ACTS – Chapter 4
verses for this week: Psa
39:4 LORD, make me to
know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may
know how frail I am.
Introduction: In Chapter 3, we studied the story
concerning the lame man being healed in the front of the temple.
Peter and John took no credit for what was done, but gave all
the credit and honor to Jesus Christ.
When the people came marveling at the feat, Peter took the
opportunity to preach the Gospel to them.
In this week’s lesson, we see the beginning of the
persecution of the church as Peter and John are brought before the
religious leaders to explain how this man was healed.
The Persecution of the Early Church
has been the case the case many times in history, the Christians
were not persecuted by the lost, but by the religious leaders. God had set up the religious order, but through the years, it
had become greatly corrupted from the original Judaism taught by
Moses and the prophets. While
in Dallas this week, I acquired some books on Acts, and in Warren
Wiersbe’s book “Be Dynamic”, he stated “The Jewish religious
system had become so corrupt that the offices were passed from one
relative to another without regard for the Word of God.
When Annas was deposed from the priesthood, Caiaphas (his
son-in-law) was appointed. In
fact, five of Annas’ sons held the office at one time or
another.” This is a
sad state of affairs. Jesus
was not pleased with all the new rules that the Pharisees had come
up with which were not rules of God, but commands of man to keep the
traditions in tact.
Mat 15:9 But
in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the
commandments of men.
verse 6 of the same chapter, Jesus said: Thus
have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your
Acts 4:1 And as they
spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple,
and the Sadducees, came upon them,
Acts 4:2 Being grieved
that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the
resurrection from the dead.
It appears from Verse 1 that the Sadducee party was in power at
this time. We know that
they and the Pharisees were the two largest religious groups or
sects during this time. One
of the major differences in the two was that the Sadducees did not
believe in any resurrection. They
also did not believe in angels or that man had a personal spirit.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither
angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
From verse 2, it is apparent that the Sadducees were upset with
what Peter and John were preaching, because they were definitely
preaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:3 And they laid
hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was
Acts 4:4 Howbeit many of
them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was
about five thousand.
We see that like their Lord, the disciples (Peter and John), were
arrested and placed in jail. At
least in their case, they were not tried until the following
We see that many of the Jews believed the gospel, and were
saved. Several of
the study books agreed that the 5,000 was the sum total that now
believed including the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost.
We see the men were bound, but Praise God, the Gospel is
never bound. Satan
has always tried to stop the preaching of the truth, but God’s
Word can not be stopped.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it
shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I
please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
II. Peter’s Address
to the Sanhedrin
Acts 4:5 And it came to
pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
Acts 4:6 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
Acts 4:7 And when they
had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what
name, have ye done this?
You see who gathered together to try the men… It was the
mighty Sanhedrin council made up of the rulers, elders and scribes.
Did you ever wonder why the angels came and announced the
birth of Christ to the shepherds in the field?
Why not go to the religious leaders.. the High Priest?
It was because the religious groups had become so polluted
that they had virtually taken over the rules and taught their own
doctrines and traditions rather than the commandments of God.
I wonder today when God looks down on us if He is not as
disgusted with the vast majority of churches and pastors today.
Let me stop and say I am not condemning everyone, I’m just
saying that many today spend more time in pulpits giving book
reports and pacifying the people than preaching the Gospel.
And any church who has left her first love needs to repent as
God commanded the church there in Ephesus in Revelations.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast
left thy first love.
In J. Vernon McGee’s commentary on Acts, he said “I have found
that the biggest enemies of the preaching of the gospel are not the
liquor folk. The
gangsters have never bothered me.
Do you know where I had my trouble as a preacher?
It was with the so called religious leaders, the liberals of
the day. Those who claimed to be born again. They actually became enemies of the preaching of the gospel.
It was amazing to me to find out how many of them wanted to
destroy my radio ministry. They
were our worst antagonists. It
wasn’t the unsaved folk. It
was the religious leaders, the Saducees of today. They are the ones who deny the supernatural.
They denied the Word of God either by their lips or by their
lives. This is
important to see.”
Here John and Peter stand before Caiaphas, Annas the High Priest,
John, Alexander, and many of the kindred of the high priest.
The question they asked shows that they recognized the
miracle, but demand to know by what power they performed it.
Jesus had warned the disciples that they would face such
experiences after His death.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the
councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my
sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye
shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father
which speaketh in you.
Acts 4:8 Then Peter,
filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people,
and elders of Israel,
Acts 4:9 If we this day
be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means
he is made whole;
Acts 4:10 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.
Acts 4:11 This is the
stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the
head of the corner.
Acts 4:12 Neither is
there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under
heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
We see prophecy being fulfilled in verse 8 as Peter is given the
words to speak by the Holy Ghost.
Peter takes this opportunity to preach the gospel again.
If we are perceptive, many instances come up in our daily
life when we can tell others about the Lord.
We see that Peter knew what the gospel was, and he preached
it to the Sanhedrin council
1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also
received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the
1 Cor 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day
according to the scriptures:
By recapping what Peter said, we see that he declares that Jesus is
the stone that the Jews cast down and rejected. This stone (Jesus) which the builders (the Jews) set aside
had become the head of the corner.
Psa 118:22 The stone which the builders refused is become
the head stone of the corner.
And perhaps the most important thing that Peter said was that there
was no other name under heaven by which man can be saved.
