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- Acts 4 Commentary
v.4: “This growth is phenomenal, considering that women and children are not included in this accounting.”
vv.8-12: “Peter proceeds to preach the gospel to his judges, and he bases his argument on a well-known Old Testament text. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’ (Ps. 118:22) is one of the earliest messianic testimonies […]”
“When we read Peter’s speech, and remember to whom it was spoken, we recognize one of the world’s great demonstrations of courage. It was spoken to an audience of the wealthiest, the most intellectual and the most powerful in the land, and yet Peter, the Galilean fisherman, stands before them rather as their judge than as their victim. Further, this was the very court which had condemned Jesus to death. Peter knew that he was taking his life in his hands.”
v.13: “In other words, though Peter and John are professionally unqualified, they are boldly conducting their own defense with great eloquence before this august assembly. The Sanhedrin already knows that these men have been with Jesus. But this performance reminds them afresh how they have been influenced by Jesus, who also ‘taught… as one who had authority’ (Mark 1:22). Jesus’ ministry once prompted the Jews to ask (John 7:15), ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’”
vv.15-17: “It is particularly striking that neither on this nor on any subsequent occasion did the authorities take any serious action to disprove the apostles’ central affirmation – the resurrection of Jesus. Had it seemed possible to refute them on this point, how eagerly would the opportunity have been seized! Had their refutation on this point been achieved, how quickly and completely the new movement would have collapsed! It is plain that the apostles spoke of a bodily resurrection when they said that Jesus had been raised form the dead; it is equally plain that the authorities understood them in this sense. The body of Jesus had vanished so completely that all the resources at their command could not produce it. The disappearance of his body, to be sure, was far from proving his resurrection, but the production of his body would have effectively disproved it. Now the apostles’ claim that Jesus was alive had received public confirmation by the miracle of healing performed in his name. It was, for the Sanhedrin, a disturbing situation.”
v.18: One lesson that can be learned from this antagonistic encounter with the Sanhedrin is that Christian life entails persecution and difficulties. The notion that Christian life should be a life of smooth sailing is a false notion derived more from the materialistic Western culture than from the Bible. “We live in an age that gives much attention to mastering the art of avoiding suffering. We live in what may be called an ‘aspirin generation,’ which views pain and suffering as calamities that are to be avoided at all costs.”
The apostles themselves faced persecution from the onset from these religious leaders. “We must, therefore, not be overly disillusioned when criticism and persecution come our way from those who should be encouraging us the most. Parents, whose children’s lives are transformed for the better through a youth movement, may oppose the movement as they fear that their authority will be undermined and their hypocrisy exposed. Our best efforts may be discounted on technicalities by those who do not like what we say or are threatened by our message. For example, a powerful message through song, drama, or speech may be discounted because it took too long. To our acts of deepest sacrifice selfish motives will be attributed.”
vv.23-24: “The individualism of contemporary society has caused us to lower our standards of fellowship. One of the saddest results of this is that it leaves us ill-equipped for crises. The apostles shared what happened and prayed together.”
vv.24-28: “We see a dual perspective in this prayer. While the prayer takes evil into account, before and after that accounting is a description of God and his ways. Evil is a reality, but God is a deeper and more powerful reality.”
v.29: “One would expect them to ask God for further deliverance. They did not. Instead they asked for more of the same, requesting of him boldness in witness and further miraculous signs.”
“Following their gaze at god, the problems facing these believers received only a glance, while their major request had to do with obedience (v.29). Today too obedience to God should be our primary concern when we face crises.”
v.31: God immediately answered their prayers for boldness. The place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. In 4:8, 4:31, 13:9, and throughout the book of Acts, one can observe that the direct result of being filled with the Holy Spirit was to speak the truth boldly. Likewise, the Holy Spirit enables God’s people today to speak the word of God and proclaim the gospel truth with great boldness. When the Spirit prompts us to reach the lost world with His gospel and we do not obey, we are putting out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thess 5:19).
vv.32-37: Many attempts have been made by our modern consumerist culture to minimize and explain away the portrayal of the early church in these verses, calling them “idealized” vision of the early church and so forth. Especially the description of selling possessions to support each other financially has caused an uneasy murmur among the churches. The disproportionate discomfort at the challenge and the desire to explain the passage away (while trying to maintain the principle of generosity) points toward a tense struggle in Christendom to create a Christ-like community while at the same holding on to all the treasures of the world. How did we come to this point?
“It is said that the theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) once called on Pope Innocent II when the latter was counting out a large sum of money. The Pope remarked, “You see, Thomas, the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ Aquinas replied, ‘True, holy father, but neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.’’”
v.34: There were no needy persons among them. “Paul wrote, ‘Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality’ (2 Cor 8:13). Relative equality is a goal every Christian should strive for. I use the term relative because people’s spending can vary according to their culture and responsibilities. But we must strive to have a situation where there are no needy people in the church. Thus, Christians should not decide on their lifestyle by looking at their peers in society, but rather after looking at the needs of the believers around them.”
“Usually when we think of fellowship, we think of spiritual unity, of good relationships existing within the community, and of the sharing of good feelings towards each other. But the characteristically Christian word for fellowship, koinonia, means much more than that. Historian Justo L. Gonzales has shown that in the Bible, koinonia and its related words have the meaning of partnership as well. Thus, we need to rethink our understanding of Christian fellowship in the light of what the New Testament records. True fellowship includes the attitude ‘this is not my own’ to what one possesses. True accountability must involve our finances as well as other aspects of our lives.”
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.152
 Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.93
 Barclay, William. Daily Study Bible Series: Acts, p.39
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.153
 Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.96
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.159
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.159
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, pp.170-171
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.175
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, pp.171-172
 Hillimon, William. Interpretation: Acts, p.53
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.149
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.191
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.189
Acts 4:1-12 (ESV)
1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
- Study Questions:
- Acts 4:1-4
- Note how the message of the apostles is summarized in v. 2. Reread 1:1-3, and consider afresh the reality that Christianity began as a testimony to a fact—Jesus rose from the dead—rather than as a new moral or religious system. What are the implications for me?
- Consider this scene and Peter’s message to the rulers.What stands out as noteworthy? How does Peter’s confidence challenge me?
- What does this verse state regarding the source of salvation?
- What is my response to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to salvation?