Script for the June 18th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the June 18th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is Nehemiah 10-11 and Acts 4, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.
If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may answer it on the next podcast.
Peter and John had healed a man and were now in the Temple area. They were telling people about Jesus. And this got the attention of the religious leaders.
Acts 4:1-2 (CSB): “While they were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”
The religious leaders were all about themselves and their institution. They didn’t want someone else stepping into their territory. A month and a half or two months earlier, they had worked to put Jesus on the cross. Now, they were trying to shut up His disciples.
Acts 4:3 (CSB): “So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening.”
“Seized” means “to lay hands on.” They actually put their hands on Peter and John and manhandled them. They disrespected them in front of the crowd as they tried to demonstrate their dominance. Peter and John were kept in custody overnight.
Even though the disciples were taken into custody, people were still getting saved.
Acts 4:4 (CSB): “But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”
This reveals that getting saved isn’t merely a decision. It has the joy of forgiveness, the happiness of enjoying our God, and the hope of Heaven, that causes people to be willing to die for Jesus. People who abandon Jesus when the heat gets turned up in society don’t know what it’s like to have our hearts filled with joy in our relationship with Him.
The next morning, Peter and John woke up, still in custody. They probably didn’t know what would happen to them on this day, so I suspect they spent much time praying throughout the night.
Acts 4:5-6 (CSB): “The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family.”
Even though the word isn’t used, this list of religious leaders seems to point to the Jewish high court called the Sanhedrin. It was made up of 70 men, Pharisees and Sadducees, and was overseen by the high priest. This group of men condemned Jesus as worthy of death, and now they were trying to bully Jesus’ disciples.
Acts 4:7 (CSB): “After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: ‘By what power or in what name have you done this?’”
The Sanhedrin knew exactly who Jesus was? Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Sanhedrin had confronted Jesus on multiple occasions over the previous three years. Members of the Sanhedrin had sent Jesus to Pilate and then called for His death.
Probably the high priest looked down his nose at Peter and John and asked them a question to get the proceeding started. “By what power or in what name have you done this?”
All eyes moved to Peter and John. What would they say? Would they demonstrate cowardice? Would they cave under the pressure of being reprimanded by the Sanhedrin?
Acts 4:8 (CSB): “Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders:’”
What does it mean that Peter “was filled with the Holy Spirit?”
It simply means that the Lord stepped into the driver’s seat in Peter’s mind and took charge. Peter didn’t go into a trance. He didn’t “speak in tongues.” In fact, it may have been that he didn’t feel anything different within himself at all.
How might this have happened? When we look at Ephesians 5:18, it tells us that it is our responsibility to “be filled with the Spirit.” God desires to use us, but we must repent of any known sin, express our heartfelt conviction that we desperately need the Holy Spirit, and we had better be spending much time in God’s Word.
So, as Peter and John were making their way to the Sanhedrin that morning, they may have been saying the sort of prayer that they had been expressing all night. “Lord Jesus, we belong to You, and nothing can happen to us except what You allow. We realize that we could very well mess up the opportunity to speak to those who will interrogate us. So help us, Holy Spirit. Give us the words to say and help us to shut our mouths when You don’t want us to talk. Bring Scripture to our mind so we can proclaim Your Word to those against us. Help us exalt You, Jesus, and may it be possible that some would hear the Gospel we will proclaim and be saved.”
Now is the moment of truth. The Sanhedrin has asked the leading question. It’s time to speak. Peter calls for the attention of the Sanhedrin and proceeds with great boldness.
Acts 4:9-10 (CSB): “If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man, by what means he was healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing here before you healthy.”
Peter’s boldness comes through loud and clear in his words. His confidence in his God is off the charts.
Essentially, he says: “I can think of at least a few sinister reasons you have brought us before you. But if the real reason is that you want to know how this lame man was healed, then listen to me. He was healed by the man you killed. You remember His name, don’t you? He is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. You called for him to be crucified. But let me tell you that He isn’t dead. He’s alive and well. And He is the One who provided the power for this lame man to be healed.”
But Peter isn’t done. The Holy Spirit has brought a verse to mind, and Peter will quote it.
Acts 4:11 (CSB): “This Jesus is ‘the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.’”
Peter quoted Psalm 118:22. He saw in that passage that Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of those words. Jesus, who His people had rejected, had become the very thing that the whole building was built upon. What was the building? His kingdom which is made up of everyone who trusts in Him for eternal life.
Then, Peter quickly goes for the jugular. The 71 men were probably getting offended by Peter’s boldness in their presence. They wanted him to cower as he stood before them. But it’s about to get real when we hear what Peter says next.
Acts 4:12 (CSB): “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
Do you see what Peter did? He took the conversation from “how did this man get healed” to “how are people saved.” Peter answered their question and jumped right to the Gospel.
Peter knew that the folks before him were confident that they were going to Heaven. Yet, they were relying upon their righteous deeds. They were relying upon their outward compliance with the Law of Moses, even though the honest ones among them knew that their motives for obedience were impure.
