The council (Sanhedrin) arrest Peter and John and the healed man and threaten them. The two apostles say they must obey God instead of man. They return to the Christian community and report what happened. The whole community pray for boldness and share everything in common. The place where they met was shaken, and they are again filled with the Spirit.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each section and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Peter, John and Healed Man Stand Before Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-12)
1 While they were speaking to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees, 2 greatly upset because they were teaching the people and announcing in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, 3 grabbed them with their very hands and put them in prison until tomorrow, for it was evening.
4 Many of the listeners believed their reasoned argument, and the number of men was about 5,000.
5 It happened the next day. The rulers and elders and teachers of the law assembled in Jerusalem, 6 in particular Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and anyone else from the high priestly family. 7 And they stood them right in front of them and examined them: “By what power and by what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, replied to them: “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If today we answer for the good work done to this disabled man, and how this man has been healed, 10 let it known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name does this man stand before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, has become the cornerstone.’ [Ps. 118:22] 12 And salvation is not by anyone else, for neither is there another name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
Peter and John were bold. They could not help but speak of their risen Lord and were filled with the Spirit. The formerly lame beggar stood with Peter and John, so it is easy to imagine their pointing at him at the right moment in their speech or sermon. “This is living proof that Jesus is alive!” as they point to the healed man.
Then certain members of the Jerusalem religious establishment intervene.
Peter and John were teaching the people about the resurrection and how Jesus healed the lame beggar. It was in the name of Jesus that the complete healing miracle happened (Acts 3:16). The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, so of course they reacted strongly.
“in Jesus”: He was raised from the dead. He was not just a miracle worker, but he claimed to be the Messiah. That takes things to a higher level. He overturned all kinds of apple carts, even tables for money changers. If people followed him, Judaism would have to change, and the establishment could not have that.
“resurrection”: see v. 33 for a closer look.
A little historical tidbit: Peter and John were in the temple since the ninth hour (3:00 p.m. or 15:00), at Solomon’s Colonnade. They are now led across the temple court, through the Kipunis Gate in the western wall. Across the bridge over the Tyropoaen Valley, where they are taken (presumably) to the prison of the Sanhedrin, probably located near the Xystos below the western wall of the temple mount (Schnabel, comment on v. 3).
Please find a Bible map at another website.
What did Peter’s wife think? “Where’s my husband?” Did someone who was standing outside the council run back to where she was staying and inform her? She must have spent a sleepless night—or not. I trust God’s peace settled on her.
“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Here it is connected to “saved.”
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
Please see my word study:
“Reasoned argument”: the phrase comes from the one Greek noun logos, which can mean “word,” but more often it has a deeper meaning, like “reasoning with words” or “rational argument.” Argument does not mean a verbal quarrel, but a logical and orderly presentation of evidence, in proof of your convictions. In this case, a healing miracle just happened, and Peter (and John) was explaining the whole thing to the gathered crowd. God gifts all of us with reason or brain power. People need to have that need met, whether they realize or don’t realize the small details of what’s going on in their heads. They also need to see a miracle with their own eyes. The joyful beggar, who was leaping and walking around and praising God, spread his joy, and the people caught it. Stories help with the emotional side of humankind. The healed man was a living story.
Let’s explore the noun more deeply. It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word Word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
Though scholars debate whether these are 5,000 in addition to the 3,000 (Acts 2:41) or whether 2000 converted here and can be added to the 3000, I say they are 5000 new converts, totaling about 8000. Either way, this is a mega-church, and sometimes they (or some of them) met at the temple or the temple precinct under Solomon’s Colonnade. Don’t accept the deficient teaching that house churches or small churches are the only Scriptural church. All of it is just fine and acceptable to God. He regards the right attitude, seen in vv. 32-34, to be more important. It is generosity and unity.
This is the Sanhedrin or Jewish supreme court, which I translate as council in other passages. These are the biggest names in the Jerusalem establishment. They did not have the power of death or execution, for this was reserved to Roman authority, except when someone violated the sanctity of the temple. In that case even a Roman citizen could be put to death by the Sanhedrin (Acts 21:28), if the people had not already stoned him to death before then.
Annas served as high priest from 6-15 AD. In 30 AD he was the patriarch of the most powerful high priestly family in the first century. Jesus was interrogated by him (John 18:13, 19-24). He is called the high priest here to indicate his standing. Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas. John may have been Jonathan, son of Annas, who was high priest after Caiaphas, from AD 36-37) and the captain of the temple guard. Scholars don’t know how Alexander fits in. Teachers of the law are also called “scribes” in many translations.
You can read more about the rulers here:
Bruce offers this suggestion about Luke’s source (1990, p. 154): Luke heard this account from Saul, soon to be known as Paul (Acts 13:9). It is very probable that he was in attendance at the council, standing in the background as an assistant or student of Gamaliel, who, we will learn, was a prominent member and Saul’s mentor (Acts 5:34 and 22:3). I believe Bruce is right.
But where was Saul exactly? Was he standing outside the council room? In the back (as noted)? Was he scowling at the twelve? Did he perceive Peter being filled with the Spirit? How could he tell?
The council opened the door wide for Peter and John to testify. Peter is about walk through it. John was there, and so was the (nameless) formerly lame beggar.
The Sanhedrin sat in a semi-circle. Polhill (comment on v. 7) quotes the Mishnah, a 200 AD written compilation of oral rulings and opinions up to then. “The Sanhedrin was arranged like the half of a round threshing-floor so that they might all see one another. Before them stood the two scribes of the judges, one to the right and one to the left, and they wrote down the words of them that favored acquittal and the words of them that favored conviction” (Sanh. 4.3).
“By what power”: dunamis (pronounced Doo-na-mis) almost always means “power,” but maybe here someone can translate it as “authority” as in “jurisdiction” or “commissioning.” But power is still better, so I kept it here. In any case, it is by the name of Jesus. “Name” stands in for Jesus’s person and status (exalted Lord) and mission (reach the world). If people know him and conform to his mission, they can use it and stand in for him, under his authority and power. (See v. 12 for more comments.) In this case, the religious leaders mean “authority” in their use of “name.”
