After Peter's first message (Acts 2 which we have already looked at), he goes on about his business. Peter and John went into the temple at about 3:00 P.M.. We will find a great deal of the preaching and teaching activity of the new church at the temple where they had a ready made audience. Those who had a sincere desire for God were there.
As they enter into the temple (Acts 3), they met a certain man. The account of this is strikingly similar to our Lord's actions as He entered into the temple in John 9. There His disciples said to Him, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Peter and John learned the lesson as the Lord answered, "Neither: but that the works of God should be manifest in Him."
Notice their boldness in Acts 3. No doubt, their experience with the Lord was fresh in their mind as they took the lame man by the hand, lifted him up, and immediately he was healed in the name of Jesus. Of course, the healed man was walking and leaping about as they entered into the temple to teach.
Everyone in the temple knew the man as the lame beggar. The man in his excitement was holding Peter and John, praising the Lord. The people present heard the commotion and ran together to see what it was all about.
Peter had come to the temple to teach and when he saw what was going on, of course, he saw his chance. His second message can be read in Acts 3:12-26.
There are a couple of things in this message worth pointing out as we move on to chp. 3, and Peter's defense of his message. First, we might consider the purpose of the healing would be to confirm this new and strange doctrine which Peter was preaching. They had no NT and wouldn't for many more years. Peter explains the reason this took place to the amazed crowd. The purpose (vv. 12-19) was to confirm this new strange doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. Compare Acts 9:42 and Mk. 16:20.
The second reason was to convict them of their sins, v. 20. Another reason was to show that prophecy was being fulfilled, really, had been with Christ's death and resurrection. One of the prophecies Peter reaches back to concerned Moses, v. 22. The crowd Peter is speaking to was Jewish, therefore, proud of Moses. Peter also reached to Samuel, 24, showing that all of the prophets from Samuel (the first prophet) on where speaking of Christ and the power of the gospel.
Another thing Peter points out is in 3:25. Here is the first reference that the fulfillment of the covenant which God made with Abraham is in Christ. Also Peter tells them (v. 26) that the gospel of Christ and its promised blessing was given to them (the Jews) first. They had (under Christ) and now have first chance at it. Here the gospel is still restricted to the Jews and proselytes. That were reached from the Jewish Temple. Remember, the temple had a court of the Gentiles in it where no doubt, the Gentiles could hear the gospel. We do read of the large number of Gentiles converts in chp. 6, even though the gospel had not yet "officially" gone to them, chp. 10.
There are several other things of interest in this message which we really wont deal with at this time. One of these being the restitution of all things according to all prophecies since the world began. Without going into it, this sure sounds like in Christ all things are restored to their original created order. As well as Christ being the final fulfillment of all prophecy.
What we do want to look at is Acts 4. Here we have the first defense of this new doctrine, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter in this defense, being filled with the Holy Ghost, makes some statements which are largely overlooked in our day. The same as the doctrine of his first sermon is overlooked, so is this defense.
The doctrine contained in his first sermon (chp. 2), as well as the doctrine contained in this first defense were both the result of being filled with the Holy Ghost. Therefore, all of the rest of the NT doctrine MUST be viewed or interpreted in the light of these two sermons. One, a "offensive" message, as he attacks the gates of hell. The other a "defensive" message, as he defends the faith from attacks from hell.
These two messages could be considered a link between the OT prophecies and the NT doctrine, tying the two together as the Holy Ghost meant for them to be. Actually the OT and NT is a man made division. The early church, until the second century had only one word from God. We have this division as a lasting result of a heresy brought about by Marcion of Sinope (Chalcedon, PO Box 158, Vallecito, CA, 95251, Paper #57, "Marcionism").
These two messages of Peter tie the OT prophecies, together with the new gospel of Christ in the manner meant by the Holy Ghost. Might we point out these "links in the chain" are quite contrary to modern day Theology.
As we already mentioned, Peter had actually two messages before he is pressed into this defense in chp. 4. The message on the day of Pentecost, then the message in the temple from the lame man.
The first few chapters look something like this.
I. Chapter 2, Peter first message on the day of Pentecost. Location --in one place. Evidently a large public location because there were three thousand saved out of the multitude which gathered together. They continued on in the temple and house to house. The result was---three thousand saved.
II. Chapter 3, Peter's second message after the healing of the lame man to the resulting crowd. Location -- He met the man as he went into the temple. The message was delivered to the multitude which ran together in Solomon's porch in the temple. Result -- The priest, ruler (captain) and the Sadducees of the temple laid hands on them (Peter and John) and confined them. The indication is that while they were speaking these men confronted and took them. Also, another result was "many believed". Offense given for detaining Peter and John was they taught that Christ rose from the dead. The Sadducees were totally against this, 23:8.
III. Chapter 4, vv. 5-22, we have Peter the next day giving his defense before those who detained them. He appeared before the rulers, elders, Sadducees, (who deny angels, the resurrection and the supernatural. They are hostile against such teaching) scribes and the high priest (of the Jewish religion), the counsel (Sanhedrin). Location -- Somewhere in Jerusalem, probably Solomon's porch, v. 6. this defense is addressed to the rulers of the people, and the elders of Israel. Result -- The rulers conspired together as to what to do with them. They could not take stronger measure because of public pressure. Result -- The educated leaders were amazed at the wisdom with which they spoke. They could only threaten them (twice, vv. 18, 21) and turn them loose. This was the same counsel (Sanhedrin) which our Lord appeared before and that Peter denied the Lord before. these were probably the very same men who allowed the false testimony which framed Him (compared 4:6 and John 18:13) Mk. 14:53-65. This counsel included Annas, Caiaphas and the rulers of the Jews. These men who our Lord stood before and who Peter is now before were the power of the Jewish nation.
I find our Lord's confrontation with this counsel quite interesting in Mk. 14:62. After His arrest, Christ was taken first to Annas, at his residence. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, Jn. 18:13, 14.
Annas questioned Christ, then sent Him to Caiaphas, the high priest, his son-in-law. This meeting with Caiaphas took place at his residence where also the counsel was gathered, Matt. 26:58. Caiaphas was the one who had prophesied of Christ's death for the people. The decision to kill Christ was Caiaphas', being greatly influenced by his father-in-law, Annas. Even though the high priests and counsel decided to kill Christ, they could not do it without Rome's permission. They used every means at their disposal to accomplish this. Especially crowed pressure or political pressure.
"The reason why Jesus was first led to Annas--is simply stated by the circumstances that he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. It was not, therefore, because of any official position on which he stood, but only as an expression of personal respect to him; and this leads us to infer that Caiaphas would not have so honored him if his father-in-law had not been in office himself, and a man distinguished by competency in affairs (Hengstenbergs, John, Vol. II, pg. 351)".
Henstenberg quotes Josephus, pointing out that Annas (Ananus) had five sons, all of who attained the high-priesthood. Annas also had long enjoyed this honor. Henstenberg points out that no doubt Caiaphas, the son-in-law also owed his elevation to this office to his father-in-law, Annas.
With this in mind, then, no doubt Caiaphas, knowing of the hatred Annas had toward Jesus, allowed Christ to be delivered to Annas first. Annas was probably the most powerful and influential man in the Hebrew nation at this time.
"The hatred felt by Annas to Christ continued to burn in his son, the younger Ananus mentioned by Josephus. He perverted his high-priestly function so far as to trespass upon the Roman authority of life and death, and to bring about the destruction of James the Apostle, "The brother of Jesus, who is called Christ, and many with him; "for which abuse of authority he was displaced from his office: comp. Josephus Anitiq. xx.9,1 (pg. 352)."
"In the enumeration of the leading members of the counsel, Acts 4:6, Annas is named before Caiaphas: This further confirms the hint of our text, that Caiaphas, who officially precedes all others, was entirely under the influence of Annas. Only such a dominant influence could have occasioned his being mentioned first; any official position would certainly have placed him subordinate to Caiaphas (pg. 352)."
(Let me speculate for a moment. Annas had the inherent power and office of the high priesthood. If I understand Jewish history right, this office could only be held for one year at a time. Annas had the office and as he departed from the office yearly, he passed the office to his sons and sons-in-law. In John, his son-in-law had the office, yet Annas had the power. In Acts, the office had changed at the end of the year [the passover was their first day of their new year] and Annas had once again assumed the office).
Jn. 18:19 sounds as though Annas is the high priest although v. 18 clearly said Caiaphas was the high priest. Officially, Caiaphas was the high priest but in action Annas held the power.
Jn. 18:19, Annas asked Christ, "What is this doctrine you are teaching?" Christ answered, "Why do you have to ask me, I didn't teach in secret. My doctrine is well-known."
Annas had very good reason to hate Christ. Christ claimed to be the only way to the Father; Christ claimed to be King of the Jews; Christ exposed the Jewish leaders (religious and civil) as hypocrites. Worse yet, He identified them as the ones who put to death the prophets; He identified them as children "of their father the devil". He completely tore away their usurped authority. He went contrary to their tradition. He identified them as liars, thieves, lawbreakers and power hungry heathens, in rebellion to the God of Abraham and Moses. Of course, this was especially offensive to them because they were very proud of their heritage to Abraham and their obedience to Moses.
They (Annas and the leaders, of the Jews) saw Him as a man subverting the people away from the traditions of the Jews which held the people in bondage. This bondage gave them tremendous power over the people. This is a lot of Catholism today. The ignorance of God's word and the hold of tradition over the people by the "Elite", is beyond description.
They saw Christ teaching allegiance to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. If He had taught allegiance to the Jewish kingdom with the present leaders in their "proper place", they would have supported Him. This is what they wanted. Since He didn't fulfill their expectations, they saw His teaching concerning the kingdom of God as subversive to their power. Yet they accused HIm of subverting Rom to get Rome on their side against Christ.
Annas sent Christ across the court yard which separated his residence from his son-in-law's (both though, in the high priests palace) to Caiaphas, Caiaphas (probably within easy hearing range of Annas) questions Christ. Trying to find legitimate charges to charge Him with before Rom, Mk. 14:53-56.
The counsel heard many false witnesses, yet found none to agree. Finally one came forward and misquoted Him, Mk. 14:58 with Jn. 2:19. Then Caiaphas stood up and asked Jesus, "Don't you have anything to say in defence". Jesus had no answer.
Now the question that causes such a commotion in Acts. Caiaphas, with all the counsel of the rulers of the Jews, including Annas, listening, asks, "Art thou the Christ the Son of the Blessed?" See! They did know what He taught. No doubt, they wanted Him to contradict Himself back in Annas' questioning, Mk. 14:61.
