Lesson 11 - Chapter 4:1-12

Lesson 11 - Chapter 4:1-12

Lesson for July 10, 2016

The Book of Acts

Chapter 4:1-12


“As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’

As they were speaking to the people means the message had been completed and they were explaining to various people who were interested with regard to the message they heard. They are now answering questions about the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the meantime, the religious leaders had been alerted, and during the time that Peter was preaching they were getting organized. The Sadducees were the aristocrats of the land, they were politically very conservative, but theologically they were rationalists and far from conservative. They objected to the type of thing being taught because they felt it infringed upon their rights as leaders in the land. They enjoyed a rulership which even the Roman Empire did not hinder and therefore they were ready to remove anyone who spoke about the Lord Jesus Christ. Allied with them were the priests, and in addition to that they had been able to gather up the captain of the temple. There were actually about 30 captains in the temple and each one rotated in patrolling it. The captain was under the command of the Sadducees as they approached this large crowd. So they came upon Peter and John as they were answering questions and teaching.

Being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead exposed the one thing that the Sadducees could not stand because they did not believe in life after death and therefore did not believe in any type of resurrection. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening because they could not legally hold trials at night (though they held a trial for Jesus at night). When Jesus was betrayed He was taken before Annas and Caiaphas. (Matthew 26; Mark 14; John 18) The trial of Jesus before Annas was entirely illegal. It was held at night, contrary to Jewish law; no indictment was prepared; no witnesses were heard; no counsel or defense attorney was provided for the defendant - all these things were required by Jewish law. (Deuteronomy 19:15-21) Furthermore, Annas was no longer a high priest and could not legally sit as a judge. (cf., The Life of Christ Lesson 70) So we see with what kind of men Peter and John are going to be dealing.

Verse 4 was the result of Peter’s sermon: “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” This means that not all who heard believed, which indicates a very large crowd. The word “men” indicates that only the men were known, but there were actually women and children so that it is possible that there were as many as seven thousand plus who believed.

In verse 5 we have a very corrupt religious syndicate headquartered in Jerusalem, which was comparable to the mafia of modern times. It existed in southern Palestine and it made vast amounts of money through every form of graft and theft. Gangs of bandits lived in the mountainous areas and elsewhere between Arabia and Syria which raided the caravans going to Gaza and Egypt. The head of this syndicate was a man by the name of Annas who was the former Jewish high priest still living in Jerusalem. All of these bandits sent a percentage in to Annas because he arranged for all the Roman soldiers to look the other way. All the bribing of the Roman centurions, and so on, was carried out in Jerusalem. Then the greatest racket of all was the religion in the temple. The money changers were making a fantastic amount of money by selling animal sacrifices at exorbitant rates. Annas was one of the greatest con artists of all time when it came to religion. Many of the members of the Sanhedrin, but not all, were being paid a percentage. The Sanhedrin was made up of three parts. There were twenty-four rulers or chief priests—religious rulers. There were also twenty-four elders who were strictly political rulers. Then there were twenty-two scribes—the theologians. This made up the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court in the land, whose number totalled seventy.

Two of the leaders from among the Sanhedrin are also listed as being part of this group of corrupt leaders - John and Alexander (certain kindred of the high priest). All of these were involved in the gangster syndicate. This was one of the wealthiest and most successful syndicates of all time. They were holding a meeting because for the first time there was some real danger to their syndicate, and the danger had come from the preaching of the Gospel.

Remember that this was a mock trial being controlled by the religious syndicate, and they would not let anyone operate in the temple unless they were connected with them. This meant that most of the priests were under the control of the syndicate. Therefore they were trying to find out who gave Peter and John the authority to stand up and speak, because they weren’t in the syndicate. That’s why this wording is so unusual. In other words, “Do you have permission to preach?” They weren’t in the syndicate and, as a matter of fact, they were stirring up trouble for the syndicate by preaching the Gospel.

Verses 8-12, Peter’s defense before the religious leaders.

Verse 8 says, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Notice that in making his defense Peter was defending himself as God would have him do it. He was not preaching this time; he was defending himself, but doing so in the manner in which the Lord would have him do it. He was in fellowship and he was doing the will of God. So, he was addressing himself now to the members of the Sanhedrin. He began his defense by saying something that would have been embarrassing to the court. Perhaps this was why Peter and John actually got off with just a warning. He put the emphasis on the healing rather than on his message. If we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man uses “if” as a first class condition meaning if and it’s true). So Peter took the position that they were being tried for doing a good deed. How could the religious leaders punish them for doing a good deed?

