1 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,”
Ananias (Ἀνανίας – Ananias - Ananias) In Nehemiah 3:23 the Hebrew name
ענַנְיָה (God covers or protects) is thus rendered in the Septuagint. But the name
occurs nowhere else. The very common name הֲנַנְיָה, Hananiah (God is
gracious), is also rendered in the Septuagint Ananias (Ἀνανίας), and is
doubtless the name meant here and in ch. 9:10; 23:2, etc. Sapphira
does not occur elsewhere. It is either derived from the Aramean שַׁפָירָה,
beautiful, or from the Hebrew סַפִיר, a sapphire. A possession (see ch. 2:45).
The kind of possession is not specified by the word itself, which applies to houses,
fields, jewels, and wealth generally; but the nature of the property is shown by the
word χωρίον – chorion - freehold, applied to it in vs. 3 and 8, which means especially
“a parcel of ground” (John 4:5), “a field” (ch.1:18-19).
2 “And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and
brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” 3 “But Peter said,
Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to
keep back part of the price of the land?” Thy for thine, Authorized Version.
Peter said. It was given to Peter on this occasion, by the Holy Ghost, to read
the secrets of Ananias’s heart, just as it was given to Elisha to detect Gehazi’s lie
(II Kings 5:25-27); and the swift punishment inflicted in both cases by the word of
the man of God — leprosy in one case, and sudden death in the other — is another
point of strong resemblance. To lie to the Holy Ghost. It is only one instance
among many of the pure spiritual atmosphere in which the Church then
moved, that a lie to the apostle was a lie to the Holy Ghost under whose
guidance and by whose power the apostle acted. Ananias’s fraud was an
ignoring of the whole spiritual character of the apostles’ ministry, and was
accordingly visited with an immediate punishment. The death of Ananias
and Sapphira was a terrible fulfillment of the promise, “Whosesoever sins
ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).
4 “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was
it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in
thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Did it not remain for was it not, Authorized Version; thy for thine own,
Authorized Version; how is it that thou hast for why hast thou, Authorized
Version; thy heart for thine heart, Authorized Version. Did it not remain, etc.?
The exact meaning is — Did it not remain to thee? i.e. unsold it was thine, and
when sold the price of it was thine. There was no compulsion as regards giving
it away. The act was one of deliberate hypocrisy — an attempt to deceive
The Conviction of Ananias (vs. 3-4)
Peter was, by natural disposition and the general consent, spokesman
and interpreter for the Church. He could not have uttered these words to
Ananias without a painful recalling of his own sin in the threefold denial of
his Lord, and his own conviction of his sin at the sound of the cockcrowing.
But compare Peter’s sin with that of Ananias, and show why
recovery was possible in his case, but only overwhelming judgment in the
case of Ananias. We must also understand that the Holy Spirit gave
Peter special knowledge of Ananias’s deception, and guided him in what
was said and done. Compare Joshua’s dealing with Achan. (Joshua 7)
Ø That evil, in the shape of temptation, had been unresisted. The question
“Why?” implies that resistance to the temptation had been possible. Had he
resisted the tempter, he would have fled from him (James 4:7). (“There
hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God
is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;
but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may
be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13)
Ø That Ananias was under no kind of compulsion. He was not bound by
any rule of the Church. If be had brought, and called it, part, or if he had
brought nothing, he could not have been blamed. If he was moved to sell
he should honestly set forth what he bad done with the money. Man from
his fellowman at least looks for sincerity and truthfulness.
Ø And that while Ananias had only purposed to deceive the apostles, he
had really been trying to deceive God, who dwelt, by His Spirit, in the
apostles and in the Church. “Or, to state it as Peter stated it three hours
after to the woman, this couple put God, the all-knowing Spirit, to the
proof, tried Him whether He would let Himself and His Holy Church
be taken in with a lie.”
have borne an uneasy conscience, and in response to Peter’s words it
smote him hard. Shame and guilt overwhelmed him, and may even in part
be allowed to explain his sudden death. The shame and agony of detection, the horror of conscience not yet dead, were enough to paralyze the powers of life.
Ananias, and in the death taking place in such a sudden and awful manner.
In this case it is plain that the death of Ananias is an event supernaturally
arranged by a higher power, because it is connected with the penal
sentence of the apostle, which was spoken in the power of the Spirit. It
may be pointed out that the Divine judgment here concerns only the
sudden death, and the veil is not lifted to show us the eternal judgment, the
secret Divine dealings with this so sadly erring disciple. Compare the
teachings of such passages as I Corinthians 5:5; I Peter. 4:6.
Impress that, however our sin may be covered over and hidden from our
own view now by self-delusions, the time of conviction must come sooner
or later. A man must presently see his sin as it is, and see himself as he is.
The conviction may come wholly by Divine inward leadings, it may come
through providential circumstances, or it may be started by the word of
some teacher or friend. Happy, indeed, is he who is brought to conviction
in time — in time to seek pardon and eternal life in that living Savior who
is “exalted to give repentance and remission of sins.”
5 “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost:
and great fear came on all them that heard these things.”
Upon all that heard it for on all them that heard these things,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Gave up the ghost (ἐξέψυξε –
exepsuxe – gives up the soul). The same word as in v. 10 and ch. 12:23, but
found nowhere else in the New Testament. Great fear, etc. We have here an
example of punishment which is remedial, not to the person punished, but to
others, by displaying THE JUST JUDGMENT OF GOD as a warning against sin.
6 “And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and
buried him.” And wrapped him round for wound him up, Authorized Version;
they carried for carried, Authorized Version. The young men (νεώτεροι –
neoteroi – younger men - called in v. 10 νεανίσκοι – neaniskoi - youths).
There does not seem to be sufficient ground for supposing that a definite class
of Church servants is here meant. The young men of the Church would, as a
matter of course, perform such services as that here spoken of, when directed
by the πρεσβύτεροι – presbuteroi – the elders, in age or office.
The Death of Ananias (vs. 1-6)
Raphael’s cartoon manifestly founded, not on the simple narrative of Acts,
but on the corrupt Church’s falsification of it. The apostles represented on
a throne, from which with despotic decree they command men to death.
Our object is not to terrify men into religion and ecclesiastical submission,
but to win them to Christ; to save men’s lives, not to destroy them. Solemn
and awful as the facts are, they are yet beams from the Sun of Righteousness.
Ø As the kingdom of light. Wisdom in discernment of spirits and judgment
of human character. Distinction between pure and false fellowship.
Exaltation of the great light-principle of self-sacrifice.
Ø As the kingdom of righteousness. The act of Ananias was an act of
rebellion against the first law of the gospel, both as a lie and as selfishness.
Ø As the kingdom of order and peace. The rising brotherhood was the
germ of a new human society, in which all men should be blessed. Ananias
sinned against the Holy Ghost, i.e. defied and insulted the Spirit in His new
work, trampled on the rising life. As a vindication of the kingdom, the
sentence, though it looks at first sight unduly severe, was merciful, as a
sign, not merely threatening, but inviting. It cleared the light of clouds.
SINFULNESS. A Judas among the apostles, an Ananias among the first
believers. We must expect such things always.
Ø The work of the Spirit is thus shown to be necessary. The deceit of the
heart. The power of temptation. The influence of a multitude in hiding us
from ourselves. The possibility of being carried away by a wave of
excitement. The lure of ambition. Man and wife encouraging one another;
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The gospel needed to lift up even the ties of
nature and renew and strengthen them in the grace of God.
