October 7, 2013

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe


Topic #II: The Church in Jerusalem, Acts 2.1-8.3

Subtopic C: The Church Ministering in Jerusalem (Acts 3.1-8.3)                    

               Subtopic 3: The Reaction: Persecution (4.1-37)


Lesson II.C.3.a: The Anamosity of the Religious Leaders (4.1-22)



Acts 4.1-22 (KJV)


1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 

3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. 

5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 

6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 

9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 

10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 

11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is 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. 

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 

14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 

16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 

17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. 

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 

19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. 

22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.



Introduction


In this chapter we have the first opposition from the Jewish leaders, which leads to relentless and awful persecution. One of the main purposes of Acts is to show that Jews who rejected and crucified Jesus continued their rebellion against God by rejecting the gospel of the resurrected and ascended Jesus proclaimed by the apostles. This chapter describes the beginning of this opposition, which culminated with the plots of the Jews to kill Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem: “And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him” (Acts 23.12-15).



Commentary


1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 


And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

A large crowd gathered in Solomon’s Porch, creating such a commotion that the Temple police intervened. “The captain of the temple” was a high ranking officer, in charge of the Temple police (composed of Levites) next in authority to the high priest, and he had responsibility for maintaining order in the Temple. “The priests” belonged to a Jewish party called “the Sadducees.” They disagreed with the Pharisees over the interpretation of the Law and also denied the doctrine of the resurrection, all miracles, and of the existence of angels and demons.



The office of “Priests” in the Old Testament began with Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8). They became the human intermediaries between God and sinful mankind. They were characterized by three qualities:

1. They were chosen and set apart for priestly service by God. 

2. They were to be holy in their character.

3. They were to be the only ones allowed to come near God on behalf of the people, with the high priest being the chief go between on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).



“The Sadducees” held strong representation both in the Sanhedrin and the priesthood—the latter was an office which they held by tradition. It is evident here that they were quite influential in religious matters—“But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy” (Acts 5.17). They were compromisers—collaborators with the Roman government—and were very serious opposed toward anything that might disturb the comfortable status they enjoyed.



Peter had just been preaching the resurrection of Jesus, and “the Sadducees” saw danger arising from such teaching. Peter an John had wrought a great miracle by healing the lame man, a miracle which the Sadducees could not deny—“And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3.16). This greatly disturbed them, and the fact that Peter was preaching the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was a definite challenge to their religious prestige!



“As they (Peter and John) spake unto the people…”

In verse 11 of Chapter 3, we were told that as the lame man rejoiced over his miraculous healing, “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.” The great gathering of people and the news of the healing of the lane beggar soon attracted the attention of “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees,” who decided that something must be done to put a stop to the sudden popularity of the two apostles. The high priest and the priestly class were answerable to the Roman authorities for anything that sounded like a disturbance in the city. At that very volatile time, any gathering of people might suddenly erupt into a riot or revolution. If this happened, the Romans might take away their political power. The words “came upon” indicate that this group “came upon” Peter and John—or rushed upon them—in a sudden and violent manner.



Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees were “grieved” (“annoyed” in the RSV), which suggests mingled emotions of extreme anger and indignation because Peter and John consistently proclaimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and announced on the basis of His resurrection the hope of resurrection for men; and if it was true, it overthrew their doctrine. This was the part of the apostle’s message that was the most objectionable to the Jewish leaders. They had executed Jesus as a blasphemer, and now Peter and John were proclaiming His resurrection. The Pharisees believed in a future resurrection. The apostles announced that God now has provided a new ground for this hope.



The Sadducees were not “grieved” because they feared a calamity had befallen the community, but because the miracle and subsequent publicity would interfere with their authority. Such miracles were in direct opposition to their doctrine; they did not believe in miracles. Although they admitted that a considerable miracle had been wrought—and certainly they could not deny the resurrection of Jesus, because after His resurrection He was seen by as many as five hundred people at one time—they refused to accept the facts that had been presented again and again in their presence. They were willingly ignorant, spiritually blind, and determinedly rejecting the truth that was so clearly evident.



The Sadducees considered themselves as defenders of the Word of God, and they were grieved (offended) because these two uneducated, ignorant Galileans “taught the people.” Peter and John were not duly authorized by the high priest, nor were they sanctioned by the Sanhedrin. Therefore, according to the Sadducees, they had no right to teach or preach in Solomon’s Porch. Since they themselves did not believe in the resurrection, they were greatly disturbed by the apostles declaration that the resurrection of Jesus was indisputable proof that He was God’s Christ, the long awaited Messiah—and by the accusation that these same religious leaders had rejected Him and crucified Him! If Jesus had risen, then others would rise again; and the Sadducees feared that this doctrine would be believed by the multitudes and established in the hearts of the people. Their doctrine would thus be endangered, and therefore, they joined in with the Pharisees and other “religionists” in their efforts to put a stop to the spreading of a teaching which they considered “heresy.”



