#08 (Acts 4:1-12) Apostles First Confrontation with Temple Authorities
As we continue these studies it is important to keep in mind that everything is taking place within the framework of the Jewish culture. While it is tempting to try to read our own theologies into the studies, we need to try and keep an open mind. You will be amazed at how the Scriptures are able to speak for themselves.
Also keep in mind the idea of being a close observer or a participant in the happenings. If you were a Jewish person of that time, how would you view these happenings? Remember that your heart has been filled with longings for Messiah from childhood.
With that in mind we can begin our next study. This is #08 (Acts 4:1-12) Apostles First Confrontation with Temple Authorities.
Beginning with Acts 4.
Vss1-3: "As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening."
The authorities can stand it no longer. They've been forced to watch from a distance. To interfere with the apostles would have caused an uproar that would have affected them quite negatively. But the movement is increasing and many Jews are turning to Jesus. They can hold themselves in check no longer.
For a little extra background let's reflect for a moment on a prophecy that had been given by Caiaphas the high priest, before Jesus was apprehended. The prophecy is very telling. It says,
"Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, 'What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.'"
"But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, 'You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.' Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him." (John 11:47-53)
Isn't it amazing that God would use an enemy of Jesus to prophesy? This example fits the saying that the ways of the Lord are past finding out. The Lord put this prophecy in the mouth of Caiaphas because he was high priest. It doesn't mean that Caiaphas understood the implications. Actually he probably had something else in mind when he spoke those words. (Did you know that God can make the word of a sinner a form of prophecy to you, and the sinner not even know it. I'm not speaking of fortune tellers.)
It is this same Caiaphas who is in charge on the day of Pentecost, and it is he and the family of priests, who have the apostles apprehended.
Another issue is that it had been taught by the sages of Israel, that when Messiah came, He would be a worker of miracles. These miracles would prove who He was. Later in Jewish history, the rabbis changed this feature of Messiah. Because the miracles of Jesus could not be denied, the Talmudic writers later said that Jesus was a sorcerer.
Vs4: "But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand."
This suggests that an additional two thousand men were now added to the three thousand of the day of Pentecost. This would bring the believers up to five thousand men.
In the Jewish culture everything revolved around the men. The three most important festivals in Israel required the attendance of the men only. They were required to present themselves before the Lord. Of course their families often came with them.
So what about women and children? While their number is not given in Acts, you can be sure that the group of believers far exceeds five thousand, and in this number are a great many priest. In fact, numbers will bear out that women converts to the faith by far outnumber men.
The Importance of Baptism
Plus you can be sure that all these peoples were being baptized. And this is a good point to reemphasize something important in water baptism at that time. When a person was converting to Judaism, three things were required for the male, and only two things for a female. For the male the requirement was a sacrifice at the temple, circumcision, and the mikveh. (Pool of baptism, or immersion-pool.) For the female only a sacrifice and the mikveh was required. (Actually baptism was seen as a converts first act of worship as a Jew.)
Here is a statement that was said over a proselyte baptism: "Blessed are ye, O Israel. Before whom ye make clean and who makes you clean? Your Father in heaven. As it is written, 'And I will sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean.' And again it says, 'O Lord, the hope, miqwe (pool of baptism), of Israel: as the miqwe cleanses the unclean, so does the Holy One cleanse Israel.'" (Notice that the Father was appealed to in baptism.)
This act of Jewish proselyte baptism is likely a clue to how the gospel of Matthew ends, in which Jesus speaks of baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. According to the early Church fathers, Matthew was the only gospel originally written in Hebrew (Or, Aramaic). It was called the 'Gospel to the Hebrews.' (Don't confuse it with the book of Hebrews.) The Jewish people would have understood what was behind this command, in that Jesus Himself was where all authority lie. (Cf. HF056 - The Name Above All Names.)
The Apostles Before the Sanhedrin
Vss5,6: "On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent."
Notice the three classes of the Sanhedrin; Rulers (chief priests), or, Sadducees, who did not believe in angels, or miracles, nor did they accept the writings of the prophets. The scribes were usually Pharisees. Elders were normally neither Sadducee or Pharisee. The make up was 24 priests, 24 elders, and 22 scribes.
