DEMO

1. THE ACTIVITIES OF PETER AND OTHER DISCIPLES

Objectives: By the end of this subtopic learners should be able to:
  • Explain how Judas Iscariot was replaced.
  • Explain the importance of the Holy spirit and baptism
  • Identify the different forms of baptism
  • Describe the characteristics of the early church
  • Explain how people benefit from the performance of miracles and healing
  • Explain the role of leaders in religion

1.0 REPLACEMENT OF JUDAS ISCARIOT: (ACTS 1:12-26)

Many disciples were gathered in the upper room.
Peter stood up among the disciples (brethren) and began by reminding them that it was spoken by David that Judas, one of the twelve disciples, was going to help in the arrest of Jesus by selling him with thirty pieces of silver. Judas used the money to buy a field. The field was thereafter named the "Field of Blood". Peter announced that Judas was to be replaced. He clarified that the person who was to replace Judas was supposed to be someone who should had been there from the baptism of Jesus by John up to the time of the ascension to heaven. Two men were brought forward. These were Joseph Justus who was also called Barnabas and Matthias. They prayed to God so that He would show them which of the two was suitable to replace Judas Iscariot. After that they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias.
Fig 1.6 Disciples in the upper room praying.jpg (377 KB)

1.1 Comment on the story

  • Peter quoted the Old Testament which was a common thing amongst the early Christians. This was to show that Christianity and the New Testament were interrelated with the Old Testament as what had been said in the Old Testament was now coming to pass in the New Testament. (Psalms 69 and 109)
  • There were a lot of people present when Judas was replaced. The apostles were in the upper room and they were joined by the women, possibly those who came from Galilee who had been healed by Jesus; who supported him financially (Luke 8:2-3), who witnessed his crucifixion (Luke 23:49) and first bore witness of the resurrection to those who were doubting that Christ had risen.
  • It is unclear how Judas died. It is possible that he committed suicide.
  • Scholars argue that the field that was bought with the thirty pieces of silver was named the Field of Blood because Judas' stomach burst and a lot of blood was splashed on the field.
  • The qualifications of an apostle were clearly given by Peter. It was supposed to be someone who had been with Jesus since his Baptism by John and this person was to help in the preaching of the gospel of the resurrected Christ.
  • The casting of lots was an Old Testament method in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God.
  • The use of this method shows that either of the two candidates was qualified to be apostles. Even if they cast lots to choose the one to replace Judas it is clear that the decision came from God because they prayed before casting lots which means God had an influence in the choosing of the twelfth disciple.
  • The method of casting lots was also used to share Jesus' garments.

Matthew 27:35

And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
  • The upper room that we are told of here is probably the same room that was used by Jesus on the day that he announced that one of his disciples was going to hand him over to be crucified.

Fig 1.7 Forms of casting lots.jpg (127 KB)

1.2 Methods that are used to choose leaders in our society today

  • Nowadays many Christian denominations and churches usually put upa Board of Administration which is in charge of nominating, voting, seconding, suspending and expelling denomination leaders who do run the daily services and meetings of the particular church.
  • Other Christians, notably in the apostolic movement claim that they receive their nominations and appointments through dreams and visions.
  • Denominations and churches that have prophets sometimes make use of the prophets to choose the leaders as it is believed thatthe prophet is a "Man of God" who has direct contact with God, therefore he can always consult from God who to appoint and for which particular post.
  • Even if divine appointment is used, most Christian denominations use the ballot in selecting leaders. They vote for the one they deem the best for the post. This is done to ensure that the majority of the congregation and denomination is in agreement with the person's qualification and moral conduct.
  • Most of the Pentecostal churches nowadays have a common hierarchy of leaders who help in the spreading of the word of God. The leaders are then deployed to different places just like these twelve disciples were distributed into many corners of the world in a bid to spread the gospel.
  • Qualifications for the church leaders are usually clear and common in churches. They usually choose people who have repented and have been baptized in that church and been accepted as a member of that church. The person should also be someone who has a good background about the denomination concerning the doctrine and the values and expectations of that particular denomination.

