Empowered to Help
Explore the Bible Series
June 8, 2008
Background Passage: Acts 3:1-5:42
Lesson Passage: Acts 4:5-10, 12-12, 18-20, 31-35
Introduction: This section of Acts will seem somewhat alien to modern American readers. I ask that you consider these two points.
Perhaps we should look for these two marks of the early church: power and persecution. These seem to be the hallmarks of the true people of God.
I. The Healing of the Lame Man (3:1-26)
setting of the miracle (vv. 1-2): Peter and John continued to observe the
Jewish hours of prayer, and they arrived at the
B. The apostles’ ministry to the lame man (vv. 3-10): The beggar asked Peter and John for alms, but Peter commanded the man to arise, and, lifting the man by the hand, Peter instructed the beggar to walk. The infirmed man rose to his feet, walked about, leaped for joy, and began to praise God. The commotion drew the attention of the crowd, and, realizing what had happened to the lame man, the masses marveled at the miracle.
C. Peter’s sermon (vv. 11-26)
1. the power of God and the healing of the lame man (vv. 11-16): Peter did not take credit for healing the man; rather, he made it clear that God’s power was at work. The early portion of Peter’s sermon centered on the Lord Jesus: God’s Servant (clearly a reference to the “Suffering Servant” section of the Prophecy of Isaiah), and the Holy and Righteous One. This glorious person, Peter made clear, these Jews had betrayed and executed, preferring that Pilate release Barabbas (See Luke 23:18). Furthermore, Peter affirmed the resurrection of Jesus, and he ascribed the healing of the lame man to the Christ.
2. salient points in Peter’s understanding of the gospel (vv. 17-26)
a. the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament (vv. 17 and 21-25): Like his Pentecostal sermon, Peter made liberal reference to the Old Testament,
b. the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus (vv. 18 and 21)
c. the necessity of repentance and faith (v. 19)
II. The Response of the Jewish Leaders (4:1-31)
arrest of Peter and John (vv. 1-4): Peter’s sermon apparently caused something
of a stir in the temple confines. Some of the priests, the captain of the
B. The trial of Peter and John (vv. 5-12): The next day the Jewish leaders, members of the Sanhedrin (a seventy-member Jewish ruling council), questioned the disciples about the healing of the lame man; in particular they raised questions about the source of the apostles’ power and authority. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, expressed his puzzlement that the leaders found fault with healing an infirmed man. However, Peter saw the real concern of the Sanhedrin, and he accused them of crucifying the Lord Jesus—they had rejected the Chief Cornerstone.
C. The threats of the Sanhedrin (vv. 13-22): Apparently, the Sanhedrin realized they had no case against these men; so, they determined to use threats to silence Peter and John. The apostles, of course, refused to bow to the demands of the council and insisted that they would continue to preach those things which they had seen and heard.
Life in the
A. Earnest prayer for boldness (4:23-31): The disciples knew that the strength they needed to stand up under the pressure of persecution—that kind of boldness comes from the Lord. Furthermore, they knew that only God could provide the supernatural power to give success to the preaching of the gospel. These early followers of Jesus prayed that God might grant them boldness, and they left the success of the preaching in the hands of the Lord. Immediately, the Lord answered their prayers and sent the Holy Spirit to fill all who prayed.
B. Generosity (4:32-37)
1. spontaneous openheartedness (4:32-37): As a matter of course, these early believers opened their hearts to the needs of others. Apparently, no one coerced this generosity; rather, it arose from the genuine unselfishness of God’s people. Note, the text seems to draw a connection between this generosity and the apostles’ great power in preaching (See v. 33). Among the self-giving saints, a man named Joseph (nicknamed Barnabas—“son of encouragement”) sold a piece of land and gave the proceeds to the apostles.
2. counterfeit generosity (5:1-11): Perhaps Barnabas’ generosity brought him some unsought notoriety, and unholy people envied the attention and affirmation. Ananias and Sapphira also sold some land and gave a portion of the money to the apostles. Peter confronted Ananias about lying to the Holy Spirit. If I understand the text correctly, Peter did not object to the couple retaining some of the price of the land; rather, he confronted Ananias about lying to the Holy Spirit. In a startling turn of events, God struck Ananias dead, on the spot, and, three hours later, Sapphira appeared before Peter. She perpetuated her husband’s lie, and she fell dead, just as Ananias did before her. Great fear came upon the entire church.
C. Miraculous power (5:12-16): Great signs and wonders continued at the hands of the apostles, things that could not be explained in human terms, and many brought the sick, desperate people to the church. With great boldness, the apostles healed the sick in Solomon’s Portico, the very place where the controversy began concerning the lame man.
persecution (5:17-42): No doubt, as a result of the continued preaching of the
apostles, the Sadducees, enraged at the disciples’ insolence, were enraged and
filled with jealousy. They arrested and imprisoned the apostles; however,
during the night, an angel miraculously delivered the men from incarceration
and told them to return to the