Acts 4


The priests And Sadducees are incensed at the apostles'

teaching, and put them in prison, 1-3.

The number of those who believed, 4.

The rulers, elders, and scribes call the apostles before them,

and question them concerning their authority to teach, 5-7.

Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, answers, and proclaims Jesus,


They are confounded at his discourse and the miracle wrought on

the lame man, yet command them not to preach in the name of

Jesus, 13-18.

Peter and John refuse to obey, 19, 20.

They are farther threatened and dismissed, 21, 22.

They return to their own company, who all join in praise and

prayer to God, 23-30.

God answers, and fills them with the Holy Spirit, 31.

The blessed state of the primitive disciples, 32-35.

The case of Joses, who sells his estate, and brought the money

to the common stock. 36. 37.


Verse 1. The priests] These persons had evidenced the most

implacable enmity against Christ from the beginning.

The captain of the temple] See this office particularly

explained in the note, See Clarke on Lu 22:4.

The Sadducees] Whose whole system was now in danger by the

preaching of the resurrection of Christ; for they believed not in

the immortality of the soul, nor in any future world. These made a

common cause with the priests, &c., to suppress the evidence of

Christ's resurrection, and silence the apostles.

Verse 2. Being grieved] διαπονουμενοι, They were thoroughly

fatigued with the continuance of this preaching; their minds

suffered more labour, through vexation at the success of the

apostles, than the bodies of the apostles did in their fatiguing

exercise of preaching during the whole day.

Verse 4. The number-was about five thousand.] That is, as I

understand the passage, the one hundred and twenty which were

converted before pentecost, the three thousand converted at

pentecost, and one thousand eight hundred and eighty converted

since the conversion of the three thousand; making in the whole

five thousand, or ωσει about that number: there might have been

more or less; the historian does not fix the number absolutely. A

goodly flock in one city, as the commencement of the Christian

Church! Some think all the five thousand were converted on this

day; but this is by no means likely.

Verse 5. Their rulers, and elders, and scribes] Those with the

high priest Annas formed the Sanhedrin, or grand council of the


Verse 6. Annas] Though this man was not now actually in the

office of high priest, yet he had possessed it for eleven years,

bore the title all his life, and had the honour of seeing five of

his sons fill that eminent place after him-an honour that never

happened to any other person from the commencement of the Mosaic

institution. He is the same who is called Ananus by Josephus, Ant.

b. xx. c. 8.

And Caiaphas] He was son-in-law to Annas, Joh 18:13, was now

high priest, and the same who, a short time before, condemned

Christ to be crucified.

And John] Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, with great probability that

this was Jochanan ben Zaccai, who was very famous at that time in

the Jewish nation. Of him it is said in the Talmud, Jucas. fol.

60: "Rabbin Jochanan ben Zaccai the priest lived 120 years. He

found favour in the eyes of Caesar, from whom he obtained Jafneh.

When he died, the glory of wisdom ceased." The following is a

remarkable passage: Yoma, fol. 39: Forty years before the

destruction of the city, (the very time of which St. Luke now

treats,) when the gates of the temple flew open of their own

accord, Rab. Jochanan ben Zaccai said, "O temple! temple! why dost

thou disturb thyself? I know thy end, that thou shalt be

destroyed, for so the Prophet Zachary hath spoken concerning thee:

open thy doors, O Lebanon! that the fire may devour thy cedars."

See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.

And Alexander] This was probably Alexander Lysimachus, one of

the richest Jews of his time, who made great presents to the

temple, and was highly esteemed by King Agrippa. See Calmet. He

was brother to the famous Philo Judaeus, and father of Alexander

Tiberius, who married Berenice, the daughter of Agrippa the elder,

and was governor of Judea after Cuspius Fadus. See Josephus, Ant.

l. xix. c. 5, s. 1.

Of the kindred of the high priest] Or rather, as Bp. Pearce

renders it, "of the race of the high priests, i.e. of the family

out of which the high priests were chosen." It may, however,

comprehend those who belonged to the families of Annas and

Caiaphas, and all who were connected with the sacerdotal family.

Luke distinctly mentions all these, to show how formidable the

enemies were against whom the infant Church of Christ had to


Verse 7. By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?] It

seems that this council were convinced that the lame man was

miraculously healed; but it is very likely that they believed the

whole to be the effect of magic; and, as all intercourse with

familiar spirits, and all spells, charms, &c., were unlawful, they

probably hoped that, on the examination, this business would come

out, and that then these disturbers of their peace would be put to

death. Hence they inquired by what power, ενποιαδυναμει, by what

supernatural energy; or in what name, by what mode of incantation;

and who is the spirit you invoke, in order to do these things?