To which Christ answered, "I am, and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with clouds of heaven, Mk. 14:62; Matt. 26:64." This statement, no doubt, is the key to the book of Acts and the persecution as well as to the gospel as presented in the NT.
This is as strong a statement as could be made. Christ said, "Yes, I am the Son of the Blessed. The next time you see me it will be my judging you". This is exceptionally significant as we move into Acts.
There is far too much involved in this statement by our Lord to go much into it at this time. Let us just look at one thing here. Barns' (Mat., Mk, pg. 265): "The meaning of this is, You shall see the sign from heaven which you have so often demanded; even the Messiah returning himself as the sign, with great glory, to destroy your city and to judge the world."
Christ here before Caiaphas, the high priest, quotes Psalms 110:1. The men who heard Him knew exactly what he said. He said, "I am the Son of Man, the Son of the Highest. When you are finisher with Me, I will be seated at the right hand of the power on high, the Father. Then you will become my footstool."
When Christ said this, He quoted Dan. 7:13. Christ, at the beginning of His ministry, didn't really identify Himself as the longed for Messiah. Yet He did very early identify Himself as the Son of Man, Matt. 8:20; Mk. 8:31; Lk. 5:24; Jn. 1:51. This was a round about way of saying that He was the Messiah spoken of by all of the prophets.
Hengstenberg's statement on Dan. 7:13, is indeed interesting
(Christology, Vol. II, McDonald, pg. 799)."
"We have started wit the assumption that the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven was Christ. The history of Biblical interpretation proves, that there must be good ground for this explanation. It was supported by the who of the early Christian Church with very few exceptions. The Jews were certainly interested in opposing it, as Christ had so expressly declared himself to be the Son of Man. ---On the ground of this passage the Messiah was called by the Jews, the man of the clouds".
There were many confrontations between "The Man, Christ Jesus" and the religious leaders. Confrontations such as found in Matt. 9:6, "That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins", and Matt. 12:8, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath". In Jn. 5:26, 27, we find a very difficult statement for these leaders to accept. "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man". Christ said here that He had authority because He was the Son of Man spoken of by Daniel.
These Jews point blanked asked Christ (Jn. 10:24), "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Christ told them, v. 30, "I and my Father are one". They took up stones to stone Him, and Jesus asked them, "For which of those (good) works do you stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."
Notice, therefore that Jesus' claim of authority was His claim to be the Son of Man. His hearers of the Jewish nation knew exactly what He meant. This meant he was the Messiah of Dan. 7:13 and that Dan. 7:14 would also be His. In fact, this identified Jesus as the fulfillment of Dan., chp. 7. Their objection was "But He's only a man". This is the worlds objection to Him today as they attempt to make Him out as just another man with the same lustful desires as sinful men have.
The Jewish tradition concerning the coming of the Messiah (The Christ) just did not allow for a common man as Jesus appeared to be. The Messiah (The Christ) was expected to do the many signs and wonders which He did but not in the manner which He did them in, humility.
Let's look at Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible (1900 edition by T & T Clark), Vol. 3, pg. 352 for a very short summary of what was expected. "--The conviction that they were the chosen people of Jehovah, and that He would be faithful to His covenant made with them, there arose in times of common distress and of exile the confidence taught by the prophets, and which sustained the most pious and best part of the nation, that their national life, after it had been purified by the punishment of sinners and the discipline of the gold, would be restored, that they would obtain complete victory over their enemies, and that God would bestow upon them such glory and peace and well-being as would surpass all that had been realized in the happiest preceding times, and would satisfy perfectly all the longings of their hearts. These hopes existed before the expect of a unique person who was to come--the Messiah--had been formed."
"Unquestionably, however, the image of the King who, in accordance with God's covenant with David, stood in peculiar relationship to Jehovah who reigned by His appointment, in His name, and by His power, who would do all God's will, whose rule should be one of absolute righteousness, who would compel all men to honour the God of Israel and bestow on His people perfect peace and happiness, forever, contained the essential characteristics of the idea of the Messiah, as that name came to be commonly understood among the Jews." His people being the Hebrew Israel of course.
The Son of Man, Christ Jesus just did not fit into what they looked for in the Son of Man as spoken of by Daniel. And now, look what this Man, Jesus, says in Mk. 14:62. Jesus could not be any more clear. Here He says, "I am the Christ spoken of by Daniel the prophet. I am the Man of the clouds which you have heard about and are looking for. In fact, since you don't believe Me and are going to kill Me, the next time you see Me in the clouds, then you will know for sure, but it will be too late.
This threw them into a utter turmoil, which we probably cannot imagine. The high priest (Caiaphas) rent his clothes to show his emotion (contrary to the law, Lev. 21:10). The council members no doubt started a uncontrolled demonstration calling for His death. The soldiers who held Jesus before the council started mocking and striking Him. They then proceeded on in the next step to get official sanction from Rome to crucify Him.
Before we follow this council (same men, including Annas and Caiaphas) on over to Peter in Acts 4, let's observe a couple of points. First and foremost in my mind and especially important for our day and time, is Acts 2:23, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:" These men, representing the Hebrew nation, with their high priests of the Jewish religion, were fulfilling God's will.
Annas, in his uncontrolled and indescribable wrath toward Christ, as he used his tremendous influence to kill Christ, was fulfilling God's eternal plan and purpose. This is exactly what Ps. 76:10 says, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." God will only allow enough wrath to praise Him. Anymore wrath than that, He will not allow NO MATTER WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IT IS ALL WITHIN GOD'S ETERNAL PURPOSE.
Mercy, look at this. We see this illustrated here with Christ. Annas (and the counsel) had tremendous wrath against Christ. We would think that this wrath would have included His disciples, yet everyone escaped, even the two which followed Christ to His hearing before the counsel. God restricted the wrath. He said, "this far and no farther".
We see illustration after illustration of this in His word. We see how man, seemingly in his uncontrolled wrath, only goes so far and no further. Joseph and his brethren are a good example. Their hate toward Joseph was a murdering hate, yet God said, "This far and no farther." Therefore, they sold him rather than killing him. Moses is another example. The wrath of Pharaoh over Moses' action of murder did not pursue him as he fled from that wrath. There are more examples of this than we could possible list.
We see this principle followed throughout Scripture. The text we are in with Peter, for one. Paul, follow him through. We will find that his wrath against the new church could only go so far. After his conversion, the wrath against him could only go so far. Think for a moment at the rest of the NT personalities. It is not difficult to think of many where this principle consistently applies. In fact, we know of NOT ONE case that does not fit within this principle.
Now, let's get closer to home. What would make us think that the principle of Ps. 76:10 would change for our day? We know of no reason, Scripturally, which would even indicate that the wrath of the dragon which is directed toward the seed of the woman (Rev. 12:17, seed= The church) is a "out of control" wrath.
Therefore, as we look around and see the WRATH of ungodly men directed toward those who take their stand for Christ today, that WRATH IS NOT UNCONTROLLED. God is on the throne. He will only allow that wrath which will bring glory to Him and His Son, then He will cut it off. As men make their plans, even using their ungodly influence, to do away with Christ, they are only fulfilling His plan and purpose for this world. Annas found this out.
We should be able to find a calm assurance in this fact. Let's obey God, then as the dragon makes war (and he will) using the wrath of men, against those who keep His commandments, we have the assurance that God is working all things for His glory and according to His eternal purpose.
Also, let us point out. IF we think that he dragon won't use famine and food in that warfare, we are crazy, as well as ignorant of facts. He has done it many times in the past. He is doing it to day around the world. Famine causes food to be used as a political weapon. The food is rotting on the docks and in warehouses as the devils crowd refuses to feed those who oppose them in Ethiopian.
Let us add. Don't think God won't hold the "do gooders" responsible who provide the money and good which enables the oppressor to continue his oppression.
Secondly, this counsel "saw to it" that Christ was put to death. This was done at the urging of the high priests, Caiaphas and Annas, his father-in-law.
Everything was not done as it should have been. They bent rules and laws. In fact, they broke many laws in their hast to legally kill an innocent man. They went on and put tremendous public pressure on Pilate to get Rome's permission to kill Christ.
No doubt they saw Him only as a very personable man who drew the average person to Himself. They very definitely saw Him as a threat to their place of authority and power. They no doubt felt He was a loner and if they could make a good enough case and make it look just right there would be no one who would do anything about it. Besides, they felt very secure in their position on the counsel and in the priesthood. Rome protected them because they kept a certain amount of peace among a very independent and rebellious people.
They were convinced of their secure position, therefore, they were able to do whatever it took to do away with any threat against that security. Note though, their security was from above, Rome. They oppressed the people. This is probably a reason Christ was so popular.
No doubt they felt that if they could put Him away or remove Him from public view, their security would again be established over the people. They were certain that if they could kill Him quietly, there would be no problem with those who had followed Him. People have short memories. Ninety days and He would be forgotten and things would return to normal.
Some of the things that would confirm this would be: The rules are the ones who insisted the crowd to call for His death as Pilate did not want to kill an innocent man (Lk. 23:5); they sought for a time when the multitudes were not with Him to take Him. This was Judah's job.
One of the charges which our Lord laid against them was that they knew but kept the information from the people (Mat. 13:13ff., Lk. 11:52); He charged them with binding heavy loads upon the average people (Mat. 23:4 ); The rulers compared His followers to a former tax protector who led his followers out into the wilderness, and folks forgot about him (Acts 21:38); Pilate knew the leaders had delivered Christ because they envied His ability to get the people to follow Him, (Mk. 15:10).
The counsel and high priest worked very hard to put on a good front that christ was legally put to death no doubt to retain their credence (whatever respect they might have had) wit the Jewish nation. Whatever happened, the counsel had to appear to be the "good guys" who were concerned about the publics well-being. Christ had to be made to look like the lawbreaker. Because they could find no law which He broke (and the people knew this) there was only one charge they could come up with. That one charge was blasphemy, (Mk. 14:63).
This brings us to some things to consider. Again, we need to see this to appreciate Acts.
1. Christ was perfect before the people. Therefore, the only charge which could be brought against Him before the people was that He made Himself equal with God, Jn. 5:18; 10:32; 19:7.
2. The rules and priest brought Him to their Roman governor, Pilate, for Rome's sanction on His death. As Pilate examined Christ, he found Him to be a just man. The chief priests (Annas and Caiaphas) and rulers (Sanhedrin) accused Him to Pilate to get Pilate's sanction on Christ's death.
a. Chp. 23:2. Accused of Him of perverting the Jewish nation.
b. Lk. 23:2, accused him of being a tax-protester.
c. Lk. 23:2 accused Him of claiming to be a king. Insurrection against Rome.
