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÷÷ACTS 4

ACTS 4

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4

NKJV

NRSV

TEV

NJB

Peter and John Before the Council Peter and John Arrested Arrest and Release of Peter and John Peter and John Before the Council Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
4:1-4 4:1-4 4:1-4 4:1-4 4:1-4
Addressing the Sanhedrin
4:5-22 4:5-12 4:5-12 4:5-7 4:5-12

    (11)
The Name of Jesus Forbidden
    (11)
4:8-12
    (11)
4:13-22 4:13-22 4:13-17 4:13-17
4:18-22 4:18-22
The Believers Pray for Boldness Prayer for Boldness The Believers Pray for Boldness The Apostles' Prayer Under Persecution
4:23-31
    (25b-26)
4:23-31
    (25b-26)
4:23-31
    (25b-26)
4:23-30
    (25b-26)
4:23-26
    (25b-26)
4:27-31
4:31
All Things in Common Sharing All Things The Sharing of Goods

(4:32-5:6)

The Believers Share Their Possessions The Early Christian Community
4:32-37 4:32-37 4:32-5:11 4:32-35 4:32
4:33
4:34-35
The Generosity of Barnabas
4:36-37 4:36-37

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

  1. It is obvious the chapter divisions are inappropriate in Acts. Remember, chapter divisions, verse divisions, capitalization, paragraphing, and punctuation all are not original to the Greek text and, therefore, are the work of modern translation committees.

  2. Verses 1-31 deal with the lame man's healing in Acts 3 and its consequences.

  3. Verses 32-37 should go with Acts 5:1-11.

  4. The problems of the early church continue and multiply, but so does the grace and power of the Spirit.

  5. In dealing with Luke's emphasis on the loving, giving nature of the early church in Jerusalem, modern western interpreters must guard against a "capitalistic" bias. Luke seems to affirm voluntary mutuality. Acts cannot support communism nor capitalism because neither was known at that time. The text must be interpreted in light of its day, its author's intent, and its hearers' world.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

÷ACTS 4:1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:1-4
 1As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

4:1 "the priests" This is the word used in the ancient uncial Greek manuscripts א, A, D, and E, but MS C has "high priests" (archiereis). The UBS4 gives the word "priests" a B rating (almost certain). The context of Acts 4 shows that opposition did not come from the High Priests (cf. Acts 4:6).

In the OT the tribe of Levi (i.e., Moses and Aaron's tribe) was selected to serve YHWH in the stead of the "first born" (cf. Exodus 13). Within this tribe were certain families who served as

  1. local teachers of the Law
  2. temple servants
  3. priests who officiated at the Temple, especially involved in the sacrificial procedures (cf. Leviticus1-7)

The special family from which the High Priest must come was the family of Moses and Aaron. This whole tribe did not receive a land allotment like the other tribes of Jacob/Israel. They had certain cities partially given to them (i.e., 48 Levitical cities, cf. Joshua 20). These Levitical families depended on the other tribes to support them through the Temple tithe and the third-year local tithe.

All of this changed when Rome took over Palestine. The office of High Priest was purchased from Rome. No longer was it an OT spiritual office, but a commercial, political power office.

The current High Priest was Caiaphas (cf. Matt. 26:3; Luke 3:2; John 18), but the real power behind the office was the former High Priest Annas (cf. Luke 3:2; John 18:13,24; Acts 4:6). This family was of the Sadducean sect of Judaism.

▣ "the captain of the temple guard" This was a special Levitical office which was next in power to the High Priest (cf. Josephus, Wars 6.5.3). He would have controlled the temple police (cf. 1 Chr. 9:11; Neh. 11:11; Luke 22:4,52; Acts 5:24,26). In Hebrew he was called "the man of the mountain of the house."

▣ "Sadducees" These were the rich, political leaders of the Sanhedrin.

