5] And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6] as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7] And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
8] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9] If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made whole, 10] let it be know to you all, 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 stands here before you whole. 11] This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12] Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13] Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14] And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15] But when they had command them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16] saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, a notable miracle has been done through them, and we cannot deny it. 17] But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
18] So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
Chapter 4 divides into three sections: the detention of Peter and John, vs. 1-4; their defense, vs. 5-20; their dismissal, vs. 21-23. In the post today, we see that Peter and John have been arrested and we enter the courtroom where they are being questioned.
1. The Court, vs. 5-7.
a. The Council, vs. 5, 6. In the providence of God, it seems the whole rulership of the Jews was gathered at Jerusalem, perhaps still the result of Passover and Pentecost. In this court, as it turned out, there was a confrontation of those who said they were the rulers of the Jews – and they were, and those who claimed to represent the King of the Jews. The contrast must have been startling. On the one hand – power, wealth, influence, position. On the other hand, three men, one dressed in beggar’s rags, all of them dirty and disheveled from a night in a prison where “criminal rights” were still a fantasy of the far distant future.
b. The Question, v. 7. Our Lord faced a similar question in Matthew 21:23, perhaps from some of the same fellows. There is more to that incident than might appear on the surface. Controversy had raged over whether or not the Lord Jesus was doing miracles by demonic power, cf. Matthew 12:24. If such in any way could have been proven, He would have been discredited before the people and the rulers would have had legitimate and Scriptural ground to execute. Indeed, they would have been obligated to do so.
Something of the same holds true here. The word translated “power” is “dunamis,” from which we get the words, “dynamic,” “dynamo,” “dynamite.” It refers to power to get the job done. If “magic,” that is, demonic power, had entered into this man’s healing, it would have been a capital crime, worthy of death.
I wonder if something else might not also be here. After all, these two men were nobodies: uneducated and untrained. They weren’t the first to run afoul of the authorities, and they weren’t the last. History flows with the blood of martyrs who were outside the “official” church. I do respect the Reformers and, considering the times they lived in and the corrupt church they left, am surprised they did as much as they did. At the same time, I wish they would have gone all the way back to the New Testament instead of stopping with the early church fathers.
2. The Confession, vs. 8-12.
Peter acknowledged that the healing of the lame man was the reason he and John were before the council. However, he denies that they themselves healed the man, giving a three-fold answer as to who had performed the healing. In each answer, there is a difference between seems to be and what actually is. Each answers revolves around Jesus Christ.
a. The Risen Christ, v. 10. 3:12 echoes here: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently on us, as though by our power or godliness we had made this man walk?” Peter refused any credit before the crowd, and he refuses any credit before the rulers. The crucified, risen “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” In this description of the Lord, Peter offers positive proof of the resurrection. The “name” of an ordinary executed criminal would have had no such power. Peter did not say, “We serve (the memory of) Jesus and we did it,” but rather, by Him (that is, Jesus) this man stands here before you whole. He did it, not us!
b. The Resurgent Christ, v. 11. I admit this word also means “risen,” but it seems to me to convey much more than just that Jesus rose from the dead. He didn’t just “barely” rise from the dead; He rose in complete triumph over sin, death, hell and the grave! He conquered them, not just escaped from them!
By crucifying the Lord, the rulers, including at least Annas and Caiaphas, had vehemently rejected the claims of Jesus as to His Person – Deity – and to His office – Messiah, or Christ, Matthew 27:41-43. The Resurrection vindicated those claims, cf. Romans 1:1-4. Even though Romans hadn’t been written yet, Peter did know this truth, Acts 5:29-32.
This exaltation of Christ was prophesied in Psalm 110:22-24 and Isaiah 28:16. After rebuking the chief priests and elders for their refusal to listen to Him, Jesus quoted Psalm 118 and it’s telling truth that their rejection of Him would only further God’s purpose of redemption.
Psalm 118:22, 23 is a clear example of the truth that NT truth is hinted at, though never revealed in the OT. In Ephesians 2:29, after telling the Ephesian believers that they have been included in the people of God, Paul wrote, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…, emphasis added.
So it seemed to the rulers of Israel that this Galilean interloper had finally been silenced. In truth, Peter told them, the fulfillment of all God’s promises and purpose rests in and upon Him, and even one’s eternal standing before God, as the Lord Himself taught in Matthew 21:44, hinges on this Crucified, Risen One, a truth which Peter emphasized as he continues to speak.
c. the Redeeming Christ, v. 12. Little did the chief priests, scribes, and elders realize the truth of what they said as they mocked the crucified Lord, “He saved others…,” Matthew 27:411, 42. Peter said the same thing. There are two thoughts in what he said.
1. Christ is the particular Redeemer. Peter said it twice, “There is not any other, there is no other” Savior. In this day of diversity and “inclusiveness,” this is not a welcome idea. If the idea is even accepted that we need to be saved, there are any number of ways, of saviors, to get us into heaven. So it is said. Peter said otherwise. So did our Lord. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me,” John 14:6, emphases added. There will be an enormous multitude at the Last Day who will find out to their everlasting dismay and loss that they’ve been lied to by their priest, teacher, prophet, preacher, imam, holy man, guru or whatever. There is only one way into heaven: faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. “He saved others.” There are no other “saviors”.
2. Christ is a personal Savior. Peter said, “…we must be saved” He included himself. In some circles, there is a vigorous debate about “the extent of the atonement,” which is not our purpose to enter into in this post. In the matter of our salvation, that discussion is irrelevant. By faith, the true believer is able to say, in wonder, “Christ died for me.” That is the only “extent” which really matters. Salvation has always been “one-on-one:” Christ dying in the place and for the sins of the individual sinner; the individual sinner accepted, forgiven and restored in and because of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Psalmist exclaimed,
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10.
That’s because He dealt with the Lord Jesus according to them.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.