Acts Part 4

Notes on Acts

Part Four


Read chapter four.


Now it happened on the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem;

    6      and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.[1]


Annas was actually the former high priest. For some reason, the Roman authorities did not like him and had him step down. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, then became high priest. Just as former presidents of the United States are still entitled “President,” so Annas is still titled as high priest. Although, Luke may also be calling Annas the high priest because he still had control of the priesthood practically speaking. “John” was one of Annas’ sons. Alexander is unknown, but likely also related.


The very leaders of God’s people, who were supposed to bring his people closer to Him, were the ones who took the lead in murdering Christ and persecuting the apostles. Positions of leadership among God’s people can be, and are, held by some who hate God. Consider some apostate denominations that exist today who “ordain” homosexuals and so-called “transgender” rebels. They seek to overthrow God’s created order and design. They promote sex outside of marriage and all manner of wickedness in the name of “tolerance.” They take the side of man in his sin and stand against God’s laws of moral purity.


Then Peter, afilled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “bRulers and elders of the people,

    9      if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man, as to how this man has been saved from his sickness,

  10      let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that aby 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.[2]


“Instead of being frightened into silence or compromise, Peter displayed great courage and went on the offensive. Submission is not cowardice. He began by indicting them for their incongruity of putting him and John on trial for a benefit done to a sick man. He thus turned the tables on the Sanhedrin and subtly accused them of injustice – certainly it couldn’t be wrong to heal a lame man.

Since they had demanded to know as to how this man has been made well, by what name (or authority) the apostles performed the miracle, Peter told them. He desired them and all the people of Israel to know that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – whom they crucified, but God raised from the dead – the beggar stood before them in good health. In the very citadel of the Sanhedrin’s power Peter put his judges on trial by proclaiming the truth about the living Christ to those responsible for his execution. By pointing out that they executed Jesus but God raised him up, Peter showed them to be the enemies of God. This approach was frequently employed in Acts (2:23-24; 3:14-15; 10:39-40; 13:27-30). Peter refused to compromise the gospel by deleting what would offend the Sanhedrin. He spoke courageously because he was devoted to the truth and entrusted the outcome to his Lord. That is an example for all persecuted believers.”[3]

Our memory verse:

“And 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]

Peter proclaimed an exclusive Christ! Our proclamation is the same. Because of it we will be viewed as intolerant. So be it. We can say that the exclusive claims of Christ are not ours…they were those of Christ Himself (John 14:6) and the apostles. But we affirm with all boldness that one must submit to Christ in order to be saved and that no one is saved without faith in him.

Now 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.

  14      And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.[5]


Why did Peter and John have such confidence? There are two reasons. First, they knew they spoke the truth. They were certain (2:36). When we are certain of what we know then we, too, can be bold! Second, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (4:8). The Spirit makes you bold! The more of the Spirit that we possess, the bolder we will be!


The religious rulers had nothing to say. This is a fulfillment of what Jesus had promised:


for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.[6]


Then the religionists command them to no longer to speak about Jesus. They refuse. Peter asserts that they must obey God rather than man. The first disciples had to be commanded not to speak about Jesus. Modern disciples have to be commanded to speak about Jesus and they still will not. Something is horribly wrong! Why must contemporary disciples even be commanded by their teachers and elders at all? It is because they lack what Peter and John had. They are either uncertain that they have the truth or they are not filled with the Spirit.


Peter replies to their command:


we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.[7]


Contemporary Christians live by this verse…..but they removed one word. Here is how modern Christians take the verse:


“We cannot speak about what we have seen and heard.” They remove the word stop! Isn’t this so? Some will even say that they do not “feel led” to share the gospel! What a horrible misunderstanding of Scripture to use one’s feelings as an excuse for disobedience! When God gives a command in Scripture we do not wait to “feel led!” Can you imagine someone saying, “I don’t feel led to have sexual relations with my husband.” Or, “I don’t feel led to feed my children.” Or, “I don’t feel led to attend church.” Or, “I don’t feel led to put in a good day’s work. I prefer to sit behind the vending machines and take a nap.” To wait for feelings before you obey the Lord is actually a sin. For, as one man of God has well said, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.”


