The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

xi] The believers join in prayer


Peter and John return to the gathered congregation of believers and relate all that has happened at the temple over the last two days. The congregation then bursts into thanksgiving and prayer, with Luke recording for us what amounts to a word of prophecy from the members. Following the prophetic word, the believers, filled with the Spirit, are fired-up to engage in fervent gospel proclamation.


Through prayer, God's people are empowered for gospel proclamation.


i] Context: See 4:1-22.


ii] Background: For The movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, see 1:1-11, and for The theological structure of the gospel message, see 3:11-26.


Prophecy in the New Testament: The role of a New Testament prophet remains somewhat unclear. We know from Acts that there were predictive prophets at work, eg., Agabus, 11:28, 21:10. There may well have been prophets similar to the Old Testament prophets, functioning alongside the Apostles to address primary revelation. This would imply that they, with the Apostles, provided the foundation for the New Testament Cannon.

It is very interesting to note how the apostle Paul compares the ministry of tongue-speaking with prophecy in First Corinthians chapter 14. It is likely that the prophecy referred to here, represents a secondary form - a word-ministry of edification, exhortation and consolation for the church, cf., 1Cor.14:3. The prophet that Paul speaks of is not like an Old Testament prophet entrusted with primary revelation; Paul's prophet is a minister of the Word; a prophet who possesses the gifts to enable them to upbuild, encourage and console within the frame of a Biblical Word ministry.

It is likely that the congregation's intercession, recorded in Acts 4:24-30, takes the form of a prophetic word.


Signs and wonders in Acts: The relationship between the gospel and signs is an interesting one, particularly with it comes to their application today. For the people of Israel, the proclamation about the realisation / inauguration of the coming kingdom of God, was both in word and sign, as foretold by the prophets, so when you see that "the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor" (Lk.7:22), then you know that the kingdom of God is upon you. The signs were a visible proclamation of the coming kingdom, as much as were the words. So, in Luke's record of a church at prayer, 4:24b-30, it is quite reasonable for the apostolic church to request that God empower their proclamation of the kingdom in both words and signs.

Yet, when it comes to Gentiles, signs and wonders are nothing more than tricks, if not manifestations of the dark arts. So, it is evident in Acts that signs and wonders recede into the background as the mission moves from Jew to Gentile. With Gentiles, Paul argues his case rather than performs miracles. If there is a sign to Gentiles, it is love; "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another", Jn.13:35.

So, with respect to the interpretation of the intercession of the congregation in 4:24b-30, on one hand, Luke provides a model of a Christian congregation at prayer, both in form and content, but on the other hand, an is is not necessarily an ought / a description is not a prescription. Gospel communication rightly stands at the forefront of a congregation's intercession ("Thy kingdom come"), but this in words rather than signs and wonders.

As a side note, it is often argued that in the gospels and Acts, wonders, miracles, healings and the like, serve to authenticate the messenger and his message, but it is far more likely that they are the message - signposts of the kingdom; "If I by the finger of God drive out demons then the kingdom of God has come upon you", Lk.11:20.


iii] Structure: The believers join in prayer:

The apostles make their report, v23-24a;

A prophetic word / prayer, v24b-30;

Ascription to God, v24b;

Scriptural underpinning, Ps.2:1, v25-26;

Fulfilment, v27-28;

Petition, v29-30.

Filled for proclamation, v31.


iv] Interpretation:

Set free, the apostles head back to the Christian fellowship and recount all that has happened to them (touV idiouV, "their own people", the Christian fellowship, or apostles / "their own place", a meeting place in Jerusalem, or the temple court where the believers regularly gathered). In response, the congregation bursts into a prophetic word of praise and thanksgiving. Although the religious authorities have set upon the apostles, they have actually set themselves against tou kurou, "the Lord" (Yahweh), and his Cristou, "Christ / messiah". In standing against God's anointed, they have even aligned themselves with the secular powers. Yet, none of this frustrates the divine will, and so the prophetic word concludes with the prayer that, despite the opposition of the powers of darkness, the congregation of believers will be empowered to witness boldly. Their prayer is heard, and they are filled with the Spirit for ministry. Empowered by the Spirit, they set out to proclaim the gospel boldly.

As already noted, Luke uses his Acts of the Apostles as a manual on how to do church, with the how to do focused on Jesus' instruction, "you will be (and you will be able to be) my witnesses ...... to the ends of the earth." Here again, in this episode, Luke focuses on the business of church. Yes, it is in conflict with religious and secular authorities, as was Jesus, but this can never hinder God's will when it comes to the communication of the gospel. The business of church is the communication of the gospel, and to this end it will be divinely empowered. From Luke's perspective, the means of endowment for mission is prayer - like Jesus, the early church is in constant communication with God.

