Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Acts, Chapter 4

Have you ever met people in your life that just don't seem to be connected with reality in any way? That is what we see today a bit in Acts Chapter 4. In chapter 3 we see that Peter used the power of the Holy Spirit to heal a crippled beggar in front of the temple. This is a great miracle, one that can only be wrought by God. I think we can all agree that if someone were to do this today we would all be impressed. Even the most skeptical wouldn't take the route that the Sadducees took toward this miracle. Did they praise God as the crippled man did? Did they honor God in his greatness and mercy? No, they chose to call Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and put them in jail.

"8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then 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." – Acts 4:8-10

It would be one thing if Peter were claiming credit himself for this miracle. Peter instead deflected the glory to Christ, in Whom this miracle occurred. It is important to know the role that history and the selfish nature of man played in this pseudo-trial. The Sanhedrin did not want the glory deflected on to Christ because then it would make individual people responsible for their own atonement. Christ's sacrifice placed all the power of not only the Holy Spirit, but the ability to choose salvation for themselves. No longer would the Sanhedrin need to live in the temple and offer sacrifices for the atonement of the people. Basically, if the Christ story were true they would be out of jobs and stripped of the power they held. Instead of accepting Christ's sacrifice for themselves they instead chose to persecute the alleged myth of His resurrection. As we saw in verse four the story of the healing had already converted another 5,000 people, so the Sanhedrin felt they must do something about it.

"16"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." 18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." – Acts 4:16-18

As usual though, men's plans to stop the spread of the gospel were no match for God's plans. I just love how Peter and John never once considered following this mandate. The Sanhedrin acknowledged that a miracle had been performed, and they had no idea how to punish Peter and John because they were being loved by the people for what was being done. A similar incident occurred in John 9 when Jesus healed a blind man and the Sanhedrin questioned him. The blind man didn't care how it happened, it just praised God that he could see. So, of course, the Pharisees insulted and mocked him. Here the Sanhedrin were at a loss as to how they could punish someone for this miracle.

"29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." – Acts 4:29-30

We see here that Peter and John respond to the mandate that they not speak in the name of Jesus by speaking in the name of Jesus. Once again people were filled with the Holy Spirit as a result of this and God triumphed over the efforts of misguided men to stomp out the early church. This is really the first early challenge to the authority of the early church after the successes of the day of Pentecost and the first anointing of the Holy Spirit. The early church passed it easily and even grow out of it, setting the stage for further persecution because the rulers of the day saw that it was not a fad that was going to die out.


  1. How does the detached reality of the Sanhedrin show itself today?
  2. How would you stand in proclaiming your faith if told not to?
  3. Why is it important that the Holy Spirit came over the early church a second time if it was already there?

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