Ø The Christian Church must be prepared to encounter the facts of human
fallibility and sin. We must rest upon the supernatural guidance and
support. We must leave judgment in the hands of God. Peter pronounced
no sentence. He simply, by spiritual power, proclaimed the truth, and left
conviction to work its own work. A great lesson in the exercise of
discipline. In the case of the wife, the fact became a prophecy, by
inspiration, in Peter’s mind. He saw the work of God beforehand. No
Ø Against selfishness and dishonesty. They kept back for themselves part
of the price, intending to deceive.
Ø Against untruthfulness, which was deliberate, prompted by meanness
mixed with ambition and desire of display, daring against the manifest signs
of the Spirit. Not a mere lie unto men, but a defiance of God.
Ø Against trifling with holy things. They, perhaps, thought that what they
kept back would not be needed, but they made light of the Spirit’s evident
demand. They did dishonor to the infant Church and to the apostles.
Ø Rebellion against the Holy Ghost. He put it into their heart to sell their
property and join the Church. They recognized His command to give up all
for Christ. They saw what He had done and could do. Yet they did violence
to His order and might have produced endless confusion in the Church.
Fighting against God is perilous work.
7 “And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not
knowing what was done, came in.” And it was about, etc.; better rendered,
and it came to pass, after an interval of three hours, that his wife, etc. It is a
Hebrew idiom (compare Luke 5:12).
8 “And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for
so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.” And Peter answered, etc.,
Peter’s question gave her the opportunity of confessing the fraud had she
been penitent. The land (see note to v. 1).
9 “Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to
tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have
buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.”
But for then, Authorized Version; they shall carry for carry, Authorized Version.
To tempt the Spirit, etc.; i.e. thus daringly to put the Holy Ghost on trial, whether
or no He is able to discern the thoughts of your evil hearts (compare Luke 4:12).
The feet of them, etc. The burial, including the distance to and fro, had taken three
hours, and they were just returning to the Christian assembly when Sapphira was
confirming her guilt as an accomplice in her husband’s lie.
10 “Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost:
and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth,
buried her by her husband.” And she fell down immediately for then fell she down
straightway, Authorized Version; gave up for yielded up, Authorized Version;
they carried her out and buried her for carrying her forth buried her. She fell
down immediately. The Spirit who killeth and maketh alive thus vindicated
his discernment and his power, and testified to the truth of His prophet Peter,
by whose mouth he had just foretold the death of Sapphira. Gave up the ghost
(v. 5, note). Buried her by her husband. What a strange example of conjugal
is read by every nation under heaven!
A Fatal Forgetfulness (vs. 1-10)
There are several truths which this sad incident suggests to us. We may
view them thus:
DAMAGING BLOW. It was a very serious misfortune to the new Church
that two of its members should commit a sin worthy of death, and pay that
terrible penalty in the view of all. The apostles must have felt that they and
the cause with which they were identified had received a severe blow; but it
was far from being a fatal one. It was one from which the cause of Christ
soon recovered; nay, it was overruled “for the furtherance of the gospel.”
Let not any Church or any sacred cause be too much disheartened by a
check at the beginning. With truth and God on its side, it will survive and
ACT WHICH IS OUTWARDLY VIRTUOUS AND GODLY. To those
who looked on as Ananias and Sapphira brought the money they did bring
and laid it at the feet of the apostles, their action must have seemed pious
and generous in a very high degree. But we know it to have been utterly
and even fatally defective. It becomes us to search with fearless and faithful
glance those of our deeds which men approve as most commendable, lest,
while around us is approval and congratulation, there should be entered in
the book of account in heaven a sin of great enormity against our name.
ACTION WHICH SEEMS VENIAL TO OURSELVES. In all likelihood,
Ananias and Sapphira imagined that they were doing an action which,
while it was calculated to win respect, was not very, if at all, reprehensible
in itself. They probably reconciled it to their own sense of rectitude. Men
do so now. In connection with religion and philanthropy they do guilty
things which kindle the wrath of the righteous Lord, supposing that they
are only departing a few degrees from integrity, or are even worthy of
praise. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret
faults.” (Psalm 19:12)
SUPPOSE THAT THE GOOD CONNECTED WITH ANY COURSE
WILL COUNTERBALANCE SOME ONE SERIOUS SIN THEREIN.
Ananias and Sapphira may have thought that the piety and charity of their
conduct would more than balance the sin of their deception. They were
miserably wrong and were fearfully disabused of their mistake. If we
willfully break one of God’s plain commandments, supposing that the
virtues of our action will cancel the wrong, and thus allow ourselves to fall
into deception (as here), or into dishonesty, or into excess, or, into
arrogance and pride, we shall have a sad and, it may be, a rude and awful
awakening from our grievous error.
LESS THAN FATAL. Ananias and Sapphira made a mistake which was
simply ruinous. They overlooked the fact that the Holy Spirit of God was
in close connection with His Church, and was acting through His servants.
They forgot that when they were trying to deceive inspired men they were
acting falsely in the face of the Divine Inspirer, so that when they imagined
they were lying unto men they were really lying unto God (v. 4). For this
guilty oversight they paid the last penalty of death. Is not their sin too
easily reproducible and too often re-enacted? Too commonly men guiltily
overlook the presence and agency of the Divine Spirit.
Ø A Church does so when it is resting in human and earthly advantages for
its prosperity; when the minister trusts to his eloquence, the people to
those arts and influences which are from below and not from above;
when both are forgetting that there is an almighty power which is within
their reach and at the command of believing prayer.
Ø The human soul does so when it disregards the influences which are at
work upon and within it; when it treats lightly the pleadings of the pulpit,
the warnings of friendship, the prickings of conscience, the convictions
and impulses which call it to newness of life. Is not this to sin against
the Holy Ghost, and is not the penalty of it spiritual, eternal death?
Helpers in Sin Must be Sharers in Judgment (vs. 7-10)
The share taken by Sapphira was manifestly a prominent and an active one.
She and her husband were at full accord in the matter; and her sin is the
more aggravated as she had a longer time to think it over, and had
evidently planned what she would say and do if any remarks were made by
the apostles or the brethren as to the gift of the land. The question asked
by Peter gave her an opening for repentance. It had been in her power
to save her husband by a word of warning protest. It was now in her power
to clear her own conscience by confession. She misses the one opportunity
as she had misused the other. The lie which they had agreed upon comes
glibly from her lips, and the irrevocable word is spoken.
had joined together in the sin. Compare the cases of Dathan and Abiram.
There was union:
Ø In the slow judgment of the deteriorated and debased soul. And this is
ever the first form of the Divine judgment on the sinner.
o Hardening of heart,
o deadening of conscience,
o cherishing of blinding and fatal delusions,
are as truly direct judgments of God, ever working, as SUDDEN DEATH!
This truth needs to be seen more clearly and impressed more constantly.
Ø In the swift and immediate judgment of the sudden death, which, in the
second case, was prophetically declared to be God’s witness to the
exceeding heinousness of their sin. The life of all men IS IN GOD’S
HANDS and we may well “fear Him who can cast body and soul into hell.” (Luke 12:5) The lives of all men are in His hand. Daily He is cutting them off
in a moment —even hot with lust or red-handed from crime. His doom now
and then antedates the slower processes of human law. The time and fashion of all our deaths are with Him. If one day His mercy turned to judgment, and He
took from the earth two forfeited lives for, the warning and the bettering of
many, who shall say either that the lesson was dearly bought or that the
penalty was undeserved? It is well that men should be taught once for all,
by sudden death treading swiftly on the heels of detected sin, that the
gospel, which discovers God’s boundless mercy, has not wiped out the
sterner attributes of the judge. (“Some men’s sins are open beforehand,
going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” I Timothy
fell on the minds of all present. Illustrate by impressions now made by a
case of sudden death in a congregation, or by such a case as that of Alexis,
smitten by lightning at Luther’s side. It is said that “great fear came upon
all the Church.” The Scripture meanings of the word “fear” may be given
and illustrated. Here it is a solemn sense of the severity and power of God,
and of the strictness of His demands. The members now felt, as they had
never done before, what a serious thing it was to make a Christian
profession. Dwell on two things.
