Matthew Poole's Commentary
And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,Acts 4:1-4 The rulers of the Jews, offended with the teaching of
Peter and John, imprison them.
Acts 4:5-12 Being brought before the council, Peter boldly
avouches the late cure to have been wrought in the name
of Jesus, and that men can be saved by no other name.
Acts 4:13-22 The council, struck with the boldness of the two
apostles, after conferring together, dismiss them with
a threatening charge to speak more in the name of Jesus.
Acts 4:23-30 The church betakes itself to prayer.
Acts 4:31 The presence of the Holy Ghost is signified by the house
shaking, and the apostles thereby emboldened to speak
Acts 4:32-37 The unity and charity of the church, who have their
possessions in common.
The captain of the temple; the commander over those soldiers who were appointed to guard the temple, and provide that no disorder might happen, by reason of the multitudes that came to worship there; and most probably was a Roman, and not of the Jewish nation, much less the chief of any of the courses of the priests, to whom this term cannot agree.
The Sadducees; these were most inveterate against the gospel, whose main article is the resurrection, which they denied: and thus each man, Jews and Gentiles, agree against Christ, as was foretold, Psalm 2:1,2.
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.Being grieved; or angry to such a degree that it was a great trouble to them. The doctrine of the resurrection alone could not but vex the Sadducees, who denied it; but it did more afflict them, that the apostles
preached it through Jesus; asserting, not only the resurrection of our Saviour, which the Jews gave so much money unto the soldiers to hinder the report of, Matthew 28:12,13, but also that Christ was the author of the resurrection, and the first fruits of them that sleep; and because they inferred from Christ’s resurrection that his disciples should rise from the dead also.
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.Put them in hold; some think this not to have been so strait a custody as that of a prison, but that rather the apostles were delivered to some who promised that they should be forthcoming. The prediction of our Saviour began now to be fulfilled, Luke 21:12.
They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you. Howsoever, God was pleased to suffer persecution to come by degrees on his church; after the sun was down, (Christ was gone from them), it was not presently pitch darkness with them. God always remembers his people’s condition, and his own promise, and lays no more upon them than they are able to bear.
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Romans 10:17. It being the ordinary means which God hath appointed; the apostles themselves make use of it towards the conviction of this people. The number of the hearers is not intended to be set here, or in any other place; but either these
five thousand were such as were converted at this sermon, or rather the number converted by St. Peter’s former sermon, Acts 2:14-40, were at this sermon made thus many; howsoever, the increase which God gave was very great.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,Their rulers; the sanhedrim, or great council.
Elders and scribes; the magistrates of the city, scribes, doctors, or teachers of the law, &c.; howsoever these might be distinguished, they are all as one against the doctrine of the gospel, and endeavour to put out the light as soon as it began to shine, as Herod would have killed Christ in the manger.
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.Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas; both these are said to be high priests, Luke 3:2; whether they bare this office by turn each other year, as some think, or that the Roman power put in and out whom they pleased, and in courtesy he that was laid aside still retained the title during his life, is not very material.
John, thought to be the son of Annas.
Alexander, a man of great repute amongst them, as Josephus says.
As many as were of the kindred of the high priest; their relation many times preferring them to a place in their great council, or sanhedrim.
Were gathered together at Jerusalem; or in Jerusalem; either such as were in the city, being called together on such an extraordinary occasion; or else they sent also unto men of greatest note, that lived nigh thereunto.
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?When they had set them in the midst; the sanhedrim, or great council, did sit in a circular form; and the apostles being to answer for themselves, were placed so as they might better hear and be heard.
By what power; natural, or supernatural and Divine?
By what name? At whose command, or in whose authority? They inquire whether they did pretend to be prophets, or persons extraordinarily sent, &c. Though the miracle which they had wrought showed sufficiently by whose power it was done, yet of this they were willingly ignorant, and inquire only that they might find matter out of the apostles’ own mouths, for which they might blame or punish them.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,Filled with the Holy Ghost; guiding and strengthening of him in what he did speak, by which so mightily Peter differed from himself, that though formerly he was afraid of a servant, and denied our Saviour, now he is not afraid before the rulers to confess him.
Rulers of the people, and elders of Israel: see Acts 4:5. These were especially the great council, in imitation of the seventy, which Moses appointed by God’s command to help him in the burden of his government, Numbers 11:16,24.
If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;Examined; juridically called in question; it is a forensic word.
