The work of Jesus’ apostles was popular at first, but good can be tolerated only so long. Evil will resist. The Jewish temple leadership would be the first to resist. They undoubtedly hoped that the wave of activity by Jesus’ disciples would ebb. But the truth must be told. The gospel must be preached. Jesus lives and reigns! So Peter and John preached Jesus and the resurrection.
The Sadducees were the Jewish sect that controlled temple activities. The Romans allowed the Jews to police the temple and to judge matters of religion in Jerusalem, as long as they did not contradict Rome. The Sadducees did not believe in Jesus and did not believe in the resurrection, angels, or spirits (Acts 23:7). Since the resurrection is front and center in the gospel story, the Sadducees would not allow it. They arrested Peter and John. But notice verse 4— “Many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). This number did not include women and younger people. The church multiplied! Summary statements of the growth of the church will continue throughout the book of Acts.
The unbelieving Jewish aristocracy met to judge Peter and John. Speaking with bravery and with the promised Holy Spirit as guide, Peter defended proclaiming the faith. Are you asking if we healed a man by the power of Jesus? You bet we did! Then he quoted Psalm 118:22. Jesus did not fit into the plan of men, but he was the capstone in God’s plan for the church. The capstone or cornerstone is the main building block. Nothing else works without it. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Peter and John were not rabbinical students. They were not trained in the ways of the priests and the Sadducees. Their faith and information came from Jesus! Seeing the healed man standing before them, the Jewish leaders could not deny that a great thing had been done. Putting the apostles aside from the Sanhedrin or Jewish Supreme Court, they decided to simply demand that the apostles stop speaking in Jesus’ name. Peter’s response is classic: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
Don’t you love the church’s response to the threat? They met for prayer. Why do unbelievers see such a threat in Jesus? While they may hurt us physically, they cannot prevent the spread of the truth (Matt. 10:28). Ours is a warfare of ideals, seeking to change minds and save souls (2 Cor. 10:3-5). When the place shook by the power of the Spirit it was clear the cause would go on. It still does. Let us speak boldly for Jesus.
The display of Christian generosity is a beautiful demonstration of the love Jesus teaches. It is not a call for a promised standard of living. Those who have plenty must help those in genuine need (1 John 3:17). Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus was a man of great generosity. He was called Barnabas, or Son of Encouragement by the apostles. Be a Barnabas!
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.