Acts - Lesson 8
Acts Chapters 3-5
In this lesson you will learn about Peter's healing and sermon, the persecution and expansion of the church, and Stephen's martyrdom. You will gain insight into the early church's growth and the challenges they faced, as well as the impact of Stephen's death on the spread of Christianity.
Acts Chapters 3-5
NT619 - Acts, Chapters 3-5
A. Recap of Peter's healing
B. Significance of this healing
II. Peter's Sermon
A. The healing
B. The blame
C. The need for repentance
III. Persecution and Expansion of the Church
A. Peter and John arrested
B. The church prays
C. The church continues to grow
IV. Stephen's Martyrdom
A. Stephen's speech
B. Stephen's death
C. The impact of Stephen's death
- Acts is often referred to as "Luke: Part 2" suggesting that Luke was the author. Internal and external evidence confirms this authorship. It is believed that Acts was written in the 70's or 80's of the first century as a historical monograph with a biographic focus.
You will gain knowledge and insight about the authorship, date, and genre of the Book of Acts. The lesson will present evidence that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts and provide historical context to help determine the date of its writing. The genre of the Book of Acts will also be discussed, giving you a better understanding of its composition and purpose.
Acts is not a novel because it doesn't fit the style that novels of that time period were written in. It has elements of both common folk literature and elite literature. One motive that Luke had in writing Acts is as an apologetic to support a Jewish perspective. Acts is an apologetic, ethnographic history in a monograph form.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the genre, historiography, purpose, and historical reliability of the book of Acts and its implications for interpretation.
This lesson teaches you about the themes of theology, history, culture, and miracles in the book of Acts, including Christology, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the historical and cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire and Jewish culture. You'll learn the role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the gospel message and its relationship with faith. By the end, you will have a complete understanding of the main themes in the book of Acts.
In this lesson, you will learn about the role of miracles in the early church and how they were used to support and advance the gospel message in the book of Acts. The purpose of miracles, such as healings and other supernatural events, were seen as signs of the Holy Spirit's power and evidence of the truth of the gospel, which helped attract people to the message. Through exploring specific examples from the book of Acts, you will see how miracles played a crucial role in the growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel.
- This lesson covers the historical context of Acts, including the Jewish World, Roman Empire, political/social structures, and Mediterranean Geography. The purpose and authorship of the book, including Luke as the author, the purpose of the book, and its theology, will be discussed. The narrative structure, major sections, and events will be overviewed.
- The lesson is about the historical and theological context of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the early Church as described in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts.
In this lesson you will learn about Peter's healing and sermon, the persecution and expansion of the church, and Stephen's martyrdom. You will gain insight into the early church's growth and the challenges they faced, as well as the impact of Stephen's death on the spread of Christianity.
- The lesson teaches about the events in Acts 5-7, including the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the growth of the church, the appointment of the seven, Stephen's defense, and his martyrdom, providing insight into the early Christian community and its challenges.
- The lesson is about the early events of the Church of Jerusalem and the role of the seven men chosen to serve the community, the first major persecution of the Christian Church, the spread of the gospel, and the conversion of Saul to Paul.
- The lesson covers the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem and beyond following Stephen's death, including Philip's preaching in Samaria, conversion of Simon and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the challenges faced by early Christians.
- This lesson provides an overview of Saul's conversion and the events that took place on the Damascus road, including his baptism and ministry, and the implications for our lives today.
- This lesson provides an understanding of the events leading to the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Christian church and the spread of the gospel to non-Jewish people.
- This lesson explores the early Christian church's growth and challenges through the events of Acts 12 and 13, including the arrest and deliverance of Peter, Herod's death, the mission of Barnabas and Saul, and the first missionary journey.
- The First Missionary Journey in Acts 13-15 provides insight into the early Christian church through covering the team sent out, their ministry, and the results of their ministry.
- In this lesson, you will learn about the major issue that arose in the early Christian church regarding the relationship between Gentile converts and Jewish customs, the decision of the Jerusalem Council, and the implementation and response of the Gentile churches.
- In this lesson, you'll learn about the spread of the gospel in Philippi through Paul and Silas and the conversions of Lydia and the jailer, showcasing the gospel's power.
