Acts Chapter Four
In a word, they are invited to return by repentance, and enjoy all the promises made to Israel. The Messiah Himself should return from heaven to establish their blessing. The whole nation is here addressed as natural heirs of the promises made to Abraham. But, while they were speaking, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to lay hands on them, being grieved that they preached the resurrection, which their unbelief and dogmatic system did not receive. They put them in prison, for it was evening. The hope of Israel was set aside; the grace of God had spoken in vain, great and patient as it was. Many, however, believed their word: five thousand persons already confessed the Lord Jesus.
We have seen the address which God, in His grace, sent to Israel by the mouth of Peter. We shall now see, not only the reception (already noticed) which it met with from the rulers of the people, but the deliberate answer of their inmost heart, as we may call it. On the morrow the rulers, the elders, and the scribes assemble at Jerusalem, together with Annas and his kindred; and, setting the apostles in their midst, they demand by what power or in what name they have wrought this miracle on the impotent man. Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, declares-announcing it to all Israel, and with the utmost readiness and entire boldness-that it was by Jesus, whom they had crucified, and whom God had raised from the dead. Thus the question between God and the rulers of Israel was very formally stated, and that by the Spirit of God. Jesus was the stone rejected by them, the builders, which had become the head of the corner. Salvation could nowhere else be found. No carefulness not to offend, with regard to the adversaries and the rulers; with the people, as such, ignorant and misled, everything to win them. The council recognised them as former companions of Christ: the man who had been healed was there. What could they say or do in the face of the multitude who had witnessed the miracle? They could only exhibit a will in decided opposition to the Lord and His testimony, and yield to the public opinion, which was necessary to their own importance, by which too they were governed. With threats they commanded the apostles to teach no more in the name of Jesus. We may remark here, that Satan had Sadducean instruments arrayed against the doctrine of the resurrection, as he had Pharisees as suited instruments against a living Christ. We must expect the well-ordered opposition of Satan against the truth.
Now Peter and John allow of no ambiguity with respect to their course. God had commanded them to preach Christ: the prohibition of man had no weight with them. "We cannot," say they, "but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What a position for the rulers of the people! Accordingly, a testimony like this plainly demonstrates that the leaders of Israel were fallen from the place of interpreters of the will of God. The apostles do not drive them away-do not attack them: God would judge them; but they act immediately on the part of God, and disregard their authority altogether with respect to the work that God had committed to themselves. The testimony of God was with the apostles, and not with the rulers of the temple; and the presence of God was in the assembly, and not there.
Peter and John return to their own company, for a separate people who knew each other was formed; and all, moved by the Holy Ghost (for it was there that God dwelt by His Spirit, not now in the temple), lift up their voice to God, the Governor of all things, to acknowledge that this opposition of the rulers was but the accomplishment of the word and the counsels and the purposes of God. These threatenings were but the occasion of asking God to manifest His power in connection with the name of Jesus. In a word, the world (including the Jews, who formed a part of it in their opposition) had stood up against Jesus, the Servant of God, and opposed itself to the testimony rendered to Him. The Holy Ghost is the strength of this testimony, whether in the courage of those who bore witness (v. 8), or in His presence in the assembly (v. 31), or in the energy of service (v. 33), or in the fruits that are again produced among the saints with a power which makes it manifest that the Holy Ghost has dominion in their hearts over all the motives that influence man, making them walk by those of which He is the source. It is the energy of the Spirit in the presence of opposition, as before it was His natural fruit in those among whom He dwelt. Fresh persons sell their goods, and lay their price at the apostles' feet; among others, a man whom the Holy Ghost takes pleasure in distinguishing-Barnabas, from the island of Cyprus.
To sum up this chapter demonstrates, on one side, the condition of the Jews, their rejection of the testimony which was addressed to them in grace; and on the other, the power of the Holy Ghost and God's presence and guidance elsewhere, namely, in the midst of the disciples.
