Chapter 4

4:1-22 Peter Explains Jesus' Name

In the previous chapter Peter had explained to the crowd that the man who was lame from birth was healed, not by the power of the apostles, but in the name of Jesus (3:16). He now has to explain the meaning of Jesus' name before the whole Jewish sanhedrin (parliament). His defense ends with the fact that Jesus the Messiah not only has the power to heal, but there is no other way of salvation except through him.

Many preachers add to this scripture by saying that people can only be saved by hearing and understanding how exactly Jesus' death on the cross can save them. It is true Jesus said that no one can possibly be perfected for the love of heaven except through him (John 14:6). But he never said that cerebral understanding of his work on the cross is a prerequisite to heaven. Many children, ignorant persons, and the mentally handicapped, as well as millions of others from all over the world will be surprised to find themselves in heaven and only then discover how they were saved by the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:9-10). This in not a form of Universalism, since humans are free to choose the darkness of eternal death (extinction, as in John 3:19-21).

4:1-3 The temple authorities included the chief priests (as in Mark 15:1, Luke 19:47, 23:13) who were mainly Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection (see Acts 23:6-8). They complained to the Captain of the temple guard that the apostles were proclaiming Jesus' resurrection (2:24, 3:15). So he had Peter and John arrested and put in custody till the sanhedrin could be convened the next day.

4:4 Meanwhile many who saw the crippled man healed (3:7-10), and heard Peter's explanation, were baptized to begin learning more. Here the verb to believe (as in 2:41), is not the assured faith that gives us the certainty of God's forgiveness, acceptance in the family of God, resurrection, and eternal life - that comes later by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. It simply means believing enough to be enrolled to begin learning more. 3,000 were baptized on the Day of Pentecost, others were added in the following weeks (2:47), and now another 5,000 were baptized. Probably many of these first converts were Pharisees who already believed in resurrection. They included women on the same basis as men (5:14). Later many of the temple priests were baptized (6:7) perhaps as a result of Peter's explanation before the Sanhedrin.

4:5-6 The regularly constituted sanhedrin included elected members of parliament (rulers), elders from the big synagogues, and theologians (scribes) who mainly belonged to the Pharisee party. The president would have been Caiaphas (John 11:49) who was the high priest appointed by the Romans. But Annas the deposed high priest (see John 18:13) and his relative Alexander, were also present.

4:7 The questions Peter and John were asked related to the power (dunamis) they had drawn on in the healing of the man crippled from birth (3:6, 16), but they also wanted to know the name of the ecclesiastical authority that authorized them to engage in this kind of ministry.

4:8 Faced with this formidable audience, Peter must have remembered what Jesus had said. "They will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues . . . do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:17-29). Having received the Spirit (like a pilot light in a furnace), we can then be filled with the Holy Spirit for each particular crisis occasion (as in 2:4, 4:31, 7:55, 13:9). Similarly when a car is idling stepping on the accelerator energizes it to move with the fullness of power.

4:9-10 As he had done before the crowd (3:12-16) Peter explained to the religious authorities that the man crippled from birth was given perfect health by the name of the Messiah (the word means an anointed king, as in Psalm 2:2-6, and to this day kings and queens are anointed with oil at their coronation). They should have known that the Lord who reigned among the nations throughout the Old Testament period was called King and Sovereign (Psalm 5:2, 8:9, 9:7, 10:16, etc. see 4:25-26).

4:11 The quotation is again from the psalms of David (Psalm118:22). Peter must have remembered that this text was used by Jesus to explain the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent development of churches among all nations (Mark 12:9-11, Luke 20:17). And Peter used this text for the same purpose in his Epistle (1 Peter 2:7).

4:12 The name of Jesus not only gives the authority to heal (3:15) and to pray for miraculous interventions (4:30), but no one of any nation can be saved for heaven except by his power and authority. How else could we be forgiven, freed, resurrected and given a resurrection body suited for heaven? We should never add that he requires people to understand how he saves them. Surely he does not exclude little children, the retarded, and those who have been raised in and drilled in another religion. What counts is whether the person's heart responds to the love of God, and whether that person would enjoy the love of heaven (as in C.S.Lewis' The Great Divorce, 1945). That means that a person can be brainwashed by a false explanation of how God works while their heart longs for the love of God.

4:13-14 The religious authorities knew that Peter and John were simple men, who had never been trained in their rabbinic schools, and they had no credentials for ministry (Paul notes this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28). But it was undeniable that a well known beggar who had been crippled for forty years from birth (Acts 3:2, 10, 4:22) had now come in to stand with them as a witness, and he was obviously totally healed (as in 3:8).

