The apostles take bold action, and Jehovah blesses them
Based on Acts 3:1–5:11
1, 2. What miracle did Peter and John perform near the temple gate?
THE afternoon sun slants onto the milling crowd. Devout Jews and disciples of Christ are filing into the temple compound. Soon it will be “the hour of prayer.”* (Acts 2:46; 3:1) Among the throng, Peter and John edge toward the temple gate called Beautiful, which has an impressive set of doors overlaid in glowing Corinthian bronze. Above the clamor of conversation and the sound of shuffling feet, a middle-aged beggar, crippled from birth, calls for alms.—Acts 3:2; 4:22.
2 As Peter and John draw close, the beggar recites his well-worn plea for money. The apostles stop, catching the hopeful man’s attention. “Silver and gold I do not possess,” Peter states, “but what I do have is what I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” Picture the astonishment of the crowd as Peter takes the crippled man by the hand and—for the first time in his life—the man stands upright! (Acts 3:6, 7) Can you just see the man gazing down at his healed limbs and taking his first tentative steps? No wonder he begins leaping about and loudly praising God!
3. What surpassing gift could the formerly crippled man and the crowd receive?
3 The ecstatic crowd runs to Peter and John at Solomon’s colonnade. Here, at the very place where Jesus once stood and taught, Peter informs them of the real significance of what just happened. (John 10:23) He offers to the crowd and the formerly crippled man a gift worth more than silver or gold. This gift involves much more than restored health. It is the opportunity to repent, to have their sins blotted out, and to become followers of Jehovah’s appointed “Chief Agent of life,” Jesus Christ.—Acts 3:15.
4. (a) The miraculous healing set the stage for what confrontation? (b) What two questions will we answer?
4 What a remarkable day! One person was healed physically and could now walk. Thousands more were given the opportunity to be healed spiritually so that they could walk worthily of God. (Col. 1:9, 10) In addition, the events of that day set the stage for a confrontation between loyal followers of Christ and people in power who would try to prevent them from fulfilling Jesus’ command to preach the Kingdom message. (Acts 1:8) What can we learn from the methods used and the manner displayed by Peter and John—“men unlettered and ordinary”—as they witnessed to the crowd?* (Acts 4:13) And how can we imitate the way they and the other disciples dealt with opposition?
Not “by Personal Power” (Acts 3:11-26)
5. What do we learn from the way Peter addressed the crowd?
5 Peter and John stood before the crowd, knowing that some there may have recently clamored for Jesus to be impaled. (Mark 15:8-15; Acts 3:13-15) Think of the courage Peter displayed as he boldly declared that the crippled man was healed in Jesus’ name. Peter did not water down the truth. He forthrightly condemned the crowd’s complicity in the death of Christ. But Peter harbored no animosity toward these people, for they had “acted in ignorance.” (Acts 3:17) He appealed to them as his brothers and focused on the positive aspects of the Kingdom message. If they repented and put faith in Christ, “seasons of refreshing” would come to them from Jehovah. (Acts 3:19) We likewise need to be bold and forthright when declaring God’s coming judgment. At the same time, we should never be brash, harsh, or judgmental. Instead, we view those to whom we preach as our potential brothers, and like Peter, we focus especially on the positive aspects of the Kingdom message.
6. How did Peter and John display humility and modesty?
6 The apostles were modest men. They did not take credit for the miraculous deed they had performed. Peter said to the crowd: “Why are you gazing at us as though by personal power or godly devotion we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:12) Peter and the other apostles knew that any good they accomplished in their ministry was due to God’s power, not their own. As a result, they modestly directed all praise for their achievements to Jehovah and Jesus.
7, 8. (a) What gift can we offer to people? (b) How is the promise of a “restoration of all things” being fulfilled today?
7 We need to show similar modesty as we engage in the Kingdom-preaching work. Granted, God’s spirit does not empower modern-day Christians to perform miraculous healings. Even so, we can help people to develop faith in God and Christ and to receive the same gift Peter offered—the opportunity to have their sins forgiven and to be refreshed by Jehovah. Each year, hundreds of thousands accept this offer and become baptized disciples of Christ.
