22 December 2011

Acts 4:1-12

"This Jesus is 'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone'." (v. 11)


Here is the story of the arrest of Peter and John, and Peter's words to a Jewish court in Jerusalem. Peter declares that they have been healing in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Peter uses the words of Psalm 118 verse 22 to apply to Jesus: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." The cornerstone in this context was the highest capstone, linking the last tier of stonework together. The link Peter is making is clear: through the shameful death of crucifixion, Jesus had been discarded like a rejected building stone, but in being resurrected by God, he has been raised to the highest and most important place, like the cornerstone. Peter goes on to make exclusive claims for Jesus Christ: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is not other name ... by which we must be saved" (v. 12).

In common with the other readings for this week, here is the Old Testament interpreted by the first Christians as pointing forward towards the figure of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul used the psalms, among other parts of the Jewish scriptures, in Tuesday's passage, so Peter here uses words of the psalms to express the significance of what has happened in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The passage raises important questions for how Christians preach, teach and evangelise today. If everyone must be saved by the name of Jesus, as Peter says here, what does that mean for the position of Jews and Muslims today, those belonging to other faiths, and those of no faith? Could salvation come through the name of Christ to those who are outside the Christian Church?

To Ponder

Read further into the chapter (verses 13-31) to see how the court responded to Peter's words and deeds, and how the Church reacted to the events.

What do Peter's words in verse 12 mean to you for how Christians should approach members of other faiths and those with no religious faith?

Bible notes author

David Clough

David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. He is a Methodist local preacher, a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment and the Faith and Order Network and drafted recent reports on peacemaking and climate change on behalf of the Methodist Church.