Luke notes in Acts chapter 2 that many signs and wonders were done through the apostles after they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 3 we are given an illustration of this in the healing of the lame man. In chapter 4, we will see 1) the plan a purpose for the supernatural giftings of the Holy Spirit and 2) the differing reactions to manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power and 3) the most convincing evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit: love abounding to all. (Point 3 will be covered in the next study)
The Spectacle -Review of Chapter 3
Defined as: Something that can be seen or viewed, especially something of a remarkable or impressive nature. A grandiose expression of God’s power!! (Also noted in Chapter 2, verse 12 in the spectacle of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit)
The healing of the lame man was certainly a spectacle. I’m sure he may have looked foolish walking and leaping and praising God but who could blame him? This miraculous healing was meant to get people’s attention. The initial reaction from the crowd was one of “wonder and amazement (Acts 3:10). Even the religious leaders described it as a “notable miracle” that was “evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem” (vs 16).
After all, Peter and John were following Jesus’ example and mandate, which is found in His answer to John the Baptist’s question as to whether Jesus was the Coming One:
Matt 11:4-5 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
-The “works” that Jesus did were always coupled with the gospel
John 5:36 But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
-The “works” were evidences or proofs that Jesus was divine. (Also noted by Peter in Chapter 2, verse 22)
Jesus promised the apostles that they would do greater works after He was gone.
John 14:12-14 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Greater -meaning greater in degree (more extensive and expansive)
Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
The “Greater Works” were meant to glorify the Father in the Son
Back to the spectacle…. initially, as we might expect, the crowd focused in on Peter and John in their amazement, but Peter was quick to take no credit for this miraculous healing, responding:
"Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12)
Peter quickly pivots and places the focus clearly on Jesus….that is was through faith in Jesus name that the lame man was made whole. But it didn’t stop there!! He then reproves them for rejecting Jesus as Messiah and exhorts them to repent and have their sins blotted out so that they might be reconciled to the Father. In other words, he used the opportunity to preach the gospel to the crowd.
What is important to note here is that the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (in this case, the gift of healing coupled with the gift of faith) is always meant to be an avenue to share the gospel, magnify Jesus and bring glory to the Father through the Spirit’s power and anointing (not our own). The result here is that their numbers increased to five thousand
(Acts 4:6) (Just as the gift of tongues was a manifestation used to preach the gospel in Chapter 2)
Jesus said that the works that He did (healing the sick, casting our demons, raising the dead) were proof that He had come from the Father (John 14:11). To put it another way, the miracles were proof that the Father was with him. Paul later states in 1Corinthians 14, that specifically, the manifestation of gift of prophesy, as it reveals the secrets of men’s hearts in public gatherings, would be a convincing proof, even to unbelievers that “God was truly among them.” I would go further to say that when the gifts are exercised properly and in order, they are proof that God is among us as well.
Over the centuries, the manifestation of the gifts has been abused, misused, misunderstood, mischaracterized and used for evil instead of good. Especially today, we see so many that have used so called “spiritual giftings” as a means to gain notoriety and fame, only to use them to line their pockets and lead people away from the Lord. These are the tares sewn in
amongst the wheat by the enemy. Many are easy to spot. I’m sure some of the televangelists we have seen over the years come to mind. I’m not too concerned about those types, we have all learned to stay clear of them. But it is the subtle deceivers that can catch us off guard and I fear that even the strongest of believers can be lead astray. I would just like to leave you with a little rule of thumb that will help you the next time you run across a so-called prophet or dreamer of dreams or healing ministry and wonder if it is legitimate.
Ask yourself these questions:
Whose name is it elevating? How often is Jesus mentioned. This is important because many people will speak of “god” but never mention Jesus. Is Jesus’ work of redemption in the forefront of all teaching or is He just a footnote used to draw unsuspecting believers to their ministry?
What is the message? Is the focus on the redemptive work of Jesus with an appeal to repent and believe the gospel? Is Jesus depicted accurately or has He been rebranded to fit today’s woke culture? One example of this is the “He Gets Us Campaign.” This (100 million dollar) advertising ruse is meant to “rescue Jesus’ reputation from the ‘so called’ damage done to it by His followers.”
Where is the focus? Is it on raising money primarily? Is there greater concern for expanding a ministry rather than God’s kingdom. Is the focus on bringing God’s kingdom to earth or to bringing more people into God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Be careful of those ministries that speak of ushering God’s Kingdom to earth. These are filled with “so called” apostles and prophets that are offering “new revelations” and are looking for signs, wonders and miracles to prove that the earth is being prepared to receive Christ and His Kingdom. Paul warns us that “evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2Tim 4:13).
Jesus also warned:
Mark 13:22-23 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.
There are myriads of ministers and ministries out there, but many are focused on the wrong things. If they aren’t preaching that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and it is only through Jesus perfect sacrifice that we can be reconciled to a HOLY GOD, you are wasting your time listening or supporting them.
Back to our story: Notice that Peter doesn’t hesitate state the obvious sin of rejecting Jesus to both the crowd (chapter 3) and the religious leaders (chapter 4) along with an earnest plea for repentance that leads to salvation. Much of what is being preached today is a gospel of feel good messages (like Joel Osteen’s book Live Your Best Life”) that leave out the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus said, “The world hates me because I testify that its’ works are evil.” (John 7:7)
Keep in mind that this approach (Acts 3-4) was for that specific time and that particular crowd. Remember, it was the religious rulers that incited the crowd to reject Jesus and cry out for a murderer to be set free. The crowd was fickle at best and the religious leaders devilishly conniving and worst. They both needed a healthy dose of reality as to what they had just done. Peter’s approach was effective because he was being led by the Holy Spirit as to what approach to take with the people God was trying to reach. While many yielded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and came to faith in Jesus, there were others who doubled down on their resistance to the powerful witness of healing and message of repentance.
