Acts 4:8

Monday, 10 January 2022

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: Acts 4:8

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).

Standing before the leaders gathered at Jerusalem, Peter and John were just asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Now, in response to that, Luke records, “Then Peter.”

As is the norm, Peter is the one who speaks on behalf of both. It was he that was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven as detailed in Matthew 16 –

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’” Matthew 16:17-19

The idea of the “keys of the kingdom” will be more clearly understood as Acts progresses. For now, it is also of note that it was also Peter who was given the main commission by the Lord to “Feed My sheep.”

Peter is given specific authority and responsibility, and so he is the one who the narrative focuses on. Luke next notes that Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is something explicitly said to the disciples of Jesus concerning their ministry –

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11, 12

In fulfillment of that, Peter is filled with the words and the wisdom of God to respond in the manner best determined by Him. As this is so, the exact and perfect words necessary to fulfill His purposes will be realized. Israel had rejected Christ and crucified Him. They bore the national guilt of what occurred.

Like in Acts 2 and again in Acts 3, Peter’s testimony now will be sufficient to unmistakably demonstrate that Jesus was and is their Messiah. They will have the freewill to repent of their actions and be healed, or the words Peter will speak will testify against them as a nation. The collective guilt will remain, and Acts will stand as a valid witness against them that their rejection and subsequent punishment by the Lord is justified.

This begins to be seen once again in the words of Peter now. As such, Luke continues, noting that Peter “said to them.” The council of rulers, elders, scribes, and priestly class – meaning all of those who should know and recognize Christ from Scripture, and who bear the authority for national decisions – are being addressed by the Lord’s messenger, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is in this state that Peter begins, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.”

There is an underlying ominous tone for the nation with these words. The high priest was the mediator of the sacrificial system of the covenant. It is a minutely detailed system that was set up to anticipate the work of Jesus Christ. But a main point of that system was that various levels of authority within the nation required particular sacrifices for guilt.

In other words, when the high priest sinned, the sacrifice and the blood of the sacrifice had to be handled differently than for the common people (see Leviticus 4:1-12). This is true with a ruler of the people (see Leviticus 4:22-26) and of a sin committed by the entire congregation (see Leviticus 4:13-21).

However, because Christ had come and fulfilled the typology of all of these sacrifices, and because He had then brought the Mosaic Covenant to its fulfillment and annulment, those in these positions must come through Him to receive atonement – meaning the high priest, the rulers, and indeed the entire congregation. The national guilt exists, and it cannot be cleansed apart from acceptance of the work of their Messiah.

A clear note from the Lord’s mouth demonstrates this –

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” Matthew 23:1, 2

These rulers sat upon the seat of Moses. They administered the legislative aspect of the covenant. Along with the high priest who administered the sacrificial parts of it, they should have known better. They were responsible for knowing Scripture and understanding the time of their visitation. But they failed in this. The national guilt rested upon them. Peter is, once again, speaking to them in hopes of removing this guilt. If they reject His words, which are now recorded in Acts, those words will stand as a witness against them.

Life application: Luke 12 is cited above. Again, Jesus said, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” Luke 12:11, 12.

Have you ever heard anyone quote this, claiming that their words are inspired of God because of Jesus’ promise? If so, what is the problem with that? The answer is that Jesus was not speaking to or of them. Rather, he was speaking to His disciples, under the law, and in relation to the events that would relate to that particular context, and into the issuing of the New Covenant.

With Scripture complete, we now have the full and complete word of God to guide our speech before the world. It stands as the witness to God’s workings in Christ. We are to know Scripture, and to stand – by faith – upon its words.

This does not mean that people will not be filled with the Spirit during the church age. It is quite apparent that they are from Paul’s words. But when Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit,” it is passive in the Greek – ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι (alla plērousthe en Pneumati).

Paul’s words thus mean that we are not actively filled with the Spirit as Peter was. Instead, we receive the full measure of the Spirit the moment that we believe the gospel and are saved. Just as a man who marries a woman will never get more married, we will never get more of the Spirit. But just as a spouse can get more of his or her spouse through yielding to the other, the Spirit can get more of us as we yield our lives to God. In this, we are passively filled with the Spirit.

How does this come about? It comes about through study of the word, prayer, talking to God, rejoicing in the wonders of God, fellowshipping with other believers, praising God, etc. In our active pursuit of the things of God, we will be passively filled with the Spirit.

When a cup is filled, the cup doesn’t do anything active. It receives the wine because it is in a state ready to receive it. We must be in the proper state to receive the filling of the Spirit, and it isn’t in the manner that Pentecostals and Charismatics insist.

Let us honor the Lord with our lives and in our actions. In turn, we will be filled with the Spirit.

Lord God, thank You for our sealing with the Holy Spirit upon our faith in Christ. Now, may we be responsible with that event and yield ourselves to You, being filled – even to overflowing – with the joy of the Spirit and the life in Christ that we now possess. To Your glory we pray! Amen.