Lesson 10: Many Believed/ Peter and John Arrested
Here we go! Acts Lesson No. 10. What about our homework? Peter said:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.... Acts 3:19
We might paraphrase that like this: Change your mind and take action that your sins might be forgiven. Now Peter assumes they were convinced. I trust you comprehend he is urging steps 3, 4 and 5 in God's plan - repent, confess and be baptized. Now some of my antibaptizing friends will object to that possibility. But if it harmonizes with every other conversion in the book of Acts - and they all harmonize - this case is no exception, it harmonizes too - then Peter's statement boils down to steps 3, 4 and 5. Now ask yourself this question. Was Peter telling them to do something? Obviously the answer is yes. Repent AND - you see, they must do something besides repent - AND BE CONVERTED. Obviously, from this statement when they were converted, their sins were blotted out. Now on Pentecost Peter said to do something for the remission of sins. What was that? Baptism! If baptism is for the remission of sins, then obviously that is what Peter is urging. So it is saying the same thing as Acts 2:38. You can be cleansed from your murderous sins if you are willing to be honest, admit and take the actions that God requires. Now, the fact that Peter didn't spell out the steps, including baptism, in bold print, may have been calculated to cause them to ask or indicate they wanted that information. If they asked that question, the manner in which they asked that question could reveal much amount their state of faith. Remember this is a gradual process - we discussed that before. In Acts 2:37, the Jews on Pentecost indicated their faith in this manner, i.e., by asking a question. Notice the action Peter urges them to take assumes their faith is sufficient. It may have been in some; it may not have been in others. The last part of verse 19 is possibly stated more clearly in some other renderings besides the King James Version. The Revised Version says:
So there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
This then is to come after remission of sins or after blotting out of sins. Now, back to Pentecost just a minute. The 3,000 were to receive something after being baptized and having their sins remitted - the gift of the Holy Ghost. Different phraseology is used, but the message is the same. To interpret them any other way would be to make them inconsistent. Obviously, Peter and the Holy Spirit did not say one thing on one occasion and something else on another occasion. You see, it's the same preacher, the same Spirit, and the same message; just two different occasions, that's all. It is clear that when one takes the right action prescribed by Christ and the Holy Spirit, then God takes action to add us to his kingdom. The action taken by God is predicated upon our acting first. God set up the system, through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Now, it's our turn to act. If we have faith enough to change our minds, and do it with enough gravity as to carry through with confessing that Jesus Christ is God s Son and be buried in a watery grave like Christ was buried a short period, then God is willing to forgive our past sins. His Holy Spirit will take up his abode in us. Thus, we are born again believers, citizens of God's kingdom, where Jesus is sitting on the throne on God's right hand according to Mark 16:19:
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
To be in that kingdom is a safe place to be. Thus the Bible refers to these citizens of heaven as "saved". Consider this just a minute. Repentance takes place in the mind of man. We must do that. But forgiveness takes place in the mind of God. God must do that. Now, how can we KNOW that God forgives us? It's a question that haunts a lot of people. So, some try to invent indicators or some manner of sensing this transaction. I recall talking to an older lady several years ago. She told me when she "prayed through", she could just feel forgiveness in her heart. Do you get that? She was trying to sense or feel something that takes place in the mind of God. I remember trying to get her to see this point. I asked her, "How did you feel?" She began to describe that she "felt as light as a feather, like I was floating through the air". After I asked her, she assured me that she never got off the ground. Can you see how her feelings misled her? You see, what she was looking for was some indicators that her sins were forgiven. Now I don't question that she may have experienced some peculiar feeling or sensation. I have experienced peculiar feelings when I saluted the American flag, but it would be foolish to assume that indicated my sins were being forgiven. I recall, I had a very peculiar feeling once when one of the engines quit on an airplane that I was riding, but I'm quite sure that feeling didn't remit any sins. See, these feelings were in me, in my mind. NOT in God's mind. Now, there is a difference and I hope you get that difference clearly in your mind. How can we know we are forgiven of our past sins? How can we know? Like I said, it bothers a lot of people. There answer is simple. Look at verse 19 again real close. Peter said "Repent". Now, we have to do that. It takes place in us if it takes place. Ok, what else Peter? "Be converted". Ok, we have to do that. It takes place in us. You say be converted. What for Peter? "That your sins may be blotted out." Now you see, God has to do that. Now the question still is, "How can I KNOW that God does that?" You are saved by faith (not faith alone), but you must believe God will do what he has promised. Let me ask you, if you can't trust God, who can you trust? God has given us his word. His word says you must hear, believe, repent and be baptized, "that your sins may be blotted put". Do you believe God's word? If you do, the assurance is there. If you will keep your end of the bargain, you better believe God will keep his. So, as an old checker player might say, "it's your move". That's the way God set up the system. He's ready when you're ready. God was ready anytime these Jews in Acts 3 were ready.