False prophets, reputed witches, wizards, &c., were to be brought

before the sanhedrin, to be by them judged, acquitted, or

condemned, according to the evidence. Some think the words should

be thus understood: Who gave you authority to teach publicly! This

belongs to the sanhedrin. What, therefore, is your authority, and

who is he who gave it to you?

Verse 8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost] Which guided

him into all truth, and raised him far above the fear of man;

placing him in a widely different state of mind to that in which

he was found when, in the hall of Caiaphas, he denied his Master,

through fear of a servant girl. But now was fulfilled the promise

of Christ, Mt 10:18-20;

And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake;

but take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it is not ye

that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.

Verse 9. The good deed done] επιευεργεσια, The benefit he has

received in being restored to perfect soundness.

Verse 10. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth] This was a

very bold declaration in the presence of such an assembly; but he

felt he stood on good ground. The cure of the lame man the day

before was notorious; his long infirmity was well known; his

person could be easily identified; and he was now standing before

them whole and sound: they themselves therefore could judge

whether the miracle was true or false. But the reality of it was

not questioned, nor was there any difficulty about the instruments

that were employed; the only question is, How have ye done this?

and in whose name? Peter immediately answers, We have done it in

the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom ye crucified, and whom God hath

raised from the dead.

Verse 11. This is the stone which was set at nought of you

builders] By your rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, you

have fulfilled one of your own prophecies, Ps 118:22; and, as

one part of this prophecy is now so literally fulfilled, ye may

rest assured, so shall the other; and this rejected stone shall

speedily become the head stone of the corner.

See Clarke on Mt 21:42.

Verse 12. Neither is there salvation in any other] No kind of

healing, whether for body or soul, can come through any but him

who is called JESUS. The spirit of health resides in him; and from

him alone its influences must be received.

For there is none other name] Not only no other person, but no

name except that divinely appointed one, Mt 1:21, by which

salvation from sin can be expected-none given under heaven-no

other means ever devised by God himself for the salvation of a

lost world. All other means were only subordinate, and referred to

him, and had their efficacy from him alone. He was the Lamb slain

from the foundation of the world; and no man ever came, or can

come, to the Father but by him.

Verse 13. The boldness of Peter and John] τηνπαρρησιαν, The

freedom and fluency with which they spoke; for they spoke now

from the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, and their word was

with power.

That they were unlearned and ignorant men] αγραμματοι, Persons

without literature, not brought up in nor given to literary

pursuits-and ignorant, ιδιωται, persons in private life, brought

up in its occupations alone. It does not mean ignorance in the

common acceptation of the term; and our translation is very

improper. In no sense of the word could any of the apostles be

called ignorant men; for though their spiritual knowledge came all

from heaven, yet in all other matters they seem to have been men

of good, sound, strong, common sense.

They took knowledge of them] επεγινωσκον may imply that they got

information, that they had been disciples of Christ, and probably

they might have seen them in our Lord's company; for there can be

little doubt that they had often seen our Lord teaching the

multitudes, and these disciples attending him.

That they had been with Jesus.] Had they not had his teaching,

the present company would soon have confounded them; but they

spoke with so much power and authority that the whole sanhedrin

was confounded. He who is taught in spiritual matters by Christ

Jesus has a better gift than the tongue of the learned. He who is

taught in the school of Christ will ever speak to the point, and

intelligibly too; though his words may not have that polish with

which they who prefer sound to sense are often carried away.

Verse 14. They could say nothing against it.] They could not

gainsay the apostolic doctrine, for that was supported by the

miraculous fact before them. If the doctrine be false, the man

cannot have been miraculously healed: if the man be miraculously

healed, then the doctrine must be true that it is by the name of

Jesus of Nazareth that he has been healed. But the man is

incontestably healed; therefore the doctrine is true.

Verse 16. A notable miracle hath been done] A miracle has been

wrought, and this miracle is known, and acknowledged to be such;

all Jerusalem knew that he was lame-lame from his birth, and that

he had long begged at the Beautiful gate of the temple; and now

all Jerusalem knew that he was healed; and there was no means by

which such a self-evident fact could be disproved.

