Acts 4:4

Thursday, 6 January 2022

However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Acts 4:4

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 referred to arresting Peter and John and taking them into custody until the next day. Despite this, their words to the people were not without effect. This is seen as Luke continues, saying, “However, many of those who heard the word.” This is referring to those mentioned in Acts 3:11 –

“Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed.”

No indication of how many were gathered is given, but it would have been no small number. The people were amazed and curious concerning the healing of the beggar, and they would want to know everything they could about the matter. Because of this, they were willing to listen to Peter’s discourse for several hours.

Eventually, the leaders got word of what was going on and were furious that Jesus Christ was being portrayed as resurrected. But it was during this time of Peter speaking that the people were convinced and many “believed.”

This clearly indicates that they had “repented” as Peter told them to do in Acts 3:19. They were a part of the nation that had crucified the Lord Jesus, and they had changed their minds about what happened. No longer was Jesus rejected by them, but rather they had accepted that He died for their sins and rose again. Thus, those who believed were saved through their faith in Christ. This is the intent of what is conveyed by Luke. As such, it demonstrates that they were saved by faith alone in the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. With this noted, Luke next records, “and the number of the men.”

This is the general way that numbers were reckoned. It is found time and again in Scripture –

“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. 15 Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:13-17

All people were to attend each pilgrim feast, without exception. However, the reckoning is based upon the males. Likewise, it says in Matthew –

“Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Matthew 14:19-21

In the feeding of the five thousand, only the men were counted. As such, the number was at least double and possibly triple or more of that number, depending on how many family members were present. Based on Luke’s wording, the same is probably true here. The men are counted, standing as representative of those who accompanied them. With this understood, Luke provides the numbers, saying, “came to be about five thousand.”

Some older translations like the Geneva and the KJV say the number “was” about five thousand. This gives a false sense of what is being conveyed by Luke. It was not five thousand who had been converted, but the number of believers had grown (in total) to about five thousand men. Before Pentecost, in Acts 1:15, there were recorded one hundred and twenty believers. On Pentecost, it says that “three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 3:41).

In that account, it does not specify men, but that may be the case. However, Luke’s specificity now in Acts 4 indicates a body of about five thousand men, meaning a much larger body of believing family members would be counted in that number as well. It is a large amount, but it is still only a very small portion of Israel, and it does not include the leaders who must be a part of the faith before a true national turning can be considered for the coming of the promised times of refreshing Peter spoke of in Acts 3:19.

Life application: No dating is given concerning the event which has taken place. It could have been days, weeks, or months after Pentecost. The matter is not included by Luke because that is not what was important. The fact that the event happened, and that many believed, is what is important.

Further, the number of believers had increased now to about five thousand men. However long that took, it is the result that is focused on. It is a good lesson. If we get caught up on setting numbers in a ministry, the focus is all wrong. We are to enter into the ministry, in whatever particular job we do, without worrying about numbers. We are to continue to minister whether there are five or five hundred.

It is very easy to get so caught up in numbers, such as YouTube views, that we forget that what we should be doing is simply the thing we have been called to do. If we are doing our job properly, and in accord with Scripture, then what we are doing is proper. It doesn’t matter if we have seats filled in a stadium of fifty thousand people if what we are doing is not in accord with the word of God. If it is not, the ministry is to be considered a failure.

Can you imagine the Lord saying, “What you did was not in accord with My word, but the result was effective, so here is a big reward for you”? No. The ends never justify the means, if the means are not aligned with God’s word. Be content with what you do for Christ if what you are doing is done in obedience.

It is certain that the faithful in heart who quietly sit in church on Sunday, and the only thing they have to offer is a small monetary gift or a box of donuts for the ministry, are more pleasing to the Lord than a preacher with a hundred thousand followers on YouTube, but who misuses the word of God. The former will receive their reward while the latter will be punished for his disobedience.

Heavenly Father, help us to have our priorities right. May we not feel that what we do for You is lacking just because it is not great in the eyes of the world. Even the small things we do, when done with a right heart toward You, are pleasing in Your eyes. Help us to remember that this is so. Amen.