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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 4

 

 

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Verses 1-4

Acts 4:1-22. Proceedings before the Sanhedrin.

Acts 4:1-4. Peter's speech seems to have reached its conclusion, but Acts 4:1 says it was interrupted by the arrival of persons representing the Sanhedrin and exercising its summary powers. "The captain of the Temple" is mentioned only by Lk. (Mt. and Mk. speak of the high priests and elders); he has to maintain order in the Temple, and ranks next to the high priest in the Sanhedrin. The presence of the Sadducees (pp. 624, 637) is set down to their antipathy to the doctrine of the Resurrection (Mark 12:18), of which Jesus is preached as an eminent example. The speakers are at once arrested; as it is evening, their trial cannot take place that day. The second speech of Peter is as effective as the first; many professing their belief, and the number of male adherents rising to about 5000.


Verses 5-12

Acts 4:5-12. A full meeting of the Sanhedrin takes place in the morning. Annas and Caiaphas are known to us; the former was high priest, A.D. 6-15; Caiaphas, his son-in-law, A.D. 18-34. John and Alexander are otherwise unknown. These and the other high-priestly aristocrats belonged by tradition to the Sadducees (Schrer, ii. 1:178). The court sits in a semicircle, the accused stand in the middle. The interrogation (Acts 4:7) shows that no serious charge is brought against them; it is the same that was put to Jesus (Mark 11:28, Luke 20:2) over the Temple cleansing. The name in which they acted was notorious; as to the power by which they had made the lame man walk, Mark 3:22 shows what views might prevail as to the origin of cures; the men who ask were not unconnected with that shameful charge. But the question serves to introduce the speech of Peter (Acts 4:8-12). The Holy Spirit descends on him (Matthew 10:19 f., Acts 1:8; Acts 2:3 f.); he speaks before rulers. He is being examined as to the means by which the impotent man has been restored to health. The means is the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean (full style of the name as in Acts 3:6*); here also the Jews are charged with the guilt of Christ's death, and the benefits which accrue from His Resurrection and Ascension are pointed out. Thus strikingly is the text (Psalms 118:22) fulfilled which speaks of the rejection by the builders of the stone which God has raised to honour (Mark 12:10, 1 Peter 2:7). Jesus, Peter asserts, is that stone. From the declaration that the cure was wrought by means of the name of Christ he advances (Acts 4:12) to the general assertion that this name is the only instrument given to men for accomplishing such cures or generally for saving men from any ill.


Verses 13-22

Acts 4:13-22. Dilemma of the Rulers: their Verdict.—The promise of Luke 21:15 is at once literally fulfilled, and the reasoning is given by which the judges felt themselves overborne. It is that Peter and John are certain of their case, and show no hesitation though they possess no literary training and are generally uncultured, and that the man they cured stood beside them, a living corroboration. The recognition of the apostles as having been with Jesus is regarded by many as irrelevant. but if Jesus was still active, He would act most naturally through His former intimates. The apostles are ordered to withdraw while the members of the court deliberate; yet we have a full account of their discussion, an account which has an appearance of probability. It is not based on the discussion of the Sanhedrists on John the Baptist (Mark 11:27-33); the matter is different. The priests and elders know nothing about faith healing; if a beneficent act has been done of which no agent is visible, it shows to their thinking that a power or a name has been at work which it only remains to identify. The apostles attribute it to the agency of Jesus, but this was to the court an intolerable thought. The name of Jesus must be suppressed; the apostles must be forbidden to base any claim upon it. They are therefore enjoined not to make any declaration nor teach any doctrine in connexion with Jesus (Acts 4:18). It was natural that the Jews should aim at the suppression of that memory and that cause. Peter and John reply (Acts 4:19) by appealing to what is a commonplace in ancient philosophy. Socrates, e.g., says to his judges, "I shall obey God rather than you" (Apology, 29); the judges are to decide if the opposite course can be right for the apostles. They cannot be silent about what they have seen and heard. Nothing follows on this declaration, and conflicting reasons are given for this; that no ground appeared for punishing them, and that the rulers were afraid of the people, though the arrest had taken place in their presence (Acts 4:2-4).


Verses 23-31

Acts 4:23-31. Return of the Apostles to their Own People.—The Christians are spoken of as if they lived together (cf. Acts 1:14, Acts 2:44-47) or at least had a hall where they could all meet. The prayer (Acts 4:24-30) does not thank God directly for the deliverance of His servants but rather for the fulfilment of His promises as seen in the proceedings of their enemies; what is asked is that the cause may develop still further in the same direction. The opening sentence shows the beginning of the Christian liturgy, and is to be compared with the prayers in the Didaché (p. 641) and in 1 Clement. The praise for the creation is composed of various OT phrases (cf. especially Isaiah 37:16). An exact and detailed account is found in Psalms 2 of the proceedings leading to the Crucifixion and continued in the late meeting of the Sanhedrin. The Gentiles of Psalms 2 are the Roman power; the peoples are the Jews, the kings Herod, the rulers Pilate. They all conspired against God and His Servant Jesus whom God has anointed Messiah (cf. Luke 23:1-12). But they all served a higher purpose. It was God's counsel that they were realising; and the literal fulfilment of the psalm shows that the Divine purpose is maturing and that the end is not far off. The petition (Acts 4:29 f.) is that these threatenings to which the believers are still exposed in the Sanhedrin may not avail; that God's servants may continue their even course of bold preaching, and that He may aid them by the healings, signs, and wonders He enables them to do (Acts 2:22; Acts 2:43, Mark 16:20) in the name of His holy Servant Jesus. The answer follows promptly (Acts 4:31) in the shaking of the place of meeting. There are many examples in profane writers of a tremor of the earth being taken to indicate Divine presence (cf. also Isaiah 6:4, Acts 16:26). [An interesting parallel may be found in George Fox's Journal (Bicentenary Ed., vol. i. p. 24): "After this I went again to Mansfield, where was a great meeting of professors and people; here I was moved to pray; and the Lord's power was so great that the house seemed to be shaken. When I had done, some of the professors said it was now as in the days of the apostles, when the house was shaken where they were."—A. S. P.] What was prayed for is granted. All receive an access of the Holy Spirit and go on boldly delivering the message.


Verses 32-35

Acts 4:32-35. The State of the Church (cf. Acts 2:42-44).—The expression "the multitude of the believers (about 5000 according to Acts 4:4) was one heart and soul," is proverbial for entire harmony. None took a selfish view of his property; all was common. The apostles fulfilled their commission of bearing witness to the Resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:22, Acts 2:32) with great emphasis, and the community afforded an attractive spectacle. The prophecy of Deuteronomy 15:4 was fulfilled to them; this was the secret of their attractiveness; it was attained by the voluntary generosity of the rich members (Acts 2:44 f.), who sold their goods and made over to the apostles the price obtained, they dividing the proceeds to the needy.


Verse 36

Acts 4:36 to Acts 5:11. Community of Goods among the First Christians.

Acts 4:36 f. The Case of Joses Barnabas.—Joses is not again heard of in the NT under this name, but always under his other name, Barnabas, a translation of which is offered, but one with which scholars are not satisfied. It connects him with prophetic functions (Nabi, a prophet) and consolation is one of these. He is Paul's companion in his first journey, but Paul excels him as a speaker (Acts 14:12); and he is a person whom the Galatians and Corinthians know well (Galatians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 9:6). To his connexion with Cyprus the direction of Paul's first journey was due. He has property, whether in his native country of Cyprus or elsewhere we know not; he afterwards worked for his living (1 Corinthians 9:6), and may have parted with all his property at this time.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 4:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-4.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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