Monday, 3 January 2022
Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, Acts 4:1
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Chapter 3 ended with Peter addressing the men of Israel at the temple complex at the “porch which is called Solomon’s.” It is while Peter is addressing the people that Chapter 4 begins. That is noted with the words, “Now as they spoke to the people.”
Peter is still in the process of giving his speech as this occurs, and his words were heard by some who were not at all pleased with what they were hearing. That will be seen in the coming verses. But, for now, the narrative continues with the identity of those who are not pleased, beginning with “the priests.”
The priests are those descending from Aaron who was designated and ordained as the first high priest of Israel. The term “chief priests” is used many times in the gospels, indicating that there was a hierarchy within the priesthood. Luke does not use that term now, and so this may simply be the priests who were on duty at the time, fulfilling their regular duties as scheduled according to their divisions. Along with them came “the captain of the temple.”
Aaron the priest is descended from Levi. Along with him, all of the tribe of Levi – including those who were not of the priestly class – were designated for the service of the tabernacle and later the temple. They were interspersed throughout the land of Israel in Levitical cities to minister to the people. But Levites from the various clans with Levi were designated to serve in rotating courses at the temple as outlined in 1 Chronicles. Over them would be chief men who stayed at the temple. These are noted by Luke at the time when the plot to kill Jesus was being worked out –
“So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.” Luke 22:4, 5
Over these captains, there would be one to direct all of them. That is the person now being detailed in Acts. Of this captain of the temple, Vincent’s Word Studies says –
“It was the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the gates of the temple, in order to prevent the unclean from entering. To them the duties of the temple-police were entrusted, under the command of an official known in the New Testament as “the captain of the temple,” but in Jewish writings chiefly as “the man of the temple mount.” Josephus speaks of him as a person of such consequence as to be sent, along with the high-priest, prisoner to Rome.”
Along with these came others who were there at the temple as well. As Luke says, “and the Sadducees.” Of this group, Albert Barnes gives a sufficiently detailed description –
The Sadducees are supposed to have taken their name from Sadok, who flourished about 260 years before the Christian era. He was a pupil of Antigonus Sochaeus, president of the sanhedrin, or great council of the nation. He had taught the duty of serving God disinterestedly, without the hope of reward or the fear of punishment. Sadok, not properly understanding the doctrine of his master, drew the inference that there was no future state of rewards or punishments, and on this belief he founded the sect. The other notions which they held, all to be traced to this leading doctrine, were:
- That there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8; and that the soul of man perishes with the body.
- They rejected the doctrine of fate or decrees.
- They rejected all traditions, and professed to receive only the books of the Old Testament. They were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but their want of numbers was compensated, in some degree, by their wealth and standing in society. Though they did not generally seek office, yet several of them were advanced to the high priesthood.
Of these three classes noted by Luke, it says they “came upon them,” meaning Peter, John, and the beggar who were there before the crowd. The words indicate they didn’t just come to hear, but that they are there to confront the men. The encounter is not one of friendly greeting and acceptance, but rather – as will be seen – one of displeasure and of forceful intent.
Life application: One can go to YouTube, or other video sources, and see people on the streets giving the gospel to others. At times, those who are being recorded may have the attention of the person or people they are witnessing to and then along comes some public official to stop them or even arrest them – quite often when they are perfectly within their rights concerning what they are doing.
The truth is often not acceptable to those who hear it. This is especially so when it comes to religion. As there are about fifty jillion religions out there, it is unpalatable to tell people that you carry the only one that bears the truth. People don’t want to hear that. And yet, anyone who belongs to a religion either thinks what he believes is the truth, or he is an idiot for believing what he knows is untrue.
As such, their standing there – believing in their own religion – should be just as offensive to the officials as that of those presenting the gospel. Therefore, if the evangelists are within their public rights, there should be no harm nor foul. But that is not how things will often go, is it?
Because there is truth, and because that truth can be reasonably verified through study, and because it is at variance with how people perceive themselves before God, the truth can be difficult to swallow. And so, it is easier to rough up, persecute, and even arrest those bearing the truth as a temporary fix to the situation.
As Christians, if we are willing to actually open our mouths and speak, there is always the possibility that people will take offense, and they may have you attacked, arrested, or even killed – depending on the surrounding circumstances. This goes along with the witness for Christ, and we must be willing to accept things as such. How far are you willing to go to get the truth out to others?
Everyone must stand before the Lord someday, and each will see the embodiment of truth in the Person of Jesus Christ. It will be either for salvation or for condemnation. If you do your job properly, you may save a soul from the latter. Our current lives are temporary, but we will all spend eternity somewhere. Let us be willing to share the good news now, even if it means this current life gets more difficult or even cut short for doing so.
Lord God, help us to be bold in our proclamation of the gospel. And give us the strength to never waffle in our conviction that it is the absolute truth of God. We know there is only one way to be reconciled to You. Help us to be strong and defend that truth when it is time to do so. Amen.