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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-37

The religious leaders were greatly agitated by the public speaking of the apostles, and the Sadducees particularly, for one of their cardinal doctrines was the denial of any resurrection. They were evidently horrified at the thought that God would dare to raise Christ from amongst the dead when they did not believe in resurrection! But pre-conceived falsehood will blind a man with unreasoning prejudice. Peter and John were then imprisoned until the next day. However, their word had been most effective in the two hours or so they had been able to speak, and many believed, so that the number of men only had become about 5000, a marked increase since the day of Pentecost, when 3000 souls (not men only) were converted (Ch.2:41).

The arrest of Peter and John warranted a large gathering of the Jewish rulers, elders and scribes, including Annas and Caiaphas (virtually a joint high priest with Annas). These were the same who had condemned the Lord Jesus to death. Of course it was the preaching of Jesus risen from the dead that aggravated them, but they could not ignore the striking miracle of the healing of the lame man. They interrogate Peter and John as to this first, but they can only expect one answer to the question of "by what power, or by what name" they had done this miracle. Their gathering therefore was a God-ordained means of their hearing the truth concerning Christ risen from among the dead, which they did not want to hear.

Being filled with the Spirit of God, Peter speaks to them of "the good deed done to the impotent man," inferring certainly that a good deed must have a good source. This he declares in no uncertain terms, a message for the leaders and for all the people of Israel, that this was done by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom they crucified, whom God raised from the dead.

The words of Peter in verses 10 to 12 certainly ought to have burned into the hearts and consciences of the council. No cunning lie could ever have given Peter such straightforward boldness. He preaches not himself, but Christ, the Stone despised by these very builders, but established by God as head of the corner. No doubt they knew of this scripture (Psalms 118:22); and the application was so clear they could answer nothing to it. Then Peter concludes his brief and telling message with the firm declaration that there was no salvation in any other name save Jesus Christ: His was the one name given under heaven by which Israel must be saved. What a contrast is this precious confession of Peter to his former denial that he even knew the Lord!

The council is virtually struck dumb. Not even the high priest has a response. They knew these men were uneducated common laborers, and marveled at their knowledge and boldness; but were reminded that they had before companied with Jesus. The healed man standing with them was a witness they could not ignore. They are totally at a loss as to how to answer Peter and John, so ask them to leave the room while the council conferred together.

Their consultation only confirms their impotence, for there is no concrete suggestion as to what they should do. The facts were plain: a notable miracle had been wrought in the name of Jesus they would have liked to deny it, but this was impossible. Yet they agree to threaten Peter and John, demanding that they desist from speaking to anyone in the name of Jesus. Sad is the stubbornness of men that is determined not to admit their plainly manifested guilt! To defend themselves they demand that God keep silence!

Peter and John were not intimidated by such an ultimatum. They appeal to the honest judgment of the rulers themselves. Was it right for Peter and John to give the rulers a place superior to God? What God had revealed to them, and what they had seen and heard, they were impelled to speak. The issue is clearly raised. The rulers knew that they had no just cause to punish them. Fear of the people's opinion restrains them too, for the man's illness had been long established before his being perfectly healed. Nevertheless, before letting the Lord's servants go, they further threaten them, vainly hoping to intimidate them.

"They went to their own company." Precious relief from the company of the ungodly! Their report of the ominous threats of the chief priests and elders does not in any way dismay the disciples. Rather, their hearts and voices are lifted up in praise to the Lord. They give Him, Jesus, the place of sovereign glory as God the Creator. Their quotation from Psalms 2:1-12 is not directly applicable, for it refers to the bitter enmity among Gentiles, Israel, kings and rulers at the time of the coming tribulation. Yet the rulers of Israel were already showing that animosity. Herod and Pilate also, Gentile rulers, had shown the same hostility to the Messiah of Israel, God's holy servant Jesus, in rejecting and crucifying Him. But in beautiful triumph the disciples add, "to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." The vanity of the enmity and pride of man is tragic: it is God in control, not they.

The fervency of the disciples' desire to honor the Lord Jesus is only increased by the persecution. The threatens of the enemy they refer to the Lord, and entreat Him to give His servants boldness to speak His word, together with giving further healing, signs and wonders done in the name of His holy servant Jesus. Notice the emphasis on this in these early chapters, that Jesus is the servant of God, the Messiah. Paul, as soon as he was converted, preached Him as the Son of God (Ch.9:20). He had seen Him in heaven: they had known Him in His blessed path of service on earth.

The unity and reality of their prayer brings the striking response from God of shaking the building in which they were. This is symbolical of the deep stirring of the Spirit of God in their souls: they were all filled with the Spirit, which gave boldness in speaking the word of God. Such a miracle today would likely so enthuse us that we should forget to proclaim the word.

The unity of the early church was so precious and real (in sad contrast to the many divisions of our day) that no individual considered even his possessions as being his own, but to be common property in the assembly. This was fully spontaneous, not an arranged matter. Such was the reality of their united submission to the activity of the Spirit of God.

This was accompanied by great power in the witness of the apostles to the truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace upon all the disciples. It is little wonder that many have deeply wished for a return of those days, but too many have sought it tragically in vain: the energy of men can never duplicate this, though there have been many imitations, all of them failing.

Necessities were not lacking for anyone; for those who owned real estate sold it and contributed their gains to the common fund. Distribution was made to all according to need, the apostles evidently taking charge of this.

Particular attention is drawn to Joses, surnamed Barnabas, a Levite of the country of Cyprus. Levites in Israel received tithes of the people (Hebrews 7:5), but grace so wrought in the heart of Barnabas that he sold land in his possession and gave the proceeds to the apostles for the common fund.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-4.html. 1897-1910.

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