“filled with the Spirit”: Peter was once again filled. The Greek verb is pimplēmi (pronounced pim-play-mee). Its tense is aorist and voice passive. Aorist means it just happened at a point in time; passive means it happened to him, as the need dictated. Peter was not hyping it up with soul-power. This was the Spirit’s power. The fulness of the Spirit can happen many times in one’s life. It had happened to Peter and John in Acts 2:4. (John was probably filled too, since he speaks up in v. 19). It is a power surge for service in the church and especially outside of it. Recall that Jesus said not to over-think what you should say when you are summoned before a synagogue or local council, whether Roman or any other nation, for the Spirit would prompt you and give you the right words (Mark 13:11 // Matt. 10:19-20 // Luke 12:11 and 21:15).
11 “And when they bring you before the synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry how or what you will speak in self-defense or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very time what must be said.” (Luke 12:11)
And then these verses:
12 “But before all these things, they will arrest you with their hands and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors because of my name. 13 The result will be your testimony. 14 Put it in your heart not to prepare ahead to defend yourselves, 15 for I will give you speaking ability with words and wisdom which your opponents will not be able to withstand or contradict. (Luke 21:12-15)
Peter was filled with boldness, not timidity. You can spot the Spirit surging through you by courage, not fear. No doubt he had one “butterfly” in his stomach, but he still stepped forward and delivered a strong, convicting word. You too can be filled with the Spirit—a power surge—many times in your life, for edifying the church or reaching the lost.
Peter was already filled in the upper room (Acts 2:4), here, and later in this chapter (v. 31). And then the Spirit will empower him to receive a vision (Acts 10:9-16).
Peter knew Messianic prophecies. Do you? Here is a table of them:
That link as a table of verses quoted in the OT and NT, yet Jesus also fulfills the themes and types and shadows of the OT, like the entire sacrificial system or all the covenants.
One can easily imagine Peter pointing to the dazed and awe-struck, healed man standing before the august Sanhedrin, when Peter said, “this healed man!” and “this man!” One can easily imagine the scruffy beggar looking shy and waving a little to the council and meekly smiling. “Hey. I’m just … you know … I’ll be quiet now.”
“healed”: It is the verb sōzo (pronounced soh-zoh). Salvation can include healing. Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and is used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times).
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8). Each one of a household has to be saved, individually.
This whole passage is ironical. The temple authorities have no reason to arrest Peter and John. The authorities are interrogating them for a good deed, a healed man. These lowly Galileans are in the right before God, while the religious Jerusalem authorities are in the wrong, though they believe they are in the right before him. That’s the irony.
“name”: see v. 12 for a closer look at this noun.
Peter goes right for the jugular, once again (Acts 3:23). He is not afraid to speak of people’s sins and injustices, even very important people’s sins and injustices. The Sanhedrin must have been greatly offended. Then God raised Jesus up by his resurrection. The Sanhedrin had crucified him, but God reversed the whole ugly scene and exalted him. It is by this name, which stands in for the person of Jesus, that this man is healed. As noted, the power and authority in the name of Jesus flows from his character and exalted status and out to us. Now we can use his name to heal the sick, expel demons, and preach the gospel. But Jesus does all of this. Please don’t get confused about it. God may cut off his authority and power—or let you fall flat on your face. But he will restore you when he sees that your character has developed enough to bring you back in the game.
“healthy”: from the Greek adjective hygiēs (pronounced hy-gee-ayss, where the “g” is hard as in “get,”, and where we get our word hygiene). It also means “sound” and “undamaged.” We need a lot more sound and undamaged believers in the kingdom of God. If you have been damaged, God can “undamage” you, that is, heal you and make you sound and healthy!
More reversal in God’s economy or transactive system. Jesus was incarnated and moved into the neighborhood. A new sheriff is in town, so to speak. The stone that was rejected or despised, by “you, the builders,” directly accuses the Jerusalem religious elites, in the clearest and strongest terms. If you reject him, he will still be Lord and the foundation stone. What man sees as a defective stone, God sees as the cornerstone. What man puts down, God lifts up. What man rejects, God accepts. That’s the Great Reversal.
Were you uncool back in high school? God calls you his child. You’re now “cool” in his kingdom!
Note that this wordplay is found frequently in Judaism: the word for “stone” (’eben) and “son” (bēn) (see Exod. 28:9; Jos. 4:6-8, 20-21; 1 Kings 18:31; Is. 54:11-13; Lam. 4:1-2; Zech. 9:16). It was clear in the messianic expression of “stone” and “Son of Man” images in Dan. 2:34-35; 7:13-14) (Longenecker, comment on v. 11). Then Longenecker says the imagery continues through the early rabbinic period and cites the references.
“salvation”: it comes from the noun sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah), and see v. 9 for more comments. Longenecker says that God’s salvation is the Jewish designation of the expected Davidic Messiah, as in Qumran texts (Longenecker cites various references) (comment on v. 12).
Ancient rhetoric often called benefactors also “saviors,” explaining Peter’s ready transition in 4:9 from a good deed (euergesia, benefaction) to one being healed (sesōtai, saved). Jesus’s name saves, not only physically but spiritually (4:9-12; cf. 2:21, 38; 3:6, 16). Peter plays on the semantic range of the Greek term sōzō: the name of Jesus alone ‘saved’ this man from sickness (4:9_ was the only means for anyone’s ‘salvation’ (4:12); only Jesus’s authority and power brought either kind of God-given salvation. The verb applies to healing in Luke 8:36, 48, 50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 14:9, and to acquiring eternal life in Luke 9:24; 13:23; 18:26; Acta 2:21, 40, 47; 11:14; 15:1, 1; 16:31. Even the man’s good health in Acts 14:10 reinforces the analogy, since many used physical health as an analogy for moral or spiritual health. Polytheists resented the monotheistic exclusivism of Jews; early Christians embraced a still more publicly offensive, exclusive salvific demand (e.g. 4:12; John 14:6). (p. 195)
In this verse, Elohim / Yahweh himself has now moved the plan of salvation forward in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). He’s the newly revealed door or path to Israel’s and our salvation and Israel’s and our deliverance. Don’t look for it elsewhere. It is stunning that Peter preaches the exclusivity of Jesus to the Sanhedrin. We should always preach the Messiah to the Jewish community, when appropriate. I for one will never abandon Peter’s courage but take inspiration from it. Being saved in Elohim (God) is not enough. Now it is the Messiah, whom God introduced to the Jewish community (and then the world) two thousand years ago. It offends God when people—whoever they are, whether Jews or Gentiles—turn their back on his Son.