I want to call your attention to something quite startling and interesting, if you haven’t already picked up on it—who was it that led in the persecution of Jesus and finally had Him arrested and put to death? It was the religious rulers, the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the enemies of Christ as He walked here on earth, and they were enemies of Peter, John and the other apostles, and they will continue to oppose Christianity throughout the Acts.



3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.



It is interesting that the first clash of the apostles with Jewish authorities was with the Sadducees and not the Pharisees. Peter and John were arrested because they were teaching the people and asserting that Jesus was raised from the dead. From what follows it is evident that the first charge was more important for the Sadducees. The apostles teaching threatened the peace. While the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, the proclamation of the doctrine was not a sufficient charge to jail the apostles. The Pharisees supported this teaching as well. In the deliberations of the council there was no allusion to the resurrection in the arraignment of Peter and John.



And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day:

“They laid hands on them” means that they had Peter and John arrested; “and put them in hold” means that they were probably placed in the care of a guard. There is no record of them being placed in jail as Peter and Silas were in Acts 16. Perhaps these religious rulers thought that if they had the apostles arrested and placed in jail, they would not defend the doctrine they had been preaching throughout the countryside. After all, these same men had fled from the scene when Jesus was arrested and led away to be crucified. Peter had even denied that he had ever known the Lord. It could be that they would be frightened into keeping silent.



But these two men who had so recently displayed spiritual cowardice, now stood boldly, emphatically declaring themselves followers of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” They believed in and served the risen Lord, declaring the fact of His resurrection, and His identification as God’s Christ, the Messiah. The remarkable change in the conduct of these disciples is one of the infallible proofs that they were influenced from above, not by human circumstance or human contact. 



for it was now eventide.

It was not convenient to call the Sanhedrin into council at night, besides this was the time of the evening prayer, and sacrifice; and it was against Jewish Law to hold a trial at night. The apostles would face a hearing the next day before the council.



Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; 

All this was happening at Solomon’s Porch following the sermon which Peter gave. Peter and John did not labor in vain. God honored His Word. His power accompanied His Word, as it does now. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Rom. 1.16).  The sermon of Peter had a profound effect upon his listeners. According to Luke, 5,000 men believed the word of the apostle. If there were 5,000 men saved, how many women and children do you think might have believed? This was a whole multitude that turned to Christ. What makes this response even more astonishing is that it happened in Jerusalem, a place where the means of detecting and punishing those who were converted was in operation, and where the priests were providing inducements to those who would inform on these new Christians.



You can’t help loving Peter; he is really someone we can identify with, since he has many of the same faults most of us have. He was mightily used by God. He is not holding an evangelistic meeting where figures are turned in rather carelessly. These are genuine converts. There is nothing like this on record from that day till the present day, and I don’t think it will be exceeded as long as the church is in the world.



and the number of the men was about five thousand

The numbering of those who were saved is definitely a Jewish practice, a feature of the Kingdom, not the New Testament Church; and this is the last time in the book of Acts where believers are numbered. We are not to keep this type of records, God keeps these records, and no mortal knows how many people comprise the New Testament Church, the body of Christ. When a number of people unite with a local assembly that does not necessarily mean that each and every one of those people is added to the body of Christ. We unite with the local assembly, but we are BORN into the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, and only God knows who are members of HIS CHURCH, and who are not of that body although belonging to a local assembly. 



It must be pointed out that most Bible commentators believe that the 5,000 is not the number converted after Peter’s sermon, but rather that this is an accumulated quantity which includes the 120, the 3,000 saved on the Day of Pentecost, and around 2,000 converted on this occasion.



We do not know how long this was after Pentecost, but certainly it could not have been many days, and in that short time 5,000 had been added to the body of Christ! Considering the centuries that have elapsed since that time, if we had been as diligent in soul-winning, and as faithful in propagating the gospel as the early Christians were, this world would not be in the sad predicament it is in today.



5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 

6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 



The Jewish rulers did not seek the assistance of the Roman officials to curb the activity of the apostles in the Temple area. This was a matter for them to control. Consequently, Peter and John, after spending a night under guard, were summoned to appear before a council made up of elders, rulers, scribes, and certain designated and unnamed members of the high priest’s family, with whom the real power resided. It is generally supposed that this group represented the official judicial assembly of the Jews known as the Sanhedrin. The Jewish religious system had become so corrupt that the offices were passed from one relative to another without regard for the Word of God. When Annas was deposed from the priesthood, Caiaphas his son in law was appointed. In fact, five of Annas’ sons held the office at one time or another. Somebody has described a “nepotist” as a man who, being evil, knows how to give good gifts to his children.” Annas certainly qualified.



