Acts 4:1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.
Peter and John were not approved preachers, and were not preaching an approved message. As a result, they were arrested and brought out the following day, to appear before the Jewish high court. This was the same court that condemned Jesus Christ, so their odds of getting a fair trial were not very good. And yet, Peter was fearless.
Acts 4:11 [Jesus is] the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.
With this sentence, Peter turned the accusers into the accused. If the entire court was present, there may have been over seventy of the most powerful people in the nation, whom Peter was accusing. They were the religious builders who rejected God’s Messiah—the cornerstone of their religion.
Peter was a Galilean fisherman, with an unrefined accent, who had not been to college. But he heard Jesus apply this verse to himself. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Matthew 21:42). This is a direct quote from the Old Testament (Psalm 118:22), which the religious leaders knew well.
Imagine builders going to a quarry and passing over a stone they considered unworthy of their project. But in the providence of God, the stone the builders rejected became the most important one in their building. That is what happened when they rejected God’s Messiah. Peter quoted this verse to say, in effect, The Bible said you would do this. With a single verse of Scripture, Peter condemned the entire high court—and they knew it.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
Peter was giving the high court an ultimatum. There was no other way for them to be saved, except to believe in the one they had killed. This, no doubt, offended them, and offends many today. What about Moses, Muhammad, Buddha and Krishna? Those are big names in the world of religion.
To get along in the world, Peter should have known that we should not be too exclusive. Instead of saying that Jesus is the only way to God, we might want to say he is a good way to God, a great way to God, or even the best way to God.
But then, of course, we would have to deny Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6), he said. The offensive thing about Christianity is that it’s the only way to be saved. The amazing thing about Christianity is that it is the way to be saved.
On 9/11 (2001), six hundred people died on the floors above where a plane collided with the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Most were unaware of a stairway leading down to the street, by which only eighteen people made their escape. Of those eighteen, not a single one complained there was no other way to be saved. They were just glad they found a way.
Furthermore, those who are offended by the exclusiveness of Christianity should consider the inclusiveness of Jesus Christ. [W]hoever comes to me I will never drive away (John 6:37), he said. This includes thieves, addicts, murderers, blasphemers, liars, gossips and cheats. Jesus will take anyone who is willing to take him. Christianity is an exclusive religion, but Jesus Christ is an inclusive Savior.
Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
A couple fisherman, empowered by the Spirit, put the court to silence. [T]here was nothing they could say (Acts 4:14), wrote Luke. This was also foretold by Jesus Christ. [W]hen they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:19-20).
This is truly remarkable. God was speaking to the leaders, through the apostles, and was telling them how to be saved. They killed God’s Son, but God was inviting them to repent and be forgiven. God also speaks to us, through the apostles, and we too must decide how to respond. We can die in our sin, or repent and live forever.
Acts 4:16 What are we going to do with these men? they asked. Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.
The court had a problem. They would appear weak if they did nothing at all. But if they overreacted, they could make the situation worse. So they warned the apostles not to teach in Jesus’ name, and let them go. An option they did not consider, it seems, was to admit that they were wrong, and believe in Jesus Christ. That would have cost them everything, but gained them even more. Given the choice between time and eternity, it is surprising how many people choose time.
A rancher took his childhood friend to the middle of his property. Look north, south, east and west, he said. As far as the eye can see in any direction—it’s all mine. Then he clutched his chest and fell over dead. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26), said Jesus. The choice between time and eternity is obvious, but many make the wrong choice anyway.
Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The main theme of the apostles’ preaching was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus rose from the dead, everything he taught is true. Everything he taught about God, life, heaven, hell, salvation and the Bible is certainly true if Jesus rose from the dead. We know that Jesus rose from the dead because we have eyewitness testimony in the gospels, but also because we can know him ourselves.
Suppose you wanted to meet a certain celebrity, but you were not sure he was still alive. Your research said he was, but you wanted to know for yourself. So you went to his house, and saw that his name was still on the mailbox. Then you knocked on the door, and his housekeeper said he was home. Then you heard him talking on the phone in another room.
The name on the mailbox, the word of the housekeeper, and the voice in the other room were all good evidence the celebrity was still alive. But when he came to the door and shook your hand, all the other evidence became less important, because you met him personally. That is how it is with Jesus Christ.
When we come to faith in Christ, the Spirit of Christ comes into us, and we know him personally. Then we can say with Paul, I know whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12); not just what I have believed, but whom I have believed. Knowing Christ personally gives boldness to our Christian witness.
Reflection and Review
Is Christianity inclusive or exclusive?
Why didn’t the religious leaders repent?
How do we know that Jesus is alive?