Chapter 9: In custody and in court
1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. 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 well, 10 let it be known 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.’
The priests, scribes and religious leaders had opposed Jesus and shouted for His blood.1 Now they approach the apostles with the captain of the temple guard. He is probably hoping for a quiet life on temple duty. He does not want to have his peace shattered. The Sadducees—the anti-resurrection party2—serve with the Pharisees in the Council of Jewish religious leaders.
Although believing in resurrection, they detest the thought of strong and well-attested evidence that Jesus has risen from the dead. They are worried to hear it being preached with authority and conviction as a key part of God’s message of forgiveness through Christ alone.
The priests, temple guard and Sadducees are greatly disturbed this evening to see in their own temple so many listening attentively to the message of forgiveness and new life in the risen Saviour, whom they caused to be crucified. They seize Peter and John and put them in jail for at least an overnight stay. What a day this has been for the apostles!
Five thousand believers
That is a bit like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted! Imprisoning the preachers cannot bind the message they have proclaimed. Many have already heard it. Five thousand men believe in Christ in that Jewish temple. However strong the opposition, people turn to Jesus as Saviour when the good news of His death and resurrection is shared.
Peter proves you can trust Christ’s promise
Speaking of the end times, but relevant to all times, Jesus had warned His disciples ‘But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit’.3
Now two uneducated apostles face the might of the Jerusalem Council, without any legal representation or preparation. The experienced dignitaries gathered there include the high priest, Caiaphas, and his predecessor Annas. John and Alexander, also of high-priestly descent, are also present. This is the Council’s ‘A team’ of biased and hostile interrogators who surround the two Christian men. Their grilling begins with: ‘By what power or by what name have you done this?’ This is the very hour when the apostles need to know that ‘it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit’.4 The promise of Jesus kicks in for them just when they need Him. ‘Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel …’
Still the same clear message
Peter had been ashamed, fearful and cowardly in his earlier denials of Jesus. Now his Spirit-given boldness and clarity mean he is by no means overawed. He knows who his hearers are and is aware of the possible fatal consequences for him and for John. He cleverly points out that the healed man has received a real benefit and has been made well. What crime could that possibly constitute? He then answers directly the question asked. Perhaps, during their night in custody, John and he prayed for such an opportunity to proclaim their Saviour to such needy yet influential people! He says, ‘let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel’. This is no longer the language of an ashamed coward.
Without apology he declares that the man has been healed through the name and power of ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’. But he says more! The two truths they hate to hear are ‘you crucified’ Jesus but ‘God raised [Him] from the dead’. Can you wonder why later their fellow apostle, Paul, tells the Christians at Corinth that the most important twin truths of the gospel are Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures’?5
This is probably only a short summary of how Peter responds. Doubtless he follows the apostles’ practice of pointing out that Jesus died a sacrificial death as the Lamb of God and bore our sins and judgement in His body in our place on that cross. How can he fail to proclaim that God the Father accepted the finished sacrifice of Christ for guilty sinners and showed that was so by raising Him from the dead?
He goes on to present Jesus as the ‘chief corner stone’ in God’s ‘building’ of salvation and forgiveness. Without the crucified and risen Jesus, God’s eternal forgiveness could not be on offer. With Him as our Saviour our certainty of forgiveness is rock solid forever.
If those truths offend the pride and convict the lost religious hearts of those opposing the gospel, there is something else to come! Peter insists that there is no salvation ‘in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ Peter no doubt remembers how Jesus answered Thomas’ question, ‘How can we know the way?’ with His classic and wonderfully dogmatic statement, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’.6
Today, we still need to hear that clearly. So, helped by God, Peter replies honestly and clearly from the heart, from the shoulder, and from the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That is how to present the Christian message. Has ‘the penny dropped’ yet for you, that you must trust Jesus as your Saviour to avoid being lost eternally? You cannot be ‘saved’ otherwise. Do you realise that just as you are included in the whoever in the verse which says ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’, so you are also included in the no one in the verse clarifying that ‘no one comes to the Father except through Me?’7
Questions on Chapter 9
In Custody and in Court—Acts 4:1–12
A. What potential problems do Peter and John face in Acts 4:1–7 and how are they helped to deal with them? How can we be helped in difficult situations of this nature?
Acts 4:1–7, Mark 13:9–11, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 13:5–6, James 1:5
B. Compare Peter’s message here with his other messages so far in Acts. What should be the main focus of our gospel message?
Acts 4:10–12, Acts 2:14–38, Acts 3:12–26, 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 1 Corinthians 2:2
C. Why is it so logical, reasonable and scriptural that a sinner can only be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Acts 4:12, John 14:6, 1 Timothy 1:15, Hebrews 7:25, 1 Corinthians 1:21