This was an official meeting of the Sanhedrin (V. 15), the same council that a few months before had condemned Jesus to die. Not all the members are named here. John and Alexander are named, but we know nothing definite about these two men. At least two members of this council were part of that crowd that condemned Jesus, Annas and Caaiphas. At the time of this incident, Joseph Caiaphas occupied the official position of high priest; he held the position longer than anyone else in Annas’ family, from A. D. 18-36. Several of these officials recognized Peter and John as associates of Jesus (v. 13). The Sanhedrin was charged with the responsibility of protecting the Jewish faith, and that meant they had to examine every new teacher and teaching that appeared in the land (Deut. 13). They certainly had the right to investigate what the church was doing, but they did not have the right to arrest innocent men and then refuse to honestly examine the evidence.



Their question was legal, but they did everything they could to avoid admitting that a miracle had taken place (v. 14). They were evasive, and merely referred to the miracle as “this.” They were probably disrespectful as well, so their question might be paraphrased, “Where did common people like you get the power and authority to do a thing like this?” It was once again a question of “By whose name?” After all, the apostles might be in league with the devil! Even Satan can perform miracles! Having decided to follow that strategy they pretended that the inquiry involved a case of exorcism. The view held by Judaism at this time was that all illness and afflictions were caused by demons. The only way to cure a person was by exorcising the demon who caused the trouble. In reality the Sadducees were not opposed to the use of a name or a power to cure a person in some sort of a magical way.  The real issue, though, was the disturbance of peace. It is recognized, however, that other persons may identify the issue as an attack on the Sadducee’s position on the resurrection. Nevertheless, the question about the name, gave Peter a clue for his defense.



This incident marks the first real persecution encountered by the apostles—the first fulfillment of the many prophesies Jesus gave them of the persecution that was sure to come:

“Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15.20).

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Matt. 10.16, 17).

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.” (Mark 13.9).


Mark 15.40 tells us that on one occasion the apostles were brought before the council and were severely beaten and were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus. But with each persecution the Church grew stronger, and in 2 Timothy 3.12 the apostle Paul made this positive declaration: “YES, AND ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION.”



True believers will suffer persecution throughout this Dispensation of Grace; but the most horrible persecution will take place during the Great Tribulation period, after the Church is raptured, and the antichrist sets on the throne in Jerusalem, declaring that he is God. The Jews will gather in Jerusalem, and they will have peace for approximately three and one-half years, after which they will encounter such persecution as the world has never known up to that time. In Matthew 24.21, 22 Jesus declared: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. AND UNLESS THOSE DAYS WERE SHORTENED, NO FLESH WOULD BE SAVED; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.”



“In the midst” simply means in the presence of the great council of religious leaders. Peter and John were brought before the body of men who considered themselves to be the custodians of the Laws of God and claimed the right to regulate the religious affairs of Israel. These religious rulers had tremendous influence over the people, and the masses feared their displeasure. Realizing this the council hoped to intimidate Peter and John by questioning them.



By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 

In other words, “What supernatural force did you employ to heal this man? He has been a cripple since birth, yet he now stands before us completely whole! What name did you use to bring about this healing?” 



The Sanhedrin could not deny the fact of the miracle, because the healed man stood in front of them. In fact, afterwards they would admit that they could not deny this was a miracle (v. 16). Everyone had known him for many years, there was no denying he had been a hopeless cripple all his life, and certainly none could deny the perfection of his healing. He stood within the circle of the council with the light of salvation on his face and gladness in his heart. We can be sure he would not deny the miracle of his healing, nor would Peter and John deny their part in it. 



The phrasing of the question itself acknowledged that a miracle had been wrought. The Sanhedrin made no effort to deny the miracle, but their question constituted a refusal to accept the explanation given by Peter and John in Solomon’s Porch. Peter had declared that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had sent His Son into the world; but they had rejected Him and delivered him up to be crucified. He further declared that God had raised Him from the dead and that it was “through faith in His name” that the crippled beggar had been given “perfect soundness.”



The council discarded that statement in its entirety. They refused to believe Peter’s testimony; and ignoring the fact that he had already told them by what means the man had been healed, they demanded that he tell them by what power (or in what name) the miracle had been brought about.



The council was acting in accordance with these instructions which had been given to Israel under the Mosaic system. In their spiritual blindness they fitted Peter and John into the description of the false prophet, the “dreamer of dreams” set forth in the Law of Moses (Deut. 13.1-5). According to that law, they were to search and inquire diligently; and if these men were trying to lead the people to follow another god the death penalty must be passed upon them for attempting to turn men from Jehovah, the true God, to a false god. Therefore they asked the two apostles, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?”