Now verses 20 and 21 must refer to judgment. We read about the Lord's ascending from Mt. Olivet m Acts 1:9. Verse 21 here says:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Just as Peter appealed to the prophecy of Joel in his sermon on Pentecost, here he appeals to Moses. The quotation in verses 22-23 is from Deuteronomy 18. This again was most likely a very familiar passage to these Jews. Peter quotes Moses saying:
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A
Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up
unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him
shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he
shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul,
which will not hear that Prophet, snail be
destroyed from among the people.
Moses prophesied of the Christ. The Messiah would be like Moses in some ways. It would be interesting, just here, to take a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, and see how long a list we could put together of ways Jesus and Moses were similar. I think you would be impressed. For example, the kings of their respective countries, Pharaoh and Herod, tried to kill both Moses and Jesus as babies. Both Moses and Jesus were rejected of their own people while they lived. If you know the story, I'm sure you'll find many other likenesses. Moses gave the Jews God's Ten Commandment law. Jesus has given the New Testament law, and that is the biggest likeness. These Jews looked upon Moses as authoritative, so Peter points out that Moses himself had said with respect to Christ, "him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever...." In verse 23 the consequences of not accepting Christ is spelled out by Moses in a quotation from Moses' own lips. Those who insist on keeping the 10 commandments today, that God gave to Moses need to consider that Moses himself said to hear Jesus. This includes "all things whatsoever". Verse 22. In verse 24 Peter points out all the prophets had made similar statements. You see, the Jews all professed belief in the prophets. Peter says in essence they spoke of Jesus. In verse 25 Peter appeals to them through the covenant that God made with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. This is from Genesis 12:
And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
Most of us could read right over Genesis 12 and never understand it has reference to Christ, but Peter here makes clear its meaning. Did you notice the words "all the kindreds of the earth"? The word "kindreds" is plural. Thus, this applies to all races, Jews and Gentiles alike. This corresponds with Jesus' statement to the apostles in the great commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations....
Yet, it is ironic that Peter, speaking by the Holy Spirit as we shall see later, apparently did not get the full import of this statement. You see, at this time they were preaching to Jews only, God's chosen people under the Jewish dispensation. Peter tries to impress on them in verse 26 that God sent Jesus to them first. The last part of that verse (26) makes it clear that they can be blessed if they will obey.
Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Notice though, they must do the turning. The lame man that had been healed, must have continued to prance about. Apparently Peter's and John's expectations were encouraged by the prospect that a good numoer of that audience would likely be baptized and be members of Christ's church before sundown. I suggest you re-read Chapter 3 on your own. Get Peter's speech clearly in mind. It has been said before, Chapter 4 is a continuation of that same event, i.e., down through verse 31 of Chapter 4.
Now let' s see, Peter and John on their way to the hour of prayer, at one of those regular sessions held at the temple in the middle of each afternoon, had healed a lame man by one of the gates to the temple, called the Beautiful gate. This man -we don't know his name - accompanied Peter and John to a portion of the temple called "Solomon's porch". At this point, there was so much wonder and amazement, according to verse 10, that the nucleus of a crowd ran together. And just as any crowd always draws more people, no doubt the crowd continued to swell. Peter and John, as usual, took advantage of the situation to preach and teach Jesus. We have considered Peter's sermon verse-by-verse. He introduced them to Jesus by calling them murderers and pleaded with them to repent and be converted and have their sins blotted out. Peter and John most likely wouldn't have stopped their appeal at this point, had they not been interrupted. We are now ready to consider that interruption. The church was growing daily. The great commission was in due process. They had apparently enjoyed a tranquil period. The apostles and disciples had likely grown bolder and bolder over this period. Now the preaching of the 12 and the conversion of 3,000 on Pentecost, without doubt, had taken place in the temple, although the Bible does not expressly say that. Verse 46 in Acts 2 said the disciples were in the temple daily. Perhaps some of their new converts had been taught in the temple, in small groups off in one corner or another, out we have no record until this occasion in Acts 3 that mass crowds were ever preached to on the temple grounds or in the temple complex after Pentecost. It's most likely that the leadership of the temple - the high priest, the chief priests and the scribes, at least some of them - had watched the development of this little band of Christians over the weeks. I have no concept of the Jerusalem and local Judean population, i.e., in terms of numbers, but I think it is safe to say this little band of Christians was a low percentage of that population. Remember at least some of the 3,000 on Pentecost had returned to their homelands in dispersion. The local church was growing at a phenomenal rate, but this was still a rather low percentage of the over-all population. Members of the church were looked upon with favor, according to Acts 2:47, i.e., by the average Jewish citizenry anyhow. However, the leaders and promoters of the Jewish religion, especially the priestly element that controlled the temple, were envious and likely contemptuous toward these followers of Christ. They had been the ring leaders in having Jesus crucified. Up until this point, the apostles and disciples had operated so discreetly as to not bring about any confrontation with these Jewish leaders. The disciples were slowly but surely making inroads into the local population. Some of these temple leaders were, most likely, very painfully aware of that. Yet, they'd had no opportunity in the light or such local community acceptance, to bring about a resistance movement. I believe Christians today should pattern their conduct, in this respect, after the commendable example of those Christians in the model church at Jerusalem. Jesus had told the 12 during their training period:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.... Matt. 10:16-17.