Ø Fear as solemnizing other professors, filling them with new thoughts
about insincerity, hypocrisy, and covetousness. Reminding them that no
man should enter Christ’s kingdom without first “sitting down and
counting the cost.” “The true ecclesia must be free from such hypocritical
professors, or its work could not advance.” “God fills our hearts with the
spirit of reverence, truthfulness, and godly fear, lest another spirit fills us
with lies, with greed, with vainglory, and with presumptuous impiety.”
Ø Fear as deterring would-be professors. Persons in all ages are too ready
to take up the mere profession of Christ’s Name, and such need to be
shown that such profession involves responsibilities as well as privileges.
There is grave danger of our estimating our responsibilities too lightly. The
vows of Christ ought ever to be a solemn and a holy burden. “What
manner of persons ought we to be?” (II Peter 3:11) God is “known by the judgments that He executeth.” (Psalm 9:16) We still need to recognize His hand, and we must be careful not to lose the impression of His personality
in the modern sentiment about law.
11 “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as
heard these things.” The whole Church for all the Church, Authorized Version;
all that heard for as many as heard, Authorized Version. The awful death of the
two liars to God not only struck a salutary fear into the minds of the whole Church,
but filled with awe all outside the Church who heard of it; and doubtless gave a
temporary check to the persecutions, while it disposed many to hearken to
the apostles’ preaching.
The Earliest of the Tares, in the Field of the Church
(v. 36-ch. 5:11)
The age of the Church numbered as yet only its days. The “good seed” had
been sown in the field by “the Son of man” but a few hours, yet “the
enemy… the devil” had found a prized opportunity to “sow tares,” and
uses it not in vain. The names and history of Ananias and Sapphira are
among the best known of all those imbedded in Scripture. When the
striking episode, however, is detached from its proper place, it loses very
much of its significance and force. But, taking the time and place of it into
account, the episode is in the highest degree dramatic. And the reality of
the history which it recounts, it is which exalts it to that height. It is one of
those unwelcome products of human nature which mean, in equal
proportions, three things — the painful, the startling, and the too true. A
very crisis of glory is dashed by an incident of darkness, sin, and shame. It
is dashed thus, however, in the present instance for “about the space of
three hours” only, when the majesty and integrity of truth are terribly
vindicated. Let us consider —
supplement the words of the narrative, the thought and intent of it want
nothing. Thus, though it is not so worded in the case of Ananias, it is plain
that when he brought what any way portended to be the full price of his
vended “possession” and “laid it at the apostles’ feet,” either interrogated
or without interrogation he gave it to be understood that it really was the
full price. The ground of Peter’s suspicion on the matter is not stated. But
a choice of explanations of it can easily be offered. Something in the
manner of the man, even possibly some needless asseveration of the
entirety of the price, or something disproportionately small in the price
brought as the equivalent of the “possession” parted with, or the
discernment of the inspired and spiritually sensitive apostle, not set in
motion by any external cause, may quite account for it. In this last
supposition Peter will remind us, not unworthily, of Peter’s loved Master,
in the exercise of a certain spontaneous detection, and in preventing any
greater mischief by a certain promptness of anticipation. Be this as it may,
in the analysis of the sin under consideration it must be that:
Ø The first constituent of it is a capital falsehood, and this needs no further
Ø Falsehood the deceiving purpose of which suffers no little aggravation
from the cruel affront it offers a new-born loving, holy little society, and
the august representatives and leaders of it, now known for their
inspiration and for the miracles they had wrought.
Ø Falsehood in the matter of a religious and voluntary service.
Ø Falsehood that was intended to win for those guilty of it a reputation for
zeal toward God and enthusiasm of liberal love toward man, when neither
the one nor the other was there.
Ø Falsehood that meantime was covering, or seeking to cover, no higher
style of character than this, viz. to save stealthily something from (what is
inwardly regarded as) the wreck for self, and yet share the contributed
beneficence of others. The case was presumably this — a man, under the
cover of religious motive and resolve, professes to sell all and give all,
forsooth that he may secretly store some, and be placed at an advantage for
getting more. The rich young ruler was sincerity, honesty, and enthusiasm,
all to perfection, in comparison of this exhibition. (Reminds me of Achan
in Joshua 7 – CY – 2016)
Ø Falsehood that was deliberate. It was not the result of any sudden gust
of temptation. It was deliberate to the extent of being concerted between
two. The unhallowed imagination, thought, resolve, of one heart soon
grows into the unhallowed covenant of two hearts. Alas, for the suggested
picture, for the mournful portraiture of human nature, for the dark interior,
too faithfully drawn, of that household! To sum up, then, what has gone
before, the direct falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira (to call them for the
moment one) was not the whole sin, but, bad as it was in itself, was but the
outside covering of sins, too strong nevertheless to be held of it. “Some
men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they
follow after” (I Timothy 5:24). The delicacy and exquisiteness of all
the fellowship of circumstance amid which the sin of Ananias and Sapphira
saw the light, measure the extent of the affront it dared to offer to truth,
and augur the fearfulness of the doom that should visit that affront. Hence
it comes that we do instinctively understand Peter’s inspired estimate of it
— that it is a “lie unto the Holy Ghost… unto God,” and a “tempting of
the Spirit of the Lord.” And in thus estimating the sin, in “the light of
God’s light,” Peter reminds us of David, who, bowed in deepest anguish
for the sins of murder and adultery, nevertheless cries to God, “Against
thee, thee only, have I sinned!” (Psalm 51:4)
PRESENTED ITSELF TO VIEW. There is manifestly a deeper treatment
of such a presentation of human nature open to us; but especially was it
open to the inspired apostle. Let us follow his guidance more exclusively.
It was given to him to conduct us deeper down into the retreats of human
hearts, and we do well to use our opportunity to follow him. Peter
indisputably finds these three things. He finds:
1. A proffered interference of Satan.
2. An accepted interference of him, on the part of Ananias.
3. The issue — a “lie to the Holy Ghost.”
We touch here distinctly the things characteristic of revelation. They are, it
must be noted, the things resented not by the scoffer only, but by the
rationalist, and by science, simply in regard to science. The provinces of
revelation and science in human life, however, are neither contradictory nor
mutually exclusive, but they are complementary. And the Christian is the
rich man because he feels and knows them such. We have then here, from
the lips of Peter, the first introduction, since the ascension of Christ and the
descent of the Holy Ghost, of the personality of Satan as the antagonist of
the Holy Ghost. His work is immediately what reproduces itself through
the human heart, as not merely “a lie,” but a “lie to the Holy Ghost.” So
much for the intrinsic work and the presumably most prized object of
Satan. But, again, it is not now Satan, but Ananias, who is standing at the
bar of Peter — Peter, an inspired apostle, and laden with the significant
attestation of miracle. And the crucial question upon which Peter arraigns
Ananias, and is going to found very shortly his stern condemnation of him,
is this (though somewhat obscured in Authorized Version): “How is it that
Satan has won what ought to be the stronghold of your heart, so that you
have ‘lied to the Holy Ghost’? No physical necessity, no moral necessity,
no necessity whatever, was laid on you to sell your possession at all. And
yet you have taken in hand to do this, and ‘taken into your heart’ to do it,
with such superadded suggestion of Satan, that you have made your deed
the vehicle of a ‘lie to the Holy Ghost,’ and of sharp death to yourself.”