8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 


Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost,

Peter spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Peter is again “filled with the Holy Spirit”—filled to deliver a special and specific message. He was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost—“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4); and would experience another filling before the day ended—“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4.31). He wasn’t baptized with the Holy Spirit at this time—that had already been accomplished, and it only happens once. However he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and there must be many fillings of the Spirit if a believer is going to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ. You and I need the filling of the Holy Spirit. That is something we should seek after; it is something we should devotedly want. Don’t tarry and wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They had to tarry and wait until the Day of Pentecost when they were all baptized into one body, but today if you will turn to Jesus Christ, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and placed into the body of believers the precise moment you are regenerated—“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12.13). Paul instructed the Ephesians, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5.18, 19).



I repeat—there is one baptism, there are many fillings of the Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit will fill us any time, any place, if we need the filling of the Spirit to glorify God—whether it is for delivering a sermon or witnessing to an individual. Any time God calls on us to minister, the Holy Spirit will fill us, speak to us and through us, and work through us if only we will allow Him to do so. He does not speak today in the same way in which He dictated the Word of God to the holy men of old, but He does speak to our hearts, and He speaks through us when we are completely yielded to Him. 



Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

There is no doubt in my mind that as Peter stood before this council composed of the rulers and elders of Israel, he remembered the night his Lord had stood before this same council, the night when Peter had followed “afar off.” He had dishonored Jesus that night—he had denied Him, swearing, vowing that he had never known Him (Luke 22.54-62)—but now before the same council, in the same room, he was being given an opportunity to honor and glorify the Savior. He had truly repented of his sin of denial—the scriptures tell us he “went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22.62); and true repentance gave him boldness to stand and witness for Jesus without fear.



9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 

10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 


Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, and Peter (who is the spokesman) does a good job speaking to these men, because he is filled with a fresh enabling of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit was telling Peter what to say—“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. (Luke 21.12-15). 



In spite of the respect he showed these men, he suggests here the absurdity of them questioning him concerning the good deed he and John had performed on behalf of this poor, paralyzed man. The Sanhedrin should have been the last group on earth to criticize or question them for such a miracle. This is Peter’s fourth speech in the Book of Acts. Up to this time, every time he opened his mouth, he put his foot in it. But this time, I tell you, he has his “…his feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” (Eph. 6.15). He is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he is saying the right thing; “Are we on trial for the good deed we did for the sick man?” That is a searching question! It appears from this verse and verse 14 that the formerly crippled man was standing in front of the council, alongside Peter and John.



Peter respectfully began with an explanation of how the miracle occurred. Certainly the members of the Sanhedrin had seen the crippled beggar many times, and perhaps they had even given alms to him and piously prayed for him. How was this well-known man healed? Please note that Peter gave the exact information the Sanhedrin asked for—but in reverse order. They asked by what power the miracle had been accomplished, and then in what name it had been wrought. Peter answered first, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified!”—and then he declared the power.  He emphasized the name these men hated more than any other, and one they would like to forget. Those words must have pierced the hearts of the members of the council! They thought they had finished with the Prophet of Nazareth, and now His followers were telling everybody that Jesus was alive! Since the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, Peter’s statement was almost a declaration of war. Peter seized upon the council’s question about a name and proceeded to make this the substance of his defense. But what about the POWER? They did heal the lame man, not by any power of their own, but by the power of a name. It was a name that every member of the council knew; by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—“And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3.16). Though they had crucified Jesus, God had raised Him from the dead. “And this is the POWER—the raising of that One whom you crucified, and say He did not rise, and forbid us to speak His name. You say there is no resurrection—but God raised Jesus, and THROUGH HIS NAME AND BY HIS POWER this man stands before you perfectly whole!”



11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 


The image of the stone was not new to these men who were experts in the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew that the rock was a symbol of God—“He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32.4)—and that the Prophet Daniel had used the rock to picture Messiah and the coming of His kingdom on earth (Dan 2.31-45). The Jews stumbled over the Rock. “Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone” (Rom 9.32)—and rejected Him, just as Psalm18.22 had predicted—“The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” However, to those who have trusted Him, Jesus is the precious cornerstone—“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2.4-8)—and the chief Cornerstone—“having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2.20). Jesus Christ is the Stone, the Rock, and the chief and precious cornerstone. Jesus had said, “…Upon this rock I will build My church…” (Matt 16.18). What is the rock? The Rock is Christ. Now Peter says, “This is the stone.” What is the stone? Is it the church, or is it Simon Peter? No, it is the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The One who healed the cripple was the stone which the builders rejected. He has become the Head of the corner. This has been accomplished by the resurrection. Notice that the resurrection is central to the preaching of the gospel.



Peter is supposedly defending himself, but it sounds more like he is preaching the gospel. He quoted from Psalm 118.22, asserting that Christ was the stone which the builders of the Jewish nation rejected, but which God had made the most important stone in the building. The builders are the Jewish rulers, the men he was addressing boldly; they had rejected the One who made sense for their whole structure. They could not attain wholeness through the cultic practices in the Temple, and salvation did not come through keeping the commandments. The only means of salvation, Peter affirmed, was through the name of Christ, and that is where those who yearned for spiritual health would find it.