Pilate, asked Christ, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Rome alone had the civil power to appoint kings. Christ answered, because of what you know about me or because of what others have said, Jn. 18:34, 35?" Pilate's response was that he wasn't a Jew and didn't really keep that close of a track of things like this. It was His own people who were making the charges.
Pilate said, "What have you done to merit such hate from your own people?" As we read Jn. 18 through, it is easy to see that Pilate understood that the charges brought by the chief priests and rulers were false. Christ was not out to overthrow Rome as another king. He saw that Christ was not raising an army to throw off the Romans.
He tells the Jewish leaders that there is nothing worthy of death in Him. This did not calm the accusers down (Lk. 23:1-5), rather this made them more insistent on His death. Pilate didn't want to kill an innocent man so he tried to pass it off to Herod (Lk. 23:6-12), but this didn't work either, (Lk. 23:6-12).
After Herod sent Christ back, Pilate called the chief priests (Annas and Caiaphas) and the rulers (the counsel) together again and said, "You accused this man of perverting the people, I do not find this at all. He is not guilty of your charges".
There are two definitions of perverting here. The chief priests saw Him as perverting the people away from the Jewish religion which gave them power and authority; their religious power. Pilate understood perverting as undermining Rome's power over the Jewish nation. Of course, Christ came to do away with the chief priests powers. A fringe benefit was the overthrow of Rome's power.
Pilate saw that Christ was not here to pervert Rome's power, therefore he found Him not guilty. Pilate even told them that Herod found no fault in Him. Pilate offered to whip Christ for the violation of the Jews tradition and turn Him loose. Pilate knew it was for their own envy they wanted His death and not for any crime against Rome, Matt. 27:17021. He did this, scourged Him and offered Him to the accuser (Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel), Jn. 19:1-5.
Christ's accusers would have nothing to do with this. They absolutely would not accept anything short of crucifixion, they hated Him so much. Again, Pilate said, "Why, what evil hath he done, Mk. 15:14?"
Now, Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel make the third charge, "He must die. He made himself the Son of God, our law demands death for such blasphemy, Jn. 19:7-8." This caused Pilate to be more committed to releasing Christ.
Pilate tries to question Christ again to clear this very messy
situation up. When Christ refuses to answer, Pilate reminds him
that he has the power to release him; to which Christ replies,
"Your only power is from heaven. You are doing what you have
to do. Even though you are guilty in this, those outside which
are accusing me are more guilty."
Pilate again tries to get the Jews to let Christ go free, knowing that Christ is an innocent man. The Jews responded, "If you let Him go free you are no friend of Caesar," insinuating that Christ was trying to overthrow Rome. Actually his work was to overthrow these priests and the counsel.
Pilate again tries to release Christ with the statement, "Behold your King". This caused the Jews to cry out, "crucify Him".
Pilate makes one last feeble attempt to keep from putting an innocent man to death. He says, "Shall I crucify your king?"
Notice Jn. 19:15, "The chief priest answered, we have no king but Caesar" this was Annas and Caiaphas.
Pilate gives into the pressure and gives Christ over to Annas and Caiaphas to do with as they please. Pilate said, "This man is innocent. He is a righteous man. I will have nothing to do with His death. His blood is not on my hands because I have tried to deliver Him. You see to it, I won't."
This final confrontation between Pilate and Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel takes place before the judgment seat at the called the Pavement. Evidently this is a public place and a multitude of Jews are here. Annas, Caiaphas and the seventy men of the Sanhedrin had done their job well. They had "whipped" up the emotions of those present and all those present say, "Let His blood be on us and our children".
Of course, this did not relieve Pilate of his responsibility but the first responsibility would be on Annas, then Caiaphas, then the counsel (Sanhedrin) then the people who allowed their emotions to be swayed contrary to what was right. Then Pilate who would not stand against public pressure.
Then Pilate turned Christ over to the chief priests and the counsel to do whatever they wanted to do to Him.
Evidently, there was a detachment of Roman soldiers attached to the Temple as a peace keeping force. Annas and Caiaphas seemingly were able to get a band of soldiers from this detachment to go with them to arrest Christ. Undoubtly, Annas and Caiaphas had convinced these soldiers that Christ was subverting Rome and there would be a civil disturbance when they arrested Him for subversion.
Also, it is evident that Pilate finally okayed Annas and Caiaphas to do whatever they wanted to do with Christ and with bands of soldiers at their disposal to carry out their wishes.
In Annas and Caiaphas we have the very peak of hatred of the world (and the devil) toward God. This is shown over and over. We probably cannot imagine the hate these two men had for Christ as they saw Him undermining their power and influence.
In Annas and Caiaphas we also have the sum total of the Jewish religion and their hardness and rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In these two men is all the anger, wrath and rebellion against the covenant God of heaven. All of this stored up from even the garden of Eden and now it is released upon the Son of God.
These men, Annas and Caiaphas have convinced the people that Christ is only a man. They have convinced Rome (Pilate and Herod) that is only a man. They have tried to convince themselves that Christ is only a man. The indication from Matt. 23:13 was that they knew, yet absolutely refused to acknowledge that Christ represented the kingdom of heaven. They knew Scripture. They knew He fulfilled it all, yet they not only ignored this, they did all they could to counter these facts.
This is just a short run down of the effort and hate that went into Christ's death. This indeed throws an interesting light on the book of Acts.
Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel of Jerusalem were the ones who worked for years to arrange Christ death. The message of the resurrection of Christ threw them into a terrible turmoil, of course.
This meant that they were in an unbelievable amount of trouble. The message would expose them, first to the people as murders. Second, it would expose them to Rome as murders, Pilate would still be around and they had convinced the people and Pilate that Christ was only a man. The resurrection would show them liars among many other things.
No doubt the most disconcerting thing would be that if Christ was raised they were in unspeakable trouble with Him. Especially if He was now seated where Peter said He was, at the right hand of the Father, with all power and authority.
Can you imagine the terror this would (should) cause. The man they worked so hard to frame was now their Judge. No wonder they could not tolerate any preaching in His name.
Look at Acts. Look at what Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel were afraid of. The Sadducees (which deny the resurrection) were also present and stood against the teaching of the resurrection. Yet, the ones who were the strongest against the doctrine was Annas, Caiaphas and the counsel.
Chp. 4:2. The priests (Annas, Caiaphas), captain of the Temple (ruler), and the Sadducees were the ones grieved at Peter and John's message. Each with a different reason.
The priests reason for their grief is mentioned above. Their hatred for Christ.
The captain (ruler) of the Temple is mentioned in Lk. 22:52 as party to the arrest of Christ in the garden. As mentioned previously, this was probably the Roman commander of the guard which was stationed at the Temple as a "peace keeping" detachment. The purpose of this captain rushing to the scene in Acts 4:1 was probably to head off any civil disturbance which seemed very likely.
Then we have the third group. The Sadducees. These were the ones who violently opposed the resurrection, we can read of their violent opposition in Acts 23:6-10. Therefore, their involvement here in chp. 4 was based more on their opposition to the doctrine of the resurrection than it was on their opposition to Christ.
For whatever the reason, these three joined forces to stop Peter and John. They held them over night and the next day called Peter and John before a very "distinguished" crowd of men. This also takes place on Solomon's porch. It happens at the right time when everyone who is anyone in the Jewish (hebrew) nation is here in Jerusalem. The list of those present is a list of "who's who" in Israel. These were the "learned" men of Israel. These were the ones who were in control. These were the ones which Rome "respected as the power over the Jewish nation.
Acts 4:7, these men gathered together. Not a small gathering but probably 70-100 men (council alone with 70 men). Now the question. This question is a legitimate question according to the law of Moses. What they are doing here in vv. 5-7 was required by Deut. 13. If a prophet, dreamer or a worker of signs or wonders arises, there is to be a diligent inquiry to be made. If a person is trying to draw away the people after another god, they are to be put to death.
In this we see the rulers of the people (Acts 4) seeking first, to see what is the purpose of the sing. No doubt hoping to find a reason under the law to do away with Peter and John. Second, if the purpose was to draw away the people from Jevovah God, under the law they could have them killed.
This also is interesting, notice the accusations against Paul in chps. 22-26 and his defence. Paul's defence in 24:14 pretty well sums up the charges. V. 14 would be that he worshipped God in a manner contrary to the Jewish law. Not that he didn't keep the ten commandments but that Christ was the final meditation and the old meditation was no longer needed.
Notice who Paul's opposition was. It wasn't the people for they heard him gladly. Chp. 21:28, the problem was that Paul's doctrine was contrary to the meditation laws of the Temple. He was caught in the Temple, abiding by its law (v. 26), when he had been teaching against the laws of the Temple. They threw him out, shut the doors and set about to kill him. The band of Roman soldiers (The Temple peace keeping detachment) ran to his rescue.
Isn't this something. The place (Temple) which was to be the physical representation of the God of peace upon this earth had to have Roman soldiers stationed at it to enforce peace.
The chief captain and soldiers appeared and the people quit beating Paul. They chained him, led him t the chief captain at the castle where he was questioned. He was identified as the Egyptian who created an uproar and ran off into the wilderness with his followers. Paul denies he is the man.
Paul request and is granted permission to speak to the crowd who was beating him in his defence. Now, he gives his testimony which the crowd listens to. They seem to accept the message up to a point. In 22:21, he said that the God of their fathers sent him to the Gentiles. This had been a charge against him in 21:28, brought a Greek (Gentile) into the Temple.
The crowd behaved until he said he was instructed by their God to go to the Gentiles. They called for his death at this point with a exceeding great show of emotion.
The context of this call for his death seems to be that because Paul taught another way of approach to the FAther other than the meditation laws of the Temple, they desired his death. The soldiers again intervened, preventing the mob from killing him.
Paul points out he is a Roman citizen which affords him better treatment by the Roman soldiers. They detain him overnight and call for a meeting of the Jewish leaders so they can get to the bottom of this mess.
No doubt, the Jews law was so confusing by this period of time that the average man would have some difficulty keeping track of it.
If Paul was leading an insurrection against Rome, they wanted to know. If he was leading a violation, a Jewish law and creating this uproar, they wanted to know this also.
The chief captain called the chief priests and all their counsel together in order to have Paul appear before them and so he could find out what is going on here.
The captain comes to the conclusion (23:28-29) that Paul has done nothing worthy of death and is a question of the Jew's law.
