Prayer With Power (Acts 4:1-37)

October 20, 2013

Book: Acts

Prayer With Power (Acts 4:1-37)
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Scripture: Acts 4:1-37


Sermon Notes

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 and 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, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. 5 The next day the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the other men 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 cripple and are 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 He is “’the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men 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. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men 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, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For 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’ Prayer

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and 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 heaven 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 people plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and their rulers gather 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 you 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 miraculous 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 his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he 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.

In Acts 3, we saw the healing of the lame man during the hour of prayer. Peter had raised him up after he asked for money (in the name of Jesus). – Miracle of Jesus.

This gave opportunity for them to share their testimony in Solomon’s Colonnade (like an arcade around the temple). Peter was teaching/preaching, etc.

Luke, here, is developing an important theme – the reason for and extent of the Jewish leader’s opposition to the apostle’s message. They first encounter resistance here in Jerusalem, and then throughout the rest of the area. John is referenced here, but doesn’t really do much – Peter is the focus.

The temple guards/Levites come. The captain of the guard was a VIP, second only to the high priest. The Levites (temple police) kept order in the temple. They made sure the Gentiles didn’t enter into the Jewish only areas.

The Sadduccees (chp 3, 4) – most high priestly families are these. Every high priest from Herod to AD 33-66 – this was their lineage. The high priest held this position by permission of the Romans. They worked with the Romans (collaborators) and didn’t want anything to upset the status quo. They didn’t want anything to change. So, they saw Jesus as a threat – a revolutionary.

In John 11:37-48? Jesus was winning favor with all the people EXCEPT the Sadduccees and priests – now they begin plotting against him because they fear the Romans would take away their nation and temple on account of Jesus.

Sadduccees were descendants from the M…. (Jewish priest kings) 140-66BC ? This was the beginning of the Messianic Age. They were the guardians of old proper teachings – they didn’t believe in angels, demons, or the resurrection (at the end of the age) – so they thought they’d catch Jesus out in this (gospel? Luke? chp 19) – “If a man has 7 brothers, and he marries a woman, he dies, so his brother marries her, etc, etc. Who’s the woman’s husband in the resurrection?” Jesus says, “Eh, you totally misunderstood that part….”

God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the Living.

Jesus frustrated their attempts to catch him out.

Annas, the high priest for 9 years – then son-in-law Caiaphas (reigned for 18 years). Now, Caiaphas = the ruler, kind of, but the previous one = Annas – the real power (probably like the President of the council).

Since they didn’t believe in the resurrection, they opposed Jesus (also he seemed to be making a fundamental change in the way the temple worked – i.e. Luke 19? – drove out the sellers) – and they opposed the apostles who carried on his teaching on the resurrection.

These guys had gotten the crowd to cry out “Crucify him!” – they’d thought he was gone and dead, but now his followers are back – no wonder they’re frustrated.

So they arrested the two – threw them in prison – yet the number of MEN grew to 5,000 (probably the congregation = 20,000).

The miracles, preaching, healing, got through to many people and they believed.

The next day, the council got together to decide what to do.

  1. Rulers = high priests
  2. Elders = men of high standing
  3. Teachers = teachers

The question they ask of the apostles = “By what power/name did you do this?”
(They are people of power themselves, so they want to know who they are up against)

The same question was asked of Jesus (Luke 20:1-2) – as Jesus was teaching, the teachers of the Law came to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things?”
Jesus, “OK, you tell me – JB’s baptism – was it from heaven or from man?”

They thought, “Hmmm – if ‘from God’ then ‘why didn’t you believe in him?’ if ‘from Man’ then they people who believed in him will stone us.”

Jesus “Then I won’t tell you either.”

Now, here they are again, with the Jesus question again. And they have a big problem – the man was over forty, the healing was genuine, all the people knew… Now what should they do?…

They could have insinuated that it was the devil’s power that healed the man. Jesus was also accused of this when he healed the man with a demon who couldn’t speak, “By demonic power he drives out demons.” Jesus said, “Duh, why would Satan fight against himself? Besides, then how do YOU drive them out?”

Now Peter declares the risen glory of Christ. Luke 21:12-15 – Jesus had promised wisdom that would outsmart their opponents.

Peter accuses the leaders of being responsible for Jesus’s death and quotes an OT proof text (Ps 118:22) “the capstone” to prove it. Jesus even used it himself (Mark 12:22?)

When the Psalm was written, it was about Israel – despised and rejected by other nations. Jesus applies it to himself (more accurately) and Peter also applies it to him.

Capstone = the IMPORTANT stone in an arch that keeps everything else together.

It’s only in Jesus name (Acts 4:12) that we can be saved. He’s the key point. He’s kind of a big deal.

Remember that David had wanted to build the temple, but he’d been a man of blood – so he passed it on to Solomon to build. Yet, David prepared it all – made contracts – the blocks of stone would have no tools used on them – they had to be made in a totally different place and brought WHOLE to the temple.

The legend goes that they had a lopsided stone, they pushed it aside, threw it away and when they finally needed to finish the temple, they found out it was actually that stone that they’d rejected previously.

This is Jesus – he is the key, the capstone, the only one who fits, the one who holds everything together.

Now the Sadduccees are confused – these are unschooled men and yet, they KNEW the Scriptures as well (perhaps better) than they. It put them to silence.

Jesus was a carpenter’s son and they had earlier marveled at his learning without having gone to their prestigious Harvard-esque Temple schools.

Jesus had healed a man born blind as well. The apostles did. Jesus knew the Scriptures, they did as well.

These things are all being repeated here. What Jesus did, they did, what Jesus knew, they knew, Jesus did good, they are doing good.

  • Problem: what to do with these men?
  • Solution: Can’t really do anything except “Ya! Don’t talk about that! Ya!”

Peter: “Hey man, we’re just saying it like we saw it. Let the people rejoice.”

Do miracles like this healing still happen today? They aren’t as frequent or spectacular perhaps (but remember that all these events in the Bible aren’t happening wham bam one after the other – there is much time between them).

One man said, “I believe Jesus can turn liquor into furniture.” Because he’d been an alcoholic and had lost all his furniture, but then Jesus saved him and he started to become responsible, and he stopped drinking and was able to get furniture back.

And besides, check out Peter’s transformation. He had been a weeping sissy “I don’t know that dude!” and now he’s filled with the Spirit – powerful and bold saying “I don’t care what you do to me – I KNOW this guy!”

Let’s leave it there.

Now, a testimony.