1.3 THE DAY OF PENTECOST (ACTS 2:1-13)

On the day of Pentecost they were all gathered in one place. A sound came from heaven like the rush of heavy wind. The Holy Spirit filled the whole house and everyone who was there.
People began speaking in different tongues that they never had known. There were onlookers and listeners; they were amazed and confused when they heard everyone speaking in foreign languages. The spirit filled people began to tell about the works of God in these different languages. Inside the house of God were many different people who spoke Galilean but people heard them speaking in their own native language. Mentioned are the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the other parts of Libya, the Romans and the Arabians. Some who were listening said the people had taken too much wine. The tongues appeared to them as fire.
holy spirit on all.jpg (98 KB)

1.4 Comments

a. Pentecost

  • This is a Greek name for a Jewish festival.
  • It was celebrated fifty days after the Passover
  • Pente means 50
  • It marked the beginning of the Harvest Festival season among the Jews.
  • It was a common festival of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of Harvest.
  • It was changed later to be a feast held in memory of the Lord giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in Mount Sinai.

b. The Holy Spirit

  • Jesus had promised the disciples in Acts 1:8 that they were going to receive the Holy Spirit which was to guide them when they were preaching and spreading the word of God to all nations.
  • The Holy Spirit came in form of a mighty wind. God used to manifest himself in many different forms of nature. During the wilderness period God showed himself through a cloud when he gave them the commandments. Furthermore, the Lord also appeared to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13 in form of wind and fire. The Lord also manifested himself in a similar manner in the conversion of Cornelius.
  • The author here may have not meant the wind and fire in actual fact but was conveying that the way the Holy Spirit availed itself.
  • The book of Acts presents us with the fulfilment of the previous scriptures. John the Baptist had already spoken of a baptism by Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
  • The passages also talks about the onlookers. This may be probably because those who had received the Holy Spirit had gone out of the room into the streets and began to tell about the mighty works of God. This could have attracted a crowd for them.
  • The gift of the tongues that is presented may not necessarily mean that the people literally started speaking the foreign languages without learning them. However it may be pointing to the fact that people spoke in a manner that could not be understood.
  • Luke also records that the converts in Caesarea (Acts 10:46) and Ephesus (Acts 19:6) also spoke in tongues.
  • The issue of foreign languages maybe that the onlookers and hearers overheard something they could not understand it then associated the manner they spoke with being a foreign language.
  • The Holy Spirit gives people power to over demons, to heal and deliver people from sin. In the book of Acts the disciples led by Peter performed several miracles and wonders using the Holy Spirit.

1.5 Evidence of the Holy Spirit in churches of our society

  • The churches that embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit are called Pentecostal churches. This is probably so because they are rooted in the falling of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in the bible.
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit is induced by the singing hymns and long prayers in most churches.
  • There is also the use of musical instruments to create a prayerful atmosphere.

1.6 Common signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit today

  • Falling of multitudes of people to the ground as the "man of God" prays for people.
  • Rolling on the ground.
  • Screaming.
  • Speaking in tongues or in different languages.
  • Running around aimlessly. It is believed that the demon possessed are the ones that usually fall as they will be in need of prayers to be freed from the evil spirits.
  • Making different and funny sounds and actions those are usually associated with certain animals, for example roaring like a lion and crawling on one's knees on the stomach like a snake.

Fig 1.9 Behaviours associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit.jpg (130 KB)
  • Crying - Many people shed tears and this is interpreted as the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Testimonies are also evident among individuals who give an account of what God would have done for them through the act of the Holy Spirit. Some even lose their consciousness and start revealing their secret evil doings in front of the church.
  • Most of those who confess their evil ways usually claim that they do all this subconsciously and in an ECSTATIC manner.
Ecstasy - this is a condition where one's thinking, feeling and reasoning is temporarily suspended and they start to behave abnormally.
  • In this manner the individual may roll on the floor, scream, shout, run aimlessly and behave like any other creature.
  • Someone in an ecstatic form sometimes becomes violent and may be harm anything and anyone around them. In our today society such people are usually contained by several ushers who manhandle the congregate so that they do not harm anyone.