This verse reminds us that God overrules the devices and plans of ungodly men in order to accomplish His own plan and purpose. In the beginning He purposed and planned His program for eternal ages, and all hell cannot frustrate His design. Many times the person (or thing) which is set at naught, and despised by men, God esteems and uses for His glory and the work of His kingdom. When the powerful, great, and mighty of this world condemn, God may take what they condemn and make it the very foundation—yes, even the cornerstone—of His building.



12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 


Peter goes on to explain that Jesus is not only the Stone, but He is also the Savior. Peter saw in the healing of the beggar a picture of the spiritual healing that comes in salvation. “Made whole” in Acts 4.9 is a translation of the same Greek word that is translated “saved” in this verse, for salvation means wholeness and spiritual health. Jesus Christ is the Great Physician who alone can heal mankind’s greatest malady, the sickness of sin—“As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Mark 2.14-17). Of course, Peter had “all the people of Israel” in mind when he spoke (v.10), because the message was still going out exclusively to the Jews. Even Psalm 118, from which Peter quoted, speaks of a future national salvation of Israel (vv. 22-29).



Go back to the birth of Jesus and the instruction given by the angel, “…and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1.21). He is the Savior. That was His name in the beginning. When you accept the name, you accept all that it implies in the person who is involved. Peter makes it clear, and I want to emphasize that when you come to Him, my friend, you come for salvation. There is no other name under heaven that can save you. Religion can’t save you. A ceremony can’t save you. One alone, the name of Jesus, can save you. Jesus is the name of that person who came down from heaven to the earth to save His people from their sins. When any person comes to Him in faith, that person is saved. There is no other place to turn for salvation.



Isn’t it interesting that in the long history of this world and all the dogmatism that these religions have, not one of them can offer a sure salvation. My friend, may I say something to you today? “There is no other name under heaven whereby you can be saved.” If you come to Him, if you trust Christ, then you are saved. That guarantees your salvation. 



By using that quotation from Psalm 118 (v. 22), which he had just quoted, he denied he was leading men away from Jehovah; and claimed that he was acting in harmony with the foretelling of their ancient scriptures which was the bulk of the message he had delivered in Solomon’s Porch. The rulers were as a result put on the defense! They had rejected the only Savior of Israel and they were preventing the completion of God’s building. Thus no other way of salvation is open to people—“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2.5).



Salvation delivers the believing soul from sin:

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1.21)

“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5.31).


I believe the beggar was not only saved from a long and painful illness, but was also genuinely saved. This greater and more important salvation, salvation from sin, comes only through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Jesus had the power to heal the body, that was not His primary purpose for coming into the world. He came to save men from sin, to give His life and shed His blood, that whosoever might accept His finished work might have everlasting life. Peter now stresses this great truth by assuring the people that the lame man had been healed by the power of Jesus, and then pointing out that only by that same power can men be saved from eternal death and hell. There are only two religious paths: the broad path of works salvation leading to eternal death, and the narrow path of faith in Jesus leading to eternal life—“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7.13, 14).



Certainly this was a favorable occasion, one which afforded a glorious opportunity for Peter to introduce the message of the gospel to the great council of the nation Israel. He knew the leaders of Israel believed that salvation would come through the Messiah—but they refused to believe that that Messiah was Jesus. Therefore Peter assured them that it was through the power of the name of Jesus that the lame man had been made whole physically—and then went on to the great truth that only through the name of Jesus could men be made whole spiritually. 



That was a great message by Simon Peter, and this is a fine note on which to conclude that message to the Sanhedrin.



13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 


The assessment of Peter and John as uneducated laymen (“unlearned and ignorant;” not “unintelligent and illiterate”) reflects the spiritual pride of the professionals in theology, but does not mean what many people suppose. These men hadn’t been to a theological seminary, but the Sanhedrin noted that they had been with Jesus. How wonderful it is to have a life that somehow or other calls attention to Jesus. The Sanhedrin admitted that Peter’s defense was both skillful and powerful but since Peter and John had not been trained in one of the rabbinical schools, their obvious abilities were due to their training in the “unofficial school” of Jesus.



Now, the Sanhedrin had a problem. They were in a dilemma; no matter what they decided, they were trapped. First, they could not deny the miracle, because the man who had been lame was standing in front of them—completely healed and bubbling over with praise for God for healing him. Secondly, they had no explanation for how “uneducated and untrained” men could perform such a mighty deed. Peter and John were simple Galilean fisherman, not professional scribes or authorized ministers of the Jewish religion. They were known to be disciples of Jesus of Nazareth—but He was DEAD! The council took notice of the courage and confidence of Peter and John, as well as the powerful effect of Peter’s words; and everything about these men only served to bewilder and astound them. It was highly unusual for unschooled laymen to speak with such effectiveness and authority.