Verse 11 – Now Peter quotes from Psalm 118:22 which is the prophecy about Messiah, that the stone which is rejected by the builders—the rulers of Israel—the same will be the cornerstone. The rulers of Israel had been charged with building a “spiritual building.” And, they were to build this building on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. They, of course, failed to do this and instead of building a spiritual structure with Christ as the cornerstone of the building, they rejected Him and built a building from religion and tradition. The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. (Job 38:6, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 19:13, Isaiah 28:16, Jeremiah 51:26, Zechariah 10:4) and also six citations in the New Testament (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20 and I Peter 2:7) and Isaiah 28:16 is quoted in I Peter 2:6. The book of Ephesians makes clear that Jesus is the cornerstone of our spiritual building. (Ephesians 2:20)

Verse 12 – Peter makes it very clear that there is only one way of salvation, and that they had rejected that one way. It is God’s will for every person to enter into His plan by faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The issue is not your sinfulness or your past failures, because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin on the Cross. Therefore, the issue is whether or not you will accept the free gift of eternal life by faith. Faith, belief and trust are synonymous terms, which mean that you are relying on Christ for your salvation and not on yourself or your good deeds. According to the Bible, faith is the only requirement for eternal life.

Contrary to popular belief, your personal sins do not condemn you. When a baby is born, he is born with Adam’s original sin and a sin nature, which condemn him to spiritual death (separation from God). (Romans 5:12, 6:6, 7:5, 18) Our sins were dealt with at the Cross, when Jesus was judged by God for the sins of the entire human race (past, present and future).

After salvation, the sin nature continues to reside in the body and seeks to control the believer’s thoughts and actions. Everyone has an area of weakness and an area of strength with regard to sin. The area of weakness produces mental attitude sins (jealousy, hatred, etc.), sins of the tongue (gossip, maligning, etc.) and overt sins (murder, stealing, etc.). The area of strength produces human good (good deeds, acts of kindness, etc.). When human good is substituted for divine production it fails to meet God’s standard for the believer. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5)

It is often the sins or the bad behavior of a believer that makes him think he has somehow lost His salvation and no longer has a relationship with God. Personal sin after salvation does cut off our fellowship with God, but no amount of bad behavior can cause a believer to lose his salvation. The reason that this is true is that keeping your salvation does not depend on you, it depends on God. (John 10:29)

At salvation God creates a human spirit within you so that you can understand spiritual truth. The result is that a battle within your soul begins. The battle is to determine who will control your thinking and your actions. God, of course wants to be the one Who is in control, but the believer makes the ultimate choice. God in His grace gives each of us the Holy Spirit to indwell us so that we have the power to “say no” to the sin nature and “say yes” to God.

When a believer does fail and commits a sin he loses his fellowship with God and the control of God the Holy Spirit. However, by admitting our sins to God we are forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him. We are also, once again, controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is God’s system for recovery when we fail, but He has also provided a system that helps us resist the temptation to sin. This system is learning, believing and applying the teachings of God’s Word, the Bible. Spiritual growth is the key to understanding God’s plan for us. As we grow, we learn about God’s character: His love for us, His grace toward us, His truth, His power, His wisdom and His justice, which increases our capacity for life, love, Christian service, happiness and blessing. (II Peter 3:18; I John 1:8-10)

Every believer is guaranteed eternal life. This means that you will live forever with God in a state of perfect happiness and contentment without the imperfections and the influence of the sin nature (which will be gone). As a believer, you will receive a resurrection body like that of Christ. (I Corinthians 15:35-45; II Corinthians 5:8; I Peter 1:4-5; Revelation 21:4)

Christ is preparing a place for each believer. The Bible describes these places as mansions and Heaven as a place with streets of gold, walls of precious stones and gates of pearl. Believers will also be given great rewards by Jesus Christ, called “crowns.” These “crowns” are based on the believer’s execution of God’s plan and whether your deeds qualify as divine good (deeds motivated and performed under the control of the Holy Spirit). However, all believers will be in a state of perfect happiness for all eternity.(I Corinthians 3:11-13)

What does God want for everyone? First, He wants us all to believe to trust Jesus Christ as Savior. Second, He wants us all to fulfill His plan by learning, believing and applying His Word. Third, He wants to bless us with rewards that are beyond our imagination. The Christian’s purpose should be to glorify God by allowing Him to bless us with peace, happiness and contentment as we increase our capacity to receive these blessings from knowledge of His Word. (John 3:16; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:3-6)