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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Acts 4

 

 

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Verse 1

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

Ver. 1. The captain of the temple] The Jews had a band of garrison soldiers deputed for the service and safety of the temple, Matthew 27:65. These forces had many officers, Luke 22:4, and one chieftain, here called their captain, στρατηγος; as in their wars with the Romans afterwards, Eleazar the son of Ananias the high priest was in this office, a bold and proud youth, as Josephus describeth him.


Verse 2

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Ver. 2. Being grieved] Being sick of the devil’s disease, as Moab was, Numbers 22:3-4 "fretting and vexing" at God’s Israel, and eating up their own hearts, because they could not tear out theirs.


Verse 3

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

Ver. 3. Put them in hold] In the sergeant’s ward, τηρησις, not in the jail or dungeon. God doth by degrees inure his to suffer hardship. Pauciores (saith Cajuto in an epistle to the brethren of Basilea) vobiscum perimuntur, quod ita Domino visum est, ut stabiliantur seu lenibus pluviis, et sementis mollioribus plantulae in arbores maximas proditurae. God tempteth not his above what they are able, 1 Corinthians 10:13.


Verse 4

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

Ver. 4. And the number] A goodly increase. The lily is said to be increased by its own juice that flows from it. (Pliny.) So the Church.


Verse 5

5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

Ver. 5. On the morrow] Malice is restless. Stephen Gardiner would not sit down to dinner till he had heard of the bishops burnt at Oxford.


Verse 6

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.

Ver. 6. And Annas] The same old man, still no changeling, ηη παλαι γυνη, as it was said of Helena.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. By what power] God’s, or the devil’s? in God’s name, or by the black art?


Verse 8

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

Ver. 8. Filled with the Holy Ghost] i.e. with wisdom and fortitude, according to Christ’s promise, Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 21:15. {See Trapp on "Matthew 10:19"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 10:20"}


Verse 9

9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

Ver. 9. If we this day be examined of the good deed] q.d. Evil times we must needs say they are, when good deeds and evil are dangerous alike; when to cure or to kill is equally criminal. "Should I not visit for these things, saith the Lord?" &c. Bede said of the ancient Britons, immediately before their destruction by the Saxons, that they were come to that height of wickedness, as to cast an odium upon pious and profitable persons, tanquam in adversarios, as if they had been public enemies, not fit to be endured.


Verse 10

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.

Ver. 10. Be it known unto you all] Here was spiritual mettle, steeling the soul against whatsoever opposition. When a man’s strength would fall loose, the spirit hems him about, comprehends and keeps him together, Acts 20:22, and makes him more than a man: as it did the apostles here, and afterwards Athanasius, Luther, others, and qui totius orbis impetum sustinuerunt, who stood out against a world of adversaries. (Tertul.)


Verse 11

11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Ver. 11. You builders] Such you should be, and profess to be, sed aedificatis in Gehennam, ye build backward.


Verse 12

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Ver. 12. For there is no other name] We have no co-saviour, we need no other master of requests in heaven, but Christ. Say we of Popish saints and mediators, as that heathen did, Contemno minutulos istos deos modo Iovem propitium habeam. William Tracy, Esq., in Henry VIII’s time, made it in his will, That he would have no funeral pomp at his burial, that he passed not upon a mass, that he trusted in God only, and hoped by him to be saved, and not by any saint, &c. Hereupon his body was taken up and burnt as a heretic, A.D. 1532. Some schoolmen (saith Acosta) promise salvation without the knowledge of Christ. And Sleidan telleth us, that at the Council of Trent, the salvation of heathens, by the sole strength of nature without Christ, was much talked of. And Venator, the Arminian, saith, I deny this proposition, no man can be saved that is not set into Christ by a lively faith. The various of Collen set forth a book De Salute Aristotelis. And Erasmus {a} (whether in jest or earnest I know not) useth this litany, Vix possum me continere quin dicam Sancte Socrates ora pro nobis. But if any do seriously fancy any other way to salvation besides Christ, that proverb mentioned by Aristotle in his Meteorology, is verified of him, viz. κακα εφ εαυτον ελκει, ως το κακιας νεφος, he is a wicked and Wretched miscreant.

{a} Erasm. in Praef. ad Tusc. Cic. Quaestiones.