Special Topic: Sadducees

Special Topic: Sanhedrin

4:2
NASB, NKJV   "being greatly disturbed"
NKJV   "much annoyed"
TEV   "were annoyed"
NJB   "extremely annoyed"
Peshitta   "being infuriated"

This rare Greek term (here a PRESENT MIDDLE [deponent] PARTICIPLE) means "to work hard at something." It is found only one other place in Acts (16:18). It is not found in the Septuagint, nor the Koine papyri from Egypt.

The Sadducean leadership was upset because the Christian leaders were teaching the crowds at the Temple in Jesus' name and proclaiming His resurrection (which Sadducees denied, as well as the theological concept of resurrections in general). It is also possible from the wording of Acts 4:2 that the Apostles were not only asserting Jesus' resurrection, but the full implications of all believers' resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15).

4:3 "they" In Acts 4:2 the antecedent was Peter, John, and even possibly the healed lame man. In Acts 4:3 the antecedent is the priests and temple police.

▣ "laid hands on them" This Greek VERB has a wide semantic field, but Luke often uses it in this sense of arrest (cf. Luke 20:19; 21:12; Acts 5:18; 12:1; 21:27).

Special Topic: Hand

▣ "until the next day" Jewish law forbade a trial to be held after twilight. These leaders wanted this preaching/teaching stopped and stopped immediately. So they jailed them overnight somewhere on the Temple grounds, as opposed to a public jail (cf. Acts 5:18).

4:4 "those who had heard. . .believed" Both of these VERBALS are AORIST TENSE. Faith begins with hearing (cf. Rom. 10:17). Hearing the gospel results (with the Spirit's aid, cf. John 6:44,65; 16:8-11) in believing the gospel.

Special Topic: Salvation (Greek verb tenses)

Special Topic: The Gospel

▣ "the number of men came to be about five thousand" Notice that this number does not include women and children. Often in the NT it is implied that the belief of the father extended to and included the whole family (cf. Acts 11:14; 16:15,31,33). The group in the upper room numbered about 120. At Pentecost 3,000 were added (cf. Acts 2:41); now the number of believers was up to 5,000! The church in Jerusalem is growing rapidly!

÷ACTS 4:5-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:5-12
 5On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, 9if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10let 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.
 11He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders,
 but which became the chief cornerstone.
12And 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."

4:5 "their rulers and elders and scribes" The Sanhedrin (i.e., the Council, 5:21, from the Jerusalem area; the Council of the elders, 22:5) was made up of seventy Jewish leaders. It was the highest political/religious body (which Rome allowed) within Judaism of Jesus' day. The concept was begun (i.e., Jewish tradition) by Ezra and the "men of the Great Synagogue." It is usually identified in the NT by the phrase, "the scribes, elders and high priests" (cf. Luke 23:13; Acts 3:17; 4:5,8; 13:27).

Special Topic: The Sanhedrin

4:6 "Annas" His name in Greek is Hannas; Josephus calls him Hannanos (Jonathan). The name seems to come from the Hebrew "merciful" or "gracious" (hānān, BDB 336).

In the OT the high priesthood was for life and stayed in the lineage of Aaron. However, the Romans had turned this office into a political plumb, purchased by a Levitical family. The high priest controlled and operated the merchandising in the Court of the Women. Jesus' cleansing of the Temple angered this family.

According to Flavius Josephus, Annas was the High Priest from A.D. 6-14. He was appointed by Quirinius, governor of Syria and removed by Valerius Gratus. His relatives (5 sons and 1 grandson) succeeded him. Caiaphas (A.D. 18-36), his son-in-law (cf. John 18:13), was his immediate successor. Annas was the real power behind the office. John depicts him as the first person to whom Jesus is taken (cf. Acts 18:13,19-22).

▣ "Caiaphas" He was appointed high priest by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea (cf. MS D, 'Iōnathas, cf. NEB, NJB) from A.D. 18-36.

