"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
Part 11 - Arrested for Preaching
(Acts 4:1…3, NKJV)
“As they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees
came upon them…And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody
until the next day, for it was already evening.”
Peter was in “mid-sermon” when the Jewish religious authorities showed up to stop the preaching. Luke described the scene by writing, “As they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them” (Acts 4:1, NKJV). It was evidently no coincidence that “the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees” showed up when Peter had been preaching for only a few minutes. They obviously had spies assigned to monitor the activities of the apostles and report to them what they were doing.
The devil and his allies will go to great lengths to stop the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Peter may have had this incident in mind when years later he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8, NKJV).
The only thing they could think of to do to stop these renegade Christians was to arrest and jail them. Luke wrote, “They laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening” (Acts 4:3, NKJV). They would have immediately tried them in an attempt to find grounds to have them executed, but Jewish law forbid holding capital trials after dark, so “they…put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.”
II. Peter Preached the Resurrection
It should come as no surprise that the issue that agitated the Jewish religious leaders was not simply that the apostles were preaching, but that they were preaching that Jesus was raised from death and that His resurrection offers believers the hope of resurrection as well. Luke described them as “Being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2, NKJV).
You see, if Jesus was actually raised from death, then the same Holy Spirit that raised Him from death can raise all believers from death as well. Paul explained this logical truth when he wrote, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11, NKJV).
The hope of the resurrection has the capacity to free God’s people from the fear of death. After all, on the other side of death is the resurrection, and on the other side of the resurrection things are infinitely better than on this side of it. That’s why Paul wrote, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NKJV). The Greek word Paul used that is translated “gain” in this verse literally means “a promotion.” If the resurrection is a reality, then “death is a promotion.” It’s hard to stop somebody who believes that. It’s hard to stop somebody who isn’t afraid to die because they view death as a promotion! That’s why the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Devil, and all of his demons couldn’t stop the explosive growth of the early church. They weren’t afraid to die for the cause, because they believed, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11b, NKJV).
Well, let’s get back to the story. When the sun came up the next morning the religious leaders called the Sanhedrin Court into session. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what power or by what name have you done this?’” (Acts 4:5-7, NKJV).
No doubt, the judges of Israel were hoping that Peter and John would give in to the fear of being executed for preaching that through Jesus all believers have the hope of resurrection. So they asked pointedly, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7b, NKJV).
Peter’s response stands in history as one of the greatest testimonies of the resurrection of Jesus ever given. He said, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:8b-10, NKJV).
They must have been enraged. Their plan wasn’t working. Instead of caving in and backing down from preaching about Jesus’ resurrection, Peter again used the healing of the crippled beggar as proof of Jesus’ resurrection...right in the presence of the judges who sat on the highest court in the land. You see, in order to heal the crippled man, Jesus had to be alive after His crucifixion! That’s the point Peter was making when he said, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10b, NKJV).
What a scene that must have been! They all knew that the beggar had been crippled from birth. Luke revealed that fact when he described him as “A certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple” (Acts 3:2, NKJV). Yet now after forty-plus years, he was able to stand, walk, and even leap. As Peter so eloquently put it, “This man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10b, NKJV).
After offering undeniable proof of the resurrection of Jesus to the highest court of the land, Peter decided to make a profound evangelistic statement. He said to the power-brokers of the nation, “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12, NKJV).
It was obviously clear to Peter that in light of the overwhelming evidence in favor of the resurrection of Jesus, the only sane response is to believe and be saved! That’s why he said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).
Peter was rather dogmatic and exclusive in his view of how to be saved. They would either be saved by faith in the name of Jesus or they wouldn’t be saved at all! That’s what he meant when he said, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12b, NKJV).
I’ve often wondered if Peter was thinking about what he had heard Jesus say a few years earlier when he made that statement. Jesus had said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, NKJV).
Part 12 - Opposition to the Name of Jesus
(Acts 4:18, NKJV)
“They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”
Any time God’s people begin to accomplish the supernatural “in the name of Jesus,” Satan gets nervous and launches an attack. That was exactly the case in the aftermath of Peter’s healing of the crippled beggar. Let’s review Luke’s account of the miracle. He wrote, “Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8, NKJV). Notice, it was “in the name of Jesus” that Peter commanded the crippled beggar to “rise up and walk.”
