Acts 4


1 “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of

the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,” The captain of the temple.

Only here and ch.5:24, and Luke 22:4, 52 in the plural some have thought that the

commander of the Roman garrison of the castle of Antonia is here meant. But as

the scene is laid in the court of the temple, this is very improbable. Josephus (‘Ant.

Jud.,’ 20, 6:2) speaks of an officer apparently of the temple, who was

called στρατηγός ho strataegos - captain, and was certainly a Jew by his name

Ananus, and being, as Josephus relates farther (‘Bell Jud.,’ 2, 12:6), the son of the

high priest Ananias. He also mentions the captain of the temple (‘Bell. Jud.,’ 6,

5:3) at the time of the destruction of the temple. There can be little doubt,

therefore, that the captain of the temple here spoken of was a priest who

had under him the Levitical guard, and whose duty it was to keep order in

the temple courts in these turbulent times, he appears from ch. 5:25-26,

Luke 22:4, 52, and the passages in Josephus, to have been an officer of high rank.


2 “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through

Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”  Sore troubled for grieved, Authorized

Version; because for that, Authorized Version;   proclaimed in Jesus for preached

through Jesus, Authorized Version.  The preaching the resurrection of the Lord Jesus

as the “First fruits of them that slept,” would be especially obnoxious to the

Sadducees, “which deny that there is any resurrection” (Luke 20:27). The

Sadducees were at this time in power (see ch. 5:17; and compare ch. 23:6-8);

and we learn from Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’20. 9:1) that the son of this Annas

(or Anauus) went over to the sect of the Sadducees, being himself high priest

as his father had been.


3 “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next

day: for it was now eventide.”  Ward for hold, Authorized Version  (see v. 18);

morrow for next day, Authorized Version.  They laid hands on them. The harsh

persecution of the disciples at Jerusalem at this time when the Sadducees were

in power is in exact accordance with Josephus’s statement in the passage just

referred to, that the Sadducees were more severe and cruel in their administration

of justice than any other Jews. Their tenet of no life to come made them look to

severe punishments in this life.



The First Prisoners for Christ (v. 3)


It appears that by this time the movements of the apostles were beginning

to be an object of serious concern to the religious authorities in Jerusalem.

Probably the Sadducee party, which succeeded in securing our Lord’s

death, was still predominant in the great council; this is indicated by the

prominence given to the “Resurrection” by the enemies of the disciples. In

addition to the general annoyance at the public preaching of the apostles,

the officials of the temple were grieved at the crowding of the people

round the new teachers in the temple courts. So in the name of order, but

really in the spirit of jealousy, they were arrested, late in the evening, and

put in safe keeping until the next day. Jewish rules did not allow judgment

to be given at night. Imprisonment was only a precautionary measure; the

Jews did not punish by imprisonment. Where mention is made of it, as used

for punishment, in the Scripture records, the authorities who inflicted it

were not Jewish. The point to which we now direct attention is, that a

confession of moral impotence is made in all physical attempts to stop and

crush teachers. Intellectual and moral error can only be fairly met by the

teaching of the corrective truth. Only when men fail to conquer by

reasoning, can they wish to take up material weapons of any kind. When

reason fails then men imprison, and beat, and torture, and kill. And physical

forces never can succeed in crushing moral ones. It has been true for every

age, and is as true as ever today, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed

of the Church.” Physical restraints are only proper in relation to wrongs

that disturb the social order. They are wholly out of place in connection

with matters of opinion.



the people. They only appealed to mind and judgment. They only

announced some new truths. They only invited the people’s belief. Part of

the offence against them arose from the known fact that they were

unlearned and ignorant men; not specially trained rabbis, and so not

regarded as fit to preach. An instance of the class-prejudice which sadly

prevails still. Illustrate from the story of great missionaries. They have only

been teachers, yet how often, in different countries, they have excited

prejudice and suffered persecution! The same is still, in measure, true of all

great thought-leaders; all men who are “before their time” must expect to

be misunderstood and persecuted.



ORDER. They did not encourage vice or lawlessness. They did not

interfere with family life, local government, social customs, or politics.

Like their Master, they dealt with broad and general principles, expecting

these, when implanted, to gain their own growth and expressions. Even

their little excitement in the temple courts, and temporary interference with

the temple order, was a matter of no moment. There was no occasion for

the temple police to interfere with them.



CEREMONIAL RITES. There were, indeed, personal examples of diligent

and devout Mosaism; strict in all matters of ceremonial duty. They never

uttered a word that could be regarded as disrespectful to the temple or the

Jewish system. They never tried to break one single person away from his

ceremonial duties. Their teachings were within Judaism, and the most

jealous conservators of the old system had no good reason for fearing their

influence. This, however, applies to true Mosaism, and not to the

burdensome ritual added by the rabbis, against which both our Lord and His

disciples vigorously pleaded. But on this particular occasion the apostles

had not even attacked the rabbinical system.




CITIZENS. Such is everywhere the natural results of the preaching of

Christ and the teaching of Christianity. Loyalty to Christ helps to secure

loyalty to the earthly ruler, and the virtues Christianity cultivates find their

expression in the social and national spheres. (I have never met a Christian

that was not a good citizen!  CY – 2016)  Then why were these men

arrested? Because the men in power were jealous of the influence they

were gaining, and feared they would lose their own authority and influence

on the people. Self-seeking is at the root of all religious persecution. And

because the men who opposed them could not meet and answer them in

argument, they had to fall back upon the unworthy weapons of threatening

and force (see vs. 16-17). Impress that no physical bonds have ever yet

been forged that could bind in the truth.


4 “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number

of the men was about five thousand.”  But for howbeit, Authorized Version;

that for which, Authorized Version  ; came to be for was, Authorized Version.

The number of the men; strictly, of the males (ἀνδρῶν andron - men) (ch. 5:14),

but probably used here more loosely of men and women. It is not clear whether

the five thousand is exclusive of or includes the three thousand converts at the

Feast of Pentecost; but the grammar rather favors, the former, as there is nothing

in the word ἀνδρῶν, itself to signify “disciples,” or “believers,” and therefore

it is more naturally referred to those of whom it had just been predicated that,

having heard the Word, THEY BELIEVED IT!



The First Persecution (vs. 1-4)




Ø      Religious intolerance“the priests.”


Ø      Political animosity “ the captain of the temple.” A representative of

Rome, alarmed by the crowd and fearing popular tumult.


Ø      Rationalistic unbelief “the Sadducees.” The troubles of the Church

are thus foreshadowed, proceeding from the three different sources which

will always unite against the truth. Against two facts they rose up: the

people were taught; the Resurrection was the substance of the teaching.

Popular religion is never liked by priests, rulers, and infidels. They are

“sore troubled” when the gospel manifests its power. So it was in the

Reformation. The old and corrupt Church gained over the state to its

purposes. And soon there was a great rising up of the proud intellect of

man against the simplicity of the message. At the bottom of this combined

movement was a stricken conscience. The Resurrection condemned them

all. They knew it. So still the Resurrection condemns the corruptions of the

Church, the despotism of the world, and the pride of unbelief. We must

never reckon on a peaceful victory. The people are not really cared for by

the high ones of this world. They learn no lessons from the past. Progress

must be in spite of them.




Ø      Cautious. “Put them in ward unto the morrow” (Revised Version). Fear

of the people; recognition of the power of the apostles; bewilderment in the

sense of their own guilty part in the Crucifixion; pretended respect for the

forms of justice and self-deceived conventionalism. Underneath

punctiliousness (showing great attention to detail or correct behavior:

in our day is it not “political correctness?” – CY – 2016) there is often

a great depth of pride and hollow-heartedness.


Ø      Tentative. It was not a full burst of fury against the apostles, but an

experiment to see how far they would go in their defiance of authorities. It

was supposed that a night in prison would quell their courage, that an

appearance before the Sanhedrim would probably break off the rising plant

at the root, (in our day, a hefty fine, or a threaten lawsuit from the ACLU –

CY – 2016) for it was seen that there was no great display of physical force

among the sect.


Ø      Ignorant and perplexed in policy, for there could be no decided and

deliberate movements against the new doctrine on such grounds. Nor were

the elements of the conspiracy congenial. Priests would care nothing for

Sadducees, and Roman rulers despised both. They could not have studied

either the facts of the case or the characters of the apostles. They made a

dash upon them in the provocation of the moment, hoping to snuff out the

light at once. Their ignorance of Scripture and worldliness of spirit made

them capable of such folly, and the fruit of it was a very significant rebuff.




Ø      On the Church itself. (See the rest of the chapter.) Deepening the

spiritual life; promoting brotherly love, prayerfulness, and sympathy;

preparing for future trials; revealing the utter weakness of the opposition;

fulfilling the promise of Christ as to their endowment in the presence of

enemies; magnifying the gospel in their sight; helping them to feel that they

must hearken unto God and not unto men; deepening their insight into

Scripture and enlarging their prospect of the future triumphs of the gospel,

which they thought of in the spirit of prophecy.


Ø      On the world. Drawing to them popular sympathy; making them the talk

of Jerusalem, and so leading many to inquiry; testing the hearers whether

they were prepared to encounter such dangers for Christ. The five

thousand would be henceforth drawn together, and the world would see

the Church more distinctly. It was well that the new doctrine should be

manifestly put over against the old. Many may have been perplexed by the

reverence which apostles showed for the temple and its worship. While still

addressing themselves to Jews, it was now plain that to be a disciple of

Christ was to break away from Judaism. The effect of the miracle would be

heightened; for it would be asked, naturally, why the workers of such a

cure should be so treated. It has never been a success to persecute. It

shows weakness in the persecutor; it reveals power in the persecuted; it

spreads abroad facts that might otherwise be ignored. This beginning of the

Church’s fight with false religion and worldly pride throws great light

along the ages, and teaches us many a lesson concerning Church history.


5 “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders,

and scribes,”  Were gathered together in Jerusalem for at (v. 6), Authorized Version;

or, as it should rather be rendered, to — some of them probably living in the

country. This clause is placed in the Authorized Version  at the end of v. 6 because, in

the Textus Receptus, Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander are in the accusative case,

whereas, in the Received Text, they are in the nominative case; for which reason the

Revised Version supplies the words “was there” in v. 6. We see here the different

classes which composed the Sanhedrin.


6 “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,

and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together

at Jerusalem.” Annas the high priest was there for Annas the high priest,

Authorized Version  .  This is the same Annas as is mentioned in Luke 3:2 and

John 18:13, and is described as “father-in-law to Caiaphas.” He is called by

Josephus, Ananus. The succession of the high priests was so irregular, and their

tenure of the office so uncertain, in these later years of the Jewish

commonwealth, being dependent upon the caprice of the civil rulers who

appointed and deposed them at their pleasure, that it does not surprise us

to find Annas and Caiaphas high priests at the commencement of John the

Baptist’s ministry, then Caiaphas at the time of our Lord’s passion, and

now Annas again. It is possible, however, that Annas may have continued

to be president of the Sanhedrin, and be called high priest, even when not

actually so. He seems to have lived to old age. He is mentioned by

Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 20, 60:1) as having had the singular felicity not only

of enjoying the high priesthood himself for a great length of time, but of

having five sons promoted to the dignity of high priest, viz. Eleazar,

Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and Ananus (or Annas). Caiaphas

(John 18:13). Of John and Alexander nothing further is known, but

Farrar conjectures that John may be “the celebrated Johanan Ben Zakkai,

and Alexander perhaps the wealthy brother of Philo” (‘Life of St. Paul,’ 1.

p. 107). Of the kindred of the high priest; rather, of the high priestly race.

The high priests were only taken from certain families; the members of which

were called ἀρχιερεῖς archiereis - or chief priests, Authorized Version 

(Matthew 16:21; 26:47, etc.), Many of these would naturally be the near

relations of the high priest.


7 “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by

what name, have ye done this?” Inquired for asked, Authorized Version  ; in for

by, Authorized Version. In what name; ποίαpoia - what, means exactly,

“what kind.” The miracle might have been wrought, as it seemed to them, by

Beelzebub, or by magic (ch. 13:6; 19:19, etc.; Luke 15:15, etc.), as well as

by Divine power and in the Name of God. They asked which it was. In the Greek

there is an emphasis upon the “ye,” which is placed last, equal to “such as you,”

unlearned and contemptible men.


8 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of

the people, and elders of Israel,”  Elders for elders of Israel, Authorized Version 

and Textus Receptus. Filled with the Holy Ghost; in direct fulfillment of the

promise (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; 21:14-15; compare ch. 7:55). Peter addresses

them with all respect (see Matthew 23:2).


9 “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent

man, by what means he is made whole;”  Are for be, Authorized Version;

concerning a (good deed) for of the, Authorized Version  ; an

(impotent) for the, Authorized Version  ; this man for he, Authorized Version.

We; emphatic, probably in response to the emphatic “you” at the end of v. 7.

An impotent man.  The following οῦτοςhoutosthis one, this man, makes it

necessary to supply the definite article, as the Authorized Version  has done.

Peter alludes to the good deed, i.e. the benefit done to the lame man, being the

subject of a criminal inquiry, as a tacit condemnation of the unrighteousness

of such a course.


10 “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the

name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God

raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before

you whole.”  In (the name) for by, Authorized Version  , and again, in (Him) for by,

Authorized Version; but if ἐν τίνι – en tiniin what (v. 9) is rightly rendered

by what means, ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι – en to onomati – in the name and ἐν τούτῳ -

en toutoin this ought to be rendered as in the Authorized Version, by.

Be it known unto you all, etc. Peter skillfully excuses himself from any

presumption in preaching to the rulers by making his words the direct and

necessary answer to their inquiry. Jesus Christ of Nazareth (see ch. 3:6, note).

Whom ye crucified, whom God raised. With what wonderful conciseness and

force are the great doctrines of the gospel condensed into a few words! The

human nature, the mediatorial glory, the humiliating but atoning death, the

glorious resurrection (a cardinal point in all the apostolic preaching), and

the present might of Christ to save His people on earth, are all set out in

half a dozen pregnant words. Even in Him. The apostle thus passes from

the Name to Him whose Name it was. Before you. How could they deny

what was actually before their eyes?


11 “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is

become the head of the corner.”  He for this, Authorized Version; the builders

for builders, Authorized Version; was made for is become, Authorized Version.

He is the stone. He had just appealed to their own senses; he now adds the witness

of their own prophets. These had declared that the stone which was set at naught

by the builders should become the chief corner-stone; just as it had come to pass.

