Acts 4:23-37 (web)

The Christians in One Accord

Praying for Boldness and Affirmation

4:23 Being let go, they came to their own company,
and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 
4:24 When they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,
"O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; 
4:25 who by the mouth of your servant, David, said,
'Why do the nations rage, And the peoples plot a vain thing? 
4:26 The kings of the earth take a stand, And the rulers take council together, 
Against the Lord, and against his Christ{Christ (Greek)
and Messiah (Hebrew) both mean Anointed One. }.' (Ps 2:1,2)
4:27 For truly, in this city against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed,
both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 
4:28 to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen. 
4:29 Now, Lord, look at their threats, 
and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 
4:30 while you stretch out your hand to heal; 
and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus." 
4:31 When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. 
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. 

Having all things in common

4:32 The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. 
Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, 
but they had all things in common. 
4:33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Great grace was on them all. 
4:34 For neither was there among them any who lacked,
for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, 
and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 
4:35 and laid them at the apostles' feet, 
and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. 
4:36 Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas 
(which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, 
4:37 having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. 
 

Comments

Unity

Notice how being persecuted leads into a uniting of the Christian community. Nothing unites people better than experiencing persecution from a common enemy. This is true even in a secular sense. Nationalism is strongest during times of war. So the Christian community has shown itself to be strongest during times of persecution. Much of this sense has been lost in Modern feel-good comfortable Christianity. But it is still not uncommon in the Third World where Christians face persecution from Muslims and Nationalists. But if Christians aren't involved in ministry, then they tend to make one another the enemy. And so each institutional church reckons itself superior to every other institutional church, creating unnecessary division rather than uniting against a common enemy. 

The other thing which unites a community is a common sense of purpose. The Great Commission of Acts 1:8 and Matt 28:19,20 was the uniting purpose of the Christian community. But we will see this sense of purpose decline in the Jerusalem church to a degree. So also in the history of post-Biblical Christianity, for a long time the Great Commission had been abandoned, being set aside through deviant theology, but for more than a century now this sense of mission has been renewed in much of the Christian community.

The Predeterminant Counsel of God

vs 28  "For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."

If we interpret this to mean that God caused these people to crucify Christ in a puppet-like fashion, then it would appear that God hold's people responsible for things they have no control over. It is unfortunate that due I believe to deviant theology which has propogated through the ages, many Christians take that position. But such an interpretation makes God unjust and guilty. Indeed can puppets even be reckoned guilty. Thus to accept such a view, the concept of justice itself must be severly modified so as to both not condemn God and yet reckon puppets guilty.  But a more reasonable interpretation is simply to reckon that God didn't cause people to sin, but rather arranged the circumstances so that people out of their free will would crucify Christ. For he knew how these men would react to certain circumstances out of their free will. But of course they would be held responsible for things they had control over, and in particular the decisions they made.

Boldness and Miracles

vs 29-31 Two things were requested here in view of the opposition by institutional authorities - Boldness and Miracles. The gospel should be proclaimed not timidly but with boldness. For confidence communicates conviction. And such boldness can be enhanced through prayer. It should also be proclaimed with clarity and this also can be enhanced through prayer, as the Apostle Paul himself requests, "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." Col 4:4  (niv) The purpose of the miracles was to affirm the message.
Ac 14:3  So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
Of course today we can point to the miracles done in the past to affirm the message. The fact that miracles become historical events the moment after they occur doesn't nullify their usefulness in affirming the message. But it is also not unreasonable to ask God for miracles today in the same spirit, given that one faces a good deal of opposition as the early Christians did. And thus while miracles of the quality done in the New Testament are rare in countries where religious freedom dominates, they are not uncommon even today in Third World countries where Christians face particularly harsh opposition. But being obsessed with miracles is also not appropriate in the Christian faith, for Jesus said, "Blessed is he who has not seen, but believes." John 20:29 (niv) This was spoken in rebuke to Thomas, who in fact had witnessed years of Jesus' miracles, but they were not sufficient for him. Thus though God provides sufficient evidence affirming the message through miracles, He might not provide overwhelming evidence. For there must be room for faith. And by "sufficient" I mean from God's point of view.

Child/Servant

vs 27,30 As a minor point of translation these verses in the KJV speak of the "child" Jesus while other translations such as the NIV speak of the "servant" Jesus. I bring this up because King James Only people use a fact like this to demonize other translations accusing them of attempting to deny Jesus being the Son of God. Religious zeal can easily lead to slander and irrational thinking. And such is common in debates among religous people over even minor areas of disagreement. The modern translations certainly do not deny Jesus as the Son of God, but what is at issue here is how best to translate the word "pais". Out of its 24 usages in the New Testament, the King James itself translates is "servant" 10 times and "child" only 7 times. And to put the matter to rest we can simply view the King James translation of Matthew 12:18 in which "pais" explicitly refers to Jesus, but the KJV translates it "servant".
Mt 12:18  "Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles."
In the same spirit it would appear to me that "servant" would also be the appropriate translation here in Acts 4, given that verse 25 refers to the Lord's Christ. (Anointed) However it is insightful also to consider that "child" often implied "servant". For in those days in that society children were in submission to their parents much as slaves were in submission to their masters.

Holding all things in common

It is unfortunate that some chose to make money off of the fulfilling of the Great Commisson today rather than holding things in common. I can't even use the NIV or many other translations as extensively as I would like due to the copyright restrictions of book publishers out to make a buck. But outside of institutional authorities I reckon ordinary evangelical Christians to be quite generous if they perceive their donations will in fact be used to further the fulfilling of the Commission.

But realize also the situation here in Acts called for special sacrifices. In view of the fact that the Christians tried to stay together, which for many meant surviving away from home, and as is apparent from the hatred and persecution these Hebrew Christians had to face in that society, there were many needs within the Christian community brought about by these circumstances. Thus the Christian community was reckoned a family, everyone contributing to its health. But also there was probably a sense of the imminent return of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God. As such person property was devalued by such faith as they held an apocalyptic anticipation of the future. 

But this was not the same as is practiced in communism. For in Christianity gifts are voluntary. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." 2Cor 9:7 (niv) This will become an issue in the next chapter.

vs 36-37 These lead us into the next chapter as Barnabus's donation is compared to the of Ananias and Sapphira. It was this Barnabus who later introduced Paul to the Apostles and who travel with Paul on his missionary journey's. Note this fact. For we will see a number of ordinary Christians who serve and give generously become dominant figures in Acts. If you want to be used by God in spiritual matters, first serve in practical matters.
 




The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015