- In this lesson, you will learn about Paul's encounter with the philosophers of Athens and his message to them about the one true God, the judgment of humanity, and the resurrection of Jesus.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive overview of Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth, including the challenges he faced, the Lord's encouragement, and the significance of this episode in the book of Acts.
- This lesson provides insight into Paul's second missionary journey and his preaching, as well as the importance of the Holy Spirit's work and the ministry of the Word.
- The lesson provides an overview of Paul's journey to Jerusalem and the events that took place during his arrival in Jerusalem, the incident at the temple, his arrest, and his appearance before the Sanhedrin and its significance in the early Christian church.
- The lesson covers Paul's defenses in the final four chapters of Acts and his navigation of political and religious tensions while remaining faithful to his beliefs and mission.
- In this lesson, you will gain insight into Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome, including details about the voyage and shipwreck, the aftermath of the shipwreck, and the significance of Paul's ministry.
The book of Acts portrays, in a narrative way, the life of the early church. The theme of the book is, "the mission of the early church." It tells how Jesus continued to carry out his mission that he started as recorded in the book of Luke, by working through the people of the early church. Dr. Keeener discusses the growth of the church from its Jewish roots through reaching the ends of the earth to fulfill the Great Commission.
Dr. Craig Keener
Acts Chapters 3-5
1. Acts 3
a. Healing of the Lame Man
In the introduction, I spent a lot of time talking about historical issues. In Acts 1 and 2, I went into preaching somewhat. But in most of the Book of Acts, I’m going to try to focus particularly but not exclusively on giving some ancient background to help understand the text better. This is the part that you wouldn’t get on your own. I have assumed that you have read the Book of Acts on your own.
Acts 3 deals with healing that is done in Jesus’ name starting with Acts 3:1-10. It basically gives us an example of what we have in Acts 2:43-47. They have been giving of their resources and signs and wonders and what this miracle leads to was a preaching opportunity. They find this man at the gate of the temple, the gate beautiful. Some think that the disabled were barred from the court of Israel. They couldn’t go any further than the court of women. Whether this was true of not, there is some evidence for it and it depends on how rigorous the keepers of the temple were in regards to these things. The people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls would have been barred for sure. In any case, this was a profitable place to beg. People were always going by the gate; people wanted to be pious as they entered the temple. Judaism had a very high work ethic as well as a high charity ethic. It was understood that people wouldn’t go through the shame of begging unless they really had to do it. People tended to be very charitable to those who were begging. Well, the beggar ask them for money which they didn’t have. But what they had they gave him. It was something much more important and valuable. They said to the beggar, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk. What does it mean, ‘in Jesus’ name?’
There have been various proposals, but the likely proposal that catches the best of each is; as Jesus’ authorized agents, they were acting on Jesus’ authority; they were acting for Jesus. Acts 1:1 says that the first volume was about all that Jesus did and taught. Given it position in Acts 1:1, volume one was about what Jesus began to do and teach; whereas volume two is how Jesus continued to act and teach to the disciples. So, it is not so much the Acts of the Apostles but the continued Acts of Jesus through his followers. In Acts 9, Jesus is acting when Peter wants someone to be healed; Peter said that Jesus heals you. So that it is the recognition that Jesus is doing the work. Here, Peter gives credit to Jesus, in Jesus’ name for healing this man. That is why in 3:12 as the crowd is looking at them, Peter says, ‘why do you look at us, as though it is my our own power or holiness that this man is made whole, it is by the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom you crucified that has made this man whole. If God works through us, let’s give him the credit. If we take the credit for ourselves and we look to ourselves, the chances are we will not continue to do those things. It doesn’t come from us, it comes from him.
