Acts 4:21

ESV And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
NIV After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
NASB When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;
CSB After threatening them further, they released them. They found no way to punish them because the people were all giving glory to God over what had been done.
NLT The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God
KJV 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.

What does Acts 4:21 mean?

It is a strange dichotomy that God seems to establish His people in ease, then strengthen them in hardship. From the time God called Abraham until Jacob took his family to Egypt, the Israelites saw relative peace and prosperity. Shortly after their arrival in Egypt, the Egyptians enslaved them. In their slavery, they grew from a minor clan to a nation.

The early days of the church in Jerusalem are peaceful. For much of the time, the Jesus-followers are not disturbed by the Sanhedrin. But even when the ruling council knows of and disapproves of their message, they are still relatively protected by the good will of the public. After this event, the church grows to about 5000 men, not including women and children, and "multitudes" of converts continued to come—even some priests (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:7).

But, like with the Israelites, God uses persecution to make the church really grow. After a mob kills Stephen (Acts 7:54–60), the Sanhedrin commissions Saul to find Jesus-followers and bring them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 8:1–3). That threat sends the Jesus-followers flying. They fill Judea, Samaria, even up into Cyprus and Syria with the message of repentance and the resurrection of Jesus.

God protects Peter and John from punishment now, but not for long (Acts 5:40). It is distinction from the world, not friendliness with it, which makes the church stronger. That is so, even if the distinction leads to persecution (1 Peter 4:4; 4:12–14; John 15:19).
What is the Gospel?
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