In this age of pluralism and multiculturalism, don’t be afraid to proclaim the exclusivity of Jesus. Other religions do so for their own beliefs. The Buddha thought Hinduism was wrong, and that’s why he broke with it. Sikhs think Islam and Hinduism are deficient and shortsighted. And the Quran denies these essential conditions for salvation: (1) the Lordship of Jesus; (2) the Sonship of Jesus; (3) his crucifixion; (4) and his bodily resurrection. You don’t have to put down these religions, because you can find something in them that is compatible with Christianity (e.g. don’t steal), but boldly preach that Jesus is the way, the only way.
“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, under the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Only through Christ Jesus are people saved.
“saved”: it comes from the Greek verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh). See v. 9 for more comments. It is in the passive: “be saved.” This is the divine passive. God is behind the scenes saving people.
Polhill excellently summarizes this very important verse:
Peter switched to the first person at the end of the verse, “by which we must be saved,” amounting to a direct appeal to the Sanhedrin. Peter had been bold indeed. He had come full circle. They asked for the name in whom his authority rested. He answered their question. It was the name, the power of Jesus. He directed the charges. The Council had rejected the one who bore this powerful name. The ultimate verdict rested with them. Would they continue to reject the one whom God had placed as the final stone for his people, the only name under heaven in which they would find their own salvation? The final verdict would rest in their own decision. (comment on v. 12)
GrowApp for Acts 4:1-12
A.. Peter was once again empowered the Spirit before he proclaimed Jesus before a hostile crowd. Have you ever been empowered with the Spirit to complete God’s mission for you? Have you ever asked to be empowered like this?
B.. Peter boldly proclaimed to the highest court and council in Judaism (Sanhedrin) that Jesus was the only name by which people must be saved. You may never reach this level of influence (or you might), yet have you ever had to proclaim Jesus to a hostile friend or family member? What were the results? Have you ever prayed to do this?
Sanhedrin Threaten Peter and John (Acts 4:13-22)
13 When they perceived the boldness of Peter and John and grasped with their minds that they were untrained and laymen, they marveled and recognized that they were with Jesus. 14 Seeing the man standing with them who had just been healed, they said nothing in opposition. 15 So, after ordering them to go outside of the council room, they regrouped and began conferring with each other, 16 saying, “What should we do with these men? This sign that has happened through them is publicly known to all the inhabitants in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that this does not spread throughout the people even more, let’s warn these men never to speak about this name to anyone else.” 18 When they summoned them, they ordered them not to speak nor teach the name of Jesus at all.
19 But Peter and John replied to them, saying, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to obey you rather than God, you judge. 20 For we cannot not speak about what we have seen and heard.” 21 Then after threatening them further, they released them, without discovering any grounds on which to punish them, because of the people, for they all glorified God for what had just happened. 22 For the man to whom this sign of healing happened was over 40 years old.
“perceiving”: it is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). In any case here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” Here the second definition is best.
They were untrained in the rabbinic schools and were not professional experts in the law. They also spoke with an unsophisticated Galilean accent, far from the holy capital!
“boldness”: it comes from the noun parrēsia (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah), and it means boldness, outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech, courage, confidence, fearlessness. This could be translated as “speaking freely” or “freedom of speech.” Please, please don’t back down or get discouraged when you confront opposition. In fact, if you don’t encounter opposition in preaching the gospel, then something is missing from your gospel. You will know when you have the Spirit’s power flowing through you when you are bold. If you get easily intimidated, pray each day for the inner strength and power and anointing to stand and not to fold or flag during satanic or broken human attacks. I pray this almost every day, and it works! God did not make you timid (2 Tim. 1:7).
This verse is profound because it addresses what the vast majority of believers feel. They say about themselves that they have not gone to Bible college. They barely made it through high school. Their education is minimal. But the answer is to be trained by Jesus. Spend time with him. Worship him. Study Scripture the best you can. Get Bible helps or study guides. Go to Bible studies at your local church. Listen to and hang out with those who are farther in their walk with God. Pray in the Spirit (your prayer language). Then you can make an impact, even before the highest court in the land, right in front of the best educated people of your day.
“been healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
A living example of a healed and saved man is the best testimonial. If you don’t have one standing next to you, tell your story of healing, deliverance, and salvation.
I like Longenecker here: “The miraculous, however, apart from an openness of heart and mind, is not self-authenticating. So the Sadducees’ preoccupation with protecting their own vested interests shut them off from understanding the significance of what occurred” (comment on vv. 13-14).
Your testimonial can spread far and wide on social media, nowadays. It can be “manifestly known.” It will be undeniable. Who can deny your salvation and healing? If they try, you can simply chuckle at them.
Again, Longenecker: “What is certain about the council’s response is that (1) they would have denied the miracle if they could have; (2) they had no disposition to be convinced, either by what happened or by the apostles’ arguments; and (3) they felt the need to stop the apostles’ activities and teaching and so resorted to the measures allowed by Jewish law” (comment on vv. 15-17).