These three chapters (2-4) present the first forming of the assembly, and its blessed character through the Holy Spirit dwelling in it. They present to us its first beauty as formed of God, and His habitation.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Acts》
Peter and John imprisoned. (1-4) The apostles boldly testify to Christ. (5-14) Peter and John refuse to be silenced. (15-22) The believers unite in prayer and praise. (23-31) The holy charity of the Christians. (32-37)
Commentary on Acts 4:1-4
(Read Acts 4:1-4)
The apostles preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. It includes all the happiness of the future state; this they preached through Jesus Christ, to be had through him only. Miserable is their case, to whom the glory of Christ's kingdom is a grief; for since the glory of that kingdom is everlasting, their grief will be everlasting also. The harmless and useful servants of Christ, like the apostles, have often been troubled for their work of faith and labour of love, when wicked men have escaped. And to this day instances are not wanting, in which reading the Scriptures, social prayer, and religious conversation meet with frowns and checks. But if we obey the precepts of Christ, he will support us.
Commentary on Acts 4:5-14
(Read Acts 4:5-14)
Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, would have all to understand, that the miracle had been wrought by the name, or power, of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, whom they had crucified; and this confirmed their testimony to his resurrection from the dead, which proved him to be the Messiah. These rulers must either be saved by that Jesus whom they had crucified, or they must perish for ever. The name of Jesus is given to men of every age and nation, as that whereby alone believers are saved from the wrath to come. But when covetousness, pride, or any corrupt passion, rules within, men shut their eyes, and close their hearts, in enmity against the light; considering all as ignorant and unlearned, who desire to know nothing in comparison with Christ crucified. And the followers of Christ should act so that all who converse with them, may take knowledge that they have been with Jesus. That makes them holy, heavenly, spiritual, and cheerful, and raises them above this world.
Commentary on Acts 4:15-22
(Read Acts 4:15-22)
All the care of the rulers is, that the doctrine of Christ spread not among the people, yet they cannot say it is false or dangerous, or of any ill tendency; and they are ashamed to own the true reason; that it testifies against their hypocrisy, wickedness, and tyranny. Those who know how to put a just value upon Christ's promises, know how to put just contempt upon the world's threatenings. The apostles look with concern on perishing souls, and know they cannot escape eternal ruin but by Jesus Christ, therefore they are faithful in warning, and showing the right way. None will enjoy peace of mind, nor act uprightly, till they have learned to guide their conduct by the fixed standard of truth, and not by the shifting opinions and fancies of men. Especially beware of a vain attempt to serve two masters, God and the world; the end will be, you can serve neither fully.
Commentary on Acts 4:23-31
(Read Acts 4:23-31)
Christ's followers do best in company, provided it is their own company. It encourages God's servants, both in doing work, and suffering work, that they serve the God who made all things, and therefore has the disposal of all events; and the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Jesus was anointed to be a Saviour, therefore it was determined he should be a sacrifice, to make atonement for sin. But sin is not the less evil for God's bringing good out of it. In threatening times, our care should not be so much that troubles may be prevented, as that we may go on with cheerfulness and courage in our work and duty. They do not pray, Lord let us go away from our work, now that it is become dangerous, but, Lord, give us thy grace to go on stedfastly in our work, and not to fear the face of man. Those who desire Divine aid and encouragement, may depend upon having them, and they ought to go forth, and go on, in the strength of the Lord God. God gave a sign of acceptance of their prayers. The place was shaken, that their faith might be established and unshaken. God gave them greater degrees of his Spirit; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, more than ever; by which they were not only encouraged, but enabled to speak the word of God with boldness. When they find the Lord God help them by his Spirit, they know they shall not be confounded, Isaiah 17.
Commentary on Acts 4:32-37
(Read Acts 4:32-37)
The disciples loved one another. This was the blessed fruit of Christ's dying precept to his disciples, and his dying prayer for them. Thus it was then, and it will be so again, when the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high. The doctrine preached was the resurrection of Christ; a matter of fact, which being duly explained, was a summary of all the duties, privileges, and comforts of Christians. There were evident fruits of Christ's grace in all they said and did. They were dead to this world. This was a great evidence of the grace of God in them. They did not take away others' property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply. The money was laid at the apostles' feet. Great care ought to be taken in the distribution of public charity, that it be given to such as have need, such as are not able to procure a maintenance for themselves; those who are reduced to want for well-doing, and for the testimony of a good conscience, ought to be provided for. Here is one in particular mentioned, remarkable for this generous charity; it was Barnabas. As one designed to be a preacher of the gospel, he disentangled himself from the affairs of this life. When such dispositions prevail, and are exercised according to the circumstances of the times, the testimony will have very great power upon others.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Acts》
 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
The priests being grieved — That the name of Jesus was preached to the people; especially they were offended at the doctrine of his resurrection; for as they had put him to death, his rising again proved him to be the Just One, and so brought his blood upon their heads. The priests were grieved, lest their office and temple services should decline, and Christianity take root, through the preaching of the apostles, and their power of working miracles: the captain of the temple - Being concerned to prevent all sedition and disorder, the Sadducees - Being displeased at the overturning of all their doctrines, particularly with regard to the resurrection.
