By Gregg Bing
Shortly after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer and found a lame man begging at the temple gate. Peter fixed his eyes on the man and said, “Look at us.” The helpless man looked up expecting to receive a gift, and Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Peter then took him by the hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. He leaped up, stood and walked into the temple with them. When the people in the temple saw this man, whom they knew to be lame, walking and praising God, they “were filled with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:1-11).
Peter, seeing their astonished reaction, refused to take credit for the miracle, declaring that this man was healed by the power and name of Jesus of Nazareth, saying: “His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16).
This was the very Man the Jews had rejected and condemned to death, but He was more than just a Man. Jesus was the Holy One, the Just One, the very Son of God. The people of Israel, with lawless hands, had “killed the Prince of Life,” but God raised Him from the dead. (Acts 3:12-16). Peter acknowledged that these Jews, as well as their rulers, had done this wicked deed in ignorance, reiterating what Jesus prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The Old Testament prophets had foretold that the Christ, the One anointed by God to be Israel’s King, would have to suffer and die before He could take the throne (1 Pet. 1:10-11). With the death of Jesus, the sufferings of the Christ were now fulfilled (Acts 3:18), making it possible for Israel’s promised kingdom to be established. However, this could only happen if the nation, including their rulers, would repent (lit. change their minds) about Jesus Christ and acknowledge their sin in crucifying Him.
Peter, using the keys of the kingdom given to Him by the Lord Jesus (Matt. 16:18-19), promised that if they repented, God would send Jesus Christ back from heaven to establish their long awaited kingdom and times of refreshing and restoration would come from His presence (Acts 3:19-21). How would these Jews respond to this kingdom offer, particularly the religious leaders who had been so adamant in their opposition to Jesus?
Responses of the Jews (Acts 4:1-4)
While Peter and John were still speaking, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, “greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:1-2). Why were they so upset? To begin with, they were bothered that Peter and John intruded into a role they felt was theirs, teaching the people. However, the thing that most incited these religious men against Peter and John is that they taught in the name of Jesus, the very Man the rulers had recently condemned as a blasphemer. Furthermore, Peter and John preached that God had raised Jesus from the dead and that they were witnesses of this fact. Talk of Jesus’ resurrection unsettled these men; the empty tomb and the testimony of those who had seen Him alive provided compelling evidence that Jesus was risen and that His claims of deity were true. This was particularly upsetting to the priests and Sadducees who “say there is no resurrection” (Matt. 22:23).
The rulers laid hold of Peter and John and immediately took them into custody. The council would not interrogate them until the next day, but clearly they wanted to put a stop to Peter and John’s teaching and influence over the Jewish multitudes, and with good reason.
The Jewish people who saw the miracle and heard the words of Peter and John reacted very differently than their religious leaders. “Many who heard the Word believed” and another 2000 people were saved that day, bringing the total number of new believers in Jerusalem to 5000 (Acts 4:4). Here we see the power of God’s Word unto salvation, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Interrogation by the Rulers (Acts 4:5-7)
The next day, the Jewish rulers gathered to question Peter and John. Prominent among those present were members of the family of the high priest, including Annas the high priest and his son-in-law Caiaphas, who had condemned Jesus to death. They set Peter and John in their midst and asked them how they had healed the lame man, specifically, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
This question was not a genuine inquiry to know the truth, but an attempt to find a charge they could bring against Peter and John, whom the rulers already deemed to be guilty because of their association with Jesus. These self-righteous men persisted in their unbelief and rejection of Jesus; He was nothing but a source of trouble to them.
Peter’s Testimony (Acts 4:8-12)
When Peter and John were taken into custody the previous night, they knew what the Jewish rulers would question them about, and they had all night to prepare an answer. However, they must have remembered what Jesus told them in His discourse on the Mount of Olives: “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” (Mark 13:11). Therefore, when questioned by the rulers, Peter stood and allowed the Holy Spirit to testify to these men through him.
Peter respectfully addressed his remarks to these “rulers of the people and elders of Israel,” but he questioned why they were now being judged for “a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well.” How was performing such a good deed against the law?
These hard-hearted men had done the same thing when Jesus healed people, particularly on the Sabbath. They completely ignored that healing a man’s infirmity was a good work, and focused instead on the fact that Jesus had done it on the Sabbath day. Jesus had not broken the commandment of God, but He had transgressed the religious traditions of the Jews. This is why Jesus upbraided them with these words: “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:23-24).
Peter took this opportunity to answer their question, an answer he wanted to be made known “to you all, and to all the people of Israel.” He then gave one of the most powerful testimonies concerning Jesus Christ found in the Scriptures, a testimony that addressed four important truths about Him.
1) The Person of Jesus Christ
Peter declared 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” (Acts 4:10). Peter’s testimony in the temple focused on the name of Jesus Christ; the rulers’ question centered on this same issue, “by what name.” Now, Peter boldly asserted that this man was made completely well by the name of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus” is His earthly name. It means “Jehovah saves” and was given to Him by God through the angel Gabriel, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
The title “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” It means “the Anointed One,” anointed by God to be Israel’s Prophet, Priest, and King. The Jewish leaders acknowledged the Old Testament promises of a coming Messiah, but they rejected Jesus as that Messiah.