Obviously, Luke wasn't present to hear the prophetic word delivered on this occasion. As Dunn notes, "Luke is using the liberty of a dramatic historian, not attempting to act as a modern archivist". None-the-less, Luke may well be working off a model prayer commonly used in worship in the early church, a prayer that may well have its roots in the early days of the Jerusalem fellowship. There is the possibility that prayers found in the OT may have influenced the shape of this model, cf., Hezekiah's prayers, Isa.37:16-20, 2Kgs.19:15-19.

It is interesting to note that the prayer / prophetic word is directed to God, rather than Jesus, with Jesus identified as God's servant through whom God works. It is a word of praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging God's sovereignty, wisdom and counsel, and concluding with a petition, invoking "God's support for the coming need to proclaim the Christian message with boldness and courage", Fitzmyer.


v] Homiletics: Going on with the gospel

In Australia, during the 2022 Victorian State election, the Premier, Daniel Andrews, took an Anglican church to task over what he perceived as their socially regressive views, such as their opposition to abortion and gay sex. Mind you, this opposition was identified by a journalist who found two published sermons on the subject over the last seven year, so the church certainly didn't have a fetish on these social issues. In the furore, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Rev. Peter Comensoli, spoke out to make the point that the sanctity of life and sex within heterosexual marriage, are fundamental beliefs for the Christian church. Mr. Andrews, a professed Roman Catholic, but also a champion for WOKE Australia (those of the political left focused on social injustice and discrimination), did not apologise.

In this age of affluence (fading affluence??), generation X+ is abandoning the Christian foundations of Western civilisation for the equity of equality. The Christian church is increasingly viewed as a regressive social institution. The march to marginalise Christianity does not bode well for Western culture, but for the church itself, being marginalised and oppressed is nothing new. Of course, the temptation we face is that we adjust our beliefs to retain acceptance in the wider community, but there is no sanctity in syncretism.

Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, would have us note the way the Christian fellowship in Jerusalem reacted to the incarceration and inquisition of Peter and John. They recognised the sovereignty of God and thanked him for providing an opportunity for gospel proclamation in the context of oppression. To this they prayed that they too, with Peter and John, might be enabled to proclaim the gospel. And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and went forth proclaiming the gospel with boldness.

And may it be so for us.

Text - 4:23

The believers join in prayer, v23-31: i] The apostles make their report, v23. Peter and John return proV touV idiouV, "to their own", to report, presumably to the Christian fellowship, but possible to the other apostles. Of course, touV idouV may even be "their own place / home", but this is unlikely.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

apoluqenteV (apoluw) pres. pas. part. "on [their release]" - having been released [they came toward the own = their own]. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, "When they were released", ESV.

o{sa pro. "[reported] all that" - [and told, reported] as much as = what things. Introducing a headless relative clause expressing what was reported.

proV + acc. "to [them]" - [the chief priests and the elders said] toward [them]. The preposition is used here instead of a dative of indirect object.


Those present, on hearing the report, burst into praise with a prophetic word that exegetes the apostles' experience and seeks to progress it for those present.

oiJ de "-" - but/and they. Transitional construction, indicating a change in subject from Peter and John to the congregation of believers.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when they heard this" - having heard [they lifted up in one accord the = their voice toward god and said]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal. The presence of the article oiJ may indicate that it serves as a substantive, "the ones having heard", but this is unlikely.


ii] A prophetic word / prayer, v24b-30. a) Ascription to God, v24b. Addressing a prayer to God is reflected in other prayers in Acts, cf., 14:15, 17:24. Addressing God as creator reflects a pattern of prayers found throughout the scriptures, cf., Isa.37:16.

su pro. "you" - [master,] you. Vocative, standing in apposition to "Master".

oJ poihsaV (poiew) aor. part. "made" - the one having made [the heaven and the earth and the sea]. If we take the pronoun su, "you", as a substantive, then the articular participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "you"; "you who made the heavens ......." If we assume a verb to-be, then the articular participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative of the verb to-be; "you are the one who made ....."

ta "-" - [and all = everything] the [in them]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in them" into an attributive modifier of the adjective "all", which serves as a substantive, direct object of the participle "having made"; "and everything which is in them."


