Acts Chapter 4: John and Peter Threatened before the Counsel; Barnabas

Jan 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 4: John and Peter Threatened before the Counsel; Barnabas

Acts 4:1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

Acts 4:2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 4:3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

Acts 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

Even though Peter and John were apprehended in the sight of the people who had been listening to Peter, the sermon was so powerful that 5,000 believed. Notice that the authorities (the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees) arrived and arrested Peter and John as they were speaking, and the two were detained overnight. In spite of this visible detention, Peter had spoken with such authority that 5,000 listening Jews followed through on his advice and believed. They were struck with conviction. In his sermon, Peter had given the steps, from beginning to end, that need to be taken for true conversion.

Q: Why were the Sadducees so upset?

A: They were especially upset because they did not believe in a resurrection. The Sadducees had a lot of influence in religious governmental affairs and were more like political religionists, whereas the Pharisees were sticklers for orthodoxy of the Law and tradition.

Acts 4:5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

Acts 4:6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

Before we continue, let us review what had just happened. It was still the Pentecostal season, AD 33. A paralytic, crippled from birth for more than 40 years, had just been dramatically healed by Peter and John (Acts 4:22). The lame man was well known, for he had begged alms daily at the Beautiful Gate, being carried there each day. After the healing, Peter and John preached a powerful sermon to a large crowd. All of this activity took place at 3 p.m., the hour of prayer. So powerful was the sermon that 5,000 “men” believed (plus women). What a terrific conversion was taking place: 3,000 just before and now 5,000—more than in Jesus’ entire ministry! Jesus had to finish his sacrifice before the great influx could occur. In connection with the healing and the subsequent commotion, the authorities apprehended Peter and John and put them in the prison hold until the next morning, when there would be a formal hearing.

The next day prominent religious rulers, elders, and scribes presided at the hearing, with Annas, the high priest, having the superior position. Although the Apostle John was there with Peter, the “John” of verse 6 was not the apostle but someone who had a high position of authority, as did Alexander.

God arranged this situation in advance, going back to the lame man’s birth. It was intentional that Jesus’ miracles did not reach him so that Peter and John could come along later and heal him and there would be numerous conversions. Hence the gospel exploded with marvelous results at this time.

Acts 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

The religious rulers asked Peter and John, “By what power and by what name have you healed this man?” Their question shows that they were not present when Peter healed the lame man and gave his sermon. Peter had made it very clear that the miracle had been performed in Jesus’ name, and then he had used the miracle as the basis for giving a sermon, which penetrated thousands of hearts.

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

Peter began to address the religious rulers with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 4:9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

Acts 4:10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Peter was preaching the gospel to the religious rulers and the elders of Israel. The presence of the cured man shows that the rulers tried to make the hearing appear fair (Acts 4:14). In a strong and straightforward way, Peter used the term “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” to show that through this One, who was looked down on by some because of his humble background—in his name—the miracle was done. He was the Messiah, and they had crucified him. Peter went on to say that subsequently, God raised Jesus from the dead, and now God’s authority and power did the miracle through the name of Jesus.

Jesus actually died, but the ever-living God cannot die. Therefore, verse 10 disproves the Trinity. God and Jesus are neither coequal nor coeternal. Jesus said, “I am he that … was dead; and, behold, I am [now] alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18). The distinction between the Father and the Son is apparent. They are not equal.

Acts 4:11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Verse 11 refers to Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Evidently, the religious leaders were familiar with the Great Pyramid, and Peter was explaining that the head cornerstone, that is, the top stone of the Pyramid, represents Jesus.

Comment: The listeners did not even have to search their memories back to the Old Testament, for Jesus had unlocked the mystery of the top stone by identifying it as himself. “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42). The context shows the chief priests and the elders were present, and they understood that Jesus was identifying them as the “builders” who “set at nought” (rejected) the antitypical top stone. “When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them” (Matt. 21:45).

Reply: On that occasion, Jesus was explaining Psalm 118:22, a mysterious text. Both the Old and New Testaments contain Scriptures that allude to the Great Pyramid and the top stone.

Q: How were the religious rulers the “builders”?