As Paul continues on with his defence. The statement in 24:14 is the key. "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets:--"
Paul again gets a chance to defend his message, 26:2-23. He affirms the doctrine of the resurrection and his command to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
The resurrection caused some commotion but the greatest commotion seems to come from the command from God to go to the Gentiles. The Jews just could not accept this. The Gentiles were unclean and were to be avoided (Peter illustrates this aversion against the Gentiles, Acts. 10).
Now, what was the problem?
Paul taught that the Temple and its rites, rituals and ceremonies were no longer of any use; rather abomination to God. This meant that the Gentiles no longer had to become Jewish proselytes to worship God. This destroyed the priests power. This stripped Judism of its hold over people.
This was held as heresy. This was viewed as contrary to Deut. 13. Any teacher which sought to draw away the people from the God of their fathers was to be put to death. The Jews saw Paul's commission to go to the Gentiles apart from the laws of the Temple (meditation laws) as the mark of the false prophets as described back in Deut. 13.
This is also one of the questions raised to Peter, 4:7.
Going back, the first few chapters look something like this, 4:23-30. Here the reassemble after Peter and John are warned by the counsel. The message here is very interesting. Actually it is a prayer but the result is the place being shaken and all filled with the Holy Ghost.
Really, the next major incident we have is found in chp. 5:12-16. This would be:
IV. (From p. 2.) We have Peter and the apostles doing many signs and wonders. These "church meetings" were taking place in Solomon's porch. They really aren't preaching. The drawing card is the signs and wonders and healings. People were coming from everywhere and great multitudes were believing the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Result, the high priest (Annas, Caiaphas, Sadducees) laid hands on the apostles and again detain them. Result, the angel of the Lord releases them at night and tells them to go preach. Result, the next morning the high priest (Caiaphas), the counsel and the Senate desire to hear Peter's defence. Thinking that he was still in prison, they send for him. He is not there and this report is returned to them. V. 24, this caused the leaders to wonder what is going on.
They hear that they are teaching again over at the Temple so the captain and officers go get them. They were nice to the apostles for fear of the people. The common people loved the message which the leaders hated, Mk. 12:37.
The charge is again brought against the apostles, 5:28. Notice the counsel and the high priest's concern.
1. Teaching in the name of Christ.
2. Teaching His doctrine of the death, burial and resurrection.
3. Bringing His blood on their head. Making them accountable for His murder before the people.
V. Peter now preaches another sermon as he gives another defence of his message, vv. 29-33. Location-- before the same counsel and priest which Christ had appeared before and which Peter had already been before. Result-- they were cut to the heart, AND, tried to figure out how they could kill these apostles who were preaching the message of the resurrected and enthroned Christ.
Notice something of interest here. The counsel had both Pharisees and Sadducees on it. The Sadducees were very hostile t the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They did not believe in the supernatural, which included the resurrection. The high priest didn't like this doctrine because it meant Christ was alive as their Judge. But the Pharisees believed in this whole thing, before the crucifixion, the two groups would join together against Christ. Now, the Sadducees violently opposed the Gospel. As much as did the priest. Both saw the gospel destroying their own power and position. On the other hand, we seem to see the Pharisees defending the new church because their doctrine (the gospel) confirmed what they already believed.
Here in Acts 5:34, a Pharisee defended the apostles and the counsel let them go once again. This is the SECOND time the counsel has called the apostles (Peter especially) before them and had to release them because of public pressure. They released them with a warning.
This brings us to the third confrontation with the counsel, Stephen.
VI. Chp. 6, Stephen is ordained as a deacon because of his walk with the Lord. The indication here is that the main church is still meeting in the Temple, on Solomon's porch. It is growing by leaps and bounds with many thousands of people in it now. Both Jews and Gentiles. Even many priests from the Temple are being converted.
Because of this great number of converts they could not all meet in Solomon's porch. The new church "spills over" into the synagogues in Jerusalem. Light foot said there were four hundred and eighty synagogues in the city. This new church was growing so much that no doubt there were groups of believers in them all. By the Jews being scattered to all nations, as they trickled back to Jerusalem they would probably form a synagogue for their nationality. This particular synagogue was made up of Jews called the libertines. (Remember, Christ went to the synagogue regularly, Mk. 5:6; Lk. 4; 6, 13, etc.. The synagogue had a ruler, probably whose job it was to keep peace and order, Lk. 13:14, etc.). The common practice was (and still is) that when they had ten families together this was enough to form a synagogue. They did not have to have a priest but the ten men chose a leader from among the ten. He would instruct in the Scriptures and keep order. He was called the elder.
Because this early church met in the Temple and synagogue, it was viewed as just another Jewish sect or a branch of Judism. Because it was seen this way, the early church enjoyed the same freedoms and liberties as did Judism. These freedoms won by some very bloody wars.
Note on this. The Jews (under the Maccabees, esp.,) had fought very hard to have freedom to continue the meditation offerings and to have their limited freedom under Rome. Rome finally allowed this freedom because she wanted to keep calm.
Regardless of the motive behind the Maccabee wars (to increase their strength or whatever) the result was the freedom for the new church to gain a strong foundation:
"The restraining power, on this hypothesis, appears to be the Jewish state. For the continued existence of the Jewish state was both graciously and naturally a protection to Christianity, and hence a restraint on the revelation of the persecuting power. Graciously, it was God's plan to develop Christianity under the protection of Judaism for a short set time, with the double purpose of keeping the door of salvation open to the Jews until all of their elect of that generation should be gathered in and the apostasy of the nation should be rendered doubly and trebly without excuse, and of hiding the tender infancy of the Church within the canopy of a protecting sheath until it should grow strong enough to withstand all storms. Naturally, the effect of the continuance of Judaism was to conceal Christianity from notice through a confusion of it with Judaism-to save it thus from being declared an illicit religion-and to enable it to grow strong under the protection accorded to Jewish worship. So soon as the Jewish apostasy was complete and Jerusalem given over to the Gentiles-God deserting the temple which was no longer His temple to the fury of the enemies, of those who were now His enemies-the separation of Christianity from Judaism, which had already begun, became evident to every eye; the conflict between the new faith and heathenism culminating in and now alive almost only in the Emperor-worship, became intense; and the persecuting power of the empire was inevitably let loose. Thus the continued existence of Judaism was in the truest sense a restraint on the persecution of Christians, and its destruction gave the signal for the lawless one to be revealed in his time." (Biblical and Theological Studies, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, pp. 143, 474. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1952.)
This shows us once again, the wrath of man (their evil motives) works to the praise of God. God is in total and complete control at all times. (Someone mentioned the other day: We need to look for the hand of God in our day to day lives.)
Rome did not really understand the difference between Judaism and Christianity until about chp. 12, where Herod saw how much pleasure it gave the Jews to kill Christians.
The Jews in this one of the many synagogues, stood against Stephen. They argued with him, yet Stephen "argued" them down, v. 10. Stephen's argument was for stronger (being under the influence of the Holy Ghost) than was these Jew's argument.
When these men couldn't win in a "head on" confrontation they used deceit and subtlety.
V. 14. Not being able to win in an open confrontation, they pervert Stevens doctrine by saying, "We have heard Stephen speak blasphemy against Moses and God." Using this they stir up the people the same as the Jewish leaders stirred up the people against Christ. They sway public opinion and are now able to take Stephen. They bring him before the counsel. Again, the Sanhedrin. The same group of men who heard Christ and Peter. This is at least the fourth time the counsel is confronted with Christ. 1) Christ. 2) Peter's first defence, Acts 4, and 3) Acts 5, Peter's second defence.
Again, false witnesses are found. The charges are brought against Stephen. The charges? V. 13, words against the Temple and law. By law they meant (v. 14) the customs which Moses delivered to them. The meditation law given to approach the Father. It is now done away with in Christ. They did not want to hear this. In fact, this message brings terrible hostility against the messengers. The gospel was against these Jewish leaders.
Acts 6:15, the counsel looks at Stephen. This is the same group of men that we have followed for some time now. The high priest (maybe still Caiaphas, but probably has been replaced by now. Regardless, no doubt Annas is still the moving influence behind the priesthood) ask Stephen if these charges are true. Is Stephen speaking against the Temple and the meditation laws of Moses? If so, this does away with the duty (and power) of the priesthood.
Now, Stephens defence before the counsel, Acts 7, Stephen reviews the history of the Hebrew nation is some detail through v. 36. Then he starts applying that history, showing how it is all leading to Christ, v. 37. Stephen quotes a OT prophecy which spoke of Christ being like MOses, Deut. 18:15. V. 38, Stephen points out that he (this prophet like Moses, Christ) was with the congregation of God's people in the wilderness as well as being the One who spoke on the mount. Only Stephen calls HIm, "A prophet".
Christ identified Himself as that prophet, Matt. 11:3; 21:11; Lk. 2:25-34, etc..
Stephen also points out that their (the councils and Jewish leaders) fathers, rather than following that prophets, refused to obey Him. They turned back to Egypt (the old ways and bondage) IN THEIR HEARTS and this heart attitude showed in making the calf, vv. 39-41.
In Acts 7:42-47, Stephen points out that even though their fathers had the tabernacle in the wilderness; even though Joshua brought them into the promised land (Canaan); and, even though Solomon built a glorious house of God, the house of Israel still served Moloch. They, in their hearts, still served the gods of this world. They still served the world, flesh and the devil as they refused to serve the Lord.
Now, v. 48, Stephen really ruffles the counsel and leaders of the nation, when he points out that the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands. Stephen here only quotes Solomon, II Chron. 2:6.
To further stir things up he goes on with his statement in Acts 7:49, 50. He quotes Ps. 11:4 pointing out that heaven is God's throne and earth is His footstool. This is also Isa. 66:1-2.
Notice what Stephen is building up to. This is consistent throughout Acts. Stephens is telling them the Temple and its rites and ceremonies are no longer necessary.
Remember, he is speaking to a group of men who owe their wealth, power and influence to the Temple and Moses' law which required the people to go to the Temple. No doubt, they had worked hard and had taught the law of God in such a way that the people believed the Temple rites were the only way to God: The woman at the well told our Lord, our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where man ought to worship, Jn. 4:20. To which our Lord answered, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
This did away with the temple and all of the laws pertaining
to the temple.
This did away with the high priest and the priesthood.
This did away with their control over the people of God.
This did away with Jerusalem being the center of worship.
Stephen quotes Amos 5:25. This quote would have been a very pointed attack upon the teaching of these Jewish leaders. Amos points out that even though the people obeyed the temple law as given by Moses, their heart was anywhere but with God.
Their actions in their obedience to the rites and rituals to the temple was backed up by very idolatrous hearts, Amos 5:21-24.
