Two Reactions To The Gospel
This passage is a good example of how people react to the gospel differently. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword divides. Jesus divides. He spoke even of dividing households as some believed in Jesus and some did not. (Matthew 10:34-36)
Here, verse 4 says many heard the word and believed. Another 5,000 people were added to the church. Peter’s sermon was a success and the Holy Spirit’s work was effective.
But, not all believed. Some opposed Peter. As Peter was still speaking, a group of priests, Sadducees and the captain of the temple arrived. (1) They were annoyed at Peter’s preaching the resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. So, they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail overnight.
The next morning, the Sanhedrin was convened. There were rulers, scribes and elders gathered, along with the high priest, Caiaphas, the former high priest (Annas) and his family. Normally the Sandhedrin met with 70 members plus the high priest. This goes all the way back to Numbers 11:16. There, as Moses struggled to meet the demands of the Israelites, God appointed 70 elders to help him. This is the beginning of the concept of elders for the governance of the church.
The purpose of the meeting was to investigate Peter and John’s miracle. They did not doubt the miracle, but wanted to know their authority to perform it. They asked “By what power or by what name did you do this”. There is a sense of condescension and arrogance in their question.
These were the same men who had condemned Jesus a few weeks before. They had likely thought they were done with him. But now, they were confronted by his followers continuing his ministry.
You can have one of two responses when you are attacked for your faith. You can shrink back or you can use it as an opportunity to witness for Jesus. Peter chose to witness.
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised. Jesus told the disciples to acknowledge him before men. That was a command. But the command came with a promise: when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)
In the power of the Spirit, Peter told them plainly, it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that the man was standing, that is, healed. It appears that the man may have come with Peter and John and was standing with them.
Peter did not leave it at this simple statement, however. he went on to preach the gospel. First, he told them they crucified Jesus and that God raised him from the dead. (10) He knew the Sadducees, who dominated the Sanhedrin, did not believe in resurrection, but he did not back off this important doctrine when preaching to them.
And Peter kept going. He told them how to be saved, referring to the Old Testament. He said Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you , the builders. He has become the cornerstone. A cornerstone is a stone placed to anchor a building. Peter was not talking generalities, however. He was referring to Old Testament scripture.
The first Scripture is Psalm 118. It may have originally been written to be sung on special occasions when a new building was dedicated. But it became part of the Passover liturgy. It was probably the last hymn sung by Jesus and the apostles before they departed for the garden of Gethsemane. Verse 22 says “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.
Builders would carefully examine a stone to make sure it was sound and capable of bearing the load of a cornerstone. In this instance, the builders wrongfully rejected the stone. The Psalmist meant the powers of the world rejected Israel, but God used it to build his house.
The second Scripture is Isaiah 28:16. There God condemned the rulers of Israel for rejecting him and lying to the people. God said he is the one who laid the foundation and it is sure. He was pointing forward to the coming of Jesus to bring salvation as God determined.
Peter pointedly declared Jesus as the cornerstone laid by the Father, but rejected the Sanhedrin, who were the misguided builders. Jesus had already applied this Scripture to himself at the conclusion to the parable of the vineyard. (Mark 12:10-11) It was a condemnation of the leaders and a declaration of Jesus as the Christ, the Savior.
Peter summarized by declaring that salvation is only in Jesus and that no one else can provide salvation. (12) The claims of Christ are exclusive. People do not always like that. They do not like it today. But Jesus himself said no one comes to the Father other than through him. (John 14:6)
Who Are These People?
The members of the Sanhedrin were stunned by Peter and John. First, they were bold. Second, they were making good application of Scripture. Yet, they were uneducated, common men. They were not scholars, priests or scribes. They were, however, known as Jesus’ disciples. Jesus also had also been uneducated, but knew and taught the Scriptures with authority. It had to be disturbing to the Sanhedrin that Jesus’ followers had developed his same skill and knowledge. And the indisputable fact was, the formerly crippled man was standing beside them, healed. So, the council had nothing to say to refute them.
Since the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, much less in the resurrection of Jesus, they had to have been disturbed by Peter’s claims that God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter claimed to be a witness to this. Yet, the Sadducees could raise no arguments against him, for the body of Jesus, though buried, was missing from the tomb and had not been found.
What Do We Do?
The rulers acknowledged that the healing was a “notable sign” and they could not deny it. (15) Yet, they never considered believing in Jesus. They were only concerned with the message of salvation spreading. So, they resolved to order Peter and John not to speak any more in Jesus’ name.
Peter and John Refuse
The Sanhedrin ordered Peter and John not to teach in Jesus’ name. They refused. They had to listen to God. They said they had to speak of what they had seen and heard. In other words, they were witnesses and they had to tell their story.
The Sanhedrin was rendered powerless. They were afraid to punish Peter and John, because the people were praising God for the miracle of healing the crippled man. He had evidently been crippled for 40 years and was now healed.
Praying for Boldness
An amazing thing happened when Peter and John reported to the church what had happened. The people prayed. But they did not pray for protection, they prayed for boldness.
First, they acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty. They addressed him as “Sovereign Lord”.
They acknowledged him as Creator. Because the creator is master over his creation.
This again shows us that the Bible consistently refers to God as the creator of heaven and earth. It is not just in Genesis. To deny this is to deny Scripture.
They addressed God as Sovereign because they believed he was in control of all that happened and they were good with that. They quoted Psalm 2 about the Gentiles raging against the Lord’s anointed. Although they did not quote it, they knew that Psalm continued to say that God laughs at the opposition of his human enemies, because they cannot defeat his plan.
They applied this to their situation. They acknowledged that Jesus was opposed by Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews. (27) But God the Father anointed Jesus to accomplish what the Father planned and predestined to take place. “Predestine” means to determine in advance what will happen. The church took comfort in the fact that God predestined Jesus to bring salvation and build the church as its cornerstone. They knew God could not be stopped. Pilate and Herod had their parts to play within the plan of God.
They did not pray for protection from the threats, but for boldness in the face of such threats, as the apostles continued to heal and perform other signs in the name of Jesus. God’s response was to shake the building with the presence of the Holy Spirit as he had shaken the temple with the presence of Christ when Isaiah prayed. (Isaiah 6)
There was unity among the believers, now about 10,000 in number. They shared their possessions, even selling property to share the proceeds. One example was Barnabas. He was of the tribe of Levi, but came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles to distribute.
We learn from this chapter that the apostles were bold witnesses for Jesus, that the resurrection was a vital part of their testimony, that the church members shared with each other, and that they believed God would provide and prevail.
May all of these things be true of us as well.