Through the Bible in One Year

Days 190

Acts 4:1-22

In chapter 3 we saw Peter and John heal a man who had been born lame and was forced to sit outside the Temple in Jerusalem and beg.  We also the crowd’s reaction to Peter and John’s healing of this man.  And now today we come to the reaction of the “political leaders” to Peter and John’s action.  And as we will see Peter reacts in a completely different way than the way he reacted when last confronted by these same “political leaders.”

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”—4:1-7

The number of men who came to faith after Peter’s temple sermon (3:11-26) grew to 5,000, even though the Jewish leadership was angry and the apostles were arrested.  The Sadducees would have strongly objected to the teaching of resurrection because they denied the doctrine altogether.  The council asked about the name or power (the source and authority) by which Peter and John acted and spoke; Peter and John responded that it was in the name of Jesus.  Throughout this section the name of Jesus is highlighted, recalling Acts 2:38 and 3:6; where the offer of salvation and healing is “in” his name.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.—4:8-10

Peter’s speech is a fulfillment of Luke 12:12, for the Spirit filled him with wise words to speak.  His bold proclamation of Jesus and the resurrection is in stark contrast to his cowardly denial of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.  The difference between the cowardly Peter and the bold Peter was the baptism in the Spirit.

Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,

which has become the cornerstone.’

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”—4:11-12

In ancient courts it was common to turn the tables and accuse your accusers of wrongdoing.  But it was unheard of to accuse the judges as Peter does here.  His allusion to Psalm 118:22 identifies Jesus as the stone the builders disdainfully rejected.  The cost of this rejection is condemnation, for Jesus is the only source of salvation (For more information on this topic see post on John 14:5-7, https://upstatechristian.com/2022/06/10/through-the-bible-in-one-year-161/).

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.—4:13-18

Boldness was the attitude and characteristic of the elite philosophers/rhetors.  That this was the stance of the apostles was surprising because they were unschooled (though not illiterate) and laypeople.  The recognition that they were followers of Jesus suggests training outside of official schools and to some degree taking on the mantle of Jesus in proclamation.  This was the substance of the council’s prohibition not to speak in Jesus’ name.  The council forbade both public and private speech about Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.—4:19-22

Peter responds in the form of a rhetorical question.  In essence, the statement is both a commitment to God and a rebuke of the council.  Peter affirms the apostle’s commitment to obey God rather than people.  The rebuke is somewhat softened as a conditional statement but still defines the demands of the council as disobedience to God.  Since the healing was obviously not faked, the council had no choice but to release the apostles.  The take away from this section should not only be that God’s instructions take precedence over man’s instructions, but that Peter’s actions would not have been possible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life.  But more importantly Peter’s actions would not have been possible if he was not attuned to the Holy Spirit, which was only made possible through the baptism in the Spirit.  And the same if true for all us who claim to be followers of Christ today.  We can have the same boldness that Peter and John had, but only if we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.  And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we finish Acts chapter 4.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

1 Chronicles 9-10, Acts 27:21-44, Psalm 8:1-9 and Proverbs 18:23-24

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