The supreme event follows for Ananias close upon the word of Peter. And
a certain irresistible conclusion also for us follows close upon the word of
Peter — that either we are reading a fable and a lie, or that Ananias was
the tool of Satan, and was held responsible for becoming so! This is
among the very first lessons, in the matter of the spiritual relationships and
facts of human hearts, taught under the emphatic “dispensation of the
Spirit.” And he can scarcely be envied who risks his own opinion against
such a lesson. We cannot consent to suppose (though some have supposed,
it) that Peter’s meaning simply amounted to this, that Ananias lied to the
Holy Ghost because he lied to him, who was inspired of the Holy Ghost.
No; Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost in three degrees.
Ø He lied to Him in being false to any genuine impulse that he had at
first experienced from Him;
Ø in being false still when he knew that he had forsaken His guidance
and yet pretended to be moved practically to join the new society by
selling and giving; and,
Ø lastly — and this consummates and sufficiently expresses all —
in electing to cast in his lot with Satan, in his capacity of arch-
antagonist of THE HOLY GHOST! Upon the whole consideration
of the sin of Ananias, it must be concluded that, by human analysis
of it, they must indeed be “fools” who “make a mock of sin.”
(Proverbs 14:9) Yet, under the searching and deep cutting of
Divine analysis as expressed in Scripture, is not the same
conclusion reached with tenfold impressiveness?
Ø It was “a swift witness.” The tares are emphatically not allowed to grow
with the wheat and abide a later judgment. The reason for delay
(Matthew 13:29) did not exist here.
o An unerring eye detects the bad seed.
o A steady, unerring hand can uproot the ill growth without uprooting
also the good growth.
Ø It was a witness so swift that no time “for repentance,” no interval of grace,
is granted — possibly because there was literally no place of repentance
(Hebrews 12:17). Was it now that a real instance was found of the
“sin against the Holy Ghost,” to be “forgiven, neither in this world,
neither in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:32)?
Ø It was a redoubled witness. The second instance following so close on
the first and in its exact track made impressiveness itself yet more
impressive, as the rapid redoubled peal of thunder strikes a tenfold terror
into the heart.
Ø The witness was timed with a precision that examples how closely the
eye, the ear, the hand itself of the supreme Ruler of mankind may be
always upon the track of human individual life. That eye sees all and to the
time. That ear hears all and to the time. That hand is close upon all and to
the moment of perpetration, and might stay the deed, or at once reward it
or visit it with swift retribution. This is not what is generally and to
practical purpose believed. The absolute, physical proof of it would
manifestly take off all its strain from faith, and reduce to nothing the moral
government of the world. It is enough if example be given, and if the veil
now and then be drawn aside, or, as in this instance, suddenly rent to the
revealing of that which is behind.
THIS SIN. The swift and conclusive visitation of this sin, with
arraignment, punishment, and judgment ALL IN ONE, was a method new
for anything done as under the Spirit of Christ. During the personal ministry
of Christ on earth nothing can be instanced to resemble it, except the
withering of the fig tree, and that does not resemble it. Christ refused to
call fire from heaven or to permit a sword in the hand of a disciple. And
when the unregenerate impetuosity of Peter did use the sword, Christ went
so far as to undo what it had done. (John 18:10; Luke 22:51) Forbearance
and long-suffering were unfailing watchwords with Jesus. Let us observe that:
Ø One thing justifies this summary treatment, namely, that the agent in it is
without doubt none other than the Spirit of detection, of conviction, of
unerring discernment, of perfect knowledge. Whether this sovereign Spirit,
the Holy Spirit, led the way rapidly through the instrumentality of Peter, or
finally, without any use of even the lip of Peter himself, executed swift
sentence, the entire responsibility rested with that same eternal Spirit.
Ø One thing may with but little less hesitation be counted to explain the
reason of this unusual “course of the Spirit,” namely, the exact crisis at
which the tender young society had arrived in certain moral aspects. The
prompt and peremptory “course of the Spirit” on this occasion was not for
any external defense of the body of the infant Church, but for the INNER
DEFENSE of it, of its very heart, of its self. In this swift visitation, whatever
of kindness there was, that the communion of the true should not be
poisoned by the presence of the false, and whatever of stern example there
was to operate as an immediate counteractive and deterrent, alike the one
and the other meant mercy and consideration toward an infant heart. The
elements which went to make that heart just what it now was have already
been passed under review. We know full well that the Church was not
permitted to depend long for its purity upon such witness as this.
Nevertheless, the memory of it and of the principle contained in it has ever
lived, lives still a powerful witness in itself, both for the Church and for the
OF THIS SIN. “Great fear came on all them that heard these things” (v. 5);
“Great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these
things” (v. 11).
Ø The impression that was produced was one of a healthful sort. Many
times as fear finds false occasion, this was an occasion most just. Human
hearts need betimes such rousing. “Since the fathers fell asleep all things
continue as they were from the beginning of the creation of the world”
(II Peter 3:4), is the languid complaint of the life of far more than those
from whose lip it is heard. When God is “strict to mark iniquity” now, men
begin to fear, and they think, and they believe, for an hour at least, in the
reality of moral distinctions. Pity and shame it is that men do not
understand and believe that there is a sense in which God assuredly is and
will ever be “strict to mark iniquity,” so that they should “fear before him
all the day.” It is God’s mercy which wakes fear betimes by methods such
as that under consideration; for that fear is helpful to remind, and to arrest
attention, and to suggest INWARD THINKING! And it is not less God’s
mercy that He does not use such method very often. For it would make
harder those who will be hard. And it would deprive the willing and
obedient of the opportunity
o of testifying what faith they have, and
o of testing that faith, and
o of getting greater strength to it.
Ø The impression was one that wrought on saint and sinner, on the Church
and on “all that heard” of what had transpired. The Divine judgment no
doubt aimed at this twofold ministry, in one and the same providence.
o Though the “fear” were of the nature of a shock to the disciples that
formed that cheerful and holy society, yet it tended in the most direct
manner possible to recover them from the greater shock of such a
sight as this, falsehood and hypocrisy and unreality triumphing,
or even permitted to breathe amongst them. And
o because the “fear” was of the nature of a shock, it worked caution
and the awe of reverence on the part of THOSE who were
OUTSIDE the Church. These were very forcibly reminded that to
be true disciples meant something more and deeper than in an hour’s
enthusiasm joining themselves to a happy company, whose very
earnestness had it in it to enlist a natural sympathy. The sympathy
that joins any man to the Church of Jesus Christ must be something
different from a natural sympathy. It must be an inward, deepest
sympathy WROUGHT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT!
The First Hypocrisy (vs. 1-11)
Hitherto all had been bright and beautiful in the new-born
Brotherly love, disinterested kindness to one another, heroic courage in the
face of danger, unhesitating devotion to the service of the Lord Jesus
Christ, and an unflinching profession of faith in His Name, had been the
common characteristics of the multitude of them that believed. The Church
was as the garden of the Lord in the midst of the world’s wilderness. It was
a bright spring-tide, soon, alas! to be checked by the cold blasts of
selfishness and the love of this world. The time of millennial blessedness
was not yet come. Satan was not yet bound. On the contrary, he was
unusually busy, with persecutions from without and temptations from
within, in his endeavors to hurt and corrupt the children of the kingdom.