 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
The number of the men — Beside women and children, were about five thousand - So many did our Lord now feed at once with the bread from heaven!
 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
Rulers, and elders, and scribes — Who were eminent for power, for wisdom, and for learning.
 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.
Annas, who had been the high priest, and Caiaphas, who was so then.
 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
By what name — By what authority, have ye done this? - They seem to speak ambiguously on purpose.
 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost — That moment. God moves his instruments, not when they please, but just when he sees it needful.
Ye rulers — He gives them the honour due to their office.
 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.
Be it known to you all — Probably the herald of God proclaimed this with a loud voice.
Whom God hath raised from the dead — They knew in their own consciences that it was so. And though they had hired the soldiers to tell a most senseless and incredible tale to the contrary, Matthew 28:12,15, yet it is observable, they did not, so far as we can learn, dare to plead it before Peter and John.
 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
There is no other name whereby we must he saved — The apostle uses a beautiful gradation, from the temporal deliverance which had been wrought for the poor cripple, by the power of Christ, to that of a much nobler and more important kind, which is wrought by Christ for impotent and sinful souls. He therein follows the admirable custom of his great Lord and Master, who continually took occasion from earthly to speak of spiritual things.
 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.
Illiterate and uneducated men — Even by such men (though not by such only) hath God in all ages caused his word to be preached before the world.
 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
Yet that it spread no farther — For they look upon it as a mere gangrene. So do all the world upon genuine Christianity.
Let us severely threaten them — Great men, ye do nothing. They have a greater than you to flee to.
 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
They charged them not to speak — Privately; nor teach - Publicly.
 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.
Whether it be just to obey you rather than God, judge ye — Was it not by the same spirit, that Socrates, when they were condemning him to death, for teaching the people, said, "O ye Athenians, I embrace and love you; but I will obey God rather than you. And if you would spare my life on condition I should cease to teach my fellow citizens, I would die a thousand times rather than accept the proposal."
 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.
They all glorified God — So much wiser were the people than those who were over them.
 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:
The sense is, Lord, thou hast all power. And thy word is fulfilled. Men do rage against thee: but it is in vain.
 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
 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,
Whom thou hast anointed — To be king of Israel.
 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
The sense is, but they could do no more than thou wast pleased to permit, according to thy determinate counsel, to save mankind by the sufferings of thy Son. And what was needful for this end, thou didst before determine to permit to be done.
 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Thou stretchest forth thy hand — Exertest thy power.
 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.
They were all filled — Afresh; and spake the word with boldness - So their petition was granted.
 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.
And the multitude of them that believed — Every individual person were of one heart and one soul - Their love, their hopes, their passions joined: and not so much as one - In so great a multitude: this was a necessary consequence of that union of heart; said that aught of the things which he had was his own - It is impossible any one should, while all were of one soul. So long as that truly Christian love continued, they could not but have all things common.
 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
And great grace — A large measure of the inward power of the Holy Ghost, was upon them all - Directing all their thoughts, words, and actions.
 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,
For neither was there any one among them that wanted — We may observe, this is added as the proof that great grace was upon them all. And it was the immediate, necessary consequence of it: yea, and must be to the end of the world. In all ages and nations, the same cause, the same degree of grace, could not but in like circumstances produce the same effect.
For whosoever were possessors of houses and lands sold them — Not that there was any particular command for this; but there was great grace and great love: of which this was the natural fruit.
 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
And distribution was made — At first by the apostles themselves, afterward by them whom they appointed.
