Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chapters 4 to 6
Chapter: Acts 4
Passage: Acts 4:1-8
A. Find Out:
1. Who next arrived? v.1
2. Why were they upset & what did they do? v.2,3
3. But what happened nevertheless? v.4
4. Who met when? v.5,6
5. What question did they ask? v.7
6. How did Peter respond? v.8
While Peter is still speaking to the crowd outside the temple, the temple authorities come out to see what is going on. Now one of the groups who came out were the Sadducees, the ruling class of wealthy aristocrats who believed that the Messiah had already come previously and who denied the possibility of resurrection from the dead. Therefore when they heard what was being preached they became upset and presumably incited the temple guard to arrest Peter and John for causing trouble on the temple steps. Some time has passed and evening (at least 6.00pm ) has come so the apostles are locked up for the night. That is the negative side of this story that we might be tempted to major on, but it's only half the story!
First, Luke tells us that all this didn't stop the Holy Spirit convicting many more people and bringing them into the kingdom. Man may try to stop the Gospel but God will not be stopped. Second, Luke reports that when Peter came to defend their actions next morning, he was filled with the Spirit as he went to speak. Again the Lord is there and enables His man to speak with power and authority. Remember in Genesis 39:2,3 & 20,21 the Lord was with Joseph in slavery and in prison, and that to bless him. Circumstances can't keep the Lord out!
1. Opposition WILL come, but the Lord will be there with you!
2. The enemy will not stop the Lord moving and will not stop the Lord
providing for you when it's needed. Hallelujah!
A. Find Out:
1. What empowers Peter to speak? v.8
2. On what does he first focus? v.9
3. On what basis does Peter say the cripple was healed? v.10a
4. How does Peter describe Jesus? v.10b,11
5. What incredible truth does he dare to proclaim? v.12
6. What 3 things did the rulers realise & what did they feel? v.13
We have some very important verses to note here. First the context of them. Peter and John, after a night in prison, are brought before the Sanhedrin to account for what went on the previous day. Peter makes his defence and the rulers realise they have something more on their hands than they first thought. Now let's go on to the significance of these verses.
First, we must note what prompts Peter to speak like he does: it is the Holy Spirit. Throughout the whole Bible when someone was filled with the Spirit they did things they were not naturally able to do. Peter now speaks out with a boldness and a clarity that makes the Sanhedrin sit up and listen and they realise that these are just rough fishermen who are speaking out like spiritual leaders. It is important to realise that Peter is speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.
Why? Because of the things he dares to say. He starts by focusing on Jesus and the resurrection and states that Jesus was the fulfilment of prophecy spoken long past. Then he makes the most audacious of claims, which today across the world is still being challenged: Salvation comes ONLY through Jesus Christ and through NO other means. In a day when other religions are vocal and strident we MUST hold onto this truth: Jesus Christ is God's ONLY means of salvation!
1. When God inspires, we need to listen!
2. God declared that Jesus was the ONLY way of salvation!
A. Find Out:
1. What was the intention of these religious leaders? v.17
2. Yet what was their quandary? v.14,16
3. What did they do? v.15
4. What did they instruct? v.18
5. What was Peter's response? v.19,20
6. What was the outcome and why? v.21,22
The Sanhedrin are the religious establishment of the day They want peace and quiet to carry on their day to day religious existence, and now the peace has been disturbed by these two men preaching about Jesus. It is natural (but wrong!) that they should want to silence them. The only problem is that the preaching is linked to a clear and indisputable miracle and the healed man is standing before them. Even worse, the whole city seems to have heard about it and are praising God over it. This single miracle has the entire city talking. What can they do?
After discussion they simply decide to instruct the apostles to stop preaching in Jesus' name, and they trust to their authority to ensure that this happens. At this point they are confronted with impossible logic from Peter: who do we obey, you or God? It is clear this miracle was from God and that Jesus' name was linked to it, so we cannot go against God. All the Sanhedrin can do is issue further threats, but they know they are beaten.
The point at issue here is one that crops up again and again in history: does a Christian obey the authorities or God? The answer must always be, God. This should only occur when the authorities specifically oppose God, when laws specifically run counter to God's decreed laws, but in those instances civil disobedience becomes a reality for us.