Amos told the Jews that judgment was coming. Not because they ignored the temple and its laws but because their heart was far from God.
We can rest assured that the council and teachers of Israel taught judgment from God if the temple laws (sacrifices and rituals including traditions) were ignored. They found their living there.
A good example would be many of the electronic "preachers". Their living depends upon how well their doctrine can hold others in their influence and even power. Some of them make a very good living. It would cause a person to wonder, "What is the motive behind their ministry?" We know what the motive behind the leaders of the Jews religion was. Our Lord pointed this out and in pointing this out He was calling for judgment upon them, Matt. 23:4. Their motive was to strengthen and enrich themselves as well as to keep the people of God in bondage to them.
Let us not suppose for a moment that when Stephen said what
he did to the council in Acts 7:42, that these men (experts in
the law) did not know what he was saying. Maybe even some of these
men were present when our Lord spoke in Matt. 23.
Both events took place in and around Jerusalem. Both events took place rite rulers and teachers of the Jews present. These were not just any teachers but the very elite of the nation. Matt. 23:2, the scribes and Pharisees who were the teachers of Moses. The council which Stephen was taken to was made up of these men.
Acts 7:50, Stephen points out that God made all things and He sure doesn't need a house made with hands. He desires a clean heart.
Then v. 51, Stephen gets as blunt as possible. He, no doubt, looks the council straight in the eyes and says, vv. 50-55. What an indictment against these men. This is as strong as if not stronger than the indictment our Lord gave in Matt. 23.
These three short verses sums up the total rebellion of the Hebrew nation against God' the killing of the prophets and the murder of the Holy One. Stephen, in these three verses, lays all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias who was slain between the temple and the altar, upon these men. Our Lord did also, Matt. 23:34-36. Again, no doubt even many who now hear Stephen heard our Lord's words against them.
But Stephen does not leave it there. He goes one step further. He lays the blood of the Judge One, the very Son of the Highest, at the feet of these men who now hear him. Again, this is consistent in Acts.
There are two things which are consistent in every message in the NT (esp. Acts) to any group of people who were either Jews or under the influence of the Jews. 1. Christ was crucified, buried and rose the third day to His seat of power and authority over all men and creation and, 2. The temple is NO LOnger of any use. It only spoke of Christ.
This is the third time this council has been confronted with this message. Acts 4 and Peter. Acts 5 (17-42), Peter again,and now Stephen. They have had all they can stand. They wanted to kill Peter but public pressure prevented it.
Rome mean while saw it as a "family dispute" and "kind of" kept out of the matter as long as they weren't rebelling against them. Pilate pretty well summed up Rome's position when he saw it was a matter of their law and said, "See ye to it, Matt. 27:24".
What I would like for us to see here is this two point message which is common in the book of Acts, has two quite different responses. Peter preached these two pints on the day of Penecost (Acts 2) and his hearers were pricked in their hearts. They repented and believed.
Stephen's same two points also pricks (cuts) the heart only here it wasn't repentance. It was murder. The council gnashed upon him with their teeth, cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, ran upon him with one accord, cast him out of the city (Jerusalem) and stoned him. Peter's two points brought conviction and repentance, Stephen's two pints brought conviction, hatred and murder.Peter saw huge multitudes respond with tears of repentance as they cried out, "Peter, what shall we do?" There would be no greater thrill to a man of God as he preaches the gospel than to see the Holy Spirit bring conviction, tears and repentance. The heart would leap with joy as the thousand turn from their sin to Christ.
Let's also keep in mind. Those who responded to Peter were exceptionally moral people. Peter's crowd (Acts 2) who had traveled from all over the known world to observe the temple laws in obedience to God's word. They would have been the "cream" of Judism, those who loved God and were seeking Him with all of their heart, Acts 13:26. Therefore, the sin which they turned from would have been the (now) sin of trying to approach the Father apart from Christ. Of course, the repentance also involved the repentance of the murder of Christ. No doubt Stephen was saved in one of these meetings. But we do not know for sure. We cannot trace his salvation back to a person.
What did Stephen see? He saw conviction all right but he also saw rebellion, hardness and then death. He did not see one person turn to Christ out of Judism. Stephen only preached one time and that message got him killed.
To the natural man we would say that Stephen was a failure and Peter was the success. But which of the two was the more successful? Stephen preached to a special man. Stephen kept the faith; Stephen keep the right attitude to the death, Acts 7:56, 59, 60. He laid down and died the death of a martyr for his death at the faith of the feet of a young man named Saul.
No doubt Saul had heard of these followers of Jesus. No doubt Saul had dismissed them as crazy people. He had heard of their doctrine of the resurrection of the One that the council had put to death years ago. He had heard of their teaching that the law of Moses concerning the temple was now done away with. He had heard all about it but this was his first exposure to one of this sect.
Saul was exceptionally zealous toward God for the temple with its rites and rituals, Acts 22:3-6. Stephen's message stirred up even more zeal in Saul to punish those who believe these two points, that Christ arose from the dead and ascended to the throne of glory and power and 2), the temple is now useless.
Stephens message stirred Saul up to even more zeal as he sought letters of permission from the high priest and council to pursue these believers. And, we all know the story of his conversion, Acts. 9.
Now, follow Saul (now Paul) through. Look at Paul's first message which we have recorded in Acts 13:16-41. This message sounds strangely familiar. In fact, read this message and Stephen's of chp. 7. You will find basically the same message.
Stephen as he died, passed the "batten" on which he had received from his preacher. He passed it to a young man who wanted nothing to do with it. He passed it on without the young man even knowing it. He passed it on without even Stephen knowing that he did. Probably one of the last things he saw as he died was the smile of contentment on Saul's face as Saul watched.
Peter-Stephen. Which did the greatest work for God. OF course, neither, because both did God's will. But in man's eye, Peter, in the short term, seemed to do the greatest work. But, in the long term, Stephen did. Yes, Peter wrote a couple of books and died a martyrs death. But Paul wrote 14, founded numerous churches and also died a martyrs death.
Stephen-Peter. Let us not think for a moment that because we don't see the result of our faithfulness to our Lord that all is useless.
"These all died in faith, not having received the promise, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." This written by the man who saw a Christian die for his faith.
What do you suppose went through Paul's mind from that day with Stephen forward?
When it came time to preach, what do you suppose Paul heard in his heart?
When it came time to stand, (be persecuted) for the gospel, what do you suppose he saw in his heart?
There is no doubt that Stephen's faith lived on in Paul. Paul passed this faith on to uncounted millions since that faithful day in his life that brought him into contact with Stephen.
Many of us would love to be a "Peter". Preach and see thousand respond in genuine repentance; weeping. Peter was very high profile as he was the chief apostle in the new church at Jerusalem. When his shadow passed over a person they were healed, 5:15. He could speak the name of Jesus and the lame would walk, chp. 3:6-8.
Stephen. Chosen to serve because he was a godly man. Chosen to wait on tables, visit the sick and elderly. Chosen to visit the widows to see if he could help them in anyway. Stephen also did great wonders and miracles among the people (church) but nothing like Peter.
How many of us would choose Stephen's place over Peter's. Yet, Stephen, the servant, as he just went about doing right, had a far greater influence upon the Christian world than what Peter did.
The faith which we enjoy today can be traced much more to Stephen than it can to Peter. Stephen only preached one message and was killed over that one.
My, how we need a church full of Stephens who will just remain faithful to the death, if need be. Just doing what they can do for God even though they might never see any results.
Before we continue on in Peter's message in, chp. 5, there is something else quite interesting. This is the content of the messages to the early church. The content is always basically the same. We have already seen Peter's first message, chp. 2. His second message, chp. 3. Then we have his third message as he defends himself before the rulers, elders, and the council, chp. 4. Then there is Stephen's sermon, chp. 7 which was for Saul's (Paul's) benefit. This is why all Ananias only had to go lay hands upon him, 9:17. Saul had already heard the message and the Holy Spirit was already convicting him, 9:5. Paul's new message is described in chp. 9:20.
Then we have Peter's message to Cornelius, the first commission to actually go to a Gentile apart from the temple. Up to this time the Gentile converts had been the Gentiles within the crowd of people gathered at the temple. Here, Cornelius is not at the temple and there is no record here of him ever going to the temple. The message to Cornelius is different than the messages presented to the Jews. We will see in a moment.
The next sermon we have recorded is Paul's in chp. 13:14-41. This message is delivered i the synagogue on the sabbath, v. 26, his hearers were of the stock of Abraham and those who feared God and was searching for Him in the synagogue. This would include the Gentiles who were searching for God through Judism.
The next sermon we have a record of is Paul in 14:15-18. Both sermons, 13:14-41 and 14:15-18 stirred up the Jews against them. The message in 14:15-18 resulted in Paul being stoned and left for dead.
The next presentation of the message is the first council of the church at Jerusalem over the teaching of the Judaeiers, v. 15: we will return to this also in a moment. OF special importance is v. 1 and v. 24.
The next message we will look at is in 16:31, Paul's message to the Roman jailer.
In v. 17, we find Paul preaching in the Jewish synagogue. This also was a two part message, v. 3, which caused hostility from the Jews, v. 5. Also in chp., 17 is Paul's message on Mar's Hill. This is also a two part message which created hostility, vv. 22-35.
In chp. 18 we have Paul again preaching to the Jews. The result was his being brought before the judgment seat by the hostile Jews. Notice the charge against him, vv. 13-16.
What we need to see in these messages here in Acts is a consistent theme. If we will check, every message which had Jews or even Gentiles which were being influenced by the Jews in the hearers was a two part message. We have already mentioned this but we will again.
The theme of these two points is not hard at all to pick out.
A couple of good examples would be Paul's message in chp. 13.
Notice vv. 37-39. The first part of this message is the resurrection
of Christ from the dead and the forgiveness of sins through that
resurrection. The second part is v. 39. Justification through
Christ and His finished work and not by the law of Moses. This
is a reference to the temple law. The charge against Paul in 18:13
confirms this. They charged him with teaching another way to worship
God contrary to the law.
Again, Stephen's message is a good example. We find the total of that message in 6:12-14. All of the apostles in Acts follow this two point outline. Faith in the resurrected Christ results in salvation, and Christ did away with the temple law as given by Moses.
Now, back to Peter's message to Cornelius, 10:34-43. The message to this Gentile was a one point message. That message being the resurrection of Christ from the dead and His seating upon HIs throne by God as the Judge.
Something is missing in this message. Peter does not preach against the law of Moses here. There is no need to tell Cornelius the folly of the temple laws because Cornelius was not being influenced to follow them. The message to the Roman jailer, 16:31, also follows this same pattern, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,and thy house."