b. Peter’s Message
For Peter’s message, it was the crowds from Jerusalem that cried out to kill Jesus in Luke 22. So, Peter’s message spoke about how Jesus was crucified but God glorified Jesus and that language echoes Isaiah 52:13 where the servant was exalted and lifted up. He was glorified and in the Gospel of John which is used a number of times in reference to the Cross, here it seems to apply to the exaltation of Christ. Peter also speaks of Jesus as the holy and righteous one. If you are thinking of the context of Isaiah 53:11, it speaks of the righteous servant. He was not condemned for his own sins. In 3:15 Peter speaks of the archegos; this language was often used for heroes, pioneers, founders of cities; Jesus was certainly the founder of the movement. But he was also like a pioneer who made the way for those who followed him. He was the first to rise from the dead. The term can mean any of those kinds of things. It is translated so many different ways. It was used in the Septuagint for leaders of clans. So, it was for someone who was a leader and making a new way for his followers. Peter uses the language in 5:31 and it is used a couple of times in the Book of Hebrews. Here is the irony in Acts 3:14, they accepted a murderer and they killed the author of life! That is the irony of this and further irony is that he didn’t stay dead. In 3:17, Peter knows that it was in ignorance that they did this, but ignorance doesn’t eliminate culpability in ancient law and thought, but it does reduce it. So he is saying that he knows that you didn’t know what you were doing as Jesus said on the cross in Luke 23, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’
Peter also speaks of how the promised messianic restoration has come which is something that has been spoken of by all the prophets. The language in 3:18 is about the messianic era and Jerusalem’s restoration. Peter is about to talk with them about this era of restoration. God had promised a new creation but the prophets also said that repentance would precede this. Israel’s repentance would precede this and that is what Peter is calling for in 3:19, ‘therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out.’ There would be a period of restoration when Israel would turn to God. In Hosea 14:1-7 there was a prophetic call to genuine repentance and in Joel 2:18-3:1. It is even implied in Deuteronomy 4:30-31. Jewish teachers recognized that repentance by Israel would precede the restoration. Some thought that they could hasten the time of restoration by repenting. Sometimes, later rabbis would say that if all of Israel would all keep the Sabbath on one day, but ultimately if all of Israel would repent, then God would being in the time of restoration. Other rabbis would say that the time was predestined, we can’t hasten it. But it could be connected with the time of restoration. In other words, God had predestined the time of restoration but he predestined it in conjunction with Israel’s repentance. Whatever the case; here, Peter calls them to repent and says that the time of restoration would come. What was it that was going to be restored? Well, Stoics believed that the universe was periodically destroyed by fire and reborn as a new universe and only the ultimate deity would remain. This would be repeated over and over again. This is different than what is being talked about with Peter speaking to a Jewish audience. The Jewish expectation of restoration involves the restoration of creation, peace and prosperity on the earth as mentioned in Isaiah 11 where the lion and the lamp will lay down together and also this includes a new heavens and new earth as mentioned in Isaiah 65:17 and there would also be a new Jerusalem. However, ultimately the primary thought here is related to the way the term is used in Act 1:7 when the disciples ask Jesus about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. They care about this because they will be sitting on twelve thrones judging Israel. So, this is important to them to the people whom they are preaching to. The restoration of God’s people was a central message of prophets in the Old Testament. Well, he is calling them to repent so that those times of refreshing may come. Those times that has been promised by the prophets.
By Acts 28 Israel as a whole had not turned. Sometimes we think that none of the Jewish people turned; that isn’t true. Throughout the Book of Acts many of the Jewish people turned, but it wasn’t the Jewish people as a whole, therefore the restoration wouldn’t be brought in. We see Paul saying something similar to this in Romans 11. In fact, Paul believed that his ministry to the gentiles was part of the divine plan because Isaiah included the gentiles in what he was saying. When gentiles turned to the God of Israel through faith in Jesus, Israel should look at that and recognize Jesus as being the promised Messiah. Paul believed by provoking these people to jealousy and recognizes that it is through Jesus that these gentiles are coming into the kingdom; Jews would turn to Jesus because of this. He hoped that Israel would see this and then turn to faith in Jesus and then the restoration would come to everyone. The language is that all Israel would be saved. This was Israel as a whole and the Jewish people as a whole turning to faith in the Messiah. It didn’t work out the way Paul envisioned it, at least not very quickly because the gentiles didn’t pay attention to what he said in this context. But the gentile church believed that they had replaced Israel and thus the church and God had left Israel behind. However, in more recent times there has been a turning of Jewish people to faith in Christ; some think as many as a hundred thousand or more. That is still a very small proportion of the Jewish people in the world. It is larger than it has ever been in history since the early centuries. It was probably a higher percentage in the 1st century. So when we think of the remnant, the issue isn’t that it is small, instead it is not the Jewish people as whole. And so some of the things Paul envisioned and what Peter was hoping for hasn’t happened yet. Peter was working toward this along with Paul. The emphasis of Acts is the good news going out to all people. But this doesn’t mean that the message to the Jewish people has been forgotten. The good news of God’s love for all people is expressed in Christ.