Annas was actually the ex-high priest but who was highly regarded and was often called by the title of high priest. Caiaphas was the high priest and son-in-law of Annas. It is the high priests who carried the weight of the Sanhedrin, and who were the force behind dealing with Jesus and the apostles.
Vs7: "When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, 'By what power, or in what name, have you done this?'"
Of course they knew where the movement was coming from. The high priests hoped to instill fear in the apostles. However, it is quite likely that many in the Sanhedrin had hesitation about interfering with the apostles. One of their most esteemed members later gave somewhat a defense of the apostles. Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, was a member of the Sanhedrin. (We will get to this later. There is a historical suggestion that Gamaliel became a believer.)
Can you imagine standing before the greatest authoritative power in Israel, and having to give an account for what you were doing? All the men in the 'Great' Sanhedrin were highly regarded. They were the supreme court of the nation. (Each town has its own local sanhedrin.)
The Anointing in the Life of a Believer
Vs8-12: (Let's take the remainder of our study portion together, then I will comment on parts of it.)
"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let 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. "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone." 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.'"
..."Peter filled with the Holy Spirit."
In Greek this speaks of 'having just been filled,' or, 'being filled.' It is here that we see how the anointing works in a believer's life. All believers have the Holy Spirit, and every believer has the potential of being filled according to the need of the moment. The anointing is simply the life of Jesus, or eternal life, filling us. Consider these Scriptures:
"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know." (1Jn2:20)
What is it we know? We know God personally through His Son Jesus Christ.
"As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." (1Jn2:27)
Notice carefully that John says:
(1) Believers have the anointing 'abiding.' Meno speaks of a permanent residency. The Holy Spirit does not come and go in a believer's life.
(2) This anointing teaches believers about all things. This means that all true believers have the ability to distinguish truth from error. They do it by the testimony of the Spirit. (The Spirit bearing witness in our heart.)
(3) You have no need for 'anyone' to teach you. The word 'tis' speaks of a certain someone. The gnostics set themselves up as 'gurus' and taught that there were two classes of believers; the lower class, and the higher class. The gnostics were the higher class, and other believers had to come to them in order to know the things of God. (Do we still have the gnostics with us today? Think about it. Jesus said, when they say 'Christ is here, or Christ is there, don't go to them.' Or if they say, 'the anointing is here or there.')
(4) Then John says, "You abide in Him." John is simply telling believers to learn to trust in the anointing that is in their own hearts. We speak of this as the inner witness, or that spiritual intuitiveness that is given us by the Holy Spirit.
Continue with Acts.....
Keep in view that Peter and John are standing before the same Jewish leadership that turned Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified. And once again they are hearing from Jesus, only this time it is through the mouth of His witnesses, the apostles.
What does Peter say? Again He brings out the heart of the new covenant, that is, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and that a miracle has taken place through the name of Jesus. He says, "Let 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."
The Jewish leaders are hearing Peter tell them that they no longer have any authority to represent the kingdom of God. That all authority is now in Jesus Christ.
This confrontation with the supreme Jewish authorities is crucial to the transferring of the kingdom of God from natural Israel to the new covenant people of God, that is, both Jew and Gentile who receive Jesus as Messiah. The message has to be given directly to the authorities. It cannot be said that God was unfair to the leadership of Israel. God is always just.
Then Peter quotes from a prophecy that every Jew knew pertained to Messiah, but they did not know how it would be fulfilled. (I would encourage the membership to read Psalm 118.)
"He is the Stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone." (Psa118:22)
Peter will later draw from this Scripture, and a companion Scripture in Isaiah, as he writes his first general epistle. Listen to 1 Peter 2:4-8:
"And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.' This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,' and, 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."
Lets end our study at this point.
Feel free to respond, ask questions, or give insights.
Previous: #07 (Acts 3) The Miracle at the Gate Called Beautiful
Next: #08a - A Picture of New Covenant Salvation
This study on
Acts was originally part of a
series on the book of Acts given to members of
Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003.
They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, Founder and Senior Pastor of
Christian Challenge International.