▣ "John" This may refer to "Jonathan," who Josephus tells us was also one of Annas' sons who became High Priest in A.D. 36 after Caiaphas. However, the UBS4 has 'Iōannēs (i.e., John) as an A rating (certain); even the REB goes back to "John."

▣ "Alexander" Nothing is known about this man, but he, like John, was probably a member of Annas' family or a leading member of the Sadducean party.

4:7 "When they had placed them in the center" The members of the Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle on a raised platform.

▣ "they began to inquire" This is an IMPERFECT TENSE, which means either (1) continuous action in past time or (2) the beginning of an action.

▣ "By what power, or in what name" They insinuated that the healing was done by magical power (cf. Acts 19:13). They tried this same trick on Jesus (cf. Luke 11:14-26; Mark 3:20-30). They could not deny the miracles so they attempted to impugn the method or source of the power.

Special Topic: The Name of the Lord

4:8 "filled with the Holy Spirit" The Spirit was the source of wisdom and boldness for the Apostles (cf. Luke 12:11-12; 21:12-15). Remember this was the same man who only a few days earlier had denied the Lord out of fear (cf. Acts 4:13). Notice that Peter was "filled" (cf. Acts 2:4; 4:8,31). This shows that it was a repeatable experience (cf. Eph. 5:18). See full note at Acts 5:17.

Special Topic: Filled With the Spirit

4:9 "if" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which is assumed true for the author's purpose.

▣ "if we are on trial today" This Greek term literally means "examined by a court" (cf. Acts 12:19; 24:8; 28:18; Luke 23:14). It was used of the Berean Jews examining the Scriptures to see if Paul was accurately interpreting them (cf. Acts 17:11).

▣ "for a benefit done to a sick man" Peter is asserting the inappropriateness of this official trial with such a hostile environment concerning a wonderful miracle of healing and mercy. They should be praising God instead!

▣ "has been made well" This is a PERFECT PASSIVE INDICATIVE meaning complete health and restoration of his legs.

4:10 "Let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel" This is a PERFECT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. The Spirit has emboldened Peter. He is not intimidated by the judicial setting. These leaders could not keep Christ in the tomb and they could not deny the healed man standing in front of them!

▣ "by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene" Peter picks up on their question and answers specifically how the miracle occurred.

Special Topic: Jeses the Nazarene

Special Topic: Christ Jesus As Lord

▣ "whom you crucified" This was the obvious truth. They instigated His death. Notice "by you" in Acts 4:11, which also asserts their guilt.

Special Topic: Crucifixion

▣ "whom God raised" The NT affirms that all three persons of the Trinity were active in Jesus' resurrection:

  1. Spirit, Rom. 8:11
  2. Jesus, John 2:19-22; 10:17-18
  3. Father, Acts 2:24,32; 3:15,26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9

This was confirmation of the truth of Jesus' life and teachings about God and also the Father's full acceptance of Jesus' substitutionary death. This was a major aspect of the Kerygma (i.e., sermons in Acts).

Special Topic: The Kerygma of the Early Church

Special Topic: Resurrection

▣ "this man stands here" This is a word play on "stands." The lame man stands up and stands before them.

4:11 This is a quote from Ps. 118:22, but not from the Masoretic text or Septuagint (cf. Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4ff). Jesus uses this of Himself in Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17, taken from the Septuagint. It signifies the fulfillment of OT prophecy of a rejected Messiah who has become the very heart of God's eternal plan for the redemption of Israel and the world. This was a shocking statement for these Jewish leaders (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5).

Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

NASB   "the chief corner stone"
NKJV   "the chief cornerstone"
NRSV, NJB, Peshitta, REB   "the cornerstone"
TEV   "stone. . .the most important of all"

Special Topic: Cornerstone

4:12 "there is salvation in no one else" This is a strong DOUBLE NEGATIVE. There is no salvation in Abraham or Moses (cf. John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 5:10-12). What a shocking claim! It is very restrictive but also very obvious that Jesus believed that only through a personal relationship with Himself can one know God. Peter boldly proclaims this to that elite Jewish leadership. This has often been called the exclusivistic scandal of Christianity. There is no middle ground here. This statement is true or Christianity is false!

