Acts 4:18

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Thursday, 20 January 2022

So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. Acts 4:18

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).

The previous verse said, “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” The intent of those words is now conveyed in the council’s injunction as explained by Luke, beginning with, “So they called them.”

In verse 19, only Peter and John will be noted. However, it is likely that these words were conveyed to the beggar as well. It is hard to imagine it would be otherwise, but the focus is on the apostles. The only thing that will be expressed about the beggar is found in verse 4:22. That will be a reference to his age, but the location of where the man himself is has been dropped from the narrative. As far as the words of the council, it simply says they called the apostles “and commanded them.”

The word translated as “commanded” is used by Luke several times when he refers to Jesus’ commanding those who were healed, or who saw His healing, not to tell anyone about the matter. It was also seen in Acts 1:4 when He commanded those assembled with Him to not depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father. As such, one gets the sense of an order that is to be maintained without exception. As far as the command from the council, it is “not to speak at all nor teach.”

The structure of the Greek words bears a strong emphasis. It is a strict prohibition as if saying, “You are absolutely never to speak or teach – at all – concerning this matter.” Further, Luke introduces a word into Scripture here that will only be seen again in 2 Peter 2:16 and 2 Peter 2:18. In 2 Peter 2:16, it is a reference to the donkey speaking to Balaam that is found in the book of Numbers. HELPS Word Studies gives a definition of the word that is exactly the opposite of what it means. They say –

“…to make a generic or unintelligible sound (resembling the whinny of a horse, LS); (figuratively) to speak in a way that is not understandable to the listener (‘unintelligible’).”

Rather, it means “to utter a clear sound” (Strong’s). It comes from the word pheggos, meaning brightness or light, and phémi, to declare. As such, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it, saying, “to give out a sound, noise, or cry; used by the Greeks of any sort of sound or voice, whether of man or animal or inanimate object — as of thunder, musical instruments, etc.; (φθέγγεσθαι [phtheggesthai]) denotes sound in its relation to the hearer rather than to its cause.”

When the donkey spoke to Balaam, it was a clearly understood proclamation. Likewise, the council was also clear. There was to be no proclamation made, nor teaching conducted “in the name of Jesus.”

As in the previous verse, the preposition in the Greek is epi, upon. They were not to speak or teach “upon” the name of Jesus. The name is the foundation of their proclamation, and the command is that they were not to make such an utterance again. The reason this is important is because the same preposition is used in Matthew 23:2 –

“saying, ‘Upon the seat of Moses the Pharisees and scribes sit.’”

Moses’ seat means his place of position and authority. It is the foundation of the law, and the Pharisees and scribes sat upon it. They are clearly calling the apostles to not speak upon the name of Jesus because it would clearly usurp their position upon the seat of Moses. But this is exactly what has happened. This is explained meticulously in Hebrews –

“Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:8-10

The words “the first” and “the second” are referring to the Old and the New Covenants. Jesus’ work takes away the Old Covenant. The authority of Moses’ seat rests in Him, the embodiment of the law. As such, he is the Foundation of the New Covenant, and through His work a new and better hope is realized. The slight correction of the preposition makes a huge difference in being able to properly evaluate and understand what is being conveyed.

The council knows full well what the healing of the beggar means, but they have rejected that meaning and have fallen back on Moses. Their hope is a futile one, indeed. Because of their choice, their condemnation remains.

Life application: A couple important lessons are to be realized from studying this verse. The first is to think on the explanation of Greek words rather than to assume a commentary’s evaluation is necessarily correct. The meaning of the word translated as “speak” is exactly the opposite of what HELPS Word Studies gave (as noted above). Rather than to make an unintelligible sound, it is to speak out so that what is said is clearly understood by the hearer.

The second lesson is that just because a translation, or many translations, all say the same thing, it does not mean that they are correct. After analyzing this verse for commentary, forty-six versions of this verse were compared. Only one rendered the preposition as given in the Greek, the Literal Emphasis Translation, which says, “And having called them, they commanded them to not speak at all nor to teach upon the name of Jesus.”

And yet, the meaning of “upon” has a set and definite purpose that more clearly and perfectly explains the intent of what is being said. The contrast concerning the seat of Moses (upon which the council sat) to the position of Christ who now is at the right hand of God (Act 2:33) is absolute.

Because of these things, be sure to spend as much time and thought as necessary to consider the Scripture that you are studying. Think on what is presented, meditate on what you have read, and ask the Lord to lead you as you consider this magnificent treasure we call “the Holy Bible.”

Lord God, Your word is a treasure. It is a light to our feet as we walk along the path of life. It is a lamp that illuminates the world around us so that we can avoid evil and pursue what is good and right. Help us, O God, to carefully and conscientiously consider Your word each and every day of our lives. Amen.