This observation is also consistent with the findings of the first church council (which replaced the old Jewish nation's council). In, chp. 15 we see the certain men from Judaea following the apostles to the Gentiles. These certain men taught the necessity of the Gentiles following the law of Moses, 15:1, 24. This would have to be the temple law because the council does tell the new converts to abstain (avoid) from fornication. If the law referred to in v. 24 was the ten commandment law, then they could not tell them to stay away from fornication.
The subversive teachers which followed around the apostles were attempting to persuade the new converts to go to the temple. They were trying to convince them that to please God and to approach Him it was necessary to become a Jewish proselyte and observe the temple law.
The freedom from the law which these NT apostles taught so strongly was freedom from the rites and ceremonies of the temple. They all pointed to Christ and His finished work. They never one time spoke against the ten commandments. The Jews never accused Christ or the apostles of speaking against the ten commandments; it was always against the temple and its laws as given by Moses. This will be consistent throughout the NT. This is always the charge brought against these NT preachers by the Jews.
To fail to see and grasp this very important fact from Acts as well as Gal. and Heb. will lead to a very corrupt view of the ten commandments.
Now, back to Peter's first defense before the council.
Acts, chp. 4 gives us this record. The council who put Christ to death sets Peter and John in their midsts. They have with them the man which was healed in chp. 3. They make an inquiry now with the question, "By what power, or by what name have ye done this?"
As we have already mentioned, this was in accord with the OT command by Moses, Deut. 13. They were to make this inquiry in light of God's word and act accordingly.
4:7. Here is the question. "By what power, or by what name have you done this?" Our Lord was asked a similar question by these same men. "By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave this authority?, Matt. 21:23."
These are two views of this statement.
First, the context of Deut. 13: "Where did you get your power to heal this man you have with you here before us? Is this power from God or from the devil?"
In this they would hope to find that this power was not from God and be able to put them to death with the public on their side.
Second, which fits in better with the question put to our Lord by this group, probably not that much before Peter's defense. No doubt a large portion of these men, high priest included, would remember the question which they placed to Him in Matt. Remember, the question there in Matt. 21 is in the exchange with this group of men which caused them to try to kill Him, 23:46.
The question by this council in Acts 4:7 would best fall under the issue of "Peter, John, who gave you the authority to heal this man?" This council claimed the religious, spiritual authority over the Hebrew nation. They claimed the authority over everything which went on in the temple and therefore in the many synagogues.
This would seem to be the context of the question put to our Lord. The day before he had "cleansed the temple" and healed the blind and lame, Matt. 21:12-14. The priests and scribes had seen Him do it, yet could do nothing because the public feeling was on His side.
When Christ came back the next day, to the temple. the priests and elders confronted Him with, "Who gave you the authority to do these things?" See also Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-7. These elders, the chief priests and rulers claimed the authority over the temple and Christ challenged their authority in front of all the people.
In Acts 9, we have Saul seeking authority to pursue and bring bound unto Jerusalem all who were followers of Christ. So it seems that: 1) The Hebrew nation recognized this claim of authority over their religious practice; and 2) Rome recognized this claim of authority over the religious practice. Pilate saying, "See ye to it" would confirm this.
Acts 4:7. The council had no choice but to recognize the healed man who now stood with Peter and John. The challenge is, "Who gave you the authority," or "Who told you that you could preach here in the temple (Solomon's porch) and who's power did you do this miracle in?" You didn't do it under our authority, and we speak for God. Therefore, your message cannot be right and your miracle cannot be of God."
Really, as we think of this, it sounds like many religious groups of our day. "Because you are not part of us, you can't be of God." And, sad to say, some of the ones who make this claim are about as far from God as was this council. They would put Christ to death, command Peter and John to stop preaching this doctrine and would even kill Stephen for his message.
4:8, Peter starts his defence. Peter writes about this letter in I Pet. 3:15. "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."
In passing, let us mention that Peter wrote I Peter. He seems to call for compromise in I Peter in places but we see from his actions before this council of ungodly men that he is not calling for compromise.
Peter here in Acts 4 is before the same men and in the same place that our Lord was. This is also the same group of men that Peter denied his Lord before but here within a short time, these same men are amazed at his boldness. Don't think these men don't remember their experience with the Lord and with Peter just a short time before. Now Peter repairs the damage done not long ago. Many times the Lord will also give us this same opportunity.
4:8. He gives his opening statement and answers these rulers and elders with respect. Please notice that even though his answer is strong enough to make them want to kill him, his answer is with the utmost respect. We are told to honor those to whom honor is due and respect those to whom respect is due, and Peter does. This honor and respect does not include agreement with them or condoning them if they are wrong.
Might we also take notice that what Peter is about to say and the attitude he will say it in is the result of the filling of the Holy Ghost. There are a few things given here that are the result of this filling. 1. He preaches a message which is contrary to their tradition and, of course, arouses their wrath. 2. He does it with boldness. 3. His attitude is kept under control (according to the godliness of I Pet. 3) in the face of a murderous hostility on these rulers part. 4. He now stands where before he failed.
The main thing we are interested in is his message and the doctrine which it contains.
4:9. This is what they are being questioned abut. "Who gave you the authority to heal this man? Who gave you the power to do what you did?" The man had sat at the gate all of his life. Peter had already confronted our Lord over this in Jn. 9. There Peter said, "Lord, who did sin that this man was born blind, him or his parents." Our Lord answered, "Neither, but that the works of God should be manifest in him."
As Peter saw this man by the gate, no doubt this went through his mind. He didn't ask the man, "Are you a sinner? Were your parents sinners? How about your family?" No, he reached for the man and he was healed.
Compare Jn. 9 and Acts 3, 4:
1) Both involve healing a man who had the infirmity from birth.
2) Both of the infirmed men were beggars well-known to the people.
3) Both got the attention of the enemies of Christ.
4) Both aroused the enemies of Christ to a desire to put to death the ones who performed the miracles, Jn. 10:40 - Acts 4:16-18. 5) Public pressure prevented their carrying out their evil desires.
No doubt as Peter saw this lame man here he well remembered our Lord's words and actions as recorded in Jn. 9. We also should know the word of God well enough that His principles come immediately to mind when we face any situation. This is one of the applications of the promise of Jn. 14:26. This should give us a holy boldness as it did Peter.
Also, as we saw back in Jn. 9, let's not be so quick to jump to conclusions as Peter did. God allows things to come into our lives to make us more mature like Christ.
4:9 "--by what means he is made whole." This is the reason for questioning Peter and John. Here is the man, lame from birth and now leaping around." How did we do it? Who gave us the authority to do this?"
They could not deny it was done, because here the man was. Everyone who came to the temple recognized him. They could say nothing against this, which was done. It is doubtless a "good deed" and how can they condemn a good deed? Peter had already preached the answers to all of these questions, 3:6, 15, 16.
4:10. Peter gives the answer with boldness. This is the same Peter who just a very short time ago had been afraid of the servant girl who said, "You are one of his followers." He had trembled before this same council of Jewish leaders and don't think they didn't recognize him, Mk. 14:68-22; Matt. 26:71-74; Lk. 22:57-60; Jn. 18:25-27.
Now he answers with the same calmness confidence and boldness with which our Lord answered them. See Mark 14:62, 63 and Matt. 26:64.
The power of God transformed Peter form the shiftiness of sand to the steadfastness of rock for His glory, Matt. 16:17, 18; Jn. 1:42. The passage in Jn. 1:42 is especially good. Notice what our Lord said to him: "Thou art Simon the son of Jona: Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone (marg. or, Peter)."
Simon's name change
Our Lord changed Simon's name to Peter. This is exceptionally significant in the light of the OT. The name change was common under the old covenant. The first name change we have a record of is Abram to Abraham. Then we have Jacob to Israel. In the NT we also have Saul changed to Paul. Here we have Simon changed to Peter. Our Lord, while He dwelt here among men in the body of flesh, naturally assumed the authority of Jehovah God as He changed Simon's name.
There are some things in these name changes which we should look at. First, they show a change of character in the individual. Also, they are spoken in faith. The change in name indicated a change in character. Paul would in included. He has his new name indicated "worker", Acts. 13:9. Now a worker for Christ. Of course, all of these name changes were done by Jehovah God. The new names were accepted and carried by the individual by faith.
Abram accepted and carried "father of many nations" with only one child, Gen. 17:5. Jacob, the deceiver, accepted, and carried the name Israel, "A prince with God, Gen. 32:28" in the face of death at the hands of his brother whom he had deceived. Saul carried his new name not knowing what the future held.
The most applicable for us is Simon's name change. We can just see Peter, the stone, (his name indicates his steadfastness) professing loudly his steadfastness for Christ (Lk. 22:33) and Christ telling him he will slip and fall.
Peter thinks to himself, "Nah, it will not happen to me. The Lord Himself named me a rock because of my steadfastness. The Lord Himself told me I would be the one to strengthen my brethren.
The steps between Jn. 1:42, Christ's naming of Simon as Peter to Acts 4:9, boldness in the fact of the very power of the Jews, would be something like this:
1. Christ renames Simon to Peter, (of course, knowing what kind of a mess Peter would get into). This is done at their first meeting.
2. Christ promised Peter he would be the first to deliver the gospel to the Jews and the Gentile, Matt. 16:19.
3. Christ told Peter he would be the one that would be the encouragement to his brethren, Lk. 22:32. To do this he would have to be the one known for his strength of character. "The brethren" would no doubt include ALL GENERATIONS of Christians. We can identify far more with Peter than with Paul or any of therest of the apostles. Peter is the one who consistently does what we would do if we had been there. He was the one who spoke without thinking.
4. Bringing us to this. All of these things that the Lord told him (1-3) would naturally lead to an over abundance of self-confidence. Peter was not known for his humility to say the least. Yet the Lord named him Peter, (steadfast as a stone). In his pride and self-confidence he make very hasty judgments, and said many things he should not have. He probably received more "lectures" from our Lord than the other eleven combined because he was always saying or doing something.
No doubt his attitude by Lk. 22:32 would have been, "Boy, the Lord sure is lucky to have me. I'm not afraid to speak out. I'm the one He has given all three instructions to (see #1-3). When the Lord passes off of the scene, I'll be the one." You might say, "How doe you know that is what went through Peter by the time recorded in Lk. 22:32?" To which we answer, "What would be going through our minds by now?"