▣ "there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men" The PARTICIPLE "has been given" is a PERFECT PASSOVE. God has ordained this! Jesus is His answer to mankind's spiritual need. There is no Plan B! For a good book on the exclusivistic claims of Christianity see H. A. Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth.

Special Topic: The Name of the Lord

▣ "among men" Notice the universal element (cf. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

▣ "by which we must be saved" This phrase has two VERBALS.

  1. dei, PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE, "we must" (see full note on dei at Acts 1:16)
  2. sōthēnai, AORIST PASSIVE INFINITIVE of sōzō, "to be saved"

The word for "save" has two usages in the NT.

  1. physical deliverance (OT sense, cf. Matt. 9:22; Mark 6:56; Luke 1:71; 6:9; 7:50; Acts 27:20,31; James 1:21; 2:14; 4:12; 5:20)
  2. spiritual salvation (NT usages, cf. Luke 19:10; Acts 2:21,40,47; 11:14; 15:11; 16:30-31)

The lame man experienced both. The religious leaders needed to trust Jesus as their only hope for acceptance and forgiveness! Humans need to be saved (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:20) and Jesus is the only way for this to be accomplished (cf. Rom. 3:21-31). The OT quote in Acts 4:12 shows He has always been God's plan (cf. Isa. 8:14-15; 28:14-19; 52:13-53:12).

Special Topic: Greek Verb Tenses used for Salvation

÷ACTS 4:13-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:13-22
 13Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." 18And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." 21When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

4:13 "the confidence" See Special Topic: Boldness (parrhēsia)

▣ "uneducated" The term is agrammatos, which is the term "writing" with the ALPHA PRIVATIVE. This may mean that they were

  1. ignorant or uneducated (cf. Moulton, Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 6)
  2. untrained in the rabbinical schools (cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament, vol. 3, p. 52 and Louw and Nida, Lexicon, vol. 1, p. 328)

▣ "untrained" This is the term idiōtēs, which is usually translated "layman" or "untrained in a certain area." Originally it referred to a normal person as opposed to a leader or spokesperson. It came to be used of an outsider vs. a member of a group (cf. 1 Cor. 14:16,23-24; 2 Cor. 11:6).

Notice how the different English translations handle this phrase.

  1. NASB, NKJV ‒ "uneducated and untrained men"
  2. NRSV ‒ "uneducated and ordinary men"
  3. TEV ‒ "ordinary men of no education"
  4. NJB, REB ‒ "uneducated layman"
  5. Peshitta ‒ "unlearned and ignorant men"

▣ "they were amazed" This is an IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE (as are the next two verbs). They imply either the beginning of an action or repeated action in past time (INDICATIVE MOOD). Luke uses this word often (18 times in Luke and Acts); it usually, but not always, has a positive connotation (cf. Luke 11:38; 20:26; Acts 4:13; 13:41).

▣ "began to recognize them as having been with Jesus" This was in truth a compliment. Jesus was also untrained in the rabbinical schools, yet He knew the Old Testament well. He did attend synagogue school as all Jewish children (as did Peter and John) were required to do.

These leaders recognized the boldness and power of Peter and John. They had seen the same in Jesus.

4:14 Everyone knew this lame man because he regularly sat at the Temple door daily. But he was not sitting anymore! The crowd in the Temple could not deny this (cf. Acts 4:16,22).

4:15 They asked the three of them to leave while they discussed their options and planned their strategy of denial and deception (cf. Acts 4:17-18).

4:17-18 This was their plan! Stop talking about Jesus and stop helping people in His name! What about all the people who were praising God for the healing (cf. Acts 3:8-9; 4:16)?

4:19 "whether" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which is used not of reality, but for the sake of argument. Peter and John did not think their commands were valid (cf. Acts 5:28).