The quotation is from Psalm 118:22; only Luke here substitutes the word

ἐξουθενηθεὶς exouthenaetheisto set at naught, for that used by the Septuagint,

ἀπεδοκίμασαν apedokimasan - to refuse, or reject as unfit. The word ξουθενήσας

 exouthenaesasscorning; set at naught - is applied directly to our Saviour in

Luke 23:11, and the similar word, ἐξουδενηθῇ - exoudenaethaemay be being

scorned; set at naught -  in Mark 9:12.



The Despised Stone a Sure Foundation (v. 11)


For the Scripture figure here used the following passages may be

compared:  Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; I Peter 2:7. The

construction of our modern buildings does not permit of special importance

being given to a foundation, stone. We now put in memorial stones. Very

probably the Scripture figure is taken from the immense work of masonry,

found necessary at one corner of the temple area, in order to complete the

sacred precincts. This corner foundation, raised right up out of the valley,

made a deep impression on the Jewish mind, and was regarded as the

foundation of the temple. Some prefer to think that reference may be to the

virgin rock which was probably covered by the holy of holies. A

foundation, in the sense of a basis-truth or principle, is necessary for a

religious system or a personal faith. Here Peter’s words are addressed

to certain persons, and we consider:


  • THE BUILDERS. Such the Sanhedrin regarded themselves as being,

because they were at the head of the ecclesiastical government of the

people; they settled the order of ceremonies, duties, and obligations, and

required men virtually to take their religion from them. They would advise

and direct, and the people should have no will of their own in religious

matters. A new rabbinical system had grown up round the

Mosaic, and crushed out its life. For this rabbinical system, as bringing the

people entirely under their sway, the members of the Sanhedrin were so

jealous. Fix attention on the exceeding peril and amazing folly of men in

trying to formulate and impose a religious system, when one had been fully

revealed and its principles adequately detailed. No wonder they went

astray, binding burdens on men’s shoulders grievous to bear. No wonder

they were wholly wrong, both in their foundation and in their superstructure.


  • THEIR FOUNDATION-STONE. What can man’s foundation, for any

religious system he may construct, ever be but works — man’s works?

There is nothing else they can select. If they want anything better, they

must give up trying to find it or to lay it, and let God both find and lay.

Disguise it how we may, call it by what skilful names we please, men’s

foundations for religious systems or personal hopes are always self;

something we can do ourselves. Illustrate from other systems than

Christianity, showing that self and self-service and works are the

foundations of Brahmanism, Mohammedanism, heathenism, and

Catholicism. Those trying to feel confidence in the foundation-stone of self

are sure to pass by, and fail to find interest or attraction in, the stone God

offers to lay in Jesus Christ, the sure Foundation. This point may be urged

in its application to personal religious seeking and experience. Many a man

has had to see the utter ruin of his buildings raised on self, before he could

find interest in, or care to build upon, the Rock of Ages.



Builder interfered, choosing His own good and wise time. Sanhedrins and

rabbis could only be under-builders. Because of their willful errors He puts

them aside, and sets forth the apostles in their stead — just as, in older

days, He made prophets take the place of incapable priests — and bade

those apostles lay firmly down the despised Stone, even Jesus, the

Nazarene. It is to be the very Head of the comer, and the whole erection of

the Christian Church is to lean safely up against it and upon it. Impress that

still there are mistaken builders, who pass by Christ, and assume authority

to lay other foundations. And still it is as true as ever it was, that God

makes Jesus Christ, for each soul’s salvation and life, the “tried Stone, the

precious Corner-stone, the sure Foundation; and he that believeth on him

shall not be ashamed.”


12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name

under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

And in none other is there salvation for neither is there salvation in any other,

Authorized Version; neither is there any other, etc., for there is none other,

Authorized Version; that is given for given, Authorized Version; wherein for

whereby, Authorized Version. The eighteenth Article of Religion refers

directly to this verse as proving that ETERNAL SALVATION  can be obtained




The Servants in the Footsteps of their Lord  (vs. 5-12)


  • Compare the CIRCUMSTANCES of this testimony with those in which

Jesus stood. Some of the same were present. Actuated by similar feelings

against the truth. But notice:


Ø      Called together on the ground of one specific fact — the miracle done

(v. 7) undeniably real.


Ø      Without any accusation as in the Lord’s case. No false witnesses called.


Ø      In appearance, at least, orderly and candid; inquiring, “By what power,

or in what Name, have ye done this?” certainly evincing, as does the

sequel, considerable reaction from the fury of the Crucifixion.

Conscience was at work. A sign that the gospel was already beginning

to lay hold of Jerusalem.


  • Consider the TESTIMONY borne by the apostle.


Ø      The substance of it. It pointed to the signs of Divine power present;

connected those signs with the Name and authority of Jesus Christ; clearly

announced the fulfillment of Scripture, and invited all to rejoice in the

blessings of the gospel.


Ø      The inspiration of it; seen in its simplicity, boldness, wisdom, and yet

supreme gentleness and love. A perfect respect for the old, and yet an

entire acceptance of the new with all its consequences. It was not the

address of a criminal excusing himself, or of a suspected man putting by

the misconstructions of enemies; it was the appeal of a herald and inspired

ambassador, fulfilling his Divine office to be a witness to Jesus. There was

in it a sublime indifference to human opposition, and yet a confidence in the

sufficiency of the gospel which could not have been of merely human

origin. Peter spoke as one “filled with the Holy Ghost,” the Spirit of truth,

life, and love; as a true Israelite, without one word of disparagement of

what was represented in that Sanhedrin; and yet as a true apostle of Christ;

as the priest of that restored temple, of which Jesus was henceforth the

Cornerstone; and as a true prophet, able to connect the present with the

past and the future, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”



The Unfolded Banner of Salvation (v. 12)


Neither is there salvation in any other,” etc. The contrast between the

position of Christ’s heralds then and now. They pointed to one miracle just

wrought; we point to the whole succession of wonders along the line of

Christian history. Already the Name of Jesus is above every name.”


(1) A proclamation;

(2) a warning;

(3) an invitation.


  • A PROCLAMATION. “None other name.”


Ø      The proclamation of witnesses. They knew the person, they saw the

power, they were subjects of the grace. The Name was a history, testified

by those who published it. Others could take knowledge that they had been

with Jesus. So Christians still can speak of the Name as in their own hearts

and lives “above every name.”


Ø      The proclamation of inspired teachers. The name misunderstood among

Jews, because salvation itself was nothing to them, not being spiritually

regarded. The Name of the “Messiah” represented:


o       the promise of atonement, and

o       spiritual deliverance.


             The apostles themselves were taught of God, otherwise they would

never have known the secrets of the Name. They proclaimed salvation

necessary to all, denouncing the self-righteousness of the Jews.


Ø      The proclamation of sincere philanthropists. “Under heaven given

among men.” The standard was set up at Jerusalem, but it meant conquest

of the whole world. No name will bear this test but Christ’s. Other names,

Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, have but a limited range, of sympathy and

divide the world, not unite it. The history of man is a progressive

preparation of the race to acknowledge a Name which shall be adapted for

universal recognition and homage. A missionary spirit is the test of a true



  • A WARNING. There are other names among men. Recall the chief

dangers of our present time. The builders at the temple of human progress


Christianity, robbed of its deepest adaptation to the wants of men; a mere

bundle of moral principles and examples. The pride of the human intellect

set on the throne; in rationalistic criticism; the dry bones of the Bible offered

instead of the living reality; in socialistic theories put in place, of spiritual

change, which alone can produce the fruits of righteousness; in sophistical

arguments against the leading doctrines of the gospel; and pretended

philanthropy, which means nothing but trifling with the awful realities of sin,

and undue exaltation of the material above the spiritual interests of men.

Other names in the Church. The priest hiding the Savior; the ritual shutting

out the truth; sectarianism dishonoring Christ; names of leaders and teachers

made into temptations to spiritual pride, and mere hero-worship substituted

for simple-minded obedience to Christ’s commandments. Yet the Name

above every name in fact, and  MUST BE SEEN TO BE SO! The Name

of the coming Judge, who, though He find not faith on the earth, will still

destroy all that exalteth itself against him, “that God may be all in all.”

          (I Corinthians 15:28)




Ø      To acceptance of a free gift. Given amongst men.” Contrast between

Christ’s method of helping men and that of the world’s teachers.


Ø      To separation from a lost cause. The names of the world represent the

old things which are passing away. Come out and be separate. Name the

Name of Christ in order to realize salvation. Half-hearted religion is no joy.


Ø      To anticipation of a final victory. As the Name we honor represents a

life which went up from the lowliest places on earth to the highest in

heaven, so those who are called after the Name rise to the throne to reign

with Christ. Will you sell such a birthright for vain delight? Will you

forfeit such a prospect for lack of faith?




The One Saving Name (v. 12)


As one of the earliest preachings of the gospel, this sermon contains a

striking illustration of the simplicity of the gospel message. From it we may

learn what things were set forth as the primary and essential facts of

Christianity, before the development of Christian doctrine. Theology is a

science formulated by human genius; for it we are mainly indebted to

Augustine and Anselm and Calvin. But it would be a sad thing indeed, for

the thousands of  “wayfaring men,” if an adequate apprehension of a human

theology were essential to personal religion. This sermon deals with facts,

with the known historical facts of our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection;

and with the unknown facts, declared upon the apostolic authority, of

Christ’s office, commission, and authority, as risen and exalted. Upon these

facts the sermon makes deductions and applications, as in our text.


  • SALVATION. Sin is the great human ill, and salvation, to be any

            salvation at all to man, must deal with and compass it. For this sin that has

            wrought and is working in us we need “salvation,” and it is but to mock us

            to say that Christ is not the Savior from sin. Show what a large,

            comprehensive word “salvation” is; compare it with healing, teaching,

            reforming, etc. It is the word which expresses the deepest need to which

            any soul can ever awake. At the very edge of death the aroused jailor cries,

            “What must I do to be saved?  (ch. 16:30)  Plead as to whether there has yet

            been open vision to the discovery of this master-need. What, indeed, can it

            profit any one of us to gain the whole world, and have our soul unsaved?




Ø      A name stands for a person, and includes whatever rights may belong to

him. Illustrate by the ambassador acting in the name of the queen; travelers

finding safety in using the name of Englishmen; Moses coming forth in the

Name of Jehovah. So the apostles went forth, spoke and wrought, in the

Name of Christ. And salvation is by the Name, i.e. by the present rights

and power of the living Savior, whom apostles introduced to men.


Ø      A name stands for a plea. As Paul used his name as a Roman citizen.

The Name of Jesus is a sufficient plea to secure acquittal, for all due

satisfactions have been wrought by Christ. The Name of Jesus becomes a

sufficient plea to secure acceptance, for all required righteousness has been

won by Christ; and we, by faith united to Him and bearing His Name, come

into His power and share His rights.


Ø      SALVATION ONLY BY ONE NAME. “None other name” is

designed to be exclusive. Then see what it excludes. Few, perhaps, will

now actually substitute something for Christ, and deliberately say, “I will

not be saved by Christ.” But there was, in older times, a subtle substituting

of fancied ideas about God’s mercy; and there is now danger of our

substituting knowledge and science. Many will try to put something along

with Christ. Men try to join their own name with Christ’s; or they put

together the Virgin Mary and Christ; or the Church and Christ; or even, in

subtle forms, the Bible and Christ; or feelings and Christ. All are wrong

things if they are set in the first place with Christ; all may be good if kept

in their proper second places. For soul-salvation there is only one Name;

the essential thing is that we stand in living relations of faith and love with

Him whose “Name is above every name.”


  • SALVATION IN THE ONE NAME FOR ALL. Otherwise it could

not be exclusive. If it is to be the only Name, then it must be the all-sufficient

Name, or God would be deceiving us in permitting such broad

and gracious invitations to be made to us. The real wants of men are

common to all men. We all want:


Ø      health,

Ø      love,

Ø      knowledge, and

Ø      truth;


and it is equally true that we all want:


Ø      pardon of our transgressions,

Ø      liberty from the slavery of self and sin,

Ø      the life of righteousness, and

Ø      the hope of the eternal glory.


“Salvation” gathers up all these, and all these are found in

and through Christ Jesus only.


  • CONCLUSION. The way of salvation keeps its simplicity. And “to you is

the word of this salvation sent.” There is one Name — only one Name;

believe, and you shall be saved. Search the world over and the ages

through, there is no other; and yet one day to this Name “every knee shall

bow, and every tongue confess.”  (Philippians 2:10-11)


13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived

that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and

they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Beheld for saw,

Authorized Version; had perceived for perceived, Authorized Version.

The boldness; literally, free or outspokenness (παῥῤησία parraesia - boldness),

and properly used with words signifying to speak (see ch.2:29; here vs. 29, 31;

28:31; John 7:13, etc.), and so the verb (παρρησιάζεσθαι parraesiazesthai -  

means  to speak freely and boldly - ch. 9:27, 29; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26;

elsewhere in the New Testament only in Ephesians 6:20; I Thessalonians 2:2).

Peter had shown his free-spokenness in so boldly proclaiming the resurrection

and mighty power of Him whom the rulers he was addressing had crucified.

Boldness of speech, when combined with love and moderation, is a most important

grace for a minister of Christ.  Unlearned and ignorant men. The term unlearned

(ἀγράμματος agrammatos - illiterate) means that they had no “knowledge of

Jewish culture” beyond the Scriptures.  Ignorant men (ἰδιῶται idiotaiplain;

ordinary; unlearned) was a technical term for those who had not

studied in rabbinic schools. The word hediot occurs frequently in the

Talmud (Farrar’s ‘Life of St. Paul,’ vol. 1. p. 106). They took knowledge,

etc. Annas and Caiaphas or some of their people, it is likely, had seen them

in the high priest’s palace (John 18:15-18).


Signs of Having Been with Jesus (v. 13)


We should always keep the thought close to us that our spirit and our word

and our conduct, as the professed disciples of the Lord Jesus, are being

daily watched; sometimes kindly, sometimes unkindly, always keenly. Men

do “take knowledge of us.” Something must be wrong if our life as

Christians is not so toned and characterized as to arrest attention. There was

something about the apostles which puzzled the Sanhedrin: there was

more than they were able to discern. We may see what actually did impress

them, and also what might reasonably have impressed them.