When Israel’s Sanhedrin Court realized that they couldn’t intimidate Peter and John into ceasing their preaching about Jesus’ resurrection, they used the full authority of their position of judges on the court to give the apostles a “cease and desist order.” Luke recorded the scene when he wrote, “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18, NKJV).
In order to fully appreciate why the Jewish religious leaders reacted to this miraculous healing of the crippled beggar by forbidding the apostles to speak or to teach “in the name of Jesus,” we need to understand what it meant in first-century Palestine to do something “in the name of” someone.
Doing anything “in someone’s name” implied three significant facts:
The Jewish religious leaders certainly didn’t want the Jewish people to believe that Jesus was really responsible for the miraculous healing of the crippled beggar. After all, that would imply that He really was resurrected from death. It would also imply that He had supernatural power. It would also imply that he had undeniable spiritual authority. They didn’t want to take any chances that the actions of the apostles would lead more people to believe these things about Jesus, so “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18, NKJV).
II. The High Court’s Decision
The high court’s decision was truly unbelievable. Peter had just given the most profound defense of the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus ever given. He had said, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:11, NKJV).
The judges were amazed that such power language could come from the lips of men who were unskilled and uneducated. Luke wrote, “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled” (Acts 4:13a, NKJV).
They must have realized that the influence of Jesus upon them was what enabled them to speak with such boldness. Luke wrote, “They realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13b, NKJV). A penetrating question we need to ask ourselves is: “When others hear us speak, do they become aware that we have ‘been with Jesus’?”
At this point the judges on the court found themselves in quite a dilemma: “What shall we do to these men?” (Acts 4:16a, NKJV). Luke described their uncomfortable situation when he wrote, “Seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 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, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it’” (Acts 4:14-16, NKJV).
The judges desperately wanted to discredit Peter’s defense of the resurrection of Jesus, but there stood the proof. Luke wrote, “Seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:14, NKJV).
At that point the judges decided to hold a private conference in order to determine what to do about these renegade apostles. You can feel their frustration as you read Luke’s record of their meeting. He wrote, “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, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it’” (Acts 4:15-16, NKJV). They obviously wanted to deny it, but they just couldn’t. The evidence in favor of the miracle was standing right out there in the courtroom!
So in desperation they did the only thing they thought they could do—issue a court order that the apostles stop saying or doing anything “in Jesus name.” Luke described these pitiful moments in the history of Israel’s Sanhedrin Court when he wrote, “So that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name” (Acts 4:17, NKJV). They realized they couldn’t disprove what had already happened, but they certainly didn’t want anything like that to happen again—at least not “in Jesus name.”
The only thing for the judges left to do not was to implement their decision. Luke described their action when he wrote, “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18, NKJV).
Imagine how enraged these judges must have been when their latest attempt at intimidation failed to achieve their desired results. You see, when you don’t fear death, you can’t be intimidated; and when you can’t be intimidated, you won’t be manipulated! That’s why Peter and John were able to courageously reply, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19b-20, NKJV). What do you do with a couple of guys like that?
They did the only thing they could do. They threatened them one more time and then released them. Luke wrote, “When they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed” (Acts 4:21-22, NKJV).
A more relevant question is: “What did the apostles do when surrounded by such dire circumstances?” Then answer is, “They prayed!” They didn’t whine. They didn’t complain. They didn’t retaliate. They prayed! Let’s read what Luke wrote: “And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:23-30, NKJV). What a prayer!
They asked Jesus to give them the courage to do exactly what the religious leaders had forbidden them to do. They prayed, “Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29b-30, NKJV).
God answered their prayer in an immediate and dramatic way. Luke wrote, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31, NKJV). God sent an earthquake, filled them with His Spirit which enabled them to speak the word of God with boldness. What a prayer meeting that must have been!
Part 13 - The Indispensable Power of Unity
(Acts 4:32a, NKJV)
“The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.”
In the aftermath of Peter’s healing of the crippled beggar, his sermon to the crowd of onlookers, his testimony to the Sanhedrin—Israel’s high court, and the resulting prayer meeting, the church experienced a phenomenal sense of unity. Luke described what happened when he wrote, “The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32a, NKJV).
To be “of one heart and one soul” means “to share a deep relational bond that unites people spiritually and emotionally.” Paul urged the believers at Rome to pursue this level of relational bonding when he wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NKJV).
The Biblical concept of “the body of Christ” strongly indicates that members of the church should be pursuing this level of relational bonding with one another. That’s what Paul was communicating when he wrote, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:26, NKJV). When the church is “of one heart and one soul,” then whatever affects one member affects all the members!
