The Animosity of the Religious Leaders Part 2 of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The Sadducees considered themselves as defenders of the Word of God, and they were grieved (offended) because these two uneducated, ignorant Galileans “taught the people.” Peter and John were not duly authorized by the high priest, nor were they sanctioned by the Sanhedrin. Therefore, according to the Sadducees, they had no right to teach or preach in Solomon’s Porch. Since they themselves did not believe in the resurrection, they were greatly disturbed by the apostles' declaration that the resurrection of Jesus was indisputable proof that He was God’s Christ, the long awaited Messiah—and by the accusation that these same religious leaders had rejected Him and crucified Him! If Jesus had risen, then others would rise again; and the Sadducees feared that this doctrine would be believed by the multitudes and established in the hearts of the people. Their doctrine would thus be endangered, and therefore, they joined in with the Pharisees and other “religionists” in their efforts to put a stop to the spreading of a teaching which they considered “heresy.”
I want to call your attention to something quite startling and interesting, if you haven’t already picked up on it—who was it that led in the persecution of Jesus and finally had Him arrested and put to death? It was the religious rulers, the Pharisees, and Sadducees. They were the enemies of Christ as He walked here on earth, and they were enemies of Peter, John and the other apostles, and they will continue to oppose Christianity throughout the Acts.
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.
It is interesting that the first clash of the apostles with Jewish authorities was with the Sadducees and not the Pharisees. Peter and John were arrested because they were teaching the people and asserting that Jesus was raised from the dead. From what follows it is evident that the first charge was more important for the Sadducees. The apostles teaching threatened the peace. While the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, the proclamation of the doctrine was not a sufficient charge to jail the apostles. The Pharisees supported this teaching as well. In the deliberations of the council, there was no allusion to the resurrection in the arraignment of Peter and John.
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day:
“They laid hands on them” means that they had Peter and John arrested; “and put them in hold” means that they were probably placed in the care of a guard. There is no record of them being placed in jail as Peter and Silas were in Acts 16. Perhaps these religious rulers thought that if they had the apostles arrested and placed in jail, they would not defend the doctrine they had been preaching throughout the countryside. After all, these same men had fled from the scene when Jesus was arrested and led away to be crucified. Peter had even denied that he had ever known the Lord. It could be that they would be frightened into keeping silent.
But these two men who had so recently displayed spiritual cowardice, now stood boldly, emphatically declaring themselves followers of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” They believed in and served the risen Lord, declaring the fact of His resurrection, and His identification as God’s Christ, the Messiah. The remarkable change in the conduct of these disciples is one of the infallible proofs that they were influenced from above, not by human circumstance or human contact.
for it was now eventide.
It was not convenient to call the Sanhedrin into council at night, besides this was the time of the evening prayer, and sacrifice; and it was against Jewish Law to hold a trial at night. The apostles would face a hearing the next day before the council.
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed;
All this was happening at Solomon’s Porch following the sermon which Peter gave. Peter and John did not labor in vain. God honored His Word. His power accompanied His Word, as it does now. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Rom. 1.16). The sermon of Peter had a profound effect upon his listeners. According to Luke, 5,000 men believed the word of the apostle. If there were 5,000 men saved, how many women and children do you think might have believed? This was a whole multitude that turned to Christ. What makes this response even more astonishing is that it happened in Jerusalem, a place where the means of detecting and punishing those who were converted was in operation, and where the priests were providing inducements to those who would inform on these new Christians.
You can’t help loving Peter; he is really someone we can identify with, since he has many of the same faults most of us have. He was mightily used by God. He is not holding an evangelistic meeting where figures are turned in rather carelessly. These are genuine converts. There is nothing like this on record from that day till the present day, and I don’t think it will be exceeded as long as the church is in the world.
and the number of the men was about five thousand
The numbering of those who were saved is definitely a Jewish practice, a feature of the Kingdom, not the New Testament Church; and this is the last time in the book of Acts where believers are numbered. We are not to keep this type of records, God keeps these records, and no mortal knows how many people comprise the New Testament Church, the body of Christ. When a number of people unite with a local assembly that does not necessarily mean that each and every one of those people is added to the body of Christ. We unite with the local assembly, but we are BORN into the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, and only God knows who are members of HIS CHURCH, and who are not of that body although belonging to a local assembly.
It must be pointed out that most Bible commentators believe that the 5,000 is not the number converted after Peter’s sermon, but rather that this is an accumulated quantity which includes the 120, the 3,000 saved on the Day of Pentecost, and around 2,000 converted on this occasion.
We do not know how long this was after Pentecost, but certainly, it could not have been many days, and in that short time 5,000 had been added to the body of Christ! Considering the centuries that have elapsed since that time, if we had been as diligent in soul-winning, and as faithful in propagating the gospel as the early Christians were, this world would not be in the sad predicament it is in today.
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?
The Jewish rulers did not seek the assistance of the Roman officials to curb the activity of the apostles in the Temple area. This was a matter for them to control. Consequently, Peter and John, after spending a night under guard, were summoned to appear before a council made up of elders, rulers, scribes, and certain designated and unnamed members of the high priest’s family, with whom the real power resided. It is generally supposed that this group represented the official judicial assembly of the Jews known as the Sanhedrin. The Jewish religious system had become so corrupt that the offices were passed from one relative to another without regard for the Word of God. When Annas was deposed from the priesthood, Caiaphas his son in law was appointed. In fact, five of Annas’ sons held the office at one time or another. Somebody has described a “nepotist” as a man who, being evil, knows how to give good gifts to his children.” Annas certainly qualified.
This was an official meeting of the Sanhedrin (V. 15), the same council that a few months before had condemned Jesus to die. Not all the members are named here. John and Alexander are named, but we know nothing definite about these two men. At least two members of this council were part of that crowd that condemned Jesus, Annas, and Caiaphas. At the time of this incident, Joseph Caiaphas occupied the official position of the high priest; he held the position longer than anyone else in Annas’ family, from A. D. 18-36. Several of these officials recognized Peter and John as associates of Jesus (v. 13). The Sanhedrin was charged with the responsibility of protecting the Jewish faith, and that meant they had to examine every new teacher and teaching that appeared in the land (Deut. 13). They certainly had the right to investigate what the church was doing, but they did not have the right to arrest innocent men and then refuse to honestly examine the evidence.