  • The Sanhedrin were struck with the POWER, the COURAGE, which

the apostles had gained FROM CHRIST!   Power, high personal influence,

moral courage, had been characteristic of the Lord Jesus. In the apostles

power showed itself in firm, noble witnessing to the facts they knew and the

truths which had been entrusted to them, however offensive the facts and

the truths might be to the rulers who listened. In us the like power, given

by Christ, may show itself in steadfastness to principle, even when that

may place us in social disability; and in practical consistency, whatever

may be our surroundings. Illustrate by firm keeping of the sabbath law; and

by such passages as:


Ø      “Having done all, stand;”  (Ephesians 6:13)

Ø      “Quit you like men, be strong;” (I Corinthians 16:13)

Ø      “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  (II Timothy 2:3)


            There is great need of a more steadfast opposition to accepted worldly

            maxims and worldly habits. Christians should dare to be singular when

            Christly principles and the Christly spirit are imperiled.


  • The Sanhedrin might have been struck with the CHARACTERS of the

apostles, as fashioned by Christ. The character of the Lord Jesus had been

peculiarly His force, and these apostles had come so fully under its

influence that they had become, both consciously and unconsciously,

molded thereby. They had learned, as Christ’s disciples, to seek

“whatsoever things are true, …. honest, ….just, …..pure, ….lovely,

…..of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,

think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). Their natural characters

were being sanctified; and, in measure, they were exerting the influence

of personal moral excellence and virtue, even as their Lord had done.

This may be illustrated in Peter. Pure and lovely character is still

the highest power on men everywhere. None can wholly withstand the

influence of sweet and saintly lives.


  • The Sanhedrin might have been struck with the RULING

PRINCIPLE of the apostles’ CONDUCT, which they had learned of

Christ. It was the principle of the constraining love.


Ø      Love to Christ, by whom we are redeemed.

Ø      Love to the brethren who share with us in the common redemption.

Ø      And love to the unsaved, for whom we may well desire the

      unspeakable blessings which we have ourselves received.


       Love is ever seeking to find expression, and will not be satisfied with

       measures of self-sacrifice short of the self-sacrifice of Christ for our

       salvation.  We cannot hope to exert the same influence on those about us

       that was wrought by the apostles on the Sanhedrin, until we learn to be

       oftener with Jesus. And that we may be in two ways.


Ø      In the outward fellowship of the Gospels. We may study them better.

We may meditate on them more frequently. We may realize more

perfectly the Christ they reveal, and so “know Him,” and feel the

power of His presence.


Ø      We may be with Jesus in the inward fellowship of cherished thoughts.

Taking Him into our hearts as we take our dearest friend, and often

holding with Him secret soul-communing. Then men would plainly

see upon us, day by day, the signs that we “have been with Jesus.”



Association with Christ (v. 13)


We gather from these words:



persecutors of Peter and John “perceived that they were unlearned and

ignorant men;” not uneducated men, in the worst sense of that term, but

lacking in the higher culture of their time. But though thus comparatively

unlearned, they were men of strong faith, of true piety, of godly zeal,

admirable in the sight of men, acceptable servants of Jesus Christ. Human

learning is a desirable, but it is far from being, a necessary, thing to

excellence of character or nobility of life.




“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John… they marveled.”

Whatever virtues are unappreciated by the ungodly, courage always enlists

attention and provokes admiration. Be brave, and you will be heard; stand

to your colors with undaunted spirit, and men will, however reluctantly,

yield you their respect.




elders wanted to account to themselves for the boldness of these two men

they remembered their connection with Christ, and were no longer at fault.

That will account for anything that is good. Much intimacy with Him who

“regarded not the person of man” will always make men brave; frequent

communion with that Holy One of God will always make men pure of

heart; close friendship with Him who came to lay down His life for the sheep

will always make men unselfish, etc.




nothing which is such a tribute to human worth as that men are thereby

reminded of Christ. What impression are we most anxious to convey about

ourselves? The answer to that question will be a sure criterion of our

spiritual standing. If we are nearing the goal which is set before us, if we

are attaining to any real height of Christian excellency, we shall be truly

and earnestly solicitous that our constant spirit and daily behavior will be

suggestive of the temper and the principles of Jesus Christ our Lord.



Witnessing for Christ (v. 13)


They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Fulfillment

of the promise, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me.” Reward for obedience to

the precept, depend on the Spirit. No mere human resources applied to; the

men simply spiritual men, bearing witness to Divine facts.


  • A GREAT CHANGE MADE MANIFEST. Fishermen, Jews, once filled

with fear, now bold, eloquent, full of the Holy Ghost, proclaiming a

doctrine once hateful to them, uplifted to a lofty conception of the

kingdom of God. The whole explanation in the fact they had been with

Jesus, as disciples, as chosen out by Him for their mission, as qualified

for it by His gifts of the Spirit.




Ø      By the clear and decided expression of Christian faith. The world is

much more impressed by beholding a wonderful contrast to itself, than by

seeing Christians compromising principles for the sake of enlarging the



Ø      By fearless condemnation of evil and proclamation of the kingdom of

Christ. We should remember that all wickedness is weakness. We must

speak like Peter and John. We must keep the Head of the corner in view.


Ø      By the wonderfulness of spiritual work and life. Unlearned and ignorant

men can render an incalculable service to the cause of Christ by making

others marvel, when they speak out boldly their humble testimony. But let

all who hear it say, “They have been with Jesus.”




Ø      To the apostles themselves. The power of faith; the protecting presence

of God; the safety of boldness; persecution making opportunity; the

suffering servant honoring the Master.


Ø      To the council. To judge righteous judgments; to learn the method of

grace; to see the errors of the past. But we should be warned; for such

lessons were in vain, although enforced with such power.


Ø      To ourselves. The whole incident teaches the strength of the spiritual

life; the method or the Christian work; the glory of the believer’s

prospects. Those that have been with Jesus shall share His victories.


14 “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they

could say nothing against it.  15 “But when they had commanded them to go

aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,” Beholding for

seeing, Authorized Version.


16 “Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable

miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in

Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.”  Wrought through them for done by them,

Authorized Version; to all for to all them, Authorized Version. Only here and

at  v. 22 and in Luke 23:8 has miracle been retained in the  Revised Version as

the rendering of σημεῖα saemeia -  everywhere else it is sign. Wrought through

them; more literally, hath come to pass through them.


17 “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly

threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.”

Threaten for straitly threaten, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.

The subject of that it spread seems to be “a notable miracle.” They could

not deny that it had taken place, but they could prevent the knowledge of it

spreading, by forbidding the apostles to speak of the Name of Jesus in which

it had been wrought.


18 “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor

teach in the name of Jesus.” Charged for commanded, Authorized Version.


19 “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be

right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,

judge ye.”  Rather for more, Authorized Version.


20 “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Saw and heard for have seen and heard, Authorized Version. We cannot but

speak, etc. We have here another instance of Peter’s boldness of speech

under the influence of the Holy Ghost.



The Simpler and the Deeper Truth (vs. 19-20)


Here we have


  • A TRUTH WHICH IS PALPABLE TO ALL — that when the Divine

and the human are in conflict, the human must yield to the Divine.

“Whether it be right… judge ye.” The judgment required was one that any

man could pronounce; the question may be answered by the humblest



Ø      Ordinarily, the commandments of God and of man are in unison; it is,

as a rule, our duty to God to obey the human parent, teacher, magistrate,



Ø      But occasionally, we are compelled to believe that God bids us act in a

way directly at variance with the commands of man. The apostles now

found themselves in this position. Since then martyrs, confessors, those

who have been persecuted for Christ’s sake, in every age and land, have

found themselves thus placed. And these have included not only the men

whose names history has preserved and whose praise poetry has sung, but

many thousands who have struggled and endured in quiet homes and

narrow spheres, whose heroism no tongue has told, no pen recorded.


Ø      Then the human authority is nothing to the Divine. We must obey God

rather than man; we must give our first allegiance, our most dutiful

submission, to the Eternal Father, to the Divine Teacher, to the King of

kings, to the Head of the Church Himself.



that we are under a holy compulsion to testify the truth we know: “We

cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” All can

understand that men will speak the truth they know when, by so doing,

they will gain anything which satisfies their lower nature — pecuniary

reward, or personal prominence, or the gratification of receiving the

interested attention of others. But it is not every one who can understand

that men feel themselves under a holy compulsion to declare what God has

revealed to them in order to relieve a full and burdened heart. This is a case

in which “only the good discern the good.” But those who are in sympathy

with God and with heavenly wisdom will understand that human hearts

may be so impressed with the excellency, the beauty, the fruitfulness, the

divinity of truth, that they are positively oppressed while they remain silent,

until they have “spoken the things they have seen and heard.” The word is

in the heart as “a burning fire shut up in the bones,” etc. (Jeremiah 20:9;

Job 32:18, 20; Psalm 39:3; I Corinthians 9:16). The fact

that not only the apostles of our Lord, but thousands of souls since then,

have felt thus constrained concerning Christian truth, suggests:


Ø      That it is a truth of transcendent worth which it is foolish and wrong to

trifle with.


Ø      That we have not risen to the full height of appreciation of it if we do

not feel irresistibly impelled to make it known to others.



The Aggressiveness of the Gospel (v. 20)


“We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The early

history of Christianity is a striking proof of its Divine origin. Man’s method is

to wait opportunities, God’s to create them. Man prepares his strength

before he puts it forth; God makes His strength perfect in weakness. The

“foolishness of preaching.”  We must pay no heed to the world’s scorn

and distrust of enthusiasm.



REAL. The things which we have seen and heard.”


Ø      Not speculative, but simply practical; things of men’s moral life, things

which concern all, things of infinite importance, having their roots in



Ø      Not things of human systems and ecclesiastical dogmas. The apostles did

not preach either against the Church of Judaism or about the Church

government of Christianity, but about gospel facts which underlie all

systems and must make the substance of all creeds.


Ø      Things of experience — “seen and heard.” They spoke as witnesses; and

the more we can preach as simply bearing testimony to the gospel, the

more power we have. The various false religions of the world are

powerless to help because they appeal little to fact and experience.




Ø      Speaking before men. The notion of secret discipleship is utterly false.

There is a special value of outspoken faith, both to the believer himself, in

confirming, maturing, guiding, clearing the spiritual convictions

themselves, and in supporting practice by the help of a solemn, recorded

vow of service. The deeper and the more real the feeling, the more

necessity to speak it before others.


Ø      Speaking to men in Christ’s Name. We hearken unto God and He bids us

speak. It is a power that grows with exercise. The world requires it more

and more. Books can never take the place of preaching. In all ages men

have looked for and trusted their spiritual leaders. The things of the gospel

were not done in a corner, and they must be brought out into public life.

Read the Bible in the midday light of modern thought and business

enterprise; it is fitted to every stage of human advancement. STAND



21 “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.”  And they when they, etc.,

let them go for so when they, etc., they let them go, Authorized Version.



                                    Truth from the Tribunal (vs. 1-21)


The principles which are illustrated or suggested here are:



            ALL WRONG IN THEIR THEOLOGY. The priests were grieved that the

            apostles taught the people that which we know to have been God’s own

            truth (v. 2). In every age since then, the teaching of pure doctrine has

            been a veritable grief to those who have been regarded by many as the

            religious authorities of the land.




            STATE. The state officials “came upon” the apostles of our Lord (v. 1),

            and “laid hands on them, and put them in hold” (v. 3). How often has this

            scene been reenacted since then; the men in office using their authority to

            restrain and silence the teachers of truth, the reformers of national life!



            OPPOSED AND SILENCED BY THE STRONG. That was not a very

            unhappy evening which Peter and John spent in the stronghold of the

            temple. As they walked within the narrow bounds of their captivity, they

            thought rejoicingly of the “five thousand men” who had heard the word

            they had spoken, and had believed it and been saved by it. Spiritual

            successes are an ample compensation for material discouragements

            (ch. 16:25).



            CONSTANCY ACCORDING TO THEIR DAY. (vs. 5-13.) Before the

            Sanhedrin Peter and John show themselves brave and fearless. There is

            nothing apologetic about their demeanor, nothing supplicatory about their

            tone. They stand erect and they “speak straight on,” as men who stand

            before God and who speak for Him. In truth, they are men in whom God

            dwells (v. 8); hence their noble attitude and their manly spirit. God gives them

            grace according to their day. So will he to us also. Let us be receptive of

            his truth when he speaks to us; let us be faithful at our post when we speak

            for him; and then, when the trial hour shall come, he will nerve us for the

            scenes through which we shall have to pass, and we shall be “strong in the

            Lord, and in the power of his might.”



            (v. 12.) Many paths lead into it; there are many ruts in the road; many

            very different pilgrims along it; many views as we look out on either side of

            it and at different stages on it. But there is only one way: this is found in

            him who says, “I am the Way.”




            In presence of reclaimed drunkenness, silenced profanity, cleansed and

            uplifted impurity, regenerated selfishness, humbled pride, what can

            infidelity or irreverence do? It is dumb; it is helpless.



            DIVINE TRUTH.  (vs. 16-21.) Authority, in the person of this Jewish

            Sanhedrin, is ill intentioned enough; it is willing enough to smite; it

            considers patiently and earnestly how far it dares to go; it threatens, forbids,

            threatens still further, and then impotently and ignominiously releases.

            Error is often fiercely antagonistic, industriously hostile, actively opposed

            to the truth of God; but let us take courage in dark hours — it is held under

            restraint; there is a point beyond which it cannot go; it will be compelled

            to relax its hold, and truth will come forth, before long, rejoicing in its liberty.


22 “For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of

healing was shewed.”  More than for above, Authorized Version; wrought

for showed, Authorized Version.  Wrought; literally, as in v. 16, came to pass,

or happened, or took place.



  The First Trial of Christian Preachers

in a Court of Judgment, and their Victory

(vs. 4-22)


A few words of an historic character lay for us the scene of this trial, put us

in possession of the question at issue and of the parties, as between whom,

if not really so, it is to be settled. We are, however, justly at liberty to take

note of certain silence as well as of certain utterance and preparations for

utterance. Those who “laid hands” on Peter and John, “and put them in

ward” last night, were silent then as to the reason why. No such thing as a

civil uproar was hinted at, as matter of apprehension; and no sufficient

ecclesiastical reason could, it is evident, be so much as formulated into a

proposition capable of representing either morals or law. “Being grieved

(!) that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection

from the dead,” is all their case showed last night. And this morning the

Sanhedrin — who as much for moral as for civil reasons ought to have

been examples of something different from this — render themselves

collectively amenable to the same remarks. It was well for all of them that

Peter and John were not Romans, either by purchase or by birth (ch. 16:37;

22:28). On the other hand, the silence of Peter and John themselves

on this matter is worthy of notice. They remembered something of that

great gift, greater grace of their Master, and were now learning in practice

some lessons of Him. Sometimes the very achievements of silence are great,

and great often the rewards of it shall be. They were silent, for the injustice

of their imprisonment had been inconvenience personal to themselves, but

just as likely advantage to their Master’s cause. They were silent, rather

than waste time and waken temper as well as prejudice toward them in

their would-be judges. And they were silent, on the very wise principle of

letting “these men alone,” that they might run out the more quickly and

self- condemningly their humiliated career. And it was not long before it

was seen to what undignified shifts they were brought, Notice:


  • THE VERY ILL-SHAPED INDICTMENT (v. 7) It were indeed only

by courtesy that it could be dignified with the name of an indictment at all.