The members of the Sanhedrin, with a couple of celebrated exceptions, namely Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, had so hardened their hearts that the message of Peter’s words did not reach them. They hated the name of Jesus, and these apostles of His had stood before them and declared that name to be above every name, the only name by which men can be saved. This was the great council of the Jewish nation that was so revered by the people, yet these unlearned and ignorant men accused them of crucifying their Messiah—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  In Proverbs 28.1 we read, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” God’s witnesses should not be reckless, but like the apostles of old we should be bold when witnessing to unbelievers. The book of Acts contains the record of a number of God’s men who courageously witnessed for Christ in the face of severe persecution—even in the face of death. For example, Chapter 5, verses 40-42, tells of how the apostles were beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus; yet they spoke daily in the temple and in every house, “teaching and preaching Jesus Christ.”



Though Peter and John were carefully scrutinized by the men who set on the Sanhedrin there was that within them which could not be seen with the eyes or comprehended by lost sinners—they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” That means they had clear vision, absolute certainty, strong passion, and unflinching courage. 



“And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” I wish that could be said about me, that the first time anyone meets me they would say, “Tom Lowe has been with Jesus”—that my life, my speech, my face would show that I have been with my Lord and Savior. 



14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 


In Chapter 3, verse 2, we noted that the crippled man was carried daily to the Temple gate “to ask alms of them that entered into the Temple.” We know from verse 22 of this chapter that the man was more than forty years old, and during that time someone—some friend or relative, perhaps—had carried him each day to his accustomed place by the Temple gate. We can be certain that the men who sat on this council had seen him there every day, year after year, and there was no question that the man was lame. Everyone knew him, everyone knew he had never walked. Now that same man stood before them, and only minutes before he had been leaping, walking, and praising God for his healing! Certainly it was impossible for the council to deny the mighty miracle that had been wrought. They “could say nothing” to repudiate the miracle because living evidence stood before them.



It is important to note that the miracle, of its self, was not proof of the resurrection of Christ or even of the truth of Peter’s message. Satan can perform miracles—“Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2.9, 10)—and false prophets can do wonders (Deut. 13.1-5). The miracle and the message, in the context of all that has been going on since Pentecost, was one more evidence that Jesus Christ was alive and at work in the church by His Holy Spirit. In both sermons, Peter used the Old Testament to support and explain his claims, and this is one evidence of a true prophet of God—“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8.20). Miracles are not a substitute for the Word of God (Luke 16.27-31).



The council thought they could silence the two apostle by threats and persecution, but the apostles were only experiencing what Jesus had promised—“But when they deliver you up , take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10.19, 20). 



15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 

16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 

17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. 

18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 


The council did not seek for truth, but instead looked for some way to avoid the truth of Peter’s message. Had they honestly considered the evidence and meekly listened to the message, they might have been saved, but their pride and hardness of heart stood in the way. Some of the chief priests and elders had experienced a similar dilemma during Passover when they had tried to trap Jesus in the Temple (Matt. 21.23-27). Some people never learn! But their response is proof that miracles alone can never convict or convert the lost sinner. Only the Word of God can do that (see John 11.45-53; Acts 14.1-20).



So, what did they conclude? They wanted to let the thing “die a natural death.” That meant threatening the apostles and forbidding them to teach or preach in the name of Jesus. This shows how much the enemy fears the witness of the church, for Satan has been trying to silence God’s people from the very beginning. Sad to say, he has succeeded with far too many Christians, who have become the “silent witnesses of the church.” Even the existential philosopher Albert Camus said, “What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could arise in the heart of the simplest man.”



The council did not want the gospel message to spread, and yet that is exactly what happened! From 120 praying men and women in Acts 1, the church increased to more than 3000 on the Day of Pentecost; and now there was more than 5000 in the fellowship. In the days that followed, “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5.14; and see 6.1, 7). Satan’s attempts to silence the church only led to a stronger witness for the Lord. 



The hands of the Sanhedrin were tied by the evidence of the healed man, and by the enthusiasm of the multitude. The Sanhedrin was very unpopular with the Multitudes. They sent Peter and John out of the council room under guard, and in a secret session they decided it was unwise to condemn the apostles to flogging or death, but they did decide that speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus must be prohibited. The seriousness of the decree must not be underestimated, since any future preaching would be considered an act of defiance against the supreme Jewish tribunal. War was declared between the earthly authority of the Sanhedrin and the divine authority of the Name. They deliberately refused to mention the word “Jesus;” they referred to Him as “this Name.” They were afraid the apostles might be leaders of one of those messianic movements which had been a continual menace in the first century A. D. Their vested interests were at stake, and in some way they must quell the movement. The Sanhedrin took no steps whatsoever, to disprove the central assertion of the apostles’ preaching—that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The preaching of the apostles could have been easily frustrated had their proclamation of the Resurrection been proved false. The body of Jesus had vanished so completely that the Sanhedrin was simply helpless to refute their message. Perhaps Luke gained this information about what went on behind closed doors from someone like Nicodemus or Paul. Even though Paul was not a Sadducee, he probably would have had access to such information. But if Paul and Nicodemus were not there, which is probably true, there was One who was there who saw and heard everything—and He, the Holy Spirit, revealed those things to Luke, the beloved physician, who wrote down the account of what happened in that closed meeting.



