Why the Early Church Grew (Acts 4:1-37)

LarryMiles1The 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.”


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