Our passage for today is Acts 4:1-22, and you can read the full text at that link. I’ll refer to various verses throughout the post.
Acts 4 continues the events we discussed in chapter 3 so it is useful to familiarise yourself with those first. In summary, Peter and John went to the temple and while there, healed a man who it says was “lame from birth.” This caused something of a stir among the crowds gathered, and Peter seized the opportunity to speak. He did not preach on the topic of healing, as you might expect, but used it to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not Everyone Is Happy To Hear Good News
As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came to them, 2 being upset because they taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.Acts 4:1-2 (WEB)
The “they” in the first line is referring to Peter and John. We see that not all were happy to hear Peter’s message, and the priests and other “religious” leaders were upset by what they were teaching. The word “upset” here is the Greek word – diapomeomai – and I won’t try to pronounce it! It means to be troubled, displeased, or offended, and to the point of being worked up about it. One of the reasons for this would have been the claim that Jesus was the Resurrection, as the Sadducees did not believe in a bodily resurrection.
We believe the message about Jesus to be good news, but there are many who do not. Not everyone will be happy when we share our faith, and as we see in verse 3, they reacted very strongly indeed and arrested Peter and John, holding them in custody overnight.
Yet in the midst of such strong opposition, we see a great number turning to Christ. In fact, we observe more people joining the faith than did on the day of Pentecost!
But many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.Acts 4:4 (WEB)
The next day, you might hope that the religious leaders had had a chance to sleep on things and be a little more reasonable about it. But sadly not!
They gather together all manner of important people, including the high priest and apparently several members of his family (see verses 5-6). It must have been some kind of court hearing, as they bring out Peter and John, and place them in the midst of them all.
When they had stood Peter and John in the middle of them, they inquired, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”Acts 4:7 (WEB)
It is time to begin the questioning… imagine one of your favourite TV legal dramas… The prosecution stands to their feet, gathers their papers, and addresses the witness… and what do they ask? A pretty daft question in my opinion!
They ask Peter and John by what power, or in what name, they have performed this miracle. it is a rather silly question because Peter made it abundantly clear the day before in what name and power he had performed the miracle!
By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.Acts 3:16 (WEB)
The “he” above is Jesus Christ. Had the religious leaders been listening to what Peter was saying in front of them all, they would already have known the answer to this question.
Despite this, and continuing our courtroom example, Peter launches into his own defence, which is really no defence of him at all, but of the Gospel of Christ.
Salvation In No One Else
Verses 8-12 tells us what Peter tells them. He very clearly spells out that they are being “tried” for doing a good deed, which is the healing of this lame man. Peter sets out that the miracle was done in the Name of Jesus, and in that Name this man now stands before them all – whole and healed.
Peter states the facts of the case, but also cites Old Testament Scripture, quoting from Psalm 118 that Jesus was indeed the stone that the builders rejected, and yet He became the Cornerstone.
The pinnacle of Peter’s words is found in verse 12:
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”Acts 4:12 (WEB)
Salvation is found in no one else, and there is indeed no other Name by which we can be saved. Jesus is the One and only way to Heaven, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.
The religious leaders are astonished by Peter’s boldness, which is really inspired by the Holy Spirit (see verse 8). They recognise that these men are not educated in the religious Law, and yet can speak with confidence and effectively witness for Christ. The leaders cannot deny the miracle, which many have seen, yet they do not want this teaching about Christ spread about. They were the ones who killed Him after all!
Sending Peter and John out, they discuss what they can do. They realise they have few options and so, calling them back in, demand that they no longer speak in the Name of Christ.
Whether It Is Right
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves, 20 for we can’t help telling the things which we saw and heard.”Acts 4:19-20 (WEB)
Peter and John now have a choice to make. Do they obey the religious leaders, or do they obey God? Peter responds by putting the ball firmly in their court. Is it right to listen to you or to God, he asks. They have no answer to this at all, only offer further threats. They have no legal recourse and they fear the people who witnessed the miracle.
Under normal circumstances, we are to follow the commands of our leaders and authorities. When those commands directly contradict the Word of God, then we have a choice to make.
In the UK, we are largely able to practice our faith without harassment but things are changing. Christian values are no longer popular, and our Government continues to make ungodly decisions. I praise God for the freedom we have in this nation, and pray it may last. If it does not however, let us boldly proclaim the truth that salvation is found in no one else, no matter the cost.