April 25 – Acts 4:1-22


In our passage for this week Peter and John are arrested and drug before the Sanhedrin for teaching about Jesus publicly. Initially they are questioned about their healing of a disabled man from chapter 3 (3:1-26); “By what power or by what name did you do this?”(4:7) This was a question they already knew the answer to—verse 2 tells us they were aware of what Peter and John had been teaching. But this was the council’s way of presenting Peter and John with an out. All the apostles had to provide was some tactful answer like “in the name of God” so that they didn’t sound blasphemous to the council, and they could’ve been let go.

But Peter’s response gets to the real heart of the matter—he knew he wasn’t just being questioned about a healing, or technicalities about whose name was being invoked, but about the very core of the gospel message. He refused to renege on the truth or its implications. But this testimony wasn’t just driven by Peter’s own gumption, since this was the same Peter who cowered under a servant girl’s questions just a few months prior (Luke 22:57). Luke (the author of Acts) points out that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, who gave him the nerve and the words to face down the council. And Peter pulled no punches: “let it be known to all of you…that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.”(4:10, emphasis added)

Interestingly, Peter’s testimony is similar in few ways to his sermon at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:36, “this Jesus whom you crucified”). In both instances he presented Jesus as the risen Lord and savior, the only hope for salvation, and rightfully laid the blame for Jesus’ death on his audience. After his sermon at Pentecost his hearers responded, “Brothers, what shall we do?” and thousands of people repented and were baptized. So presumably Peter isn’t just denouncing the Sanhedrin here; he’s also providing the exact same call to repentance and salvation that he’s been proclaiming in the temple alongside the other apostles. In his testimony to the council he specifically includes the elders and priests in his appeal for salvation: “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”(4:12, emphasis added)

In thinking about our own testimony of the gospel, this passage presents us with many helpful ideas. We might read about the apostles like they’re unapproachable heroes of the faith, but Luke does us some favors here. First off, he points out that Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit when making his testimony (like Jesus said would happen in Luke 12:8-12), so if you’re a follower of Jesus you’re indwelled by the same exact Spirit. Furthermore, Luke describes the impression Peter and John had on the council, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.”(4:13a) If we’re honest with ourselves, the vast majority of us could be described similarly, as uneducated and common. What a gift that God can use unremarkable people like you and me as a means of spreading his remarkably good news.

Finally, Peter and John give the reasoning behind their evangelistic compulsion, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”(4:20) Their experience with Jesus wasn’t something they could just ignore or obscure; Jesus’ work in their lives compelled them to proclaim this news. And this was evident to Sanhedrin too: “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”(4:13b) So we can witness to the work of Christ by the same Spirit, in spite of our own commonness, and because we too have seen and heard about the goodness of Jesus. We might not have walked with Jesus in person for three years like the apostles, but each of us has experienced Jesus’ mercy and kindness in real, tangible ways, and we have heard the word taught and preached. And as the Lord calls us into opportunities to witness to his goodness, let’s pray that our hearers would recognize just as clearly that we have been with Jesus.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Acts 4:1-22 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• Why do you think the rulers were so annoyed at Peter and John?

• Peter was only asked about a healing but he talked about a lot more. Why do you think he talked about these specific things?

• What does the passage tell us about why Peter was able to testify this way?

• What do you find compelling in this passage?

• Look at verse 20. How does this help you think about what Jesus has done in your life?

• What parallels do you see between this passage and how you might tell others about Jesus?