He says that God had promised that he would raise up a prophet like Moses and in this he is citing Deuteronomy 18:15-18. This was a hope that wasn’t only celebrated by the Jewish people but it was something that was celebrated by the Samaritans. It is also celebrated in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was quite emphasized in Peter’s day. There were people tried to duplicate the miracles of Moses and Joshua but failed at it. People were expecting a new Moses and Jesus who fed the five thousand in the wilderness was that ultimate prophet. Jesus was the ultimate prophet; there were prophets in the Book of Acts. Moses told us that we were to heed him. In 3:24-26, Peter speaks in verse 24 of prophecies from Samuel onward which were about Jesus’ death. He has just talked about being a prophet like Moses was a rejected deliver and we find out about this more clearly in Acts 7. Also we see the leaders that God raised up normally suffered before they were exalted. So there is a pattern there that we see throughout the prophets. We also have texts about the righteous sufferer. We also have Isaiah 53 that we have talked about before and other passages. Also the prophets from Samuel onward were understood by the Jewish people that that prophesized about the messianic era. We don’t have a lot of text in the Old Testament that talked about the reigning Son of David. It is not as many as you would expect according to what Peter says here. There is another in Jeramiah 23 that implies that the Son is divine; this was taken in conjunction with the prophecy in Isaiah. These prophecies about the new Moses, the one who would suffer and then be exalted; it includes the promise of the messianic era, the promise of restoration and all the things that the Messiah came to do. It is offered first to the people the Messiah first came.
You were children or heirs of the prophets. Peter is being very gracious; yes those people who are the heirs are the same people who killed the prophets and who kill Jesus. Peter is offering them a chance to turn from their sins. He speaks of the blessings of Abraham. This blessing according to Genesis 12:3 was also to be a blessing to all people. It was to come through them and that is why the servant was sent to be a blessing to them first.
2. Acts 4
a. Peter and John are Arrested
In Acts 4 they are arraigned by the temple authorities. They were preaching the resurrection of the dead in Jesus. The Pharisees talked about resurrection; they and the Sadducees disagreed strongly about the resurrection. That may have bothers the Sadducees but it didn’t threaten them. But the preaching of the resurrection in Jesus was different; it wasn’t merely a theoretical hope for the future, it was empirical evidence that this future had already broken into history. The time had come and God was laying his demands upon his people. The illegitimate leaders of the people were going to be displaced from their position of power. The apostles, those who would be sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes were going to be the new leaders and the Sadducees weren’t pleased with this. The Sadducees controlled the temple hierarchy and most of the resident priesthood. It says that the captain of the temple guard came; the temple guard was a local police force permitted by the Romans and made up of the Levites. They had come up for the hour of prayer, about three in the afternoon. Sundown would be approaching and that is why they had to detain them overnight; they weren’t going to call an emergency night meeting like they did with Jesus. The names of these high priests Ananias and Chapais; Ananias was the father-in-law of Chapais and he had been the high priest and still controlled a lot of things behind the scenes. He was succeeded by his son-in-law but he had five other sons. So he was in a position of great power. Chapais was the official high priest from AD 18-36. These are people who were accustomed to power and according to other Jewish sources, they were ruthless where sometimes they would beat people with clubs; they were disliked in the Dead Sea Scrolls and disliked by the Pharisees. Josephus also reports how some of the high priests were exploiting people. Luke can use the plural for high priests because the aristocratic priesthood during this period was the high priestly family as opposed to the chief priest in the Old Testament.
