Read Acts 4
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Believers Pray
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
One of the main lessons of Acts 4 is that God can use anyone, anywhere, at any time. Nobody is too shy, too sinful, or too broken to be used in a mighty way by the Holy Spirit. One of the most intriguing (but a little insulting!) verses in the entire book of Acts is verse 13: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” The religious leaders were shocked that these men spoke with such power because they were ordinary. Peter and John were just run of the mill people with no degrees and no money, just a powerful message.
The people there that day couldn’t help but conclude that the only difference was Jesus. These men had spent time with the crucified Christ. If Jesus could transform these two, well, then He could transform anybody! This transformation would happen in more and more lives, even as the religious leaders tried to put an end to this movement. Thousands came to know Jesus and created a unified family the likes of which the world had never seen. These men and women created habits of prayer and generosity that literally shook the foundations of the earth. God was on the move through everyday, ordinary people who simply didn’t know any better. May we be desperate for Him to do it again!
What characteristics of these early believers do you wish marked Harris Creek today?
Words like “courage” and “boldness” are frequently used to describe the early church. Why do you think they had such confidence?
In Acts, one of the main qualities of Christians was their generosity. Who in your life could God impact with your generosity?
Did You Know?
The Sanhedrin clearly had little respect for Peter and John. They weren’t wealthy enough to have received formal training, nor were they part of the religious class to have studied under a scholar. However, God took these two fishermen and empowered them to present a case in front of chief priests and scribes, because they’d been with Jesus and could testify on His behalf.