Jesus is the door of salvation, and this is God’s chosen
method to save lost man.
Anyone trying to come any other way is like a robber or a
Paul told the church in Corinth that there was no other foundation
that we can build on except for Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which
is Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1 Cor 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall
declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall
try every man's work of what sort it is.
1 Cor 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he
shall receive a reward.
1 Cor 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but
he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
III. Preaching in
Jesus’ Name is Forbidden
Acts 4:13 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.
Acts 4:14 And beholding
the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing
Acts 4:15 But when they
had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred
Acts 4:16 Saying, What
shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath
been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem;
and we cannot deny it.
If the world could only see one thing in us, would it not be great
if it would be what they saw in Peter and John. They took knowledge that they had been with Jesus.
My heart’s desire is that I might be a worthy servant of my
Lord. Men and women
that live for God make indelible impressions in our mind.
I think of Paul who never gave up, although he suffered near
death experiences over and over. I’m reading a book about “The Cost of
Discipleship” by Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and before this German
preacher was put to death in a Nazi concentration camp for his stand
for God, even the German soldiers apologized for having to lock his
cell. They saw
God in the man who said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come
and die.” This
man literally lived that out to die as a martyr for the cause of
Christ. Peter and John should have been scared to death of
these religious leaders, but they were not.
And why not?? It
was due to the power of God working through these men.
These men were bold, and spoke the words God would have them
to speak. We need
to fear God, not man. As
we said earlier, Satan has forever tried to squelch the Gospel, but
he has not, and he never will.
God’s Word will endure forever.
Everything else will pass away, but God’s Word will not.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass
It says that they marvelled at these ignorant and unlearned men.
This did not mean they could not read or write, it meant that
they had no formal schooling by a rabbi or by the scribes.
What they failed to see was that there was never a teacher
like Jesus Christ. And
they had been with Jesus for over three years learning at the
Master’s feet. The
Word of God not only made sense to Jesus, He effectively was the
author. And He
was with God in eternity past.
Jesus was far superior to the scribes.
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath
day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them
as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Ministers and lay people of the church need to all study to
rightly divide the words of the bible.
2 Tim 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Acts 4:17 But that it
spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them,
that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
Acts 4:18 And they
called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the
name of Jesus.
Acts 4:19 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.
Acts 4:20 For we cannot
but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Acts 4:21 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.
Acts 4:22 For the man
was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was
The council could not say anything against what had been done for
the fact was before them that a miracle had been done and the people
had all witnessed it. They
reasoned among themselves as to what they should do.
So rather than pretending the miracle did not happen, they
give the men the command to just “Don’t preach in the name of
Jesus anymore.” I
love what they told them… you reason among yourselves who we
should hearken to.. you or God.
In verse 20, they said “we cannot but speak the things
which we have seen and heard.”
I thank the Lord that they continued preaching, and other men
of faith followed, and generations later, I was given the
opportunity one morning when I was 13 years old to hear the gospel,
and by God’s grace and power, I turned to Christ and was saved.
Each of you who know Jesus as Savior owe a world of gratitude
for all the forefathers and men and women of faith that did not
waver but stood their ground through the ages.
Many died that you and I might have the freedom to hear the
IV. The Prayer Meeting
of the Church due to Persecution.
Acts 4:23 And being let
go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief
priests and elders had said unto them.
Acts 4:24 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:
Acts 4:25 Who by the
mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and
the people imagine vain things?
Acts 4:26 The kings of
the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against
the Lord, and against his Christ.
Acts 4:27 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,
Acts 4:28 For to do
whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Acts 4:29 And now, Lord,
behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with
all boldness they may speak thy word,
Acts 4:30 By stretching
forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by
the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Acts 4:31 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.
Several of the books I read on chapter 4 of Acts said that the
reason the church was so solid and went forward so powerfully in the
early years was due to their ability to pray and pray effectively.
Peter and John report everything that happened to the church
and they did not panic, but rather lifted up their voices to God in
acknowledge God as the one who made heaven, earth, and sea, and all
that is in them. And
they asked God to behold the threatenings, and grant unto they
servants “BOLDNESS THAT THEY MAY SPEAK THY WORD” .
They did not ask for God to take away the persecution,
but asked for boldness to keep on keeping on.
God help us to have that kind of attitude.
The church also asked God to do signs and wonders in the holy
name of Jesus. And God granted their petitions. God is pleased when the church is focused, and has one mind
and one accord.
The apostle Paul asked for prayers on his behalf that he might be
effective in the preaching of the Gospel.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication for all saints;
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may
open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may
speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
IV. The State of the
Acts 4:32 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.
Acts 4:33 And with great
power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Acts 4:34 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
Acts 4:35 And laid them
down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man
according as he had need.
Acts 4:36 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,
Acts 4:37 Having land,
sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
There was great unity in the church it says in verse 32.
They were of one heart and one soul.
And because of this, God gave them great power to witness and
great grace was upon them all. They sold all that they had and brought the money to the
apostle’s feet, and they distributed it out as there was some
need. I doubt if
there are many churches today where the people have the faith it
would take to go out and sell out everything and believe that God
would take care of them. But
this church did.
The church was really know for three things.
preached the Gospel. (verse
of them had been with Jesus (verse
were a giving church. (Verse
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But the path of the just is as the shining light, that
shineth more and more unto the perfect day.