Indeed, we may notice, as a universal feature in the economy of the
kingdom of darkness, that every great step in advance of the kingdom of
light is followed by some corresponding movement intended to defeat it.
The sowing of the good seed is the signal for the sowing of the tares. The
salvation of God is confronted with some counterfeit of Satan. The faith of
God’s elect was opposed, even in the first century, by subtle heresies of
man’s or Satan’s devising. The glorious spread of the gospel in all lands
had a counterplot in the extraordinary growth of the imposture of
Mohammed. The great Reformation in the sixteenth century was hindered
by the hypocrisies and fanaticism which sprang up by its side. And so it
was now. The great enemy of man could not look on the blessedness of the
company of Christians without trying to mar it. He must have some portion
even within the enclosure of Christ’s Church. Even there all must not be
guileless truth, all must not be unselfish love. He must have some to do him
service even though they called Christ their Lord. But how could he find an
entrance into those holy precincts, how climb up into that heavenly fold? In
human character the highest rank consists of those who love righteousness
for its own sake, and with various degrees of success actually attain to it.
There are those among them who attain the sublimest heights of virtue and
godliness, and there are those who at the best, and amidst many stumblings
and falls, are only struggling upwards. But they all belong to that highest
class who really desire to do the will of God and to be conformed to His
image. But there are others who do not belong to this class at all. They,
perhaps, admire virtue in others. But especially do they covet the praise
and high esteem which virtue conciliates to itself. In a religious society they
perceive that certain actions are praised of men and bring certain
pleasurable consequences to the doers of them. These fruits of goodness
they desire to possess. But then they will not make the sacrifices, suffer the
losses, endure the privations, which are inseparable from such actions. The
double heart immediately casts about to find some method of obtaining the
good without making the sacrifice. To be thought righteous, good,
religious, not really to be so, becomes the aim and object. Fraud, deceit,
lies, false pretences, are called in to help, and the hypocrite stands, kneels,
gives alms, talks religiously, by the side of God’s true saints, till his
hypocrisy is brought to light, and he stands revealed as a dissembler before
God and man. But meanwhile, in the sight of the world, true godliness is
discredited by each fresh exposure of the hypocrite. The defamers of God’s
people are encouraged to say that there is no such thing as the pure love of
God and disinterested obedience to His will; and they argue that the most
consistent livers are only the best dissemblers. There are, doubtless, many
other useful lessons to be learned from the study of this first hypocrisy in the
detection, and upon its awful punishment, because it is only a type of
countless other cases which have since happened, and are daily happening,
and which, whenever they do happen, do injury to the cause of Christ. We
may learn in this melancholy example how the love of money, or the love
of the praise of men, or a greedy appetite of applause, or an ungodly
emulation of the fame of other men, or the habit of thinking of appearances
more than of reality, and of putting on a religious garb without taking care
that our hearts are really moved and guided by the Holy Spirit of God,
may, almost before we are aware of it, be leading us into the paths of the
hypocrite instead of into the way of the just. And in the fearful exposure
and punishment of these first Christian hypocrites, we may learn how
certain it is that sooner or later every hidden thought and every secret of
the heart will be brought to light; and that none will be able to stand before
the all-searching eye of God but those who walk before God in godly
sincerity, while they trust with a steadfast faith in the merits of their
almighty Savior. But anyhow we may be sure that this example of
hypocrisy by the side of eminent holiness in the primitive Church, is thus
set forth in its distinctness by the inspired historian, to be a touchstone by
which to try future actions, to be a type of an evil which would be found to
exist in all subsequent ages, and to be a warning to the children of God to
watch against the very first beginnings of declension from simplicity and
sincerity in their relations TO ALMIGHTY GOD!
The Sin of Heart: Untruth and Its Punishment (vs. 1-11)
As the shadow follows the light, so Christianity has been marked in its
progress by a deep and broadening shadow of hypocrisy. After the glorious
picture of sunny days of the Spirit’s life in the preceding chapter, a dark
view of human deceit is presented. The root of bitterness springs up amidst
the Divine delights of the time, and many are troubled.
acting of a lie. The part of the produce of the sale was put before the
apostles as if it had been the whole. Many will act lies who will shun to
articulate them. But the value of actions in a moral point of view lies in the
expression they give to feeling. The motive cannot be left out of
consideration. This action was intended by the guilty pair to pass with
others as having a moral quality it had not. The understanding was that the
whole and unreserved produce of the sale of property should in every case
be given in. The act of the couple was intended to be received in this
meaning while that meaning did not exist. We are responsible for the
constructions which we know will in certain cases be put upon our actions.
And the action of Ananias and Sapphira is typical of all those by which we
dishonestly compromise with conscience, or seek to pass under false
colors. There are times when it is a duty to abstain from action, if we know
that our action will convey an impression that is false, have an appearance
to which no reality corresponds.
mysterious. Let us not pretend to fathom them.
Ø The dark source of crime — “Satan filling the heart.” The deeds of sin
are dark in every sense: they excite shame in the doer; they shun the light;
they are lying in their origin, process, and consummation. (“For every
one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, because
his deeds were evil.” - John 3:20)
Ø The struggle involved in sin. The opposition of the good, the striving of
the Holy Spirit, is ever felt. No man lies to his fellow-men until he has first
lied to the truth revealed within. Discussions about the personality of Satan
and of the Holy Ghost are foreign to the spirit of the simple New
Testament language, and only divert the mind from the solemn truth of
immediate inner experience. The meaning of these dread figures of speech
is sufficiently clear without any dialectics.
Ø The peculiar aggravation of this sin. It had not the excuse of
overwhelming temptation. They need not have sold the property at all.
There was no law or special apostolic edict requiring it. The free spirit of
love alone set the practice on foot. Certainly those sins which men commit
under no pressure of necessity or of sudden and strong coincidences of
opportunity with desire, are the worst. Gratuitous sin, so to speak, shows
so diseased a moral state that it infers a person will require a temptation to
do right, will go wrong without temptation at all. It was a fixed and
deliberate determination, this act of Ananias, taken in the full daylight of
conscience. In all probability it was the crowning act of a life long directed
to counterfeiting goodness. For how true the proverb, that no one falls
suddenly into the extreme of baseness! His life in Judaism had been a
counterfeit, his conversion a sham, his participation in the joy and power of
the time a mockery; the act which he intended to seal his Christian
reputation fixing on him the damnation of the devil-led impostor. And
through all or much of this there doubtless ran a vein of profound
Ø All moral offenses are irreligious. This is important, for the craft of the
heart would often separate morality from religion. But a lie to men is a lie
to God under all circumstances; it is He whose light is in the breast which
falsehood confuses, His truth which is practically denied. There is no
genuine morality which is not founded on reverence for the living God.
And no security that men will speak truly or act rightly when the pressure
of fear or the mechanical action of habit is not felt, except in the sense of
the eternal imperative of God.
Ø The complicity of the wife in the guilt adds another element of
aggravation. The one should have restrained the other. The guilt of their
joint act was like a mutual agreement of unfaithfulness. The sanctity of
marriage rests on the recognition of the covenant between each soul and
God; it is broken down and defiled by the common consciousness of a
It was received in both cases in silence — a tacit confession of its justice.
Thus did sin long nourished in the heart at last come forth, full-born, only
to meet death. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)
Great dread fell, as well it might, on all who heard and on the whole Church.
It was like a bolt out of a clear and serene sky. And we should learn the
solemn lessons that suggest themselves for every time.
Ø Moral dangers lurk near every scene of spiritual manifestation.
Ø The highest features of spiritual character and action will always find
false imitators, and this in the very bosom of the Church.