We also see God’s authority rather than the authority of the hierarchy. God’s authority challenged the priesthood hierarchy. They were arraigned for preaching in the temple because they were challenging the authority of the Sadducees, telling them that they had executed Jesus. If Jesus was executed for treason, it was treason to support him. It was also considered very rude in the ancient world to repay a good deed with evil. You were supposed to pay a benefaction with gratitude. The language that Peter uses here by saying that if we are called here to give account because of a benefaction given to this man; benefaction was a major issue in the Greco-Roman world; it was celebrated everywhere. Donors would put up buildings or people were drafted to provide civic support. If someone was a benefactor, you were support to honor them. Luke 22 talks about this; the greatest among the gentiles are the benefactors. Jesus came to suffer and serve, but he also came and functioned as a benefactor going about doing good (Acts 10:38) and giving benefaction. Now the disciples are acting in Jesus’ name and a benefaction has been done to this man Jesus and the disciples are being arraigned for this. If you want to know how this man was made whole; the language for being made whole is the same Greek word for save. That becomes more significant was Peter goes on. In being arraigned, there is a demand in regards to whose authority have they done this. Who gave them the right to speak in the temple courts and to draw this crowd and challenge our authority? Peter replied, what you really want to know is by whose name was this man made whole and saved from his sickness; by whose name was this benefaction done? Peter said that it was by the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom you crucified. In fact, ‘there is no other name given under heaven’ which was an Old Testament idiom.
b. In John and Peter’s Defense
No other name among humanity by which a person may be saved. He moved quickly from the physical healing to salvation, the promised salvation of Israel and to those who would call upon the name of the Lord and be saved according to Acts 2:21 citing Joel. This man was saved, now you can be saved if you call on the name of Jesus. This brings out a point elsewhere in the New Testament; certainly you have it in John 14:6, there is no other way to the Father except through Jesus. Humanities’ situation is so desperate that it is only through Jesus that we can be fully reconciled to God. This point isn’t just made here; the preaching of the Gospel throughout the Book of Acts assumes that people need Jesus and it is through him that they can be saved. You have the same thing in Paul’s letters and throughout the New Testament. This idea is put in different ways, you can be justified by faith, you can be born again or born from above, born of the Spirit Paul says, as well as John. You are transferred from the authority of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. You are moved from death to life. It is put in all sorts of ways; delivered from cosmic bondage and evil powers. There are all sorts of different aspects of this deliverance, but in every case, the assumption is that people move from one state to another. People were lost and then they are found. That doesn’t mean that everybody knows exactly when it happens; in growing up in a Christian, you may have realized this gradually. For me, it was very dramatic and drastic change in my life. But the point here, Jesus is the Savior and he is the only Savior. That was as offensive in that culture as it is for many people today. The Jewish people were considered exclusive and looked down on for being monotheistic because most people worshipped many of the gods. Some gentiles acknowledge that the Jews worshipped the highest God. So, how much more exclusive was it to say that this God can only be approached through Jesus.
There was a price that the apostolic church had to pay for this and if we want to be like them, we are going to have to pay that price also. The things that we believe will seem rude to people who do not believe what we believe in. At the same time, we need to be gracious for Jesus said to the Pharisees; I didn’t come for the righteous. Jesus ate with sinners; he reached out to those who were marginalized, those who knew they were lost and who knew their need. We don’t reach out to people from a position of superiority for God offered to save people by grace, like he need for us. So when we reach out to people, we reach out to people as those who are broken but welcomed by God. We have found something wonderful that we want to share with other people because we care about them.
But the temple authorities were working from a position of power, to try to suppress the truth. They expected people to line up and to be quiet when they told them to be quiet. They normally got their way because they could enforce their way; they had political power. They weren’t expected Peter and John to speak back to them because they were considered unlearned. That may have meant that they couldn’t read or write. At the very least it could mean that they didn’t have the high level rhetorical training and Greek education that many of the Sadducees and priest would have had. But Peter and John answered them boldly; the Greek word here is parrhesia and those who spoke like this in the Greek world were respected. This was with boldness, forthrightness speaking the truth to those in power. This doesn’t mean you go around provoking people; we know that Paul was very respectful to Roman officials. But here were people who claimed to speak for God, but were using the rightful authority that belonged to the King of Israel, Jesus the Messiah. They were sent away with a threat which was considered the right way to do it. They go to the other disciples, the other believers which consisted of a large number now as the number of disciples had been growing through the witness of the church. So, Peter and John return and lifted their voices in prayers with one voice in one accord, a spontaneous praise and thankfulness to God. In Psalm 2 which was understood as messianic; it addressed the Davidic line and the Messiah (mashiyack in Hebrew) that was to come. A lot of people though this to be the anointed king, especially. The Dead Sea Scrolls speaks of the anointed king and an anointed priest, but the anointed king was what other Jewish people thought of in regards to the Son of David, the Messiah.