The members of the Sanhedrin finally reached a decision and summoned Peter and John. They had hoped to intimidate the apostles through the threat of severe punishment unless they ceased to mention the name of “Jesus,” but instead they were the ones who were afraid, while Peter and John were fearless before them. So, they told Peter and John they were forbidden to speak the name of Jesus and let them go. Here is the devil’s work. In verse 12 Peter declared, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Now these men command the disciples not to preach any more in that name—the precious name of Jesus. Satan does not mind how loud, how long, or how often a minister preaches, as long as he does not preach Christ—crucified, buried, risen, ascended, and coming again! Satan knows a message without Jesus in it will not cause sinners to be saved nor rob hell of souls.






This story teaches that opposition to Christianity is always:

1. Based on Sadduceeism, is always rooted in rationalism, is always the outcome of materialistic philosophy.

2. Opposition to actual good being done in the world. The business of the church in the world is not the discussion of theories, is not that of indulging in speculations, or formulating philosophies; it is that of seeking and saving that which is lost. It is to find men lying at the Beautiful Gate, excluded from worship, to put them on their feet, and make them worshippers.

3. Opposition in spite of conclusive evidence. The healed man is here in the world today, healed mentally, spiritually, physically in proportion to his faithfulness to the great spiritual truths he has submitted himself.




Sanhedrin: The Sanhedrin was, at and before the time of Christ, the name for the highest Jewish tribunal, of 71 members, in Jerusalem, and also for the lower tribunals, of 23 members, of which Jerusalem had two. In the New Testament the word sometimes, especially when used in the plural (Mt 10:17; Mark 13:9), means simply "court of justice," i.e. any judicatory (Mt 5:22). But in most cases it is used to designate the supreme Jewish Court of Justice in Jerusalem, in which the process against our Lord was carried on, and before which the apostles (especially Peter and John, Stephen, and Paul) had to justify themselves (Mt 26:59). There is lack of positive historical information as to the origin of the Sanhedrin. According to Jewish tradition it was constituted by Moses (Nu 11:16-24) and was reorganized by Ezra immediately after the return from exile. But there is no historical evidence to show that previous to the Greek period there existed an organized aristocratic governing tribunal among the Jews. Its beginning is to be placed at the period in which Asia was convulsed by Alexander the Great and his successors. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)



19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 

20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 


Contrary to the procedure of the Sanhedrin, Peter and John did not need to hold a meeting to decide what they should say; they did not ask permission to step outside and discuss the matter. Being the true servants of God that they were, they gave an immediate answer to the council, and they were in agreement in what they said. “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” In other words, “You who are the religious rulers in Israel, you who claim kinship with Abraham and swear allegiance to Moses, should know whether we should obey God, or man.” “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Peter realized how powerful the men were before whom he testified—but that knowledge did not dampen his passion or hinder his boldness. Basically, he said, “You make up your own mind whether it is right for us to listen to God, or whether we should listen to you. But while you are making up your mind, I will tell you what to expect from us: we are going to continue doing exactly what we have been doing because we have been commissioned by God to declare the things we have seen and heard. And we intend to obey God regardless of what you command us to do.” So, you see that Peter and John were courageous men. They were speaking before a group of men who could have ordered them imprisoned—or, for that matter, could have decreed their death. Their boldness was a product of the indwelling Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who indwells every born again child of God—yes, today, in this dispensation of Grace. As far as Peter and John were concerned, they could not keep from speaking about what they had “seen and heard.” Peter was aware that the rabbis themselves justified civil disobedience in certain circumstances if a superior divine command could be proved. He appealed to such a command to justify the declaration of what they had seen and heard.



The failure of the council becomes evident when Peter refused to be intimidated by their threats. All of us need to follow Peter’s example and make our decisions on the basis of “Is it right?” and not “Is it popular?” or “Is it safe?” However, we must be sure that we have the clear teaching of the Word of God on our side before we take a stand against the authority of the government. Peter knew what the Lord had commanded the believers to do—“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1.8).—and he was going to obey Him at any cost. 