Ø Hence the need of heart-searching for ourselves (for we may be
hypocrites without knowing it), of constant prudence and vigilance. “Our
enemy goeth about.” “Behold, I have told you before.”
Conspiracy against God (vs. 7-11)
While much in the previous paragraph repeated here, a new phase of sin
presented. It was distinctly on the ground of deliberate agreement to tempt
the Spirit of the Lord that Sapphira’s death was added to that of her husband.
with THE RENOVATION OF HUMAN SOCIETY.
Ø Family life, domestic intimacy, the root of public life. We must choose
all our relations with the light of God in Christ.
Ø The conspiracy of Ananias and Sapphira was a blow at the work of the
Spirit in raising up a new spiritual life on the basis of self-sacrifice and
Ø The awful judgment was a proclamation of mercy — Come and hide
under this Divine power and be safe.
the apostles. The words of Peter an example:
Ø Of the Spirit of truth and grace in him; he proceeded with the utmost
care, publicity, tenderness, pity. The wife had the opportunity of
repentance, while the appeal was made, not on the ground of terror, for she
knew nothing, but on the ground of simple truth — Tell me the truth.
Ø Of the spirit of discernment and, in the Name of the Lord, of prediction.
Had not Peter under supernatural impulse foreseen the death of the
woman, he would not have dared to utter such words. As it was, it was a
responsibility which none but an inspired man would have assumed. Such a
fact speaks volumes on the supernatural state of the Church at that time.
Ø To the Church itself. The solemnization of fellowship. God thus said,”
Take heed how you join my people.” The ethical set in the light of the
spiritual. “Be ye holy.” The sins of falsehood, presumption, avarice, self-
confidence, set forth. The Divine kingdom clearly revealed. If God is so
near, and yet to all who trust in Christ near to bless, how glorious this
time! What is He not doing? and how little need we fear the world’s
opposition when He can strike dead our enemies? “Stand still and see the
salvation.” Compare the Israelites looking back on Pharaoh’s host and
forward to the promised land. (Exodus 14:13)
Ø To the world. “All that heard these things.” Such facts preached, loudly
and widely, where the preacher’s voice did not reach. We must remember
that grace and providence go hand-in-hand. Fallow ground broken up by
the ploughshare of terrible events and warning dispensations. “Judgment
begins at the house of God; what shall the end be,” etc.? Yet the “fear was
a fear mingled with the light of hope;” for these deaths pointed to the way
of life. The Church was the more conspicuously revealed as a refuge
opened by God for all. So in the terrible times of human history religion
has gone forth with special power. What message has philosophy at such
times? Where are the rationalists and the doubters in the great crises of the
world? Press home the facts upon those who tempt the Spirit of the Lord
by untruthfulness, rebellion, indifference, worldliness.
12 “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders
wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in
Solomon’s porch. By the hands of the apostles, etc. Two things are here
remarkable. The one that Christianity at its beginnings was mightily helped
and advanced by miracles done in the Name of Jesus Christ. The other that
the authority of the apostles as the rulers of the Church was greatly
strengthened by these miracles being wrought exclusively by their hands.
We cannot understand either the external relations of the Church to the
world, or the internal relations of the people to their spiritual rulers, unless
we duly take count of these two things. With one accord (see ch. 4:24, note).
In Solomon’s porch (see ch. 3:11, note). It is quite true
to nature that Solomon’s porch, having been the scene of the miracle,
became the place of frequent concourse. There is a difference of opinion
among commentators as to whether the all refers to the whole Christian
laity as in ch. 2:1, or to the apostles only. The opinion that the whole body of
Christians is meant seems most probable, both from the use of the words in
ch. 2. I and from the phrase ὁμοθυμαδὸν – homothumadon – with one accord –
(especially in connection with ἅπαμτες – hapamtes - all), which
seems more applicable to a mixed multitude than to twelve colleagues like
the apostles. You could hardly say that all the queen’s ministers met in a
Cabinet Council with one accord. There is no need for the parenthesis as in
the Authorized Version.
13 “And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people
magnified them.” But for and, Authorized Version; howbeit for but,
Authorized Version. The rest seems most naturally to mean those who
were not included in the ἅπαμτες above, viz. the Jews as distinguished from
the disciples. The effect ‘of the miracles was that the Jews looked with awe
and reverence upon the
curiosity or with any idle purpose. But, on the contrary, the people magnified
them, treated them with the utmost respect, and spoke of them with all honor.
Join himself (κολλᾶσθαι – kollasthai – to be being joined). The word occurs in
the New Testament ten times, of which seven are in Luke’s Gospel or in the Acts.
The other three are in Paul’s Epistles (see for the use of it in the sense it has here,
ch. 8:29; 9:26; 10:28; 17:34; Luke 15:15).
Hindrances to Belief (v. 13)
These are suggested by the expression, “Of the rest durst no man join
himself to them.” It seems that the first body of Christian converts made
Solomon’s porch their place of assembly. This they did, probably, for the
convenience of its situation and arrangement, and possibly for the sake of
its association with the teachings of their honored Master. The historian
records that while the opposition of the Sanhedrin was feared, “none of
the other people who had not yet joined the new community ventured to
attach themselves intrusively to the Christian body.” Whatever conviction
may have been wrought by the apostolic teaching and miracles, it was
repressed, and men were hindered from full confession of their faith in
Christ. This is the simplest explanation of the expression, but some think
that reference is intended to the “multitude of those who were not yet
converted, but whose attention was at the same time arrested by the
spiritual power of Christianity;” or to the “Pharisees, who resorted to the
portico, but had not the courage to attach themselves to those with whom
they really sympathized.” It is evident that there were many lookers-on,
who, from one cause or another, were hindered from belief. Dr. Dykes
says, “To the friendly attitude of the common people there stood
contrasted, exactly as during Jesus’ ministry, the displeasure of the official
and educated classes.… Somewhat later a number of the rank-and-file even
of the priesthood went over to the new faith. At this period, however, all
the sacred and ruling orders appear to have been kept aloof from the
Church by a public opinion of their own, so strong that no individual
member of these orders had as yet the courage to oppose it.” The term,
“Of the rest,” may include:
partly of Pharisees. Both were hindered from belief in Christ by prejudice.
Doctrine blinded the Sadducees; pride of ritual holiness blinded the
Pharisees. Sadducees were offended by our Lord’s miracles and spiritual
demands, and hopelessly enraged by the report of His resurrection, which
they regarded as a mischievous absurdity and an impossibility. Their
doctrines prevented their being persuaded. Pharisees were prejudiced to a
ritual system in the observance of which alone could salvation come. To
their notions salvation by faith in a person, and such a person as the
Nazarene impostor, was, on the face of it, unworthy of intelligent beings.
These classes are but examples. Still the prejudice of doctrinal notions, and
the delusion that somehow salvation must be by works, keep men from
parties in a state have adherents, hangers-on, people who watch and take
their cue from them, and hope to get their own benefit through the party.
These men are always ready to avoid what their party avoids, and to shout
what their party shouts. Such
men there were in
the apostles, and, whatever might be the force of conviction and persuasion
brought to bear upon them, they were hindered by personal interest.
Joining the Christians would not answer their ends, and they could not see
their way to offending the party that was in power. Time-servers never can
believe until they put away their time-serving. Self-interest and faith cannot
singers, etc. These were hindered by the spirit of officialism, one of the
most narrowing and conservative forces acting on men. The new is always
suspected by the official mind. The routine and order must not be touched.