This was not just a confrontation between the religious “powers that be” and the apostles. It was a showdown between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Satan!
Peter’s bold speech landed him and John in jail. They would have expected this to happen for Jesus clearly warned them that the preaching of the gospel would cause division even amongst close family members when He sent them out earlier. (Matt 10:34-39)
Matthew Henry notes on this passage- Look not for peace, but division, “I came to set men at variance.” This effect of the preaching of the gospel is not the fault of the gospel, but of those who do not receive it. (Don’t let people’s reaction to the gospel intimidate you!!)
Jesus also assured them that WHEN they were delivered up to the governing authorities that they were not to worry about how they should speak, “For it will be given you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19)
We can see in verses 5-7 that a large contingency of the religious leaders came together to question them. These leaders were not accustomed to having their authority usurped. They had gotten rid of Jesus (so they thought) and now his followers were acting and speaking just like Him.
Notice the question in verse 7:
Acts 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?
A miraculous healing takes power!! Power that these religious leaders did not possess. How would they be able to compete with these uneducated fishermen?? Their grip on the people of Israel was being threatened once again!
Notice Peter’s bold response:
Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, andto all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Notice that Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit), clearly states by What power and in Whose name the healing was performed, confronts the religious leaders for rejecting the Messiah and proclaims that salvation in through Jesus! God glorified and Gospel proclaimed!!
Back to the confrontation: Jesus, Whom they rejected as Messiah was not going to relinquish His kingdom to them just because they had killed Him. Their plot to take out the “heir of the vineyard” had backfired on them(Matt 28:38-46). (The gates of hell would not prevail against His church/kingdom)
Now they must deal with his followers:
Acts 4:13-14 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. (No formal training needed for you to be effective in God’s Kingdom!)
I would add…. they had been with the Resurrected Jesus!! That made all the difference in the change in their countenance and attitudes.
The religious leaders eventually give Peter and John an admonition to stop speaking about Jesus, (which they refused to do) and let them go.
It is what is noted is the prayer offered when they return to their companions that gives us an indication of the understanding that the disciples now had of the battle that they were entering upon.
Someone in the crowd notes Psalm 2 (verse 25):
Acts 4:25-26 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
'Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together.
Against the LORD and against His Christ.'
This revelation is a clear indication that the Holy Spirit was working to bring into focus what was really at stake for the disciples and where the battle lines had been drawn from the time that God pronounced judgement on the serpent in the garden (Gen 3:14-15). From that point forward, Satan has been looking for witting or unwitting servants to rage against God and His authority on the earth.
The religious leaders of that time were just the latest cohorts in a long line of cooperating agents that would carry out Satan’s plan to maintain his hold on the kingdom of this world.
The disciples were entering into the battle between the kingdom of light (Christ) and the kingdom of darkness (Satan).
Jesus coming in human flesh ushered in the advent of His Kingdom to earth. His first message after being baptized by John was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) (This allows access to the Kingdom)
The word kingdom as it relates to the Kingdom of God is found 118 times in the Gospels.
Jesus used the many parables to describe the aspects of His Kingdom:
Who would inherit, who would be the greatest or least, who would enter, how it would grow and progress, who would be able to know the mysteries of it, what the kingdom would be like both on earth and in heaven.
He told his disciples as he sent them out to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. (Matt 10:7) I’m going to dare to use a current sci-fi reference to try to make this clearer. In effect, Jesus was proclaiming that the “portal” or “doorway” to His heavenly kingdom was being opened and allowing escape from the kingdom of darkness that all mankind had been living in since the fall.
But there was a problem, another kingdom was residing on the earth: the kingdom of Satan. 1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
Jesus pronounced woe on the very religious leaders that had confronted Peter and John because they had “shut up the kingdom of God from men; for neither would they go in themselves, nor would they allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matt 23:13)
The disciples were carrying the message of entrance to the kingdom through Jesus and they were being told to KEEP QUIET!! Religious Leaders: We don’t want the people to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, we want them to remain under the lordship of Satan.
They, in effect were the agents of the evil one. Peter and John were the agents of Christ.
Peter (and I would note, all the disciples) were given the “keys to the kingdom” (Matt 16:18). The “Kingdom’s Charter” or the undertaking of “Building the Church”, which preaches the way of entrance into The Kingdom, would be based on the fact that Jesus is the Christ (Savior). With the “keys to the kingdom” they were given the authority to “bind and loose” on earth as in heaven…to open doors and close them!
Jesus said that He must first bind the strong man in order to plunder his house (Matt 12:2830). By healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead, He (and His disciples after Him) were binding the strong man. Satan’s tactics are to steal, kill and destroy. The disciples were restoring what was stolen, healing sickness, and bringing restoration to the lost. They were plundering the plunderer!! And they were stoked!!
I believe that with the appearance of the resurrected Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit afterward, the apostles finally understood that the Christ’s mission was not to overthrow the Roman government and restore the kingdom to Israel on earth as they had wished.
Back in Chapter 1 we are told that Jesus spent 40 days speaking to the disciples about the Kingdom and they still didn’t quite get it!!
They were focused on this even after the resurrection:
Acts 1:6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Their focus was not to be on the establishment of an earthly kingdom (yet), but rather on ushering as many people as possible into Christ’s heavenly kingdom. This would be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them. And the result of the correct focus of the apostles: their numbers increased to five thousand!! The window is still open today, but we know that there will be a point in time when it will be closed forever. Let us be about The Father’s business ushering others into His kingdom!