But those men in the Sanhedrin, at least most of them, resolutely refused to acknowledge that Jesus had anything to do with salvation. They hated Him and were glad that He was gone. Yet Peter was now saying that Jesus was the only way to the Father. He didn’t say that Jesus was “a” way. He boldly proclaimed that He was “the” way. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
Peter, filled with the Spirit, owned that meeting. If Peter had allowed pride to settle into his heart, the Spirit would give the steering wheel back to Peter, and disaster would almost assuredly come. But Peter remained humble, depending upon the Spirit within him, and the Spirit of Christ shut those pseudo-religious leaders down.
We know that at least one of the Sanhedrin, a man named Nicodemus, was a relatively secret follower of Jesus. Maybe there was another one or two. But the rest of them would have been furious that Peter, a man that they had taken captive, refused to cower before them. They had no choice but to realize that something made them different.
Acts 4:13 (CSB): “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
They watched Peter and John and could see that he stood his ground. He was courageous even though virtually anyone else in his shoes would have been terrified. They realized that he hadn’t received a formal education and was certainly not trained in a rabbinical school. And yet he was passionately and persuasively speaking theologically about Jesus and salvation.
Friend, boldness comes from being a student of God’s Word, having a heart for the Lord, and a submitted life that is available to the Holy Spirit.
Some might blow this off by saying that Peter must have simply had a stronger personality. Maybe he tended to be courageous when times got tough. And then we would tell them of that early morning when Peter was so scared that he denied Jesus 3 times in a matter of hours when he had recently promised Jesus that he would die for him if need be. Peter wasn’t naturally courageous. God’s Spirit and a few other factors enabled him to stand courageous in front of men who could have ordered his death.
Honestly, the 71 men who had been staring down two men were now speechless.
Acts 4:14 (CSB): “And since they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in opposition.”
The Sanhedrin now needed to have a discussion. The interrogation of these two men didn’t play out like they had thought it would. So they needed to get rid of Peter and John so that they could talk and think.
Acts 4:15-16 (CSB): “After they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they conferred among themselves, saying, ‘What should we do with these men? For an obvious sign has been done through them, clear to everyone living in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.’”
The Sanhedrin ordered Peter and John out of their presence and then talked about what they should do with them. They acknowledged that a boatload of people had seen the undeniable miracle. What were they to tell Peter and John? How could they not appear weak in front of these two men?
Acts 4:17-18 (CSB): “‘But so that this does not spread any further among the people, let’s threaten them against speaking to anyone in this name again.’ So they called for them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
The high priest and his mob tried to act tough. The only thing they could think of was to bully Peter and John and demand that they didn’t talk anymore in the name of Jesus. But with the boldness that Jesus’ disciples had evidenced in their presence, they all knew their words were empty. They were like an old lion without teeth and claws.
Well, Peter and John aren’t playing along. They wouldn’t comply. Instead, they made it clear exactly what they would continue doing.
Acts 4:19-20 (CSB): “Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
Those two verses ought to be underlined in your Bible. You ought to highlight them and put the principle into your memory because all of Jesus’ followers are to think this way.
Here’s the principle: There is a law that society (or others) put on us, and there is God’s law. Ideally, we are able to obey both of them simultaneously. Yet, in a broken world, there will almost certainly be times when we cannot obey both. So, if we are required to do something that God’s Word forbids, then our decision is clear – we will obey God, disobey society’s laws, and accept the consequences from society.
Peter was saying: “OK. You’ve told us not to talk about Jesus. But we have been commanded by our Heavenly King that we must go into all the world and make Jesus-followers. In order to do that, we must talk about Jesus. So, since you are telling us NOT to talk about Jesus and Jesus told us TO talk about Him, we’re going to disobey you and obey Jesus.”
Peter and John demonstrated courage and refused to cower. So the Sanhedrin ran out of things to say and do. With their tail tucked between their legs, they made some threats against Peter and John and sent them away.
Acts 4:21-22 (CSB): “After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done. For this sign of healing had been performed on a man over forty years old.”
What was holding the Sanhedrin back? What kept them from moving to kill Peter and John as they had done with Jesus? It was because of the crowds. The Sanhedrin realized that the crowds would turn on them if they did anything to Peter and John. But, honestly, this was all from the Lord. He had orchestrated the circumstances so that His messengers would be safe until it was time for them to be persecuted and then die.
Peter and John weren’t loners. They were part of a growing Christian community. So they wanted to tell the community what the Sanhedrin said and what God did.
Acts 4:23 (CSB): “After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them.”
Why might Peter and John have told the community about all of this? Probably because they wanted the Christians to realize that while they lived in a culture that killed Jesus, they had nothing to fear as long as they relied upon the Lord.
They might have told their fellow believers, “Folks, we weren’t scared, and we know it was God giving us that courage!” Their words were intended to encourage fellow believers in a time when fear and anxiety may have been running rampant.
When the fellow believers heard this story, they had to pray together.
Acts 4:24 (CSB): “When they heard this, they raised their voices together to God and said, ‘Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them.’”