It is popular today to promote various causes by defying the government, disobeying the Law, and defending these actions on the basis of conscience. Since even some Christians are involved in this approach to social action, it is important to understand the kind of “social disobedience” practiced by people in the Bible. Peter and John are not the only people who disobeyed the authorities in order to serve God. A list of “dedicated conscientious objectors” would include, among others: the Jewish midwives (Ex. 1), Moses’ parents (Heb. 11.23), Daniel (Dan. 1; 6), and the three Hebrew children (Dan. 3). When you examine the records you discover the biblical principles by which they operated, principles that are not always followed today. To begin with, each of these “objectors” had a message from God that could not be questioned. The midwives and Moses’ parents knew it was wrong to murder the babies. Daniel and his friends and the three Hebrew men, knew that it was wrong to eat food offered to idols or to bow down to idols in worship. Peter and John knew they were under orders from their Master to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, and that it would be wrong to obey the Sanhedrin. All of these people were obeying a clear word from God and not just following some selfish personal whim of their own. Second, their convictions touched every area of their lives. In other words, they did everything “with conscience toward God” (1 Pe. 2.19) because they belonged to God. The university student today whose conscience permits him to cheat on exams or drive while drunk, does not convince me that he is really cultivating a healthy conscience. When a person’s total life is under the direction of a godly conscience, then I find it easier to have confidence in his unpopular decisions.



Note also that our examples from the Bible acted with respect and courtesy, even when they defied the law. It is possible for Christians to respect authority and at the same time disobey the authorities—“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3.1, 2). Daniel tried to avoid getting his guard into trouble, and the apostles used their arrests as opportunities for witness. This is quite a contrast to some of the modern “Christian objectors” who seem to major in denunciation and accusation rather than loving witness. Of course, the greatest example of unjust suffering is that of Jesus Christ and we must imitate Him (see 1 Pe. 2.13-25). Jesus teaches that righteous protest against injustice always involves sacrifice and suffering, and must be motivated by love. God’s people must be careful not to clothe their prejudice in the garments of “righteous indignation” and pass themselves off as courageous soldiers of conscience. We must examine our own hearts honesty to make certain we are not conducting a “holy war” just to satisfy inner frustrations



21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. 


What the rulers wanted was simply to stop the spread of the doctrine of Christ among the people; however, they cannot say it is false, or dangerous, or that it has any evil tendencies; and they are ashamed to admit the true reason that it testifies against their hypocrisy, wickedness, and tyranny. Those who know how to put a true value on Christ’s promises, know how to put just contempt on the world’s threatening’s. The apostles look with concern and compassion on perishing souls, and know they cannot escape eternal ruin unless they take Jesus as their Savior, therefore they are faithful in warning and showing them the right way. None will enjoy peace of mind, nor act uprightly, till they have learned to guide their conduct by the teachings of Christ and influences of the Holy Spirit, and not by the shifting opinions and fancies of men.  Peter and John had learned this and lived accordingly.



The only action the council could take was to threaten the apostles again and “let them go.” After all, when you have a living miracle before you, as well as an approving public around you, you must be careful what you do! I think they were sorry they could not punish them severely, but they were afraid to do so because the people were celebrating the great miracle that had taken place—the healing of the lame man, their neighbor, who had been a cripple all his life—and they didn’t want to risk arousing the masses of common people. The Sadducees were the power within the Sanhedrim, but they did not have the support of the people as the Pharisees did, and therefore they had to be concerned for public opinion. The incident recorded here has been repeated many times since that day. 



The council must not have known that persecution has a tendency to extend and establish the faith it was meant to destroy. The apostles were few in number, they had little influence, and even less wealth. The council must have thought that surely if they were threatened, arrested or beaten they would be brought into subjection to their authority and that the new “Jesus–way” would be crushed. But instead of putting a stop to the apostles’ teaching in the name of Jesus, the persecution only extended and improved the results of that teaching. It has been that way ever sense and it will always be that way throughout time. Some godly soul in centuries past declared, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church”—and so it is!



22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.


No wonder the members of the Sanhedrin were disturbed. If this had been a young child they might have been able to explain it away, but this was a man who is over forty years of age—and in chapter 3, verse 2, we learned that he had been lame “from his mother’s womb.” He had never walked a step. Therefore there was no way to discredit the miracle that had taken place for all to see. The Sanhedrin knew that if these apostles were not stopped, the new doctrine would sweep the nation and the position of the Jewish rulers would be in jeopardy. But they were cowards and they feared the common people; therefore they did the only thing they could think of that might solve the problem without stirring up the multitudes: they threatened Peter and John and sent them away.



Satan wants to silence the truth. Jesus said to these men, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8.32). In John 17.17 He declared, “God’s word is truth.” It is truth—the truth of God’s Word—that causes men to become sons of God through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no doubt that the devil is doing his utmost today to undermine and destroy the Word, thereby silencing truth.



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