You see, Christianity demands that we be respectful, even to our enemies. I don't want to drag this out, but I trust you are aware that the Jews were not a sovereign nation. By that I mean they had lost their independence and had been subservient to Rome for nearly a century at that time. The Roman government permitted the Jews to continue in the Jewish religion. Just pay taxes and submit in a civil sense. Nevertheless, this became the instrument by which much political and economic sensitivity had corrupted the religious system of the Jews. This and all those sectarian groups that the Jews were divided into religiously made it almost impossible for the Jewish leaders to carry out a pure form of worship under the old law, even if they had wanted to. It would appear that most of them had become as corrupt as the political system that had engulfed them. It's hard to imagine in such so-called religious men how inconsistent the ethics and conscience of such men can be. I remember how one old patriarch in the community where I grew up was quoted as saying "A man's conscience is like a yam sock, if you keep stretching the thing, it'll go over a barrel sooner or later". Now, we're going to take a look at some of the activity of these Jewish leaders in Chapter 4. The highest Jewish tribunal was the Sanhedrin, a court of 70 men composed of priests, scribes and elders. The high priest acted as presiding officer of that assembly. Now, let s get back to Peter and John. Look at verses 1, 2 and 3 of Chapter 4:
1 And as they spake unto the people, the
priests, and the captain of the temple, and
the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people,
and preached through Jesus the resurrection
from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them
in hold unto the next day: for it was now
Notice first that third word "they" may indicate John took part in the speaking that is not recorded here. This interruption must have come as a startling surprise to the crowd. The first verse tells who brought about the interruption, the second verse tells why, and the third verse tells the action they took. The priests were of the tribe of Levi and it fell their lot to burn sacrifices and conduct temple worship. The captain of the temple was the one in charge of the temple guard. You see, there were parts of the temple where Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) were not allowed to go. There were certain places where the women were not allowed, and other places where only priests could go. The priestly order apparently maintained a guard to police these areas. As I said, the captain of the temple was the one hi charge of this policing activity. The Sadducees were a small but influential group. The high priest generally was a Sadducee. This sect rejected oral tradition and as has been said before, one of the cardinal points in their doctrine was that there is no resurrection from the dead. Boles says in his commentary: "The distinction between Pharisees and Sadducees had grown out of national differences dating from the time of captivity; [the Sadducees] were a small but powerful party of the priestly nobles who were supported by temple dues ... they saw in the preaching of Jesus that their sources of revenue would be diminished. Verse 2 says they were grieved. Now it may be they were using this more as a pretext to start a resistance movement against the apostles and disciple of Jesus than because they were genuinely upset over this point of doctrine. They apparently debated this point with the Pharisees who taught against this point almost every day and they didn't arrest them. They had even debated this point publicly with Jesus (Matt. 22:23-33) and they didn't arrest him. He got their goat! But they did think about it pretty strongly. Verse 3 means Peter and John were arrested and put in a cell until the next day. I would assume they had cells for this purpose in the temple. Verse 4 gives a brief statement about the crowd:
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
The word "believed" here carries with it the idea of attending to the necessary steps to become a Christian. It is evident from this statement that many obeyed in spite of the interruption. Perhaps other disciples in the crowd who had stumbled upon this group either baptized these or took them to the other apostles privately. Can you imagine Peter and John in isolation? Some baptized, some in jail. Never a dull moment!