So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all [men] glorified God for that which was done.
Note 4 at Ac 4:21: This scripture further illustrates how these rulers were not motivated by a conviction of what was right or wrong but by fear of losing public support. Justice, whether in the church or in civil government, should always be dispensed on the basis of what's right and wrong, not on how people will react to the decision.
These religious rulers were not spokesmen for God. They were prostituting their God-given office for their own selfish advantage. However, they were very shortsighted in their goals. They may have gained something temporarily, but they damned their souls eternally (2Co 4:18).