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The Uncomfortable Claim of Christianity

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Acts 4:1–22

The good works of God’s people may well be attacked by those who have very different values. Peter and John—convinced of the truth, unwavering in their message, and walking in submission to and dependence on the Holy Spirit—demonstrate the proper response to such attacks.


Our world seems to be comfortable with Jesus, as long as He is either lying in a manger or hanging on a cross. But if you start saying things like Jesus is the only physical manifestation of the living God, or that Jesus is the only path to heaven, well, that’s another story. The world does not want that kind of Jesus.

Jesus had warned His disciples back in John 15 that just as the world hated Him, so it would hate His followers (verses18-19). And it did not take long at all for that to begin happening.

In Acts 3 we saw the power of Christ through the miracle-healing hands of Peter and John raise up a man who’d been lame his entire life—more than forty years. This miraculous healing got everybody’s attention, especially the religious leaders.

And now chapter 4 lays out for us the trouble that erupts. Let me break this down into three scenes. We’ll call this first scene the apostles’ detention.

Verses 1-2:

As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

You will notice that the Sadducees are specifically mentioned here; they were an influential religious party in Israel. They collaborated with the Roman government, and the Romans returned the favor by choosing the Jewish high priest from among the Sadducees.

That is pretty sad for a lot of reasons. For one, why are the Romans choosing Israel’s high priest?

But beyond that, the Sadducees denied miracles, the existence of angels, and the resurrection of the dead. And they are quite annoyed that the apostles are proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and claiming that the formerly lame man now jumping with joy around the temple courtyard has been healed by the power of the risen Jesus.

So, if Peter and John’s message is accepted, then the Sadducees are wrong, and people will understand that the Sanhedrin, in fact, condemned an innocent man—their Messiah—to death. So, what in the world are they going to do with Peter and John?

Verse 3 tells us, “They arrested them and put them in custody.” They had to do something because verse 4 tells us, “Many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”

You might remember that the church in Jerusalem began with 3,000 new believers, and now it has just had a serious growth spurt. I pastored a church for decades, and if we had two families visit on a Sunday morning, we would call that a growth spurt. Here we are talking of thousands being added—and do not miss this: that total number of 5,000 in verse 4 is just the number of the men now in the church! Their wives and children would mean the church in Jerusalem is now some 15,000 people. This isn’t a growth spurt; this is a great awakening!

The next day the entire supreme court—the Sanhedrin—brings Peter and John in for questioning.  We are told here in verse 6 that “Annas the high priest and Caiaphas . . . and all who were of the high priestly family” are there. The highest echelon of religious power is staring down at Peter and John.

Beloved, these two apostles know they could be crushed by the scholarship here and the weight of thousands of years of religious traditions. If there was a time you might expect Peter and John to wonder what in the world they got themselves into, it would be now. But instead, scene 2 opens, and we’ll call it the apostles’ bold defense.

The Sanhedrin asks the first question: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (verse 7). In other words, “How did you heal this man?”

Peter, the apostle who cowered before a little servant girl a few weeks earlier in the high priest’s courtyard, now steps up, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” verse 8 tells us; and he begins his answer:

“If we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known . . . 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. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” (verses 9-11)

There is no holding back here, is there? Peter is crystal clear: this lame man was healed by the power of Jesus, who had been condemned and crucified. But God the Father raised Him from the dead—Jesus was not just a man. Peter quotes here Psalm 118:22, declaring that Jesus was the stone that was rejected by Israel’s builders—Israel’s leaders—but is now confirmed as the cornerstone of salvation by His resurrection.

Peter does not stop with that; he says in verse 12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He is not just a baby in a manger or a crucified carpenter. He is the exclusive path to salvation. In fact, without Him, Peter says, no one can be saved.

It does not matter how religious you are; to follow anyone other than Jesus is to remain unsaved. To believe any other message is to remain deceived.

And here is something to remember: Satan’s strategy has never been to deny that Jesus is a way to heaven but to deny He is the only way. Peter’s announcement shatters any other option. This is the uncomfortable claim of Christianity: Jesus is not one of many ways to God; He is the only way—period!

Now with this, scene three opens. We will call it the Supreme Court’s decision.

After dismissing the apostles so they can huddle up and talk it over, these seventy men realize they are facing a dilemma; they cannot deny the miracle of this healed lame man. Verse 14 tells us he was actually standing in the courtroom alongside Peter and John—probably still grinning from ear to ear.

They also recognize that Peter and John, as verse 13 says, “were uneducated, common men.” I love this next phrase—“and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Oh, that something like that could be said of us.

Then verse 14 says, “[The Sanhedrin] had nothing to say in opposition.” Case dismissed! Can you imagine silencing the Supreme court with irrefutable testimony?

So, what does the court do now? They call Peter and John, and probably this healed man, back in, and verse 18 says, they “charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

Clearly this decision is not about discovering the truth but suppressing the truth. Basically, they say, “We are not going to argue with you about this; we just want you to be quiet about it.”

Isn’t that our world today? “We are not interested in the claims of Christ; we just want you to be quiet about Him.” Why? The truth about Christ is uncomfortable.

Peter and John respond, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (verse 20).

Perhaps you are facing a Sanhedrin today who wants to silence your testimony for Christ. Let me encourage you to continue speaking for the Lord. Use discretion and wisdom and the proper timing, but speak the truth in love—even this uncomfortable truth that Christ is the only way.

And let me encourage you with this: Peter and John were not super saints, and they were not brilliant scholars. They were just convinced that Jesus was alive, and they were not about to keep that truth to themselves.

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