 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,
A son of consolation — Not only on account of his so largely assisting the poor with his fortune; but also of those peculiar gifts of the Spirit, whereby he was so well qualified both to comfort and to exhort.
 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Having an estate — Probably of considerable value. It is not unlikely that it was in Cyprus. Being a Levite, he had no portion, no distinct inheritance in Israel.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Acts》
Chapter 4. Testify the Name of the Lord
Word with Great Boldness
Stretch Hands to Heal
I. Initial Persecution on Church
II. Peter's Third Message
III. Raise Voice to Pray in Victory
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Chapter Four General Review
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To study the beginning of the persecution against the church, and the
reason for it
2) To note the apostolic response to persecution, and continued progress
of the church in
The first case of persecution against the church is described in this
chapter. Peter and John are put into custody because their preaching on
the resurrection of Jesus disturbed a number of the religious leaders
(in particular the Sadducees who denied any resurrection, Mt 22:23; Ac
23:8). In spite of this, the number of men who believed came to be
about five thousand (1-4).
After a night in jail, Peter and John are brought before the council,
including the high priest and members of his family. Challenged to
explain themselves, Peter proclaims the healing was done by the name of
Jesus Christ, the very one they crucified yet whom God raised from the
dead and who has now become "the chief cornerstone" (cf. Psa 118:22),
and in whose name alone salvation is now available. Amazed at Peter
and John's boldness, and unable to deny that the lame man had been
healed, the council sends them outside and confer among themselves.
They decide to prevent the spread of the apostles' doctrine by
threatening Peter and John not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus.
The apostles respond that they must speak what they have seen and heard.
The council, unable to do anything more at this time because of the
people, simply threaten the apostles once again and let them go (5-22).
Returning to their companions, Peter and John report what has been said.
Prayer is offered, asking for boldness in view of the persecution
foretold in Psalms 2:1-2, and for signs and wonders to continue in the
name of Jesus. At the conclusion of the prayer, the place where they
prayed was shaken and all were filled the Holy Spirit, emboldening them
to speak the Word of God (23-31).
The chapter ends with a description of the continued growth of the
church, with the oneness of the brethren and the empowered testimony of
the apostles to the resurrection of Jesus. The great liberality
continues, meeting the needs of the saints. One example in particular
is noted, that of Barnabas, whose work is featured later in the book
(cf. Ac 11:22-30; 13:1-15:41), and whose liberality stands in stark
contrast to what takes place in the next chapter (32-36).
I. THE ARREST OF PETER AND JOHN (1-22)
A. BROUGHT BEFORE THE COUNCIL (1-12)
1. Peter and John taken into custody
a. By the priests, captain of the temple, and the Sadducees
b. Who were upset by their preaching in Jesus the resurrection
from the dead
c. Kept overnight until the next day
d. The number of those who believed came to be about five
2. Their appearance before the Council (Sanhedrin)
a. Before the rulers, elders and scribes
b. Before Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander,
along with other family members of the high priest
c. Peter and John challenged to explain by what power or name
they have acted
3. Peter's response as led be the Spirit
a. Were they being judged for doing a good deed to a helpless
man in making him well?
b. It was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth he was made
1) Whom they crucified
2) Whom God raised from the dead
3) Who is the stone rejected by the builders, and has become
the chief cornerstone - cf. Psa 118:22
c. There is salvation in no other name under heaven
B. THREATENED NOT TO TEACH (13-22)
1. The council's reaction
a. What the council saw
1) The boldness of Peter and John
a) Perceived as uneducated and untrained men
b) Realized as having been with Jesus
2) The man who had been healed
a) Standing with Peter and John
b) Against whose healing nothing could be said
b. What the council reasoned
1) A notable has occurred, evident to all, none could deny
2) To prevent further spread, to threaten the apostles
c. What the council did
1) Commanded Peter and John
2) Not to speak at all or teaching in the name of Jesus
2. Peter and John's reply
a. Shall they listen to the council or God?
