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Acts 4:1-13: Salvation Through Jesus Alone
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: What big news event do you remember from your life? Where were you when you heard about the event? Who informed you about what was going on?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Acts 4:1-13
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. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
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.”
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.
What is the context for this passage?
The book of Acts is a continuation of the story of the disciples and apostles after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 1, Jesus ascends into heaven in front of their eyes after promising to send the Holy Spirit to them. He tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the promised Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, appearing like a violent wind and tongues of fire. Those who received the Spirit began to speak in other languages, allowing all who were present to hear the good news of the gospel. Peter gives a sermon to all those attending, telling the crowd to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 3, Peter and John go to the temple at the time of prayer and encounter a lame beggar at the temple gate. The beggar asks them for money, but instead, Peter heals him in Jesus’s name. Immediately, the beggar begins walking and praising God. Peter makes it clear that Jesus is the one with the power to heal. He walks the gathering crowd through the Scriptures to provide evidence of Jesus as the Messiah. As Peter was speaking to the people, the priests and other temple officials get word of what is happening, which is where our story picks up in Acts 4.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Acts 4 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
Jesus Christ has the power to heal people (vs. 10). In this story, Peter could have easily taken all the credit for healing the lame man on his own (Acts 3). But that would not be the truth. The truth is that Jesus is the only one who has the power to heal. Jesus has infinite control over his creation, including the human body. Because he is the creator, he is the only one who can heal his creation.
God raised Jesus from the dead (vs. 10). Like we discussed in our 2 Corinthians 5 study, the power behind Jesus rising from the dead was from God. Jesus rising from the dead was completely planned and orchestrated by God. No other power could accomplish this miracle.
Jesus is the foundation of our faith (vs. 11). Verse 11 in this passage indicates that Jesus is the cornerstone. The cornerstone is the first stone set when building a wall. It is the thing upon which everything else is built. Jesus is called the cornerstone because he is the One on whom our faith is built. Without Jesus, humans have no hope. There would be no forgiveness of sins, no reconciliation with God, and no rescue from eternal condemnation.
2. What does the passage say about people?
The religious leaders were jealous of the attention that Peter and John were receiving (vs. 2). The religious leaders were used to being at the top of society. They didn’t like it when someone else came along and stole their spotlight, especially when those people were proclaiming a faith that went against what the religious leaders taught. They had this same reaction to Jesus, which is what ended up getting Jesus crucified. Eventually, many of the disciples would die for proclaiming the same message that Jesus brought.
The apostles proclaimed Jesus everywhere they went (vs. 2). After Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, the apostles fulfilled the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), making disciples of all nations. Nothing that anyone said or did would keep them from proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Their message: That Jesus was resurrected. He was alive! He didn’t stay in the grave. To learn more about why the resurrection is so important, read 1 Corinthians 15.
When people see others doing something supernatural, they want to know how and why (vs. 7). Many witnesses saw Peter and John heal the lame man in Acts 3. The religious leaders saw the after-effects of this miracle, noticing the crowds around Peter and John. The religious leaders knew that great power must be behind this type of miracle, and they wanted to know whose authority Peter and John were working under. The religious leaders wanted to know this because they felt threatened. Others, like Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), only wanted this power for their own gain. Peter spoke clearly that the power was from Jesus alone, and it would only be used to glorify Jesus’s name.
Peter blamed the religious leaders for Jesus’s death (vs. 10). In the midst of Peter’s discussion with the religious leaders, Peter tried to reason with the leaders to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Even though the religious leaders themselves were the ones behind Jesus’s death, God over-ruled their authority and raised Jesus from the dead. Despite the hatred the religious leaders felt toward Jesus, God still used them to fulfill his plan.
Even unschooled, ordinary men can have an impact if they have been with Jesus (vs. 13). When Jesus chose his disciples, he didn’t choose the educated and well-known leaders of the day. He chose fishermen, tax collectors, and others who were considered uneducated and on the lower end of society. Yet these men spread the gospel message and led thousands of people to Christ. If you think you don’t have the knowledge or experience to make a difference for Jesus, then you underestimate his power.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan is that many who hear the message of Jesus will believe (vs. 4). Through the Holy Spirit, the disciples had the power to preach with conviction in a way that caused many people to believe. For those who are seeking to have a true relationship with God, hearing the message of Jesus explained in a straightforward way causes them to believe. It doesn’t have to be the work of a great speaker; all it takes is truth and the Holy Spirit.
God’s plan is that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit can be his witnesses (vs. 8). Once someone believes, they receive the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that gave Peter the power to speak boldly for Christ. In the same way, the Holy Spirit gives all Christians the power to speak boldly to tell others about Jesus. This is the strategy God uses to bring more people into his kingdom.
God’s plan is that salvation is found through no one except Jesus (vs. 12). In the passage we read last week (John 14), Jesus clearly told his disciples that he was the only way to the Father. Peter shares that message with the religious leaders in this week’s lesson—Jesus is the only path to salvation. As much as some might like to believe there are many ways to God or heaven, the Bible tells us that there is only one way—Jesus.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
In the early days and weeks after Jesus’ ascension, Peter was one of the key leaders of the early Christians. In Matthew 16, Jesus asked Peter who Jesus was, and Peter responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (vs. 16). Then Jesus went on to tell Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (vs. 18). Jesus was setting the stage for Peter to be one of his key apostles to spread the good news of the gospel when Jesus was no longer on this earth.
In Acts 2-4, Peter gives several speeches or sermons speaking on behalf of Jesus, convicting people for their role in condemning Jesus to death. In each case, he clearly identifies Jesus as the one who has the power to forgive sins, who has the power to heal, and who has the power to save. Not only does Jesus have the power to save, but he is the ONLY one through which salvation is possible. This man who was rejected by all the religious leaders is the ONLY path to God.
Throughout the next several chapters in Acts, Peter continues to play a major role in the formation of the early church. He continued to teach and preach and heal everywhere he went. Even in the midst of imprisonment and floggings, Peter never stopped proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. He also was instrumental in convincing the other apostles that the good news extended to all people, not just the Jews. The people were astonished when even the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. This was a major turning point in the ministry and mission of the church—to not only reach Jews but Gentiles as well. Peter’s ministry played a role in why you and I know that the gospel is for us as well.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Acts 5:17-42.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Acts 4 Resources