Acts 4:23-31

23Ἀπολυθέντες δὲ ἦλθον πρὸς τοὺς ἰδίους καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ὅσα πρὸς αὐτοὺς οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι εἶπαν.

And were released they went to their own (people) and reported all to them that the chief priests and elders had said

  • To their own company (προς τους ἰδιους [pros tous idious]). Their own people as in John 1:11; 13:1; Acts 24:23; 1 Tim. 5:8; Tit. 3:14, not merely the apostles (all the disciples). In spite of Peter’s courageous defiance he and John told the brotherhood all that had been said by the Sanhedrin. They had real apprehension of the outcome.[1]
  • The apostles went back after their release to their close circle of friends and supporters—obviously a smaller group than the whole Christian community of 4:4. The reference to the chief priests and the elders suggests that in Luke’s view the scribes, who represented the Pharisaic outlook, were less closely involved in the matter.[2]

24οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἦραν φωνὴν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ εἶπαν· δέσποτα, σὺ ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς,

And they heard with one mind, they lifted their voices to God and said, Master, you are the one who made heaven and the earth and the sea and all the (things) in them

  • The immediate result – they join in prayer (lesson here)
  • the effect of persecution was to bind the members of the church together so that there was a common desire to pray.[3]
  • Despota – master, we get despot from this word
    • Old word for relation of master to slaves or household servants (1 Tim. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18).[4]
    • See doulos for the relationship – slave, not servant (Luke 17)

25ὁ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου στόματος Δαυὶδ παιδός σου εἰπών ἱνατί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά;

Our father by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David your servant who said, why (do the) nations rage and (the) peoples conspire in vain

  • The unspoken thought is quite clearly that it is futile for men to scheme against a God who not only created the whole universe but also foresaw their scheming[5]
  • The sense is plain enough: the text says that God spoke by means of the Holy Spirit (the inspirer of prophets) and by means of the mouth of his servant David (as the human instrument). This is what is said more simply in 1:16.[6]

26παρέστησαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ.

The kings of the earth stood opposed and the rulers assembled together at the same(place) against the His Christ

  • The Scripture is in the exact Septuagintal rendering of Ps 2:1–2 and is presented as a prophecy, spoken by God through David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.[7]
  • God will triumph over the enemies of Israel
  • the Christians came to see it as in a real sense prophetic of Christ.[8]
  • Set themselves in array (παρεστησαν [parestēsan]). Literally, stood by. Against his Anointed (κατα του Χριστου αὐτου [kata tou Christou autou]). Against his Messiah, his Christ.[9]

27συνήχθησαν γὰρ ἐπʼ ἀληθείας ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ ἐπὶ τὸν ἅγιον παῖδά σου Ἰησοῦν ὃν ἔχρισας, Ἡρῴδης τε καὶ Πόντιος Πιλᾶτος σὺν ἔθνεσιν καὶ λαοῖς Ἰσραήλ,

For gathered together in truth in the cities this? On/against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the gentiles and the people of Israel

  • Both Herod and Pontios Pilate (ἡρῳδης τε και Ποντιυς Πειλατος [Hērōidēs te kai Pontius Peilatos]). Luke alone (Luke 23:12) tells of the reconciliation between Herod and Pilate at the trial of Jesus. So Peter and the rest interpret this prophecy as directly fulfilled in their conduct towards Jesus Christ.[10]
  • All the details of these first verses of the psalm were applicable to the passion of Christ, and the Christians did so in their prayer (v. 27). [11]
  • The raging nations represented the Gentile rulers and their cohorts, the soldiers who executed Jesus. The people of Israel were those who plotted in vain. Herod represented the “kings of the earth”; Pilate, the “rulers”;66 and Christ, the “anointed” of God.[12]
  • The inclusion of Israel among the foes of the Messiah marks the beginning of the Christian understanding that insofar as the people of Israel reject the Messiah they cease to be the Lord’s people and can be ranked with unbelieving Gentiles. [13]

28ποιῆσαι ὅσα ἡ χείρ σου καὶ ἡ βουλή [σου] προώρισεν γενέσθαι.

To do all that in your hand and a plan had predestined to take place

  • All the plotting against God’s anointed is in vain because God has already predetermined the outcome (cf. 2:23; 3:18). In the paradox of human freedom and divine sovereignty, despite all the raging of humanity, God’s purposes prevail. They did so in Christ. They did so with the apostles before the Sanhedrin.[14]

29καὶ τὰ νῦν, κύριε, ἔπιδε ἐπὶ τὰς ἀπειλὰς αὐτῶν καὶ δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν τὸν λόγον σου,

And now, Lord, concern yourself with their threats and grant your slaves with all boldness to speak your word

  • Peter and John had defied the Sanhedrin in verse 20, but all the same and all the more they pray for courage in deed to live up to their brave words. A wholesome lesson.[15]
  • In view of all this, the church could now bring its own situation before the Lord, confident that this too was under his control.[16]

30ἐν τῷ τὴν χεῖρά [σου] ἐκτείνειν σε εἰς ἴασιν καὶ σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα γίνεσθαι διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἁγίου παιδός σου Ἰησοῦ.

As in your hand you extended to heal and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant Jesus

  • In Acts the miracles are always in the service of the word. They are “signs” in the sense that they point beyond themselves to the ultimate power of the gospel message of Christ’s resurrection and the salvation that is in him (4:12).[17]
  • This is what the community prayed for—more signs to undergird the word, more boldness to proclaim it. They surely knew what the result would be—more persecution.[18]

31καὶ δεηθέντων αὐτῶν ἐσαλεύθη ὁ τόπος ἐν ᾧ ἦσαν συνηγμένοι, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν ἅπαντες τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος καὶ ἐλάλουν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρρησίας.

And when the prayed the place in which they were gathered was shaken,  and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness

  • Their prayer was answered by the shaking of the house. Perhaps a shaking from thunder or a quaking of the earth, it gave them a tangible sense of God’s presence and his response to their prayer. And their prayer was fulfilled at once. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word with boldness[19]
  • This was one of the signs which indicated a theophany in the Old Testament (Exod. 19:18; Isa. 6:4), and it would have been regarded as indicating a divine response to prayer. The point is, then, that God signified that he was present and would answer the prayer. Again the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they were given the confidence they desired to speak the Word of God[20]

[1] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 4:23). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[2] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 4:24). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[5] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, pp. 111–112). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[7] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 4:26). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[10] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 4:27). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[11] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[12] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[13] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[15] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 4:29). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[16] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[17] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[18] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[19] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[20] Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.