The Cornerstone Confession

Acts 4:5-12

And it came about on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. “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.”

Bold, very bold–shockingly and amazingly bold! What has happened to the hapless Peter? What has gotten into him? The context says, the Holy Spirit. Peter not only places his life on the line, but John’s also, and essentially, all the followers of Jesus as well. This passage penned by Luke is a perfect example of why we must consider the context, in order to see how unbelievably bold Peter’s confession is.

As I write, it is September 11, the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, which could have been much worse if not for the bold actions from the passengers on flight 93. Think about the bold response of the first responders, rushing up the stairs of the WTC into the fiery inferno. There are countless stories of self sacrifice on that day. Bold actions by men and women who put their lives on the line in an attempt to save the lives of strangers. Yet with every bold action, there is a cause and effect. For every action, there is an equal and opposite, reaction. For every bold move, there is a cowardly one. For every fearless gesture, there is another motivated by fear.

Throughout history, the cowardly have been confronted by the courageous. Think of Tiananmen Square, where an unarmed demonstrator courageously confronted cowardly troops, in a tank. Also remember the Battle of the Bulge where cold, ill equipped, allied soldiers combated the German army, outgunned and outnumbered. Remember the Alamo. In the Bible there are numerous stories about the outnumbered Israelites overpowering their enemies. With all due respect to these bold men and women, I find Peter’s confession as the most courageous of all. Though he faced no bullets, tanks or fire, he was face to face with the men who were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, and he confronts and condemns them. Fire, tanks and bullets are a horrible way to die, but at least they are fast, faster than crucifixion that is.

As always, to truly see the boldness of Peter, it requires reading and knowing the Bible. To unlock the caged Scripture, we use the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is king, Author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels preconceived notions and presuppositions.

The genre is the historical narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, a partial eyewitness and an excellent researcher, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke is hitting the highlights of what happened after the resurrection, narrating many things that happened during the days of the formation of the church, or; “the called out assembly.” Luke tells the world how the church was formed.

Context is king, therefore we must consider the context. “And it came about on the next day;” the day after Peter’s second stabbing sermon. The day after Peter and John were jailed, for speaking the truth, a mere 7-8 weeks after Jesus was crucified–remember this as we roll along. The context continues; “that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.” Expository exegesis of examples enlightens us, as should our memories, to some familiar names, names full of fear for followers of Jesus.

Taking our Vitamin E, we find in Matthew; “And those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together…And the high priest stood up and said to Him, Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’ But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.’ Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, ‘He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy.'”

Now we juxtapose this scenario to today’s text. “Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health.”

That is bold. Peter is front and center, face to face with the men who condemned Jesus to death, defending his own actions done in the name of Jesus, whom they killed. Peter has a good argument, who would put someone on trial for healing, for good health? Nevertheless, he boldly declares that he healed in the name of Jesus, the very same Jesus they condemned to death. But the boldness is about to increase.

Notice what else Peter proclaimed; “that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone.”

Not only does Peter point out that they killed the Christ, but that the man was made well in the name of Christ. And if you don’t think that is a big deal, consider the context and the question from ​the elders, “in what name, have you done this?” They hesitated to even say the name of God, they were setting a trap. If Peter said, in the name of “God,” they had him for blaspheme, if he said any other name, they had him for blaspheme. Boldly Peter proclaimed Jesus, whom they delivered up to be crucified. And then, he uses actual Scripture to condemn them and elevate Christ Jesus. Peter is now testifying to the same people who killed Jesus, the very same thing that got Jesus crucified. The boldness factor is off the charts.

And as the boldness of Peter rises, the equal and opposite reaction of cowardliness rises in the elders. Lord willing, we will see much more of this next time. But for now, their silence speaks volumes. Remember that we are comparing and contrasting Jesus before the high priest and elders, and Peter before the high priest and elders. Look at what Peter says next “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.”

Without being actually asked, Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Savior. He harkens back to his name. Peter makes it absolutely clear that he believes Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Remember what Jesus said that got the high priest to tear his robes? “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Jesus quoted Scripture, Peter quoted Scripture. Yet the high priest remained silent during Peter’s testimony while he emphatically interrupted Jesus and tore his clothes. We are reminded that Jesus said that he would lay down his life; no one took it from him. Nevertheless, the boldness meter is broken by Peter in today’s text. And this is made all the more incredible by considering the context of Matthew, as to what happened immediately following Jesus being condemned by the high priest. During the trial of trials, on the day of days, Jesus was the only courageous person on the planet, it seems. Immediately following Jesus’ condemnaton from the high priest, Matthew tells us of Peter’s threefold denial. Peter wasn’t very bold that night of nights, though he boasted as if he was.

It’s almost as if Peter is making up for his mistakes, and in spades, in front of the elders. But that is not what the context suggests, niether in today’s scene, nor in his denial. What did Luke, who is the author of today’s text, write concerning Peter’s denials of Christ? “’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!’ And He said, ‘I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.'”

Once again, we juxtapose what Luke wrote concerning the cowardly Peter, who was thinking earthly, to the bold Peter who is now thinking heavenly. Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat but now, some seven weeks later, the Holy Spirit has an entirely different plan for Peter. Peter is the perfect example of how we live in two different worlds, with two different ways of thinking. One was earthly and cowardly and the other was heavenly, bold and holy. Through the Holy Spirit, by heavenly thinking, Peter was transformed from outwardly bold but an inwardly full of phobias follower, to a inwardly and outwardly bold apostle–a servant leader. He was rash, now his courageous. He talked the talk but now he walks the walk–talk about a total transformation.

How can we apply this to our lives? We can’t–the gospel loses. The Laodicean church and the apostates take over. The Lord is just about done with his church because the church and the gospel don’t have the power to change the minds of men. Plus, a great tribulation is about to befall the earth and the only way to keep the church from the tribulation is to rapture her out of the world. It’s ironic, Jesus died during Passover. Remind me again how God can’t keep his people from plagues without rapturing them? Perhaps we could do without the tongue-and-cheek sarcasm. Nevertheless I find it odd that when dogmatically defending dispensationalist discourse, many will use the argument that God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth, therefore the church must be gone, because God wouldn’t allow his church to suffer through the wrath. But Israel, the “apple of God’s eye” can, wth two thirds of them being slaughtered? Do we forget about the plagues in Egypt? Israel crossing the Sea of Reeds on dry ground? Israel crossing the flooded Jordan River on dry ground? Do we forget about the manna, the quail meat, and the rock that followed them? The Bible is so much more than an alleged pre-tribulation rapture. Within its pages, salvation is found. Within its pages are details upon details of the power of God to transform. Peter being a perfect example.

The stone that Israel rejected is the cornerstone; that was Peter’s confession. It’s all about Jesus and his power to save through his blood. Could we change our minds and believe that Jesus has the power to transform the world through the gospel of grace, and not through a return to the Law? Remember that in today’s text Peter proclaimed, “let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health…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.”

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