Of the good deed; though they disputed not the authority of the court, yet they assert their integrity; that it was no other than a good deed they had done, which rulers ought not to be a terror unto, Romans 8:3.
By what means, that is, in the words of the question which was propounded unto them, Acts 4:7, by what power, or by what name, he is made whole?
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.Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel; the apostles are not dismayed, but make their boldness, spoken of Acts 4:13, to appear; they preach Christ to all of them, and wish they could make him known to all others.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth: see Acts 2:22.
Whom God raised; i.e. God the Father: our Surety was discharged by God himself, who had laid him in the prison of the grave for our debts.
This man stand here before you whole; the lame man that was made whole being present, and an ocular demonstration of the miracle wrought upon him.
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.Alluding to Psalm 118:22, in which there is a prophecy of what was now fulfilled: see Acts 2:23.
You builders; so by their office they were, and ought to have been so indeed, and are here so called, that they might be minded of their duty, viz. to increase, strengthen, and beautify the building, and not to demolish, weaken, or deface it.
The head of the corner; or the corner stone: Christ is frequently so called, Matthew 21:42 Mark 12:10; and that,
1. Because he sustains and upholds the whole building.
2. He is a rock or stone of offense, Romans 9:33; as many run upon and are hurt by a corner stone.
3. He is most precious, 1 Peter 2:6, as the corner stones are usually the largest, firmest, and best.
4. Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as the glory of the people of Israel; and both Gentile and Jew are united in him, and saved by him, as the corner stone is equally necessary for both sides, which are united in it, and borne up by it.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.Neither is there salvation, for soul or body, in any other person or thing.
For there is none other name; because in distress men did usually call upon their false gods by name, as, O Baal, hear us, 1 Kings 18:26.
Under heaven; whether patriarch or prophet, priest or king; especially referring unto Moses, in whom they did trust; and therefore under the gospel especially we must lift up our hearts.
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.They were unlearned; not wholly unlearned, but such as were without any polite learning, or more than ordinary education, such as every one amongst them had.
Ignorant men; idiots, so the Greek word, from whence ours come, signifying such as were brought up at home, and never acted in a larger sphere than the walls of their own house; having never been magistrates, or teachers of the law, or any way public persons; and spake only their mother tongue.
They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus; which these rulers might easily take notice of, many of them frequenting his company too, Matthew 21:23 Luke 18:18 John 12:42.
And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.Standing; whereas, before he was either carried, or was forced to lay down.
They could say nothing against it; they could not deny but that it was a good deed, and that it was miraculously done.
But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,To go aside out of the council; the place where the council met; for the apostles were not dismissed to go away at their liberty.
They conferred among themselves; it was their joint endeavour to stifle the gospel, and would now consult about the best expedient, but they would not let the apostles hear, lest they might discover the weakness of their proofs against them, and against the truth.
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.What shall we do? At what a loss are these great men, about the manner of their proceeding with the apostles! They might seem to have the victory in their hands, and yet they are evidently overcome by three witnesses; viz. by both the apostles and the lame man, and especially by the evidence of this fact itself: though they did not boggle at being unjust, yet they were loath to seem to be so, and therefore they take counsel to hide it, or palliate it before men; more valuing their credit, than the salvation of their own or other men’s souls.
But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.Straitly threaten them; the pleonasm here used implies a very sore and heavy threatening, as of the most grievous punishment upon the most heinous fact.
That they speak henceforth to no man in this name; either,
1. By preaching; or:
2. By praying in it; or:
3. By doing miracles again by it.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.Not to speak at all; neither privately nor publicly.
Nor teach in the name of Jesus; as his apostles and ministers sent from him.
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.Peter and John answered; both spake by one and the same Spirit, and agreed in one and the same answer; they are not solicitous what will best bring them off at present, but
said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God, from whom nothing is hid, and who is the avenger of all wrong, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. The apostles seem to refer to a commonly received rule amongst their rabbins, which also they make use of, Acts 5:29, We ought to obey God rather than men. In the greatest matters of our most holy religion, God hath not left himself without a witness, or a thousand witnesses, in our own breasts and consciences, Amos 2:11.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.We cannot but speak; in a moral, not in a physical sense; they could not restrain speaking, because of the necessity which was laid upon them, and the woe which would have befallen them, if they had not preached the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:16. If any man denies to bear testimony for man to a truth, he sins; how much more does he sin, who forbears to witness for God, and at the command or the sending of God!
