Peter and John were speaking to the people. The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees came up to the apostles.
They were very upset by what the apostles were teaching the people. The apostles were saying that because Jesus rose from the dead, people can be raised from the dead.
So the temple authorities arrested Peter and John. It was already evening, so they put them in prison until the next day.
But many who heard the message believed. The number of men who believed grew to about 5,000.
The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.
Annas, the high priest, was there. So were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others in the high priest's family.
They had Peter and John brought to them. They wanted to question them. "By what power did you do this?" they asked. "And through whose name?"
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. He said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people!
Are you asking us to explain our actions today? Do you want to know why we were kind to a disabled man? Are you asking how he was healed?
Then listen to this, you and all the people of Israel! You nailed Jesus Christ of Nazareth to the cross. But God raised him from the dead. It is through Jesus' name that this man stands healed in front of you.
Scripture says that Jesus is " 'the stone you builders did not accept. But it has become the most important stone of all.' #1(Psalm 118:22)#2
You can't be saved by believing in anyone else. God has given us no other name under heaven that will save us."
The leaders saw how bold Peter and John were. They also realized that Peter and John were ordinary men with no training. This surprised the leaders. They realized that these men had been with Jesus.
The leaders could see the man who had been healed standing there with them. So there was nothing they could say.
They ordered Peter and John to leave the Sanhedrin. Then they talked things over.
"What can we do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle. We can't say it didn't happen.
We have to stop this thing. It must not spread any further among the people. We have to warn these men. They must never speak to anyone in Jesus' name again."
Once again the leaders called in Peter and John. They commanded them not to speak or teach at all in Jesus' name.
But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves. Which is right from God's point of view? Should we obey you? Or God?
There's nothing else we can do. We have to speak about the things we've seen and heard."
The leaders warned them again. Then they let them go. They couldn't decide how to punish Peter and John. They knew that all the people were praising God for what had happened.
The man who had been healed by the miracle was over 40 years old.
Peter and John were allowed to leave. They went back to their own people. They reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
When the believers heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Lord and King," they said, "you made the heavens, the earth and the sea. You made everything in them.
Long ago you spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, who served you. You said, " 'Why are the nations angry? Why do the people make useless plans?
The kings of the earth take their stand against the Lord. The rulers of the earth gather together against his Anointed King.' #1(Psalm 2:1,2)#2
"In fact, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together in this city with those who weren't Jews. They also met with the people of Israel. All of them made plans against your holy servant Jesus. He is the one you anointed.
They did what your power and purpose had already decided should happen.
Now, Lord, consider the bad things they say they are going to do. Help us to be very bold when we speak your word.
Stretch out your hand to heal. Do miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were bold when they spoke God's word.
All the believers were agreed in heart and mind. They didn't claim that anything they had was their own. They shared everything they owned.
With great power the apostles continued their teaching. They gave witness that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead. And they were greatly blessed by God.
There were no needy persons among them. From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them. They brought the money from the sales.
They put it down at the apostles' feet. It was then given out to anyone who needed it.
Joseph was a Levite from Cyprus. The apostles called him Barnabas. The name Barnabas means Son of Help.
Barnabas sold a field he owned. He brought the money from the sale. He put it down at the apostles' feet.
A man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, also sold some land.
He kept part of the money for himself. Sapphira knew he had kept it. He brought the rest of it and put it down at the apostles' feet.
Then Peter said, "Ananias, why did you let Satan fill your heart? He made you lie to the Holy Spirit. You have kept some of the money you received for the land.
Didn't the land belong to you before it was sold? After it was sold, you could have used the money as you wished. What made you think of doing such a thing? You haven't lied to just anyone. You've lied to God."
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. All who heard what had happened were filled with fear.
Some young men came and wrapped up his body. They carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later, the wife of Ananias came in. She didn't know what had happened.
Peter asked her, "Tell me. Is this the price you and Ananias sold the land for?" "Yes," she said. "That's the price."
Peter asked her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! You can hear the steps of the men who buried your husband. They are at the door. They will carry you out also."
At that very moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in. They saw that Sapphira was dead. So they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
The whole church and all who heard about these things were filled with fear.
The apostles did many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. All the believers used to meet together at Solomon's Porch.
No outsider dared to join them. But the people thought highly of them.
More and more men and women believed in the Lord. They joined the other believers.