A: They were the leaders and the representatives of the Jewish race. The spiritual temple began with the Jew and was for the Jew, but so few accepted the gospel message to build the mystical pyramid structure that the message then went out to the Gentiles. In his first epistle, Peter spoke of this structure, saying that we are “lively stones” built up into Jesus, the head of the corner (1 Pet. 2:5-8).

Comment: It is interesting that the foundation of this mystical structure is on the top. A foundation is usually on the bottom.

The office of the high priest was ordained of God, but the one who occupied the office was another matter. A similar principle applies to spiritual Israel. The organization of the Christian Church is under the one head, Jesus, but Papacy has used a half truth to make the pope the head. Half truth, that is, truth with arsenic mixed in, can be just as deadly as the straight poison.

With its half truth, Papacy has set aside the real “top stone.” And natural Israel also set aside the top stone through its religious leaders, who were under the guise of being the moral leaders and instructors of the people.

In other words, in the antitypical construction of the Gospel Age, the top stone has been set aside by both natural and spiritual nominal Israel. Verse 11 is one text that shows the Great Pyramid will be refurbished to be in alignment with the literal top stone, which will be brought forth and placed on top. Because the top stone was too large, it was not put on the Pyramid at the time of construction or at any time subsequently. Down through the ages, the top stone has remained buried under the sand not far from the Pyramid, and it will be found and placed on the Pyramid in the near future (Zech. 4:7). Then smooth, properly sized casing stones will be added.

Tradition says that Shem was given a book of instructions on how to construct the Pyramid.

The top stone was prepared and left sitting on the ground while the builders started at the bottom and constructed the Pyramid higher and higher, but lo and behold, when they finished the platform at the top, they realized that the top stone was too large. Even if the builders had removed the top layer, there would still be a problem. Therefore, the top stone was rejected.

By the way, Shem had Egyptian laborers build the Pyramid for the most part, and the powerful antitypical lesson is that the bulk of the building of the spiritual temple has been done by tares.

The “professed” Church of Christ includes tares, the Great Company, and the Little Flock.

Incidentally, the casing stones caused another problem. Even if the top stone had fit, it could not be lifted into place with smooth, slippery sides on the Pyramid. In other words, the core masonry was needed to get the top stone into position. Now that the top stone had been rejected, it was in the way when the builders tried to fit all of the casing stones to the Pyramid.

Therefore, the builders pushed it aside, and in time, drifting sands covered it. The top stone, which is still in existence, awaits discovery in God’s due time.

Imagine the courage of Peter, the fisherman, to speak like this to the religious rulers with their gorgeous robes! They would have looked down on the apostle from an elevated level.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Peter included himself and John: “There is none other name under heaven … whereby we must be saved.”

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

The rulers and elders noted “the boldness of Peter and John.” Evidently, John spoke too, although his words were not recorded. John probably also nodded his head when Peter spoke. These two stood out among the apostles.

Notice the attitude of the educated religious leaders. They regarded both Peter and John as ”unlearned and ignorant men” because they were unlettered in the rabbinical school.

However, the apostles spoke very powerfully with coherent reasoning. The rabbis, who were schooled to speak with a singsong or rhythmic presentation, looked down on the apostles because of their lack of “official” credentials. In God’s sight, however, affected mannerisms and intonations mean nothing. Substance is what counts.

Comment: Here is an instance where the “foolish things” of this world were confounding those who were supposedly “wise” (1 Cor. 1:27).

The rulers saw “that they [Peter and John] had been with Jesus”; that is, they saw that Jesus’ mannerisms had rubbed off on the two apostles. Jesus was not brought up in the rabbinical school, but he had spoken powerfully and straightforwardly. Many times he had rebuked the rulers.

Acts 4:14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

Acts 4:15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,

After telling Peter, John, and the healed man to leave the council, the rulers conferred among themselves as to how to handle the situation.

Acts 4:16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.

The priests and religious rulers said, “What should we do to Peter and John? That they performed a notable miracle is manifest to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”

But the religious leaders did not apply the lesson to themselves. How blind they were in their positions of great authority!

Acts 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

Acts 4:18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

In conclusion, the religious leaders decided to threaten Peter, John, and the lame man, and no doubt they sternly shook their fingers at the apostles in reprimand: “Do not speak or teach in the name of Jesus anymore!” To this day, some Jews forbid the mention of Jesus’ name in their homes.

Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

Acts 4:20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

Peter and John immediately had an answer of which only part is recorded. They handed the question right back to the rulers: “Whether it is right to hearken more to God or to you, you judge—and be responsible for the decision.”

Acts 4:21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

The rulers could do no more than threaten because of the sentiments of the people. The miracle was too startling to ignore.

Acts 4:22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shown.

The lame man who was healed was 40-plus years old. Therefore, if the birth of this man was prearranged by God, it was planned before Christ’s ministry began—and even before he was born to Mary. The “actors” were chosen providentially, in advance, to be on the scene.

Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

Acts 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

Acts 4:25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

Acts 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,

Acts 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

Peter and John returned to the brethren, who, when they heard what had happened, praised God “with one accord.” Then Peter and John quoted part of the Second Psalm, giving it a current application at that time. The “[religious] rulers” were Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin, and the “kings” were Herod and Pontius Pilate. The “heathen” were the Gentiles, including the Roman soldiers. In their evil ways, they did what God had predetermined to be done.

Comment: The prayer of the brethren in unison began, “Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” Sometimes Jesus is incorrectly credited with doing some of the creative works, but this verse is accurate and very strong about the Father’s being the Creator.

Reply: Yes, and that is a subject in itself.

Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

When the brethren prayed for boldness to speak God’s Word, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their prayer was answered, and as accepted vessels, they were emboldened to speak the Word. Imagine the room shaking! What a wonderful start for those in the early Church! What a marvelous way to give them the fire and zeal to get going! The 8,000 converts who were added to the Church (5,000 plus 3,000) included both residents of Israel and Jews from other lands who had come to Jerusalem that year to observe Passover and Pentecost.

Q: In verses 27 and 30, the disciples used the phrase “thy holy child Jesus.” Was this because they were so in awe of the power of the Father that they magnified Him far above Jesus?

A: Yes. The Greek word translated “child” can also mean a “young person” or a “servant.” The scholars did not want to use “servant,” for that term would cut out a cornerstone of the Trinity. Whether the Holy Spirit meant “child” or “servant” is hard to say, but usually that Greek word was translated “servant.” The gender is male.

If “child” is the correct translation, deference was being given to the Father in that the vastly superior God sent His holy child. We are reminded of the beginning of Isaiah 9:6, one of the most prominent texts in the Old Testament: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Messiah was to be born of the Hebrew race. Peter may have meant, “This one who has grown up in our midst from infancy is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. His name Immanuel means ‘God in our midst.’ The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Comment: In the annunciation to Mary in the beginning of Luke, the angel said, “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Youth and innocency were involved, especially with the Hebrew word for “maiden,” which is translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” A maiden or virgin is unsullied. If the Old Testament prophecy meant just a “young woman” and not a “virgin,” what would be unusual about a young woman having a child? This prophecy was meant to be a sign.

Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Acts 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

Acts 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

Acts 4:35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Acts 4:36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

Acts 4:37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

A little time elapsed between verses 31 and 32. A paragraph mark should have been inserted before verse 32, for the brethren needed time to sell their property and cash in their assets and lay them at the apostles’ feet. For example, Barnabas had to return to the island of Cyprus to sell his property there and then return. There were no telephones in those days! Apparently, Barnabas was singled out because he was a man of considerable means.

Barnabas, who had a background of training as a Levite and thus was familiar with the Old Testament, was also singled out because he would shortly become a companion of the Apostle Paul. He was John Mark’s uncle. Note that the apostles surnamed him “Barnabas,” meaning “son of consolation.” With some of the more notable disciples, the apostles evidently copied Jesus’ practice of giving a new and appropriate name (for instance, Simon was called “Peter”).

All of the disciples sold their possessions and “had all things common” (Acts 2:44,45). No one lacked. They were practicing communism in the idealistic sense, but the arrangement did not work in the final analysis. However, at this time, their hearts were burning in them, and they felt they were showing brotherly love.

When some of us initially got the truth, one of the first things we did as individuals was to contact our friends and let them know about the new-found revelation. Therefore, we can imagine what happened when 5,000 were converted at one time. There would have been quite a zealous and enthusiastic outburst of preaching of the gospel. Making their presence known, they joyously proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection, a living Christ, for the nation had seen him die on the Cross. And they prayed for power to speak with boldness (Acts 4:31).

(1991–1992 Study)

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