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.They let them go for the present; for amongst them no acquittal was so peremptory or asolute, but that they might be tried again for the same fact upon further evidence.
Because of the people; it was not the sense of the evil or sin, nor the apprehensions of God’s displeasure and wrath, which deterred them; but the fear or favour of the people. The corruptions that are in the world are overruled for the good of God’s children in it.
All men glorified God; not only such as believed, but others also, could not but confess that this was the hand of God which had made the lame to walk, and rejoice in it, and by consequence have a very great veneration for the apostles, who were the instruments of it.
For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.Therefore:
1. The harder to be cured.
2. The man was the more credible, who had so long known what it was to be without the use of his limbs, which now he enjoyed.
3. Whom they could not themselves but have often seen and heard begging.
But if he had laid so many years in the porch of the temple through which our Saviour frequently entered, how came it to pass that he was not cured before? We do not read that our Saviour denied any who came for cure. There need no other answer, but that all times and seasons are in God’s hands, who justly forbore to send deliverance till this very time, and now mercifully sent it; especially reserving this miracle for the confirmation of the truth of the gospel, and of the apostles themselves in the preaching of it.
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.They went to their own company, the rest of the apostles and believers, who have a special propriety and delight in one another; sheep with sheep, and goats with goats: though the separation will be made at the last day, the foundation of it is laid here.
And reported all; to forewarn them of what they might expect, and encourage them to hope for the like deliverance.
Chief priests; to what hath been said concerning them might be added, that these, it may be, were the first or chief in the courses, which David divided the priests into, which division was observed till our Saviour’s time, Luke 1:5.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:And when they, their own company, believers, unto whom they went, heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord; either jointly, with one heart and spirit, agreeing in the same words, or saying Amen to the same thing.
And said, Lord; they begin prayer with such a reverend compellation, as suited best to the matter of their prayer and praises: whether by Lord they meant their Saviour, who was usually so called by them, or God the Father, (because the word here is not Kurie, but Despota), is not material; for when any person in the Trinity is invoked, the others are included; for we worship the Trinity in Unity, and the Unity in Trinity.
Which made heaven and earth, &c.; the creation and government of the world, is a good consideration to confirm us under all things that befall us here.
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?Who by the mouth of thy servant David; through the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David; so it is read in many ancient copies; and shows, that what David and other holy men spake, was from the Holy Ghost, and is to be attended unto and believed as spoken by him.
Servant, or son; David’s relation to God is mentioned as a greater dignity than his being ruler over so great a people.
Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? It shows the unreasonable fury where which the enemies of God persecute his people, without cause, but what themselves imagine or make, and the event failing of their end; for all things work for good to them that love God, Romans 8:28; and the blood of martyrs have been found to be the seed of the church. These words are quoted out of Psalm 2:1.
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.These words do not vary in sense from what we read, Psalm 2:2, but are the same for substance.
The kings; not only such who in a strict sense we call kings, but any chief governors, as Herod and Pilate were.
The rulers; the sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews.
Against the Lord; God looks upon it as done against him, whatsoever is done against them that fear him; thus the Israelites are said to be
gathered together against the Lord, Numbers 16:11, who were gathered against Moses and Aaron.
And against his Christ; our Saviour was at the right hand of his Father, but they who afflict his members afflict him; he cries from heaven to Saul, Why persecutest thou me? Acts 9:4; and had before told his disciples, He that despiseth you despiseth me, Luke 10:16.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,Thy holy child; it speaks Christ’s dearness to God as a child, and obeying of God as a servant.
Whom thou hast anointed, to be a King Priest, and Prophet to his church.
Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, &c.: a strange agreement against Christ, his truths, and people; Gentiles and Jews never combined so together before. Henceforth it is no dishonour to any, if they follow that which is good, to have great and many enemies, for so had our Saviour: nor is it any honour to any to persecute and despise such; so did Herod, Pilate, Judas, &c.
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.The apostles mind not so much second causes in what my Saviour or themselves suffered, but see and acknowledge God in all; who makes a straight line with a crooked stick; and is holy, wise, and good in overruling and permitting the greatest evils; and does deserve to have praise for all things, Ephesians 5:20: see Acts 2:23.