Peterson: “Although the speech of the apostles was Spirit-inspired, the authorities were not convinced about the need to acknowledge Jesus as the one responsible for this healing, nor ready to call upon his name for salvation themselves. Neither logic nor prophetic power necessarily undermines prejudice and moves hard-hearted people to faith!” (comment on vv. 14-15)
Longenecker and Peterson reminds us that sometime miracles and sound preaching do not work to convince and convert people. It takes time, and sometimes people never respond to salvation. But keep praying for your family, because although they seem to have hearts of stone in front of you, due, perhaps, to pride, they may respond on their deathbeds. Remember, 5000 people were saved at this time. Your family member may be one of them, but at a later time. Hope should never be ruled out.
The Supreme court of Jerusalem issued a warning that they will use later on as grounds to flog the twelve apostles (Acts 5:40). It was a setup.
“Name”: see v. 10 for a closer look.
It was an unreasonable demand because the report of the miraculous sign was already spread around. The Sanhedrin seemed to obsess over the name of Jesus. Many of them knew that they were the ones who ordered him or pushed the Romans to crucify him. Here’s a contrast: in Acts 2:37, the people, who included religious leaders, like priests, were cut to the heart. But the Sanhedrin had no such reaction, but they will after Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7:54). He preached against the temple, while the twelve and the Messianic Jews met there.
However people may react—positively, negatively or not at all (seemingly)—just preach Jesus, and leave the results up to God.
I like Bruce here and the resurrection and how the religious authorities could not disprove it:
It is particularly striking that neither on this nor on any subsequent occasion did the authorities take any serious action to disprove the apostles’ central affirmation—the resurrection of Jesus. Had it seemed possible to refute them on this point, how eagerly would the opportunity have been seized! Had their refutation on this point been achieved, how quickly and completely the new movement would have collapsed! It is plain that the apostles spoke of a bodily resurrection when they said that Jesus had been raised from the dead; it is equally plain that the authorities understood them in this sense. The body of Jesus had vanished so completely that all the resources could not produce it. The disappearance of his body, to be sure, was far from proving the resurrection, but the production of his body would have disproved it. Now the apostles’ claim that Jesus was alive had received public confirmation by the miracle of healing performed in his name. It was, for the Sanhedrin, a disturbing situation. (comment on vv. 15-17)
As Bruce notes towards the end, the disappearance of a body does not prove its resurrection. Of course not. But the healing miracle and the inability of the powerful Sanhedrin to produce the body goes a long way toward confirming the resurrection.
I like how John is said to have spoken, and not just Peter. John was one of the sons of Zebedee, son of Thunder, who with his brother James asked Jesus’s permission to call down fire on a Samaritan village, but Jesus rebuked him and his brother (Luke 9:51-55). John may have improved his temper, but I wonder whether he retained some sass before the council. Strength of soul is always needed and appropriate. John must have retained it.
In any case, when the law is unjust, like restricting freedom of speech at the right time and right place, then laws are meant to be disobeyed. It’s called civil disobedience. But don’t abuse this freedom.
Perfect verse for every witness for God. Just speak about what you have heard and seen in your own life.
“For we cannot not speak”: Another translation is “We cannot give up speaking.” I went a little literal here.
But the council had before it men whose lives had been transformed by association with Jesus, by God’s having raised Jesus from the dead, and by the coming of the Holy Spirit. As with the prophets of old, God’s word was in the hearts of Peter and John, like a burning fire, and they could either contain it not be restrained from speaking it (cf. Jer. 20:9). They had been witnesses of Jesus’ earthly ministry and resurrection (cf. 10:39-41). They had been commanded by their risen Lord to proclaim his name to the people (cf. 1:8; 10:42). When faced with this ban, their response was never in doubt.” (comment on vv. 18-20)
He then goes on to recall that Christianity often accommodated itself to established authority and to the earliest forms of Judaism, as a baby in its cradle. “But when established authority stood in opposition to God’s authority—thereby becoming, in effect, demonic—the early believers in Jesus knew where their positions lay and judged all religious form and function from a christocentric perspective” (ibid.). (“christocentric” means “Christ-centered”).
It is as if the high council were very eager to find a basis for punishing (i.e. flogging and jailing) them, but they could not. What was morally wrong about a man just being healed? They appeared to break no law, like the Sabbath. But then Luke adds the little tidbit “because of the people” who were glorifying God for the visible healing. That is, the Sanhedrin was influenced by public opinion. Miraculous signs will prompt people to give glory to God, but let’s not overlook the important fact that Peter turned the attention away from him and the apostles and back towards God, where the glory belongs. Miraculous signs are meant to point and direct people to Jesus and his Father. They are indicators that he has broken into his own world and intervenes to heal. He loves people and wants them to know that a new way has opened up. As noted, a new sheriff is in town.
Healing miracles of “older” men somehow impress people. A man who was born blind was healed and though his age is not mentioned, he was “of age” (John 9:22-23).
Polhill is spot on about the “sign”: “The little word sign should not be overlooked in the Greek text of v. 22. That is what the man’s healing had been—a sign to the temple crowd in Solomon’s Colonnade that attracted them to the gospel and ultimately to faith. It had been a sign to the Sanhedrin as well, a pointer to the sole name in which salvation (ultimate ‘healing) is to be found” (comment on vv. 20-22).
GrowApp for Acts 4:13-22
A.. The Sanhedrin told Peter and John never to preach in Jesus’s name again. But Peter replied they must obey God rather than man. This is called civil disobedience. Have you ever disobeyed civil authority for the furtherance of the gospel and righteous principles? Have you read about people doing this?
Peter and John Report Back to Community and They Pray (Acts 4:23-31)
23 After they were released, they left for their own community and reported everything that the chief priest and the elders said. 24 As they were listening, they with one soul and spirit lifted up their voice to God and said:
“‘Sovereign ruler, you made the heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them.’ [Ps. 146:6; Neh. 9:6; Job 41:11; Is. 37:16] 25 You through the mouth of our ancestor and your servant David through the Holy Spirit said:
‘Why do the nations rage?
Why do they plan futile things?
26 And the kings stood over the earth
And the rulers gathered together,
Against the Lord and against his Anointed. [Ps. 2:1-2].
