Acts 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Acts 4)

Verse 2

[2] Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

The priests being grieved — That the name of Jesus was preached to the people; especially they were offended at the doctrine of his resurrection; for as they had put him to death, his rising again proved him to be the Just One, and so brought his blood upon their heads. The priests were grieved, lest their office and temple services should decline, and Christianity take root, through the preaching of the apostles, and their power of working miracles: the captain of the temple - Being concerned to prevent all sedition and disorder, the Sadducees - Being displeased at the overturning of all their doctrines, particularly with regard to the resurrection.

Verse 4

[4] Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

The number of the men — Beside women and children, were about five thousand - So many did our Lord now feed at once with the bread from heaven!

Verse 5

[5] And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

Rulers, and elders, and scribes — Who were eminent for power, for wisdom, and for learning.

Verse 6

[6] And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

Annas, who had been the high priest, and Caiaphas, who was so then.

Verse 7

[7] And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

By what name — By what authority, have ye done this? - They seem to speak ambiguously on purpose.

Verse 8

[8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost — That moment. God moves his instruments, not when they please, but just when he sees it needful.

Ye rulers — He gives them the honour due to their office.

Verse 10

[10] Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Be it known to you all — Probably the herald of God proclaimed this with a loud voice.

Whom God hath raised from the dead — They knew in their own consciences that it was so. And though they had hired the soldiers to tell a most senseless and incredible tale to the contrary, Matthew 28:12,15, yet it is observable, they did not, so far as we can learn, dare to plead it before Peter and John.

Verse 11

[11] This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Psalms 118:22.

Verse 12

[12] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

There is no other name whereby we must he saved — The apostle uses a beautiful gradation, from the temporal deliverance which had been wrought for the poor cripple, by the power of Christ, to that of a much nobler and more important kind, which is wrought by Christ for impotent and sinful souls. He therein follows the admirable custom of his great Lord and Master, who continually took occasion from earthly to speak of spiritual things.

Verse 13

[13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Illiterate and uneducated men — Even by such men (though not by such only) hath God in all ages caused his word to be preached before the world.

Verse 17

[17] But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

Yet that it spread no farther — For they look upon it as a mere gangrene. So do all the world upon genuine Christianity.

Let us severely threaten them — Great men, ye do nothing. They have a greater than you to flee to.

Verse 18

[18] And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

They charged them not to speak — Privately; nor teach - Publicly.

Verse 19

[19] But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

Whether it be just to obey you rather than God, judge ye — Was it not by the same spirit, that Socrates, when they were condemning him to death, for teaching the people, said, "O ye Athenians, I embrace and love you; but I will obey God rather than you. And if you would spare my life on condition I should cease to teach my fellow citizens, I would die a thousand times rather than accept the proposal."

Verse 21

[21] So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

They all glorified God — So much wiser were the people than those who were over them.

Verse 24

[24] And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

The sense is, Lord, thou hast all power. And thy word is fulfilled. Men do rage against thee: but it is in vain.

Verse 25

[25] Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

Psalms 2:1.

Verse 27

[27] For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,

Whom thou hast anointed — To be king of Israel.

Verse 28

[28] For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

The sense is, but they could do no more than thou wast pleased to permit, according to thy determinate counsel, to save mankind by the sufferings of thy Son. And what was needful for this end, thou didst before determine to permit to be done.

Verse 30

[30] By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Thou stretchest forth thy hand — Exertest thy power.

Verse 31

[31] And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

They were all filled — Afresh; and spake the word with boldness - So their petition was granted.

Verse 32

[32] And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

And the multitude of them that believed — Every individual person were of one heart and one soul - Their love, their hopes, their passions joined: and not so much as one - In so great a multitude: this was a necessary consequence of that union of heart; said that aught of the things which he had was his own - It is impossible any one should, while all were of one soul. So long as that truly Christian love continued, they could not but have all things common.

Verse 33

[33] And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

And great grace — A large measure of the inward power of the Holy Ghost, was upon them all - Directing all their thoughts, words, and actions.

Verse 34

[34] Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

For neither was there any one among them that wanted — We may observe, this is added as the proof that great grace was upon them all. And it was the immediate, necessary consequence of it: yea, and must be to the end of the world. In all ages and nations, the same cause, the same degree of grace, could not but in like circumstances produce the same effect.

For whosoever were possessors of houses and lands sold them — Not that there was any particular command for this; but there was great grace and great love: of which this was the natural fruit.

Verse 35

[35] And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

And distribution was made — At first by the apostles themselves, afterward by them whom they appointed.

Verse 36

[36] And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

A son of consolation — Not only on account of his so largely assisting the poor with his fortune; but also of those peculiar gifts of the Spirit, whereby he was so well qualified both to comfort and to exhort.

Verse 37

[37] Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Having an estate — Probably of considerable value. It is not unlikely that it was in Cyprus. Being a Levite, he had no portion, no distinct inheritance in Israel.

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