No Other Name

Acts 4:1-22       |    Sermon Resources       5 January 2020


As Peter and John were being hauled away into prison I can’t be help but wonder what was going through their minds. Were they afraid? Angry? Anxious? Depressed? Did they remember Jesus’ words to them, recorded for us in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation”? Jesus had indeed warned them that this was coming. There would be trouble that could not be escaped. There would be tribulation that could not be avoided. Their current circumstances should not have taken them by surprise.

We remember these words of Jesus as well as we survey the trouble in our own lives and in the broader world about us. However, the primary issue for us lay not in identifying the source of that trouble but in knowing what to do about it. We long for hope. But where is that hope to found? We tell ourselves all the time things like, If we could only get the right person in office or the right judge on the bench, then things will work out. If I could just get that promotion…If I could just find a spouse…If only people would see things from my perspective…

 Now Jesus did more than simply warn of future tribulation. The very next words out of his mouth were, “But take heart I have overcome the world.” We are reminded that our hope is not found in an institution or a paycheck but in a person. Jesus is our hope! As we study this passage I want to consider the reasons Peter and John had not for despair but for hope. Specifically we will see that even in the midst of adversity, the plans of God are unstoppable, unshakable, and undeniable. His purpose always prevails.


#1 Unstoppable

Peter and John are at it again preaching to the crowds who eagerly gather to hear their message. They have been the “talk around town” and have held popular interest between the strange tongues of fire that fell on the group at Pentecost and more recently the miraculous healing of a crippled man outside the temple. This activity has greatly provoked the curiosity of the populace and in one day alone 3000 people became Christians.

The setting for our current passage is almost certainly the temple courts as Peter and John arouse the attention of the priest and the captain of the temple who along with the Sadducees (v.1) come to confront them. While it was the Pharisees who took the leading role in opposing Jesus during his earthly ministry, now we see that role has shifted to the Sadducees (c.f. as well Acts 5:17). Compared to the Pharisees, the Sadducees were even more conservative theologically speaking. They held to only the five books of Moses, rejected a belief in angels and demons, and most significantly did not believe in a future resurrection of the dead. This was the reason they were greatly annoyed because the apostles were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (v.2). They had the apostles arrested and taken into custody to await a trial which could not take place until next day since it was already evening (v.3).

It would seem for the time that the enemies of the gospel had gained the upper hand, but Luke assures us this was not the case at all. The apostles of God may have been arrested but the word of God was not. We are told many who heard their preaching believed and that the number of Christians came to about five thousand (v.4). While some believe this indicates 5000 new believers were added, it seems more natural to read this as a collective total of the church.

God purposes always prevail. Persecution cannot stop the spread of the gospel. Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers in Carthage, famously wrote in the 2nd century:

We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

Even in the midst of persecution and trial, God’s purposes will prevail. We should be careful, however, not to view of this as some sort of “formula” for kingdom growth. Church history is of full of examples of persecution arising and stamping out any visible witness for Christ. Consider for example Tertullian’s own Carthage, which is now overwhelmingly Muslim. So it’s not exactly that persecution always leads to gospel growth. It has more to do with the believers’ response to that persecution and even more to do with God’s purposes in the midst of that persecution. And God’s purposes always prevail.



#2 Unshakable

The last time the Jewish authorities made an arrest, Jesus ended up crucified, so certainly Peter and John had cause to be nervous. They are set on trial before some very powerful people which included the rulers and elders and scribes together with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas and John and Alexander (v.5-6).

The authorities make the mistake of asking Peter, “By what power or by what name did you do this?(v.7) You might think that Peter would have talked around the issue and then pleaded to be released, but instead filled the Holy Spirit (v.8) he boldly preached to them. He had no intention of being silenced but rather declared, let it be known to all of you 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 is standing before you well (v.10). This is remarkable! He reminds the authorities that they were the ones who killed Jesus. He says in front of the resurrection-denying Sadducees that Jesus has indeed been resurrected from the dead. He continues pressing home the point citing Psalm 118 and boldly asserting that Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders and he has actually become the cornerstone which holds the whole building together (v.11). Peter is exceedingly clear that Jesus was not only a good guy who was killed by jealous men but he is only one through whom salvation has come for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (v.12).

Later when the council charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (v.18), they boldly refused. Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (v.19-20).

Rather than being the intimidated, the council sees clearly the boldness of the apostles and cannot account for it as they are uneducated, common men (v.13).   This is the fruit of the gospel in the lives of believers. In our own selves we have no confidence, but because our feet are planted on the solid rock of the gospel there is an unshakable boldness we have. If only, like Peter and John, we would keep our feet planted firmly on the gospel rock!


#3 Undeniable

So we’ve seen the unstoppable nature of God’s purposes and the unshakable boldness it produced in lives of the apostles, and now we consider how the undeniable evidence of God’s work.

After holding court, the authorities are plainly stuck. They would like to silence this movement of Jesus followers but they had nothing to say in opposition (v.14). The evidence was too overwhelming and was apparent to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (v.16). Their conclusion was striking, “we cannot deny it” (v.16).

This is the fruit of the gospel at work. When we give our lives to the Lord and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, there will be change – a change that is apparent to us and, as we see in this passage, a change that will become apparent to others. The Jewish council here cannot escape the facts. The crippled man was standing (v.10) before them!   The great irony is this: Peter and John could not possibly keep silent and the opposition could not possibly speak.

And don’t miss the point here. It was the fruit of the gospel that did this work. Peter and John could have gone into court trying to make an elaborate case for Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament or using some other tactic. It’s not that these things don’t have their place but what silenced the critics was seeing the change in the crippled man. This is the most powerful tool we have as well – the testimony of a changed life. The gospel always produces fruit!

So we ask ourselves what kind of fruit is the gospel producing in our lives? And if there is no fruit, we ask why not?


Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think was going through Peter’s and John’s minds as they were arrested? How would you have responded had this been you?
  2. Who was silenced in this passage, the apostles or the Jewish authorities? Why were they silenced?
  3. How do we see the un-stop-ability of God’s plans in this passage? How does this encourage you?
  4. In what ways are Peter and John unshakable? Where does this un-shake-ability come from? What is keeping you from experiencing this kind of confidence in your own life?
  5. Is the gospel bearing fruit in your life? In your family? At Cornerstone? How so?
  6. If not, why not?