If we would be honest, if the Lord Jesus Christ told anyone of us, "You will be the one who will encourage others to stand because of your strength", there is no doubt what we would be thinking--. "Lord, you sure are a wise man to recognize talent and strength when you see it." And don't tell me we wouldn't. By now (Lk. 22:32) we would have enough self-confidence (PRIDE would be a far better word) for us and all those around us. We would have the self-confidence to say, "Lord, I'm ready to go all the way with you, whether to prison or even to death."
This kind of a attitude leads to a problem. The next step between Jn. 1:42 and Acts 4:9. I know of no way to avoid these steps. It happened to every saint who has had his name changed by faith.
5. Prov. 16:18. Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Then we also have, Prov. 29:23. A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble of spirit.
All of Peter's self-confidence had to be dealt with. And the more their is the more painful the lesson. Maybe we should say surgery. The larger the cancer tumor the more surgery is required. Let us point out, the MASTER SURGEON knows just where to cut and how deep.
Peter has sworn his undying faith, Lk. 22:33. Our Lord tells Peter, "No Peter, you will deny me three times before the rooster crows (indicating that Jesus appeared before Annas and Caiaphas before sunrise).
Peter's self-confidence continued on and we see it in the arrest of Christ. Here Peter swings his sword and cut the right ear of the high priest's servant. Our Lord touches his ear, healing it, Lk. 22:51. In this our Lord shows He had the power to deliver Himself, and that He willingly went with those who hated Him. He also leaves a final example of doing good for those who hate us.
The armed men with the high priest (Roman soldiers) make no effort to arrest Peter for his actions. Again, this shows us that our Lord was in complete and total control. He only allowed the wrath of men to go so far then it was restrained, Ps. 76:10.
To further confirm his "steadfastness" Peter follows our Lord, Mk. 14:54. As Peter was trying to be as inconspicuous as he could be at the fire, he is confronted by a maid of the high priest. Peter was identified three time as being with Christ. He denied that he even knew Christ all three times. This account is given in all four of the gospels emphasizing the significance, Mk. 14:71, 72; Matt. 26:72-74; Lk. 22:59, 60; Jn. 18:26, 27.
Let's consider Peter's name change:
Our Lord named him.
Our Lord changed his name to mean steadfastness.
Our Lord told him that he would be the one to strengthen the brethren.
Our Lord told him that he would be the first to take the gospel to the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
No doubt Peter was now as full of "self-esteem" as anyone could be. I am sure he wore his new name with pride, yet when a little maid puts the pressure on him, he denies the ONE he had sworn an undying allegiance to. Not just one time, but three times he denies the Lord. Not very steadfast here, and his "self-esteem" is removed.
Our Lord turns and looks at Peter. Peter remembers our Lord's words, and goes out and weeps bitterly, Mk. 14:72; Matt. 26:75; Lk. 22:61, 62.
All of that self-confidence and self-esteem is now shattered. All of his dreams of being exalted are gone. What use is he to the Lord now. He has "let down" the One who gave him his namethe stone, steadfast. Rather than standing like a stone, he shifted like the sand which is driven by the wind. As far as Peter is concerned, he believes it is all over.
Time goes on, Christ raises from the dead. Peter sees Him but still Peter remains on the "sidelines". No doubt, his confidence shattered. The only future that he sees (Peter, steadfast in the Lord) is to go back to his occupation. Even though he still loves the Lord he does not see anyway that the Lord can use him now.
(Hengstenberg points out [John in two Volumes, Vol. II, pgs. 470, 471] that the apostles, up to the point in Jn. 21, planned to be self-supporting with their occupations. They had not yet seen the gospel as a "full-time" calling).
There are some quit significant points here:
In referring to Peter's actions at the arrest of Christ (cutting of the ear) Hengstenberg makes this point on Jn. 18:10 (John., Vol. II, pg. 346), "Their (The other Evangelists) not naming Peter appears to be accounted for by the fact that they wrote in his lifetime, which, in the case of St. Mark, an ancient tradition expressly state, representing his gospel to have been composed with the co-operation of that apostle. St. John, writing long after Simon's death, was free from the restraint of that consideration."
In looking at the four gospels we see the name Simon Peter used far more times by John than we do in the other three. The other three used just Peter more times. The book of Acts directs us further. There, Peter is used about 57 times and the name Simon only attached to it three times and that is "Simon, whose surname is Peter".
I think that Simon gave up hope that the Lord could use him. He "blew it" so bad that he figured he might as well go back to his "secular" occupation. The reason I am convinced this is what happened is because I know what happens to me when I "BLOW IT BIG". We start getting a little self-confidence and it seems it all "blows up in our face; it seems like it is all over for us and we might as well get a "secular" job and forget about trying to serve God. Rather than steadfast (Peter) were blown around like sand (Simon).
There are several things which confirm this thought. First, John 21 calls him Simon Peter. The war between his old self (Simon) is battling with what God has called him, (Peter). Our Lord confronts Simon in v. 15 with, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" This would have been an exceptionally pointed question.
I believe that in using Simon rather than Peter, our Lord was reminding him of his pride and self-esteem and how he had failed. Our Lord, through His word was "breaking him down" to where He could use him. He reminded him of the danger and destruction of depending on self, Simon. The Lord called him Peter when he first met him (Matt. 16:16), now he calls him Simon.
Three times our Lord addresses him as Simon, Jn. 21:15-17. No doubt Simon remembers exactly what happened just a few short days ago as he (the one who was called steadfast by our Lord) denied the Lord and went and weeps. He is now afraid to say, "I'll follow you to the death". His self-confidence has been totally wiped out. In his hopeless condition, all he says is, "Yes Lord, you know I love you". The Lord say, "Okay, Simon, if you love me feed my lambs and sheep."
I know what would go through my mind at this point. After professing an undying love and then turning my back, I would say to myself, "This is to good to be true. I have dropped the ball. I have sinned the worse kind of sin. He can't be wanting me to continue on in training and leading His people. What if I fail again" He could get someone better than myself. Look at how bad I let him down. He can't be referring to me". I would say, "Yes, Lord you know I love you" and I would let it drop there. I would be very fearful at this point to try again. The confidence would be gone.
The Lord stays after Simon. Three times He says this to him and finally (v. 19) Christ say, "follow me". And typical of what I would do, Peter turns and sees John and says to the Lord, "Okay Lord, I'll take your word for it that you want me again after I failed you miserably. But, Lord, look at John over there. What about him? What is he going to do?" The last words that we have recorded here on this earth by our Lord by John are these, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to three? follow thou me." "Peter, that's none of your business. Your only responsibility is to do what I want you to do."
I Peter 5, from Simon to Peter
The second thing which would confirm that Simon gave up all hope in Simon would be Peter's words in I Pet. 5:5, 6. With the name change, the Lord's promise that he would be the first to deliver the gospel, and by the promise that he would be the one to strengthen the brethren, Simon had become lifted up with pride. Really, all of I Peter tells us of Peter's first hand experience of being broken, as he tells us about the:
A) trial of faith, 1:7.
B) calling we have, 1:15.
C) power of God in Christ Jesus to stand for him, 1:18-20.
D) necessity of (and power for) well-doing in the face of persecution or pressure, 2:15.
E) requirement to follow in His steps, 2:21.
F) suffering for righteousness sake, 3:14.
G) necessity of returning good for evil, 3:9.
H) good conversation (manner of life), 3:17.
I) fact that judgment must begin with the Christians, 4:17, about which he knew personally.
J) reproach for Christ's sake, 4:14.
K) end result of humility, 5:5, 6.
Simon was very proud. His self-confidence and self-esteem could handle anything, but those things were destroyed. Now he preaches humility, and God will lift us up, 5:5, 6.
Simon had a long way to go from his original call in Jn. 1:42 to his stand in Acts 4:9. This was a 3-4 year process under the greatest teacher to ever dwell among men. God incarnent in the flesh. Note, if it took something like LK. 22:59-62 to break a man who had been with Christ over three years, think what it will take for us.
Simon, lifted up with pride and self-confidence, dashed on the rocks, blown like the wind but not more than he could handle.
Satan was restricted. He could not destroy Simon, Lk. 22:31, 32. God used Satan to develop Simon into Peter. We don't see him called Simon Peter in Acts. He is Peter there and only called Simon to show who he was and where the Lord brought him from.
There is not a Christian who would not like to have the boldness of Peter before the counsel in Acts. 4:9. But Peter's trip there was a very painful trip. There was a lot of self-confidence that had to be trimmed away and it took a total failure and giving up by Simon before the Lord could build a Peter.
Our Lord, in Jn. 1:42 named him Peter. Simon wore this name by faith and one day, through many trails and errors, Simon was made into Peter by the hand of God.
How? He finally came to the point where the Lord told him, "Don't you worry about all of these other things, put your failures behind you and if you love me like you say you do, "follow thou me". Peter did and the Lord fulfilled His word through him.
"Simon, when you are converted, strengthen thy brethren" that process was very painful but Acts and I, II Peter gives us the account of "strengthening the brethren". WE also are strengthened as we study his letters.
As mentioned, we can, no doubt, identify far more with Peter than any other apostle, including Paul. We can identify with his pride and self-confidence as he argues over who will be the greatest, Lk. 9:46; 22:24. We can identify with Simon as he would say, "The Lord named me Peter, because I am so steadfast. I am the one that he renamed. I am the one who "has the keys". I will be the greatest. And sad to say, I can readily identify with Simon as he fails miserably in the confrontation with a little maid.
Yet, in his failure, he was still called by the Master to "follow Him". In his embarrassment, defeat and failure he says, "Okay Lord, I sure am not much but here I am if you think you can still make a Peter out of me. I don't see how you can but HERE AM I, LORD."
Each of us fail. Especially to a pastor, that failure would seem to disqualify us for the Lord's service but if we are willing to learn from that failure, make it right and humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then He can still left us up. We also can become steadfast in the faith, unmoveable and always abounding in the work of the Lord, I Cor. 15:58. We also can stand firm in the face of the treats of men and hold fast to our profession in the Lord.
When Simon reached the point of realizing he was an unprofitable servant, then the Holy Spirit could shape him into Peter, a tower of strength in our Lord's steps, Lk. 17:10. Simon followed in our Lord's steps, right to the same counsel which our Lord went before, Acts 4; I Pet. 2:21.
So can we no matter how great a failure we have been for Him. That failure can be turned into victory and a motivation to be more like him.
Acts 4:10, continued
Let's look at Peter's answer here. Peter might have evaded the question put to him in v. 7. He could have offered excuses or any of many answers to keep from confronting and offending those rulers. Yet he did none of these things, and, true to the name his Lord had given him Peter answers the question as straight forward as anyone could.
