Acts 4 Peter and John Arrested
Summary

This chapter is concerned with the reactions of the Jewish religious leaders to the events surrounding the healing of the lame man, including the growing number (about 5000) of disciples among the citizens. Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Jewish rulers. They were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus. When they refused to obey, they were threatened but let go. They went back to fellow disciples and reported what had happened and all prayed for boldness to speak openly of Christ. We are also introduced here to Barnabas, a generous and effective disciple who will be important in the future. Many disciples helped those in need even to the point of selling property and bringing it to the apostles.

Peter and John Before the Council

4And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

Question 1

Why were the apostles arrested?

5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you 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 is standing before you well. 11This Jesus[1] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[2] 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Question 2

Where did Peter and John tell the rulers that salvation can be found?

13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Question 3

What did Peter and John say when they were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus?

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[3] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’[4]

27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[5] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Question 4

To whom did David’s prophecy about the “kings of the earth” specifically refer?

They Had Everything in Common

32Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Question 5

How did the early Christians provide for those in need?

People
  • Peter and John
  • Arrested by authorities

  • Jewish Sanhedrin and perhaps other Jewish religious leaders
  • The disciples in Jerusalem
  • Barnabas
  • A generous disciple

Places
  • Jerusalem

Peter and John Before the Council

4And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

Acts 4:1

Many of the priests were Sadducees. Sadducees did not believe in resurrection; therefore, they were disturbed that the apostles preached that Jesus was raised from the dead.

5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you 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 is standing before you well. 11This Jesus[1] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[2] 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:5

“Rulers” probably refers to the chief priests; “elders” were men of age, influence, and position among the people; “scribes” teachers of the law who kept Jewish records and traditions. These three groups constituted the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin.


Acts 1:5

Annas was recognized by Jews as the rightful high priest, although he had been deposed by the Romans; Caiaphas was the acting high priest (see events surrounding the death of Jesus); though identity is uncertain, John and Alexander were probably influential Rabbans of priestly descent.


Acts 4:7

Note the use of the term “name.” It is used here by the religious rulers and suggests the idea of “authority.” The apostles will seize on this term in their response (10,12,17).


Acts 4:11

This reference is to the prophecy found inPsalm 118:22 which they would have recognized.


Acts 4:12

Only by Jesus can a person be saved. Not by any other who makes similar claims.

13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Acts 4:19

Other passages supporting this: Exodus 1:17; 2 Chronicles 26:16-20; Daniel 3:18; Daniel 6:10; Acts 5:29.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[3] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’[4]

Acts 4:25

This reference is found in Psalm 2:1-2.

27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[5] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:27

Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate fulfill the prophecy as “kings” and “rulers.”

They Had Everything in Common

32Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Acts 4:32

This is not requiring “communism” as a political philosophy. It is saying that Christians sacrificed so that none was actually lacking things they needed.


Acts 4:33

This shows the apostles did not stop preaching even though ordered to do so by the Sanhedrin.


Acts 4:35

“The apostles’ feet” is simply a way of saying that they gave it to the apostles for distribution.


Acts 4:36

Barnabas was Jewish (of the tribe of Levi) but he had come from the island of Cyprus.

Perspectives

We must always do what is right before God even if men demand otherwise.

We must be bold in asserting the truth of the Gospel even in the face of adversity.

We must be generous and help to provide for those other Christians who are in need.