Acts 4:7

ESV And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
NIV They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: 'By what power or what name did you do this?'
NASB When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, 'By what power, or in what name, have you done this?'
CSB After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: "By what power or in what name have you done this? "
NLT They brought in the two disciples and demanded, 'By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?'
KJV And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

What does Acts 4:7 mean?

The Jewish ruling council, made up of civil leaders, teaching lawyers, and priests, are questioning Peter and John as to how they healed a lame man (Acts 3:1–8). The Greek grammar here is structured in such a way that the term "you" is meant to be derogatory. The emphasis of the question is on how someone as supposedly-unqualified as Peter could have accomplished this feat.

That Peter healed the man in Jesus' name doesn't mean that he used the words "Jesus of Nazareth" as a magical spell. To do something in someone's name means assuming that person's authority, power, and status in the task. It presumes that what's being done is aligned with that person's will. Jesus gave Peter and the other apostles permission in the many times He said they would ask in His name and He would grant their requests (John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–26).

Peter and John do not question the Sanhedrin's authority to question them. Although they will not obey any demand that contradicts what Jesus told them to do, they accept that they are under the Jewish leadership's judicial jurisdiction (Romans 13:1). They are Jews; their beliefs are the fulfillment of Judaism. As such, they are under the authority of the Sanhedrin, but that authority has limits; the Sanhedrin should be under the authority of Jesus but is rejecting Him.

The Sanhedrin's refusal to follow Jesus limits the Jesus-followers' responsibility to follow the Sanhedrin. When the council authorizes Saul to persecute the believers, the believers will flee out of his reach (Acts 8:1–3). Later, when Saul follows Jesus and uses his Greek name, Paul, he will escape the Sanhedrin's clutches by virtue of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27–29; 23:26–30). But Christianity's relationship to Judaism will protect the believers. It was against Roman law to try to convert people to a religion unrecognized by the Romans. Even though Jews refused to worship the emperor, The Roman government recognized Judaism as a legitimate faith. The fact that Christianity was initially seen as a sect of Judaism saved Jesus-followers from civil charges of illegal religion (Acts 18:14–15).
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