They were celebrating the fact that they had nothing to fear. God, who was watching over them, was so infinitely powerful that He had created the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all of the animals. A God so powerful who also compassionately watched over them made fear and anxiety unnecessary.
They kept praying.
Acts 4:25-26 (CSB): “You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant: ‘Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers assemble together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’”
Did you catch what they said about how the Bible was written? “You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant.” They acknowledged that the Bible was written by men but had the Holy Spirit as its ultimate author. We believe this, too, and it has been believed throughout the church age.
As they continued to pray, they acknowledged that the Holy Spirit, through David, had written Psalm 2:1-2, and they quoted it. Psalm 2 is a psalm in which the people of God called upon the enemies of the king to abandon their plots against him. Their attempts to harm him were futile because God had decreed that he would be king. The saints in Acts 4 clearly saw that this pointed to Jesus. Even though His enemies had come against Him, their actions accomplished nothing except to fulfill God’s plan.
Then, we get to a couple of verses in their prayer that you should also underline and reflect upon. It shows, once again, how people have the freedom to make their choices. Yet, even as mankind exercises His free will, God is accomplishing His will and purpose.
Acts 4:27-28 (CSB): “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place.”
Let me ask you a question. Did Herod pray and ask God what His will was for Jesus? Of course not! Did Pilate pray and seek God’s will? Of course not. Those men were wicked and worshipped pagan gods. Yet, when they made their individual choices, they were doing exactly what God had determined to do.
Friend, you and I have the ability given to us by God to make our choices. We can make good choices, and we can make bad choices. If we make a good choice, we are free to reap the benefits. If we make a bad choice, we are free to reap the consequences. Yet, regardless of what choices we make and act upon, absolutely nothing we do can mess up God’s sovereign will. That is a truth that can provide such comfort to Jesus-followers who reflect deeply upon it.
Well, let’s get back to the prayer of those 1st-century saints. They now asked God to take notice of the threats made by the Sanhedrin. The implication is that God would continue to protect His followers as they continued to let His power flow through them.
Acts 4:29-30 (CSB): “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
What would it be like, friend, if we were so convinced of God’s power and compassion for us? Might we feel less fear and more boldness to stand up for Him? That’s what happened to those praying saints.
Acts 4:31 (CSB): “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.”
God clearly heard their prayer and answered it. The place in which they were gathered experienced a mini earthquake. Plus, they all joined Peter and John in speaking God’s Word with boldness as they were filled with the Spirit.
As the chapter comes to an end, we read that the disciples in Jerusalem loved each other enough to sacrifice to meet each other’s needs.
Acts 4:32 (CSB): “Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.”
As I mentioned in a previous podcast, this is not communism. Communism is when the government steals from the wealthy and gives to the poor.
That’s not at all what is going on in this text. The leaders of the church weren’t taking anything by force. Instead, those early Christians had full control of their property. It was only as they were willing to part with some of their personal property to help out the needy that they did so. It wasn’t forced. It was a free-will offering.
Before getting back to this matter of sharing with each other, Luke tells us that the disciples were not merely focused inwardly. They weren’t simply meeting each other’s tangible needs. They were also seeking first the kingdom of God.
Acts 4:33 (CSB): “With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.”
The Lord had answered their prayers. They were speaking boldly. They were getting the Gospel message out.
And then we read, once again in closing, that they were sacrificially meeting each other’s needs.
Acts 4:34-35 (CSB): “For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.”
So the Christians were selling property, taking the proceeds, and bringing that money to church to disperse as the leadership saw fit. There was a plurality of elders/pastors, so this was not a one-man decision. Multiple men (namely, the Apostles) were able to bless poor church folks with money that had been given by the wealthy. The wealthy had the good feeling in their heart as they helped others, and the poor saints felt gratitude in their hearts, knowing that they were valued and loved by their church family.
We are now introduced to a man named Barnabas. He will go on missionary journeys with the Apostle Paul. But every character in a story has to be introduced. Barnabas’ introduction reveals that he sold some property and brought the proceeds to the church.
Acts 4:36-37 (CSB): “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Was it wrong for Barnabas to give his gift publicly? Not necessarily. Jesus warned us of the danger of doing things publicly because our hearts could do something good and yet desire the applause of our peers, which makes it sinful. So, bringing a specific amount of money to church and giving it publicly can be dangerous.
But I believe that Barnabas may have had a purpose in giving his money in this way. I think he may have given it publicly to prime the pump. I think he might have given so that others could see and be motivated to give as well.
In the next chapter, there will be two people who saw the public adulation that Barnabas may have received, and they wanted that affirmation for themselves. We’ll get to that in Acts 5.
Lord Jesus, we live in a different culture than those first-century saints. Yet, we need boldness just as they did. Help us, Lord, to seek to understand what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then to apply those principles. It was only as Your Spirit was completely filling and guiding those saints that they were able to do things that mattered for eternity. We desire to follow in their steps, so help us, Lord, to live in the power of Your Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you tomorrow!