Easter 4 • Acts 4:1–12 • April 29, 2012
By Joel P. Okamoto
Notes on the Pericope
The lesson from the fourth chapter of Acts relates events after Peter and John had been arrested after healing a lame beggar. Their actions provoked a response. Annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, the chief priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John. The Word of God, however, already had its effect: many who had heard believed, and the number of believers grew (4:1–4; cf. 2:41, 47).
The next day Peter and John were called to account for themselves: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (4:7). Peter replied that, if they were being questioned about a good deed (euergesia) done to an infirm man—by what he had been saved (ses?tai)—then they should know that it was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man stands before you healthy” (4:10). Alluding to Psalm 118, he proclaims Jesus as “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone” (4:11), and then announces, “And salvation (s?t?ria) is by no other, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (s?th?nai)” (4:12).
“Salvation” is the theme, and salvation here includes wholeness. The crippled man received salvation when he received full health (4:10; see also 3:16). Certainly salvation includes more than physical health and strength, but it is nothing less than the “restoration of all things” (apokatastase?s pant?n, 3:21).
This understanding of salvation was not questioned (cf. 4:14–16). The question concerned the power or the name by which this deed had been done, and by implication, its nature. If it had happened by an evil power or in the name of another god, then it would be an evil deed and could not be “salvation.” But if it happened by the power of God of Israel and in his name, then it would be a good deed and would be “salvation.” The answer was the “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” God’s servant, by which this man had been saved, and the only name by which all would be saved.
Notes for Preaching
I suggest a sermon that focuses on the question (“By what power or by what name did you do this?”) and its answer (“by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy,”) which gives attention to the concept of “salvation” in this passage.
The sermon might begin by observing how the lessons from Acts relate how the first Christians proclaimed and believed in the risen Lord. The apostles testified to the resurrection of Jesus, and all the believers lived as one people who shared what they had with the rest (Acts 4:32–35, for Easter 2). They proclaimed Jesus as God’s servant and urged the Jews to repent and to receive forgiveness and blessing from their God through Jesus (Acts 3:11–21, for Easter 3). But just as Jesus encountered resistance, so also do his apostles, and it is with this that this lesson begins. Then the sermon could proceed to rehearse what had happened with the healing of the lame beggar, how it led to their encounter with the council in Jerusalem.
Then focus on the question, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” The rulers know that something remarkable has happened. But was it a good deed or evil, godly or ungodly? Peter answers them that it was a “good deed” because it was done “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” It was a good deed because it was a godly deed, done through Jesus, God’s servant. They had rejected Jesus, but God vindicated him by raising him from the dead. This showed that “salvation is by no other, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
After this, give attention to “salvation.” What did Peter mean when he said, “Rulers of the people and elders, if today we are being questioned about a good deed done to an infirm man, by what this man has been saved . . .”? His healing was “salvation,” and “salvation” is by none other than Jesus. Moreover, his name is the only name by which we will be saved.
Then deal with the fullness of the notion of “salvation” for your hearers’ lives. Christians today frequently have a narrow understanding of “salvation.” Often it consists
of no more than “forgiveness of sins” right now and “eternal life” after we die. Moreover, sometimes these are understood as “spiritual, not physical” blessings. But from Peter we learn that “salvation” is a matter of both “body and soul.” Accordingly, eternal life comes with the resurrection of the dead, not merely “dying and going to heaven,” and “salvation” involves healing, as we learn here; deliverance from evil; and the end of suffering and want. Being the Easter season, it would be fitting to explain this by reminding the hearers that Jesus brought this salvation in his mission. He was rejected and crucified for saving others; God raised him from the dead, and, in effect, he sent his apostles to proclaim this salvation and promise it to all who put their trust his name. An illustration about delivering and/or believing this promise of salvation also would be appropriate. In any case, it would be fitting to conclude by declaring to the hearers “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” that this salvation will also be theirs through faith “in his name.”