Verse 17. But that it spread no farther] Not the news of the

miraculous healing of the lame man, but the doctrine and influence

which these men preach and exert. More than a thousand people had

already professed faith in Christ in consequence of this miracle,

(see Ac 4:4,) and if this teaching should be permitted to go on,

probably accompanied with similar miracles, they had reason to

believe that all Jerusalem (themselves excepted, who had steeled

their hearts against all good) should be converted to the religion

of him whom they had lately crucified.

Let us straitly threaten them] απειληαπειλησωμεθα, Let us

threaten them with threatening, a Hebraism, and a proof that St.

Luke has translated the words of the council into Greek, just as

they were spoken.

That they speak-to no man in this name.] Nothing so ominous to

them as the name of Christ crucified, because they themselves had

been his crucifiers. On this account they could not bear to hear

salvation preached to mankind through him of whom they had been

the betrayers and murderers, and who was soon likely to have no

enemies but themselves.

Verse 18. Not to speak-nor teach in the name of Jesus.] Any

other doctrine, and any other name, scribes and Pharisees,

hypocrites and infidels will bear, but the doctrine which is

according to godliness, proclaiming salvation through the blood of

Christ crucified, they will not bear. If their doctrine were not

the truth of God it could not be so unpopular; there is such an

enmity in human nature against all that is good and true, that

whatever comes from God is generally rejected by wicked men.

Verse 19. Whether it be right in the sight of God] As if they

had said: Worldly prudence and a consideration of our secular

interests would undoubtedly induce us to obey you; but acting as

before God, and following the dictates of eternal truth and

justice, we dare not be silent. Can it be right to obey men

contrary to the command and will of God? When he commands us to

speak, dare we hold our tongue? We have received our authority

from God through Christ, and feel fully persuaded of the truth by

the Holy Spirit which now dwells in us; and we should be guilty of

treason against God, were we on any consideration to suppress his

testimony. Your own consciences testify that we should be sinners

against our heavenly King, were we to act according to your

orders; and the conclusion is, that we cannot but speak what we

have seen and heard.

Verse 21. When they had farther threatened them]

προσαπειλησαμενοι, When they had added to their former

threatenings, repeating the former menaces, and adding new


Finding nothing how they might punish them] Or, as the Codex

Bezae reads, μηευρισκοντεςαιτιανπωςκολασωνται, not finding, a

cause why they might punish them. This reading is supported by the

Syriac and Arabic. Bp. Pearce says, "This is better sense and

better Greek."

Because of the people] The people saw the miracle, confessed the

finger of God, believed on the Lord Jesus, and thus became

converts to the Christian faith; and the converts were now so

numerous that the sanhedrin was afraid to proceed to any

extremities, lest an insurrection should be the consequence.

Verse 22. The man was above forty years old] The disease was of

long standing, and consequently the more inveterate; but all

difficulties, small or great, yield equally to the sovereign power

of God. It is as easy with God to convert a sinner of forty or

four-score, as one of ten years old. But he who now refuses to

obey the call of God has neither reason nor revelation to support

himself even in the most distant hope that he shall get, in a

future time, the salvation which he rejects in the present.

Verse 23. They went to their own company] This was properly the

first persecution that had been raised up against the Church since

the resurrection of Christ; and as the rest of the disciples must

have known that Peter and John had been cast into prison, and that

they were to be examined before the sanhedrin, and knowing the

evil disposition of the rulers toward their brethren, they

doubtless made joint supplication to God for their safety. In this

employment it is likely Peter and John found them on their return

from the council, and repeated to them all their treatment, with

the threats of the chief priests and elders.

Verse 24. Lord, thou art God] δεσποτασυοθεος, Thou God art

the sovereign Lord. Thy rule is universal, and thy power

unlimited; for thou hast the heaven and its glories, the earth and

the sea, and their endlessly varied and numerous inhabitants,

under thy direction and control.

Verse 25. By the mouth of thy servant David hast said] Several

add, but impertinently, διαπνευματοςαγιου, by the Holy Spirit;

but it is sufficient that GOD has said it; and thugs we find that

David spoke by the inspiration of God; and that the second Psalm

relates to Jesus Christ, and predicts the vain attempts made by

Jewish and heathen powers to suppress Christianity.

Verse 26. Against the Lord and against his Christ.] κατατου

χριστουαυτου should be translated, against his ANOINTED, because

it particularly agrees with ονεχρισας, whom thou hast ANOINTED,

in the succeeding verse.

Verse 27. There is a parenthesis in this verse that is not

sufficiently noticed: it should be read in connection with

Ac 4:28, thus:

For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast

anointed, (for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel

determined before to be done,) both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with

the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together.