4:15-18 There was no way anybody could question the facts, and the only hope was to silence the apostles by warning them to stop preaching and teaching in Jesus' name, and then threatening dire consequences. As in our day, the aim was damage control "to keep it spreading further among the people" (4:17)

4:18-20 Peter's answer was to ask a rhetorical question. Should the apostles listen to God who had obviously done the miracle, or should they listen to the very political decision of the sanhedrin ? Luke emphasizes "what we have seen and heard" (1:21-22, as in John 1:1-3).

4:21-22 Unable to answer this logic, and being unable to punish the disciples for fear of the people (who were still praising God for the healing), the sanhedrin judges had to dismiss the case. So the Captain of the temple guard (4:1) took Peter and John outside, threatened them with more serious consequences, unbound them, and let them go. The 40 year old witness who had stood with them in court (4:14) was now no longer a beggar. Presumably he was baptized there and then and was taken into the rapidly growing Christian community (4:4).

4:23-31 The Content of a Christian Prayer Meeting

As individuals people can be guided, inspired, empowered by the Holy Spirit. But it is impossible for a Christian congregation to enjoy the power of the Spirit without meeting as a group for prayer. There had been prayer gatherings before the ascension of the Messiah (1:14), and Luke will later describe a prayer meeting at the home of John Mark's mother (12:12). He also described an impromptu prayer meeting he attended with the Ephesian elders (20:17, 36), and another with the Christians on the beach in Tyre (21:5).

4:23 Immediately they were released Peter and John went to report what had happened to the prayer group which they knew would be praying for them during their trial (as Peter did in 12:12).

4:24-26 They addressed the Messiah as "Sovereign Lord" and refer to the second Psalm (as in 4:11). It is interesting that they already viewed the Son of God as the agent of creation (as in John1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17). The combination of faith in the Messiah as creator, the words of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the empowering of the Spirit (4:8, 25), gave them wisdom and courage to triumph in the present situation.

4:27-28 They reminded themselves of what had happened so recently right there in the city of Jerusalem. And they remembered that the Messiah was the Servant referred to in Isaiah (see notes on 3:13, 26). His death was not a chance happening but settled jointly by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the only way for the good news to be freed from its Jewish shell to go out to all nations (as in John 3:16, and the prophesy repeated three times in Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, and the parable in Matthew 21:41, 43). In the Bible God predestines (proorizo) or chooses individuals and nations for certain functions but never forces their hand. Which means that people can reject their calling (as did some of the Jewish people when the Messiah came among them). In that sense the Messiah's willingness to die on the cross was predestined, but the Jewish people as a nation could have responded to God's grace and the outcome would have been different (explained in Romans 9:32, 10:21, 11:5-6, 20).

4:29-30 Rather than ask for protection from persecution, these Christians asked for boldness in making the good news known, and for healing and other miraculous interventions in the name of Jesus (as in 3:16, 4:10, 12).

4:31 There was a shaking, perhaps by a violent wind (2:2) or an earthquake (as in 16:26, see Matthew 27:54, 28:2). This sense of a building being shaken is reported from time to time in prayer meetings all over the world. For the filling of the Holy Spirit (as opposed to the initial experience of being added to a community of the Spirit) see comments on Peter's filling for his defense and Stephen's martyrdom (4:8, 7:55).

4:32 The loving willingness to have "all things in common" (see notes on 2:44) was still evident among these early Christians as they bore witness to the resurrection of the Messiah. The resurrection was obviously the center of the apostolic preaching (see 2:32, 3:15, 4:10, 10:40, 13:30, 34, 17:31). And Paul explained that without the certainty of the resurrection nothing else makes sense (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

4:34­35 The sharing of possessions (2:44, 4:32) was not a total selling up of all property, but a sharing of what was needed for distribution to those in need (4:35, 37). Fishermen still had to "own" a boat and nets, Philemon still had his own home (Philemon 22), and Paul treasured his cloak his books and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).

4:36 Joseph, was renamed Barnabas among the Christians as "a son of encouragement." He came from Cyprus, which may explain the first missionary journey through that island (13:4-5). He was not a priest but he was from the tribe of Levi, who served as assistants for many functions in the temple. This is our first introduction to Barnabas, who vouched for Paul before the fearful Christians in Jerusalem (9:26-28), he played a major role in helping him into a teaching ministry (11:22-26), and he took Paul on the first missionary journey (13:2, but graciously soon let Paul takes the lead, 13:9, 13, 42).

4:37 Barnabas was obviously a wealthy man (for notes on owning property and sharing it see 2:43, 4:34-35).

Chapter 5