Thy hand and thy counsel; thy power and right to dispose of all persons and things; alluding to Leviticus 16:8: as the lot cast for the two goats (the disposing of which being from the Lord, Proverbs 16:33) did determine which of the goats should be sacrificed, and which should escape; so it was not without a Divine disposition, that Christ was made a sin offering for us; though this no way excuses the wicked instruments of his death and suffering.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,Behold their threatenings; they had acknowledged God the Maker of heaven, Acts 4:24, and accordingly here they desire that from heaven his dwelling place he would behold them and their sufferings; as all things are visible to such as sit above us.
With all boldness; freeness, or presence of mind, here translated boldness, which in a good cause (for Christ and his truth) is (as all good gifts) from the Father of lights, Jam 1:17; and our Saviour hath promised that it shall be given unto us in that hour what to say, Luke 12:11,12.
By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.By stretching forth thine hand; they desire nothing else to embolden them, but God’s owning them and their work.
That signs and wonders may be done: miracles were then necessary, as being the seal of their commission from God; they desire to have this patent with them, to show as often as occasion served.
By the name of thy holy child Jesus; by the power and authority of Christ; for Christ alone they sought to advance and magnify, and not themselves, by all the wonders they wrought.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.The place was shaken; miraculously moved up and down, as on the waves of the sea, to evidence God’s presence with them, and acceptance of them and their prayers in an extraordinary manner.
They were all filled with the Holy Ghost; according to their conditions, whether apostles (for whom these prayers were especially made) or private believers.
They spake the word of God with boldness: this was the grace they asked, Acts 4:29. God gave it them, and with it all other graces necessary for them. In their difficulties and wants, the greatest and holiest in the church of God must go to God to be supplied, and prayer is the most successful means.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.Were of one heart and of one soul; as if one heart and one soul had moved that multitude; to be sure there was one Spirit in them all, that is, the Spirit of God, by whose grace they agreed in all truths, and in hearty affections towards one another; insomuch, that they were as willing that what they had might be enjoyed by their necessitous brethren as by themselves. The community of goods was not commanded, but left at liberty, and was chosen as most expedient at such a time in that place; that it was not even then commanded, we may see, Acts 5:4; neither was it practised any where but at Jerusalem; and it was the rather practised there, that believers might show what credit they gave to our Saviour’s prediction concerning the destruction of that place, in which they did not care to have or retain any thing. There might be something too to command this practice of the church in that season: the whole church, upon the matter, being in Jerusalem, and consisting of such as lived afar off, and were by persecution to be driven suddenly farther, had not such a means been yielded to it must have perished, without a miracle.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.With great power; by sundry miracles which they wrought, as also by their boldness with which they spake; it being no small wonder to see and hear such illiterate men testifying the truths of the gospel amidst so many learned rabbins.
The resurrection was the greatest point in controversy, which being granted, all things concerning Christ and the gospel could not be denied; and therefore here it is especially mentioned.
Great grace; favour and acceptation; men could not but think well of their doctrine and ways, whom they saw so innocent and holy, meek and good; especially God’s grace was manifest in their words and actions.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,So far forth as might relieve the present necessities of believers; not that every one parted with all that he had, for that had taken away (at least) the use and force of the eighth commandment; for where there is no propriety there can be no theft. Now Christ came not to dissolve any law, but to fulfil it: the meaning then is, that these early Christians would not only part with their revenue, but, rather than their brethren should want, they would and did sell their fee simple. See Acts 2:44.
And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.Laid them down at the apostles’ feet; submitted them to the apostles’ disposal: this metaphor is used, 1 Corinthians 15:27,
He hath put all things under his feet. According as he had need; the poor man’s want is the fittest measure for our relief.
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,Joses; some read Joseph; the Hebrew names, when turned into Greek, meet with divers terminations or endings.
Surnamed Barnabas; full of consolation; not only in that he gave so liberally towards the relief of the poor, parting with his possessions for them; but that he excelled in propounding inward and spiritual comfort unto poor and rich, being of a mild disposition, and fitted to handle gently such wounds as the terrors of the law had made.
Though a Levite he might have land, either in right of his wife, or given to him and his ancestors; as we read was to Phinehas, Joshua 24:33; otherwise the Lord was the Levites’ portion in an especial manner.
The Jews being dispersed all over the known world, some dwelt in Cyprus, as Joses’s parents; Saul’s parents dwelt at Tarsus; though at this time both Saul and Joses dwell in Jerusalem.
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.This is an instance of what was said Acts 4:34,35; and Joses probably is instanced in it, either because he sold a greater quantity of land, as having large possessions, or as being one of the first that was remarkable in this kind of charity.
Laid it at the apostles’ feet: see Acts 4:35.