▣ "you be the judge" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. These leaders condemned themselves by their words, motives, and actions.

4:20 Peter and John assert that they cannot deny what they have experienced and they will not stop sharing it!

4:21 "when they had threatened them further" I wonder what they threatened to do. Jesus was raised from the dead. The man was raised from his bed; what were these leaders going to do to Peter and John?

▣ "(finding no basis on which to punish them)" This may indicate one of Luke's purposes in writing. Christianity was not a threat to Rome or the peace of Jerusalem. Even the Sanhedrin could find no grounds to condemn its leaders.

▣ "on account of the people" The eyewitnesses of the events in Jerusalem held the early church in high esteem (cf. Acts 2:47). The Jewish leaders were threatened by this popularity (cf. Acts 5:13,26).

÷ACTS 4:23-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:23-31
 23When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
 'Why did the Gentiles rage,
 And the peoples devise futile things?
  26'The kings of the earth took their stand,
  And the rulers were gathered together
 Against the Lord and against His Christ
.'
27"For 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 purpose predestined to occur. 29"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." 31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

4:23 They went back to the Upper Room to meet with the disciples.

4:24 "with one accord" This unity of heart and mind characterized the early church (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25). There is spiritual power and focused action in this atmosphere of unity of purpose.

▣ "Lord" This is the Greek term despota, from which we get the English word despot. It denoted someone in complete authority! Here it refers to God the Father (cf. Luke 2:29 and Rev. 6:10). It is also used of Jesus (cf. 2 Pet. 2:1 and Jude Acts 4:4).

▣ "who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them" This may be an allusion to Exod. 20:11. It is also quoted in Acts 14:15 and the truth is stated in Acts 17:24. YHWH is the creator!

4:25 There are many variant readings of the first part of this verse. The oldest manuscripts P74, א, A, and B already include the ambiguous variant. Although the exact wording is uncertain, the thrust of the text is obvious. For a full account of the problem and the theories of what happened, see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 321-323).

▣ "who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David" This asserts the inspiration of the Old Testament (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). This is a quote from the Septuagint of Psalm 2:1-2, a royal Messianic Psalm. Christianity is not something new, but the fulfillment of the Old Testament (cf. Matt. 5:17-48). Worldly opposition is to be expected, but so too, is the victory of YHWH.

Special Topic: The Bible (its uniqueness and inspiration)

4:25-26 "Gentiles. . .the peoples. . .the Kings. . .the Rulers" It looks as if the disciples are doing a rabbinical word association on "rulers." In a sense, they are calling the Sanhedrin Goyim (i.e., Gentiles) or at least associating these OT names to contemporary groups (i.e., Pilate, Herod, Sanhedrin, and Jewish mob) who participated in Jesus' trial and crucifixion.

▣ "rage" This is literally "to snort through one's nose." This implies a haughty arrogance.

4:26 "the Lord. . .His Christ" Notice that YHWH and Messiah are both spoken of together. I am surprised they did not quote Ps. 110:1.

It is so difficult to be a monotheist and assert the full deity of Christ and the personality of the Spirit (cf. Acts 4:25). Yet, these three divine, eternal persons appear in unified contexts several times in the NT. Remember that all the writers except Luke are monotheistic Jewish Christians. Something radical has caused them to assert a triunity (i.e., the gospel).

Special Topic: The Trinity

Special Topic: Monotheism

Special Topic: The Deity of Christ from the OT

Special Topic: Personhood of the Spirit

4:27 "Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed" Notice these Messianic titles.

  1. holy (cf. Acts 3:14; 4:30)
  2. servant (pais, cf. Acts 3:13,26; 4:25,27,30. See note at Acts 3:13)
  3. anointed (chriō, from which Christ is derived, cf Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38)

This verse asserts several different ways that Jesus was sent and authorized by YHWH. Jesus is God's eternal plan and method of redemption and restoration (cf. Acts 4:28).

