the Church in all ages. In every individual instance of blessing both ministers and people, his is to manifest the gracious act, and in glorifying Jesus, to take of the Lord Jesus, and to make known to his disciples. And amidst all the diversities of gifts, and all differences of administrations, and all diversities of operations, all these worketh that One and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will!

Oh! blessed and eternal Spirit, do thou now, as thou didst then, manifest thy love to the Church of Jesus! Come, Lord, into the midst of thy Zion, though the builders have set at nought the chief corner stone! Raise up a faithful ministry, who, receiving their ordination from thee, may as faithfully dispense thy word to the people. Let the sweet ascension-gifts of our risen and exalted Savior, again come down to enlighten our Churches, and let that precious Scripture be again fulfilled in our day and generation, where it is said, that He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Pastors and Teachers, and all for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Lord, in mercy hear and do it; defer not, 0 my God! till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/acts-4.html. 1828.
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