Peter and John imprisoned. (1-4) The apostles boldly testify to Christ. (5-14) Peter and John refuse to be silenced. (15-22) The believers unite in prayer and praise. (23-31) The holy charity of the Christians. (32-37)
Verses 1-4 The apostles preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. It includes all the happiness of the future state; this they preached through Jesus Christ, to be had through him only. Miserable is their case, to whom the glory of Christ's kingdom is a grief; for since the glory of that kingdom is everlasting, their grief will be everlasting also. The harmless and useful servants of Christ, like the apostles, have often been troubled for their work of faith and labour of love, when wicked men have escaped. And to this day instances are not wanting, in which reading the Scriptures, social prayer, and religious conversation meet with frowns and checks. But if we obey the precepts of Christ, he will support us.
Verses 5-14 Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, would have all to understand, that the miracle had been wrought by the name, or power, of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, whom they had crucified; and this confirmed their testimony to his resurrection from the dead, which proved him to be the Messiah. These rulers must either be saved by that Jesus whom they had crucified, or they must perish for ever. The name of Jesus is given to men of every age and nation, as that whereby alone believers are saved from the wrath to come. But when covetousness, pride, or any corrupt passion, rules within, men shut their eyes, and close their hearts, in enmity against the light; considering all as ignorant and unlearned, who desire to know nothing in comparison with Christ crucified. And the followers of Christ should act so that all who converse with them, may take knowledge that they have been with Jesus. That makes them holy, heavenly, spiritual, and cheerful, and raises them above this world.
Verses 15-22 All the care of the rulers is, that the doctrine of Christ spread not among the people, yet they cannot say it is false or dangerous, or of any ill tendency; and they are ashamed to own the true reason; that it testifies against their hypocrisy, wickedness, and tyranny. Those who know how to put a just value upon Christ's promises, know how to put just contempt upon the world's threatenings. The apostles look with concern on perishing souls, and know they cannot escape eternal ruin but by Jesus Christ, therefore they are faithful in warning, and showing the right way. None will enjoy peace of mind, nor act uprightly, till they have learned to guide their conduct by the fixed standard of truth, and not by the shifting opinions and fancies of men. Especially beware of a vain attempt to serve two masters, God and the world; the end will be, you can serve neither fully.
Verses 23-31 Christ's followers do best in company, provided it is their own company. It encourages God's servants, both in doing work, and suffering work, that they serve the God who made all things, and therefore has the disposal of all events; and the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Jesus was anointed to be a Saviour, therefore it was determined he should be a sacrifice, to make atonement for sin. But sin is not the less evil for God's bringing good out of it. In threatening times, our care should not be so much that troubles may be prevented, as that we may go on with cheerfulness and courage in our work and duty. They do not pray, Lord let us go away from our work, now that it is become dangerous, but, Lord, give us thy grace to go on stedfastly in our work, and not to fear the face of man. Those who desire Divine aid and encouragement, may depend upon having them, and they ought to go forth, and go on, in the strength of the Lord God. God gave a sign of acceptance of their prayers. The place was shaken, that their faith might be established and unshaken. God gave them greater degrees of his Spirit; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, more than ever; by which they were not only encouraged, but enabled to speak the word of God with boldness. When they find the Lord God help them by his Spirit, they know they shall not be confounded, ( Isaiah 1.7 ) .
Verses 32-37 The disciples loved one another. This was the blessed fruit of Christ's dying precept to his disciples, and his dying prayer for them. Thus it was then, and it will be so again, when the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high. The doctrine preached was the resurrection of Christ; a matter of fact, which being duly explained, was a summary of all the duties, privileges, and comforts of Christians. There were evident fruits of Christ's grace in all they said and did. They were dead to this world. This was a great evidence of the grace of God in them. They did not take away others' property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply. The money was laid at the apostles' feet. Great care ought to be taken in the distribution of public charity, that it be given to such as have need, such as are not able to procure a maintenance for themselves; those who are reduced to want for well-doing, and for the testimony of a good conscience, ought to be provided for. Here is one in particular mentioned, remarkable for this generous charity; it was Barnabas. As one designed to be a preacher of the gospel, he disentangled himself from the affairs of this life. When such dispositions prevail, and are exercised according to the circumstances of the times, the testimony will have very great power upon others.
Acts 4:1-13 . PETER AND JOHN BEFORE THE SAMHEDRIM.
1-12. the captain--of the Levitical guard.
of the temple--annoyed at the disturbance created around it.
and the Sadducees--who "say that there is no resurrection" ( Acts 23:8 ), irritated at the apostles "preaching through (rather, 'in') Jesus the resurrection from the dead"; for the resurrection of Christ, if a fact, effectually overthrew the Sadducean doctrine.
4. the number of the men--or males, exclusive of women; though the word sometimes includes both.
about five thousand--and this in Jerusalem, where the means of detecting the imposture or crushing the fanaticism, if such it had been, were within everyone's reach, and where there was every inducement to sift it to the bottom.
5. their rulers, &c.--This was a regular meeting of the Sanhedrim
6. Annas . . . and Caiaphas--(See on Lu 3:2 ).
John and Alexander--of whom nothing is known.