27 “Yes, in fact they were gathered together in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed—Herod and Pontius Pilate with the nations and the people Israel, 28 accomplishing whatever your hand and plan foreordained would happen. 29 And now, Lord, fix your gaze on their threats, and give to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while extending your hand for the purpose that healing, signs and wonders would happen through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 And while they were praying, the place where they were gathered together was shaken, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
“community”: it comes from Greek adjective idios (pronounced ih-dee-aws or ee-dee-ohs) meaning “one’s own, private, peculiar to oneself; one’s own people of fellow-Christians.” The three men went back to the core of the church community, their own people, to report back.
When Peter returned, no doubt his (unnamed) wife must have run up to him with joy and threw her arms around him. Their report was a “Holy Ghost” story!
“chief priest and elders” is a generic term for the august high council they had just walked out of.
Once again homothumadon (pronounced ha-ma-thoo-mah-dawn or ho-mo-thoo-mah-dohn) is a favorite of Luke (Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57 [negative!]; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12 [negative]; 19:29, and then one in Rom. 15:6). It is a compound word: hom-, meaning “same” and thum-, meaning “soul” or “mind” or “spirit.” It meant in earlier Greek literature a heroic and excellent fighting spirit. But here it means “united in soul and spirit.” Prayers are best and most effective when everyone is united.
Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.
Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.
“They lifted up their voice”: Voice is singular in Greek, adding to the atmosphere of unity. Surely they did not repeat this prayer phrase by phrase, so this prayer is a sample. What were their prayers? Did some utilize their prayer languages (also known as ‘tongues’), though of course maintaining decorum? Whatever happened, they did not pray silently. No wonder why some Pentecostals and other Renewalists get loud when they pray! They base their practice on verses like this one.
Sovereign ruler is despotēs (pronounced des-poh-tays and we get the word despot here, but the meaning has changed in the past 2000 years and from one language to the next and in the NT context. It does not mean “tyrant.”) It is used in the New Testament in these verses and always about God: Luke 2:29; here; 1 Tim. 1:6; 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:21; Titus 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4; Rev. 6:10. (It is interesting that Peter’s two epistles use the term, perhaps indicating he was influenced by the prayer here, but let me not overread things.)
The Greek syntax (sentence structure) is complicated, which I translate somewhat literally. The NIV smooths it out thus: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David.” Ps. 2 is about David’s being enthroned. Jesus is the Messianic Son of David. He now takes over the throne and is exalted much higher.
“rage” is used in later Greek writers for the neighing of a high-fed, spirited horse (Bruce, p. 157).
“futile”: it means “empty” or “vain.” Nations rage and plot against God and his moral law, but they will come crashing down. Consider the old Roman Empire and various kingdoms in the Medieval West. Who sees them at the height of their power today? They no longer exist. But God’s kingdom endures forever, and when Christ returns, his kingdom will be visible and powerful for all to experience and submit to.
“his anointed”: the noun here is Christos (pronounced khree-stohss) and is related to the verb chriō (pronounced khree-oh), where we get the title “Christ,” which means “Anointed One”; see the next verse, too.
Their prayer picks out key persons in Ps. 2:1-2 and applies them to the political leaders and people in their own context.
“kings” = Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate;
rulers = Sanhedrin;
nations = Roman authorities
People = Israel.
It must have been something special and stunning for the disciples to consider that they were living out Bible prophecy.
Knowing Messianic prophecies is important for your knowledge of God and witness for him. Here is a table of them:
At that link, there is a table of prophecies from the OT and NT. But Jesus fulfills more than just quoted verses. He fulfills themes and entire institutions like the temple or Aaronic priesthood.
One of the most important names in the NT is Pontius Pilate because now we can pinpoint when Jesus was crucified. Old pagan myths claim that this or that god died and rose again, but no one knows when this might have happened in history. The coming of Jesus and the end of his life can be matched up with these rulers.
“Your hand and plan preordained”: “plan”: it is the noun boulē (pronounced boo-lay), and BDAG is the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it defines the term thus: (1) “that which one thinks about as possibility for action, plan, purpose, intention”; (2) “that which one decides, resolution, decision”; (3) it can even be a council that takes up proposals and deliberates, council meeting. Here it is the first definition. It is used 12 times, and 9 times in Luke-Acts. He favors this word.
“preordained”: it comes from the Greek word proorizō (pronounced proh-hoh-ree-zoh), meaning “decide upon beforehand, predetermine.” We will never be able to fully understand how God foreordains an act, yet man has a role to bring it about (also see Acts 2:23). I suggest you not spend much time quarreling or even discussing it, for no one will be satisfied, as endless online comments and debates demonstrate.
Here’s the better point. The death and burial of Jesus did not catch God by surprise. It was predicted in Scripture. God’s resurrecting him means he got the final victory. Your own personal trials don’t catch God by surprise, either. God will raise you up after you walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23). As the good shepherd, he will see you through your own valley.
“fix your gaze” can be translated as “look at” or “concern yourself with” or “fix your glance upon.” Whichever one is chosen, God saw their threats and obstacles, and he sees the ones against you too.
“boldness” can mean “confidence” and can even be translated more expansively, “speak freely,” which leads to “freedom of speech.” See v. 13 for a deeper look.
“story”: it comes from the Greek noun logos, which is typically translated as “word.” But logos is very versatile, and in this case “story” means an orderly sequence of the life of Jesus—his death and resurrection and exaltation. That’s the essential message of Acts 2-4. So I take the risk of translating logos expansively—story.
However, see v. 4 for a closer look at the noun.
“hand”: it speaks of his working power, because humans work with their hands. It is anthropomorphic, which is a big word for speaking of God in human terms. He does not literally have a hand. He is spirit (John 4:24). But humans need a simple way of interpreting who God is on their level.
“name”: see v. 10 for a closer look at this noun.
“signs”: sēmeion (pronounced say-may-on). In the singular it is mostly translated as “sign” or “miraculous sign.” A sign points towards the loving God who wants to heal and redeem broken humanity, both in soul and body. Signs are indicators of God breaking into his world, to help people and announce that he is here to save and rescue them and put things right.
