Sunday School Bible Study in 2018 presented by John Green. The Acts of the Apostles.
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 1
The author of this book is Luke. He was not an apostle. Unlike many of the apostles of Jesus, his occupation was a doctor or physician. (Colossians 4:14) He was a devoted companion of Paul (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11). Based on his name and his Greek writing style and cultural perspectives, Luke was a gentile and not a Jew.
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
The book of Acts is written to Theophilus and us. There are numerous thoughts of who this man was but none are conclusive. The name means “Friend of God” which is a Greek name but this man is believed to be a first century Roman official who was given this name when he was saved.
Together the books of Luke and Acts make up more than 30 percent of the New Testament. The book of Acts is believed to be a sequel to the first book. The book of Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus. (Luke 24:50-53) It appears that Luke is writing this book as a historical account of the birth of the Church. Based on what we read in Luke 24 and these first few verses, Luke was not an eyewitness to these events so it was a secondhand account of these events. He used the pronouns, they and them.
1:3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke starts off confirming that Jesus truly died and was alive. He gives examples and stated that Jesus appeared over 40 days and said that Jesus even ate with them. He confirmed the prophecy of John the Baptist had come true? (Luke 3:16) John baptized with water and Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
1:6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
This question asked by Jesus’ disciples tells us that they had not learned very much throughout their time with Jesus. They still thought Jesus was going to set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus did not give them an absolute answer. He told them that it was for them to know the time or date when that would happen. He answered them with a key verse of Christian Evangelism / sharing Jesus. We have heard sermons on the last words of Christ such as, “I thirst”, “Father forgive them” and “It is finished”. Acts 1:8 or “to the ends of the earth” are really the last words of Christ.
1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Next, Jesus was taken up on a cloud. This was the last or final appearance of the Lord after His resurrection. The ascension took place in the vicinity of Bethany. (Luke 24:45-53) Two angels appeared to those watching the ascension. They tell the “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
1:12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
When they got back to the upper room in Jerusalem, they prayed constantly. This list of disciples was not the same as one listed in Luke 6:14-16. The list in Luke included Judas Iscariot but now Judas was dead. Remember he is documenting for historical purposes. So having the list of disciples present would be historically accurate.
1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas,who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our numberand shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their languageAkeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
There were 120 believers present at this gathering. This is not believed to be all of the believers at this time. Peter stood up as the leader. Peter would have been nervous. He was a fisherman and would not have been accustomed to speaking in front of people. Peter starts with talking about Judas and what the Scriptures through King David had to say about Judas and his demise. He quoted Psalm 69:25 to tell what would become of the Field of Blood, the land that Judas purchased with the 30 pieces of silver. He quoted Psalm 109:8 to tell what their next step was.
Originally Jesus chose 12 disciples. Judas hung himself after giving Jesus over to the Sanhedrin. Now they needed to select a replacement.
1:23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Since they had two candidates to take Judas place, they prayed and then cast lots to determine which man would take Judas place.
The following verses tell us about casting lots or about why they were used.
Proverbs 18:18 King Solomon – ends a dispute
Joshua 18:10 Joshua distributes the land when the Hebrew nation took Israel
I Samuel 14:38-45 Should King Saul attack an army that included his son Jonathan.
Leviticus 16:6-10 The choice of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement
Jonah 1:7 Jonah – to decide who was at fault for the storm.
Matthias was chosen as the new 12th disciple.
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 2
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
As Pastor Brian says The important things in the Bible occur on one of the Jewish festivals. The Day of Pentecost occurs on the Jewish festival, Feast of Weeks. It originally celebrated the giving of the Law/Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. It was celebrated on the 50th day after Passover. (Leviticus 23:15-21) Pentecost means 50th Day in Hellenistic Judaism. It occurs Post Barley and Pre-Wheat harvest. In 2019, Passover will occur on 19-April 2019 and Pentecost will occur 8-June 2019. Pentecost is a new covenant that celebrates the birth of the church or when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples.