Verse 13

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Ver. 13. Unlearned and ignorant men] Indoctos elegit Christus et idiotas, sed oculavit in prudentes: simulque dona dedit et ministeria. The primitive persecutors slighted the Christians for a company of hard illiterate fellows; and therefore they used to paint the God of the Christians with an ass’s head, and a book in his hand, saith Tertullian, to signify, That though they pretended learning, yet they were silly and ignorant people. Bishop Jewel, in his sermon upon Luke 11:15, cites this out of Tertullian, and applies it to his times. Do not our adversaries the like, saith he, against all that profess the gospel? Oh, say they, Who are those that favour this way? None but shoemakers, tailors, weavers, and such as never were at the University. These are the bishop’s own words. Bishop White said in open court, some few years since, That the Puritans were all a company of blockheads. The Jesuits say the same of all the Protestants; and that the empire of learning is within their dominion only. {a} But have they not picked up the best of their crumbs under our tables? and have not our English fugitives exceeded all their fellow Jesuits in show of wit and learning?

{a} Penes se esse literarum imperium. Eudaem. in Casaub.


Verse 14

14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

Ver. 14. They could say nothing] The Arabian interpreter adds, Ut authoritate uterentur in eos, That they might punish them. They were clearly convinced, and yet ran away with the bit between their teeth; they would hold their own, howsoever, lest they should be taxed of lightness.


Verse 15

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,

Ver. 15. They conferred] Sic festucam quaerentes unde oculos sibi eruant, as Bernard hath it. They sought straws to put out their own eyes also.


Verse 16

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.

Ver. 16. A notable miracle] A signal sign that all the country rang of.


Verse 17

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.

Ver. 17. That they spake henceforth to none] They must cut out their tongues then, for, as new wine, they must vent or burst. When Valens the Arian emperor threatened Basil with banishment, torment, death, &c.; Let him fright babies, said he, with such bugbears, and not me. He may take away my life, but not my love to the truth.


Verse 18

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

Ver. 18. Command them not to speak at all] So in the year of grace 494, Anastasius the emperor persecuted those that would not obey an edict of his, That no man should commend or condemn the Council of Chalcedon. (Alsted. Chron.) So Heraclius commanded that none should say, That there was either one or two wills in our Saviour Christ. So the Jesuits not long since set forth an edict at Dola, that none should speak of God, either in good sort or in bad.


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. Whether it be right, &c.] This was a principle held very fast by the heathens. Antigona in Sophocles saith, Magis obtemperandum est Diis apud quos diutius manendum erit, quam hominibus, quibuscum admodum brevi tempore vivendum est. Better obey God with whom we must ever live, than men with whom we have but a while to continue. And Euripides saith well (in Phaenissis), "Should we not obey the commands of princes?" Non, si impia, iniusta, et male imperata sint: No, if they command evil things. And in Iphigenia, Obediemus, inquit, Atridis honesta mandantibus; sin vero inhonesta mandabunt, non obediemus.


Verse 20

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

Ver. 20. For we cannot but speak] As Croesus’ dumb son did for his father, {a} Strong affections if they find no vent, the heart will cleave; as the waters undermine when they cannot overflow.

{a} ανθρωπε, μη κτεινε τον κροισον.


Verse 21

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.

Ver. 21. Finding nothing how] With what face they could do anything against them, though their fingers even itched to be doing something. Bucer so carried himself here in England, that neither his friends could sufficiently praise, nor his foes find any fault with him. And for Luther, Non leve praeiudicium est, said Erasmus, tantam esse morum integritatem, ut nec hostes reperiant quod calumnientur. His life is so unblamable that his greatest enemies cannot blemish him.

Because of the people] Those that are most terrible to others are not without their terrors. Dionysius the tyrant dared not be barbed but by his own daughters. Masinissa, king of Numidia, committed the guard of his body to dogs; which he could sooner trust than men, whom he had by his cruelty displeased and provoked.


Verse 22

22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.

Ver. 22. Above forty years old] An old cripple, therefore the greater miracle; so it is to convert an old sinner (that is habituated and long accustomed to evil courses) from the error of his way; since it is true of many others as well as of Flemings, that quo magis seneseunt, eo magis stultescunt, they grow crooked and aged with good opinions of themselves without cause; and can seldom or never be set straight again.


Verse 23

23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

Ver. 23. And being let go] For there was no hope of altering them. The heavens shall sooner fall than I will renounce my religion, said one martyr. And if I had as many lives to lay down as I have hairs upon my head, I would lose them every one rather than change my mind, said another. This courage in Christians the persecutors counted obstinace; but they knew not the power of the Spirit, nor the aes triplex circa pectus, the privy armour of proof that the saints have about their hearts.