“wonders”: teras (pronounced teh-ras). It is often translated as “wonders” and is always in the plural. Only once does it appear without “signs,” in Acts 2:19, where wonders will appear in the sky. Wonders inspire awe and worship of God through Christ who performs the wonders. The purpose is to patch up and restore broken humanity. They testify that God in his kingdom power is here to save and rescue people.
For nearly all the references of those two words and a developed theology of them, please click on:
For more discussion on “name,” see v. 7, above. It is a key word in this chapter.
“gathered together”: In Greek the verb is synagō (pronounced soo-nah-go and we get our word synagogue from it). It is used three times in this one section, alone: vv. 26, 27, and 30. In the first two times—the Sanhedrin and the worldly nations—God did not endorse their gatherings. However, God endorsed the gathering together of the disciples and their united prayer with a location shaking and an infilling of the souls and spirits.
“they were all filled”: the verb is pimplēmi (pronounced pim-play-mee or peem-play-mee), and the verb tense is aorist, which means it just happened at a point in time, and it is passive, meaning it happened to them; they did not have to hype it up. This is the divine passive, which means God was working behind the scenes, filling them. It came after they prayed. This is Peter’s third infilling (Acts 2:4, 4:8, and here) and the eleven apostles’ second (Acts 2:4 and here). and then the Spirit will empower him to receive a vision (Acts 10:9-16).
John was probably filled too, with Peter in v. 8, for he spoke up in v. 19, so possibly this makes three infillings for him. Further, John was “in the Spirit” twice towards the end of his life, implying an immersion or being surrounded and enveloped in a powerful encounter while receiving the Revelation (1:10; 4:2).
The women who were in the upper room were filled with the Spirit once again, as well. Though the text does not say it, surely some of them used their prayer languages (also called “tongues’).
Recall that Saul / Paul was filled with the Spirit, but his receiving his Spirit-inspired language is not mentioned (Acts 9:17-18), yet he often prayed in the Spirit, that is, in his prayer language (1 Cor. 14:18). Further, the Corinthians believed and were baptized, but they were not recorded as receiving the Spirit and the gifts of speaking in their prayer language or prophesying (Acts 18:8). However, they exercised those gifts often (1 Cor. 12-14), no doubt because Paul taught them about those gifts and prayed for them to receive them, during his eighteen months that he ministered to them (Acts 18:11). The same is true here, most likely. So why didn’t Luke mention it? Precisionist scholars and theologians demand too much of the NT. Luke merely assumes it. What gives me the interpretive right to say this? The whole context of Acts 2-4, and the entire book of Acts. It is charged with all sorts of manifestations and gifts of speaking. The NT is elliptical. That is, it does not give us every detail, so we have to draw inferences. And when an entire large group is filled with the Spirit, prayer languages are included, particularly when many of them got them in Acts 2:1-4.
Paul, after all, writing later, said he spoke in his Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18). He said he wanted everyone to pray in their spiritual languages (1 Cor. 14:5) and not forbid this wonderful gift (1 Cor. 14:39).
Therefore, Luke does not need to link the fullness or baptism of the Spirit with prayer languages in every verse that talks about this fullness. It would be like Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, intervening to tell his readers on every other page, “Don’t forget! We’re on a whaling ship!” In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical. But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit and manifested gifts, like prayer languages.
It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.
It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34). Luke expects us to fill in these omissions. This is why I have nicknamed him Luke “the Omitter.” (Or he could be called Luke “the Condenser.”)
In any case, for Renewalists, infillings can happen many times in a believer’s life. It is not as if a believer “leaks”; the Spirit always abides and remains in her. But this is another power surge or anointing to edify the church and to reach out in ministry.
“shaken”: not a natural earthquake, but the hand of God reached down and shook the place, endorsing their prayer and ministry. It was a similar major manifestation as the loud sound of the mighty, rushing wind in Acts 2:1-4. It seems that whenever God fills somebody to the fullest, something physical is manifested, like a prayer language or prophecy. A large gathering led to the physical surrounding to be impacted. In Acts 2:3 it was the house that was filled the Spirit accompanied with prayer languages. Here it is the place that was shaken.
“word”: see v. 29, above, and then v. 4 for a closer look.
It is my belief that Stephen and the other six (Acts 6) were in the place that was shaken and where they were (re)filled with the Spirit. Why not? They were, after all, well known and attested in the Jesus community. In Acts 6, they were selected to be one of the seven servants and was full of the Spirit when comes on the scene. It is not as if they were strangers. When did their first infilling happen? Probably here.
“with boldness”: it comes from the noun parrēsia (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah), and see v. 13 for a deeper look.
Finally, if you would like to read about the practical reasons for their sharing everything in common, go to Acts 2:42-47.
GrowApp for Acts 4:23-31
A.. The Christian community were united in prayer. Do you attend a prayer meeting to pray for outreach?
B.. The community’s prayer was thoroughly biblical. Have you ever prayed Bible-based prayers?
Church Unity and Sharing (Acts 4:32-37)
32 The believing community was in one heart and soul, and no one claimed what possessions belonged to him was his own, but everything was in common for them. 33 With great power the apostles were giving forth their witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was upon all of them.
34 No one among them was poor, for as many as owned land or possessed houses, sold them, brought the money from the sales, 35 and placed it at the feet of the apostles; it was distributed to each one according to his need.
36 Joseph, surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which means “son of encouragement”), was a Levite, a Cyprian by birth. 37 Since he owned real estate, he sold it, and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet.
This is another progress report that includes signs and wonders or great power (see Acts 2:41-47; 5:12-16).
“community”: It comes from the “crowd of believing ones.” But in this context the standard Greek word for crowd is best translated as congregation, but I used an updated term. For more discussion on “believer” see v. 4.