1.7 The works of the Holy Spirit in our society

  • Miracles and wonders are performed in church and this is always attributed to the Holy Spirit.
  • The blind, sick, dumb and lame are also healed instantly. There is also eruption of frequent healing and deliverance crusades that are set apart specifically for performance of miracles and healing those who are having challenges physically.
  • Healing of diseases
Fig 2.0 People celebrating after a healing performance.jpg (267 KB)

1.8 Prophesying

This is an act of prediction what is likely to happen in future. The prophecy must come to pass as foretold.
  • Prophets are on record for also predicting the future and some of their prophecies have come to pass.

1.9 Similarities and differences between ecstasy in the Christian movement and the African Traditional Religion

  • They all involve falling, screaming, shouting and unconsciousness during their respective performances.
  • A spirit has to come upon one in order for the person to predict, heal and deliver someone who is not well. In Christianity they receive the Holy Spirit whereas in the A.T.R a spirit of the ancestor comes upon the individual.
  • They are all associated with violence.
  • Ecstacy is induced in Christianity as well as African Traditional Religion. There is evidence of the use of musical instruments used to lead the spirit to come upon one. Africans usually play the traditional drum and dance. In the Christian context slow and appealing music pieces are sang to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit.

2.0 PETER'S SPEECH (ACTS 2:14-36)

Peter began by refuting that the congregate spoke in tongues because they were drunk. He affirmed the works of the Holy Spirit and showed that the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2) had foretold that in the Holy Spirit would come upon people and they would have the power to prophesy through visions and dreams. He was taking all this from the Old Testament. (Joel 2:28-32)

Peter also made reference to the works of Jesus and his crucifixion. He explained that God had raised Jesus from the dead and took him to sit at His Right hand in heaven. This was the reason why the Holy Spirit was being poured on the people so that they are protected as they were spreading the gospel to all the corners of the world. Peter assured that those who were present that the death and resurrection of Jesus was real as he had been killed with human hands.

From the beginning of the speech, Peter showed that the gospel was for everyone (universal), the promise of more signs and wonders and salvation in the name of the Lord. He went on to talk about what he and other disciples had witnessed during their work with Jesus who at the time had ascended.

Peter went on to disqualify David as the Son of God who had been elevated. He did all this to show those who were in doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, had died and resurrected and was taken to heaven to dwell with God. He gave reference to Psalms 110:1 where David himself saw a vision of Jesus being raised to the Right Hand of God.

2.1 Response to Peter's speech

Peter's speech affected a lot of listeners and they began to do self-examination. Peter was calling for the people to repent and be forgiven of their sins. Peter then clarifies that his baptism is no longer of water but that of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. This shows that the name of Jesus has to be mentioned on baptism of people.
The response also explains that the hearers of the word were to be forgiven of their sins. The apostles are also given the Holy Spirit as a gift from God for their continued obedience. The Holy Spirit had first been received by the Jerusalem Jews on the Day of Pentecost and those who were far off at Ephesus. Luke ends his writing by showing that Peter said a lot in his speech but he as a writer only provided a summary of the sermon.

2.2 Summary of Peter's speech

  • Jesus was a man.
  • Jesus was crucified.
  • Jesus resurrected and the apostles were witnesses of all these activities.
  • The Old Testament prophets had foretold all that occurred in Jesus' life and the aftermath.
  • Jesus is the promised Messiah.
  • Salvation was through accepting Jesus as the Messiah and repenting from sins.

