ACTS - CHAPTER 4 - PERSECUTION
ACTS – CHAPTER 4 – Persecution
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
February 22, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
After the miracle of healing the man lame from birth, Peter and John now face persecution for preaching in the name of Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
Act 4:1-4: As they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them. They were greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. They laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed. The number of the men came to about five thousand.
The temple authorities who had Jesus crucified and had the stone rolled over the cave, have now heard that two of Jesus’ followers have performed a great miracle. They are preaching to the crowds using the healing of the lame man to prove that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The Sadducees were the dominant party of the Sanhedrin. Their doctrine denied any kind of bodily resurrection. Neither did they believe in spirit-beings. The teaching that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive is intolerable. They were the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. The sect became extinct some time after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.
It is my persuasion that even though the sect became extinct, the spirit behind the disbelief of miracles, eternal life, spirit-beings and the resurrection of Jesus Christ still exists in the doctrines of religious sects today; and even in some denominations which call themselves Christian.
The temple authorities seize Peter and John and place them in confinement. However, the preaching of Peter from Solomon’s porch has birthed the infant New Testament Church. Five thousand converts now believe in Jesus Christ as their LORD AND SAVIOR.
4:5-7: It came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 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. When they had set them down in the midst, they asked, “by what power or by what name have you done this?”
This is a regularly scheduled meeting of the full Sanhedrin which was composed of about 70 members. Annas was the high priest in Israel for 9-years beginning with his appointment in A.D. 6. He was later deposed, but he had gained such a foothold that he continued to be the power in Israel, even though his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was the legal high priest by Roman appointment. The “John,” mentioned here was Annas’ son. He was high priest in A.D. 36. There is no information available about Alexander. Annas remained the power behind the throne until the revolt of A.D. 66.
Their question is still the question today from religious rulers. “Under whose authority, are you?” But they also asked him by what name have you done this? With the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Jewish leaders thought to destroy all mention of His Name.
4: 8-12: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “rulers of the people and elders of Israel, if we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 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. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
WOW! In the face of this powerful assembly, Peter declares that Jesus Christ is the expected Messiah. He not only affirms who Jesus Christ is, Peter goes on attack. Taking one of the Messianic scriptures, he shows how David had prophesied 1000 years before that the rulers of Israel, “the builders of God’s house” would reject the “Stone” which God had selected (Psa. 118:22). Peter could not possibly have this revelation unless it was given to him by the Holy Spirit. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He is speaking under the power and unction of the Holy Ghost. He is saying this 1000-year-old prophecy has been fulfilled by this very council. He is again offering them salvation through the name of Jesus. If they refuse this name. a second time, they will be guilty of leading their nation into judgment. He emphatically states, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which mankind can be saved. This gives no room for anyone to preach that all religions lead to God.
4: 13-17: When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. They realized they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. They commanded them to go aside out of the council and they conferred among themselves, saying, ‘what shall we do to these men? For, indeed, a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 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.’
The Sanhedrin recognizes the revelation of scripture could only be revealed to Peter through supernatural power. With no repentance or fear of God, they plot to scare them with threats to make them stop preaching. After all, they had just crucified their leader, and they had the ability to kill them as well.
However, as the LORD purposed, the miracle was seen by ALL WHO DWELL IN JERUSALEM. ‘ALL!” Therefore, until a more opportune time, they will release them.
4: 18-22: So, they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 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. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 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. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
Peter and John openly and without fear or shame defy the counsel of the Sanhedrin. This is a different Peter than the one who cowered after the crucifixion. Their answer is so bold, that we are obliged to pray that such Holy Ghost boldness fall upon the church of the 21st century. Yes, I have been given the grace of this boldness, but today social and economic prejudice against making a stand for Jesus Christ rules our churches and culture.
The ego of carnal man has a fear of not being accepted, received, respected and loved by their peers. Our culture has set a standard of “political correctness” even in our churches. Until rejection has no power over us, we the church will not be able to stand in the power of the risen Christ as Peter and John did when they stood before the Sanhedrin and refused to deny the name of Jesus Christ.
4:23-30: Being let go, Peter and John went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard, 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, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: “Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ.” 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 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, LORD, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant, Jesus.
Notice that they did not pray for their safety, but for boldness in the face of persecution. The church and Israel’s hierarchy are headed for deadly conflict. As of yet, they are not called Christians, but “followers of the way.” They follow the way taught by Jesus. In this prayer of unity, the believers are moved to pray as one man. We get our first glimpse of what was to be revealed to Paul that Jesus is the glorious Head of that new unified Man, Jesus of Nazareth, the uniquely begotten Son of the living God, mankind’s only Savior.
Just as we see the nations raging today, we can stand boldly before our LORD and declare Psalm 2 to the rulers of the nations in the 21st century. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. The LORD shall hold them in derision. Then he shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure (Ps. 2:4-5).
The disciples look back to see how the crucifixion of Jesus by this confederacy was according to the plan of God, and how it was overruled by God’s sovereign power when He raised Jesus from the dead. They have been supernaturally empowered with Faith that no human powers combined are not enough to frustrate the plan of God. They are yielded and submitted to that Faith that nothing can keep the disciples from carrying out God’s will. We know that Faith will be tested and proven many times in days to come. As will ours.
They asked the Lord to give signs and wonders to be done through them. They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirmed the WORD with signs following (Mk. 16:20). For 1400 years, God made Judaism the custodian of His revelation and the only access to Himself. Now, all of a sudden, a handful of uneducated people claim that the great Israeli program founded by Moses, is no longer His instrument of revelation. They preach it was replaced by life in Christ who was raised from the dead and is now operating in the Spirit. Such a message was fantastic, even ridiculous to the Jewish mind-set, it needed heavenly confirmation. It still does. It is confirmed by Faith imparted by the Holy Spirit then and now.
4: 31: 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.
Earthquakes are still manifestations of the presence of the LORD. When they prayed, they got a “suddenly.” God used a physical phenomenon to communicate His intentions. The swaying building was His reply. They were once more raptured with joy in the LORD. As the awareness of His presence flooded their beings, they were filled with the Spirit. They again spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit. Unable to contain themselves, they rush from the place to declare God’s Word. They received another filling of the Holy Ghost. We can continually receive many fillings.
4: 32-37: 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. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands of houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the apostolic burden of the infant church, to establish the truth of Christ’s resurrection, that He is not dead, but alive. The cornerstone of the Church has to be established on the resurrection.
When the Lamb of God died on the cross, the Mosaic veil was rent from the top to the bottom. The law was finished. Grace and truth prevailed. An age, an order, an era, was changed. This happened over 2,000 years ago, literally and historically. Our Savior died by violence to fulfill the first covenant; then He rose in triumph to forever establish the New Covenant.
If we realize how incredible this is to the natural mind, especially the mind of the natural Jew, we will also know this could only be revealed to the disciples by supernatural Faith.
The disciples have not yet left Jerusalem and the temple worship. Persecution will become the impedes which will advance the great commission to go into the whole world and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Persecution will always cause us to accelerate.
This is our first introduction to Barnabas. He is named an apostle in Acts 14:14. He became the beloved travel companion of the Apostle Paul. Barnabas introduced Paul to the disciples. He and Paul defended Gentile converts against the Judaizers. As we study the Book of Acts, we will get to know Barnabas. Here we see him disposing of his business affairs and will be free to devote his life to the gospel. In Colossians 4:10, Mark is identified as the cousin of Barnabas. Most believe this to be John Mark. Church legend has recorded that he was stoned to death by fellow Jews in Syria.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V.