They were in “one heart and soul”: heart is kardia (pronounced kar-dee-ah) and soul is psuchē (or psychē) (pronounced psoo-khay; the p in ps- is pronounced). Some Renewalists teach that the heart is the deepest part of a person, his spirit, while the soul is the mind, will and emotions. That’s okay, but God see us as a unity. He does not save, for example, only our heart or spirit and make it perfect, while the soul has to catch up and is partially saved. And our spirit is never perfect because we cannot shake the presence of sin, though God delivers us from the power of sin. God saves all of us, body, soul and spirit. True, our soul and heart and spirit need to be brought under the control of the Spirit, and our bodies will experience full salvation only when it is resurrected and transformed, but God sees us as whole, one package.
Recall the OT: Jer. 32:29 says that God will give his people “singleness of heart and action,” and Ezek. 36:26 says God will give them “a new heart” and “a new spirit.” This early community is fulfilling these promises.
The rest of the Greek in this verse is a little difficult. The NASB smooths it out thus: “And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.”
“great power”: megas (masculine), megalē (feminine), means “great,” and it modifies “power.” This is not the ordinary power that a doctor might work, but it belongs to God alone. (And yes, God can work his power through the medical power of doctors, too.) Dunamis (pronounced doo-na-mis, and dynamis is pronounced dy-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “miracle” or “miraculous power” or “power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul.
In v. 30, signs and wonders were mentioned. Dunamis could not be left out in this chapter explaining the miraculous healing.
For nearly all the references of the word and a developed theology of them, please click on:
The apostles and others preached their witness to resurrection. It is always beneficial to bring any discussion you have with a friend or family member or colleague at work back to the resurrection. The apostles saw it with their own eyes. We have not (unless you personally have seen the resurrected Jesus). We should study the evidence for the resurrection. Many resources are online. However, we can also speak about his resurrection in our hearts. We were once dead in our sins, but he has raised us up to new life.
Here are the basics about resurrection in the New Testament:
1.. It was prophesied in the OT (Ps. 16:3-11; Is. 55:3; Jnh. 1:17)
2.. Jesus predicted it before his death (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33-34; John 2:19-22)
3.. It happened in history (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-8)
4.. Power used to resurrect Jesus:
a.. Power of God (Acts 2:24; Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12)
b.. Christ’s own power (John 10:18)
c.. Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25-26)
d.. Power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18)
5.. Nature of Christ’s resurrection
a.. The same body that died was raised (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27)
b.. It was a physical body
(1)) He ate (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-13; Acts 10:40-41)
(2)) He could be touched (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1)
(3)) It was a gloried body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21)
(4)) He passed through locked door (John 20:19, 26)
(5)) He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9)
c.. It was also a transformed and glorified body
And for a review of the basics, please click on this post:
You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas or Mike Licona.
For a table of his appearances and other facts, please see:
“great favor was upon them”: the word favor in Greek is charis (pronounced khah-reess), and it is modified by megalē (pronounced meh-gah-lay) indicating not ordinary favor that a person of the world may experience, but God’s divine favor. Charis has these meanings: graciousness, attractiveness; favor, gracious care, help or goodwill, practical application of goodwill; a gracious deed or gift, benefaction. In some contexts, it means “exceptional effects produced by divine grace,” in other words, empowerment to accomplish a task or receive a blessing. Apparently, those outside the Messianic Jewish community liked them and found them attractive.
Let’s go deeper into the noun grace, by repeating part of what I wrote in the post Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious. Mounce in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words teaches us about the Hebrew and Greek words. The Hebrew noun ḥen (pronounced khen) “describes that which is favorable or gracious, especially the favorable disposition of one person to another” (p. 302). The Greek noun further means “the acceptance of and goodness toward those who cannot earn or do not deserve such gain” (p. 303). The verb in Hebrew is ḥanan (pronounced khah-nan) and means to be gracious, “to show mercy favor, be gracious” (ibid.).
Here is a quick definition. God’s grace means he gladly shows his unmerited goodness or love to those who have forfeited it and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation.
Good news! We do not have to suffer condemnation for our past sins because God hands us his grace.
This is a voluntary small community within the larger one in Jerusalem. (See Acts 5:4 for its voluntary nature.) No one imposed this common sharing on them from the top-down. One must be careful about forming a government that forces common sharing on everyone else (except for the enforcers at the top who get rich). That is called communism, and bureaucrats who run it do not know enough to manage a one-size fits all economy. Communism always falls apart. But if individuals freely sign up for total sharing of their possessions in a community, then let them. Hippies did that back in the 1970’s up in the Oregon mountains, and their communities were called communes.
The people placed the proceeds at the feet of the apostles, indicating they took charge, but soon they will delegate the whole business and practical job to the seven servant-deacons (Acts 6:1-6). Mary (mother of John Mark) still owned her large house (12:12), Barnabas sold one parcel of land (v. 37), and Peter said that Ananias and Sapphira still had control over their property (5:4). So this summary statement in vv. 34-35 about having everything in common and voluntarily giving to those in need should not be over-interpreted.
No government coercion!
Here is how Polhill defeats the notion of expanding these verses into communism:
First, there was no transfer of ownership, no control of production or income, no requirement to surrender one’s property to the community. The voluntary nature of the Christian practice is evidenced by the consistent use of the iterative imperfect tense throughout vv. 34b–35. This is how they “used to” do it. They “would sell” their property and bring it to the apostles as needs arose.
Second is the example of Barnabas in vv. 36–37. His sale of property would hardly be a sterling example if surrender of property were obligatory.
Third, in the example of Ananias and Sapphira, Peter clarified for Ananias that his sin was in lying about his charity. The land remained his to do with as he pleased; he was under no obligation to give the proceeds to the church (5:4).
Fourth, the picture of the central fund for the widows in 6:1–6 is clearly not an apportioning of each one’s lot from a common fund but a charity fund for the needy.
Finally, there is the example of Mary in 12:12f. She still owned a home and had a maid. The Christians enjoyed the hospitality of her home. This was clearly no experiment in common ownership. (comment on vv. 34-35)
Once again, please click here for further comments:
“son of encouragement”: his nickname Barnabas comes from the combination bar (“son”) and nabi’ (“prophet”). Bruce also suggests the Aramaic bar newāḥa’ (“son of soothing” or “refreshment”).
