Peter and John spent the night in jail after their last message.
They used the opportunity after healing a beggar and gaining a crowd to proclaim Christ and the resurrection from the dead. The captain of the temple guard, the priests, and the Sadducees laid hands on them. They put them in jail for the night. In the morning Peter and John were brought before the authorities.
They were asked in what power or name they were acting. Peter preached Christ to them from Psalm 118:22.
He made it clear they were acting in the name of the Lord. God's power in healing the beggar was authentication that they spoke in God's will, power, and authority.
Psalm 118 in Context
Psalm 118 was commonly interpreted in Peter's day to be speaking of the Davidic Messiah.
The psalm begins with a call to give thanks and praise to the God of Israel for His goodness and lovingkindness. It tells of God's past faithfulness in rescuing His people. God's past faithfulness is a firm foundation for present hope in the face of adversity.
God has been faithful. God will continue to be faithful.
The psalmist describes acting in the name of God on the basis of His faithful promises. Victory is ensured by acting in the name of the Lord. No matter how hopeless it may seem. Acting in God's name is synonymous with acting according to His will. To act contrary to God's will while claiming His name is blasphemy. Blasphemous activity should not expect blessing. This should bring expectation of judgment and/or discipline.
The psalm ends by affirming that the one to come in the name of the Lord is blessed. Therefore, it is right to give thanks to God for His goodness and lovingkindness.
How Peter Uses Psalm 118
The question from the rulers was direct. Peter's answer was direct, too.
Peter was leaving little doubt that he was acting in the name and power of the God of Israel by citing Psalm 118 in his response to their question. More directly they are acting in the name of God incarnate: Jesus Christ the Nazarene.
Peter makes a strong point that his audience would have understood immediately. It may be missed by the modern reader. His audience was very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.
When Peter began responding to their question he referred to his inquisitors as "rulers." This same word (archwn) is used in Psalm 118:
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes (archwn).
(Psalm 118:9 NASB)
Although the English translations are different, the Greek word is the same (coming from the Greek translation of the Psalm in the Septuagint). Peter continues to draw a line in the sand and make it personal when he quotes Psalm 118.
The original wording of Psalm 118 says that the cornerstone was rejected by the builders. Peter makes this personal by saying: "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone" (Acts 4:11 NASB).
This may seem aggressive. Peter's point is actually compassionate. Peter understands that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. The rejection of the Messiah was part of God's predetermined plan.
The main point is not their rejection.
The main point of Peter's message is that despite their actions (crucifying Jesus) God has also acted in His goodness and faithfulness. God has brought salvation through the name of Jesus and no other name.
Peter's audience would have likely known this psalm by heart. The very next verse says:
This is the LORD's doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
(Psalm 118:23 NASB)
Peter was not shy in declaring that Jesus is God's Messiah and the only Savior.
Psalm 118 includes the details that the Messiah:
- was to be rejected by the rulers
- is a better refuge than the rulers
- was established by God to be the only foundation of eternal salvation
- is worthy of being trusted
- is able to accomplish salvation, even in the face of His enemies
- comes because of the everlasting goodness and lovingkindness of God.
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalm 118:24 NASB)
If you are in Christ, rejoice! If not, then repent and trust Him today. Today is the day of salvation.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
(Acts 4:12 NASB)