It is one thing for a disciple of Christ to tell others about Christ and then, as a few years go by, they lose their motivation and stop. Actually, through simple observation, this happens often. It is still contrary to the Lord’s will. Remember how displeased the risen Lord was with the church at Ephesus because they left their first love. He will spit them out of his mouth. But it is quite another if someone never speaks to others about Christ. They give evidence that they have never been born from above. What man, if he truly loves his wife, never speaks about her but rather acts as if he were single? None. If he acts in such a way he does not love his wife. If a person has never spoken about the Lord then they do not love him. If they do not love Jesus then they have not been born again.


We ought to check ourselves. If we at one time were zealous for the Lord and have lost it, then we must be filled with the Spirit and kindle afresh the flame of love for him. Your boldness will be the manifestation of being Spirit filled, not a warm fuzzy feeling. If we were never zealous then it is time to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus and admit to others that all we have been doing is playing church for 20 years (or more!). “There ‘s no time to waste in this life. There’s no time at all.”


When the demands of a religious group, the government, or our spouse conflict with those of God, we obey God and disobey others. We see it here. But this often occurs in Scripture. The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharoah (Ex. 1:15-17). Daniel disobeyed the edicts of the king (Dan. 6:4-10). Abigail disobeyed her husband (I Samuel 25:19-23). And, all these were blessed because of their disobedience!


When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.

  24      And 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,

  25      who 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 bChrist.’

  27      “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy aservant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

  28      to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.[8]

The Bible teaches predestination. Actually, the Scriptures are clear on the subject. However, there are many Christians who do not like this doctrine so they will use contortions to attempt to make the passages that teach it, teach something else. In their minds, it is unfair for God to choose some people over others. So, ostensibly to protect the fairness of God, they instead exalt human choice. If, they think, that a person’s destiny is contingent upon them then God is portrayed as fair. The problem is two-fold. First, the Scriptures do simply teach predestination and this becomes evident when you hear the free-will proponents try to explain the many passages on predestination. Their explanations seem forced an unnatural. Second, God is not portrayed as fair in Scripture! He favors some over others and this favor has nothing to do with people’s merits. The fact that God is not fair (and doesn’t need to be…fairness is a quality that fallen man needs, not God, because all of God’s choices are right by virtue of Who He is) is shown most plainly in Romans chapter nine:


but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;

  11      for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that the  purpose of God according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,

  12      it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”

  13      Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

  14      What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be![9]

When the predestined choice of God is revealed by Paul, he expects there to be the claim of injustice, or unfairness (TLB, MSG), as per his question in verse 14. The objection of injustice never arises in the doctrine of free-choice. Technically speaking, God is not unjust, but neither is he fair. Justice and fairness are different things.

Two objects of predestination in Scripture are people, as in Romans 9, and the actions of people, as in Acts 4. Both are predetermined by God. A person’s destiny is predetermined by the Lord, as are all the actions of all people, yet God is not responsible for the sins of persons. As to how this can be is a mystery, although a partial explanation is that man’s heart is wicked and God, through his Spirit, is restraining the evil of men. If God wishes to allow sin to manifest (for a greater good), all he has to do is withdraw some of his restraint and men will do the evil that is already in their heart. This is what happened in the delivering up of the Lord Jesus, his suffering (at the hands of evil men), and his crucifixion.

The doctrine of predestination is frequent in the New Testament. We saw it briefly in Acts 2:

this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death.[10]


For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;[11]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

    4      just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

    5      By predestining us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,[12]

The one thing that fairness advocates seem to miss is that God would be just to send every single person to hell, for eternity, if he elected to do so. It would be just for him to do so because every single person deserves damnation because of their sin and rebellion against a holy God. If God elects to save some, that is pure mercy and not injustice. Neither is God under any obligation to save one single person, let alone the entire human race. Our amazement should be, “Why does God save anyone (especially me)?”…not, “Why doesn’t God save everybody?”