A. Find Out:
1. What did Peter & John then do and with what response? v.23,24a
2. How did they first address the Lord? v.24b
3. Of what do they remind the Lord? v.25,26
4. How do they apply that to present circumstances v.27
5. But what did they recognise and what do they ask? v.28-30
6. What then happened? v.31
A passage of many examples for us to follow. Example number one: when under pressure, pray! When the church heard what had been happening they immediately turned to the Lord in prayer.
Example number two: put everything in perspective! They declared in prayer that the Lord was sovereign, Lord over everything. They understood that He had said that rulers would rebel against Him but that only made Him laugh.
Example number three: they saw their present circumstances in the light of this! They saw that the rulers rejecting Jesus had been just that, and that it fitted in with God's plan, and that now the rulers were still opposing the Lord by their threats against the church.
Example number four: they asked that the Lord would enable them to continue to be the body of Christ in the world today, doing the same things Jesus had done, i.e. they wanted help to continue to be the witnesses Jesus had said they should be.
Finally note that the Lord hears and responds to their praying: there is a shaking and they are all filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to speak out boldly. In other words there was an immediate answer to their prayer!
1. If in doubt - pray! Under stress - pray! Under pressure - pray!
2. In prayer put everything in perspective and look to be a servant of God
A. Find Out:
1. What was the first sign of unity? v.32a
2. How did that work out in practice? v.32b
3. What did the apostles do? v.33
4. Who was not among them? 34a
5. Why? v.34b,35
6. What had been an example of this? v.36,37
We have just seen the church at prayer and now we see a description of its daily life together which can to be summed up in the one word, unity! In 2:42 -47 we had the first summary of their life together and now we have a repeat of that which emphasises the caring aspect of that unity. There is first a unity of heart and mind. That is most important. This was not a unity imposed by the apostles, this was something that they all wanted. This was part of the package as the Holy Spirit moved on them.
Next it is a unity of action. They cared for each other in the most practical way possible: they provided for one another by giving or providing what was needed so that no one was left in need. But it didn't stop there. Sometimes (and note that it wasn't all the time - it wasn't something forced or required) they even sold unwanted property to provide for those who were in need.
We should note that this isn't a form of communism, there was no levelling everyone down to the same level or requiring that no one be rich. It was simply that when they saw a need they met it, and those who could afford to do it even sometimes sold property to provide additional funds for those who needed it. Note it wasn't to provide for those who were simply less well off, but those who needed it.
1. Caring and provision for the needy starts within the church.
2. Do we have a freedom of giving today that enables some to even sell
what they have to provide for those in need.
A. Find Out:
1. What had this couple done? v.1,2
2. What did Peter say had happened? v.3
3. What more did he say they had done? v.4
4. What happened to Ananias? 5,6
5. What did Peter ask Sapphira & what was her reply? v.7,8
6. What happened as a consequence? v.9-11
We have noted previously that it was the practice of the early church to care for one another and provide for the needy, even of selling personal property to provide funds for that purpose. Now there seems to have been no pressure to do that and it seems to have been an entirely spontaneous thing. Ananias and Sapphira decide to do the same thing but instead they hold back part of the proceeds. Now we may be wrong but that does not seem to be the problem. The problem that is identified is that they lied and misrepresented what they had done, making out that this was the full price obtained.
When Ananias presents it, the Holy Spirit gives Peter the knowledge of what has happened and as he confronts Ananias with it, Ananias drops dead. The same thing later happens to Sapphira who also lies about the money. God has moved sovereignly and seriously!
What was it that made this couple do this? It may be that they had good intentions of helping the needy but their faith failed at the last minute and they held onto some of their money. It may be that they wanted to appear good by giving to the needy but again their faith wasn't complete. Whatever it was the Lord showed that He would not accept this in His early church !
1. God looks for generosity in us.
2. Lying IS a sin.
A. Find Out:
1. Who was doing what? v.12
2. What was their standing and yet what happened? v.13
3. Yet what was still happening? v.14
4. What was happening when they went around Jerusalem ? v.15
5. Who came from where? v.16a
6. And what happened? v.16b
Again Luke tells us about the amazing things that the apostles were doing (as in 2:43 and 4:33 ) by the power given by the Lord. It seems to be part of the apostolic office to have equipping with power and that used for the glory of God. We have just seen that power exercised in the previous passage relating to Ananias and Sapphira. It may be that dimension of power that brought a sense of awesome fear, so that people did not just turn up to listen when the church was gathering, because they recognised that the awesome holiness of God was there!