2.3 Comments

  • Peter refused the charge of drunkenness because among the Jews wine could not be taken until after 9 a.m. so it was not possible that these people had taken some wine and got drunk.
  • Three thousand people joined the church after this speech.
  • Baptism is mentioned in this place and some scholars hold that it was introduced by Gentile Christians possibly at Antioch.
  • Baptism is here said to be in the name of Jesus. However in Matthew 28:19 Jesus is said to have instructed that they should baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity.
  • It is generally accepted by the Christians of today that people should be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
  • The phrase "in the name of" here means that people were to be baptized in the authority of Jesus.
  • People who were baptized were accepted as members of the early church because that was a sign of repentance and acceptance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

2.4 Baptisms in our society

  • There are different ways in which it is handled in our society by different denominations.
  • It is usually the doctrine and beliefs of the church that determines the way of baptizing people. Some still use the rivers and dams. The problem with these churches is that they may be at loggerheads with those in charge of the environment as this is now considered as water pollution.
  • To save on time, some churches usually build a pool of baptism inside the church building where they perform all their baptismal services.
  • Others do not require a pool but they just use a cup of water especially with young children. The leader who has the mandate to baptize just dips his fingers on the cup and sprinkles drops of water on the forehead or face of the person being baptized. This is repeated three times so that it is in line with the Holy Trinity as per the instruction from the bible.
  • Many churches nowadays even give baptism certificates as proof of repentance and deliverance.
  • Baptism in some churches is always held along with the Lord's Supper. This is done to remember all that happened to Jesus in the hands of the crucifiers.
Fig 2.1 Baptism in a waterfalls or gauge.jpg (244 KB) Fig 2.1 Baptism in a waterfall or gauge
Fig 2.2 Baptism of children with a cup.jpg (152 KB)

Fig 2.3 Baptism in a river.jpg (142 KB)
Fig 2.4 Baptism in a pool.jpg (265 KB)

2.5 Significance of Baptism

  • It resembles turning away from sin.
  • It is a symbol of repentance.
  • It is a sign of salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • Accepting that Jesus suffered died for everyone's sins and also resurrected on the third day.

3.0 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EARLY CHURCH

  • This is how the church operated and was after Peter's speech.

a. The Apostle's teaching

  • They were in charge of the church and they gave instructions to the church members about what to do.
  • They addressed the issues of the church such as explaining the whole Christian movement.
  • They also dealt with grievances of people in the church as many different people had joined the church. The incorporation of many different people led to disputes in the church hence the Apostles did a lot of teaching to them as they had learnt from Jesus.

b. The fellowship

  • This refers to the Christian meetings.
  • The leaders organised the church meetings and they also preached the word of God being led by the Holy Spirit.
  • They loved being together and found strength in being together.
  • They were happy and joyful.

c. The breaking of the Bread

  • This was a common meal which was observed by the disciples at their respective homes.
  • It developed into many different places during the 1st century after the ascension of Christ.
  • It involved sharing meals with everyone getting what they needed.

d. The prayers

  • These were Jewish hours of prayer (Acts 3:1)
  • They also attended services in the temple.
  • They prayed together.

e. Offering

  • This was a common fund to which the disciples contributed. The disciples that are mentioned in Acts 4 are not the twelve but it refers to all those who had responded to the preaching of the apostles and joined the church.

f. The converts wanted to learn more.

  • They were kind and they loved to help others.
  • They shared what they had amongst themselves.
  • They shared the Lord's Supper in their homes.

3.1 Characteristics of Christians of nowadays

  • It is without doubt that there are many Christians of today who still share the same traits as the early church.
  • Many donors of food aid, school fees and other social needs in our society come from the churches.
  • The churches also fight against immorality.
  • They champion justice.
  • They share their experiences and help each other grow spiritually and socially.
  • All the churches have several services held throughout the week with the main services scheduled for the weekends that are Saturday and Sunday.
  • These main services are usually summed up with preaching from the Pastors, spiritual leaders and prophets who always prepare a speech that addresses the wanted and unwanted societal acts of conduct in a bid to uphold moral uprightness.
  • Some of the programmes erected include visiting the sick and those who are bereaved in their homes. This is done to comfort each other in times of need.
  • Burials in our society are commonly handled by the churches. They provide financial support and also hold prayer sessions with the families in an endeavour to share the painful experience and comforting family members.
  • Christian’s fellowship through singing, dancing, preaching, praise and worship among other notable services.
  • It is common and expected that in each and every service new converts are gained by the different churches. This increases the number of those who receive salvation just like the early church whose growth and development was outstanding.

