The miraculous healing that just took place at the temple drew a great multitude to the apostles, who grasped the opportunity to preach Jesus Christ. Immediately, opposition arose. The religious rulers arrested the apostles, brought them into their council, and forbade them to preach the name of Jesus. Nevertheless, the apostles and the church withstood the test of faith, found courage in the Lord, and became even more dauntless in preaching the word.
(4:12; 4:20; 4:31)
Did You Know...?
1. Captain of the temple (4:1): “A member of one of the leading priestly families; next in rank to the high priest (see 5:24,26; Lk 22:4,52).”
“[He] was not a military officer, but superintendent of the guard of priests and Levites who kept watch in the temple by night.”
2. Sadducees (4:1): A Jewish sect that comprised of priestly descendants, who also controlled the temple. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or a personal Messiah. They held that the Messianic age had already come and must be preserved. The high priest, who was a Sadducee, presided over the Sanhedrin (see 5:17; 23:6-8; Mt 22:23-33). [ref]
3. Evening (4:3): When the evening sacrifices ended at about 4:00 PM, the temple gates would be closed. Any judgments involving life and death must be take place during daylight hours. [ref]
4. Rulers, elders, and scribes (4:5): These three groups formed the Sanhedrin. “Rulers” was frequently a synonym for “the high priests.” [ref]
5. Annas (4:6) “was high priest A.D. 7-14. In A.D. 25 Caiaphas, who had married the daughter of Annas (John 18:13), was raised to that office, and probably Annas was now made president of the Sanhedrin, or deputy or coadjutor of the high priest, and thus was also called high priest along with Caiaphas (Luke 3:2). By the Mosaic law the high-priesthood was held for life (Numbers 3:10); and although Annas had been deposed by the Roman procurator, the Jews may still have regarded him as legally the high priest. Our Lord was first brought before Annas, and after a brief questioning of him (John 18:19-23) was sent to Caiaphas… Annas was president of the Sanhedrin before which Peter and John were brought (Acts 4:6).” [ref]
6. Caiaphas (4:6) was Annas’ son-in-law, who was high priest for eighteen years (A.D. 18-36).
7. John (4:6): This may be Jonathan son of Annas, who was appointed high priest in A.D. 36 to replace Caiaphas.
8. Herod (4:27): Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (cf. Lk 23:7-12).
9. Chief Cornerstone (4:11): This was the most significant stone in the building because it determined the building’s design and orientation. [ref] The corner foundation stone was acquired, moved, and laid at great cost and care. “Hillyer mentions one stone in a quarry that was sixty-nine feet by twelve feet by thirteen feet…” [ref]
10. Council/Sanhedrin (4:15): “The Sanhedrin (synedrion, “council”) was the senate and supreme court of the nation, which had jurisdiction in all noncapital cases–though it also advised the Roman governors in capital cases–and in one case, viz., that of Gentiles trespassing beyond the posted barriers into the inner courts of the temple, could on its own sentence even a Roman citizen to death (cf. 21:28-29; Jos. War VI, 124-28 [ii.4]). The Sanhedrin consisted of the high priest, who by virtue of his office was president, and seventy others, made up of members of the high priestly families, a few influential persons of various formal ideological allegiances or backgrounds within Judaism, and professional experts in the law drawn from both Sadducean and Pharisaic ranks. It was dominated by the Sadducees and probably came together mostly at their request. It met in a hall adjoining the southwest part of the temple area, probably at the eastern end of a bridge spanning the Tyropean Valley and next to an open-air meeting place called the Xystos (cf. Jos. War II, 344 [xvi.3]; V, 144 [iv. 2]; VI, 354 [vi.2]).” [ref]
- The Arrest (4:1-4)
- The Council’s Questioning and Peter’s Response (4:5-12)
- The Threat (4:13-22)
- The Church’s Prayer (4:23-31)
How did the religious leaders react to Peter’s and John’s preaching?Hide Answer
They were greatly disturbed and arrested them and put Peter and John into custody.
Why did they react this way?Hide Answer
1. They were disturbed because Peter and John, who were just common, uneducated men, were teaching the people. This would disrupt the established religious and political authority of the Sadducees.
2. Peter and John were teaching about the resurrection of the dead, a doctrine that the Sadducees denied (cf. Mt 22:23; Acts 23:8).
3. These religious leaders were of the same group of people who had sought to kill Jesus (Lk 20:19; 22:2,52). Now, the apostles were telling the people that Jesus was the Christ, who had risen from the dead. The apostles’ message of Jesus’ resurrection implied that these religious leaders had been wrong about Jesus, and that they were in fact guilty of crucifying the Christ.
What did the council question Peter and John about?Hide Answer
See verse 7.
What was the main point of Peter’s reply?Hide Answer
Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead and is the only Savior. It was by His name that the crippled man was healed.
