20 June 2021
Series: Acts
Topic: Courage

Acts 4 Christians with Courage

Speaker: Andy Yip

We learnt from last week that Peter and John healed a lame beggar in the name of Jesus, and he drew a crowd at the Temple court. And now, enter the villains and old enemies of Jesus from Jerusalem in the gospel books. Today, we see how the early Christians responded to oppositions, and the meaning of Christian courage. But before we begin, let us first ask God to give us an open heart and ears in prayer. (pray)


1) Courage to proclaim Christ

At the beginning of Acts chapter 4, the Scripture records that “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” (Acts 4:1-4)

The Jewish opposition of the early church mainly came from the Sadducees, priests from the tribe of Levi. The Sadducess saw themselves as the protectors of the religious tradition of Old Testament Law. They were in charge of the teaching and interpretation of the Scriptures. They believed the Messiah was an ideal but not a person, so Peter and other apostles’ speech of fulfilled prophecy of Messiah in the personhood of Jesus Christ would have been offensive to their theology. Also, they cooperated with Rome as we knew from the gospel when Jesus was sentenced to death and executed, so Paul’s speech about the coming of the Jewish Messiah, the anointed King from the line of David, is a big taboo that they don’t what Pilate the Roman governor and other officials to hear, less it brought up another riot and uprising in the community. Furthermore, the Sadducees’ theology opposes the idea of bodily resurrection. Therefore, Peter’s sermon to the crowd in the temple court greatly disturbed them and their political position.

But now, two unschooled ex-fishermen, Peter and John, has taught a great crowd of people who seemed eager to hear the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, their long-awaited Messiah. So they arrested Peter and John and put them into gaol for their faith. But despite all their efforts to silence the Christians, the message of Christ’s death and resurrection still spread, and more people trusted in Christ. Now the number of Jewish Christians had reached 5000 people. This is not the work of men or because of Peter’s adequate speech, but the work of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the listeners, and whoever is chosen by God and hears the gospel will come to know Jesus and put their trusts in Him.

The next day, the elders and teachers of the Law gathered in Jerusalem. In verse 6, we learn that “6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Annas and Caiaphas were the high priest and family who took part in Jesus’ trial and execution. Annas was the high priest from 6-15 A.D. when Jesus was crucified. And Caiaphas acted as high priest from 18-36 A.D.

Their questioning of the source of Peter and John’s miracle that healed the lame beggar opens the dialogue of Peter’s witness for the Saviour. Sometimes we might be afraid when people ask us our faith, but it is at that very time of questioning from non-Christians, or even by the mouth of persecutors of Christians, we can witness Jesus and give glory to God.

As the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon spoke a long time ago, “My theology is found in four little words: Jesus died for me.” When the time comes, let God speaks through you, and let the words of the gospel of Christ come out of your month, so that we will be faithful witnesses of the gospel.


2) Courage to publicly witness Christ

And now, let us see how Peter answers those who arrested him, verse 8: “8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:8-12)

Our courage does not come from ourselves but the Holy Spirit. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit before he witnessed Jesus in front of the persecutors of the gospel. The power of God is not just shown in the healing miracle but by words to proclaim the name Jesus Christ. Jesus had promised such power and boldness for occasions like this. As he said in Luke 21:14-15, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”. And Jesus’ words fulfilled in Peter in trials at this moment. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke boldly before the high priests and teachers of the Law, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10)

No matter who witnesses Jesus, the gospel message always mention three things: Jesus Christ, the only name that is given to be saved, His crucifixion, and his resurrections. All messages of salvation rely on these components, through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and be raised from the dead to give us new life.

Peter could easily answer the high priest’s question by saying, “God did it.” That would be a religiously and politically correct answer, and the apostles could have been dismissed immediately.” But Peter’s response involves Jesus Christ, that is, the Messiah, his crucifixion, and his resurrection, so the council’s dynamic changed. The issue is not about the lame man being healed but around the authority of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter refers to Jesus as the cornerstone that has been rejected by the builders, quoting Psalm 118:22 “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.  The builders of the temple, the high priest’s family and the teachers of the Law, those who pride themselves as the teacher and keeper of religious Law, have rejected Jesus Christ, the Promised King and Saviour from God, and Jesus has become the cornerstone, the most important stone of the building, the cornerstone in ancient architecture determines the position and direction of a building, so it is the most critical stone when building a house. Jesus has become the anchor and the foundation stone to set up the direction and position of the new church. The old era of the Old Covenant with Moses is gone. Now we anchor in Jesus, and it is the new beginning of the new covenant that is sealed in the blood of Christ by his volunteered death and resurrection to bring us new life with God.