3.2 HEALING OF A LAME BEGGAR (ACTS 3:1-11)


 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter looked at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, amazed.

3.3 Commentary

  • The ninth hour of prayer refers to 3:00 pm in the afternoon. It was a time of the evening when sacrifice was offered in the temple by the priests and Jews used to gather for prayers in the temple.
  • The lame man was at the temple gate which was known as the Beautiful. It may have been one of the entrances to the Court of the Gentiles or the gate between the Gentile Court and the Court of the Jewish Women.
  • The people who were present were Peter and John, apostles, the lame man himself and those who carried him, people who were coming for prayers, the captain of the temple and temple authorities who came to see what was happening.
  • The name of Jesus that was mentioned was to show that Peter was not using his own powers to heal this man but that of the authority of Jesus working through the Holy Spirit.
  • The phrase that talks about the healing of the lame beggar in this incident refers to the idea that the man's feet and ankle bones gained strength and was able to walk.
  • The priests and Sadducees were not happy about the teaching about the resurrection of Jesus.

3.4 Who were the Sadducees?

  • These were a small group of rich and prominent people in the Jewish society.
  • Many of these were priest and they occupied most of the seats in the Jewish council or the Sanhedrin.
  • The High priests came from them.
  • They were close to the Roman government so they worked hard to ensure that they kept the privileges and power they had.
  • They accepted the first five books of the Old Testament which were known as the Pentateuch.
  • They were against the law that was not recorded down (oral law). The oral law was popular with the Pharisees who usually added some connotations to the various laws.
  • They did not believe in the existence of angels and demons or spirits.
  • They disregarded life after death.
  • After the destruction of the temple in AD 70 they ceased to exist because the centre of their belief was gone.

3.5 Peter’s sermon after the Healing of the lame beggar

 When Peter saw the people, he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, why are you surprised at this, and why do you stare at us? Do you think that it was by means of our own power or godliness that we made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has given divine glory to his Servant Jesus. But you handed him over to the authorities, and you rejected him in Pilate's presence, even after Pilate had decided to set him free.  He was holy and good, but you rejected him, and instead you asked Pilate to do you the favor of turning loose a murderer. You killed the one, who leads to life, but God raised him from death—and we are witnesses to this.  It was the power of his name that gave strength to this lame man. What you see and know was done by faith in his name; it was faith in Jesus that has made him well, as you can all see.
 “And now, my friends, I know that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was due to your ignorance. God announced long ago through all the prophets that his Messiah had to suffer; and he made it come true in this way.  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord, and he will send Jesus, who is the Messiah he has already chosen for you.He must remain in heaven until the time comes for all things to be made new, as God announced through his holy prophets of long ago. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me,and he will be one of your own people. You are to obey everything that he tells you to do.  Anyone who does not obey that prophet shall be separated from God's people and destroyed.’ And all the prophets who had a message, including Samuel and those who came after him also announced what has been happening these days. The promises of God through his prophets are for you, and you share in the covenant which God made with your ancestors. As he said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants I will bless all the people on earth.’ And so God chose his Servant and sent him to you first, to bless you by making every one of you turn away from your wicked ways.”

3.6 Commentary on Peter's sermon

  • He declared that he and John were not the ones who had cured the beggar but the works of the man's faith and the Holy Spirit.
  • He also accused the man of Jerusalem of killing and crucifying Jesus and said they had done that because little did not know what they were doing.
  • He explained that Jesus was the servant of God.
  • The prophets of the Old Testament had prophesied that Jesus was to come but they always used the word prophet. Furthermore the prophets did not clarify that the prophet who was the Messiah was going to suffer for the sins of the people. This meant that the people in Jerusalem had not anticipated the Messiah to be subjected to all the suffering, killing and rejection that Jesus the Messiah was subjected to.
  • The early Christians however understood Jesus as the Messiah who had died for everyone's sins by becoming a sacrifice at the cross.
  • Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies by coming to earth, suffering, dying, resurrecting and also ascending to his Father in Heaven as had been proclaimed.
  • In verse 13-14 Peter referred to the trial of Jesus where Pilate made efforts to free Jesus but the Jews requested for the release of Barnabas instead.
  • The concept of faith is also introduced here. It is not clear whether the healing was done through the faith of the lame beggar or the apostles.
  • Faith is portrayed as the belief and conviction that something is going to happen; in this case there was faith that the man was to be healed in the name of Jesus.