The Sanhedrin greatly stood in need of a word from the governor Porcius

Festus of just thirty years later, when he said to King Agrippa, in reference

to Paul, “For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not

withal signify the crimes laid against him” (ch. 25:27). The

Sanhedrin are guilty of this very unreasonableness.


Ø      They interrogate instead of indicting. They are going the way to make

themselves beholden to their own prisoners for some information and



Ø      There is this prima facto weakness in the very interrogation, that it is

not directed to the character of what has been done, but simply as to how

something has been done, that is all the while tacitly admitted to be

unchallengeable in its nature.


Ø      However, though their course be ever so much at fault for informality

and for worse reasons, it has one commanding excellence about it. It does

go at once to the point. It goes home to what was in their own heart. They

cannot, in the nature of things, find fault with Peter and John for relieving

of his lameness a man now “above forty years old,” and who had never

been anything but lame. And they cannot find fault with them for doing this

on a sabbath day, because it was not the sabbath. So it is only left them to

try and find something to take hold of, in “the kind of power,” or “the kind

of name,” by or in which they had “done this thing;” which, it is noticeable,

they do not choose to call here by its right name, “a notable miracle” as

they do immediately afterwards in their secret conclave (v. 16). And,

further, they may hope to find something to take hold of in “the kind” of

answer the two apostles may proffer. But this does not prove to be the

case; for their discretion, silence, temperateness, cannot be surpassed. If

the picture, then, of this trial shows the court put in a foolish position, it

shows the accused or the prisoners in an intrinsically proud position. They

are masters of the position, strange to say.


  • THE DEFENSE. (vs. 8-12.) Notice in this defense:



Ø      That the method of it may be justly assigned to the presence of the Holy

Spirit. Peter is emphatically described as “filled with the Holy Ghost.”


Ø      That, nevertheless, it is of the simplest character. It might be said to be

of nature’s simplest style.


o        It consists of a mere statement of facts. “You ask,” says Peter, “of a

deed, a ‘good deed, done to an impotent man.’ You ask by what, by what

virtue-call it ‘power’ or call it a ‘name ‘as you will — that impotent man

has taken the advantage of what is contained in that good deed.” And Peter

continues, without a word, or tone, or sign of apology, “Be it known to

you, and to the whole nation beside, that it is by the virtue of One whom

you and they know but too well — Jesus of Nazareth, whom you and they

crucified, and — wonderful contrast of rebuke — whom God raised from

the dead. Here standing before you, and beside us, your prisoners, is a

man, who is more to be remarked upon for the fact that he was made

whole by that Name, than simply for the fact itself, that (as none can deny)

he has been made whole — genuinely made whole.”


o        It consists, further, of a quotation from the Old Testament, of words

most personal to the court listening to Peter, and the application of which

to them Peter minces not at all. Peter speaks just as though it were one of

those cases in which truth must and will out. There can have been no

effrontery in the manner of Peter’s utterance, nor any appearance of

intentional affront, else we cannot imagine that his sentence would have

been allowed to come to an end. Often as wrong manner prejudices the

interest of welcome truth, the present was an instance of the converse how

truth of the most unwelcome kind got its fair force, being unprejudiced by

any flavor of bitterness, spite, taunt, or malignity.  (And thus Christians are

admonished by Paul to “speak the truth in love!”  - Ephesians 4:15 – CY –



o        It consisted of a word of genuine universal gospel as well. Now does

even Peter speak a more universal gospel than he is at the moment

conscious of. He anticipates in one breath the apostle of the Gentiles, who

was yet to come. But independently of this, and stopping short of it,

Peter’s aim is to speak of that Name of Christ as the Name of the only

Savior, rather than to speak of the universal sweep of His dominion and

virtue. He has got his foot in; he sees the narrow end of the grand wedge

in; he seizes the priceless opportunity, and uses it. The defense had the

seeds of triumph in it, and it triumphed.



was, in very deed, a most pronounced embarrassment. It is spoken by the

historian in five plain enough statements The signs of it, also, were

probably only too plain, or otherwise the case was a great exception to a

very general rule.


Ø      Those who sat in the seat of authority were, unfortunately for the

position they filled, stricken with amazement. “They marveled” at the

umperturbed flow of speech and resolute wielding of argument which

proceeded from two men who, as being “unlearned” and unprofessional

men, ought rather to have been overawed in the presence of such as

themselves — as they thought. In the midst of their amazement, however,

they either remembered the fact, or saw in the very bearing of the men the

fact, that they were old associates of Jesus.


Ø      They were fairly stricken with silence. There, present before them —

there, at the very side of the prisoners, proffering himself as a living

monument of their last evening’s work — was the veritable healed man

himself. Such a juxtaposition of facts ties into silence very perverse-wayed

tongues. “They can say nothing against it.”


Ø      They are stricken with an idea that a private conference with one

another may suggest a way out of their undignified difficulty. There is

always something very suspicious, ominous of impending disaster, if the

men that love the broadest daylight of public glare suddenly are for

retreating into the unloved shade.


Ø      Retired from public gaze, they find themselves still stricken with a

perplexity that grows no better for deliberation and secret conference. For

one thing only do we seem able to admire in any sense these men. They

have eyes to see, and they have not got to the point of seeing facts to deny

them. They will not hazard themselves into the position of denying a

“notable miracle manifest” to all the rest of the world that lives in

Jerusalem. But their perplexity is the greater, what they shall do.


Ø      Because they are fearful of the one thing, TRUTH which should have made

them fearless, they are stricken with love of an expedient simply so insane

in its certain working that it at once worsened their whole case and plight.

They will forbid the tide. They will command, “Hitherto shalt thou come,

but no further.” (Job 38:11)  They will bid to flow back a river that shows

an unmistakable force and breadth and depth of current. They will threaten

and prohibit. Whether they are counted as legislators, or statesmen, or

judges, (like many in the United States Government today – CY – 2016)




(v. 18.) “They command” the apostles “not to speak at all nor to teach in

the Name of Jesus.” Thus began the struggle between civil command and

human conscience, not indeed in the history of the world, but in the history

that has ever shown it in most intensified form, of the Christian Church.



Ø      The parties to this struggle. Traced home, they resolve themselves into

the wish of some against the conscience of others.


Ø      The intrinsic and even notorious inequality of these. That wish, it is true, will

      be said to be founded upon opinion, judgment, experience, and consent of

many. But this is equivalent to an open betraying of the proportionately

easy access to it, of disturbing causes — causes that lay it actually open to

suspicion, and render it unreliable. Wish notoriously sins in being the

victim of feeling, and none can be “ignorant of its devices.” A hundred

elements, each one of which is a possible avenue of error, go to form that

wish or will of the some which then presumes or endeavors to impose upon

the conscience of other some. On the other hand, conscience, whether it be

allowed to be more or less of an original faculty or principle of human

nature, owns to and justly claims a native prerogative, the prerogative of

the judge. And it may err. It will be liable to err, and has in point of fact

often shown itself liable to err — on one side, through being uninformed,

or ill informed. Yet, whoever flouts it (whether the owner of it himself or

another for him), is guilty of flouting pro tem. “The powers that be,” and

those powers, powers that “be of God.” Say whatsoever may be said to the

derogation of the individual conscience, that man stands on perilous

ground indeed who risks what is involved in neglecting his own

conscience, or who takes in hand to supersede that of others, by his own

fiat, under whatsoever name or misnomer it may endeavor to pass muster.

To very different moral zones of being do the voices of external command

and of internal command belong. As once a whole world was on one side,

and Noah and the Divine command on the other, so it is quite possible that

the whole world might be on one side, and an individual man and his

conscience be on the other side, and these be in the right. And it was

something like this, though not this, that was to be seen now. The whole

authorities of a nation were in this court on one side, and Peter and John

on the other; and these were in the right, and the real strength of position

lay with them.


Ø      The unconquerable deep facts of human nature and life to which these

phenomena conduct. For we get here a suggestion and a glimpse of the

idea according to which God has provided for the security of His mighty

grasp on the mighty mass of mankind. There is left no doubt which is the

mightier. This method of securing a certainty and even facility of hold upon

the vastest bulk of mankind, to disintegrate it if one corrupt mass, or

gradually to reintegrate it, without recourse to flood or deluge or any

physical force, invites most grateful and reverent study. The analogies of

physical nature, more and more laid bare to light by science, offer many an

inferior harmony with it. God’s moral hold upon the great mass depends on

and is regulated by His hold upon the individual and the individual

conscience; and often exhibits itself in this shape — that one conscience

touched will prevail against ten thousand men, will suffice to make “a

divided house,” and put a wonderfully centrifugal tendency into the

constituent parts of what seemed a very compact whole. While, on the

other hand, thousands and all the influence they could wield, and all the

torture they could apply to martyrdom itself, will leave the conscience

unharmed and unmoved. “Command,” then, and “threat,” varied only by

“threat” and “command,” are the singularly weak weapons to which this

embarrassed and undignified court now resort. And these soon enough

crumble to their touch.



rebuff contains not a few points which make it remarkable.


Ø      It is no doubt uttered in a respectful tone and manner, but for decision of

language and firmness of front it wants nothing. It distinctly emphasizes the

subordinate character of the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin; it distinctly

emphasizes their prisoners’ knowledge of it; and as distinctly it emphasizes

the intention of the prisoners to continue to do the things they were

commanded not to do, and respecting which they were threatened.


Ø      The rebuff administered by Peter and John contains a reiteration of that

which was so often the unconcealed strength of the apostolic message —

the doctrine and impulse of “God,” the matters of fact, such as they

themselves had seen and heard. Three forces sustained (and should still

sustain) the Christian preachers:


o        that they spoke things within their own knowledge,

o        that they found themselves irresistibly moved to speak of these

            things, and

o        that their undying conviction was that those things were the

            things of God.


Upon what a platform of unassailable strength do they now

stand, who hold this reply only to prohibition and threat, “Whether it be

right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge

ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”!

The implications are manifest. That the apostles must do what is right; that

by right they mean what is so in the sight of God; that this may utterly

traverse and contravene the criterion of right with the Sanhedrin; and that

they are cognizant of a call to speak which they cannot and will not



Ø      The rebuff so fits in to truth, to time, and to circumstance, that there is

nothing left for those most smitten by it but to sit down quietly under it.

Except for the inanity of “further threatening” Peter and John, those who

now smart are also like certain others, “speechless” (Matthew 22:12).

So sometimes does God cover with the shield of His wondrous protection

His servants. They are without a shred of worldly position, of influence, and

of wealth. They sit on no throne, can summon no legions, nor wield one

weapon. Yet are they themselves kept safe as “the apple of His eye.” They

gaze, too, with the light of the Divine eye on human hearts, darkened with

guilty tumult because unloyal to the truth. And it is entrusted to them to

wield the weapon of unanswerable rebuke. Many a victory falls far short of

what it seems. Greater than all, it showed, was the victory of Peter and

John, when the Sanhedrin, after enduring keen rebuke and blank rebuff,

nevertheless “let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them,

because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.”

It is so, God protects and exalts and all in one honors His servants with

highest service in His Name.



            The Impotence of Unbelief (vs. 13-22)


In contrast with the moral strength of people with deep conviction and

straightforward allegiance to truth there is the cowardice, malice,

dishonesty, sophistry, and blasphemy of modern unbelief.  Their question

concerning the resurrection was not “What shall we do with the facts?” but

“What shall we do to these men?   This is the resort of weak and

dishonest minds, who, if they will not believe, they persecute.  The idea is

 “That it spread no further among the people.”  There is folly in such policy.

The people see through the devices of a false Church — are not long deceived

by the vain boastings of infidelity. A bold and aggressive method must be the

hope of the Christian Church in the climax of opposition now reached. We

must plant ourselves firmly on the rock of undeniable facts, and hearken unto

God rather than unto men. “All men then will glorify God for what is




  Spiritual Inflexibility: A Sermon to Those in the Midst of Life (v. 22)


The words of the text indicate that there was one fact which contributed

greatly to sustain the miraculous character of the healing act that had been

wrought. We might interpolate between this verse and the preceding —

there could be no manner of doubt that this work was of God, “for the

man,” etc. We instantly recognize the force of the reasoning. When a man

has suffered for forty years from physical deformity or rigidity and is

restored in a moment, there is obviously some supernatural power brought

into exercise. Long continuance in such a case immensely aggravates the

difficulty and enhances the virtue of the cure. In this, as in so many other

respects, the moral world answers to the material.



TOUCH OF TRUTH.  As God made us, and before we are acted upon and

injured by the forces of evil, we are impressionable and flexible of soul. The

mind is eager to learn and ready to receive; the conscience is quick to approve

or to rebuke; the heart is tender and affectionate, readily responsive to goodness

and to love; the soul is appreciative of that which is spiritually fair and beautiful;

the will is open to change if cause be shown for reformation and return.

This is the time when moral maladies can best be cured, when we may well

hope that the heart will be healed of its sicknesses, and that the spirit will

“be made whole” by the great Physician.



soul has continued for forty years in an evil habit or in a state of sin, it has

become hardened in its way. Conscious wrongdoing acts harmfully on

every faculty of our nature.


Ø      It blinds “the eyes of the understanding.”

Ø      It hardens the heart.

Ø      It weakens and blunts the conscience so that its stroke is decreasingly


Ø      It stiffens and fixes the will in its chosen course. Thus it makes the man

himself unapproachable, unimpressionable, incurable. They who are

passing on from youth and young manhood into middle life, not having

entered the kingdom of God, have urgent need to “consider their ways.”

