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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Acts 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-37

Acts 4:1. The captain of the temple was the captain of the watch, and saw that the levites performed their duty day and night. He beat them and set fire to their garments, if he found them asleep on their post. Hence the phrase, Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments. Revelation 16:15.

Acts 4:3. They laid hands on them, and put them in hold. Confined them, it would seem, in a place in the temple, used for that purpose. In the next chapter we find the apostles again arrested, and sent to the common prison.

Acts 4:4. The number of the men who believed was about five thousand. They had scarcely time to count the women.

Acts 4:5. On the morrow, when a very large conclave of priests and elders were assembled, Peter addressed them in such a sermon of truly prophetic eloquence as their ears had never heard. He was filled with the Holy Ghost, the great inspirer of wisdom, courage, and utterance.

Acts 4:8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, and specially inspired to address the council in the spirit of the ancient prophets, told them the whole truth concerning the Lord of glory, and made them tremble lest the Saviour’s blood should come upon them. He declared that the name of Jesus had made the lame man whole; and with an unfaultering tongue, that God had raised from the dead the Saviour whom they had crucified, and seated him at his own right hand. Nay more, that God had made Christ, the rejected stone, head of the corner of his living temple, and that he was the only Saviour of men. The Holy Ghost was a fountain of eloquence in his heart, and he shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. See on Psalms 110:1; Psalms 118:22. Matthew 21:44.

Acts 4:12. Neither is there salvation in any other. In the church, of which the tabernacle was a figure, there must be but one king, one priest, one altar, one mercyseat. There is therefore no other name but that of Jesus, by which men must be saved. This was a bold stroke before the rulers, who had boasted that they were “Moses’s disciples.” John 9:28.

Acts 4:23. They went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said. The victory of these two apostles over the council was a counterpart to the miracle wrought on the lame man. It is true, that the gospel being its own evidence, needs on fair ground no support of miracles. But against a council so learned and strong; against a council most ardent to justify themselves in shedding the blood of the Holy and Just One: a council supported by the whole Leviticum, it does not appear how the crucified Redeemer could have been preached effectively as the Saviour of the world, without some aid from miracles.

Acts 4:32. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. Their number, including the women, was now more than ten thousand, and which encreased daily. The passage which follows is partly repeated from the second chapter, to show that when this church became large, their piety and love continued unabated. This is the church of the firstborn, which did not degenerate in the apostolic age. In all the places of their dispersion they carried the torch of glory to illuminate the world.

Acts 4:33. With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The power of prayer and preaching, which shook the place, for like Jacob and Moses they had power with God. They also bore witness with great power of argument, convincing men that Jesus was the Christ. With great power of love and zeal, which despised all suffering for his sake; with great success in bringing in a multitude of converts. Their “gospel came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”

Acts 4:36. Joses — surnamed Barnabas. This levite, by the sale of his estate, showed his faith in Christ, and that he could trust in providence. He was one of the seventy disciples. After travelling in Asia, Barnabas went to Rome, and was the first who preached the gospel in the imperial city. The beloved Clement, then a heathen philosopher, saw a man haranguing a crowd, and went to hear. He perceived that the speaker was a stranger, and that he did not speak according to the rules of art. Nevertheless, there was such a divine persuasive sweetness in his discourse, as captivated his soul. Clement, from that time, was converted, and became an illustrious trophy of Barnabas’s ministry. Eusebius; and Whiston’s Primitive Christianity. The church of Milan claims Barnabas as its founder.

REFLECTIONS.

We cannot but remark the impolicy of religious persecution, when the objects of the outrage offer no violence to the laws, nor menace their country. It is the dire effect of party and of passion. Its weakness and malice become apparent, and it eventually exalts the cause it wishes to destroy. Mental errors, and especially in the tender concerns of conscience and salvation, should be corrected with argument, and the mutual hand of love. The public enquiry made by the jewish council to know by what power the impotent man was healed, marked a malicious aim and intention to ascribe it to the devil. But from the firmness of the apostles it magnified the name of Jesus, and exalted the divine mission of his servants.

We are called next to remark the courage and constancy of Peter and John. Filled with sublime convictions of the godhead and offices of their Lord, princes were to them but as other men. They bore their testimony, and magnified their ministry free from all fear. This courage and excellence of temper corresponded with the promises of Christ, and with the glory of pentecost which still rested upon them. They were invincible witnesses and illustrious ambassadors of the glory of the Saviour.

The piety of the converts corresponded to the first openings of the glory of the gospel. The multitude were of one heart and of one soul; their lustre was unstained with ignoble passions, ecclesiastical controversies, and secular factions and wars. Their master’s glory swallowed up every other thought, and large effusions of his love hallowed every heart. They were all prophets — all priests — all kings. Their piety and love were proverbial. They continued stedfast in fellowship with the apostles: few of them drew back, or were shaken in their confidence. They were equally distinguished by private and social prayer, by frequent fastings, and weekly communion. Their love to the poor, and kindness to strangers were astonishing. They freely continued to sell houses and lands to support the widows, excommunicated from the synagogue for the faith of Christ. Such is the effectual working of his power to us-ward who believe. The ideas of adoption, and of an everlasting fraternity at God’s right hand banished the meaner passions from the heart, and opened the hand with a liberal supply. Fronto, in his letter to the bishop of Roan, now Rouen, tells us that ladies of the noblest blood would visit their afflicted sisters in the Lord; that one would converse with the sick, of Jesus and of heaven; another would dress her sores, and a third would prepare her food. She who was thus attended thought she saw the image of Jesus in their kindness and love, and they who attended her thought they saw the image of Jesus in the faith and piety, and patience of their afflicted sister. Thus the whole church, from the rich to the poor, was a family of love, and the fairest image of celestial society. “And great grace was upon them all.” See Dr. CAVE’S Primitive Christianity. A copious extract was reprinted by Mr. Wesley, in his Christian Library: vol. 31. Cave’s is a work of great merit.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 4:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-4.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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