Peter concluded his message in verse 12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”.

Only by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified and risen from the dead, do his disciples have the power to heal and teach. Many people in this world react negatively because there is no other name than that of Jesus to call on for salvation. Yet, this is not something made up by the church; it is the specific teaching of Jesus himself. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If God the Father designated Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, no one else could be his equal. We as Christians are to be open-minded on many issues but not on how we are saved from sin. No other religious teacher could die for our sins; no other religious teacher came to earth as God’s only Son; no other religious teacher rose from the dead. Only Jesus Christ of Nazareth has that power of resurrection. No other religious teacher in this world could die for our sins; only Jesus Christ of Nazareth is sinless and be able to die on our behalf as God has prophesied through his prophets. No other religious teacher came to earth as God’s only Son; Jesus is the only Son that God has to send to the world and acknowledge him. No other religious teacher rose from the dead. Only Jesus Christ of Nazareth has the power as God raised him from the dead. Death is defeated, and it could not hold Jesus, who is sinless. Our focus should be on Jesus as we witness him, whom God provided as the way to have an eternal relationship with himself. There is no other name or another way! No other name under heaven but Jesus Christ is given to mankind by which we who believes must be saved.

After the High priest and associates saw Peter’s courage, and the healed man standing there with them, they had nothing to say. They could not deny it because everyone in Jerusalem knows that they have performed a sign from heaven. They called Peter and John and commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, but we can see the courage in Peter and John, in verse 19, “But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The council could not punish them because everyone was praising God for what had happened. So they let Peter and John go.


3) Courage in prayer

As Peter and John went back to the believers praying for them, they reported the victory that God has given them at the Temple Court. And what follows is one of the most dramatic prayers of the New Testament because it reflects the way the early Christians prayed. Let us read again, learn from the giants of faith, and see how early Christians prayed: “24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our Father David:“ ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. ’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

Notice how they prayed in the Scripture: First, they praised God, they praised God for his Creation as the Creator of everything, his being, his sovereignty as all-powerful God who rules history to fulfil his purposes. What God’s will determines, his power carries out. No leader, army or government can stand in God’s way. Secondly, they praise God for his Revelation; God spoke through his servant King David. Our God is self-revealed. We cannot test Creation by scientific methods which deal only with repeatable events; it must be understood by faith. Then thirdly, they praise God for his Incarnation in Jesus Christ, his Son. God anointed Jesus, and now God enables his servants to continue their witness as God confirmed it through miraculous signs in the name of Jesus. The early Christians expected to do nothing by themselves; everything rested in the sovereign power of God and the name of Jesus.

After praising God, they told God their specific problem and asked for his help. They did not ask God to remove the problem but to help them deal with it. We can follow this model prayer of early Christians when we pray. We may ask God to remove our problems, and he may choose to do so. But we must recognise that often he’ll leave a problem, but give us the strength and courage to deal with it.

And how did God respond to their prayers? The room shook, and God filled them with the Holy Spirit and sent them out to speak the word of God boldly. Like these early Christians, we need to understand that the self-revealed Creator who sent his Son to earth to die and rise again for our salvation will give us the courage we need to carry out whatever ministry he places before us.

These first-century Christians were very united. They didn’t only pray together but were one in heart and mind; they share with each other in generosity. They don’t view possessions in ownership but stewardship; they have communal sharing like a family out of generosity and united in the love of Christ for each other. There were no needy persons among them. United, unselfish, and unafraid. They witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ together. They knew their identity as followers of Christ, and they moved forward with courage to achieve their common goals. This is a demonstration of how courageous Christianity operated in the first century. Today in our modern church, we should learn their holy courage in witnessing Jesus to unbelievers and learn how to handle opposition, how to pray, and how to take care of each other as a community in God’s Kingdom. Let us ask God together to give us this courage and unity and be prayerful like Peter and his friends in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord:

Heavenly Father, we give thanks to you for sending your Son Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross to save us from our sins. By your grace and power, he was raised to life again three days later, securing our salvation and the gift of eternal life. We thank you and praise you, O Sovereign and merciful God; increase our faith, love and courage so that, like the early believers, we may learn to pray and witness in the name and power of Jesus. Amen.



  1. What part did the resurrection of Christ have in the apostles’ preaching? Why?
  2. How did Peter and John have the courage to face the powerful enemies of the gospel?
  3. How should we pray together as a church other than in Sunday Worship?


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