What was the point of quoting Psalm 118:22?Hide Answer
The chief cornerstone was the most important foundation stone, on which the whole building depends. Like the stone rejected by the builders, Jesus Christ was rejected by the religious authorities of His day. But God had exalted Him to be Lord and Savior, making Him the chief cornerstone of God’s house, the only basis of our salvation.
Why are the words of verse 12 a stumbling block for many people today?Hide Answer
When we proclaim that Jesus is the only way of salvation, we are implying that no other religion can lead us to God. This kind of message often offends people of other faiths because they feel it’s too exclusive.
Why must we continue to preach the same message despite people’s objections? Do you truly believe in the truth of this message?Hide Answer
The purpose of preaching is not to please people, but to show them the only right way of salvation.
How did the Holy Spirit help Peter at this moment? What does this tell you about the work of the Holy Spirit?Hide Answer
He spoke by the Spirit’s guidance and with the courage given by the Spirit. Just as the Lord Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit would give the disciples power and wisdom to witness for the Lord (Mk 13:11; Acts 1:8).
Why did the council marvel at Peter and John? What made it evident that “they had been with Jesus”?Hide Answer
Although Peter and John were uneducated and untrained men, they spoke with boldness before the religious authority. This kind of boldness reminded these religious leaders of Jesus, who had also spoken with authority and power. So they recognized that this extraordinary power could only have come from Jesus Christ Himself.
Why was the council not able to find any way to punish Peter and John?Hide Answer
They could not deny the miracle and good deed performed on the lame man as he stood before them (14). The multitudes also glorified God because of the miracle (21).
What did the council decide to do in the end?Hide Answer
They commanded Peter and John not to preach in the name of Jesus and let them go after further threats.
How did these leaders’ actions show their callousness? Why do you think they were so hard-hearted?Hide Answer
The great miracle of healing was irrefutable, and the council was fully aware of that. Realizing that God indeed had performed the miracle through Jesus, the risen Christ, they should have immediately repented of their sins and turned to the way of salvation.
Their callousness was not due to ignorance. They knew what was right, but they were blinded by their desire to maintain their power and position as religious leaders. From their questioning and their threats, we can observe that these people were mainly interested in holding on to their authority.
How did the apostles respond to the council’s threats?Hide Answer
How does their response teach us about an important principle in our conduct?Hide Answer
God’s command carries the highest authority. We need to be faithful to God and His words even if doing so may offend people of status and power or result in suffering persecution.
What had Peter and John seen and heard that they could not but speak about?Hide Answer
They had seen Jesus Christ, His life, works, death, resurrection, and ascension. They had heard from the Lord Jesus the message of salvation (Heb 2:3).
Do you feel compelled to speak about what you have seen and heard? What makes a person compelled to witness?Hide Answer
What the apostles had seen and heard gave them first-hand knowledge of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, enabled them to have a strong conviction that Jesus was the only Savior and compelled them to witness for Christ. Today, we need to examine our faith to see if we have a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. Only if we have a true conviction that Jesus is our only Lord and Savior would we diligently obey the commission of Christ and earnestly share the good tiding of salvation even in the face of obstacles along the way.
How did the church respond to the opposition of the religious leaders, who had just outlawed preaching in Jesus’ name?Hide Answer
They assembled together in one accord to pray to God.
What do we observe about the church here that can serve as good examples for the church today?Hide Answer
In verse 24 and the following verses, we see that the believers were united, and they knew to turn to God for help through prayer in the face of difficulties. Through their prayer in one accord, they overcame the challenge at hand.
The believers recalled of the prophecy in the Psalms about the opposition against the Christ. What was their understanding about and attitude towards the forces of opposition? What can we learn from them?Hide Answer
1. They were not shocked by the rise of opposition. They knew from the Scripture that the Sovereign God had already determined long ago that nations, kings, and rulers would gather together against the Lord and His Christ. Now, the purpose of God was being fulfilled. In the same way, we ought not be surprised or discouraged when we meet with oppositions to our preaching of the gospel, for we know these things are bound to happen.
2. These believers’ correct attitude about the rise of opposition made them even stronger. They now believed all the more that God was in control, and that they must continue to speak God’s word. In the same way, oppositions in the work of preaching should not strike us down. They should strengthen our faith in God and bring us closer to God to seek His help.
Based on the believers’ prayer, what two things can we ask for in our prayer when the work of preaching is being hindered? How will they help in advancing the gospel?Hide Answer
1. Boldness to speak God’s word. Satan often tries to intimidate believers. But if every believer is not afraid of opposition and sufferings, then no obstacle could stop the spreading of the gospel.
2. Signs and wonders will be done through the name of the Lord Jesus. Signs and wonders in the name of the Lord confirm the message of the gospel and testify to God’s power (Mk 16:20; Acts 8:13; Rom 15:19).
What was the effect of the prayer?Hide Answer
The place where they were assembled together was shaken. This was a sign of God’s presence and power (cf. Ex 19:18). God had answered their prayer. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.