Here at the beginning of the Church we find the Christians or believers together in one place. The source of the rushing wind was Heaven. The word for ‘wind’ is ‘pneuma’ which is the same word used by Jesus to explain the Holy Spirit to Nicodemus. John 3:7-8
2:3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit appeared to the believers in the house As a tongue of fire on each of them. This signified that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The following verses tell us about the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:15 John the Baptist will be filled with the HS before he is born
Luke 1:35 Mary and the Virgin birth
Luke 3:22 Jesus baptism
Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist – baptism with water vs the Holy Spirit
John 14:16-17 Jesus tells about the HS coming the Advocate
John 16:7b Jesus says He must leave so the HS can come
John 16:13-14 More details about the coming of the HS
2:4b “and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
“These were languages that they were never taught, and they spoke these languages, speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Guzik
We know that they were not speaking in a new strange language by this verse because it says they began to speak in OTHER tongues.
The Greek word for ‘other’ used here is ‘heterais’. The word ‘heterais’ is also used in the following verses. The following verses do not refer to something new but just another of something that already exists.
Ephesians 3:5 other generations
Luke 4:43 other towns
“Galileans had difficulty pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking; so they were looked down upon by the people of Jerusalem as being provincial.” (Longenecker)
There were so many different Jews speaking different languages in Jerusalem because it was the Festival of the Weeks. If you look into Israel’s history all of Israel and Judea were exiled. When captured, they were sent all over the middle east, so they learned other languages. Luke listed all of the different people that present to verify that there were more than just a few languages.
The people around them think that those believers speaking in tongues are drunk. We know that the speakers are speaking in tongues and not the hearers are hearing in tongues because Luke told us that only the Holy Spirit came on the speakers/ believers and not all of Jerusalem. They were trying to explain the supernatural with something they could understand.
Peter Addresses the Crowd
2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Here we see Peter stand up and start to speak. Peter said that they weren’t drunk “It is 9 in the morning.” This was prophesied about in the Old Testament (Book of the Law). As Jews, they would have heard these scriptures. Peter quoted the Prophet Joel. This prophecy was about the End times. This verse talks about supernatural events occur at the end times. Peter would have been like us. He looked at the times they were living in and believed it must be the end times.
God meets Peter where he is. These were not believers. They were devout Jews. The verse ends with “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Does this sound like a perfect time for an altar call?
2:22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Peter says “miracles, wonders and signs” were used by Jesus in His earthly ministry. Peter credited those listening to his sermon with the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter did not sugar coat his message, he even called them wicked. This doesn’t sound like someone trying to convince them to become converts. “You killed Jesus!” Even today, we helped killed Christ. Mel Gibson felt that he contributed to the crucifixion of Christ. So much so, that his hand appears in the Passion of the Christ holding the hammer and pounding in the nails. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. According to Peter, this was not by accident, it was according to God’s plan and foreknowledge.
Peter moves right on to the Resurrection. He didn’t prove it, he just proclaimed it. Peter quotes David in Psalm 16:8-11 show that these verses were not about him but this was a prophecy about the coming Christ or Messiah. Peter says that David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. David was a Shepherd and King but Peter credits David with being a Prophet. According to Peter, if the prophecy was about David, his body would not have decayed and wouldn’t still be in the tomb. Peter is making Jesus the unifying link between the Old and New Testaments. Peter uses another reference from the Psalms (Psalm 110:1) to point out that not only was Jesus the Christ or Messiah but that He was sitting at the right hand of God. In verse 36, Peter puts it all together for them. “ God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
The source of Peter’s knowledge about who Jesus was in Matthew 16:13-17 was God and the source of Peter’s knowledge about who Jesus was in these verses was the Holy Spirit. These sources are the same.
2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Those who heard Peter’s message were moved by the Holy Spirit or cut to the heart. You must respond to the Gospel message. You can either accept it and move closer to God or reject it and your heart is hardened to it. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. Peter told these men that they had put the Messiah to death. Yet there is room at the cross for them.
Peter says in verse 39 that the promise of God is for “You and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” About 3000 accepted the message and were baptized that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The final six verses in Chapter 2 give us a blueprint of the things that a church should be doing. From these verses we can make a list of these things.