Peter added the qualifier “of Nazareth” to ensure there was no question about whom he meant. These haughty rulers looked down on anyone from the small, insignificant city of Nazareth; they would have asked the same question posed by Nathanael, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Peter then brought an indictment against Israel’s leaders, identifying Jesus, the Christ, as the One “whom you crucified.” Jesus was “a Man attested by God” to Israel and her leaders “by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in their midst,” as they themselves knew (Acts 2:22). Yet, they had rejected the testimony of Jesus’ miracles, the wisdom and power of His words, as well as the numerous prophecies of the Christ that were fulfilled in Him. In doing so, they bore out what Jesus had earlier told them, “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:47).
Peter followed this indictment against them with the assertion that “God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 4:10). It was God’s determined will that Jesus die, but “it was not possible that He should be held by it,” so God raised Him up, “having loosed the pains of death” (Acts 2:24). How the rulers and elders of Israel, especially the Sadducees, must have hated this testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, for it was evidence that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32-36).
2) The Power of Jesus Christ
The rulers had asked “by what power” Peter and John had healed the lame man. Peter answered, “By Him (Jesus Christ of Nazareth) this man stands before you whole.” Jesus had the power within Himself to heal completely, to give “perfect soundness” (Acts 3:16) in both mind and body, and He demonstrated this throughout His ministry (Matt. 4:23-24).
This was the power of Israel’s Christ. One of the blessings Israel would experience in their promised kingdom was physical healing (Isa. 35:5-6). Jesus’ power to heal demonstrated His authority as their rightful King. When disciples of John the Baptist were sent to Jesus, asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:21-22).
3) The Prophecy of Jesus Christ
Peter then reminded the rulers of a Psalm containing a prophecy about the Christ, a prophecy which begins, “The stone which the builders rejected …” (Psalm 118:22), but Peter reworded the prophecy to indicate that it was fulfilled when the Jewish rulers rejected and crucified Jesus. Peter actually said of Jesus, “This is the Stone which was rejected by YOU builders” (Acts 4:11).
The week before His death, Jesus applied this same prophecy to this same group of Jewish rulers. He told them the parable of the landowner who leased his vineyard out to a group of wicked vinedressers. These vinedressers eventually killed the landowner’s son, thinking they could then seize his inheritance. When Jesus questioned the rulers about what the landowner would do with these vinedressers, they rightly answered, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons” (Matt. 21:41).
Jesus then quoted Psalm 118:22, asking them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone … ?” He warned them that “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). The rulers perceived that Jesus was talking about them, but sadly their hearts remained hardened and “they sought to lay hands on Him” (Matt. 21:46).
By putting Jesus to death, the Jews unwittingly fulfilled what God’s hand and God’s purpose “determined before to be done” (Acts 4:28). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished God’s eternal purpose of redemption for fallen men (Eph. 3:11), and thus He became “the Chief Cornerstone,” the critical foundation stone of God’s purpose for His earthly people, Israel (1 Pet. 2:4-10), and for His heavenly people, the Church the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:19-22).
4) The Purpose of Jesus Christ
Peter concluded his testimony about Jesus Christ by declaring, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Act 4:12). Here, Peter relates to them God’s purpose in Jesus Christ—to provide salvation. What type of salvation did Peter have in mind? Our first thought is individual salvation, in which sinners are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary. At that time, this salvation was limited to the Jews only, but it would later be opened up to Gentiles as well.
There is another salvation that was in view at that time as well, a national salvation for Israel. Paul later spoke of this in his letter to the Romans: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'” (Rom. 11:26-27). This salvation, as we mentioned earlier, was dependent on the repentance of all Israel.
Both of these types of salvation are found only in Jesus Christ and not in any other, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Notice, once again, the emphasis on the “name” of Jesus Christ. His wonderful name was the key to salvation for the Jews at that time. Jesus certainly died for their sins to redeem them and reconcile them to God, a truth actually prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 53:1-12), yet this truth was not initially preached to the Jews, either by Jesus or by the twelve apostles in the early Acts period. Those 1st century Jews were saved by simply receiving Jesus as the Christ, that is, by believing in His name (John 1:12). John’s gospel was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
There is no other name, there is no other way by which men can be saved, even today. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It was true then, it is still true today. The world may hate this message; people may call it inflexible, intolerant, even hateful, nevertheless, it is the truth. Jesus Christ is the only way “by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The word “must” is the translation of a Greek verb which indicates it is an absolute necessity. If a person is to be saved, it must be through Jesus Christ.
Peter’s testimony to these Jewish rulers was behind closed doors, yet we find Luke’s record of it in the book of Acts, inspired by the Holy Spirit. His words still resonate today and speak to our hearts. Have they spoken to yours?
Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you believe in the person of Jesus, that He is not only Israel’s Christ, but also the very God of glory? Do you believe that He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins? Do you believe that He rose from the dead after three days? Do you trust in Him, and Him alone, to save you and bring you into a relationship with God? In spite of what the world says, in spite of what many religions claim, in spite of what many so-called “Christian” churches teach, there is no other way for you to be saved, except through Him.
You don’t have to try to earn your salvation through your own works. The Scriptures make it clear that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Tit. 3:5). Salvation is the gift of God’s grace, a gift that can only be received by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). If you will hear and believe the wonderful gospel of God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:3-4), you will find eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is “no other name … by which we must be saved.”
Next Issue: We continue this study in Acts 4, looking at the impact of the testimony of Peter and John, the testimony of men who “had been with Jesus.”