b. They cannot but speak what they have seen and heard
3. Peter and John released
a. Upon further threatening
b. Finding no way of punishing them,
c. Because of the people, who glorified God for what had been
d. For the man who was healed was over forty years old
II. THE PRAYER FOR BOLDNESS (23-31)
A. PETER AND JOHN RETURN (23)
1. To their brethren
2. To report all that had been said to them
B. THEIR PRAYER (24-30)
1. Addressed to the Lord God, Creator of all things
a. Who prophesied by the mouth of His servant David
b. Of the nations' rage and plotting against His Christ
c. As fulfilled by Herod and Pilate, by Gentiles and
d. Who did according to His predetermined purpose
2. Asking for all boldness in the face of such threats
a. That His servants may speak His word
b. That His hand might stretch out
1) To heal, to do signs and wonders
2) Through the name of His holy Servant Jesus
C. THE ANSWER (31)
1. The place in which they were assembled was shaken
2. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
3. They spoke the word of God with boldness
III. THE PROGRESS OF THE CHURCH (32-37)
A. THEIR UNITY (32)
1. The multitude of believers were of one heart and one soul
2. None claimed their possessions as their own; they had all
things in common
B. THEIR GREATNESS (33)
1. With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection
2. And great grace was upon them all
C. THEIR LIBERALITY (34-37)
1. None among them lacked what they needed
a. For all who possessed lands or houses sold them
b. The proceeds were laid at the apostles' feet
c. Distribution was made as each had need
2. The example of Joses
a. Called Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, by the apostles
b. A Levite of the country of
c. Sold land, and laid the money at the apostles' feet
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- The arrest of Peter and John (1-22)
- The prayer for boldness (23-31)
- The progress of the church (32-37)
2) Who came upon Peter and John while they were speaking? (1)
- The priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees
3) Why were they upset with Peter and John? (2)
- Because they preached in Jesus the resurrection of the dead
4) Why did that upset them? (cf. Mt 22:23; Ac 23:8)
- The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection
5) What did they do with Peter and John? (3)
- Placed them in custody until the next day
6) How many men had come to believe in Christ? (4)
- About five thousand
7) Who joined the rulers, elders and scribes on the next day? (5-6)
- Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other members
of the family of the high priest
8) What did they ask Peter and John? (7)
- "By what power or by what name have you done this?"
9) What name did Peter given them? (8-10)
- The name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth
10) What had the religious leaders done? What had God done? (10)
- Crucified Jesus
- Raised Jesus from the dead
11) What else did Peter say about Jesus? (11-12)
- He is the rejected stone which has become the chief cornerstone
(cf. Psa 118:22)
- There is salvation in no other name but His
12) What did the religious leaders see, perceive, and realize about
Peter and John? (13)
- Their boldness
- That they were uneducated and untrained men
- That they had been with Jesus
13) What could the religious leaders not deny? (14)
- That the man standing with Peter and John had been healed
14) After Peter and John were put out of the council, what did the
council confer among themselves? (15-17)
- They could not deny such a notable miracle
- To prevent the spread of the apostles' doctrine, to severely
15) What did the council command Peter and John? How did they respond?
- Not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus
- "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than
to God, you judge."
- "...we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
16) After threatening the apostles some more, why did the council not
punish them further? (21-22)
- Because of the people, who glorified God for what had been done
17) Once released, what did Peter and John do? (23)
- Returned to their companions and reported all the council had said
18) What did they then do? (24)
- Pray to God
19) What Messianic prophecy did they refer to in their prayer? (25-26)
- The one found in Psa 2:1,2
20) Who were mentioned as a fulfillment of opposing God and Christ? (27)
- Herod and Pilate; the Gentiles and the people of
21) In their opposition against God, what had they actually done? (28)
- What God had determined before to be done
22) In their prayer, what did the apostles ask of God? (29-30)
- To consider the threats and give His servants boldness to speak His
- To grant healing signs and wonders to be done in the name of Jesus
23) What happened in response to their prayer? (31)
- The place where they assembled shook; they were all filled with the
- They spoke the word of God with boldness
24) What manifested the oneness of the believers at that time? (32)
- They had all things in common
25) What manifested the greatness enjoyed by the church at that time?
- With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of
- Great grace was upon them all
26) What manifested their love and generosity at that time? (34-35)
- Those who had lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds
to the apostles
- Distribution was made as anyone had need
27) Who was singled out as an example of their liberality? (36-37)
- Joses, a Levite from
named Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) Cyprus
by the apostles