Studying God’s word
Spending time together
Sharing property and wealth with anyone in need.
Meeting together in church
Eating together in their homes
Enjoying their time together
As a result, God blessed their number
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 3
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3:1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Obedient Jews in Jesus day went to the Temple to pray three (3) times a day. They prayed during the morning sacrifice, during the afternoon sacrifice and at sunset. Peter and John were entering the Temple with plans of worshiping and praying and were most likely not looking for an opportunity to witness. They encountered a Beggar who was lame. This tell us that as we go through our daily lives, we should expect to have the opportunity to share the Gospel.
Earlier this year Terry and I went to hear Dr. David Jeremiah speak. During his sermon, he talked about the beggars that were sitting outside the arena. He said that it was important that we SEE them. Peter and John looked directly at him. The first thing that Peter said to the man was “Look at us!”
3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
I can’t imagine that Peter’s response was what the beggar expected. Peter told him “I don’t have money but I can make you walk.” Peter then helped him up. Peter gave credit for the healing to Jesus Christ. Peter, John and the beggar went into the temple courts. This was significant because a person with a defect was not allowed into the temple. Leviticus 21:16-18 This man probably hadn’t ever gone inside the temple courts. The people that recognized the beggar were filled with wonder and amazement. Put yourself in their place. What would be your response?
Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
3:11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
Why did Peter say that they shouldn’t be so surprised? How does this compare to Acts 2:22?
The onlookers should have seen or at least heard about Jesus. They are the same.
3:13b “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
Peter charges them with putting Jesus to death but credits God with raising Him back to life. This is the same as in Acts 2:23-24. This approach seems counterintuitive. In verse 16, Peter gives credit to God/Jesus for his strength and the healing of the lame beggar.
Peter was not afraid to confront their sin, and he shows amazing boldness. “One commentator says that the miracle of the speech of Peter is a far more wonderful one than the miracle wrought in the healing of the man who lay at the Beautiful Gate.” (Morgan)
3:17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets,saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
In verse 17, Peter says the root cause for them putting Jesus to death was the ignorance of them and their leaders. Peter is explaining to these Jews that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ who was foretold by the Prophets. Peter calls on these Jews to repent. This means more than apologizing but it is a change in their lives.
“Repentance does not describe being sorry, but describes the act of turning around. And as he used it in chapter two, here also Peter makes repent a word of hope. You have done wrong, but you can turn around to get it right with God!” (Guzik)
Peter keeps going back to the Old Testament/Book of the Law. In this case he quoted Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19 to show that Moses prophecied about Jesus as the prophet and if they didn’t listen to him, they would be cutoff or destroyed. (NASB). The Greek word used here is ‘exolethreuō’ and it means to be “utterly destroyed”. It is only used once in the Bible.
These religious Jews had to be thinking Peter was a fisherman. Acts 4:13 says “they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
3:24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Peter starts in these verses with the Prophet Samuel. He then connected them with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the covenants that God made with them. He pointed out that they were heirs of the promises made by God through the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. Finally, he connected Abraham to Jesus and the initial or first offering of salvation was given to the Jews.
“Just as the lame man was hindered by expecting something from God, but expecting the wrong thing, so it was with the Jewish people at this time. They were expecting the Messiah, but not the right kind of Messiah. They were looking for a political Messiah, not one to turn every one of you from your iniquities. Are you expecting the right things from God today?” (Guzik)
Acts 4 (NIV)
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
4:1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
Chapter 4 continues after Peter and John healed the lame beggar. “So, the priests, captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John.” Why do you suppose that the Sadducees are named but not the Pharisees? Besides the fact that the Sadducees were in power at this time in history, their beliefs were being attacked more by what John and Peter were saying. Although there were differences in the beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Sadducees rejected life after death or the resurrection of the dead. They also interpreted the law differently. Leviticus 24:20 says “an eye in for an eye”, the Pharisaic understanding was that the value of an eye was to be paid by the perpetrator. In the Sadducees’ view, the words were given a more literal interpretation, in which the offender’s eye would be removed.
