Acts 4:7-12

7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?"
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people,
9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well,
10 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.
12 "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." NASU

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 (Acts 3:6) to him: "In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!" 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 (Acts 3:16), "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all." NASU Then, Peter exhorted the people (verse 19) to repent. 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 (verse 22), "THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you." NASU 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 (Acts 4:7), "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" 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 (Drunken, p. 60) suggests the following clarifying translation: "'Then Peter who had been filled with the Holy Spirit, said."

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 (Bible Handbook, p. 164) 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 5:26), rage (4:28; 6:11), 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.

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 in what name, have you done this?" Peter answers them with this comment (Acts 4:10): "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." NASU 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 (Acts 4:12), "for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." NASU This is the culminating point made by Peter, the empowered witness!

George M. Flattery


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