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The Book of Acts

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Chapter 4

Religious Leaders Oppose the Truth   (Acts 4:1-32)

"And as they (Peter and John) spake unto thepeople, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came unto them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (Acts 4:1-2).

Just as the Pharisees opposed the atoning work of Christ on the cross, so the Sadducees opposed His resurrection. Satan worked through both groups in an effort to keep the truth from the people.

We notice from the above quotation that the priests, and the captain of the temple joined with the Sadducees in opposition to the message of Peter and John. These two men were preaching "through Jesus the resurrection from the dead" and the rank and file of the people were hearing the testimony. About three thousand heard and believed through Peter's first message on the day of Pentecost and "five thousand" from among the men only believed the testimony of Peter in his second sermon (Acts 2:41 and 4:4).

The fact that the religious leaders were "grieved" over the conversion of the people, and because the Word of truth was getting into the hearts of the multitudes, is evidence enough that they were energized by Satan. It always grieves the heart of Satan for people to receive the truth of God. These religious leaders laid hands on Peter and John "and put them in hold unto the next day" (Acts 4:3). However, they were not imprisoned until after they had delivered their message, because many "heard the Word" and believed (Acts 4:4).

We call special attention to the boldness which God gave unto His servants, Peter and John, as they faced the rulers, and elders, and scribes. "And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, and by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole" (Acts 4:5-10). These higher-ups in the religious realm of Jerusalem, along with all "the kindred of the high priest," were forced to listen to the gospel story as given by Peter and John who had been placed in their midst for questioning. Notice how pointed is the testimony of Peter in verse 10—'Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole." He brings before their minds and hearts the contrast between the treatment which Jesus received at the hands of God. They crucified Him, but God raised Him. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth He was made both Lord and Christ, and through His name the lame man stood before the unbelieving religionist in perfect soundness.

We must admire the courage of this man who had received healing through faith in the risen Christ. Even though the leadership of Israel was opposed to the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, this man took his stand with Peter and John bearing testimony to the power of the risen Savior. Peter and John had preached the truth and "the Lord working with them" confirmed the Word through the healing sign at the Beautiful gate.

After preaching the death and resurrection of Christ, and after proving the power connected with the gospel message, Peter and John began to point out to these leaders of Israel the fact that their rejection of Christ was according to the prophecy of the Psalmist David. In Acts 4:11, Peter quotes Psalms 118:22, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." The builders were brought face to face with their blunder. They had set at nought the very stone that was absolutely essential to make the building strong and enduring. Indeed the building was doomed to crumble and fall without this one stone that had been cast aside.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit emphatically informed these religious Jews that the salvation of Israel could never be obtained except through the name of this One whom they had rejected. He said, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). They were given to understand that if salvation was to come to Israel it was to come through none other name than that of Jesus of Nazareth whom they had crucified.

This same applies to the individual of our own day and age. Truly, there is "none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The Jews, who said 'Away with Him, crucify Him, crucify Him" were only a sample of the entire human race. They did that which any other sample of the fallen race would have done. In other words, God tested the whole human family through this little handful of Jews and what He found wrong with them He knew to be wrong with all mankind. The sins of the world put Him on the cross. The Gentiles are as guilty as the Jews. We are together become unprofitable. Your sins, my sins, the sins of every human being from the first man to the last man made it imperative that Christ should die. He had to be our substitute and take our place in death and hell. Truly, He "hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (I Peter 3:18).

It is true that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. It is also true that there is none among the sinners of the whole world that are excluded from the free salvation offered through the name of Jesus Christ—"And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). There is only one way from earth to glory; but whosoever will may come by that one way. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). The holy boldness of Peter and John, along with the forcefulness of their testimony caused the learned men of the Sanhedrin to marvel—"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

These opposers of the truth were not only made to realize that Peter and John had unusual persuasive power that came from Jesus, but they were also confronted with the unquestionable miracle that had been performed by the Holy Spirit in the name of the risen Christ—"And they beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it" (Acts 4:14). In their own hearts and minds they knew that there was no just grounds for the rejection of the testimony borne by Peter and John. However, in place of facing the issue squarely and accepting the truth as it was, they counseled together and made their plans to prohibit the further spreading of this precious truth among the people.

Notice the tactics of Satan manifested through the doings of these men who were supposed to be the spiritual advisors of the multitudes—"But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hash been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people; for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was skewed" (Acts 4:15-22).

With Their Own Company

Beginning with Acts 4:23, we see Peter and John returning "to their own company". It must have been refreshing to these battling soldiers of the cross to be out of the hands of those proud, hypocritical dignitaries and back in the fellowship of their own blood bought company. When the little group of believers heard the report of Peter and John they were immediately moved to prayer. "With one accord", they said—"Lord Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered against the Lord and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4:24-30).

Following this scriptural prayer the little group of believers experienced an infilling of the Holy Spirit which amply prepared them for the trials that were to follow—"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31).

The socialist movement as set forth in Acts 4:32-37 is entirely practical under the administration of the kingdom of heaven on earth, but not so under the present "mystery" dispensation of grace. Even though "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul", yet their undertaking in the direction of a kingdom socialism, prior to the setting up of the kingdom, was doomed to failure. This explains why the Christians at Antioch had to send relief to the brethren in Jerusalem according to Acts 11:29.

Such a plan of living as these Jerusalem saints attempted can not be practiced until Satan is in the "bottomless pit" as is predicted in Revelation 20:1-2, and until Christ is on the throne, judging "the poor" and reproving "with equity for the meek of the earth" as is prophesied by Isaiah in chapter 11, verses 1-9. Then, and not until then will distribution be made unto every man according as he has need.


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