"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel.---" Peter boldly says, "We want you men here on the counsel as well as all of Israel to know that the good deed we did for this former lame man, nowhere before you, was done in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
There are several things in this statement. Peter boldly gives the name, Jesus Christ of Narareth. The account we have in Matthew is the clearest on this name, 26:63-68 (Mk. 14:61-65). This counsel (which Peter is now before) asked Jesus, "Are you the Christ?" By Christ, they meant the Messiah which the Jewish nation looked, longed and prayed for.
Peter here in Acts 4:10 very boldly proclaims that the marvelous thing which they did for the lame was by the power and authority of Jesus Christ, the man of the clouds of Dan. 7. Peter goes on to say, "of Nazareth".
Peter wanted it clearly understood exactly who he was talking about. He did not want him mistaken for others who had led rebellions or who were stirring people up. He wanted them to know that the One they had crucified just a short time ago was the One responsible.
The people knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth, Matt. 21:11. The devils knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth, Mk. 10:47; Lk. 4:36. The afflicted knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth, Lk. 14:37. The disciples knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth, Jn. 1:45. The officers and soldiers sent by the high priest and counsel were sent to arrest Jesus of Nazareth, Jn. 18:5. At the word of Jesus of Nazareth, they fell to the ground, Jn. 18:6. Notice here in Jn. 18, even with his display of total power (they went backward and fell to the ground) they still were committed to His murder. men hardened in their sin are beyond reason. Only the Holy Spirit can soften them.
He was known in the household of the high priest as Jesus of Nazareth, Mk. 14:67. probably the most pointed was the inscription Pilate wrote, "JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS," Jn. 19:19. He was well-known even after His death as Jesus of Nazareth, Lk. 24:19. The angels knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth, Mk. 16:6. It was Jesus of Nazareth which met Saul on the road, Acts 22:8.
As Peter stood up and said, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth' he left no doubt in anyone's mind who he meant. This was especially pointed to this counsel who falsely charged and executed Jesus of Nazareth, not know (or willing to admit) He was the Christ.
Of interest is the statement of the two men on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-24). Look at what they said. No doubt this was the common opinion of the people of this day.
1. What had happened in Jerusalem concerning Christ was well-known.
2. The Man Jesus was well-known.
a. His good deeds were well-known.
b. His messages were well-known.
All of His sermons and mighty works were done in this small area. In his period of time, to gather 5,000 together would be no small feast as well as no small percentage of the total population.
3. He was considered a godly man, both before God and man.
4. It was well-known that the chief priests and rulers arranged His death and crucified Him. No doubt the circumstances around His death was public knowledge. Public sediment seems to be on HIs side at this time.
5. Then of course they go onto tell of the resurrection.
Continuing on: Even these men who had been disciples of Jesus, still thought of Him as Jesus of Nazarethjust a good man who went around teaching good things and doing good deeds. They did not comprehend the resurrection nor recognize that He was the Christ. They had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would redeem Israel and in their view, He didn't.
This was the hope Israel had in the Messiah, that He would redeem Israel; set them free from their bondage. Jn. 24:7 gives us an insight here. "The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
As we saw back with Christ and Dan. 7, this did not fit within the idea of the man of the clouds of Dan. 7:13 at all. Not for the counsel. Not for the disciples. Not for anyone who knew the Scriptures. They were just not able to fit it together until after the resurrection because if they could have crucified Him, Acts 3:17; I Cor. 2:8. Really we have a record of very few who realized what was going on. Godly Simeon being one and this was because the Holy Spirit revealed this to him, Lk. 2:34.
As we have looked at previously, Peter made it clear that the reason they could not see and understand who Jesus was, was because of God's plan of redemption, Acts. 2:23. The truth about Jesus being the Christ (Messiah) had to remind concealed so they would crucify Him.
Jesus came claiming to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of man. He claimed to be the name of the clouds from Dan. 7. Because he did not exercise the power and authority spoken of in Dan. 7 to free God's people from their bondage to Rome, they rejected Him.
His disciples fully expected Jesus as the Christ to set up His earthly kindgom and free them from bondage to Rome, Acts 1:6. And, we might add, this traditional Jewish hope has never been given up.
Now, we do know that Jesus did come as the Christ. He did fulfill the prophecies in setting the captives free, Isa. 42:1-7. Jesus told them exactly what was meant by the prophets as they spoke of deliverance to the captive. He told them that the Christ's (Messiah) freedom from bondage and oppression was a spiritual freedom performed by the Holy Spirit, Lk. 4:18-32. He also told them that not everyone who claimed to be the seed of Abraham would see this deliverance.
This caused those in the synagogue to be filled with wrath, enough to seek His death.
In the messiah, they looked for a might price from God to set Israel free from the oppression of their enemies. Instead, they got a meek man from God who came to set His people free from the bondage of sin and free from the oppression of their enemy, the devil, II Tim. 2:26.
This was not the message they wanted. This is not really the message wanted today by a vast majority of people. Far too many want "freedom in their sin", not "freedom fro their sin". The "Jewish religion" still waits for this Messiah to come sit up His physical reign and free them from their oppressors. Many Christians have also picked up this hope.
Notice what the Lord Jesus Christ gave the disciples rather than a hope of a physical kingdom for the old nation of Israel. They wanted a physical kingdom over those who opposed them, Christ gave them the Holy Ghost (promise of) instead, Acts 2:5-8.
Following on, as Jesus ascended into the heavens, a cloud received Him. As the disciples watched (Peter also) two men in white appeal stood by them and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
This again is a reference to Dan. 7:13, the man of the cloud, and let's not forget the disciples would have made the connection. We can quote Dan. 7:13, 14. I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him (the man of the clouds) near before him (the ancient of days). And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
As we follow through Dan. 7, we find that the kingdom is promised to the saints (forever, even forever and ever) at least three times, v. 18, 22 and 27. How is it given? When? Many unanswered questions.
Christ is received into the clouds. We will find a consistent doctrine which corresponds to Dan. 7:14. That He is now seated upon His throne of all power and all authority, one good passage on this out of a great many would be Eph. 1:20-23.
Peter's statement in Acts 4:20 identifying Jesus Christ of Narzareth could not help but cause them to remember the man they had before them just a very short time ago.
Peter doesn't stop there. He makes sure they understand with, whom ye crucified, they knew what they did. The people knew what they did and they show absolutely no remorse over their evil deed. Peter wasn't quite as "strong" here as he was in Acts 2:23 but I don't know how you could get much stronger than he did here in v. 10.
To these wicked priest and council members, that man who they framed and murdered was just another man. He made some outlandish claims but they dismissed them. Now, here is another mad man making the same claims that Jesus was the Christ. This man (Peter) also has a former afflicted man beside him to confirm his story. (Remember, Christ also had former afflicted people to confirm His claim.)
They remain just as unimpressed now with Peter as they did with Christ, although they cannot deny what took place.
Personally, I like this passage. These men (priests, rulers and council) had planned and schemed to overthrow the Lord's anointed, the Christ. Seemingly they had succeeded in doing away with Him so they could remain in power. The very ones who did this murderous deed (4:13, 14) thought there would be no repercussions. But here is a man calling them into account for their evil deeds.
Job 5:13, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the forward is carried headlong. And this is exactly what He did with these men. They counseled together to overthrow Jesus, the Christ. God turned that counsel around and used it to destroy them. Peter here gives them a chance to repent and avoid that destruction as he did to the people in chps. 2 and 3. The counsel rejects the offer and moves on toward the judgment of God.
As we see men today in their secret councils, counseling together to overthrow THE CHRIST, God will take that wisdom and craftiness and overthrow them with it. It took another 30-40 years here to catch up with these men who worked so hard to put Christ away from them, but it did.
We are looking by faith for the day when the wise of this world will be taken in their own craftiness. We are rejoicing already in the coming judgment against those who have laid great plans to overturn society from all godly influence. We must warn if given the opportunity as Peter does here, but let's remain faithful in the faith of their treats as did Stephen.
The day is coming when He will take the wise of this world in their own craftiness and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. We can rejoice even as they threaten us (with death, heaven) because we know He will triumph. And I'm sure each of us would like to see it in our day.
In their wrath and anger this council had called Peter in to try to lay charges worthy of death upon him. Rather Peter lays charges worthy of death upon them.
He very boldly tells them that the One who they framed, condemned and crucified is the One who healed the man which is now before them. Of course they had to know about this message already because this is the third time it is preached. No doubt, very little took place that these leaders did not know about in and around Jerusalem. Anyone who expects to stay in power must keep abreast of things.
Just a short time later, Peter ends up before this council again. Notice what they tell him then, 5:28. "--and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Pilate had tried to talk them out of crucifying them, even washing his hands of the whole mess. Pilate said, "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man, see ye to it." At the instigation of the chief priests and rulers (council) the people answered, "His blood be on us and our children (Matt. 27:23-25 with Jn. 18:15).
The chief priests, council, rulers and leaders of the Jewish race had led in killing an innocent (righteous) man. These first messages laid this charge upon the Jewish nation, Acts 2:22-24. Again in the temple. This message was preached, 3:13-15. Again before the council, 4:10. Again (although we do not have the words of the message but the context tells us what it was) in the temple, 5:20, 21. Again they are brought before the council, 5:28. We have already looked at Stephen, 7:52. Then we have Saul, now Paul picking up the same message.
As we look at these messages and their content there is a consistent point. When the message of the death (murder) burial and resurrection (to His throne of authority over all, power and glory) is preached. The common people of the Jewish race are convinced and repent. When this same message is presented to the religious rulers and leaders they get very hostile, even murderous, as with Stephen.
Our Lord held these leaders responsible. Telling them they would be judged for it, Matt. 23:34-39. There is no doubt that the judgment was coming (and did shortly). He warns the nation over and over with this message. Multitudes repent and are spared from the wrath which was poured out on the city which crucified our Lord. These leaders didn't and died a horrible death (see Rev. 11:8).
Peter is actually the first one to confront these murderers with their deeds since they crucified Christ. They no doubt knew what was being preached but this is the first time it is "officially" preached to them.
Acts 4:11. To me this verse opens up the whole of the OT, with some very interesting observations.
This is the stone--. Peter quotes Ps. 118:22 which is quite significant. Our Lord quoted it also and we have His quote recorded three times, Matt. 21:42,43; Mk. 12:10, 11; Lk. 20:17. I to would be well to look at Ps. 118:22 first in the context of our Lord's quote. If we would do this, we will see why these rulers were so hostile to Peter and the message presented (see our document on Matt. 21-24).