They are reaching the moral condition in which their conversion to God is

a thing of greatest difficulty and serious unlikelihood. In the Book of Life,

if their name should be recorded, will it not be added, as a proof of the

wonder-working power of the Spirit of God, “for the man was forty years

old,” etc.? Remember that:


o       salvation is never impossible: at twice forty years of age it is

within the reach of penitence and faith; but

o       it becomes growingly unlikely as the periods of human life

pass by. The Holy Ghost saith,  “TODAY IS THE DAY OF




Christ’s Servants before the Tribunal (vs. 1-22)




Ø      The jealousy of those in ecclesiastical power. Caste, privilege, and

established professions are ever jealous of popular influence. It is ill for

learning and for religion when they come to be identified with the interests

of a class. But neither can be shut up to the few. LIGHT and TRUTH are

the common property of all, as there is no function higher than that of the

genuine teacher of religion, so there is none which attracts more suspicion

and jealousy. The essence of bigotry is exemplified by the Sadducees. Not

believing in the Resurrection, they would put down any teaching of it by

force. (“Woe unto you, lawyers!  for ye have taken away the key of

knowledge:  ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering

in ye hindered.”  (Luke 11:52)  The force of persecution never comes

from love of truth, but ever from some form of interest. The temper of

the truth-lover is ever for free speech and free thought. He knows that the

TRUTH,  being a beam of God, cannot be quenched, and is reflected

with all  the more glory from the MISTS OF ERROR!   Often men mean


History shows, and passion constantly ignores, that to put down opinions

is impossible. The spirit of man acquires force both in good and evil by

resistance. Let what you consider false be either ignored, or, far better,

honestly examined and discussed. But, in fact, no absolute falsehood can

live an hour; and when desire is shown for suppression of free utterance,

fear of THE TRUTH, not love of it, is betrayed.


Ø      Another cause was the popular acceptance of the gospel. The thousands

may be despised as individuals, but their collective feeling commands

respect. When the multitude wait on a preacher, and their lives are changed

by his influence, we may be certain that there is a deeper agency at work

than appears. The very extravagances which attend popular religious

movements are in their way evidences that men are being acted upon by

unusual spiritual power.


  • THEIR EXAMINATION. They stood in the presence of the

Sanhedrim — the great ecclesiastical court and ruling body of the nation. It

is a sublime contrast between the power that is and the power that is not of

the world. The parts of the prisoners and the judges are really reversed.

Sincerity is ever the judge; appearances go for nothing in the spiritual sphere.


Ø      The question. The fact is not disputed; the question is — How is it to be

accounted for. What power, whose Name, had been at work here? The

surging up of a new power in Church or state is a formidable thing. What is

its nature? how must we deal with it? is the care of the powers that be.


Ø      The answer. First, a good thing has been admittedly done. Out of

prostration and weakness a sufferer has been restored to health and

freedom. Facts are stubborn things. Our acts speak louder than words, and

tell for us or against us irresistibly. So let us live that the facts of our life

may plead for us trumpet-tongued. Second, the interpretation of the fact.

The name and power of Jesus are behind it. Thus does spiritual force rise

up and react against those who idly fought against it. Here was the

crucified One darting a ray of His glory upon suffering. The Resurrection:

it was no fancy; it stood illustrated in the person of the restored man in the

presence of the court. What else was or could be the meaning of the fact?

No other explanation is attempted. Accusers and accused stand beneath the

shadow of a power of which the one are feeble foes, the others mighty

agents. Life is full of these contrasts, these coincidences of extreme

opposites; power dwindling into impotence, feebleness lifted into power.

The stone cast aside on the highway proves to be the corner-stone of a

new building. The rejected of men, who could not save Himself, becomes

revealed the Elect of God, and SOLE SOURCE OF SALVATION! 

Contempt of goodness is avenged by the manifested contempt of God.


  • THE EMOTION OF THE COURT. The judges are overcome in spite

of themselves by the extraordinary contrast before them. It is rare that the

learned do not feel a deep secret contempt for the ignorant and unlettered.

An overvaluation of words and logic blinds to realities. But here the calm

eloquence of those simple men breaks out like the ray of a pure gem hidden

in some rough matrix, and dazzles the intelligence. Memory is stimulated,

and Peter and John are identified as disciples of Jesus. There was a

combination of evidences which fairly reduced the judges to stupefied

silence. There stood the well-known figure of the paralytic; side by side his

confessed healers; the clear statement of the Divine agency in the case has

been boldly and impressively given by them; finally their former connection

with Jesus is recognized. The whole chain of antecedents and consequents

hangs firmly together. The logical recess in fact and thought is complete

Infinitely better the silence which bows before irresistible reasons than the

silence which is gained by force. Here again extremes meet. Mute are the

lips of the unjust, who have evoked eloquence from the innocent; the

silencers have reduced themselves to dumbness. ‘Tis ever so. When

violence seems to have made the truth to retire for a time, it has really sent

it on a larger arc of travel, from which it will surely return to smite the

propelling lie.


  • THE CONSULTATION. Policy is consulted when conscience is

absent. It is dubious, and flies to compromises. There were three courses

open: to punish the apostles — this, in the state of popular feeling, could

not be ventured on; to approve their conduct — this was conscience’

dictate, but conscience was here stifled by a powerful conspiracy of

interest; the miserable compromise remained — to discharge the prisoners

for fear of the multitude, to warn them against further teaching in fear for

themselves. There is danger in all societies and committees of men for the

conscience. They are more timid than in isolation, and timidity is mean and

treacherous to the noblest instincts of the heart. Men will back one another

up in doing things or refraining from doing things, when they would have

been more true if left to themselves. ‘Tis a moral trial in these respects to

act with others. Shelter for our cowardice, stimulus to our active passions,

is found in the fellowship of close interests.  “Thou shalt not follow a

multitude to do evil.”  (Exodus 23:2)


  • THE PROHIBITION AND RELEASE. The apostles were no more to

“speak in this Name,” which had proved so mighty a spell to loose. More

definitely utterance of, and teaching in, the Name are forbidden. The Name

stands as usual for all that lies behind it — the whole contents of Christian



Ø      The prohibition aimed at an impossibility. The mind cannot be chained;

the spontaneous movements of the spirit cannot be checked by force;

THE WORD OF GOD cannot be bound. Force can only act within the

laws of nature; it enters not the kingdom of spirit.


Ø      The martyr’s alternative. Shall he obey God or man? The tyrant must

tremble when he hears the question put. Physical necessity is on his side;

moral necessity, revealed in the conscience, on the other. The one says to

the witness — You shall not; the other replies from his breast — cannot

but. Obedience to God gives confidence and security. The tyrant and his

victim change places when it is seen that the latter has placed himself

against the rock of eternal right.


Ø      The martyr’s decision. He will not obey man rather than God. He has

one clear principle only — to obey the voice in his soul. Immediate

consequences form no element of calculation. They may be favorable to

him, as now in the physical sense, for the many may be for the moment on

his side; or they may be fatal. With eye far fixed on eternity, and ear attent

upon the Divine voice, he goes forward. He trusts God and is not afraid.

His being is only safe in devotion to duty.


23 “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all

that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.” Came for went,

Authorized Version; the elders for elders, Authorized Version. To their own

company (compare Malachi 3:16). The chief priests (οἱ ἀρχειρεῖς – hoi archeireis);

evidently the same as those who were described as being “of the kindred of

the high priest,” in v. 6 (where see note).



The Use of Freedom (v. 23)


“Being let go, they went to their own company.” We have here an apt

illustration of:


  • AN ACT INCIDENTAL TO LIBERTY. “Being let go” — the hand of

restraint being taken off them — “they went to their own company;” they

followed the bent of their own inclination, and went to those with whom

they were in sympathy. This is the constant accompaniment of human

freedom. As soon as the parental hand is relaxed, as soon as the teacher’s

eye is off them, as soon as the restraints of home and the guardianship of

elders are removed, the young take their own course, follow their own

bent, choose their own company. We never know what men really are until

we take away the bonds by which we hold them in check, and they go

“whithersoever they will” — whither their own principles allow, and their

own tastes direct them.



OTHERS. It is of little use to hold the reins so tight that, as long as they

are held by a firm hand, there can be no wandering. What is to be the event

when the reins must be thrown up? What will be the course chosen when

they whom we guard are “let go”? If we do nothing more and better than

carefully imprison within walls of correct behavior, we shall be bitterly

disappointed with the result. It is our wisdom and our duty to provide for

the hour when those for whom we are responsible will be “let go,” and

when they will assuredly go to their own company — will seek out those

persons and those things with which they sympathize. We can only do this


Ø      by implanting right principles, and

Ø      cultivating pure tastes.


These, and these only, will lead the young, in the days when they act for

themselves, to shun that which is wrong and to pursue that which is holy,

wise, useful.




Ø      You will soon stand at the point where you will decide on your own



Ø      If, then, you are right at heart, you will walk in the path of life; choosing

the company of the good, the ways of wisdom.


Ø      If, then, your heart is not right with God, you will be tempted to follow

an evil bent. It will be a most perilous hour with you.


o       To give way to the lower inclinations is to enter the road of ruin.

o       If you love life and hate death, go not whither you would, but

where conviction tells you you should. Hearken to the heavenly

voice which says, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)


24 “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with

one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven,

and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:”  They, when they heard it, lifted

for when they heard that they lifted, Authorized Version; O Lord, thou that didst

make, or as in margin, thou art He that did make, for Lord, thou art God, which

hast made, Textus Receptus and Authorized Version; the heaven and the earth

for heaven and earth, Authorized Version. With one accord (ὁμοθυμαδόν

homothumadon) occurs eleven times in the Acts (ten times in the Textus Receptus)

and only once elsewhere in the New Testament, viz. in Romans 15:6. O Lord, etc.

Either the margin or the Authorized Version is preferable to the Revised Version,

which gives an unmeaning vocative pendent. The word here used for “Lord” is

δεσπότης despotaesMaster; Owner; One with the authority, from which our

English word “despot” comes. It means “master, owner,” in respect of slaves,

and “a lord” or “king,” whose power over his subjects is similar to that of a

master over slaves. Here, with reference to creation and God’s unlimited power

overall that He has made, the Church in danger finds support and solace in the

thought of GOD’S ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY!   The term is applied to God

in the New Testament elsewhere only in Luke 2:29 (where observe its relation to

δοῦλον doulonservant; slave); II Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4, Received Text

(of our Savior); and Revelation 6:10, where σύνδουλοι αὐτῶν sundouloi auton

fellow slaves of them immediately follows ibid. v. 11, as here in v. 29 does “thy

servants.” In the Septuagint it sometimes answers to Elohim, and sometimes to

Adonai. As regards the question how the whole assembly joined in this

prayer, whether by a common inspiration, or by repeating the words after

him that prayed them aloud, or by merely singing the second psalm, or by

all using what was already a formulary prepared for the needs of the Church,

it is difficult to speak positively, nor is it of any moment. Another possible

explanation is that several members of the congregation, under the influence

of the Holy Ghost, uttered brief prayers and praises, the consenting matter of

which Luke thus puts together.


25 “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage,

and the people imagine vain things?”  Who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our

father David thy servant, didst say for who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said,

Textus Receptus and Authorized Version; Gentiles for heathen, Authorized Version;

peoples for people, Authorized Version. Who by the Holy Ghost, etc. The Received

Text here is impossible, but the Textus Receptus is perfectly easy and natural. The

confusion in the manuscripts from which the Received Text is formed appears to

have arisen from στόματος stomatosmouth -  having been accidentally mistaken

for  πνεύματοςpneumatosSpirit -  which led to other changes. Three

readings resulted and seem to be combined: διὰ τοῦ πατρός ἡμῶν Δαβὶδ εἰπών

ho dia tou  patros haemon Dabid eiponby the mouth of our father David saying:

or, διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου εἰπών – ho dia pneumatos hagiou eiponby the Holy

Spirit said: or the original one, διὰ στόματος Δαβὶδ παιδός σου εἰπών – ho

dia stomatos Dabid  paidos sou eiponwho by the mouth of thy servant David

has said, which is preserved in the Textus Receptus .


26 “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered

together against the Lord, and against His Christ.”  Set themselves in array

for stood up, Authorized Version; Anointed for Christ, Authorized Version.

Set themselves in array, Παρέστησαν Parestaesan  stood; stand by; take a

stand - does not specially mean “to set themselves in array,” which implies a

battle, of which there is not question here, but it means simply “to present” or

“show themselves” (ch. 1:3) “to be ready,” or, as in v. 10, “to stand.” Anointed.

The text in the whole citation follows the Septuagint exactly.


27 “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast

anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the

people of Israel, were gathered together,”  Of a truth in this city for of a truth,

Authorized Version. Servant for child (as in ch. 3:26), Authorized Version;

didst anoint for hast anointed, Authorized Version; peoples for people, Authorized

Version. For of a truth, etc. The saying just quoted is proved to have

been the word of God by its exact fulfillment in the heathen and Jewish

rulers and peoples who were concerned in the crucifixion of the Lord

Christ. In this city. This is omitted in the Authorized Version  and Textus

Receptus, but found in most uncials and Fathers.  Herod. Luke (Luke 23:1-12)

is the only one of the evangelists who records the part taken by Herod in

conjunction with Pontius Pilate in the condemnation of Christ. Possibly the

inference may be that Luke was led to record it in his Gospel front knowledge

of this application of Psalm 2 to him and Pilate. Peoples, in the plural, either

because of the “many nations” (ch. 2:5) from which the Jews of the dispersion

came to Jerusalem, or with reference to the twelve tribes (see Genesis 28:3,

“Thou shalt be a multitude of peoples,” Hebrew).


28 “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before

to be done.” To do for for to do, Authorized Version; foreordained to come to

pass for determined before to be done, Authorized Version. To do (for the sentiment,

compare 2:23; 3:18). They were gathered together for the purpose of executing,

their own will, as they thought, but really to fulfill the purpose of God (see also

Isaiah 10:5-15; 37:26-27). See here the comfort to the Church of looking upon God

as the δεσπότης of the whole earth.


29 “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy

servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,”

Look upon for behold, Authorized Version; to speak thy word with all

boldness for that with all boldness they may speak thy word, Authorized Version.

Lord.  This time Κύριε KurieLord; Master, the word in the Septuagint for

Jehovah, and the special designation of Jesus Christ (ch. 2:36, etc.), but here

applied to God the Father. Look upon; a more forcible rendering than the

Authorized Version. Look upon, for the purpose of frustrating and punishing.

The only other place in the New Testament where the word (ἑπείδεepeide

take notice you) occurs is in Luke 1:25, where the Lord “looked upon” Elisabeth

to confer a blessing upon her. In II Chronicles 24:22, “The Lord look upon it and

require it,” the Septuagint have the simple verb ἴδοιidoilook at it - instead of

ἐπίδοι. It is beautiful to notice how, in the heat of the unjust persecutions, the

Church hands over her quarrel to her Lord, and is only careful that she be not

stopped in her work by the threatenings of her enemies. To speak thy word with

all boldness (for the word “boldness,” see v. 13, note).


30 “By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be

done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”  While thou stretchest for by stretching,

Authorized Version; thy for thine, Authorized Version; through for by, Authorized

Version; Servant for child, Authorized Version, as in v. 27 and ch. 3:13, 26. While

thou stretchest, etc. The Authorized Version  seems preferable.