This is the kind of unity the Jerusalem Church was experiencing when the Holy Spirit showed up at church for the first time. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1…4, NKJV). Obviously, the Holy Spirit will be present and working when this level of unity exists among believers.
II. The Proof
The proof of the kind of unity the Jerusalem Christians experienced was found in how they managed their possessions and how they responded to one another. Luke wrote, “Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common… Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Acts 4:32b…34-35, NKJV).
The pursuit of this “one heart and one soul” unity requires a radical shift in how we view our possessions. We must transfer ownership of everything we possess to God. When we do, He can then direct us to liquidate His assets any time He chooses and use them to meet the needs of His people as He directs. That must have been happening among the believers at the Jerusalem Church, because Luke wrote, “Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32b, NKJV).
God must have been directing the liquidation of His assets to meet the needs of His people, because “All who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Acts 4:34b-35, NKJV).
It must also be pointed out that those who experience this “one heart and one soul” unity, learn to trust their spiritual leaders. Notice what these believers did with the money from the sale of their property. Luke explained that these believers “Brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Acts 4:35b, NKJV). They evidently trusted the apostles—their leaders—to manage God’s money according to God’s will!
Luke concluded this chapter by recording a real-life, flesh-and-blood example of a man who was living out the kind of unity that was described as being “of one heart and one soul” with other believers. He wrote, “Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37, NKJV). This is the same “Barnabas” who later became Paul’s partner on his first missionary journey.
III. The Question that Demands an Answer
There is a haunting question that demands an answer when we look at the content of the last lines of Acts chapter five: “Why did they do it?” What made those early Christians behave like that? It’s not natural to do what they did. Everything the world teaches us, both in our day and in theirs, moves people in the opposite direction—toward selfishness, not toward sacrificial generosity. There is nothing in mankind by nature that would cause anyone to do what these first-century believers did. So why did they do it?
Let’s look to Scripture for the answer! Do you remember the story of the time when a rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life? The incident was recorded by Matthew when he wrote, “Behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16, NKJV).
Jesus never really answered the man’s question regarding how to receive eternal life. Instead, He zeroed in on the fact that the man actually thought he was so spiritually developed that he had kept all of the Ten Commandments. So Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21, NKJV). Look at the five verbs in this verse: “Go…sell…give…come … follow.” Most of us are relatively comfortable with the last two—“Come…follow”—but we are not at all comfortable with the first three. We’re not comfortable with connecting following Jesus with selling our possessions and giving the money to the poor. It seems just a little too radical.
The end of the story is really quite sad. Matthew wrote, “When the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22, NKJV). It is apparent that the way this young man viewed his possessions prevented him from following Jesus. You see, in Jesus’ story the young man didn’t follow Jesus. Instead, “he went away” because “he had great possessions.”
Let’s look quickly at a section of Luke chapter 12. Jesus is preaching “The Sermon on the Mount,” when He begins to explain about God’s desire and His ability to care for those who are actively seeking to advance His kingdom. Luke wrote, “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:27-31, NIV).
Jesus then gave His disciples a remarkable application point based on what He had just taught them. He said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, NIV). But the question is: “Don’t be afraid of what?” And the answer is: “Don’t be afraid to ‘seek his kingdom.’”
Jesus then gave them an action point, which when carried out would prove that they weren’t afraid to “seek his kingdom.” He said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33a, NIV). Ouch! There it is again—“Sell…and give to the poor.”
What does all this mean? I suggest that Jesus is teaching us that there is an intimate connection between our possessions, the way we respond to people in need, and our ability to follow Him—to “seek his kingdom.”
That’s not a comfortable thought for most of us because we prefer a compartmentalized faith where we can keep and enjoy our possessions, not worry about anyone else, and still be a good follower of Jesus. But He seems to be saying that it doesn’t work that way.
I wanted us to review Matthew chapter 19 and Luke chapter 12 in this lesson, because I think those two sections of Scripture can help us understand why those first-century Christians did what they did in Acts chapter 4. Luke wrote, “All who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Acts 4:34b-35, NKJV).
On at least two occasions Jesus said for His followers to do exactly that:
Evidently the Jerusalem Christians took the words of Jesus seriously and literally. That’s why they did what they did. And in the process, they demonstrated an incredible level of unity. Luke wrote, “The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32a, NKJV). They enjoyed a relational bond that united them emotionally and spiritually.
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.