It is evident that what God's hand and counsel determined before

to be done was not that which Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles,

(Romans,) and the people of Israel had done and were doing; for,

then, their rage and vain counsel would be such as God himself had

determined should take place, which is both impious and absurd;

but these gathered together to hinder what God had before

determined that his Christ or Anointed should perform; and thus

the passage is undoubtedly to be understood.

Were gathered together] εντηπολειταυτη, In this very city,

are added by ABDE, and several others; all the Syriac, the Coptic,

AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonian, Vulgate, Itala, and several of the

primitive fathers. This reading Griesbach has received into the

text. This makes the words much more emphatic; in this thy own

city, these different and in all other cases dissentient powers

are leagued together against thine Anointed, and are determined to

prevent the accomplishment of thy purpose.

Verse 29. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings] It is not

against us, but against thee, that they conspire: it is not to

prevent the success of our preaching, but to bring to nought thy

counsel: the whole of their enmity is against thee. Now, Lord,

look upon it; consider this.

And grant unto thy servants] While we are endeavouring to fulfil

thy counsels, and can do nothing without thee, sustain our

courage, that we may proclaim thy truth with boldness and

irresistible power.

Verse 30. By stretching forth thine hand to heal] Show that it

is thy truth which we proclaim, and confirm it with miracles, and

show how highly thou hast magnified thy Son Jesus, whom they have

despised and crucified, by causing signs and wonders to be wrought

in his name.

Thy holy child Jesus.] τουαγιουπαιδοςσου should be

translated, thy holy SERVANT, as in Ac 4:25. δαβιδπαιδος

σου, thy servant David, not thy CHILD David: the word is the

same in both places.

Verse 31. The place was shaken] This earthquake was an evidence

of the presence of God, and a most direct answer to their prayer,

as far as that prayer concerned themselves. The earthquake

proclaimed the stretched-out arm of God, and showed them that

resistance against his counsels and determinations must come to


And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost] And, in

consequence of this, they spake the word of God with boldness; a

pointed answer to a second part of their request, Ac 4:29. A

right prayer will always have a right and ready answer. Though

these disciples had received the Holy Spirit on the day of

pentecost, yet they were capable of larger communications; and

what they had then received did not preclude the necessity of

frequent supplies, on emergent occasions. Indeed, one

communication of this Spirit always makes way and disposes for

another. Neither apostle nor private Christian can subsist in the

Divine life without frequent influences from on high. Had these

disciples depended on their pentecostal grace, they might have

sunk now under the terror and menaces of their combined and

powerful foes. God gives grace for the time being, but no stock

for futurity, because he will keep all his followers continually

dependent on himself.

With boldness.] παντιτωθελοντιπιστευειν, To all who were

willing to believe, is added by DE, two others, Augustin,

Irenaeus, and Bede.

Verse 32. The multitude of them that believed] The whole 5000,

mentioned Ac 4:4, and probably many others, who had been

converted by the ministry of the other apostles since that time.

Were of one heart and of one soul] Were in a state of the most

perfect friendship and affection. In all the 5000 there appeared

to be but one heart and one soul; so perfectly did they agree in

all their views, religious opinions, and holy affections. Some

MSS. add, καιουκηνδιακρισιςεναυτοιςουδεμια, and there was no

kind of difference or dissension among them. This remarkable

reading is found in the Codex Bezae, another of great authority,

E, two others, Ambrose, Bede, Cyprian, and Zeno. Diogenes Laertius

relates of Aristotle, ερωτηθειςτιεστιφιλος; being asked, What

is a FRIEND? εφημιαψυχηδυοσωμασινενοικουσα answered, ONE

soul dwelling in TWO bodies. This saying has been justly

celebrated: but what would this wonderful philosopher have thought

and said, had he seen these disciples of Jesus, and friends of

mankind: one soul dwelling in 5000 bodies!

They had all things common.] See Clarke on Ac 2:44,

where this subject is examined. See Clarke on Ac 4:34.

