Acts 4

Acts 4: A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On!

Today’s lesson is a continuation of what occurred in the temple on the day Peter and John healed the crippled beggar. Acts 4 continues the story as we see what happens at the conclusion of Peter’s sermon to the ‘men of Israel.’

Notice in verse one who is in the group that arrests Peter and John. The priests , the captain of the Temple guard and the Sadducees.  It says this group was grieved (KJV) – greatly disturbed says the NIV. What was it about their preaching and teaching that disturbed the authorities so much?  Peter and John were teaching and preaching in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. First of all- the Sadducees were one of the power groups along with the Pharisees that controlled the Temple. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

But more than anything- what disturbed them was this man Jesus whom they had crucified to be rid of was now being proclaimed as the Messiah, the Son of God and resurrected. His followers were now preaching and teaching in His Name the resurrection of the dead. When Jesus had been alive and going about preaching His message – He was viewed as a direct threat to their authority and power base. Listen to what was said after Lazarus was restored to life after four days in the grave. “ Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. What are we accomplishing? They asked. Here is this man performing miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11) The loss of their authority and the vast temple wealth that came from the sale of sacrifices and money changing had made them wealthy. In addition, the authority they had over the Jewish people gave them important status with the Roman government. So this group began to plot to kill Jesus to rid themselves of this problem.

The bottom line is this was about money and power. Peter and John were not preaching and teaching rebellion against the Roman government, nor were they opposing taxes levied against them, or even the unjustness of slavery in the Roman Empire where up to half the population were slaves of some type.  They were preaching repentance, heaven as an end and this Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Arrested late in the day, Peter and John are put in jail overnight. In the meanwhile, the healing of the crippled beggar and Peter’s preaching and teaching had resulted in an additional 5,000 men being saved. When we look at Peter’s preaching- we see conviction and conversion for the lost; and comfort and the establishment of doctrine for those who already believed. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead witnessed by over 500 eyewitnesses was the proof that Jesus was who he said he was and this was God’s sovereign plan which the prophets of old had foretold.

Now let us look at the group assembled at Peter and John’s hearing the next morning and this will indicate how worried they were about these two men and their message. That morning when they were brought into court they were brought before the rulers, the elders and the teachers. The rulers are listed for us by Dr. Luke: Annas, the past high priest who now served as president of the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas , his son-in-law, the current high priests along with his brothers, John and Alexander. These were the ruling family of the temple. The elders were those members of the court, the Sanhedrin which consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees. The Scribes or teachers were the learned, educated experts in the law. Together they were the ‘movers and shakers’ in Jerusalem and Israel. They all had one common bond- the removal of any threat to their authority and wealth.  The proceeds from sales of sacrifices, the rent collected from those merchants, the fees for money exchange as well as the giving of the people had made them wealthy, powerful men.

As these learned, powerful men look at these two bedraggled men – poor, uneducated, ignorant fishermen standing before them- they figured to probably intimidate them and scare them so- they would give up this ministry and teaching of this Jesus.

In verse 7, we see the opening question of this hearing:  “ By what power or name did you do this?”  ( this referring to the healing of the crippled beggar.)

Before we hear Peter’s answer, let me remind you of what the Lord told his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion in Mark 13- we read:  “  You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say what is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” We are about to hear how the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter.

Verse 8: “ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them: Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that is man stands before you healed. He (Jesus) is the’stone you builders rejected which has become the capstone or cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else for there is  NO OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN TO MEN BY WHICH WE MUST BE SAVED.”

I can imagine the raised eyebrows of these learned and powerful men as they have found themselves caught completely off guard by Peter’s defense which included scripture from Psalms 118 about the cornerstone being rejected by the builders but has become the cornerstone. In addition we see the healed crippled beggar is standing there as Defense Exhibit A.

Now before we look at the response of this powerful group of ‘movers and shakers’ let us think about what Peter has declared.  Peter, filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, begins his defense with a statement designed to make these men think about what they have done. Peter says –  “if we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to cripple and are asked how he was healed…”  Peter has reminded this group of pompous men they had performed an act of kindness by healing a man crippled since birth that was witnessed by hundreds of people.  How was this going to look to the people if they punish them for doing this?  You will see later how effective this opening statement was as these powerful men retreat in private to discuss what to do- they realize they cannot deny this miracle- so a cover up is out of the question.

Next we see these lawyers have committed a mistake any well trained lawyer knows not to commit. They ask- a question they do not already  know the answer to.  Peter answers this question by telling them it is by the power and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth they have performed this miracle.    He also reminds them this same Jesus is the one they arrested, framed and put to death and God Almighty has resurrected from the dead.  He quotes from Psalms 118 to tell them this was the cornerstone on which God will build His Kingdom and you have rejected Him- but He has become the cornerstone, nevertheless.