Yet people kept coming to the Lord! How? Well Luke goes on to explain. The power of the Lord for healing was go great that wherever Peter went the word also went and crowds turned out to get healed. In fact they came from all the towns around as they heard what was happening. Now it seems fairly obvious, that for them to believe in the Lord they also had to hear the Gospel preached, and we can assume that with the healing Peter also brought the message as Luke showed in chapter 3. Thus more and more people were saved and added to the church. It was happening just as it had previously happened with Jesus. Crowds came to be healed and when they had been healed they heard the message and believed: this was a message that worked!
1. God used power and word together to add to His church.
2. Do we let Him use both together or does our unbelief hinder Him?
A. Find Out:
1. Who responded how and did what? v.17,18
2. But what did the Lord do and say? v.19,20
3. So where did the apostles go to do what? v.21a
4. Meanwhile what was happening? v.21b
5. What confusion followed and how was it resolved? v.22-25
6. So what did they do, how did they do it and why? v.26
For a second time Peter is in prison (see Acts 4:3) and again it is the activity of the high priest, the temple guards and the Sadducees who bring this about. It is the “power people” who take action. In some ways this is both a sad but also an hilarious incident.
It is first sad because we have the supposed religious leaders clearly acting against God. The apostles are simply healing and teaching and doing good wherever they go, and what they are doing MUST be the power of God. You cannot attribute it to anyone else! The warning is obvious! Where there is religious orthodoxy and tradition there is always a danger of rejecting the present work of God. Fear and jealousy so easily rise up in the spiritually power-less, when the spiritually power-full are moving. May we be careful not to oppose the work of God.
But then there is an hilarious aspect to this. The religious establishment seek to take strong action to quell what they see as a threat and lock up the apostles. So God quietly takes counter measures and simply releases His men and tells them to carry on what they are doing. In the meantime the establishment carries on in blissful ignorance and then in confusion. The Lord will not be put off by a few silly religious men and simply carries on about His business!
1. “Religion” opposes the work of God. Beware!
2. God will not be stopped by the puny activities of men!
A. Find Out:
1. With what did they charge the apostles? v.27,28
2. What principle does Peter again state? v.29
3. What does Peter say they had done? v.30b
4. What had God done? v.30a,31a
5. Why? v.31b
6. Why were they sure of these things? v.32
Peter and the others are brought before the ruling Council again where they have only recently rejected the threats of these religious leaders. The leaders charge them with two things: first that they are disobeying the command of the Council and second that they were telling everyone the Council were to blame for Jesus' death.
In response to this Peter picks up where he had left off the last time he had been before them, by declaring that it was more important to obey God than to obey man. That deals with the first charge. Then he goes on to point out that in fact they had killed Jesus, they were the ones (not the only ones though!) who had caused Jesus' death. That deals with the second charge.
But Peter doesn't stop there. The truth of the matter, he continues, is that God raised Jesus from the dead and then raised him up to heaven, and we know that is true because we saw it. Not only that, God confirms that this was Him at work because he has sent His Holy Spirit to all who obey Him, so they continue to know His power flowing today. You can't refute this; it has happened! Peter also shows he completely understands the Gospel because, he says, this was all to bring the possibility of repentance and subsequent forgiveness to men and women, even here in Israel today.
1. The best person to speak is the person who is a witness! Peter is!
2. The truth must be told. It is the truth!
A. Find Out:
1. What was the Sanhedrin's first response? v.33
2. How was Gamaliel described? v.34
3. How many examples did he give? v.35-37
4. What was his conclusion and what did they do? v.38-40
5. What was the apostles' reaction to this? v.41
6. What did they continue to do, and where? v.42
The response of the religious leaders to Peter's speech is fairly predictable: they were furious! Their power and authority is being rejected and they are being made to feel guilty about Jesus' death. In the heat of the moment, they call for death to the apostles. Not exactly an example of statesmanlike behaviour we might expect from such leaders!
