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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-37

AS WE READ the opening verses we find the answer to this offer, which was given by the official heads of the nation. The offer being based on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it was particularly obnoxious to the Sadducees and to the priests, who were of that party. They gave it an unqualified rejection by arresting the apostles. The work of God, in converting power, went on however, as verse Acts 4:4 records; and the next day, when examined before the council, Peter found fresh opportunity for testimony, in answering their question as to the power and Name in which he had acted.

The Name and power was that of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they had crucified and whom God had exalted. Psalms 118:22 had been fulfilled in Him, and Peter proceeded to widen out the testimony from that which was particular to that which is universal. The power of the Name was right before their eyes in the particular case of the lame man healed: it was no less potent for the salvation of men universally. The physical healing of the man was just a sign of the spiritual healing which the Name of Jesus brings. The despised Jesus of Nazareth is the only door into salvation.

Verses Acts 4:13-22, show most strikingly how Peter’s testimony was vindicated. The apostles were unlearned and ignorant according to worldly standards, yet they had been with Jesus and were bold, and this impressed the council, who would fain have condemned them. Three things hindered however:

(1) “They could say nothing against it” (verse Acts 4:14);

(2) They had to confess, “we cannot deny it” (verse Acts 4:16);

(3) They found “nothing how they might punish them” (verse Acts 4:21).

When men wish to discredit anything, they usually in the first place deny it, if that be at all possible. If that be not possible, they find some way of speaking against it, misrepresenting it, if need be. Lastly, if that be not possible, they attack the persons involved in the thing, blackening their characters and punishing them. These three well-known devices were in the minds of the council, but all failed them since they were fighting against God. They could merely threaten them and demand that they ceased to proclaim the name of Jesus. Peter repudiated their demand, since

God had commanded them to preach in the name of Jesus, and as He was infinitely the higher Authority, they must obey Him rather than them.

There follows, verses Acts 4:23-37, a beautiful picture of the early church in Jerusalem. Released by the council, the apostles went to “their own company.” This shows us that at the outset the church was a “company” distinct and apart from the world, even from the religious world of Judaism. This point needs much emphasis in days when the world and the church have so largely been mixed together.

The early church found its resource in prayer. In the emergency they turned to God and not to men. They might have wished for a council less Sadducean in character with more liberality and breadth of outlook, but they did not agitate to get it; they simply sought the face of God, the sovereign Ruler of men.

In their prayer they were led to the Word of God. Psalms 2:1-12 shed its light on the situation that confronted them. The interpretation of it would refer it to the last days, but they saw the application of it which referred to their days. The early church was marked by subjection to the Word, finding in it all the light and guidance they needed. This also is a very important and instructive feature.

They were marked too by far more concern for the honour of the Name of Jesus than for their own ease and comfort. They did not request a cessation of persecution and opposition, but that they might have boldness in speaking the word, and that miraculous support which would exalt His Name. The church is the place where that Name is held dear.

As a result of this there was an exceptional manifestation of the power of the Spirit. All of them were filled with Him; the very building where they met was shaken, and their prayer for especial boldness was instantly answered. And not only this, that which they had not requested was granted to them, they all were “of one heart and of one soul.” This of course flowed out of the fact that the “one Spirit” was filling every one of them. If all believers today were filled with the Spirit oneness of mind and heart would mark them. It is the only way in which such oneness can be brought to pass.

Out of this flowed the next feature which verse Acts 4:33 mentions. There was great power in the Apostles’ testimony to the world. The church did not preach, but filled with grace and power it supported those who did. The preaching then, as always, lay in the hands of those called of God to do it, but the power with which they did it was largely influenced by the state that characterized the whole church.

The closing verses show that just as there was powerful testimony flowing without so there was the circulation of love and care within. The Christian communism, mentioned at the end of chapter 2, still continued. The distribution was made to each, “according as he had need.” Not people’s wants, but their needs were met, and so nobody lacked. At a later date Paul could say, “I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12), but at this time such experiences were unknown by the saints in Jerusalem. Whether, by escaping such experiences, they profited more than Paul did, by having them, may be an open question, though we incline to think they did not. At any rate, the action of Barnabas was very beautiful, and the love and care found in the church then should be known today, though there may be some variation in the exact mode of expressing it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 4:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/acts-4.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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