It was the fact that, while they preached the Word of God, the Lord

confirmed the Word with signs following, which gave them such

superhuman courage to persevere in the face of death and bonds. And this

was God’s method and means of encouraging them. And that signs and

wonders may be done. But this clause is better rendered in dependence upon

ἐν τῷ - en to – in the -  and by signs and wonders being done, as the consequence

of the stretching out of the hand of Jesus.  The other ways of construing the

sentence are either to make the clause, “that signs and wonders may be done,”

dependent upon “grant,” which seems to be the meaning of the Authorized

Version, or else to take it as an independent clause, expressing the aim of the

stretching out of the hand.


31 “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were

assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,

and they spake the word of God with boldness.”  Wherein they were gathered

for when they were assembled, Authorized Version. When they had prayed. When

they had finished the preceding prayer. The place was shaken, perhaps by a mighty

wind, as in ch. 2:2. The word ἐσαλεύθη esaleuthaewas shaken is properly used

of ships or of the sea agitated and tossed by the wind; so Matthew 11:7, “A reed

shaken by the wind.” But it is also applied to the rocking caused by an earthquake

(ch.16:26), which maybe the kind of shaking here meant. In this fresh outpouring of

the Spirit, whereby they were enabled to speak the word of God with boldness,

they had a direct and immediate answer to their prayer (see Isaiah 65:24).



                                     The First Persecution (1-31)


On observing the phenomena attending the introduction and spread of

Christianity in the world, one which arrests our attention is the persecution

which at different times its disciples have met with from the world. The

Lord Jesus Himself, “the Author and Perfecter of our faith,” was rejected of

men and crucified. And when, after His glorious resurrection, the apostles

preached the faith, and verified the truth of what they preached by such

signal miracles as that recorded in chapters 3 and 4, and in consequence drew

large numbers of people to the faith of Jesus Christ, we see the hand of

power immediately stretched out to arrest the progress of the gospel, and

to silence its preachers by threats, imprisonment, and death. What were the

secret springs of this first persecution, as they are exposed to view in the

narrative before us?




            FROM ITSELF. “By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?”

            was their angry question. Have any of the rulers believed on Him?” was

            the similar question of the Pharisees in our Lord’s lifetime. The same

            jealousy of any free movement, the results of which might be dangerous to

            the existing power, and which implied an independent spirit on the part of

            those concerned in it, is apparent also in the Roman persecutions of

            Christianity, and in the crucial test of loyalty required of the followers of

            the new doctrines, that they should sacrifice to the emperor. The

            persecutions of Lollards and Protestants by our own monarchs before the

            Reformation, and of Romanists and Puritans after the Reformation, were

            due in some considerable measure to the same impatience of any rival or of

            any non-dependent power whatever.





            PREACHED BY THEM. The doctrine of those in power was

            Sadduceeism. They were the secularists of that day. Their creed was this

            world, and nothing beyond it. No angel, no spirit, no resurrection, no life

            to come. And this creed they held with a fierceness not unusual with those

            who hold negative doctrines, and repudiate the bigotry of dogmatism.

            When, therefore, the apostles with marvelous boldness and confidence, and

            with a simplicity of purpose and force of eloquence which carried all before

            them, not only preached generally the doctrine of the Resurrection, but

            affirmed that Jesus Christ, whom Annas and Caiaphas had given up to be

            crucified, was actually risen from the dead, that they had seen Him and

            conversed with Him after His resurrection, and that by His power and in His

            Name the lame man had been healed, their indignation knew no bounds.

            They could not deny the miracle, they could not silence the preachers by

            argument. But they could cast them into prison, they could, they thought,

            silence them with threats; (Just this week I have seen on Facebook that

            Disney is threatening to pull out filming in Georgia because the state is

            considering a law to protect people of faith from having their livelihood

            ruined for not catering to gays – CY – 2016) and so they did the one and

            attempted the other.  And so it has been since. The pure and holy doctrines of

            the gospel of Christ have been opposite alike to the polytheism of Greece and

            Rome, to the polygamy of Mahomet, to the tenets of Rome. And so those in

            power who held these various doctrines, have in turn drawn the persecuting

            sword against the faithful who upheld them. It has ever been error and the

            sword against God’s truth!


  • But we can see another reason for the violence of the rulers against

            the apostles of Christ. We may be sure that the crime of delivering Jesus to

            the Romans to be crucified had not been accomplished without many and

            SORE REBUKES OF CONSCIENCE. They knew of Christ’s blameless

            life of active goodness and beneficence; they must have heard from many

            lips of His healing and His kindness to the sick and poor; they had heard His

            teaching themselves, or had heard of it from others, how wise, how

            instructive, how Divine it was. And yet, in their envy and malice, they had

            given Him over to death. At least they hoped that no voice could come

            from the grave to rebuke them, and that their Victim was silenced forever.

            But now they were told that He whom they had slain was alive again; that

            He whom they had seen hanging on the cross was at the right hand of God;

            that He whose head had drooped helplessly in death was in possession of all

            power in heaven; that He had sent His Holy Spirit with extraordinary gifts to

            rest upon His disciples; that He healed and made alive: that the marvelous

            power which they saw in the poor fishermen of Galilee was His power; and

            that He would come again in glory to reign as the Lord’s Christ. Can we

            doubt that their slumbering conscience was aroused to a very troublesome

            activity, that guilt awakened fear and alarm, and that most unwelcome

            anticipations crowded upon their minds? “Ye have filled Jerusalem with

            your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (ch. 5:28),

            was their angry expostulation and the expression of their fears. Clearly,

            unless these fears brought them to repentance, they would rouse them to

            hatred and indignation. They did the latter, and this persecution was the result.

            And beyond a doubt this disturbed but not converted conscience lies at the

            bottom of much of the world’s hatred of the truth of Christ. Men have

            sense enough to know that if the Word of God is true THEY ARE

            CONDEMNED!  The doctrines of the gospel are at variance with a heart

            full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin. The same word which shows

            the grace and love of God shows the foulness and hatefulness of sin. Men who

            have settled down into a course of sin and willful ungodliness do not wish to be

            disturbed. They wish to sin on in peace. They have no thoughts of

            renouncing all their old ways of thinking and feeling and acting. Whoever

            disturbs them, and breaks in upon their security, is an enemy. The

            disturbing doctrines are hateful, and all the more so if reason or conscience

            sides with them. And so anger and contempt and vengeance cry down the

            feeble voice of conscience and prompt the hand to violence and

            persecution. But:



            flinch not, but are bold to preach the truth unto bonds and unto death.

            They do not avenge themselves, but commit their cause to God. They flock

            together not to fight, but to pray, and to exhort and comfort one another.

            And in the end, instead of being dismayed, they are strengthened. Their

            faith is increased in the furnace of affliction; THE COMFORTER comes

            to them; and the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.



The Joy of Faith Confirmed (vs. 23-31)


The Church, on hearing of the recent events, break out into expressions of

joy. As usual on such occasions, the voice of ancient sacred song becomes

their voice.


  • OUR HELP IS IN THE CREATOR. Man’s need and weakness lead him

now to shun and now to seek almighty power. There are awful moments

when the soul’s sin seems to have called the lightning and the thunder from

the sky, to have awoke the threat of the earthquake, the storm, and the sea.

Other exultant moments, when the solemn sounds of the deep heart of

nature are like the cannon of a friendly force advancing to a beleaguered

city’s aid. The most powerful conqueror, like Napoleon amidst the snows

of Russia, may be in turn conquered by the physical forces of nature. The

moral forces represented in the will of the Almighty and All-Holy cannot

be successfully resisted. This is the deep truth in the Davidic psalm.




Ø      In the case of David and his kingdom. Study the historical circumstances

                        reflected in the psalm. Look at the tiny kingdom of Judah, placed amidst

                        great foes on every hand. She led a threatened life for ages; it seemed

                        impossible she could survive. Yet the small one became a thousand, the

                        vine grew in spite of every cropping fox or wasting boar, the little lodge

                        in the garden was not overthrown till it had sent forth a ray of light over

                        the lands. Moral life, derived from the immediate inspiration of God, was

                        in her. The enmity of the world served but to elicit and mature that life.


Ø      In the case of Christ and His kingdom. The like relation is repeated in

                        another form. Corrupt Israel joins with pagan Rome in the attempt to

                        suppress the truth and resist the will of God. David, the anointed king

                        of Jehovah’s selection, is the type, in a lower relation, of Jesus, the

                        anointed Prince in the higher and purely spiritual relation. Upon this

                        analogy hope is firmly built. As the great prince of olden time had

                        risen in Jehovah’s might superior to all his foes, so might his Antitype

                        be expected to lay prostrate faithless Israel’s and proud Rome’s might

                        beneath His throne of moral majesty.



      Of weakness, for it implies dependence; and were our wishes

convertible into facts, there would be no prayer. Some form of helplessness

alone brings men to their knees. Yet it is the expression of strength; for

strength in weakness is the very secret and heart of moral energy and of

Christian piety.  (II Corinthians 12:9)


Ø      The aim of prayer. It is that the human spirit may be united with the

Divine, whether in action or in suffering. Action lay before the suppliants

now — action chiefly or wholly by utterance, which is ever the special

action of the Christian witness. Boldness in that utterance — the very thing

which had impressed the Sanhedrin in Peter and John — was the thing

needed. The renewal of strength must come in prayer. God grants at one

time only sufficient for that time. He does not allow the accumulation of

capital. He lends that we may spend and come to Him again. But boldness

must rest upon the knowledge of facts. So closely does courage link with

knowledge that the Greek philosopher even said they were identical.

Without some evidence that God is on our side, we cannot have the heart

to go on. Where, then, may we look for such evidence? The apostles

sought it in the manifestation of Divine energy to cure. This was the

significant symbol of His presence and of the intention of the gospel in

those days. They were justified on the ground of experience, clear,

repeated, and definite, in expecting this kind of encouragement. We, on the

ground of our experience, are entitled to expect something different, but

equally in its way real. Divine energy to heal through ways and means not

less Divine because natural, we are to seek and make an object of our



Ø      The answer to prayer. In this case it came in a manner not to be

mistaken — by an immediate impression on the senses and on the inward

consciousness of all The house trembled; their spirits vibrated to the inner

touch of God; their tongues were loosed, and the sought-for fluency and

confidence were given. How can we apply this to modern times? No sober

Christian teacher dares to encourage the expectation of such “signs and

wonders” now. They belong to a past mode of religious consciousness, a

disused mode of revelation. For “God fulfils Himself in many ways.” How

important to know in what direction to look for God — the point on our

horizon where He may be expected to appear. Much, the greater part, must

be left to individual experience. Let every worshipper seek for the

Shechinah in His heart. And in general, let us teach that no special

manifestation of God is to be expected out of the lines of clear intelligent

experience. Experience is itself the ordinary and most precious revelation

of God’s will. And the experience of every soul, devoutly read, contains

past wonders, and prophesies their recurrence.



The Grateful, Emboldened, and Prayerful Church,


the Spirit’s Witness (vs. 23-31)


With all the naturalness of simplest truth, we are told how the apostles, in

their new character of discharged prisoners, run away at once to their

brethren of the Church. And we are in this passage taught how:




Now it is too often the place of suspicion, distrust, and unhappy emulations.

Or it is the place of coldest indifference. None welcome the coming, speed

the parting, guest. Or it is only the place of an almost selfish seeking of the

proffered religious instruction, or exhortation, or enjoyment that may,

under those conditions, scarcely be realized. The germ of the Church

showed far otherwise. The highest type of Church life possible on earth

may be confidently calculated on to show something very different. And till

such difference become plain in any part of the Christian Church, it faintly

indeed reflects the glorious reality above.




CHRISTIAN BUSINESS. The world may know, and all the better that it

should know, the achievements of Christ and His truth. But the Church

should know them still better, and often under very different aspects. Nor

has the Church anything to conceal of its purposes or its methods; yet may

these oftener be hallowed, and be more abounding and richer in grace and

the elements of success, when considered and matured in the Church. If

only we could imagine the account in detail which Peter and John now

gave “to their own company” of their experience, and what their eyes had

seen and their ears had heard, and of the irresistible impressions of the

characters of others which had been made upon their minds, by the events

of the past, say, fifteen hours, since they had been put in ward! Now every

ear was attention, gladdened thought smiled on every countenance, and

emboldened purpose stirred every heart. While anon the threatenings

(v. 29), that had been among the things which the chief priests and elders

had said to them” (v. 23), received also their due consideration. It is

quite to be supposed that no one of that “company but found himself

stronger for the joy of that hour, and more watchful and forearmed for

what of forewarning it had in it.”





the scene now before us was one of high inspiration. A large multitude of

sympathetic souls hear the simplest tidings on a certain subject of the two

liberated apostles; and though doubtless some one must have led off the

chorus, forthwith the whole company “lift up their voice to God with one

accord.” And as we listen to that most real orchestra, what is it that we

hear them singing? They uplift first the outburst of adoration; it is the

snatch of a song sung by their ancestors a thousand years before (vs. 24-

26), and it simulates the responsive too. For it quotes the confirming word

and declaration of God, putting it as if in response to the human ascription

made first to Him: “Lord, thou art God… and thou didst say, Why do the

heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?” We listen still, and there

follows the recitative — a few bars that tell the recent history of the

Messiah, the anointed Jesus. But these strains do not die off without

pronouncing in majesty the foreseeing, fore determining, sovereign counsel

that belongs to God. Then follow appeal (v. 29) and prayer (v. 30), and

they both were acceptable and accepted. In this appeal and prayer, with the

reverent suggestion they venture upon — “by stretching forth thy hand to

heal “ — there is something touching and pathetic. It were as though those

who prayed bespoke of their sovereign Friend that He would not overlook

the threatenings wherewith they were threatened, but that He would

divinely checkmate these by again “stretching forth the healing hand,” and

again and again working “signs and wonders by the Name of Jesus,” so

that, together with faithfulness granted to His servants to speak the word,

there might be superadded to them “boldness” in speaking it. Nothing less

befits the character of the Word of God, scarcely anything more dishonors

it, than to speak it fearfully, half apologetically, or with halting accents and

uncertain sound. It is worthy to be spoken with that boldness which is all

its own, and its own least due. Nothing on earth can equal the grandeur of

a service like this. Such a service cannot find its habitat except in the

Church. But has it found it there as often as it might?




dispensation of the Spirit.  It is very certain that the most perfect outline of

Christian truth is but a skeleton, and the most complete and harmonious

and scriptural body of Christian doctrine but a corpse, except as the Spirit

breathes life and power into them. The skeleton may be a marvel of

adaptation and symmetry laid bare to the eye of whoever will behold, and

the fashioned and filled-in body may be an exquisite model for grace and

proportion; but they are dead till the Spirit gives the life. This is not to be

supposed to need any proof now; but if it did, the word of Jesus Himself

about His own truth, previous to His death and after His resurrection, and

the conduct and directions of Jesus previous to His ascension and to the

day of Pentecost, amply prove it. But though it needs no proof, it may very

largely need enforcement. Probably nothing so stays the advent of the

grandest effects of Christianity as forgetfulness on the part of its professors

of THE FORCE NECESSARY, because divinely appointed, to give it effect.

