What does Acts chapter 4 mean?Acts 4 continues the story of the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension into heaven (Acts 1:8–9). It directly continues the story of Acts 3. John and Peter had gone to the temple to pray. They passed a man who was lame from birth sitting at the gate. Peter healed him, the man started leaping around, and people flocked to see what had happened. Peter explained that the power that healed the man was from Jesus of Nazareth, the man the leaders and people of Jerusalem had crucified. Jesus is, in fact, the prophet that Moses promised would follow him, as well as the blessing to the nations God promised Abraham (Deuteronomy 18:15–16; Genesis 12:3). But God gives the Jews the first chance to accept Jesus and turn from their sin.
When the priests and the temple guards see Peter and John preaching to the crowd, they arrest them—not because they're teaching, and not because they're followers of Jesus, but because they are teaching that Jesus rose from the dead. Sadducees, the Jewish sect of most of the priests, didn't believe in the resurrection. They're too late, however. People had already heard the message and several hundred believed (Acts 4:1–4).
The next morning, the Sanhedrin presents the same question the people did: Where did you get the power to heal this man? Once again, Peter explains the power came from Jesus of Nazareth whom they crucified, and that Jesus died but rose again. In fact, His death and resurrection provide salvation for mankind. Peter's intelligent, insightful testimony stuns the Sanhedrin members, not least because they know Peter and John were not formally trained. The council can't deny the miracle, but they can threaten the men, so they order the apostles to quit speaking publicly about Jesus. Peter and John tell them they'll say what God tells them to say, and the Sanhedrin releases them (Acts 4:5–22).
This is the same Sanhedrin, the same chief priests, who conspired to have Jesus arrested and crucified. These are possibly the same temple guards that Peter cowered from, afraid they'd recognize him as the man who cut off Malchus's ear (John 18:10, 25–27). But when Peter and John return to the other Jesus-followers, they don't pray for protection—they pray for courage. They quote David who said the nations and leaders will rise against God's followers, but their efforts will be in vain. That doesn't mean God will always protect the church from harm (Acts 12:1–2). But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they choose to face that danger with boldness in order to continue their mission of bearing witness to Jesus (Acts 4:23–31).
The church members echo this unity of purpose in their unity of life. The believers currently in Jerusalem, not all of whom live there (Acts 2:9–11), support the apostles in their work. They share their possessions so everyone has what they need, and some even sell their land or houses and give the money to the apostles. One of these is a Levite from the island of Cyprus named Barnabas. Now, he is just another Jesus-follower. Soon, he will be the man who integrates Paul, a one-time persecutor (Acts 8:1–3; 9:26–27) into the Christian church (Acts 4:32–37).