8 Indeed, we are living at the time of the “restoration of all things” referred to by Peter. In fulfillment of the word “God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time,” the Kingdom was established in heaven in the year 1914. (Acts 3:21; Ps. 110:1-3; Dan. 4:16, 17) Shortly thereafter, Christ began overseeing a spiritual restoration work on earth. As a result, millions have been brought into a spiritual paradise, becoming subjects of God’s Kingdom. They have stripped off the old, corrupted personality and “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will.” (Eph. 4:22-24) As with the healing of the crippled beggar, this astounding work has been accomplished, not by human efforts, but by God’s spirit. Like Peter, we must boldly and effectively use God’s Word to teach others. Any success we may have in helping people to become disciples of Christ is achieved by God’s power, not our own.
“We Cannot Stop Speaking” (Acts 4:1-22)
9-11. (a) How did the Jewish leaders react to Peter and John’s message? (b) What did the apostles resolve to do?
9 Peter’s speech and the leaping, shouting, formerly crippled man caused quite a commotion. In response, the captain of the temple—appointed to oversee the security of the temple area—and the chief priests rushed to investigate. These men likely were Sadducees, a rich and politically powerful sect that worked for peaceful relations with the Romans, rejected the oral law so loved by the Pharisees, and derided belief in the resurrection.* How irked they were to discover Peter and John in the temple, boldly teaching that Jesus had been resurrected!
10 The angry opposers threw Peter and John in jail and dragged them before the Jewish high court the next day. From the viewpoint of the elitist rulers, Peter and John were “men unlettered and ordinary” who had no right to teach in the temple. They had not studied at any recognized religious school. Yet, their outspokenness and their conviction caused the court to wonder at them. Why were Peter and John so effective? One reason was that “they used to be with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Their Master had taught with real authority, not like the scribes.—Matt. 7:28, 29.
11 The court ordered the apostles to stop preaching. In that society, the court’s orders carried much weight. Just weeks earlier, this same body declared Jesus “liable to death.” (Matt. 26:59-66) Still, Peter and John were not intimidated. Standing in front of these rich, well-educated, influential men, Peter and John fearlessly but respectfully declared: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.”—Acts 4:19, 20.
12. What can help us to develop courage and conviction?
12 Are you able to show similar courage? How do you feel when you have the opportunity to witness to the rich, the well-educated, or the influential in your community? What if family members, schoolmates, or workmates ridicule you for your beliefs? Are you intimidated? If so, you can overcome such feelings. While on earth, Jesus taught the apostles how to defend their beliefs with confidence and respect. (Matt. 10:11-18) After his resurrection, Jesus promised his disciples that he would continue to be with them “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) Under Jesus’ direction, “the faithful and discreet slave” teaches us how to defend our beliefs. (Matt. 24:45-47; 1 Pet. 3:15) This is done by instruction at congregation meetings, such as the Theocratic Ministry School, and through Bible-based publications, such as Reasoning From the Scriptures. Are you making good use of these provisions? If you do so, your courage and conviction will increase. And, like the apostles, you will let nothing stop you from speaking about the wonderful spiritual truths you have seen and heard.
“They . . . Raised Their Voices to God” (Acts 4:23-31)
13, 14. If we face opposition, what should we do, and why?
13 Immediately after being released from custody, Peter and John met with the rest of the congregation. Together, “they . . . raised their voices to God” and prayed for courage to keep preaching. (Acts 4:24) Peter knew only too well the folly of trusting in personal power when attempting to do God’s will. Just weeks earlier, he had self-confidently told Jesus: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” Yet, as Jesus foretold, Peter quickly succumbed to fear of man and denied his friend and teacher. However, Peter learned from his mistake.—Matt. 26:33, 34, 69-75.