Verse 24

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:

Ver. 24. Lord] Master, controller, δεσποτα. Thou that madest and managest all things. Pitch upon fit attributes of God in prayer.


Verse 25

25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

Ver. 25. The heathen rage] Or make a stir. The devil being cast out of heaven makes ado, so do unruly spirits led by him.


Verse 26

26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

Ver. 26. Gathered together] Heb. Took counsel together. They plot and plough mischief to the Church, but all in vain, Psalms 37:12; Job 4:8.


Verse 27

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,

Ver. 27. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, &c.] So of old, Psalms 2:1-3; Psalms 83:5-7. So lately against Luther, the emperor, the pope, the kings of Spain, France, England, Hungary, which two last wrote against him, as did also Eckius, Roffensis, Cajetan, Sir Thomas Moore, Johannes Faber, Cochlaeus, Catharinus, Pighins, summo conatu acerrimo desiderio, non vulgari doctrina (as Pareus saith), with all eager desire, utmost endeavour, and extraordinary learning. But what said he to all this? Agant quicquid possunt Henrici, Episcopi, atque adeo Turca, et ipse Satan; nos filii sumus regni, &c.: Let the Henries, the bishops, the Turk, and the devil himself, do what they can, we are the children of the kingdom, worshipping and waiting for that Saviour, whom they and such as they spit upon and crucify. Praeter vitam hanc misellam, Satanas et mundus eripere nobis nihil potest. At vivit et in sempiternum regnat Christus, &c.; with many like golden sentences, which a man would fetch upon his knees (saith Mr Samuel Clark) from Rome or Jerusalem.


Verse 28

28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

Ver. 28. For to do whatsoever, &c.] Divinum consilium dum devitatur, impletur. Humana sapientia dum reluctatur, comprehenditur. (Greg.)


Verse 29

29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Ver. 29. Behold their threatenings] The Church fares the better for the menaces and blasphemies of their enemies. Quo magis illi furunt, eo amplius procedo, saith Luther.


Verse 30

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

Ver. 30. And that signs and wonders] Etiamsi rumpantur adversarii, et toti inferi in rabiem ebulliant, saith Calvin here; though earth and hell both burst with envy.


Verse 31

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.

Ver. 31. The place was shaken] So God testifieth to his Church that he shook them, as men do young trees, to settle them, Haggai 2:7. God shaketh all nations, not to ruin, but to refine them; as by rotting he refineth our dead bodies, Philippians 3:21.


Verse 32

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Ver. 32. Were of one heart] In primitiva Ecclesia, saith Tertullian, Christiani animo animaque inter se miscebantur, et omnia praeter uxores, indiscreta habebant. Sed fraternitas omnis hodie extincta est, et unanimitas primitiva non tantum diminuta (de quo Cyprianus suis temporibus queritur) sed e medio penitus sublata esse videtur. One ancient Greek copy hath these words added to the ordinary reading, "Neither was there any controversy at all among them." (Patric. Jun. in Not. ad Clem.)


Verse 33

33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

Ver. 33. Great grace was upon them all] Dropped down, as it were, upon them from heaven. God it is that fashioneth men’s opinions, and maketh them think well of us. He gave Solomon honour as well as wisdom. And of him it was, that whatsoever David did, pleased the people. Paul goes to God for acceptance of his service, which yet was the bringing of alms. And such are usually very welcome.


Verse 34

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,

Ver. 34. Neither was there any] This got them so much favour among all. Heathens acknowledged that there was no such love as among Christians.


Verse 35

35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Ver. 35. According as he had need] The distribution was done with discretion. See Psalms 112:5. King Edward VI, moved thereto by a sermon of Bishop Ridley’s, gave Christ’s Hospital, the Savoy, and Bridewell for the use of the poor, 1. by impotence; 2. by casualty; 3. by ill husbandry; with singular discretion. Doctor Taylor, martyr, took the ablest of his parishioners once a fortnight to the almshouse, and among other poor men, that had many children or were sick, to see what they lacked in food, drink, bedding, or any other necessaries, and procured a supply for them.


Verse 36

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,

Ver. 36. Surnamed Barnabas] {See Trapp on "Acts 1:23"} {See Trapp on "Philemon 1:7"}


Verse 37

37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Ver. 37. At the apostles’ feet] As the fittest place. Do we tread upon the minerals, and cannot we contemn them?

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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