Special Topic: Holy

Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

Special Topic: Anointing in the Bible (BDB 603)

▣ "there were gathered together against Your holy servant" Here is a list of the opponents to Jesus in Jerusalem.

  1. Herod, the Roman appointed Edumean ruler of Palestine (see Special Topic: The Family of Herod the Great)
  2. Pontius Pilate, the Roman administrative leader of Palestine (see Special Topic: Pontius Pilate)
  3. Gentiles, which might refer to the Roman army or proselyte Jews
  4. the "people of Israel," which would refer to the Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob who asked for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified

▣ "Your holy servant" See Special Topic: Holy

Special Topic: My Servant

4:28 "Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur" Even before creation God had His plan of redemption (cf. Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; Acts 2:13; 3:18; 13:29; Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan). These enemies of Christ only performed that which God wanted them to perform. Jesus came to die (cf. Mark 10:45). The term translated here "predestine" is a compound of the PREPOSITION "before" and "to set bounds" (cf. Rom. 8:29,30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5,11).

The definitive passages on predestination in the NT are Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 9; and Eph. 1:3-14. These texts obviously stress that God is sovereign. He is in total control of all things, including human history. There is a preset divine redemption plan being worked out in time. However, this plan is not arbitrary or selective. It is based not only on God's sovereignty and foreknowledge, but also on His unchanging character of love, mercy, and undeserved grace.

We must be careful of our western (American) individualism or our evangelical zeal coloring this wonderful truth. We must also guard against being polarized into the historical, theological conflicts between Augustine and Pelegius or Calvinism and Arminianism.

Predestination is not a doctrine meant to limit God's love, grace, and mercy, nor to exclude some from the gospel. It is meant to strengthen believers by molding their worldview. God's love is for all mankind (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). God is in control of all things. Who or what can separate us from Him (cf. Rom. 8:31-39)? Predestination forms one of two ways to view life. God views all history as present. Humans are time-bound. Our perspective and mental abilities are limited. There is no contradiction between God's sovereignty and mankind's free will. It is a covenantal structure. This is another example of biblical truth given in paradoxical, dialectical, tension-filled pairs. Biblical doctrines are presented from different perspectives. They often appear paradoxical. The truth is a balance between the seemingly opposite pairs. We must not remove the tension by picking one of the truths. We must not isolate any biblical truth into a compartment by itself.

It is also important to add that the goal of election is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now (cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:10)! We were chosen to be "holy and blameless." God chooses to change us so that others may see the change and respond by faith to God in Christ. Predestination is not a personal privilege, but a covenantal responsibility! We are saved to serve!

4:29 "speak Your word" This is a PRESENT ACTIVE INFINITIVE. This is a prayer for continual boldness (cf. Eph. 6:19 and Col. 4:3) and an affirmation of inspiration (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

NASB   "with all confidence"
NKJV, NRSV, TEV, REB   "with all boldness"
NJB   "with all fearlessness"
Peshitta   "freely"

See Special Topic: Boldness (parrhēsia)

4:30 "while you extend Your hand to heal" This was an anthropomorphic phrase used to describe God revealing His compassion and power. The signs were a way to confirm the gospel message. It was a radically different message from what they had heard all their lives in the synagogue.

Special Topic: God Described As Human

Special Topic: Healing

4:31 "the place where they had gathered together was shaken" God encouraged these witnesses by another physical demonstration of His power and presence, just as He did at Pentecost. The word is used of wind blowing upon a sailing vessel.

▣ "all filled with the Holy Spirit" Notice that here again all were filled (cf. Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9,52, see full note at Acts 5:17). This filling was for the bold proclamation of the gospel. Also notice that tongues are not mentioned. In Acts when tongues are mentioned, they are usually in an evangelistic context of the gospel overcoming cultural-ethnic and/or geographical barriers.

