Peter and John were summoned before the Sanhedrin. In reply to the question about how they performed the miracle of healing the crippled man, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, an example of Jesus keeping his promise that the Holy Spirit would enable his opposed people to witness for him. What can we say about Peter’s answer?
First, he was courageous in his words, an aspect highlighted by Luke in verse 13 when he describes the response of the rulers. Peter reminded his judges that they were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (v. 10), which was a very bold statement. The previous occasion when Peter had been in the presence of these rulers he had denied his Master with oaths and curses when he was challenged in the high priest’s house on the evening of his Master’s arrest. The difference between these two responses highlights the effects of the help of the Holy Spirit – instead of fear Peter was courageous.
Second, his description of their sin was biblical – Peter cites from Psalm 118 in order to describe their sin in rejecting Jesus. They were the builders who had rejected the stone (Jesus) who had become the cornerstone (his exaltation). This is an important lesson for us as far as depicting the sins of others. Obviously we should only condemn what the Bible condemns, but we should also use biblical parameters when doing so. We can depict sin according to current psychological assessments, which may initially seem as if we are communicating the seriousness of sin, yet often the outcome is that the awfulness of sin is watered down.
Third, his explanation was Christ-centred. The apostle was determined to concentrate the minds of his judges on Christ. His words state concisely the death, resurrection and exaltation of his Master, Jesus. The apostle had been arrested for preaching these details, and if he had wanted to escape further punishment he could have toned down his message. But he did not. The Spirit who made him bold also made him loyal to his Lord.
Fourth, his defence was evangelistic. Peter reminded his rulers that salvation, including their salvation, could only be found in Jesus. Salvation was not by privilege of race or by antiquity of religion. It was only found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Of course, his words in verse 12 are a powerful rebuttal of all inter-faith attempts to find common ground amongst different religions. Peter stresses the exclusiveness of the claims of Jesus Christ.