c. The Believers Prayed for Boldness
They named the kind of leaders who were again Jesus; Pilate and the chief priests. But the Lord would put to shame his enemies. They praised God and prayed that God would continue to grant them boldness; the same kind of boldness that they had before and that he would continue to stretch forth his hand to heal and signs and wonders might be done in the name of Jesus. What had just happened with this person being healed being in the court; he was walking and leaping and praising God. Nobody could deny this. They were asking for more of these things, so that they would have more opportunities for public preaching. They wanted to continue to be bold and continue to speak and to trust God to continue to work through them. In 4:31, it says that the place was shaken where they were assembled. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness. Remember, the Spirit was associated especially with prophecy and speaking God’s message. It was also associated with other actions, like miracles. The language of filling seems to be associated with that also. They have a continued revival, the Spirit is poured out and the place was being shaken. This has been reported in other revivals in history. There was a mid-20th century revival in the Hebrides, mainly a Presbyterian revival and initially when the Spirit came upon them, the place was shaken; the houses around them were shaken. As the Spirit was poured out, the ensuing revival that was described in verses 32-37speaks especially of sharing possessions, giving to those who were in need. They sold whatever they had when they saw people in need. The same thing that happened in 2:44-45. So this was radical; there are some today who want to speak of the Spirit just in terms of the power that the Spirit gives us to get things. But in Acts, the Spirit goes deeper than that, the Spirit transforms us from the inside so that we serve God gladly as we become devoted to God and one another. So, we seek to meet one another’s needs. There were a lot of very poor people in Jerusalem and they wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of.
In Acts 4:4, the number of believers in Jerusalem increased to over five thousand people. Luke gives the number as five thousand men. Chances were that Peter and John were also preaching in the outer court, the court of women which was before one gets to the court of Israel. So, most likely, a lot of women had become believers. For the sake of argument, five thousand men and in most church settings, women out numbered men in the church; even among God fearers, the women out numbered the men, partly because in ancient Mediterranean society, men had society reasons not to convert. They would lose social status in society where it wasn’t as much an issue for women. That may or may not have been the case in Jerusalem. Perhaps there were as many as ten thousand believers in Jerusalem; people used to say that this wasn’t possible because Jerusalem’s population was only about twenty-five thousand during this period. But newer estimates based on archeology places the population closer to about eighty-five thousand people. Ten thousand people represent a very sizable number but it isn’t like over half the population. In comparing this, what is interesting, probably the majority of Pharisees were centered in Jerusalem and according to Josephus, there were only about six thousand Pharisees altogether and there were only about four thousand Essenes, but he doesn’t number the Sadducees. But remember Josephus wasn’t always known for reliability of numbers. But my guess is that they would not have outnumbered the Pharisees. The Sadducees may have even been fewer than the Essenes. So the number of believers in Jerusalem had already out-numbered the Sadducees, but some say that these figures in Acts can’t be realistic. Especially when you get to Acts 21:20 where it says that there were tens of thousands of believers in Judea who were Zealous for the Law. At the minimum that could be twenty thousand believers or more. So, some people say that this isn’t possible. If the growth was steady up until Constantine, you couldn’t have started with this many people already in Jerusalem who were believers. But who says that the growth rate was steady.
