5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:5-12 ESV
Peter and John have been arrested by the Jewish council or Sanhedrin. This official, governmental group served as both the senate and supreme court of the Jews. It was presided over by the high priest and contained 70 men who were either Sadducees or Pharisees. The high priest and the majority of the members of the council were Sadducees, who were from the more aristocratic cast, and represented the more orthodox point of view, while the Pharisees were considered lay leaders who were of a more liberal bent theologically. Peter and John would have been fully aware of who it was who had arrested them and the kind of trouble they could be in. According to the Mosaic Law, the Sanhedrin had the right to question them regarding their activities in Solomon’s Portico the previous day. They had performed a sign, a healing of the lame man. They had also had used this sign as an opportunity to teach the people. According to Deuteronomy 13:1-5, there were official instructions regarding such cases.
1 “Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, 2 and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— 3 do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. 4 Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. 5 The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.”
What Peter and John were on trial for was heresy. There was no question that they had performed a miracle, but they had claimed that they had done it in the name of Jesus.
“Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.” – Acts 3:16 NLT
And Peter had made it perfectly clear the day before that this Jesus had been the servant of God.
“People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.” – Acts 3:12-13 NLT
Not only that, Peter had referred to Jesus as holy and righteous, and of having been raised back to life by God Himself. In doing so, God had confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah.
God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah… – Acts 2:18 NLT
As we saw yesterday, there are a number of points found in Peter’s address to the crowd that sat wrong with the Sadducees. First of all, they didn’t believe in the concept of a bodily resurrection. They also rejected the idea of a literal, human Messiah. And then, there was the problem of Peter announcing that Jesus, the very man the Jewish council had conspired to have put to death, was alive. The last thing they needed or wanted was for rumors to spread that Jesus was alive and well. On top of that, the thought of the disciples of Jesus stirring up trouble in their own city, preaching a message of repentance and salvation through this dead man, Jesus, was more than they could take. So, they asked Peter and John, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” This was not the first time the Sanhedrin had been forced to ask this question. The gospels record an encounter that Jesus had with this very same council some time earlier, during His earthly ministry. Jesus had just cleansed the Temple, having turned over the tables of the money changers and those selling pigeons. Matthew records:
14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” – Matthew 21:14-15 NLT
And the following day, when Jesus entered the Temple grounds, the Sanhedrin approached him and asked, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matthew 21:23 NLT). Jesus had refused to answer their question, but Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, spoke up boldly and authoritatively.
“Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.” – Acts 4:9-10 NLT
Peter knew exactly what he was saying and to whom he was saying it. Rather than carefully craft his words and give the politically correct answer that might defuse the situation, he spoke the truth. If they wanted to know by what authority he had healed the lame man, he was going to let them know. And he knew it was not what they wanted to hear. Peter had been an eye-witness to the trials of Jesus. He had even betrayed Jesus in the most difficult moments of His life. He had wept over the reality that His friend, mentor and Messiah was dead. But he had also seen the empty tomb with his own eyes and spoken face to face with Jesus in His resurrected form. On top of that, He had stood and watched as Jesus physically ascended into the clouds. And just before that had happened, he had heard Jesus say these words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
So, if they wanted to know by what authority he did these things, Peter was more than willing to give them an answer. But Peter tells them more than they wanted to hear. Not only was Jesus the authority behind what they had done and said, He was “the stone that you builders rejected” (Acts 4:11 NLT). These men before whom Peter and John stood, were to be the religious leaders and spiritual guides to the people of Israel. But they had rejected the very one whom God had sent. Jesus, whom God had sent as the cornerstone of the spiritual nation of Israel, had been tossed aside by those who claimed to be the shepherds of Israel. Peter is quoting from Psalm 118, a Messianic psalm that predicts the coming of the Messiah. But these “builders” had refused to incorporate the “stone” that God had sent. They were attempting to build a spiritual house without using the key ingredient, the chief cornerstone. And the Sanhedrin would have known the entire context of the Psalm 118 passage Peter quoted.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:22-24 NLT
They had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, have put Him to death. But God had restored Him to life and this was cause for rejoicing. And it was more than enough reason for Peter having done and said what he did. He had all the authority he needed.
Jesus was gone, but His influence remained. Peter claimed that there was great power in the name of Jesus. And it was by His name that the lame man had been healed. It was in the power of Jesus’ name that Peter and John had spoken to the people. It was according to Jesus’ name that God was offering salvation to any and all who would accept it.
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12 NLT
Peter presented the gospel, the good news regarding Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, had come to earth, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death in the place of sinful men, and was raised back to life, having satisfied the just demands of His Holy Father, paying the penalty due for the sins of mankind. Because of what He had done, Jesus had all authority to rescue men and women from captivity to sin and death. And He had passed that authority on to His disciples. He had sent His Spirit to indwell them. He had commissioned them to spread the message of salvation through belief in His name to any and all who would listen. And we know that, because of Peter’s message the day before, “the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000” (Acts 4:4 NLT).
The name of Jesus carries weight. It wield authority. It has power. Jesus had made a startling promise to His disciples.
12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14 NLT
And now it was all taking place. They were discovering the remarkable reality that there is no other name that matters but Jesus.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.