And then Peter makes one of his most famous statements in verse 12:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (KJV)

There is no other who can fulfill the position of being the cornerstone of God’s authority in the world. No other name. No other religious leader or teacher. There is Only One who is qualified- His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only WAY.  This name is given, which means God has appointed this name to be above all names.  “ For unto us a child is born, unto us a SON IS GIVEN:  and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. “ (Isaiah 9)

There have been religious leaders and teachers through the ages. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Joseph Smith to name a few. They may have taught some moral truths- but here is the difference: these teachers could tell us what is right and wrong and teach principles and precepts that are right; however, although they could tell people what was right they could not enable anyone to do what is right. Only Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us can we have the power to overcome sin and temptation. Only Jesus overcame death- no one else solved the problem of death with the promise and proof of resurrection.

Most of us do not need to be told what to do. We know what we should and should not do- and are unable to do it. What we need is One who will change us- give us a new heart, that will give us the desire and the power to do what pleases God. Only Jesus can do that. When we get saved- Jesus is in us and we are in Him. It is a shared life. Life as God intended it to be.

There is no other name- there is no one else – no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved.

Now let us take a look at these surprised rulers, elders and scribes’ reaction. Verse 13 tells us : ‘when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized these were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.’

The first thing they noticed is the boldness and courage these men exhibited. Instead of this impressive group of powerful, ‘movers and shakers’ shaking these two unschooled, ignorant men the reverse had happened- these movers and shakers were all shook up.  Instead of fear- they had seen boldness and a peace and calm that many remembered Jesus had exhibited when they brought him before their court just weeks before. In fact, Luke tell us-‘they took note these men had been with Jesus.’ Something about their poise and confidence and the skillful use of Scriptures gave these men of power reason to be concerned. Things were not going well.

First of all, Peter and John had performed a good deed of kindness, a miracle of healing upon a man born crippled who stood there before them as Exhibit A. There was a sense of déjà-vu. This Jesus whom they had crucified and now was reported widely as being alive again- resurrected from the dead was not going away. His followers had not been silenced by His death- it had in fact had the opposite effect of making them all the bolder. Listening to them and hearing their eloquence and confidence reminded these rulers these men had been with Jesus. It was the only conclusion they could come to as an explanation of what had occurred.

A sidebar meeting is held with the accused ordered out of the courtroom. Hear now what these leaders say about this development. “ What are we going to do with these men? Everybody in Jerusalem knows they have done this outstanding miracle.” A cover up was out of the question. No guards at the tomb to be bribed- there were too many eyewitnesses. What to do?

Verse 17: “ To stop this thing from spreading any further, we must warn these men to speak no longer to  anyone in this NAME.”

Then they brought the accused back into the courtroom and announced their verdict:  we command you to no longer speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter  and John answered: “ Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help but speak or teach the things we have heard and seen.”  Do you see how Peter and John have once again bested these powerful men?  This statement clarifies the issue and calls on these religious rulers to judge as to what the apostles should do. They asked them- which is right to listen to God and obey Him or listen to you men and obey men rather than God? What are they going to say?  They cannot say to them- obey us rather than obey God.

These men are further flustered in their attempts to silence or intimidate these men. Further threats are made, which we can conclude from later actions involved physical harm, imprisonment and death.

Peter and John come out of the courtroom and report everything to the crowd of believers waiting. There is a great celebration and praising of the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and the seas and everything that is in them. This God, their God who had spoken through David when he wrote in Psalms: “ Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One.”  The rulers of the world then plotted in vain against God’s sovereign purpose. They did it then- and they continue to do it today. There are many countries where the church meets in secret- where the Bible is banned and believers are imprisoned today. Today we see this battle still rages- the forces of darkness against the forces of light. The prince of power of this world continues to exert his influence among powerful leaders.  He wants the Word of God banned from the public arena. He does not want the name of Jesus Christ to be above all other names. This deceiver attacks and accuses  us of intolerance. But to tolerate means to allow without opposition. Surely we are to oppose lies with the truth in love. The enemy calls on us in the name of compromise- he seeks to shame us with names such as ‘ bigots, narrow-minded fundamentalists’. He does not want this name of Jesus lifted up. Nor does he want us to give the reason for our hope. These rulers who plot against Jesus today have the same motivation and fears as the high priests and the Sanhedrin had then- ‘we will lose our place (of authority and wealth) and our nation.’ Look around the world today and you see this everywhere.

What are we to do?  The same thing Peter and John and these early believers did. “now Lord consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform the miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your Holy Child (KJV) Jesus.”  What? No organized effort to overthrow the Roman government? No power play by the people to oust the rulers of the Sanhedrin? No marches? No picket lines or protests? The apostles and these people looked to God Almighty and His  Sovereign Power to work in history. They depended and cast themselves upon Him completely.   His ways are higher than our ways. With complete faith in His Divine Control of events they depended on Him to work His Way through human events .

“After they prayed, the place they where they were meeting was SHAKEN. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.” (Verse 31) That day- men of power were shaken by men who had obviously been with Jesus. Today men of power will be shaken in the same way.  How ? By faith in the name of Jesus- the name above all names. By speaking His Word boldly. By meeting together and praying for God to do what only God can do. By being obedient to God’s will as revealed in His Word.

These early believers followed the example of Jesus and depended on God’s Sovereign Control. Did it work?  It was said by their enemies-‘ these men have turned the world upside down!”

The recent earthquake in Japan- is reminding us God is in control. Let Him do  the shaking- and when we do we will experience and see – a whole lot of shaking going on!”

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14