The Persecution: Acts 4:1-7 The first persecution the early church suffered came from the Sadducees. This was not all that unusual, in the fact that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. It was the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that the Apostles were proclaiming to the people that day. The Captain of the Temple Guard is mentioned in this passage. He was second in command, on the grounds to the High Priest. Rome allowed the Jews to police the temple grounds. We would like to give you a comparison of the beliefs of the Pharisees and those of the Sadducees. Irving Jenson, professor of Bible at Bryan College in Dayton, TN, gives us this account.
- The Name meant “the separated ones.”
- It was the largest and most influential sect.
- Extreme legalism.
- Little interest in politics.
- Operated principally in synagogues
- Held these doctrines: immortality, resurrection, spirits and angels.
- Regarded rabbinic tradition highly.
- Name may be from zaddikim, “the righteous ones.”
- Second to the Pharisees in prominence.
- Majority power in the council at this time.
- The aristocratic minority.
- External legalism.
- Major concern was politics.
- Operated principally in the Temple.
- They denied: immortality, resurrection, spirits and angels.
- Accepted as authoritative only the written Old Testament.
In verse 2 we see the Sadducees could not stand to hear anyone proclaiming the resurrection from the dead. They just did not believe it. They put Peter and John in jail for the night; the reason being is that the Mosaic Law forbade night trial. This was disregarded in the case of Jesus. Verse 4 informs us that 5,000 souls were added to the Body of Christ.
The Sanhedrin convened the next day. Some of the ones presiding over the proceedings were the same ones who condemned Jesus. The Sanhedrin wanted to know by what authority Peter and John had healed the lame man.
Peter’s Defense: Acts 4:8-22 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, now presents his defense. He says that they were on trial for doing good. In verse 10 he says it was by the authority of Jesus Christ that this man was healed. He then refers to Psalm 118:22 where it predicts that the Messiah would be rejected. In verse 12, Peter emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the Hope of the world. Jesus is the Blessed Hope, as Paul calls him in Titus 2:13. Only through Jesus can sinful mankind come to the Father. We think back to John 14:6 where the record tells us that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
The Sanhedrin took note that these men were unlearned. They were not trained in the rabbinic schools. They were not professional scholars. They recognized them as being with Jesus. The lame man stood with them, witness to the fact that a miracle had taken place in his life. The Sanhedrin could not deny this.
In verse 15 the Bible tells us that the Sanhedrin ordered the Apostles out of the chambers so they could come to a decision. What shall they do with these men? They could not deny that a miracle had taken place. They decided to warn them never again to speak in the Name of Jesus. They brought Peter and John back into the chambers and gave their decision. They were commanded by the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach in the Name of Jesus Christ.
In verse 19-20 Peter tells them that they can’t stop preaching. The Apostles had been commanded by the risen Savior (Luke 2:48-49) to proclaim His resurrection and to teach about Him. The Council ordered them set free. In verse 22 we are told that the lame man’s age was 40.
The Early Church Was A Praying Church: Acts 4:23-31 After their release from the Sanhedrin the 2 Apostles went back to the company of their companions. This was, in all probability the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. After relating the events of the trial to their fellow-believers, they went to the Lord in prayer. They acknowledged the sovereign power of God. Verse 25 is a quote from Psalm 2. God used human instruments to write the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirt. In verse 26-27 is quote from Psalm 2:2. This brings out the fact that the responsibility for the death of Jesus lay on both Jew and Gentile. Verse 28 tells us that all this was in the eternal purpose and plan of God.
In their prayer they prayed not for the persecution to stop, rather, they prayed for boldness to speak with confidence amidst the persecution. Verse 31 tells us they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Primitive Church, Sharing Their Possessions: Act 4:32-37
The early Christians shared what they had in common with each other. They said, “what is mines is yours.” In verse 33 the Twelve were continuing to proclaim the resurrection. If one was needy the rest of the believers came to their aid. Those whop owned property would sell and give the proceeds to the Twelve to distribute to the needy. This was voluntary as we will see in the 5th chapter of Acts.
In verse 36 we have the first mention of Barnabas. He was a Levite from Cyprus. His name means “Son of Encouragement.” He owned some land and sold it and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to be used for feeding the needy. This is how chapter 4 ends. If there was a need the church met it; they took care of their own.
Our next article will be a special one based on the 4th chapter. It will be called “Five Reasons For Church Growth.” It is based on some lessons I heard from a meeting in Hamilton, OH many years ago. There will be 5 short articles. After that article will continue to the 5th chapter of Acts. That articles ill be called “Trouble From Within and Without.”