14 Determination alone will not sustain you as you fulfill your commission to be a witness of Christ. When opposers try to break your faith or attempt to stop you from preaching, follow the example of Peter and John. Pray to Jehovah for strength. Seek the support of the congregation. Tell the elders and other mature ones of the difficulties you face. The prayers of others can be a powerful sustaining force.—Eph. 6:18; Jas. 5:16.
15. Why can those who once stopped preaching for a time take heart?
15 If you once succumbed to pressure and stopped preaching for a time, take heart. Remember, all the apostles stopped preaching for a while after Jesus’ death but soon were active again. (Matt. 26:56; 28:10, 16-20) Rather than letting past mistakes weigh you down, can you draw on the experience and use the lessons you learned to strengthen others?
16, 17. What can we learn from the prayer offered by Christ’s followers in Jerusalem?
16 What should we pray for when those in authority oppress us? Notice, please, that the disciples did not ask that they be spared from facing trials. They well remembered Jesus’ statement: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) Instead, these loyal disciples asked Jehovah to “give attention to” the threats of the opposers. (Acts 4:29) The disciples clearly saw the big picture, recognizing that the persecution they faced was actually a fulfillment of prophecy. They knew that, as Jesus had taught them to pray, God’s will would ‘be done on earth,’ no matter what mere human rulers may say.—Matt. 6:9, 10.
17 In order to do God’s will, the disciples prayed to Jehovah: “Grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” What was Jehovah’s immediate response? “The place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31) Nothing can stop God’s will from being accomplished. (Isa. 55:11) No matter how great the odds, no matter how powerful the opponent, if we raise our voice to God in prayer, we can be sure that He will grant us the strength to keep on speaking His word with boldness.
Accountable, “Not to Men, But to God” (Acts 4:32–5:11)
18. What did members of the congregation in Jerusalem do for one another?
18 The fledgling congregation in Jerusalem soon grew to more than 5,000 members strong.* Despite their diverse backgrounds, the disciples had “one heart and soul.” They were united in the same mind and same line of thought. (Acts 4:32; 1 Cor. 1:10) The disciples did more than just pray to Jehovah to bless their efforts. They supported one another both spiritually and, when necessary, materially. (1 John 3:16-18) For example, the disciple Joseph, surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, sold land he owned and unselfishly donated the whole amount toward helping those from distant lands to stay in Jerusalem longer so that they could learn more about their new faith.
19. Why did Jehovah execute Ananias and Sapphira?
19 A couple named Ananias and Sapphira also sold a possession and made a contribution. They made a pretense of giving the whole amount; however, they “secretly held back some of the price.” (Acts 5:2) Jehovah struck this couple dead, not because the amount they gave was insufficient, but because their motive for giving was wicked and they were deceptive. They “played false, not to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:4) Like the hypocrites whom Jesus condemned, Ananias and Sapphira were more concerned with seeking glory from men than the approval of God.—Matt. 6:1-3.
20. What lessons do we learn about giving to Jehovah?
20 With a generous spirit like that of faithful disciples in first-century Jerusalem, millions of present-day Witnesses support the worldwide preaching work by making voluntary donations. No one is forced to give either his time or his money to support this work. Indeed, Jehovah does not want us to serve him grudgingly or under compulsion. (2 Cor. 9:7) When we do give, Jehovah is interested, not in the amount, but in the motive for our giving. (Mark 12:41-44) Never would we want to be like Ananias and Sapphira, allowing our service to God to be prompted by self-interest or glory-seeking. Instead, like Peter, John, and Barnabas, may our service to Jehovah always be motivated by genuine love of God and of our fellow man.—Matt. 22:37-40.
Prayers were offered at the temple in conjunction with the morning and evening sacrifices. The evening sacrifice was held at “the ninth hour,” or about three in the afternoon.
See the box “The High Priest and the Chief Priests.”
There may have been only about 6,000 Pharisees and a smaller number of Sadducees in Jerusalem in 33 C.E. This may indicate another reason why these two groups felt increasingly threatened by the teachings of Jesus.