A proper understanding of predestination ought to stir up within us a greater love for God. “Lord, you chose me from before the foundation of the world! I don’t know why. I am so absolutely unworthy! Yet, I run to you for this choice. I love you even more, seeing your merciful choice of me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

His predestination of both persons and actions should create within us a sense of peace, knowing that God is in absolute control of all things.


And when they had prayed earnestly, 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 confidence.[13]


Here we see that they received another outward filling (baptism) of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of it was not tongue-speaking, but a speaking of God’s word with confidence, or boldness. Every disciple is to speak the word of God. But only those who are filled with the Spirit will do so with boldness, or confidence. (Although, if we are certain of the truths we espouse, we  can have a high degree of confidence regardless.)


And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one was saying  that any of his possessions was his own, but, for them,  everything was common.[14]


See the great unity they had! They believed that they were so one with each other that they shared all things. There was no selfish, “this is mine” attitude. Ownership of things is, in itself, of God. But, the early church was so much “one” that no one claimed ownership.


For 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

  35      and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.[15]


Oh! If only the church today would live this way! We would not need government social programs! Some have said that this is like communism. However, there is a vast difference between communism and what we see practiced by the early church. The difference is compulsion. Under communism, the government forces the people to give up their resources and share them with others, even those who will not work. In the working of the Spirit, the sharing was voluntary. That is quite a difference!


And with great power the apostles were bearing witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.[16]


The apostles were bearing witness with great power. Again, their power came from the Holy Spirit. Although we magnify them and honor them, the apostles were men just like us. It was the Spirit of the Living God that gave them their power (to perform miracles) and their confidence. To reiterate, this same power and boldness is available to us because the Spirit is also available to us.


“Great grace” was on all the disciples, not just the apostles. Grace is simply God’s favor. If we belong to the Lord Jesus then the great favor of God is upon us. Would you like to experience more favor of the Lord upon yourself? Then there are two ways to receive it.


First, we saw at the conclusion of last week’s message (Notes on Acts 3) that, when we remain in a known sin, the Lord withholds blessing from us. That is, his favor is diminished. Therefore, we must confess and renounce any sin of which we become aware. When we walk in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, his favor is magnified to us! (Also, see Prov. 11:27; 12:2)


Second, every blessing that we receive from the Lord can either be obtained or increased by asking:


You do not have because you do not ask.

    3      You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.[17]


We miss many things in life because we fail to ask!


We can ask in a very simple way: “Lord, grant more of your favor to me. I entreat your favor upon me! Amen.”


However, the most effective prayers, the ones which we are absolutely certain are within the will of God, are those that come from Scripture itself. That is, we pray the words of the Bible back to God! Here are some verses on the favor of God that we may pray for ourselves and our loved ones:


For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,

You surround him with favor as with a shield.[18]


We can personalize this verse (and any verse): “It is you who blesses the righteous person, O Lord. I am not righteous in myself, but you have made me righteous in Christ. Therefore, bless me, Lord! Surround me with favor as with a shield. Surround me, Lord! May your favor be upon me and around me! Amen.”


O Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong;[19]


“My mountain stands strong, Lord, because of your favor upon me. Thank you, Lord. I ask you to make my mountain to stand even stronger by sending more of your favor. Amen.”


I sought Your favor with all my heart;

Be gracious to me according to Your word.[20]


Personalize it!


to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as bsaints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[21]


Of course, grace and favor are the same thing.


For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.[22]


Great grace was upon the first disciples…not just the apostles, but all the disciples! We have great grace even now. But you can receive more. Walk uprightly (confess your sins) and simply ask! Then, wait and see what the Lord will do!



[1] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:5–6). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:8–10). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Acts, Vol. 1 (Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL; 1994) p. 134

[4] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:12). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ac 4:13–14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[6] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Lk 21:15). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[7] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:20). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ac 4:23–28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[9] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ro 9:10–14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[10] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 2:23). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[11] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ro 8:29). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[12] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Eph 1:3–5). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[13] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[14] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:32). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[15] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:34–35). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[16] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 4:33). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[17] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Jas 4:2b–3). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 5:12). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[19] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 30:7). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[20] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 119:58). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[21] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ro 1:7). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 84:11). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.