So people brought those who were sick into the streets. They placed them on beds and mats. They hoped that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he walked by.
Crowds even gathered from the towns around Jerusalem. They brought their sick. They also brought those who were suffering because of evil spirits. All of them were healed.
The high priest and all his companions were Sadducees. They were very jealous of the apostles.
So they arrested them and put them in the public prison.
But during the night an angel of the Lord came. He opened the prison doors and brought the apostles out.
"Go! Stand in the temple courtyard," the angel said. "Tell the people all about this new life."
Early the next day they did as they had been told. They entered the temple courtyard. There they began to teach the people. The high priest and his companions arrived. They called the Sanhedrin together. The Sanhedrin was a gathering of all the elders of Israel. They sent for the apostles who were in prison.
The officers arrived at the prison. But they didn't find the apostles there. So they went back and reported it.
"We found the prison locked up tight," they said. "The guards were standing at the doors. But when we opened the doors, we didn't find anyone inside."
When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report, they were bewildered. They wondered what would happen next.
Then someone came and said, "Look! The men you put in prison are standing in the temple courtyard. They are teaching the people."
So the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles back. But they didn't use force. They were afraid the people would kill them by throwing stones at them.
They brought the apostles to be judged by the Sanhedrin. The high priest questioned them.
"We gave you clear orders not to teach in Jesus' name," he said. "But you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. You want to make us guilty of this man's death."
Peter and the other apostles replied, "We must obey God instead of people!
You had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross. But the God of our people raised Jesus from the dead.
Now Jesus is Prince and Savior. God has proved this by giving him a place of honor at his own right hand. He did it so that he could turn Israel away from their sins and forgive them.
We are witnesses of these things. And so is the Holy Spirit. God has given the Spirit to those who obey him."
When the leaders heard this, they became very angry. They wanted to put the apostles to death.
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up in the Sanhedrin. He was a teacher of the law. He was honored by all the people. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while.
Then he spoke to the Sanhedrin. "Men of Israel," he said, "think carefully about what you plan to do to these men.
Some time ago Theudas appeared. He claimed he was really somebody. About 400 people followed him. But he was killed. All his followers were scattered. So they accomplished nothing.
After this, Judas from Galilee came along. This was in the days when the Romans made a list of all the people. Judas led a gang of men against the Romans. He too was killed. All his followers were scattered.
So let me give you some advice. Leave these men alone! Let them go! If their plans and actions are only human, they will fail.
But if their plans come from God, you won't be able to stop these men. You will only find yourselves fighting against God."
His speech won the leaders over. They called the apostles in and had them whipped. The leaders ordered them not to speak in Jesus' name. Then they let the apostles go.
The apostles were full of joy as they left the Sanhedrin. They considered it an honor to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.
Day after day, they kept teaching in the temple courtyards and from house to house. They never stopped telling the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
In those days the number of believers was growing. The Jews who followed Greek practices complained against the Jews who followed only Jewish practices. They said that the widows of men who followed Greek practices were not being taken care of. They weren't getting their fair share of food each day.
So the Twelve gathered all the believers together. They said, "It wouldn't be right for us to give up teaching God's word in order to wait on tables.
Brothers, choose seven of your men. They must be known as men who are wise and full of the Holy Spirit. We will turn this important work over to them.
Then we can give our attention to prayer and to teaching the word."
This plan pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen. He was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas were chosen too. The group also chose Nicolas from Antioch. He had accepted the Jewish faith.
The group brought them to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on them.
So God's word spread. The number of believers in Jerusalem grew quickly. Also, a large number of priests began to obey Jesus' teachings.
Stephen was full of God's grace and power. He did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
But members of the group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen began to oppose him. Some of them were Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. Others were Jews from Cilicia and Asia Minor. They all began to argue with Stephen.
But he was too wise for them. They couldn't stand up against the Holy Spirit who spoke through him.
Then in secret they talked some men into lying about Stephen. They said, "We heard Stephen speak evil things against Moses. He also spoke evil things against God."
So the people were stirred up. The elders and the teachers of the law were stirred up too. They arrested Stephen and brought him to the Sanhedrin.
They found people who were willing to tell lies. The false witnesses said, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place. He also speaks against the law.
We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place. He says Jesus will change the practices that Moses handed down to us."
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked right at Stephen. They saw that his face was like the face of an angel.