Evidently, for Luke, a prophet encouraged. Writing Acts later than these events, he may have been earlier influenced by Paul’s definition of prophecy, which includes the same Greek word in here in v. v. 36 and 1 Cor. 14:13. Paraklēsis (pronounced pah-rah-klay-sis) means “encouragement.” Paul calls the prophetically gifted Corinthians “prophets” (1 Cor. 14:29). Barnabas must have been prophetically gifted or even a prophet. An OT prophet often encouraged people or rebuked them!
This nickname further means that Barnabas habitually encouraged people. Encouragement was in his spiritual DNA. His gift became so widely known that even the twelve apostles nicknamed him.
Here is a quick study of Barnabas’ life.
He was a Levite. Levites and priests were not allowed to own land (Num. 18:20, 24; Deut. 10:9). However, they worked around the prohibition by owning land through agents, probably a relative or trusted friend. Or the prohibition was not extensive.
He was an open-minded and soft-hearted Levite, unlike his soon-to-be partner, a hard-hearted Pharisee named Saul, who will have to be knocked to the ground before his heart softens (Acts 9:1-31).
He was from Cyprus, a large Greek island, where a Jewish community had settled (Acts 4:36).
He brought Paul to the apostles when people were scared of Paul (Acts 9:27).
He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24).
He brought Paul to Antioch and introduced him to believers. Both he and Paul taught a great number of people in that Christian center (Acts 11:25-26).
He brought a gift with Paul to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:28-29).
He was considered a prophet and teacher (Acts 13:1).
In Lystra, God worked a miracle through Paul, and the people wanted to set them up as gods. They called Barnabas Zeus, and Paul Hermes, the messenger god, because Paul was the chief speaker (Acts 14:8-18).
He was considered an apostle (Acts 14:14).
He accompanied Paul on a missionary journey (Acts 13-14).
He went up to Jerusalem to report to the Jewish Messianic council on the miracles he witnessed and did among the Gentiles (Acts 15:36-40; see also Gal. 2:1-9).
However, he had a conflict with Paul over John Mark (Acts 15:36-40). John Mark had deserted them, and Paul did not want him to go with them again. Barnabas wanted him to go. They could not agree. “A sharp disagreement” ensued. So Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus (Barnabas’s home island), while Paul took Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia.
Barnabas was a cousin to John Mark (Col. 4:10), so maybe this influenced him to support his cousin, despite Paul’s objections.
Incidentally, John Mark was the son of a certain Mary, who had a large house in Jerusalem, where the Christian community met. A large house indicates wealth, particularly in a city like Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). So Barnabas, a landowner, and Mary and John Mark were related and wealthy, yet Barnabas sold a parcel of his land, anyway. That’s called generosity. Mary hosted the Christian community, and that is also generous.
He had a conflict with Paul over eating with Gentiles (non-Jews). Jews did not share meals with Gentiles. Barnabas’s Levitical heritage must have influenced and temporarily blinded him. Paul rebuked both him and Peter (Gal. 2:11-13).
Barnabas worked for a living on his missionary journeys (1 Cor. 9:6).
With that overview completed, now let’s get ready for Acts 5.
Barnabas’ generosity and openness of spirit and generosity will stand in contrast to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11.
GrowApp for Acts 4:32-37
A.. After the prayer, the apostles go forth and testify about the resurrection. Has prayer ever emboldened you personally for outreach?
B.. Once again, the community, after praying and being led by the Spirit, becomes very generous and give. Has God ever worked in your heart to become generous?
C.. How have you expressed your generosity? Giving money? Time?
Observations for Discipleship
The temple captain interrupted Peter’s preaching and hauled them into jail. It was not a humane cell, to be sure. They came out the next morning looking ragged and scruffy. Jesus predicted you would have persecution for preaching the gospel of his kingdom (Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:20). Are you ready for it?
Peter did not mince or soft-sell his words before the august and mighty Sanhedrin. He told the them that they unjustly crucified a just man, Jesus. Do you have the strength to speak the truth, even when it hurts? No, let’s not get frivolous with the truth and point out personal flaws in others. This context is much more serious. Peter turned into a street preacher or a temple preacher and was empowered to proclaim the gospel to the very ones who pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion!
Before he testified in front of the most powerful group of men in Judaism, Peter was filled with the Spirit. This was his second time, and before the chapter closes he will be filled yet a third time.
You can be filled with the Spirit over and over again, throughout your life. It is not as if you “leak”; that is, the Spirit will never leave you. But God will deliver a power surge or anointing directly into your heart when you need it most. Are you supernaturally peaceful when you might get anxious? That’s the power surge of the Spirit. He is anointing you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23). Do you have a supernatural ability to raise your kids on the worst days, when you want to send them out to adoption (so to speak!)? That’s a power surge or anointing. Do you feel empowered to speak when you are frightened, like Peter may have felt at first before the Sanhedrin? That’s the infilling or the power surge of the Spirit. Many call it the “grace” to do this, and that’s true. But grace is delivered by the Spirit in your heart.
In other words, the infilling of the Spirit comes in different contexts, whether from above or from within. Ask for it.
When you tell someone about the gospel, bring them around to the resurrection. It has a lot of hard evidence backing it. You can study it online. Also, you can tell him that the risen Jesus lives in your heart. You were once dead in your trespasses and sins, but now you are alive in him (Eph. 2:1). God will fill you with his Spirit at this time, and give you words to speak, beyond your ability, just as he did for Peter.
Finally, Barnabas was a remarkable man. He wealthy and came from a prosperous family. Mary, probably his aunt, owned a big house in Jerusalem, where real estate was expensive. She hosted the Christian community there. Would you or I be willing to have a home Bible study?
As for him, he sold his land and gave it to the apostles, who distributed it to the poor. God may (or may not) call you to do something similar. Would you be willing? Would I? Time to check our hearts. It is likely that you and I are not called to give up everything, but do we at least have a generous and sacrificial heart and outlook? Do I have possessions, or do they have me? I pray for grace that they don’t have me.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.