b) Scriptural underpinning, v25-26. The "rage / arrogance" and "emptiness" of the secular city, in its confrontation (paristhmi, "to take a stand", kata, "against") with God's messiah, is revealed in the inspired words of David, words guided by the Holy Spirit.

oJ ... eipwn (legw) aor. part. "you spoke" - the one having spoken. Coordinate with the participle oJ poihsaV, "having made", v24, so either adjectival, attributive, limiting "you", "you who spoke ...", or as a substantive, predicate nominative of an assumed verb to-be, "you are the one who spoke."

dia + gen. "by [the Holy Spirit]" - through [the holy spirit]. Instrumental, expressing agency.

stomatoV (a atoV) gen. "through the mouth" - of the mouth [of david, of servant of you]. The function of the genitive is unclear. It may assume an instrumental dia, or serve as a genitive of means, as NIV, or it may be adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the means by which God has spoken through the Holy Spirit, ie., in the Psalm of David 2:1; "who spoke through the Holy Spirit in the words of our ancestor David", Barclay. The genitive proper "David" is adjectival, possessive, and the genitive "servant of you / your servant" stands in apposition to "David".

inativ "Why" - why [did the nations rage and the people imagine empty things]? Crasis, iJna tiv, "for what reason, why?"


thV ghV (h) gen. "of the earth" - [the kings] of the earth [stand beside = took a stand]. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / subordination, "over the earth." "The kings of the earth prepare for war", CEV.

epi + acc. "[band] together" - [and the rulers gathered together] upon = at [the it = the same place]. Spatial. Culy notes that the phrase epi to auto virtually means "together", and is somewhat redundant given the sun prefix of the verb "to gather together." "The leaders have assembled themselves in the one place", Cassirer.

kata + gen. "against" - against [the lord and] against [the christ]. Here expressing opposition.

autou "his [anointed one]" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / relational, as NIV, or verbal, subjective, "against him whom he has anointed", Cassirer, ie., the Messiah, Jesus.


c) Fulfilment, v27-28. In fulfilment of the messianic Psalm of David, the "nations" (Gentiles = Rome), "the peoples" (the people of Israel), and "the kings, rulers" (Herod and Pilate) sunhcqhsan, "gathered together = plotted / united together ", epi "against", God's Holy One, and yet, inevitably, what happened was nothing more than what God had foreordained. Even in the rage of the secular city, God's will is fulfilled - they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause; introducing an explanation of the Psalm.

ep (epi) + acc. "indeed" - upon [truth]. The preposition here is adverbial, turning the noun "truth" into an adverb, "truly". The phrase ep alhqeiaV is idiomatic, used a number of times by Luke.

te kai "and" - both [herod] and [pontius pilate]. Forming a correlative construction; "both .... and ...."

sun + dat. "with [the Gentiles]" - with [the nations and the people of israel in this city]. Expressing accompaniment / association. Culy classifies the proper genitive Israhl, "of Israel", as a genitive of identification.

epi + acc. "[to conspire] against" - [gathered together = plotted] upon = against [the holy servant of you, jesus whom you anointed as messiah]. Here expressing opposition. It is unclear why Luke has used epi here to express opposition instead of kata found in the quote in v26 - probably just stylistic.


poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "they did" - to do. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, modifying the verb "to gather together"; "they were gathered together ....... in order to do ...."

o{sa pro. "what" - as much as = whatever [the hand of you and the will of you]. The pronoun introduces a headless relative clause object of the infinitive "to do"; "to do to your anointed one all that (whatever) your might and purpose had already decided to do."

prowrisen (proorizw) aor. "decided beforehand" - decided beforehand, predestined, foreordained. Barrett says of this verb that "Luke is thinking not of a general determinism, but of the special disclosures of God's purpose in the story of Jesus", so Barth, so similar to prokataggellw, "to foretell", 3:18, 7:52, 13:24. Yet, we are on safer ground if we assume that Luke is stressing the exercise of God's sovereign will in the events. "Peter has expressed the confidence that God is able to carry out his purpose even through rebellious human beings who do not accept his revealed will", Peterson D.

