Series 45


STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 4:1-13

The key-verse to this section of scripture is verse 13. Peter and John were enjoying and seeing an experience of the Lord Jesus Christ that was vital, warm, radiant and attractive; and this at once raises the question: Can the same thing be said of us – of you? Think about it. Why are so many churches empty? Why do so few Christians make any impression on the world? Why is it that the great majority of people are outside our churches? Surely part of the answer is that so much Christianity is not vital and it does not affect others. There is too much profession and too little possession (Titus 1:16); too many Christians are half-hearted (Matthew 26:58); carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); or lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). But it is quite evident that Peter and John had the real thing! Their experience of Christ was vital, disturbing and productive, in fact so much so that even their accusers were deeply impressed – compare verses 5, 6 and 13. What are the characteristics of this vital experience of the Lord?


1. It is quickly seen

Notice the word “saw” in verse 13. A real Christian will be seen (Mark 7:24). Of course, dead, lifeless religion is also seen, with the result that people are repelled; but when a real Christian is seen what a wonderful influence that is! We can be sure that the people with whom we live and work know whether we have the real thing or not. There are two places where we cannot bluff about living the Christian life: the first is our home, the second is where we work.


2. It is bold and fearless

Notice the word ‘courage’ in verse 13. How did those who looked at Peter and John see their courage? They saw it in three ways:

  1. 1. In their Might. That is, in the miracle they performed in the Lord’s name (verse 16); what a mighty miracle it was! Like all miracles, it was God’s work.
  2. 2. In their Manner. Read through the whole chapter and especially notice verses 18-21, and see with what holy boldness and with what confidence these men stood before their accusers.
  3. 3. In their Message. Notice verses 8-10 and 12 in particular. What holy audacity characterised Peter and John as they proclaimed the gospel, in spite of the fact that they had been forbidden to do so!


3. It is ready to suffer persecution

We learn about this in verse 3 – and here surely is the test of the reality of our experience of Christ. When persecution comes, mere religion will fail, but if we really know the Lord we shall stand the test. Many are being tested by severe persecution in many countries today; but let us take solemn warning from these words that persecution looms ahead for some of us – suddenly or unexpectedly – look up Acts 5:40-41, and compare John 16:1-4.


4. It is independent of natural gifts

That is to say, it triumphs in all kinds of people. We see in verse 13 that the rulers and chief priests marvelled because Peter and John were only ignorant and unlearned men, but God delights to use nobodies! Let us not put a premium on ignorance. If you are going to serve the Lord, get the best possible equipment by all means, but let us also rejoice that God can take up a nobody and use him, just as He took Peter and John (1 Corinthians 1:27-31).


5. It gets very big results

Two Christians set on fire by the Lord can infect thousands (verse 4). Do you reply, ‘But things are so different today!’? Are they? What is different? Is the gospel any different? – look up Romans 1:16; has the Lord changed? – look up Hebrews 13:8; is man’s inherent need any different? – look up Jeremiah 17:9; and is the Holy Spirit’s power restricted? (Micah 2:7). No, we are the ones who are different. We are not vitally attractive, radiant Christians.


6. It attracts to Christ Himself

It does not attract to the messengers but to the Master (verse 13). The only explanation the rulers and priests could give was – JESUS – compare Acts 3:12. When God’s servants are like Peter and John, men and women are not drawn to them but to their Lord, and will say, ‘What a wonderful Saviour!’


7. It glorifies God

One humble, vital, radiant Christian can bring great glory to the Lord of glory! – compare verses 14 and 21. What is the secret of this experience of Christ? The clue is in verse 13, where we read of Peter and John that they “had been with Jesus”. How had they been with Jesus? They had been with Him:

  1. 1. In the place of pardon. They had been to the Cross. Through faith in their Redeemer their sins had been forgiven (John 20:20-21). All real and vital Christian experience begins at the Cross of Calvary.
  2. 2. In the place of power. Before He ascended and went back to heaven, the Lord said – look up Acts 1:4-5 and 8; and His word was wonderfully fulfilled in the experience of His disciples (Acts 2:4). Now Peter is standing before his accusers – see what Acts 4:8-10 tells us! Peter and John were not only pardoned men but power-filled men, filled with the Spirit of Pentecost.
  3. 3. In the place of prayer. They prayed before Pentecost (Acts 1:12-14), and after Pentecost (Acts 3:1; Acts 4:24) – see how many other references to praying people you find in the remaining chapters of the Book of Acts!