If you look at various revival movements in history, often in the initial revival, there is a massive spread. For example, in the United States, there was a revival called the second great awakening that the Methodist Church profited from. During that movement from the time Asbury arrived here from England and began preaching and to the time of his death, the Methodist Church grew about a thousand times over. Baptist grew hundreds of times over during the same period. If you look at revivals in other places, the Kneeos Revival in Indonesia; there was a huge growth of the church. Look at the Pentecostal Revival in the early twentieth century starting from 1906. There were other people who were Pentecostal like before that. A lot of people came into this movement from the Holiness Movement, etc. So, from 1906 until the year 2006, estimates include a half a billion people in one century. That is phenomenal growth. Revival movements often begin with a massive increase of growth. So, there is no reason to doubt these kinds of figures that we see in the Book of Acts when you compare that to sociological parallels today. In any case, Acts 4:6, Ananias is called the high priest even though Chapais was at the time. Both were the high priest in Acts 4:2 as it was used in the plural; they were both members of the High Priest family. They both exerted a lot of power and other sources viewed them negatively. Peter also quoted in Acts 4:11 Psalm 118:22 that Jesus had also cited back in Luke 20:17. The real cornerstone on which the real temple of God is going to be built is not the temple establishment but it is the stone that the builders themselves rejected, Jesus of Nazareth. Interestingly, even the place he was rejected, the site of his crucifixion was built near a stone quarry; so there were a lot of rejected stones there literally as well.
In terms of God’s authority rather than the hierarchy, when they speak with boldness, philosophers often stressed obeying God rather than people. Socrates was known for that; some of the language that Peter uses in Acts 5 is fairly close to Socrates. But it doesn’t mean that Peter and John would have known that. For the Sadducees, having more access to Greek education, probably would have recognized an illusion that Peter didn’t intend. But this kind of boldness was modeled by the Old Testament prophets; Nathan, for example and then Elijah who confronted Ahab and thereby Jezebel or Jeramiah; they confronted Kings and authorities. Uriah did that and he suffered martyrdom (Jeramiah 26). Remember what Jesus said in Luke 6; rejoice, leap for joy when they persecute you, when they call you false prophets because this is the same way their ancestors treated the prophets who were before you. Paul rejoices in the same way; Paul and Silas when they were beaten in Acts 16:25. They are praising God at midnight like Psalm 119 speaks of. As they are praising God, what happens? The place was shaken in Acts 4 and also in Acts 16 where their bonds fell off. In Acts 4:24, they may be echoing Psalm 146:6, God who made heaven, earth, the sea and all that is in them. Acts 4:26 echo Psalm 2:1-2 where the anointed applies to the Messiah. In Acts 4:28, God, you determined this in advance; just as in the Old Testament, God can you the wicked to execute his own plan. The cross was his plan; the rulers meant it for evil but God used it for good. You look at the sovereignty of God; he is so sovereign that he is able to accomplish his will even by allowing people a measure of free choice so that people have responsibility for what they do. But God still accomplishes his purposes; he foreknows what they are going to do and works out things together. That is how sovereign and mighty God is. At one point, I worked through the entire Bible taking notes on this theme. I was astonished at the emphasis of God’s sovereignty. Often in living out our daily lives, we don’t take this in account. People may do evil to us, but ultimately God’s purposes will prevail for his church and eternally for each of us.
Pray for boldness; some who were persecuted in the Old Testament, they prayed for vengeance (2 Chronicles 24; Psalm 137 and Jeramiah 15), but here the prayers for boldness and signs as in Acts 4:9 where God had granted boldness. Remember in Luke 11:13, Jesus promised that God would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask; they asked and the Holy Spirit gave boldness and in Acts 4:33, it says that the apostles continued to give witness with power and presumably this language indicates that signs continued to take place.
d. Joseph Barnabas
The remaining part of Acts 4 we have contrasting examples. We have Joseph Barnabas who sold a field and gave the money to the Apostles, who had oversight of the gifts to the poor. People were contributing to this work and knew that the apostles were trustworthy. Jesus had taught a lot about caring for the poor. The leaders were able to distribute the money; this becomes an issue in Acts 6 where they have to delegate this. Joseph who was called Barnabas is a good example here. Joseph was a common name and so he needed another name to distinguish him from others with the same name. He was a Levite from Cyprus; there was a significant Jewish community in Cyprus and we read in 11:20 that Cypriot and Cyrene Jews began to spread the message to gentiles. They had been scattered from Jerusalem; Barnabas may well have been one of them; we gather that he was a person of means from something that Luke doesn’t tell us. Mark was his relative, Colossians 4 tell us this. So, when we read about John Mark’s mother’s house in Acts 12:12-13, she had a servant, an outer gate perhaps living in the upper part of the city. Joseph is a diaspora Jew originally and has settled in Jerusalem. But this is contrasted with another example. In Acts 4:36-37, a positive example is Joseph Barnabas but in Acts 5:1-11 we have a negative example concerning Ananias and Sapphira. We don’t know much extra Biblical about them. But we do know that the name Sapphria mean beautiful; it was especially common among the priestly elite. People normally didn’t socially marry above themselves in terms of wealth. So, most likely, they were fairly well off.
