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Acts 4


ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

CHAPTER IV.

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrim.

SUMMARY.--The Arrest. The Trial Before the Sanhedrim. Peter's Reply. The Counsel of the Sanhedrists. Their Charge to Peter and John. The Appeal of Peter and John to the Higher Law. The Meeting of the Church for Prayer. The Divine Blessing.

      1. As they spake. Peter and John were both speaking, to separate groups probably. The priests. Those of the course then on duty in the temple. See notes on Luke 1:5. The captain of the temple. The head of the temple police, who were composed of Levites, and whose duty it was to guard the sacred precincts. See Luke 22:4 . And the Sadducees. See notes on Matt. 3:7 and Matt. 22:23. They were rationalists, and denied the resurrection of the dead. Annas and Caiaphas, the ex-high priest and the acting high priest, were of the sect, and hence, though the sect was not numerous, it was now very powerful.

      2. Being grieved. There were three classes of assailants: priests, military, and Sadducees. They had three grounds for action: that Peter and John taught the people, that they taught in the name of Christ, and that they bore witness of the resurrection. The last doctrine, of the resurrection, uprooted the creed of the Sadducees. While Jesus lived, his assailants were chiefly Pharisees; when his apostles began to preach his resurrection the Sadducees came to the front as his chief opposers. This will be noted throughout Acts.

      3. Put them in hold. In prison until the next day, for it was now late in the evening.

      4. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed. Became converts. This (believed) is a usual scriptural expression for the whole change wrought by belief. "Faith comes by hearing . . . the word of God" ( Rom. 10:17 ), and faith leads to obedience. The number of the men was about five thousand. It is probable that the meaning is that the number of men was now increased to five thousand. The term in the Greek (andres) does not properly include women, so that this is the number of male believers. It is probable that most of the converts of Pentecost and of this occasion were men. Oriental women were not likely to attend in large numbers on such public occasions.

      5. Their rulers, and elders, and scribes. A meeting of the Sanhedrim, the great council of seventy, is meant. These classes, with the priests named in the next verse , constituted it. The members of the Sanhedrim were usually called rulers; the elders were old men, selected for the place on account of wisdom; the scribes were the lawyers, or theologians.

      6. Annas the high priest. Still so called, though deposed ten years before by the Romans. The Jews held him still as high priest by right. Caiaphas. Son-in-law of Annas, and the high priest now in office by Roman appointment. John and Alexander. No doubt great men at the time, but we know nothing of them. Kindred of the high priest. Of the family of Annas, all of priestly rank, and many of them holding high offices. The Sanhedrim usually met in a hall of the temple.

      7. Set them in the midst. The high priest acted as president, and the members were arranged in a semi-circle around him, with the prisoners in front. By what power? They could not deny the miracle, but they thought that it had been done by some incantation. They ask an explanation.

      8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit. They had been promised the Divine help when put on trial ( Matthew 10:19 Matthew 10:20 ). It was now given. Here was an opportunity to preach Christ to the very body that had sent him to death.

      9. If we this day be examined of the good deed. Observe Peter's point, that they are prisoners on trial for a good deed.

      10. By the name of Jesus Christ. It was the power of that one whom that very court had condemned which had wrought the miracle. Whom ye crucified. Peter becomes the accuser. They, his accusers, have been guilty of crucifying the Messiah. They crucified him, but God raised him from the dead.

      11. This is the stone which was set at nought. Quoted from Psa. 118 . A figure drawn from a building where a rejected, despised stone is the most important and indispensable stone of the structure. Christ quoted the same passage, applied to himself ( Matt. 21:42 ).

      12. Salvation in none other. No other Savior but Jesus; no salvation if his is rejected; no other name or power to save from destruction, unless he is accepted. Why, then, should men invoke the Virgin, or the saints?

      13, 14. Perceived that they were unlearned. Not educated in the schools of the rabbins. They had, however, a better learning. They had been with Jesus. In them the crucified Jesus stands before them, fearless as their Master. Beholding the man. He was the unimpeachable proof of the miracle.

      15. When they had commanded them to go aside. They sent them from their presence in order that they might confer freely together. The substance of their deliberations is condensed and reported. The conclusion they arrived at was, not to punish them for a miracle that all the people knew had taken place, but to stop their preaching by threats.

      19. Whether it be right in the sight of God. They appeal to the higher law. Their earthly government commanded them not to do what God had directed them to do. In a conflict of this kind there is only one course, that is, to obey God.

      20. We cannot but speak. Are under a moral and spiritual obligation to speak. They had a Divine message, and must tell it.

      21, 22. Let them go. With threats, afraid to punish them lest they should exasperate the people. Above forty years old. Therefore known to everybody as a life-long cripple.

      23. Came to their own company. To the body of Christians assembled together, and there reported what had taken place.

      24. Lifted up their voice to God with one accord. All engaged in prayer. It was a time of trial. They were forbidden, under awful threats, to preach Christ. Hence they go to God.

      25. Why did the heathen rage? Quoted from the second psalm. Psalms 2:1 Psalms 2:2 The predicted facts were all fulfilled in the trial and death of Christ. Verse 27 shows how they were fulfilled.

      28. To do whatsoever . . . thy counsel determined before to be done. It is not said that God decreed that Pilate, Herod and the rulers should do what they did, but that they did what God had decreed should be done. It was God's will that Christ should die, but they chose, of their own malignity, to slay him. Their will was free.

      29, 30. And now, Lord, . . . grant. Note their petition. They do not ask to be saved from pain, persecution, or death. There is nothing asked for themselves personally, but they ask (1) that they may have boldness, in the face of threats, to speak the word, and (2) that God would bear them witness by gifts of miraculous power. Their prayer is all for the work's sake.

      31. The place was shaken. As a sensible evidence that their prayer was granted, and then they were filled with the Holy Spirit, as on Pentecost, so inspired that all fear was shaken off.

      32-35. The multitude of them that believed. All the church. Of one heart and soul. Perfectly united as one body and with one life. Neither said any of them. Note the language that follows. It does not describe a community of goods, but a miraculous benevolence: (1) the goods were not a common fund, but each one had goods that he possessed; (2) he did not say that his goods were his own; (3) they used all as if it belonged to all; (4) there were none that lacked, for (5) those that had houses and lands sold them and brought the proceeds to the apostles. It was a time when a great liberality was called for. Thousands of Jews from abroad had become Christians and must remain at Jerusalem until instructed in the gospel. It was a great emergency, and the church was equal to it, for they brought money, goods, and the proceeds of houses and lands to sustain those who lacked. This continued until God was ready to send them forth, and when the persecution arose about Stephen they "went everywhere preaching the word."

      36, 37. Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas. His name was Joses; but the apostles from some feature of his character called him Barnabas, "the son of exhortation" (see Revision). A Levite. Of the sacred tribe. Of the country of Cyprus. The famous island of the Mediterranean. He and Paul afterwards carried the gospel there. Having land. Possibly a possession somewhere in Judea. See Num. 35:1-8 and Deuteronomy 10:8 Deuteronomy 10:9 . As a Levite, Barnabas would have rights in the Levitical possessions. This is the first mention of this celebrated companion of Paul's missionary labors. He next appears on a mission to Antioch ( chap. 11:22 ).

Read Acts 4