Special Topic: Spirit Filled

▣ "the word of God" The Jerome Biblical Commentary (p. 180) has a good note about this phrase, "this is a favorite Lucan way of expressing the Christian message (see Acts 6:2,7; 8:14; 11:1; 13:5,7,44,46,48; 16:32; 17:13; 18:11). Variants of it are "the word of the Lord" (Acts 8:25; 13:49; 15:35,36; 19:10,20; 20:35) or simply "the word" (Acts 4:29; 6:4; 8:4; 10:44; 11:19; 14:25; 16:6)."

This is the central question of faith, "Is the gospel presented in the NT the word of God?" Faith energized by the Spirit says "yes"!!

▣ "with boldness" See Special Topic: Boldness

÷ACTS 4:32-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:32-35
 32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

4:32 "who believed were of one heart and soul" The spirit of unity among the believers (cf. Acts 1:14) reflected the unity of the Triune God (cf. John 17:11,21,23; Eph. 4:4-6). These very words are used in Mark 12:30 to reflect the first commandment in Deut. 6:4-5.

Special Topic: Faith, Believe, or Trust

Special Topic: Heart

▣ "all things were common property to them" They felt and acted like a family. This was the church's first attempt to finance ministry. It was voluntary and mutual, not mandatory. Love and concern, not government or social leveling, was the motive!

4:33 "were giving testimony to the resurrection" This was the central truth of their message (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). Jesus was alive!

Special Topic: Resurrection

▣ "and abundant grace was upon them all" We learn from Paul's letters that at a later time this church was very poor (cf. Rom. 15:3; Gal. 2:10). Abundant grace, like abundant living (cf. John 10:10) has little to do with material things. Notice this abundance was upon all of them, not just the leaders, the possessors of certain gifts, or those of a certain socio-economic level.

4:34 The church felt a responsibility for one another. Those who had, gave freely to those in need (cf. Acts 4:35). This is not communism, but love in action.

4:35 "lay them at the apostles feet" This is a cultural idiom of giving something to another. They laid their goods and money at the Apostles' feet because they had laid their lives at Jesus' feet.

▣ "they would be distributed" This is an IMPERFECT PASSIVE INDICATIVE, which shows continual action in past time. This follows the synagogue pattern of helping the poor and needy.

Special Topic: Almsgiving

▣ "as any had need" There is an interesting comment in Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard's Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, pp. 451-453, that Marx's manifesto contains two quotes from Acts:

  1. "from each according to his ability" – Acts 11:29
  2. "to each according to his need"

The hermeneutical problem is that modern people try to use the Bible to support that which the Bible itself never addressed or realized. The Bible cannot mean to us what it never meant to the original author or hearer. We can apply the text in different ways to our cultural and existential situation, but our application must be inseparably linked to the original author's intended meaning. Every biblical text has only one meaning, but many applications or significances. (See my Biblical Interpretation Seminar at www.freebiblecommentary.org )

÷ACTS 4:36-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 4:36-37
 36Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

4:36 "Joseph, a Levite" The Old Testament forbade priests to own land, but the Roman authorities had changed many things in Palestine.

▣ "called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement)" This is the popular meaning of "Barnabas." In Aramaic it could have meant "son of prophecy" or in Hebrew possibly "son of Nebo" (AB, vol. 1). He was an early leader in the Jerusalem church and Paul's friend and missionary companion. Eusebius, an early church historian, says that he was one of the seventy in Luke 10.

Special Topic: Barnabas

4:37 "who owned a tract of land" He was a man of means (like Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea). Acts 5 shows the potential for abuse in this method of financing ministry (e.g., jealousy, lying, and death).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Who are the Sadducees? Why were they so mad?

2. What is the Sanhedrin?

3. What is the significance of Ps. 118?

4. Why is Acts 4:12 so significant?

5. Does the predestination of Acts 4:28 refer to individuals or God's plan of redemption? Why?

6. Is Luke trying to set a precedent for the church in Acts 4:32-5:11?

 

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