Acts chapter 4        Next chapter            Back to Bible Studies   

The 'revival' or 'times of refreshing' that we read about in the latter part of chapter 3, is evident to us here in chapter 4: 4 where it mentions that the number of believers grew to about 5000. This despite the fact that Peter and John were seized and thrown into prison 'until the next day'. (According to Jewish law, cases concerning money may continue into the evening to be settled, but cases concerning human life can wait until the next day)

In verse 13 it states that the rulers and elders were amazed at the 'boldness' of the disciples. The actual Greek word comes from two root words - 'Pas' and 'Rheo' meaning 'everything' and 'to speak' respectively. (Speaking the whole message). The disciples are telling everything, giving the complete Gospel message, not leaving anything out. Do we sometimes share the Gospel but with certain key omissions, especially the parts that are not so palatable, like conviction of sin and repentance? We are, like the disciples here, under obligation to tell the whole truth regarding the message of salvation, not being ashamed of the Gospel, as Paul writes in Romans 1:16.

In the next section we find the disciples being called unlearned, ordinary men. The Greek text behind these words is interesting, because it reveals the full meaning. The disciples are called 'Agrammatos' (unlearned, illiterate, without Grammar!) 'Idiotes' (ignorant men). They are actually being referred to as 'illiterate idiots!' This emphasises to the Pharisees and Sadducees (and to us) that the message they had received had not come to them by way of study, but by revelation. We looked at the following scriptures: Isaiah 44:25   Jeremiah 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 1: 20 - 31 where Paul writes that God uses the weak things of this world, the foolish things, to shame the wise and the strong. The sharp opposition from the religious establishment that Peter and John faced here, which continues and gets even worse as we read on in Acts, reminds one of certain other men throughout history like Martin Luther, John Wycliffe and many others. They too, got into serious trouble with the religious establishment for re-stating the Gospel plainly and threatening the authority and power of the institutionalised church. Most important is the fact that the religious leaders took note that these men had been with Jesus (v13). They spoke without fear and they spoke the same message as these religious leaders had heard Jesus speak not too long ago!  

We must also see the opposition from the religious leaders in context. They had power and position which generated an income for them. The scribes for example, were the lawyers of the day, controlling all transfers of property and other services for which they got paid. The whole Jewish religious institution gave these men their identity and livelihood and they wanted to protect that at any cost.

In verse 24 the believers use an interesting word for 'Lord' when praying. The Greek word is 'Despotes'. Normally we find the word 'Kurios' used for 'Lord', but in this instance the word 'Despotes' is used which means 'absolute Lord'. The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament when referring to a Slave-master! Read: 2 Peter 2:1   2 Timothy 2:21  1 Timothy 6:1. The believers are thus acknowledging God as their Master and them as His slaves. Furthermore, it is beautiful how in verse 29 the believers do not pray to God for an easing of their circumstances, but for strength and boldness! God immediately answers their prayer and they are filled again with the Holy Spirit and 'spoke the Word of God boldly'. In verse 32 where it speaks abouth the believers being of 'one heart and mind' and sharing with each other, the Greek text reads 'Psuche' which means 'with one Breath of Life'. They were all filled with the One Breath of Life and this united them - not their togetherness.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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