Acts 4:7-12

”’They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’”’

– Acts 4:7-12, New International Version


Before the Day of Pentecost, Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit would come upon them and they would be empowered witnesses. He poured out the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and the disciples were empowered. Now, in Acts 4:8, we read that Peter was filled with the Spirit to speak to the rulers and elders. As a witness, he exalted the name of Jesus.

The Healing – Acts 3:1-10

Some time after the Day of Pentecost, Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer. There they met a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb. The man was there to beg alms, but instead of giving him silver and gold, Peter said to him “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” (Acts 3:6). Peter acted in the name of Jesus. His name represents His authority and power. Immediately the man’s feet and ankles received strength. The people were filled with wonder and amazement. The command by Peter and the man’s healing were clearly a powerful witness to the exalted name of Jesus.

Peter’s Sermon – Acts 3:11-26

A crowd gathered at the portico of Solomon. Seizing the opportunity, Peter preached about the death and resurrection of Christ. The people had disowned the Holy and Righteous One. They put to death the Prince of Life. It was this same Jesus who was the healer. Peter declared, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see,” (Acts 3:16). Then, Peter exhorted the people to repent (verse 19). When they would repent, their sins would be wiped away and times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord.

Peter continues to exalt Jesus Christ. Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy concerning both the Davidic Messiah and the prophet-like-Moses. On the Day of Pentecost Peter had exalted Jesus as the Davidic Messiah. Now, he declares that Jesus is the prophet-like-Moses. As Peter points out, Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you,” (Acts 3:22). Given who Jesus is, the people should give heed to Him!

The Rulers and the Elders – Acts 4:1-7

As Peter and John were speaking, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees arrested them. Because it was evening, they put Peter and John in jail until the next day. On the next day, the rulers and elders and scribes met with the apostles. Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas were among those who were present.

The rulers and elders were upset (Acts 4:2) because the apostles were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The occasion of the preaching was the healing of the lame man. So, the rulers and elders inquired, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). As Peter understood the question, it had to do with the miracle that had occurred. Peter would immediately answer their question.

Filled with the Spirit – Acts 4:8

Peter was filled with the Spirit when he answered the question. He was empowered by the Spirit to respond. The verb filled is a translation of the Greek word plestheis. The Greek word is the aorist passive participle of pimplemi. The main verb in the sentence is eipen or said. The question arises as to when Peter was filled with the Spirit. Putting this another way, When does the action of the participle (filled) take place with regard to the main verb (said)? There are various answers to this question.

One view is that the timing of Peter being filled with the Spirit is not in view. According to this view, the aorist passive participle simply states the condition of Peter as he spoke. Thus, the main point is that Peter was empowered by the Spirit. Under this view, this passage does not help us with the question of when Peter was filled. Certainly, the source of Peter’s inspiration was the Spirit. However, we can accept this point and still hold that the passage suggests more with regard to when Peter was filled.

Ervin expresses a view that deals with the question of when Peter was filled. According to him (Drunken, pp. 60), the aorist passive participle plestheis is used here as a circumstantial participle, which, in the aorist and perfect tenses, is customarily used to express ‘antecedent action relative to the main verb.’ He concludes that in this case the action filled took place at Pentecost introduced an abiding state. This approach gives the aorist participle the force of the perfect tense. This is why Ervin suggests the following clarifying translation: ‘Then Peter who had been filled with the Holy Spirit, said…” (Drunken, p. 60).

However, we can accept the view that filled is antecedent to said with referring the time of filling back to Pentecost. Even if the perfect tense is used, the action of being filled did not necessarily take place at Pentecost. The filling can refer to the crisis at hand. Ervin’s view is grammatically possible, but not required.

The predominant view is that Peter, although previously filled, was filled again on this occasion for the special purpose of answering the question. In support of this view, Rea writes

“Luke uses the verb filled (pimplemi) thirteen times in his Gospel and nine times in Acts. It occurs only twice elsewhere in the New Testament (Matt. 22:10; 27:48).. . . In the aorist tense, the verb stressed the act of being filled, usually on that specific occasion, and by usage implies a temporary or sudden act or state. In Luke’s descriptions, people were filled with fear (Luke 526), rage (428; 611), wonder and amazement (Acts 3:10), jealousy (5:17; 13:45) and confusion (19:29). In no case could this filling be said to initiate a permanent state of mind,” (Bible Handbook, p. 164).

All three views are possible grammatically, but the comments by Rea give special weight to the latter view. The usage of the aorist participle as determined by the context argues for an immediate filling for the occasion. Relying on word usage is a commonly accepted form basing a view on precedent. Peter, in my view, was filled with the Spirit on this occasion to respond to the rulers and elders. The faithful witness will need repeated fillings with the Spirit!

In What Name? – Acts 4:9-12

The rulers and elders asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter answers them with this comment: “then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed,” (Acts 4:10). Peter’s answer put the emphasis on the name of Jesus rather than the power of Jesus. However, the power of Jesus is represented by His name. Jesus has all authority and power. Thus, the miracle was by the name and power of Christ.

Now, Peter makes the point that Jesus, who was the stone they had rejected, had becomes the corner stone. Moreover, it is through Jesus alone that men may have salvation. Peter declares, “for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12). This is the culminating point made by Peter, the empowered witness!


Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London SCM Press Ltd. 1970.
Ervin, Howard M. These Are Not Drunken As Ye Suppose. Plainfield Logos International, 1968.
Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia The Westminster Press, 1971.
Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield Gospel Publishing House, 1976.
Lenski, R.C.H. The Acts of the Apostles Minneapolis Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Rea, John. Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit. Orlando Creation House, 1998.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville Broadman Press, 1930.

© Copyright 2002 GMF

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