Acts 4 Bible Study

Bible Study of Acts Chapter 4

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Acts 4 Bible Study


ACTS 4:1-4  1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Who are "they" (Acts 4:1) and where were they?
It's Peter and John. Acts chapter 4 is the continuation from chapter 3, in which Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus, and then preached the Gospel to the people who gathered at Solomon's Porch, the wood-roofed, double columned area that runs along the eastern edge of the temple area.

Who is the "captain of the temple" (Acts 4:1)?
The captain of the temple guards. Most likely, he would have brought some of his guards with him.

Who are the "Sadducees" (Acts 4:1)?
Sadducees were another ruling religious sect in Israel. The chief priests were Sadducees, as were many members of the Sanhedrin. Sadducees were wealthy, powerful and collaborated with the Romans to retain their wealth and power. And unlike the Pharisees, Sadducees only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament, and didn't believe there was life after death.

Why would they be "greatly disturbed" (Acts 4:2) with Peter's message?
"Resurrection of the dead" (Acts 4:2) would have been disturbing to those who denied life after death, and the rest of Peter's message, preached in their temple precinct, wouldn't have been any more pleasing to their ears.

What was the result of Peter's message?
"Many of those who heard the word believed" (Acts 4:4). Acts chapter 2 records the number of men who believed after Peter's first sermon at three thousand. Now it was up to "about five thousand" (Acts 4:4), which means the total number of believers, including women and children would have been in the five figures.

What happened to Peter and John?
They were arrested and put "in custody until the next day" (Acts 4:3).

ACTS 4:5-6  5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

Who had gathered "on the next day" (Acts 4:5)?
The Sanhedrin.

Wasn't Caiaphas the high priest?
Please read the discussion in John 18 about who between Annas and Caiaphas was the real high priest.

Who are "John and Alexander" (Acts 4:6)?
The "John" named in this passage is most likely Annas' son who succeeded Caiaphas as the "official" high priest in 37 AD. Not much is known about Alexander.

ACTS 4:7-12  7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, 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 stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 

What were they asking with, "By what power or by what name have you done this (Acts 4:7)?"
They may have been asking by what power or authority they had taught the people or healed the lame man, or both.

Did Peter and John have cause for concern?
The last time these same people had gathered for something to do with Jesus, they had committed murder. We know that Peter and John lived on, but standing before the Sanhedrin at this moment, they could well have thought that they would be killed as well because of what Peter was about to tell them.

Does Peter mince words or try to sugarcoat his response?
No, he confronts them straight on, even mentioning, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead."

Can we be saved by someone other than Jesus?
No, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Who really spoke here?
Since Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit", the Holy Spirit was speaking through Peter.

Could the Holy Spirit speak likewise today or is such speech confined to this case above?
He speaks likewise today as well: "And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 13:5-11)

What is meant by Acts 4:11?
Jesus, who "was rejected by you builders" is the "chief cornerstone", which is the first stone placed on the ground to build the foundation for a building.

How important is the chief cornerstone?
If the chief cornerstone is laid at even a slightly erroneous angle, the rest of the foundation and everything built on top of it ends up angled erroneously. Likewise, if the chief cornerstone of someone's faith is something other than Jesus Christ, the Word of God, that person's faith is angled erroneously at best.

ACTS 4:13-22  13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” 18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

How did they know that Peter and John "had been with Jesus"?
The high priest already knew John - "Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest" (John 18:16) - and Peter had followed John into the high priest's house as well and made known by famously denying Jesus three times.

Who stood with Peter and John?
The lame "man who had been healed."

Where had he spent the night?
Either he spent the night in custody with Peter and John, or he had gone home and returned to the temple precinct the next morning. Either way, he presented himself as a testimony of what God had done for him.

What example does he set?
When God does anything for us - healing us, calling us to be part of his kingdom, etc. - we shouldn't walk away from God. Instead, we should stand up for God, even in harm’s way, to be used by Him.

What's wrong with the Sanhedrin members' statement in Acts 4:16-17?
If they "cannot deny it", they should accept it and listen to Peter and John instead of trying to shut them up.

ACTS 4:23-31  23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ 27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

What do the companions of Peter and John acknowledge to open this prayer?
God as the divine Creator of "heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them."

What do they refer to next in Acts 4:25-26?
The prophetic words of King David from 1000 years earlier and recorded in Psalm 2:1-2, which they quote.

And what do they indicate in Acts 4:27?

The fulfillment of that prophecy.

What is reaffirmed in Acts 4:28?
That Jesus sacrificed Himself according to His "purpose" as "determined before to be done."

What don't they ask for in Acts 4:29-30?
They don't ask for the persecution - "threats" - to decrease. Instead, they ask for God's empowerment to increase so that "with all boldness they may speak Your word."

How soon did God answer their prayer?
Pretty much right away, as indicated in Acts 4:31.

ACTS 4:32-37  32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

How realistic is it for us to declare today that our possession aren't our own?
It is the reality. Everything in the world, even our next breath, is God's possession.

Are Christians really meant to share "all things in common"?
Jesus commanded, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Loving someone as yourself includes meeting their needs with what you have.

What is the result of disobeying this commandment?
Millions of Christians continue to live in poverty today, particularly in the developing world, and those who hold onto their wealth, particularly in the developed world, disqualify themselves as "disciples" of Jesus as He defined it above.

Where did they bring the proceeds from the sale of their possessions?
They "laid them at the apostles’ feet."

Did the apostles use it to enrich themselves?
No, "They distributed to each as anyone had need", and this is an example to be heeded today by anyone who wishes to qualify himself as a "disciple" of Jesus, let alone a Christian leader.

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