After noting the plot points in the section under consideration, we should note how this particular section of Acts 4 fits into the larger narratives. First, this scene of Peter and John before the counsel fits into a larger section running from Acts 3:1 and ending with 4:35.
The scene in chapter 3 begins with Peter and John coming to the temple to pray. They meet a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. The beggar hopes to receive alms. Peter tells the man what he does not have (“silver and gold”) but he also makes an offer:
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
Acts 3:6 (ESV). If the close of the extended is 4:35, there is an interesting parallel concerning wealth, because 4:32-35 concerns the distribution of wealth throughout the church. If the section ends with 4:31, it closes with prayer. Acts 3 begins with the apostles going to prayer and having no wealth.
The man having been healed in the name of Jesus, a crowd gathers. Peter preaches a Gospel sermon “proved” by the power of Jesus in healing this man and the power of God in raising Jesus:
15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Acts 3:15–16 (ESV).
Chapter 4 then begins with the power of the state in arresting and trying Peter and John. Luke parenthetically points to the power of the Word of God:
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
Acts 4:4 (ESV). The apostles are interrogated concerning the source of the miracle: “By what power or in what name”? Whose authority is at play here?
Peter responds with a quotation from Psalm 118, that Jesus is the cornerstone.
There is then the famous response of Peter concerning God’s authority versus the authority of the state:
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:19–20 (ESV). Having been threatened by the powers that be, Peter and John return to the church.
The church prays: first, a praise to God for his sovereignty even persecution: Jesus was killed by wicked me which was “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27). They then pray for boldness to stand against the threats and persecution.
This section fits within the larger narrative of the primitive church’s growth and Peter’s preaching.
Finally, there is the master narrative set forth in the prologue: Luke was the “beginning” of what Jesus did and taught (Acts 1:2); and Jesus’ programmatic statement for Acts:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8. Jesus will continue to work and teach, but it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit and it will be through the witness of these disciples. The events of Acts 3 & 4 are further examples of how Jesus healed a man; how the disciples were witnesses to Jesus; and how this was done through the work of the Spirit (Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit’).
In doing this, we are still at the observation stage of our work. We note the major plot points of a section. We then note the general themes of the section and how these look compared to the larger narrative(s).
Pingback: How Narratives Work, Part III | memoirandremains