3.7 Healing in our society

  • There are two different realms in which people receive healing today. The African Traditional way and Christian realm.
a. African Traditional Religion
  • Those who believe in this religion use a lot of traditional medicine. Such traditional medicines are extracted from nature.
  • Examples of such medicines for healing range from tree roots, tree leaves, fruits, animals parts among other parts of nature.
  • At the heart of all the traditional proceedings are the n'angas, sangomas and elders of the community who are well versed with all the medicines and concoctions that are prepared.
  • Old women and man have knowledge about a plethora of diseases and they usually know what to prescribe for several sicknesses when someone is not feeling well.
  • Just like the lame beggar had to possess faith, the traditional healers expect people to have faith in their healing methods for them to be successful.
  • As a way of protection some Africa children are given strings to tie around their necks, wrist and waist. The traditional healer claims that the strings protect and heal those are affected by diseases.
  • The salt is used to chase away the evil spirits and is part of most of the remedies given to patients.
  • Patients are sometimes given water to use for bathing and also sprinkling around their houses as a way of casting away evil spirits.

ZINATHA

  • Prospects in traditional healing sometimes register with the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association. (ZINATHA).
  • This is an organisation which aims at carrying out healing through the use of natural remedies. It is located in Harare.

The role they play

  • advocacy for natural methods of healing 
  • they heal communicable diseases,
  • community health care,
  • they heal diarrhoeal diseases,  
  • they provide education on the use of medicine,
  • disability and rehabilitation
  • they deal with learning impairment, 
  • they provide maternal health,
  • reproductive health
  • sexual health
  • traditional health care
  • training of healers

b. CHRISTIANS

  • This realm claims to follow the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles.
  • There is consistent use of prayer in church services.
  • Some denominations also use some remedies like the anointed oil which is sold to the congregate that are in need of it.
  • In some churches there is evidence of the use of water to sprinkle on the church members during prayers.
  • Bottles of water are sometimes given to those who are not feeling well and the infected either drink or bath using the water.
  • Pentecostal movement has also introduced the use of bangles which are put on the wrist. This is similar to the traditional way of tying a piece of string around the neck, wrist or the waist as a means of healing and protection against diseases and evil spirits.
  • Healing is usually by touching the part of the body that is infected. This is a method that has raised so much concern for some of the churches as they deem some of the healings as sexual harassment especially in the case of sexual organs of the body being touched by a pastor or prophet who is of the opposite sex.
  • There is a part of the society that feels that most of the healings are fake and various mediums of entertainment have tried to dissect many healing services and miracle performances to show that there is more to them than they are to the eye.
NB: Whether or not the healings and miracles performed are fake or real is still subject to debate up to today.

3.8 ARREST AND TRIAL OF PETER AND JOHN (ACTS 4:1-22)


As Peter and John were speaking to the people the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them. They were not happy about the teachings and preaching of the apostles about the death and resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them and threw them into the prison until the next day because it was already evening. Even though these two had been arrested, many had repented through the preaching. The number of the church members came to five thousand.

3.9 Peter and John before the Sanhedrin

The next day the Jewish leaders, the elders, and the teachers of the Law gathered in Jerusalem. They met with the High Priest Annas and with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the others who belonged to the High Priest's family. They made the apostles stand before them and asked them, “How did you do this? What power do you have or whose name did you use?”
Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders:  if we are being questioned today about the good deed done to the lame man and how he was healed, then you should all know, and all the people of Israel should know, that this man stands here before you completely well through the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—whom you crucified and whom God raised from death. Jesus is the one of whom the scripture says,
‘The stone that you the builders despised                                                                      
    turned out to be the most important of all.’
Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus. But there was nothing that they could say, because they saw the man who had been healed standing there with Peter and John.  So they told them to leave the Council room, and then they started discussing among themselves.  “What shall we do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows that this extraordinary miracle has been performed by them, and we cannot deny it. But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn these men never again to speak to anyone in the name of Jesus.”
 So they called them back in and told them that under no condition were they to speak or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “you yourselves judge which is right in God's sight—to obey you or to obey God.  The Council warned them even more strongly and then set them free. They saw that it was impossible to punish them, because the people were all praising God for what had happened.  The man on whom this miracle of healing had been performed was over forty years old.