There was much, both in our Lord’s teaching and in that of His apostles,
that could not fail to grieve and alarm the temple officials. And still,
stiffened creeds and rigid ecclesiastical forms are often fatal hindrances to
those who teach the creeds and minister the forms.
observing what a poor lot the first Christians were, and class pride kept
them from Christ. It was the constant sneer of the enemies of the early
Church, and is fully expressed by Celsus, that the Christians were drawn
from the very dregs of society, from the publicans and the slaves. Yet we
glory in this, that “God hath made the poor of this world rich in faith, and
heirs of the kingdom.” (James 2:5)
14 “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of
men and women.)” Added to the Lord; as in ch.11:24, not as in margin.
Multitudes; πλήθη – plaethae - multitudes, found in the plural nowhere else in
the New Testament.
Elements of influence (vs. 11-16)
Instead of the sin and death of Ananias and Sapphira proving disastrous to
the infant Church, the melancholy event was followed by a period of
extraordinary success: There was a high tide of prosperity; the gospel
showed itself a great power in the community (v. 14). Here are some of
the elements of that power.
(v. 11). “By terrible things in righteousness” (Psalm 65:5) God sometimes
answers us and impresses us. The fearful has a work to do in inspiring awe
and leading to conviction and conversion. There are awful truths in
connection with the gospel (Matthew 21:44; 24:51; 25:46, etc.), as
well as terrible facts happening in the providence of God, which do their
work in the mind, solemnizing, subduing, preparing for thought, devotion,
beneficence took the form of miraculous healing, and it was most
efficacious in attracting and winning men. Now it takes other forms hardly
less effective. The hospitals of
the missionary in
philanthropic institutions in
Christian sympathy and self-sacrifice, are great elements of power. Christian
kindness, taking a thousand shapes, flowing in a thousand channels, is an
untold, incalculable influence for good.
whomsoever this applied, whether to the apostles only or to the band of
believing disciples, it is clear that a certain reverence was paid to those
who bore about them such marks of close association with the Divine. To
those who walk with God, who are men of prayer and of real devoutness
of spirit as well as blamelessness of life, there will attach a certain
sacredness which will cause them to be “magnified by the people,” and
their word will be with power.
verses, that the publicity gained by the “many signs and wonders” of one
day brought together a still larger congregation of the sick and the
expectant the following day.
cities round about.” The moral and spiritual triumphs of the truth have
been elements of influence of signal worth. What God has wrought in
opening blind eyes of the mind and cleansing leprous souls has been the
means of extending the healing and renewing power of Christ on every
hand. What stronger argument have we than this — What Christ has done
for such sad and sinful souls He can and will do for you?
the hand of the ministers of Christ.” But the supernatural is with us still,
though the miraculous is gone. In connection with the preached Word, and
in answer to believing prayer:
Ø the iron will is bent,
Ø the rocky heart is broken,
Ø the blind eyes are opened, and
Ø from the grave of sin dead souls come forth to newness of life.
15 “Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid
them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by
might overshadow some of them.” Even carried out for brought forth,
Authorized Version. and Textus Receptus; that, as Peter came by, at the least
his shadow for that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by, Authorized
Version; some one for some, Authorized Version. Insomuch; not to be
referred back to the first part of v. 12, as indicated by the parenthesis in
the Authorized Version, but to the whole description of the Church’s glorification
in vs. 12-14.
came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto
bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they
were healed every one.” And there also came together the multitude from for there
came also a multitude out of, Authorized Version; about
which were, Authorized Version. And there also came together, etc. One great
result of these numerous miracles would be to manifest that the Lord Jesus was
still with His Church as truly as when He was upon the earth (Matthew 28:20),
and this manifestation remains for the comfort of His people, even now that such
miracles have ceased. With regard to what is said in v. 15 of the shadow
of Peter being thought to have had a healing power, it may have been true
that it had, as Christ could heal by a shadow as well as by a word or touch,
but we cannot say for certain that it was so; anyhow, it was a marvelous
season of refreshing to the Church, preparing her for the coming trial.
The Healing Personality of Christ’s Servants (vs. 12-16)
are consecrated to the service of doing good. Here especially the hands. It
is a beautiful organ, the human hand, and may stand in Christian thought as
the very symbol of beneficence. Signs and wonders are wrought,
betokening that God is in immediate connection with the agency of man,
that His presence is loving and healing, that Christianity brings in an era of
deliverance from pain and sickness.
are scared by the presence of a true man. They are in polar antagonism to
him. They cannot bear his direct glance, his clear tones, his indefinable
influence. There are those whose presence silences the ribald jest and scoff.
The holy man awakens dread and love wherever he goes. Society seems to
divide into its elements as he approaches. He is magnetic. Hence the
slander of some is an equal testimony to moral greatness with the
admiration and love of others.
it in their inmost heart. And not for long can the sympathies of the
multitude be held except by goodness. In this case Divine power set its seal
too plainly upon the character and work of the apostles to be resisted. In
the vast concourse of sick and suffering in the streets and open places of
has been the religion of the poor and the suffering. It remains the Divine
will that the Christian minister should be the healer, the comforter. His
pattern is to be found in the description Christ gave of His own mission in
the synagogue at
somewhere when the public organs of Christianity fail to command the
attention and to supply the heart-wants of the lowly and the suffering. By
the ordinary laws of mind to work for the spiritual help of such is better
than all the power to work signs and wonders. Let every Christian minister
be like “Peter’s shadow,” a refreshment and a rest by his spirit and teaching
to weary souls.
Clear Shining after Rain (vs. 12-16)
The blessed effects of what at first is not fully understood. The outpouring
of judgment may be a preparation for the outpouring of mercy. The Church
has to be made and kept pure; then the deeper the work of grace among
God’s people becomes the larger the work of the gospel in the world.
Ø In the working of miracles, which had their special value in rousing
attention and proving the nearness of God’s kingdom.
Ø In the separation, and magnifying in the eyes of the people, of the true
Church. The rest durst not join them; the people magnified them.
Ø In the solidifying of the Church as a society. Solomon’s porch; one
Ø In the work of conversion. Multitudes — men and women;
notwithstanding the awful deaths.
Ø In the diffusion of the glad tidings in the surrounding neighborhood, not
as mere idle rumor, but as a practical appeal which brought the needy and
suffering to the feet of Christ.
the place of meeting still. The center of new life in the midst of the old
corruption. Invitation to both Jews and Gentiles. Public place, yet
connected with the temple. The Divine society inviting all to new life — a
life that healed, that cared for the sick and dying, that drew the multitudes,
the miracles giving confidence and pointing out the way. The manifest
testimony of the world to the Church, speaking of man’s preparation for
the gospel, The marvelous progress of the truth in the growth of the
Church a sign that the grace was being abundantly bestowed. A time of
great awakening and many conversions is a time of tremendous
responsibility. At least the shadow of the messenger falls upon us, as he
passes by. It is not said that the shadow healed, but it may help to the faith
which is a prerequisite. The people magnify the work, though they may not
receive the blessing. God works generally from the lower to the upper
strata of society. All great moral changes have begun among the people.
The rich will resist, for it is hard to them to enter into the kingdom of
heaven. The Church must look well to itself if it is to be the power of God
in the world. The circle of grace will widen if only the force keeps going
out from the center. We must avoid the fatal mistake of enlarging that
circle by mere human methods. Let God do it in His way. What we want is
not large Churches as, communities, or wealthy societies, or great signs
and wonders wrought in our cities, but “believers added to the Lord,
multitudes both of men and women;” and they will be “the more added”
because the rest dare not join themselves unto them because the Spirit of
God is manifestly among them. Our great danger is impatience and
unbelief. Resorting to our own expedients, because we think God’s
methods fail. Out of the dark cloud of Ananias’s and Sapphira’s sin broke
forth a new baptism of zeal, devotion, and spirituality.
