The Animosity of the Religious Leaders Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

October 7, 2013

Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson II.C.3.a: The Animosity of the Religious Leaders (4.1-22)


Acts 4.1-22 (KJV)

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
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.
7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
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.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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.
14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
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.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
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.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
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.
22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.


Introduction

In this chapter, we have the first opposition from the Jewish leaders, which leads to relentless and awful persecution. One of the main purposes of Acts is to show that Jews who rejected and crucified Jesus continued their rebellion against God by rejecting the gospel of the resurrected and ascended Jesus proclaimed by the apostles. This chapter describes the beginning of this opposition, which culminated with the plots of the Jews to kill Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem: “And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now, therefore, ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him” (Acts 23.12-15).


Commentary

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
A large crowd gathered in Solomon’s Porch, creating such a commotion that the Temple police intervened. “The captain of the temple” was a high ranking officer, in charge of the Temple police (composed of Levites) next in authority to the high priest, and he had responsibility for maintaining order in the Temple. “The priests” belonged to a Jewish party called “the Sadducees.” They disagreed with the Pharisees over the interpretation of the Law and also denied the doctrine of the resurrection, all miracles, and of the existence of angels and demons.


The office of “Priests” in the Old Testament began with Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8). They became the human intermediaries between God and sinful mankind. They were characterized by three qualities:
1. They were chosen and set apart for priestly service by God.
2. They were to be holy in their character.
3. They were to be the only ones allowed to come near God on behalf of the people, with the high priest being the chief go between on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).


“The Sadducees” held strong representation both in the Sanhedrin and the priesthood—the latter was an office which they held by tradition. It is evident here that they were quite influential in religious matters—“But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy” (Acts 5.17). They were compromisers—collaborators with the Roman government—and were very serious opposed toward anything that might disturb the comfortable status they enjoyed.


Peter had just been preaching the resurrection of Jesus, and “the Sadducees” saw danger arising from such teaching. Peter and John had wrought a great miracle by healing the lame man, a miracle which the Sadducees could not deny—“And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3.16). This greatly disturbed them, and the fact that Peter was preaching the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was a definite challenge to their religious prestige!


“As they (Peter and John) spake unto the people…”
In verse 11 of Chapter 3, we were told that as the lame man rejoiced over his miraculous healing, “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.” The great gathering of people and the news of the healing of the lame beggar soon attracted the attention of “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees,” who decided that something must be done to put a stop to the sudden popularity of the two apostles. The high priest and the priestly class were answerable to the Roman authorities for anything that sounded like a disturbance in the city. At that very volatile time, any gathering of people might suddenly erupt into a riot or revolution. If this happened, the Romans might take away their political power. The words “came upon” indicate that this group “came upon” Peter and John—or rushed upon them—in a sudden and violent manner.


Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
The Sadducees were “grieved” (“annoyed” in the RSV), which suggests mingled emotions of extreme anger and indignation because Peter and John consistently proclaimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and announced on the basis of His resurrection the hope of resurrection for men; and if it was true, it overthrew their doctrine. This was the part of the apostle’s message that was the most objectionable to the Jewish leaders. They had executed Jesus as a blasphemer, and now Peter and John were proclaiming His resurrection. The Pharisees believed in a future resurrection. The apostles announced that God now has provided a new ground for this hope.


The Sadducees were not “grieved” because they feared a calamity had befallen the community, but because the miracle and subsequent publicity would interfere with their authority. Such miracles were in direct opposition to their doctrine; they did not believe in miracles. Although they admitted that a considerable miracle had been wrought—and certainly they could not deny the resurrection of Jesus, because after His resurrection He was seen by as many as five hundred people at one time—they refused to accept the facts that had been presented again and again in their presence. They were willingly ignorant, spiritually blind, and determinedly rejecting the truth that was so clearly evident.

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