Acts 4:5-12 (ESV)
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 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 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. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
They actually asked Peter, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” What luck! A perfect open door for the gospel! Peter’s eyes must have sparkled when he heard that. The answer is the core of the sermon he just gave yesterday.
Notice that they didn’t ask, “How did you do this?” but, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” They knew it wasn’t natural; they just wanted to know if it was a miracle or sorcery. That’s actually a pretty good question.
But, things still aren’t all that rosy. This is the gang that had Jesus taken out. So, Peter doesn’t just repeat yesterday’s sermon. Instead, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, works in some new material. That’s exactly how Jesus said it would happen.
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” – Luke 12:11-12 (ESV)
Peter is always confrontational, but by quoting Psalm 118:22 he really takes it to them.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:21-24 (ESV)
In context, verse 22 is clearly messianic. These guys know that Psalm well. Peter is proving to them that the rejection of the Christ was prophesied. Peter’s inspired comeback connects all the dots.
Of course it was a miracle. The guy y’all crucified is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders. And – tough luck for you – He has become the cornerstone.
This passage is a beautiful example of how to adapt one’s presentation of the gospel to the situation at hand. Granted, we’re not going to get an opportunity as golden as someone asking us, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
But we still should be sensitive to the situation. Let God lead. Always pray before sharing the gospel.
God’s answer to that prayer is your cue.
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