7. By what power or . . . name have ye done this--thus admitting the reality of the miracle, which afterwards they confess themselves unable to deny ( Acts 4:16 ).
8. Then, filled with the Holy Ghost, said--(See 13:11 , Luke 21:15 ).
10. Be it known unto you . . . and to all the people of Israel--as if emitting a formal judicial testimony to the entire nation through its rulers now convened.
by the name of Jesus,
even by him doth this man stand before you whole--for from Acts 4:14 it appears that the healed man was at that moment before their eyes.
11. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, &c.--This application of Psalms 118:22 , already made by our Lord Himself before some of the same "builders" ( Matthew 21:42 ), is here repeated with peculiar propriety after the deed of rejection had been consummated, and the rejected One had, by His exaltation to the right hand of the Majesty on high, become "the head of the corner."
12. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved--How sublimely does the apostle, in these closing words, shut up these rulers of Israel to Jesus for salvation, and in what universal and emphatic terms does he hold up his Lord as the one Hope of men!
13-17. perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men--that is, uninstructed in the learning of the Jewish schools, and of the common sort; men in private life, untrained to teaching.
took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus--recognized them as having been in His company; remembering possibly, that they had seen them with Him [MEYER, BLOOMFIELD, ALFORD]; but, more probably, perceiving in their whole bearing what identified them with Jesus: that is, "We thought we had got rid of Him; but lo! He reappears in these men, and all that troubled us in the Nazarene Himself has yet to be put down in these His disciples." What a testimony to these primitive witnesses! Would that the same could be said of their successors!
16. a notable miracle . . . done by them is manifest to all . . . in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it--And why should ye wish to deny it, O ye rulers, but that ye hate the light, and will not come to the light lest your deeds should be reproved?
17. But that it spread no further . . . let us straitly--strictly.
threaten . . . that they speak henceforth to no man in this name--Impotent device! Little knew they the fire that was burning in the bones of those heroic disciples.
18-22. Whether it be right . . . to hearken to you more than . . . God, judge ye.
20. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard--There is here a wonderful union of sober, respectful appeal to the better reason of their judges, and calm, deep determination to abide the consequences of a constrained testimony, which betokens a power above their own resting upon them, according to promise.
21. finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people--not at a loss for a pretext, but at a loss how to do it so as not to rouse the opposition of the people.
Acts 4:23-37 . PETER AND JOHN DISMISSED FROM THE SAMHEDRIM, REPORT THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE ASSEMBLED DISCIPLES--THEY ENGAGE IN PRAYER--THE ASTONISHING ANSWER AND RESULTS.
23-30. being let go, they went to their own company--Observe the two opposite classes, representing the two interests which were about to come into deadly conflict.
24. they lifted up their voice--the assembled disciples, on hearing Peter's report.
with one accord--the breasts of all present echoing every word of this sublime prayer. Applied to God, the term expresses absolute authority.
God which hast made heaven and earth--against whom, therefore, all creatures are powerless.
25. by the mouth of . . . David--to whom the Jews ascribed the second Psalm, though anonymous; and internal evidence confirms it. David's spirit sees with astonishment "the heathen, the people, the kings and princes of the earth," in deadly combination against the sway of Jehovah and His Anointed (his Messiah, or Christ), and asks "why" it is. This fierce confederacy our praying disciples see in full operation, in the "gathering together of Herod and Pilate, the Gentiles (the Roman authority), and the people of Israel, against God's holy Child ('Servant') Jesus." read, after "were gathered together," "in this city," which probably answers to "upon my holy hill of Zion," in the Psalms 2:6 .
28. thy hand and thy counsel determined . . . to be done--that is, "Thy counsel" determined to be done by "Thy hand."
29. now, Lord, behold their threatenings--Recognizing in the threatenings of the Sanhedrim a declaration of war by the combined powers of the world against their infant cause, they seek not enthusiastically to hide from themselves its critical position, but calmly ask the Lord of heaven and earth to "look upon their threatenings."
that with all boldness they may speak thy word--Rising above self, they ask only fearless courage to testify for their Master, and divine attestation to their testimony by miracles of healing, &c., in His name.
31-37. place was shaken--glorious token of the commotion which the Gospel was to make ( Acts 17:6 ; compare Acts 16:26 ), and the overthrow of all opposing powers in which this was to issue.
they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake, &c.--The Spirit rested upon the entire community, first, in the very way they had asked, so that they "spake the word with boldness" ( Acts 4:29 Acts 4:31 ); next, in melting down all selfishness, and absorbing even the feeling of individuality in an intense and glowing realization of Christian unity. The community of goods was but an outward expression of this, and natural in such circumstances.
33. with great power--effect on men's minds.
great grace was upon them all--The grace of God copiously rested on the whole community.
35. laid . . . at the apostles' feet--sitting, it may be, above the rest. But the expression may be merely derived from that practice, and here meant figuratively.
36. Joses, &c.--This is specified merely as an eminent example of that spirit of generous sacrifice which pervaded all.
son of consolation--no doubt so surnamed from the character of his ministry.
a Levite--who, though as a tribe having no inheritance, might and did acquire property as individuals ( Deuteronomy 18:8 ).
Cyprus--a well-known island in the Mediterranean.