The whole purpose of this ordeal was meant to intimidate John and Peter. It had to be a troubling ordeal for them. John and Peter spending the night in jail made me think of someone that was drunk and disorderly. Spend the night in jail to sober up or in this case, one night in jail to make you think correctly. As you read these early chapters of Acts, I want you to consider the difference in the behavior of the disciples, as well as the Jewish leaders. Throughout the final chapters of the Gospels, the disciples were tentative, lost and unsure of themselves when Jesus was crucified. Here they are speaking boldly. Unafraid of what might happen to their physical bodies. You find yourself asking, “Are these the same men?” The answer is “No”. They have been forever changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I was recently asked, “Why did Jesus have to leave?” I believe that part of the reason is so that the Holy Spirit could come and give God’s power to all believers. In His human form, Jesus was one man but the Holy Spirit could indwell all believers thus forever changing the lives of numerous believers. Additionally, many men tend to be followers unless challenged or pushed to step out. For three years these men followed Jesus. After Jesus was crucified they returned to fishing. This wasn’t what God wanted them to do. Christianity would have ended if it had been left up to these disciples alone. Acts 1:8 tells us that they received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. It was the life-changing power of God through the Holy Spirit.
The Jewish leaders finished those same verses victorious. They had crucified Jesus and ended what they considered heresy. At that time they were sure they wanted Him dead. Now they seem unsure of what they want. It is interesting how God can use us for His own purposes. Throughout Jesus entire life until today, the majority of Jews have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. This won’t change until the end times but the message is reaching Jews. We are told that their number grew from about 120 members to 3000 (see Acts 2:41) to 5000 members.
4:5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Pontius Pilate named Caiaphas the High Priest over his father-in-law, Annas, but you have to figure that he still had the power even though he was no longer the high priest. These are the same high priests that Jesus appeared before. Five of Annas’ sons became high priest’s after Caiaphas. The Jewish leaders asked Peter and John “By what power or what name did you do this?” They wanted to know by whose authority they were teaching. You can almost picture kids in a schoolyard, saying “Who said you could?”
4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
In verse 9 the words “called to account” are translated from the Greek word ‘anakrinomai’ which means that this was a preliminary inquiry and not a full trial. Peter and John answer the Jewish leaders with “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and then by accusing them of the crucifixion of Jesus. They also poked these Sadducees by saying the God raised Jesus from the dead and they credited Jesus with healing the lame man. Peter called Jesus “the stone you builders rejected” from Psalm 118:22. Peter says that salvation can only come from Jesus and there is no one else that can save you.
“Instinctively, man responds: “Isn’t there some way that I can save myself? Isn’t Jesus just for those ones who can’t save themselves?” No. If you are going to be rescued; if you are going to be made right with God, Jesus is going to do it.” (Guzik)
4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.
These Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John. They also realized that they were uneducated and ordinary. The Jewish leaders were astonished but then they realized that they had been with Jesus. The text tells us that the healed man was standing right there with them and this truly shut up the Jewish leaders. They could not argue with the facts.
4:15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
The Jewish leaders ordered Peter and John to step out so they could decide what to do. The discussion sounds more like a political discussion than a religious one. The Jewish leaders were more concerned about how it would look to the people than being amazed by the healing of the lame man. No one that saw the healed lame man could deny that this was truly a miraculous sign.
4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Jewish leaders told Peter and John to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John did not agree to do that. They said they should listen to God and not them (the Jewish leaders). They were going to testify to what they had seen and heard. What threats can you imagine these Jewish leaders would use to scare the disciples? After all, they did get Jesus put to death by crucifixion. They couldn’t punish Peter and John because the people were praising God. This man had been lame for over 40 years.
The Believers Pray
4:23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
When Peter and John told the other believers about their experience, what was their response? They specifically prayed about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. They also prayed for boldness to speak and power to perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. After they prayed the place was shaken.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Dr. Luke tells us about how the Christians in the first church had great unity but he told us that these Christians were unselfish because they shared their possessions.