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "should happen" - to do. Object of the verb "to decide" / dependent statement of perception expressing what was decided, namely, "that all this should happen."


d) Petition, v29-30. Just as the secular city was gathered against God's paida, "servant", the messiah, so it is gathered against God's douloiV, "servants", the Christian community. Just as God's "servant" was empowered to proclaim the gospel, so may God's "servants" be empowered to proclaim. The first part of the petition opens with the imperative "look upon", in the sense of "concern yourself with", ie., take note of the situation we have here where the powers of darkness are aligning, as evidenced in the apeilaV, "threats", of the Sanhedrin. Then comes the request for action, namely that God empower his people for witness in the midst of their threats.

kai ta nun "Now" - and the now. This construction is only found in Acts and twice in the LXX. Culy suggests that it serves to introduce the main point.

autwn gen. pro. "their [threats]" - [lord, look upon the threats] of them. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "their threats", or verbal, subjective, "the threats which are made by them."

toiV douloiV (oV) dat. "[enable your] servants" - [and give] the servants [of you]. Dative of indirect object.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to speak" - to say [the word of you]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what they want God to doV, "give" = do for them, namely, "to boldly speak the word." "Make us brave enough to speak your message", CEV. The "word / message" is obviously the gospel.

meta + gen. "with [great boldness]" - with [all boldness]. The preposition is adverbial here, turning "all boldness" into an adverb of manner, modifying the infinitive "to speak "; "to speak boldly", "fearlessly and freely to speak your word", Barclay.


The Greek in this verse is awkward and leads to a variety of interpretations. Presumably, the verse is controlled by the verb doV, "to give", from v29, so providing a second element to the congregation's prayer. As in v29, an infinitive introduces a dependent statement of cause expressing what the congregation wants God to give them, but there are two infinitives. The first infinitive ekteinein, "to stretch out", seems the likely suspect, but it stands with en tw/, a construction which usually introduces a temporal clause. This temporal clause may stand with the first request, that God give / enable them to proclaim the gospel "while you stretch out your hand for healings", or the second request. The intended sense is not clear. The second clause, introduced by a coordinate kai, is controlled by the second infinitive ginesqai, "to become", and it is likely that it is this infinitive which serves to form the second dependent statement of cause expressing what the congregation wants God to give them, namely, "to become" = "the ability to perform" signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.

However we handle the two infinitives in v30, and the en tw/ construction, Luke's point is simple enough; in v29 the gathered congregation (apostles??) ask that God doV, "give", to them the ability to stand against the bluff and bluster of darkness and proclaim the gospel boldly without compromise. Now, in v29, they ask that God, while powerfully intervening, gives to them the ability to perform miracles through the name of his Holy Servant Jesus. See above, Signs and Wonders in Acts

en tw/ + inf. "-" - in the [to stretch out the hand of you]. Introducing a temporal clause, contemporaneous time. The presence of numerous variants indicates the confusion caused by the opening clause.

eiV + acc. "to [heal]" - into = for [healing]. Here the preposition is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to heal."

ginesqai (ginomai) pres. inf. "perform" - [and] to become [signs and wonders]. Introducing an object clause (object of the verb doV, "to give", v29) / dependent statement of cause expressing what the congregation wants God to give them.

dia + gen. "through [the name]" - through [the name of the holy servant of you]. Instrumental, expressing means. The prepositions vary with this phrase: epi, "upon" = based upon the authority of Jesus; en, "in" = on / by the authority of Jesus; and here an instrumental dia, "by means of / through", the authority of Jesus. The standout is "baptized into (eiV) the name of Jesus."

Ihsou (oV) "Jesus" - jesus. Genitive standing in apposition to "of you."


iii] Filled for proclamation, v31. As on the day of Pentecost, the infilling of the Spirit has a physical manifestation (here the topoV, "place", was shaken), and a prophetic manifestation (the logon, the divine mystery / the gospel, is proclaimed "boldly"). Presumably, those present spill out from where they are meeting to engage with those nearby. Luke hasn't told us exactly who they are, or where they are.

dehqentwn (deomai) gen. aor. pas. part. "after [they] prayed" - [and they] having prayed. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "they", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

h\san sunhgmenoi (sunagw) perf. mid. part. "where they were meeting" - [the place in which] they having been assembled [was shaken]. The perfect participle with the imperfect verb to-be forms a periphrastic pluperfect construction, possibly emphasising durative aspect.

tou ... pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "with the [Holy] Spirit" - [and everyone was filled] of the [holy] spirit. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / content, as NIV.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - [and they were speaking the word] of god. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic, "the word which is pertaining to God", or verbal, objective, "the word which God reveals", or ablative, source / origin, "the word from God." Either way, the sense is clear enough.

meta + gen. "boldly" - with [boldness]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modifying the imperfect verb "they were speaking", as NIV.


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]