Verse 33. With great power gave the apostles witness] This power

they received from the Holy Spirit, who enabled them, μεγαλη

δυναμει, with striking miracles, to give proof of the resurrection

of the Lord Jesus; for this is the point that was particularly to

be proved: that he was slain and buried, all knew; that he rose

again from the dead, many knew; but it was necessary to give such

proofs as should convince and confound all. This preaching and

these miracles demonstrated this Divine truth: Jesus died for your

sins-he rose again for your justification; behold what God works

in confirmation of these glorious truths; believe therefore in the

Lord Jesus, and ye shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

Great grace was upon them all.] They all received much of the

favour or grace of God; and they had much favour with all who

feared God. In both these ways this clause may be understood; for

χαρις means favour, whether that be evidenced by benevolence or

beneficence, or by both. The favour of God is the benevolence of

God; but his benevolence is never exerted without the exertions of

his beneficence. Hence the grace or favour of God always implies

a blessing or gift from the hand of his mercy and power. The

favour or benevolence of men may exist without beneficence,

because it may not be in their power to communicate any gift or

benefit, though they are disposed to do it; or, 2dly. the persons

who enjoy their favour may not stand in need of any of their kind

acts; but it is not so with God: his good will is ever accompanied

by his good work; and every soul that is an object of his

benevolence stands in the utmost need of the acts of his

beneficence. Hence, as he loved the world, he gave his Son a

ransom for all. All needed his help; and, because they all needed

it, therefore all had it. And truly we may say of the whole human

race, for whom the Son of God tasted death, that great grace was

upon all; for ALL have been purchased by his sacrificial death.

This by the way.

Verse 34. Neither was there any among them that lacked] It was

customary with the Jews to call the poor together, to eat of the

sacrifices, but as the priests, &c., were incensed against Christ

and Christianity, consequently the Christian poor could have no

advantage of this kind; therefore, by making a common stock for

the present necessity, the poor were supplied; so there was none

among them that lacked. This provision therefore of the community

of goods, which could be but temporary, was made both suitably and

seasonably. See Bp. Pearce, and See Clarke on Ac 2:44.

Verse 35. Laid-down at the apostles' feet] To show how cordially

and entirely they parted with them. And they entrusted the

management of the whole to those men to whom they found God had

entrusted the gifts of his Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of the

kingdom of heaven.

Verse 36. Joses] Or, Joseph, as many excellent MSS. read; but

who he was, farther than what is here said, we know not.

Surnamed Barnabas] Or, Barsabbas, according to the Coptic.

The son of consolation] υιοςπαρακλησεως; As παρακλησις

signifies exhortation, as well as consolation, and is indeed

distinguished from the latter, 1Co 14:3, the original name was

probably Bar naba, or Bar nebia, which

signifies the son of prophecy or exhortation; and this is

certainly one sense which prophecy has in the New Testament; and

in this way Barnabas distinguished himself among the apostles. See

Ac 11:23.

And Barnabas EXHORTED them all that with purpose of heart they

should cleave unto the Lord.

A Levite, and of the country of Cyprus] Cyprus is an island in

the Mediterranean Sea, off Cilicia, and not very distant from the

Jewish coast. The Jews were very numerous in that island: see

Dion. Cas. lib. 68, 69. Though he was a Levite, he might have had

land of his own by private purchase. The Levites, as a tribe, had

no land in Israel; but the individuals certainly might make

purchases any where in the country: but, as Barnabas was of

Cyprus, his land probably lay there; and as it is likely that he

was one of those strangers that came up to Jerusalem to the late

feast, and was there converted, he might have sold his land in the

island to some of his own countrymen who were at Jerusalem at this

time; and so, being called to the work of the ministry, continued

to associate with the apostles, travelling every where, and

preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. He was the constant

companion of St. Paul, till the separation took place on account

of John Mark, mentioned Ac 15:36-39.

IT is worthy of remark that the two apostles of the Gentiles,

though of Jewish extraction, were both born in Gentile countries;

Paul in Cilicia, Barnabas in Cyprus: this gave them many

advantages; served to remove prejudices from the heathens; and

gave them no doubt much facility in the Greek tongue, without

which they could have done but little in Asia Minor, nor in most

parts of the Roman empire where they travelled. How admirably does

God determine even the place of our birth, and the bounds of our

habitation! When under the influence of the grace of Christ, every

thing is turned to a man's advantage. The man whom he calls to his

work he will take care to endue with every necessary

qualification. And is it too much to say that God never did call a

man to preach the Gospel whom he did not qualify in such a manner

that both the workman and the work should appear to be of God?

Some have said that ignorance is the mother of devotion.

Devotion and religion are both scandalized by the saying.

Enlightened piety has ever been the most sincere, steady, and

active. God makes those wise who turn unto him; and by

experimental religion all the powers of the mind are greatly

improved. Every genuine minister of Christ has an enlightened

heart; and, to this, it is his duty to add a well-cultivated mind.

Ex quovis ligno Mercurius non fit: A blockhead never did, and

never can, make a minister.

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