3.10 Commentary

  • The council called Peter and John, talked to them, warned them and then sent them away after also embarrassing them.
  • Peter was very confident and made it clear that Jesus was the only Messiah.
  • He clarified that Jesus was the most important stone in a building in a building. A stone that could not be left by a builder when building.
  • Salvation was only through Jesus.
  • Peter and John responded confidently.
  • The Sanhedrin thought that Peter and John were not sure of what they were preaching about. They thought that these two were not professionally trained like the rabbis.
  • The lame man appears to also have been arrested, either with Peter and John or afterwards in the next morning.

 3.11 Captain of the temple

  • This was the chief of the guards of Levites which kept order in the temple courts.

3.12 The prayer of the assembled church (Acts 4:23-31)

When Peter and John returned to the company of the disciples, they all prayed to God for boldness to continue their witnesses. The council had already ordered the apostles to stop preaching the resurrection of Jesus hence there was need to ask for the Hand of God to guide them as they continued to spread the word of God to other places. God answered by giving them the Holy Spirit that came like an earthquake. The Holy Spirit fell upon people heavily again with shattering power. These verses show that fighting against Jesus is fighting God the Creator. Peter and John were clearly empowered by God to speak boldly about the resurrection of God and defend their actions so well in front of the Sanhedrin.

3.13 The community life of the church

The Christians continued in their fellowship and their witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. The common fund was maintained and Barnabas sold some land and gave what he got to the church. Barnabas was a Hellenistic Jew who was not a native of Palestine but came from a foreign country. The church had some divisions especially amongst the Jews and Gentiles.

4.0 ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA (ACTS 5:1-11)


But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Fig 2.5 Ananias and Sapphira planning to keep part of the money.jpg (128 KB)

“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died.

And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

Fig 2.6 Ananias dead at the feet of Peter.jpg (148 KB)
Fig 2.7 The graves of Ananias and Sapphira.jpg (265 KB)

4.1 Commentary

  • Ananias and Sapphira pretended that they had brought the money in total yet they were lying.
  • The fund that they were contributing to was clearly voluntary not imposed. Members of the church had the choice to either keep the money to themselves or give to the church.
  • Ananias and Sapphira could have taken the example from Barnabas who had initially set the example by selling his own piece of land then gave all the money to the church.
  • The death of the couple cannot be attributed to Peter even though he is the one who cursed both Ananias and Sapphira. Various scholars are of the view that the two may have died before of shock that their lies had been exposed.
  • It seems that if anyone was to sell a piece of land with the endeavour to give the money to the church they were supposed to give it as a whole. The rights of ownership of land are not clear in the passage.
  • Ananias and Sapphira seem to have died because of withholding some of the money.
  • For the first time the word church appeared in this passage since the beginning of the book of Acts. It means a meeting as it is used in this passage of Ananias and Sapphira.
  • The leaders of the church are portrayed as powerful and spirit-filled people as Peter is shown with the power to curse some and die on the support. He is viewed as a powerful prophetic figure that was to guide people into respecting the Holy Spirit.
  • The prophetic figure was also embedded with the power to identify the misdeeds of the church members without receiving a tip from anyone.
  • The story was also influenced by that of Achan in the Old Testament (Joshua 7:16-26) where he misappropriated sacred possessions which seriously affected Israel and resulted in his radical expulsion from the community, his death and that of the family.