All things in common: It isn’t accurate to see this as an early form of communism. Communism is not koinonia. “Communism says, ‘What is yours is mine; I’ll take it.’ Koinonia says, ‘What is mine is yours, I’ll share it.’” (LaSor)
Luke even gave an example of such a believer. This believer had two names, Joseph and Barnabas.
Joseph was his name given at birth and Barnabas was given at re-birth. Barnabas was a good example because he was willing to sell land and give the money to the family without any stipulations. This was truly sacrificial giving.
Acts 5 (NIV)
Ananias and Sapphira
5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
At the end of Chapter 4, Barnabas sold his land and gave it to the apostles. Ananias and Sapphira kept back a part of the money from the sale of the land. There wasn’t anything wrong with them keeping a portion of the money. Peter told Ananias that it was ok to give a part but do not lie about it. The issue was they were taking credit for giving all of the money but they were keeping some of it. This was a lie. The ancient Greek word for kept back is nosphizomai, which means “to misappropriate.” The same word was used Titus 2:10a which means to steal. Ananias and Sapphira stole from God. Ananias’ punishment for cheating God was death and God carried out the punishment on Ananias. Their motivation for saying that they were giving all of the money from the sale was to they wanted the image of great generosity or to build their status and their egos.
In trying to deceive God and the apostles, Ananias was showing that he lacked faith, he was vain and a hypocrite.
5:7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
In verses 2 through 6, God judges and deals with Ananias. In these verses, God judges and deals with Sapphira.
“It is a good general rule that secret sins should be dealt with secretly, private sins privately, and only public sins publicly.” (Stott)
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira caused great fear in the Church and to all who heard about it. This is the first time the Greek word ekklēsian is used in the Book of Acts. This word means church. The fear in the church was centered about the power of God and the ugliness of sin. Satan has slipped into our group of believers. The picture of the church here in Acts 5 is different than the one described in Acts 2:42-47. In Acts 2, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and there was a sense of unity and sincere hearts. Here there is a sense of fear and Ananias and Sapphira have brought discord to our group of believers.
The Apostles Heal Many
5:12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
In Chapter 3 and 4 (see Acts 3:11), Peter and John were captured by the Sadducees and Temple guard at Solomon’s Colonnade. Peter and John were commanded, “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Here they are in the same place performing many signs and wonders among the people. Because of their teaching and healing of the sick, the number of believers was increased.
In John 14:12, Jesus says “12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. It is not known for sure whether these signs and wonders are what Jesus was talking about but no other human will ever do what Jesus did. John 14:12 may mean that as a whole over the last 2000 years we may have done more than Jesus did. Despite the persecution that has occurred so far in Acts, the church has continued to grow. The disciples that we see here are different than the apostles we saw in Matthew 17:14-16. In Acts 5:16 the apostles were casting out demons from “those tormented by impure spirits” and in Matthew 17:14-16, the disciples had weak faith and did not have the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles Persecuted
5:17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
The apostles find themselves arrested and put in a public jail. An angel released them and told them to “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life.” God has added some divine humor here because Sadducees do not believe in angels
“Luke alternates between a picture of the church by itself…and a portrait of the church as it exists in its relationship to the world. The second portrait increasingly deals with persecution.” (Boice)
When the Jewish leaders arrived at the Sanhedrin they called for the apostles to be brought to them. They jailers could not bring them because they were gone. The text tells us that they found “The jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.
God does not always send angels to deliver us from trials. The apostles were delivered this time but in the future:
Matthew was beheaded with a sword.
Mark died in Alexandria after being dragged through the streets of the city.
Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.
John died a natural death, but they unsuccessfully tried to boil him in oil.
Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.
James was beheaded in Jerusalem.
James the Less was thrown from a height then beaten with clubs.
Philip was hanged.
Bartholomew was whipped and beaten until
Andrew was crucified and preached at the top of his voice to his persecutors until he died.
Thomas was run through with a spear.
Jude was killed with the arrows of an executioner.
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded – as was Barnabas.
Paul was beheaded in Rome.