The Spirit is not honored as He should be in the Church. The Church does not

“look for” His coming, nor wait for Him, with much longing and with

trustful prayer. At this very time and for some years past there has been a

wonderful activity within the borders of the Church — almost preternatural

— but, alas! not at all relatively evidencing the supernatural. “Lo, here!”

and “Lo, there!” has long been the cry; so-called “revivals” have been

proclaimed, and the stir of them, at all events, has been seen in most

various sections of the Church; undeniably an unwonted industry of head

and hand and foot has prevailed in the region of human instrumentality.

And those who have thus wrought have been far too ready to “blow the

trumpet and proclaim” a self-made and only self-found triumph. But where

has the real life been evidenced? Where have real abounding fruits been

witnessed? This is a thing not less remarkable than it seems, but far more

so, and it begs to be approached, not with offhand explanation, but with

exceedingly reverent scrutiny. That many men of incorrupt life and

unsuspected simplicity of aim have labored with extremest zeal to lay hold

upon their fellow-men for Christ, and the fruits of their labor have been a

grievous gleaning instead of an undoubted crop! Collateral explanations

and mitigating considerations must yield to the one solemn account of it.

The Holy Spirit HAS NOT BEEN in the midst of that work, has not been the

beginning and the end of that activity. But what is this which we have here?

It is a refreshing crisis for which truly everything had prepared the way.

Yes, but without it — if it had not come — everything that had gone

before would have been dried to the aridity of the sandy desert itself.

“When they had finished praying, the very place where they were

assembled together WAS SHAKEN!”   It meant IT MEANT THE


“And the assembled believers were all filled with the

Holy Ghost” Pentecost repeats itself “and they spake the word of

God with boldness.” What thought, what hallowed musing, what prayer of

the Church, should seek both for itself and for the world ANOTHER




The Two Kingdoms in Array against one Another (vs. 28-31)



Ghost spake it. The view given in Psalm 2 corresponds with that which

pervades the Bible. The Babel power over against the kingdom of God.

God making all things to work together for His purposes. The history of

Jesus Christ a wonderful confirmation of this view. The disciples in their

faith and fellowship following their Master and accepting the

responsibilities of the position.




Ø      By prayer. Appeal to God to justify the faith of His people.


Ø      By renewed self-consecration. “Grant to thy servants boldness.” They

did not shrink from the conflict, but laid hold of Divine strength.


Ø      By expectation of manifestation of power. The miracle already done

was but the beginning of great things. We must not be satisfied with mere

moral order as a testimony to Christianity. We should pray for and expect

moral miracles; not a repetition of ancient signs and wonders, but marvels

of spiritual life:


o       souls healed,

o       the dead raised to life.



KINGDOM. Before the battle closes the commander speaks the word of

appeal and encouragement along the line of his army. When God has

appointed us to do a real work, He prepares us for it by the special gifts of

His Spirit.


Ø      External sign: “The place shaken” — to remind them that earthly

             powers were in God’s hand.

Ø      Spiritual grace vouchsafed: “All filled.” The sense of a brotherhood,

      of an army going forth to fight, deepened by the outpouring of gifts

      upon all.

Ø      The word spoken:  “with boldness.”

Ø      Force being made manifest:  perfect, love casting out fear.


            We commence from this time a new stage of history.  Persecution is doing

            its work:


Ø      calling out the graces of the brotherhood,

Ø      turning weak men into heroes.


The simple, devout dependence of those primitive believers are a great

example to us.  The Church is lacking in boldness. We must be prepared

to grapple with the enemy. We must bring their threatening to God and

pray that He will look upon them. Above all, we must ask to be filled with

the Holy Ghost.



Praise for Safety and Prayer for Power (vs. 23-31)


From the court-room the apostles retired to the Church. Christian

confessers win their victories in the face of day; but the strength by which

such victories are won is only to be got where Jesus got His, IN SECRET!

Remember Luther’s broken cries as he lay on his chamber floor at early

morning on the 18th day of April, 1521 (D’Aubigne, ‘History of the

Reformation’ bk. 7. Acts 8.). In every crisis of strain and peril through

which our lives must pass, at every moment of supreme difficulty,

Sanhedrin threatenings, Worms Diets, or whatever less thing it be before

which our faith and courage quail, there is for us no place of help like the

secret footstool of Almighty God, nor any weapon like the cry of faith!

Notice that the prayer of the disciples is addressed to God, not to Christ.

Also that in the worship and prayer one voice led, finding

expression for the common feeling, and the rest of the company probably

responded with “Amens” spoken aloud. From the exegetical portion of this

Commentary the precise meaning and allusions of the prayer may be

learned. We dwell on two things.


  • MAN’S PRAISE AND PRAYER. Compare other recorded songs and

prayers. Especially unfold that the praise took the form of a psalm.

Compare the so-called “Psalms of David.” It was a public rejoicing on

account of A DIVINE DELIVERANCE that was of public interest.

Compare Miriam’s song at the Red Sea. (Exodus 15:20-21)  We have a

duty of recognizing God’s hand in our lives, and praising Him for His

“merciful kindnesses.” The prayer took the form of a request for

precisely the things needed at the moment, viz. power to witness

and power to work miracles, in attestation of the truth witnessed.

This is an example of directness in prayer.



renewal of the special grace and endowment with which the apostles had

been started on their work. Renewals of grace are still God’s best answers

to our prayers (II Corinthians 12:9).


32 “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of

one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he

possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

Soul for of one soul, Authorized Version; and not one of them said for

neither said any of them, Authorized Version. The great increase in the number

of believers had been recorded in v. 4. And the state of public feeling

alluded to in v. 21 makes it likely that yet more may have been converted

to the faith. This was very important, no doubt; but it was scarcely less so

that this great multitude were one in heart and soul, closely united in the

bonds of Christian fellowship and love.


The Bible is not a book of politics or earthly legislation.  There is a danger of

misapplying its teaching, by forgetting that it does not dictate formal rules and

creeds, but describes the working out of great principles.  This is a spiritual fact

set forth, One heart and soul” which cannot be produced by mechanical means.

It is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It was a great moral miracle wrought with the

absorption of individuality in brotherhood, a testimony to the power of Christ and

His doctrine.  Christianity is the great uplifting and renewing power of the

world; not revolutionary, not by wars and strifes, but by sanctification of

the multitude of wills.  The gospel is to be held up to the poor, not to excite in

them envy of the rich, not to delude them with predictions of a speedy deliverance

from necessary burdens, but to incite them to the prospect of a larger share in

the progressive prosperity of mankind, and to co-operation in the work of

uplifting their fellow-men. We should be of one heart and soul, rich and

poor alike.



Nothing our Own (v. 32)


The chief way in which at that time a member of the Church could express

his unshaken devotion to the common cause, or his willingness to sacrifice

to the last penny for the common weal, was by placing his realized capital

at the disposal of the brotherhood. The endangered position of the little

community (through the enmity of the Sadducean party) thus tended to

inflame the fervor of its charity, and gave a new impetus to that common

relief fund which had been started at Pentecost. There can be no question

that an expectation of Christ’s immediate return from heaven, acting along

with the unity of thoughts and feelings, made these men willing to part with

their possessions and goods. Such community of goods has always been

part of theories of perfect commonwealths. In this case each member of the

Church held his possessions only as a trust, and was prepared to yield them

up, if the exigencies of the brotherhood demanded such a surrender. We

have, then, in this picture of the early Church, a model of the spirit that

should animate the members of Christ’s Church in all ages. We do not say

models of conduct, because the application of such models in changing

generations becomes uncertain. Models of the essential principles, and of

the spirit, which we should cherish, are both more helpful and of more

constant application. The early Church expressed Christian feeling in

outward forms, just as childhood gets impulsive and unrestrained

expression for its sentiments and emotions. Their new faith in Christ

suddenly brought them close together, and made them conscious of new

and binding sympathies. There was at first a great gush of impulsive

brotherhood. Compare the intense feelings animating, and the

extraordinary sacrifices made, when the year A.D. 1000 drew near,

because of the expectation that Jesus would return on the first day of that

year. The feeling was so far right, but the mode of its expression did not

gain permanence. Compare the impulse for missions so often strongly felt

by young Christians. What these men actually did we may not make a

model. The spirit which led them to do it, and the spirit in which they did

it, are a model for us all. There are three sentiments that may be cherished

concerning our earthly possessions.


  • WE MAY REGARD THEM AS OUR OWN. Illustrate by the parable

of the rich fool, who says he will build greater barns, “where I may bestow

all my fruit and my goods.”  (Luke 12:18)  This is both a false and an

unworthy sentiment; for what have we that we have not received?”

          (I Corinthians 4:7)


  • WE MAY REGARD THEM AS CHRIST’S. Compare the sentiment

of Paul, who could say, “To me to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)



become talents for whose use we are responsible. And we learn to feel that

they are not to be spent for self, but used for others; and self-denial,

charity, and self-sacrifice are recognized as the first of virtues. Put

alongside this sentiment of the early disciples concerning their property, the

sentiment of the apostles concerning the disciples themselves “Ye are

not your own”  (I Corinthians 6:19) and then we have the twofold feeling

which Christians ought ever to cherish; and our anxiety concerns:


Ø      holding ourselves for the Lord, and

Ø      holding our property at the service of others for Christ’s sake.


“We are not our own.” Nothing that we have is our own. All is Christ’s.

We are Christ’s. And then Paul argues back, that “all things are” really

“ours” IN CHRIST!  (I Corinthians 3:21-23).


33 “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection

of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Their witness for

witness, Authorized Version (τὸ μαρτύριον to marturionthe witness; the

testimony). Their witness. It was one of their chief functions as apostles to bear

witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (see ch.1:22, note). Great grace,

etc. Some understand this of the singular favor with which the people

regarded them. But it is better to take it of the grace of God which

abounded towards them in spiritual gifts and abundant unction and rich

blessing, crowning their labors with success.



Great Grace (v. 33)


This expression may refer to the measure of Divine favor resting upon the

early disciples; or to the favor which they found among men, who could

not fail to see and admire the spirit of “self-sacrifice” which was exhibited

by what they were doing. We dwell on the former of these references.

More grace, fresh grace, greater grace, rested on them after the

imprisonment and deliverance of their leaders. We are to understand that

the holy fervor manifested by them at this time was not accounted for by

such things as the incoming of wealthy members or the multiplying of their

numbers, but by the increase and enlargement of the “grace” that rested on

them. “Great grace” is ever the one secret of great spiritual power.

Looking at the incidents connected with the text, we observe:



the scene of the Pentecost. Show in what sense that may be spoken of as

the first coming of the Spirit. Explain why that coming was attended with

outward signs, and why the presence of the Spirit is not now manifest in

such miraculous gifts. The “grace” in us may be as great — may be greater

— though the attendant signs and expressions differ. Show what are the

first signs of” grace” working in us. Signs in thought, feeling, conduct, and

relations. Illustrate by what is said of Saul of Tarsus: “Behold, he prayeth.”

(ch. 9:11)



USED. This may be illustrated in the earnestness and zeal of the apostles,

as well as in the active, devoted, and zealous life of those converted under

the apostolic teachings.



GIVEN. The further grace enabled them:


Ø      to suffer nobly and well;

Ø      to testify for Christ even before governors and kings,

Ø      to pray together and live together and work together, in loving union

      and mutual forbearance, and charity.


            And so we come to apprehend afresh God’s great and ever-working

law, expressed in the familiar words:


Ø      “To him that hath shall more be given;” (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25)

Ø       “Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord,” (Hosea 6:3)


            God’s grace is indeed “free,” sovereignly free, but He has been pleased to

            set it under conditions; and one of the chief conditions is that we shall have

            used wisely and well THE GRACE already received. To those who are

            faithful  in using grace the promise applies, He giveth more grace.”

            (James 4:6)  Then, if we feel the need of and long for “great grace,” let

            us see that we deal rightly in response to the leadings and movings of the

            grace we have. Empty the vessel in service for others, and GOD WILL

            BE SURE TO REFILL IT!  Trim the lamp, and let its light shine brightly all

around, and God will be sure to replenish it with abundance of fresh oil.


34 “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were

possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of

the things that were sold,”  For neither for neither, Authorized Version; among

them any for any among them, Authorized Version. One striking proof of the

greatness of the Divine grace that was upon the Church at this time was that

there was no such thing as want or poverty among them. The equality typified

in the daily collection of manna was literally fulfilled among them (II Corinthians

 8:14-15) for the rich sold their houses and lands, and laid the price of them at the

apostles’ feet, to be used for the common wants. The present participle in the Greek

(πωλοῦντες... πιπρασκομένων polountespipraskomenonselling these ….ones

being disposed of) indicates the process as continuing.



35 “And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was

made unto every man according as he had need.”  Laid them for laid them down,

Authorized Version; unto eachas any one for unto every manas he, Authorized

Version, a change without an improvement. Laid them at the apostles’ feet. A

significant token of the place occupied by the apostles (as later by the bishops of

the Church) as the trustees and dispensers of the Church’s funds as well as of the

Church’s doctrines.  We have, too, here an instance of the way in which Church

institutions rose gradually as occasion gave birth to them. So the institution of

deacons (ch. 6:2-3), of presbyters or priests (ch. 14:23), of bishops (I Timothy

chapters 1-3), of Confirmation (ch. 8:14-17), appear to have come about in each

case pro re nata (as the circumstances arise).



The Host of God Drawing together in Readiness for Action

                                    (vs. 32-35)


  • A COMMON SPIRIT in the believing multitude.


Ø      The spirit of faith.

Ø      Of self-sacrifice.

Ø      Of fellowship.

Ø      Of service.


They were of one heart and soul to speak and work for the new kingdom.


  • A COMMUNITY OF LIFE AND PROPERTY. The simple and natural

expression of the common spirit. Not the modern communism, or anything

like it, for that is man’s experiment to better himself; but the Christian

communism was the believers’ expedient to accomplish the will of God.