3. Acts 5
a. Achan in Jericho
Acts 5:1-11 gives us a negative example of people said that they were completely committed, who said that they were part of this revival, but it was only on the surface. In times of revival when people are devoting themselves to God; you don’t want to fake it, you want to be part of the real thing. So, the apostles have to address this sin of what happened and here we have an issue of Judgement. Some of the language here in Greek, echoes the Greek translation of Joshua 7 where we read about Achan from the tribe of Juda who had kept some of the spoils of Jericho for himself. They weren’t to be kept for oneself. These were things that were devoted for destruction; they were so contaminated with the sin of Jericho that they were to be destroyed. By keeping these things for himself, he brought on the entire community. Sometimes, we don’t take sin very serious. For example in 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul says that this is why there are many weak and sick among you and some have died because they weren’t right discerning the body of Christ. That seemed to have inhibited healing among them. So, the community had sin in is midst. Sometimes passages in the Old Testament talk about rooting that out; 1 Corinthians 5 uses language from Deuteronomy to root out evil from the midst of the community. So, in the midst of this revival, there was a private sin. The Dead Sea Scrolls required members to turn over their possessions after a trial period; the Pythagoreans, a Greek philosophical sect also required members to turn over their possessions after a period of testing to make sure that they really wanted to join the community. The early Christians, however, didn’t have a rule as such.
b. Ananias and Sapphira
That is why Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira, wasn’t this your own? You did this voluntarily. So, the early Christians didn’t have a rule that you had to give all your money to us. It was because of love. Judgement is more serious here; this wasn’t because of what they didn’t give, but instead, because of their pretense of commitment. Hypocrites didn’t look very good in the Gospel of Luke; it didn’t matter whether they belonged to the Pharisees or they claimed to be a Christian. God doesn’t like hypocrites; it hurts the spreading of the Gospel. The Dead Sea Scrolls excluded just an offender from the communal meal for a year and if they were caught a second time, they would have been excluded permanently. Normally, that might have been what the church would have done, but in this case, they were stuck dead just like the two sons of Aaron who played with holy fire. The fire came out and stuck them dead. Sometimes God enacts judgement in treating profane what is holy. A revival is holy when God is pouring out the Spirit. We don’t want to fake it but submit to the work of the Spirit at this time. There is also a price to revival also; holiness is something that is important. We also see the increase in miracles. They had prayed for boldness, that God would continue to heal and it happens. People are afraid to join the community lightly after this. It doesn’t mean that people were afraid to become believers but they were afraid to join the churches after what happened to Ananias and Sapphira if they really weren’t going to commit themselves to Christ.
It says that this brought fear upon the people; the same as when people were executed in the Old Testament. The purpose of it was to make people afraid to commit sin again. Now, miracles increased beyond this act of judgement. Most of them were healings; people brought the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed by, even his shadow might touch them. They thought that the shadow was attached to the person. This is why many Jewish people thought that if your shadow touches a corpse you would become unclean. So, this was what people thought. But, the power of the Spirit was so strong through Peter, that people were being touched through this. In 2 Kings 13 Elisha was sick of a sickness in which he died. Yet, he was so full of the power of God, that when they threw a corpse on top of his bones, the corpse came back to life. Jesus in Luke 8, the woman reaches out and touches his clothing and Jesus said that he felt the power go out from him. In Acts 19, a cloth was taken from Paul and people were healed through those clothes. Demons where cast out way. We don’t see this happening all the time; often we see Paul healing people in the name of Jesus. But sometimes the Spirit of God was being poured out so dramatically; it was at this level of intensity. The problem that this brought was, when you had miracles, a lot of people are more likely to pay attention and that is great. That means a lot of people will turn to God. It also means that people, who are not going to turn to God, can’t ignore you either. In the next lesson we see that they get in trouble with the Sadducees again.