However Gamaliel, who is highly respected, obviously is more of a statesman and brings reasoned argument to bear to prevent hasty and wrong action. His words have effect and the Sanhedrin is calmed and the apostles escape with a beating.
The response of the apostles at this point is excellent! Instead of going out bruised and cowed, they go out thrashed and rejoicing! They recognised that Jesus had warned about this (see Matthew 10:17 ,18,22), and they were not put off! Indeed, quite to the contrary it seems, even more they carried on, both in homes and in the temple courts, telling about Jesus. Nothing would stop these Christians!
The example here is challenging. Here in the West we know so little of persecution. The example of these earliest followers of Jesus should challenge us to determine to push on sharing the Gospel, despite whatever may come our way in the form of opposition.
A. Find Out:
1. Who complained against whom about what? v.1
2. Who took the initiative to solve the problem? v.2a
3. What did they say they shouldn't do and would do? v.2b,3b
4. What characteristics were required of the servants? v.4a,5a
5. What did they do with them? v.6
6. What continued to happen? v.7
Growth problems are good problems! May we have more of them! The church was looking after all the needy people among them, but as numbers increased that became increasingly difficult and was no longer being carried out effectively on an informal basis. It needed someone whose job it was to make sure it happened. Note several things.
First, the apostles did not just keep taking on greater and greater burdens. They recognised they had A DISTINCT MINISTRY. They were called first and foremost to pray and then teach the church. Without them maintaining their listening relationship with the Lord then life would cease to flow and growth and development would stop.
Second, the required servants of the church had to have SPIRITUAL QUALIFICATIONS. Three qualifications are shown in the passage: being full of the Spirit, full of faith and full of wisdom. Serving in the church is no mere practical responsibility carried out by human intellect and endeavour. It is to be the work of Spirit led, Spirit filled, Spirit equipped men and women of God. Note they are SERVANTS not spiritual overseers. These are deacons (see 1 Tim 3:8-13 - see v.10,13, “serve”), who serve by looking after the practical matters in the church to release the spiritual leaders so they can maintain their ministry.
1. Deacons serve people to release the spiritual leaders in their ministry.
2. The service is to be Spirit led and Spirit equipped.
A. Find Out:
1. How was Stephen described and what did he do? v.8
2. From where did opposition come? v.9
3. Why couldn't they overcome him? v.10
4. What three things did the opposition do? v.11,12
5. What did the false witnesses say? v.13,14
6. Yet how did Stephen appear? v.15
Stephen is a challenge to each of us. Consider what we are told about him. He is a man full of the Spirit (v.3,5), full of faith (v.5), full of wisdom (3,10), full of grace (v.8) and full of power (v.8). The result of all of this was that he:
In complete contrast we have the petty religious Jews who felt totally threatened by the truth and who resorted to unrighteous behaviour which God hated (Prov 6:16 ,19). The sin of religious men is particularly unpleasant for we might expect religion to show the way, but these religious Jews simply show up their religiosity for what it is: godless self- centred unrighteousness! They had lied when they tried Jesus and they lied now. Anything which threatens their dead traditional orthodoxy must be destroyed - even if it comes from God! How terrible the warning. Being religious simply means we can be blinded to the truth.
1. Stephen is a wonderful example to be followed.
2. The religious Jews are a terrible example to be shunned.
RECAP: "Stop!" - Acts 4-6
In this third group of 12 studies we have seen :
When the Spirit of God is moving powerfully, we may also expect the enemy to be making a counter-attack. However, when we are being the people that God wants us to be, we may rest in His provision and protection. Note also that enemy attacks don't only come as outright opposition, they also come as subtle temptation. Be on your guard.
1. Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation
2. It is more important to obey God than men
3. God is sovereign Lord over all nations and peoples
4. In revival times the Holy Spirit will hold us to account
5. Opposition will come when we preach the Gospel
6. Spiritual leaders are not to carry the burden of material welfare
Ask the Lord for boldness to be His witness and grace to withstand enemy opposition.
PART 4 : "Keep Going"
In this final Part watch for the variety of ways that the Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus. An exciting time!