  • A marvelous sign of THE SPIRIT’S PRESENCE AND POWER.

“Great grace upon all.” Great power in apostles; great testimony given to

Christ. An active, self-denying, speaking Church challenging the world.


36 “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being

interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,”

Joseph for Joses, Authorized Version, as ch. 1:23; Son of exhortation for The son

of consolation, Authorized Version; a man of Cyprus by race for and of the

country of Cyprus, Authorized Version. Joseph. In the variation of manuscripts it is

difficult to say which is right. Some consider the two forms as mere variations in

writing the name Joseph. But it seems more probable that Joses is the same name

as Josiah, only without the addition of the Divine Name (Jah) at the end.

It is found as a proper name in the Textus Receptus of Matthew 13:55; 27:56;

Mark 6:3; 15:40, 47; Luke 3:29 (Jose); and is not likely to have been

substituted for the common name of Joseph. The Codex Sinaiticus has

Joses only in Mark 15:40. The Revised Version has Joseph in Matthew 13:55,

and Joses in Matthew 27:56; Mark 6:3; 15:40, 47. In Luke 3:29 the Revised

Version has Jesus. But Joses is probably right both here and in the above cited

passages. Barnabas; literally, son of prophecy; i.e. a prophet, as he is

called in ch.18:1. Probably his exhortations under the influence of the

Holy Spirit in the Church assemblies were particularly stirring and edifying.

The Greek version of the name, υἱὸς παρακλήσεως huios paraklaeseosson of

consolation - should be rendered, as in Revised Version, Son of exhortation,

for “son of consolation? is a meaning which can hardly be got out of the Hebrew.

The apostles seem here to have followed our Lord’s example in naming the sons

of Zebedee, sons of thunder. A man of Cyprus by race. The Authorized Version is

less accurate, but it gives the sense better. Cyprus was the country where he was

born and lived, as, it is likely, his fathers had done before him. But he was hardly,

in our sense of the words, a Cypriot by race. We know that a great many Jews were

settled in Cyprus (Philo, ‘Leg. ad Caium.,’§ 36; Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 13:4;

Alford, on ch. 11:19); and we learn from ch.13:5 that in Salamis alone there were

several synagogues.


37 “Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the

apostles’ feet.”  A field for land, Authorized Version.



                                    Church Unity (vs. 32-37)


We speak in these dark days of unity in Christ, of brotherly love, of the

communion of saints. But what do we see when we look around at the

multitude of them that believe? We see some forty or fifty denominations

of Christians, all keeping apart from one another, not willing to meet

together, to pray together, or to receive the Holy Communion together.

These different bodies are constantly at different degrees of strife with each

other; sometimes waging actual war one against another, at others engaged

in bitter controversies, and carrying on a strife of tongues and pens. Even

among those who belong to the same religious body what differences of

opinion, what unbrotherly denunciations, what schisms, what party

movements, are constantly breaking out! And yet we look with

complacency upon this broken surface of Christendom, and make no great

effort to correct it. Perhaps, if we can get a glimpse of true unity in Christ

as it was seen for a while in the Church of Jerusalem, we shall be put to

shame, and strive after something better.




            Rich and poor, learned and simple, Pharisees and Sadducees, Levites and

            Jews, were so united in Christ that all other distinctions were lost.

            Selfishness was gone, for each loved his brother as himself. What each man

            had he held it not as his own, but as a steward of Christ for the good of all.

            The love of money was swallowed up in the love of Christ. The ordinary

            worldly life seemed to have melted into the life of faith and godliness. Their

            wants were spiritual, their occupations were spiritual, their joys were

            spiritual. In this happy state, in this clear atmosphere of love, the great

            truths of the gospel shone out with marvelous brightness; the resurrection

            of Christ especially stood out in the lineaments of a distinct reality; and

            there was a rich glow of grace over the whole Church, The whole body

            received the apostles’ doctrine, submitted to their rule, committed

            everything to their ordering. It were difficult to say whether the apostolic

            authority in the Church derived more of its vigor from the appointment of

            Christ, or from the love and reverence of the people. The two forces were

            centered on the heads of the twelve, and gave them an invincible power.

            Such was Church unity in those golden days. This is not the place to

            consider the causes which have broken to shivers that frame of heavenly

            beauty. But it may be a not unfitting opportunity to entreat all who may

            read these lines to dwell upon the beauty of the scene here depicted by

            Luke, to contrast it with the miserable aspect of our schisms and party

            divisions, and to make every effort in their own sphere to forward unity

            and godly love, to put aside all stumbling-blocks and hindrances to

            Christian harmony, and to labor after that oneness of heart and soul which

            ought to result from fellowship in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, and

            from having one and the same hope of sharing the resurrection of life

            through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.



The Resource of the Devout (vs. 23-37)


Released from the restraint of law, the apostles returned to “their own

company,” and there they related what they had passed through. We may

be sure that the whole of that community of brethren entered, with deep

and strong sympathy, into the feelings of their two leaders; they all felt that

a very critical hour had come to that new cause which they represented.

Under these circumstances they bethought themselves of:


  • THE RESOURCE OF THE DEVOUT. “They lifted up their voice to

God with one accord” (v. 24). They felt, as their prayer indicated, that:


Ø      All power was in His mighty hand: “Thou art God, who hast made

heaven,” etc. Vainly would the heathen rage, and kings and rulers

conspire against the holy Child Jesus,” the Son of the living God.


Ø      A gracious purpose was in His sovereign will. However earthly

potentates might imagine they were carrying everything their own way,

they were but “doing what his hand and counsel determined before to

be done” (v. 28).


Ø      He could impart a power which would make them superior to all fear of

man. They asked for boldness of speech (v. 29), and, with this end in

view, for signs of His presence (v. 30). Prayer is the constant, unfailing

resort of all holy souls. What time we are afraid we must trust in Him

(Psalm 56:3); we must flee unto Him to hide us.


  • DIVINE ENCOURAGEMENT. (vs. 31-33.) The Lord responded to

His people’s prayer, and granted them:


Ø      a manifest sign of His presence and favor (v. 31);

Ø      the fearlessness of spirit they so much desired (v. 31);

Ø      power to testify of Christ (v. 33); and

Ø      inward, spiritual confidence and joy: “Great grace was upon

them all” (v. 33).


God now vouchsafes to His waiting children the blessings they seek of Him:


o       the assurance of His presence,

o       power to act as His witnesses,

o       success in their labors, rest and

o       joy of heart in Him and in His service.


  • THE COMMUNITY OF THE FAITHFUL. (vs. 32, 34-37.) The

essential part of this passage is the opening sentence, “The multitude of

them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (v. 32). The

measure which they adopted, viz. a community of goods, was peculiar,

exceptional, transitory. It is not a practical method, suited to such

conditions as those in which we find ourselves. It is not enjoined by

apostolic word, nor is it sustained by subsequent apostolic practice. It was

evidently special, local, temporary. But it is essential that those who belong

to the same heavenly kingdom, and especially those who are members of

the same Christian Church, should


Ø      cultivate a true and deep sympathy, “oneness of heart,” and

Ø      take some practical measures to supply the wants of the

necessitous from the treasury of those who have more than they




A Glimpse of Ideal Social Life (vs. 32-37)


Of life, that is, in the idea of the God of love. Such glimpses are given

doubtless to stimulate our faith and our aspiration; and withdrawn because

struggle, not perfect attainment, is the condition of actual life.


  • SOCIAL UNITY. It rested on a common faith, a common ideal, a

common sentiment. Union with God is the only basis of human social

union. Here, from the depths of the spirit-life, this principle was for a brief

space brought to light. What was then made visible fact is constantly the

invisible fact and ground of the spiritual kingdom.


  • ITS EXPRESSION. The abolition of property. Property is the most

tenacious of institutions, because it is the product and the insurance of the

person, the individual, the self of each man. Were the self-life, whose

instinct is centrifugal and separates us from the commonalty, suspended, in

that moment property must cease. For then the centripetal instinct, or love,

must exert its force unfettered. This was what took place under the high

tide of the Spirit’s life in Jerusalem. Men forgot the peculiar in themselves,

knew and felt only the universal. One heart, one soul; the ideal of heroes,

patriots, philanthropists, was for a fleeting period realized. The magnet of

the Name that reconciles drew all wills to itself. Necessarily there was an

extraordinary access of power to individuals, for they drank of the very

central source of all power; as we are weak who think self-interestedly and

unsympathetically. And joy must accompany this entire emancipation of the

spirit from the fetters of self. Nor could there be that sense of indigence

which makes us ashamed and cramps our energies. All is for each, as each

is for all. (When I coached basketball, the Central City Golden Tide would

come out of their huddles saying, “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!”

CY – 2016)  Self-sacrifice is the last test of love, its only inviolable proof.

When the pain of self-sacrifice ceases, there the triumph of love is

complete. And in the pouring of men’s once private property at the

apostles’ feet, was the illustrious evidence of the conquest of the Prince of

life over the human heart. As if to clench the argument, the special instance

of Joseph’s sale of his field is given. There is art in this. One such definite

fact suggests a multitude of others to the imagination. Christian ethics

simply teach that the inducement to work for wealth is the power for social

good. Whenever this is seen to be the theory of wealth acted on in our

society, it will be evidence of a new stirring of Divine love in its heart.



A Great Example of Spiritual Excellence (vs. 36-37)


The intention of the writer is to set in contrast the work of the Spirit in

Barnabas and the work of the devil in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira,

as also to show to us the relation of character and life to one another; the

blessing on those that obey the Spirit, the curse on those that lie against the

Holy Ghost and resist the will of God in His Church. The difference of

meaning in παρκλησιςparaklesis - according to some “exhortation,” according

to others “consolation,” helps us to keep in mind that the exhortation was

consolation; that those who preached appeared among men not as mere dry

exhorters and teachers, but as proclaiming a kingdom which is

“righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  (Romans 14:17)


  • THE CHANGE WROUGHT in Joseph Barnabas.


Ø      A Levite, but not passing by the fallen and dying humanity (Luke 10:32).

      Notice the contrast between the priesthood of the old covenant and the

      priesthood of the new; between the man of a corrupt and decaying system

      and the new man in Christ.


Ø      A Cypriot from a country noted for its self-indulgent luxury and

sensuality, yet by the Spirit of Christ delivered from selfishness.


Ø      A man of some wealth, becoming poor for Christ’s sake and the

gospel’s, and subjecting himself to the new law of the apostles. The

wonders of the Middle Ages anticipated. Yet our aim should not be to fill

the Church’s treasuries, but to bless the world with the spirit of self-

sacrifice.  The abuses of the ecclesiastics have always been their not

being true sons of exhortation and consolation, but greedy of

filthy lucre.”  (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; I Peter 5:2)




Ø      Counting all things loss for Christ. Losing life to find it. The Church, as

well as the individual, is richest and happiest when it reckons its whole self

as devoted to the work of helping others.


Ø      The sons of exhortation and consolation, i.e. the messengers of mercy,

must be examples of self-sacrifice, and enforce their precepts with public

deeds of generosity, and manifestation of the work of the Spirit in their

own lives. The preaching of the Church will never much affect the world so

long as it does not lay its wealth at the feet of Christ.


Ø      The true law of Christ’s kingdom is not “Each one for himself and by

himself,” but all faithful to the vocation of the Church. “At the apostles’

feet.” He was a rich man, and probably a highly educated man, but he did

not set up a Church for himself. He recognized CHRIST’S RULE!  He was

willing to be a servant that he might fulfill his ministry of consolation to the

world, and so he was immediately recognized by those who represented the

Master — “ surnamed by the apostles.”


Ø      The stamp of special, solemn approval is set on faithfulness to

conscience in the money matters of the Church. There is an eye watching

our hand. The money brought should be not merely what the world

expects to be brought, or what will satisfy the demands of the time and

maintain our reputation with fellow-Christians, but what the “law of

Christ” dictates, which is the law of absolute self-denial, and overflowing

brotherly affection. We may not be a Paul, or an Apollos, or a Peter, or a

John, lacking qualifications for such eminence, but we may emulate the

example of Joseph Barnabas, and be sons of consolation, channels of

blessing and comfort to the world. If we would be so, let us lay what we

have at the feet of the apostles, avoiding caprice, self-will, disorder, heresy,

strife, self-exaltation. There is a true apostolic doctrine and fellowship in

the world. Cling to it, and cast all to it.



The Power of a High Example (vs. 36-37)


That of Joses, or Barnabas. This man was the companion of Paul in his

first missionary journey (ch. 13:2). For his character, position, and

influence in the Church, etc., see the commentary on these verses. His was by

no means the only case of self-sacrifice, but it was, for some unexplained

reasons, the most striking case, and it was regarded as a typical one. Possibly the

subsequent influence gained by Barnabas led to the preservation of this

narrative of his noble self-denial. And we may learn from him what a

mission opens for those who can make great sacrifices for Christ.



our Lord’s teaching respecting the “camel and the needle’s eye.” “How

hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke

18:24-25) “Not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (I Corinthians

1:26)The poor in this world are often the “rich in faith.” (James 2:5)

Barnabas’s property might have kept him from Christ, or made him only

such a timid and weak disciple as rich Nicodemus and rich

Joseph of Arimathaea were.



Illustrate from the case of the “rich young ruler” (Matthew 19:16-22;

Mark 10:17-22), who had some feelings and desires, but could not wholly

follow them. Love of position and of wealth was stronger even than

longing for “eternal life.” Compare Demas (II Timothy 4:10)




in the case of Barnabas. He used his talents and his gifts for Christ’s service

and his Church’s good, and he further found out how he might, for the

same purposes, use his money and his lands. He was both blessed in

himself and a means of blessing to others in so doing. Still those who have

the trust of riches need the impulse of the example of Barnabas, and may

even reach towards the completeness of his self-sacrifice. Explain that

there is sometimes an exaggeration in the surrender of all property, and

assumption of voluntary poverty, which is in no sense commended by this

example. To use our property wisely and well in the service of Christ is a

far nobler thing than to shirk our personal responsibility by surrendering it

all to others. The lesson to learn from the record concerning Barnabas is



Ø      riches,

Ø      talents,

Ø      position,

Ø      influence,


EVERYTHING at the call and service of our living Savior, and be ready

even to SACRIFICE IT ALL, if in that form we are required to testify our

“zeal for the Lord.” But the imitation of a high example has this peril. It

may be merely the imitation of the act, and not an act dictated by the

same motives and done in the same spirit. The followers of “them who

through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12) are those,

and those only, who act in the hallowing and ennobling influences of the

same “constraining love.” We must YIELD and GIVE only




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