4.2 Effects of the death of Ananias and Sapphira on the church members

  • Great fear fell on the whole church.
  • Respect of the leaders and apostles.
  • People were discouraged from cheating.
  • Opportunities for preaching were enhanced as the Jewish also grew to see the works of Jesus and the Holy Spirits through the apostles.
  • The number of members of the early churches also increased.

4.3 MIRACLES IN THE CHURCH (ACTS 5:12-16)

Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

4.4 Commentary

  • The disciples met together in Solomon's Porch. This was a place on the eastern side of the court of the Gentiles. This place may have been a synagogue where the disciples would meet for their different meetings and services.
  • Many people were cured in Jerusalem.
  • The passage reflects the enthusiasm that the church lived in. The great enthusiasm was enhanced by the fear that had fell upon many when they saw and heard of the great signs and wonders that were being performed by the apostles in and outside the church.
  • Multitudes of people joined this service and witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit.

4.5 The arrest of the apostles

Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said,“Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”  Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

4.6 Commentary

  • The Sadducees were very jealous and they took all the apostles into the prison.
  • This time God performed very amazing miracles for the witnesses of His word.
  • The prison doors were opened at night and the apostles went out. An angel of the Lord may have opened the door for the apostles. It is probable that a friend from prison opened the doors for the apostles or someone from outside was sent by God to open the doors. Whether it was the angels or a human being who opened the doors is still a subject of debate.
  • The angel then commanded the apostles to go back to the temple to preach and teach about the word of God and Christ's resurrection.
  • Note that the miracle here was done by an angel and the Sadducees did not believe in the existence of theses angels. Angels were messengers of God.
  • Even though they had been arrested Peter and other disciples still stood firmly in front of the Sanhedrin and preached that people were supposed to listen to God not just human beings.
  • When they were re-arrested they were also brought before the Sanhedrin. There were threats that they were going to be killed but Gamaliel saved them.

4.7 Miracles, signs and wonders in our society

  • There is high prevalence of the performance of miracles in our societies today. The challenge is that many of these miracles are claimed to be fake by a number of people.
  • People also doubt that they are the work of God as there is eruption of such prophets every day.
  • The miracle workers come and go each and every year. It is those who have faith in the leaders and miracle workers that claim that they are being healed even today in Jesus name just like in the early church.

4.8 How are the religious leaders treated in today's society?

  • People nowadays fear the religious leaders. This is probably because of the miracles that they would have seen being performed in churches. What these leaders utter is the law and people rarely oppose it.
  • Leaders are treated with due respect especially those that have powers to heal.
  • They are treated as man of God and thus are believed to have a lot of answers about many difficulties in life.
  • Leaders from the ATR also receive respect an honour from the community.

4.9 Peter's defence before the Sanhedrin
He raised the following points:

  • God raised Christ.
  • Christ's death was by hanging on a tree.
  • Jesus is identified as the pioneer of life and saviour.
  • Peter calls for repentance and announces the offer of forgiveness of sins.
  • God is portrayed is the creator and prime source of life.
  • Through rehearsal of death of Christ, God had put right everyone's misdeed and forgave their sins.

4.10 Ways in which people show respect and honour to the religious leaders nowadays

  • They are given special seats during services. While others seat on ordinary chairs the leaders will be sitting on a sofa or any of the most comfortable furniture around.
  • Refreshments are provided for them during services.
  • Some bow down when they greet them.
  • During their outreach visits to people's homes they receive special treatments that arethe best plates, dishes and meals.
  • Other churches also set aside days for the religious leaders so that they give presents to them. A typical example is the "Pastor's appreciation Sunday" in many churches. During this service church members bring gifts to appreciate the work of their leader.
  • Religious posts also come with a number of privileges that include free accommodation, rent, transport or a car is provided and a fat salary in some instances.
  • In extreme cases body guards are hired for the religious leaders. This also covers the traditional religious leaders.
  • The leaders never do anything that requires manpower that is even carrying their own bible.

4.11 Methods of healing today

  • Use of anointing oil.
  • Sprinkling with water.
  • use of stones and leaves .
  • Touching where the pain or sickness is.
  • Holy water for drinking.
  • Sometimes the prophet just says the word from where they are and people claim to be healed.