Acts 4: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished


Last week, in Acts 3 the apostles, Peter and John, drew on the power of Jesus to heal a lame man and then preached to the crow. While such a deed and preaching delighted some it disturbed others, notably, those who were in power (or thought they were). It is not long before the religious leaders who were “much annoyed” show up and arrest Peter and John. What is at stake here are questions of power and authority, or “Who’s in charge?” The religious and military authority assert the power of the establishment. Peter and John rely on the power of God.

Two parts:

  1. Verses 1-22: Questioning of Peter and John

  2. Verses 23-31: Peter and John return to the community of the Way

Acts 4

1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2 much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3 So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
   it has become the cornerstone.” 
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, ‘What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
“Why did the Gentiles rage,
   and the peoples imagine vain things? 
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
   and the rulers have gathered together
     against the Lord and against his Messiah.” 
27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  1. Twice in today’s text, quotations are drawn from different parts of the Old Testament? Locate these citations. Where are they found in the Bible? read them in their context. Why do you think Luke draws upon these sources?

  2. Peter and John, along with the man they have healed, are brought before the authorities for questioning. Why? What is at stake here, as you see it?

  3. Verse 12 says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” What does “saved” and “salvation” mean in the context of this story? What does salvation look like for the once lame beggar? Verse 12 is sometimes interpreted as having something to do with other religions. Is this en exclusive claim about Christianity over and against Buddhism, Islam and others or is a different issue at stake here?

  4. How many times is the word “boldness” used in today’s passage? What does boldness seem to mean as it is used here? Why is “boldness” an important theme in the overall story?