While we read these fewest verses of what was going on in
of how “multitudes from the cities round about
“mother of them all,” to seek, not in vain, healing virtue, we seem to be
removed by a world’s diameter from the
heart and its very sky darkened by the Crucifixion. And we also seem
removed by centuries from the time when certain lips (which could not
open but to speak truth whether simplest or deepest) had
and when Jesus “wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least
in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are
hid from thine eyes.” (Luke 19:42) On the contrary, we are in fact separated
only by weeks from the dread solemnities of the Crucifixion, and scarcely by
months from the lamentations of Jesus over
shining again; storm, darkness, and nothing less than the chill of severest
winter are passed over; and summer days, with striking similarity to the
best of those of Jesus Himself, burst on
and they were bright in their own brightness; yet, alas! to linger but for a
while. Meantime what a touching evidence they were, for
unrevengefulness of Jesus, of His forgivingness, of the very wistfulness of
His loving-kindness! Let us notice the distinguishing features of these days.
GRANDEST OF THE DAYS OF CHRIST’S OWN MINISTRY. That
such a thing could be said with literal truth was part
Ø of the condescension of Jesus; again, it came
Ø of the genuine reality contained in the profession that He wore human
Ø of the one absorbed interest of His heart in the work of man’s salvation.
The point is surely worthy of attention, so beautiful in its own moral
bearings; so significant of the intention of Jesus to share His ultimate
triumph and glory with His own people, and their captains and princes not
last; and so great a contrast to the methods and the “inward thoughts” of
the “world” and “the kings of the earth.” Jesus is not of those who would
cut off from the followers in His train those who might be successful
imitators of His career, sharers of His renown. He is exactly the opposite of
this. He calls, invites, incites us all to seek to be in every best sense
imitators of Him, and promises that so we shall not fail of a just share of
His renown. The likeness between these days and days in the ministry of
Jesus Christ is patent in respect of:
Ø The miracles which found a place in them.
Ø The beneficent character of those same miracles.
Ø The abundance and the variety of them — ranging from the healing of
“the sick” to the healing of those “vexed with unclean spirits.”
Ø The very methods by which the friends of the afflicted compassed the
bringing of them within the reach of the “virtue” which in some way
“came out” of the apostles. The “touch of the hem of the garment”
must be allowed to be equaled by the device of securing the chance
for some impotent man of the “shadow of Peter… overshadowing him.”
Ø The eager, longing, thirsting appropriation of such blessings on the part
of the masses of the people. Crushed by want, by suffering, by sin; hope,
light, nay, almost the mind crushed out of them; — with what irresistible,
unceremonious tide do these ever press forward, and sweep round or over
every obstacle, when genuine help, precious, precious, precious salvation
proffers itself! What care they for Sanhedrin and Sadducee? They are the
rulers, and the others are cowed and cower before them.
Ø The widespread practical success of the miracles — “they were healed
Ø The moral triumph which “the people” accord to the authors, or those
who appear as the authors, of their blessings. They repudiate
sophistication, and “render honor to whom honor is due.” Indeed, there are
not wanting very satisfactory and sufficient indications now that “the
people,” on the one hand, rendered to the apostles the distinction justly due
to them as the trusted servants of their vanished Master, and, on the other,
recognized the fact that “the power was of God.” Infidelity was not
altogether either the prevalent or the hardened fact in some directions then
that in some directions it is now. “The people” had a great idea of the
impregnability of the position of the man who did “works such as none
other could do,” and “such as no man could do save God were with Him.”
THEIR PROPER DIGNITY AND STATUS TO THE COMPANY OF
THE APOSTLES. Peter and John are the two apostles whose names and
whose work had hitherto received prominence. Of these Peter has been
with evident and with just design by far the more prominent. Till Paul shall
come upon the scene he will also remain similarly conspicuous. But during
these days the whole college of the apostles seem to receive the baptism of
their work, as on the day of Pentecost they had received the baptism of the
Spirit for it. They are “all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” And the
chief evidence of the dignity and status, not artificial but real, which were
now given to them, may perhaps be best expressed in a somewhat
antithetical mode of statement, viz. that:
Ø while “the people magnified them” with hearty acclamation for instant
and grateful acknowledgment,
Ø “no man of the rest” (i.e. presumably of those who would not care to
be classified altogether among “the people,” and who would have been
quite prepared to snatch at any possible dignity at which they could “dare”
to snatch) “durst join himself” to those apostles. They did not dare this,
because their abilities could be IMMEDIATELY PUT TO THE PROOF~
They did not dare it, because of the warning, so fresh, of the end of Ananias,
when he had tampered with the sacredness of the society organized by the
apostles. And likely enough, in many cases, they did not dare it from a
sincere awe and an intelligent, respectful reverence for men who were doing
the things that the apostles were now doing. Any way, the result was obtained
that round these apostles was drawn the cordon of a moral regard and a moral
support, which would be a strong comfort to the believers and a strong
condemnation to the unbelievers. A very few hours were to find the use of
this. And a very few hours would show that it inferred no danger of the
access of superficial vanity or the incursion of deeper pride.
MIRACLE IN THE DIRECT SPIRITUAL RESULTS WHICH THEY
RECORD. (v. 14.) It is quite possible that, among the “multitudes both
of men and women” who now were “added to the Lord,” some may have
proved apostates as time went on. On the other hand, the supposition
would be most gratuitous that any disproportionate number turned thus
away. The fair inference from what is said here and from the tenor of the
history that follows would be, if anything, in a contrary direction.
Assuming this or contenting ourselves readily with the other and lower
estimate, in either case we are justified in noting the kind of use to which at
this time miracle was ordained to be subservient. It is not to be disputed
that the fervent attachment which bound not a few to the person, yes, and
to the character and truth, of Jesus during the days of His flesh was
wakened and fixed by some miracle that He had wrought for them or theirs.
Nor need it be denied that that attachment answered to a genuine spiritual
change, a change of heart, evidencing itself in a change of life.
Nevertheless, it can scarcely be said that this was the clear rule in the
operation of the miracles of Jesus, or that this was their aim. Neither,
perhaps, now was this the primary object of the miracles and “the many
signs and wonders wrought by the hands of the apostles.” But the miracles
were distinctly the pioneers of those spiritual results. In the track of miracle
went a most efficacious working of the convincing and converting Spirit!
The miracle drew many together; it wakened and held the attention; it
undoubtedly did have this practical and so far forth moral effect, viz. the
effect of compelling many to say, “Lo, God is here!” and to feel it. To deny
the possibility of a miracle-falls nothing short of denying a personal God.
To allow the fact of any individual miracle is to allow that God is offering
to the help of a poor memory, to the help of a struggle always arduous
enough against sense and the numbing sway of habit, to the help-of
conviction itself, the enlivening touch of His personal presence. Sophistry
has a vanity in weaving its web to snare miracle, but vainly weaves. The
faith that inheres in the world’s great heart is too strong for it, and sweeps
away that vanity with equal ease and contempt. In the track, then, of
miracle viewed for a moment thus, it is quite optional what follows. The
miracle, like all other mercy, may be to condemnation, as Jesus said, “If I
had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they
have no cloak for their sin If I had not done among them the works which
none other man did, they had not had sin.” (John 15:22-23). The miracle
may be what it so often was in the very dearest specimens of it, those of
Jesus Himself, to the great gratification of curiosity — that of people, of
priest, and of ruler, and after a while to their deeper sleep and their more
reckless disbelief. But it may also be all the blessed contrary. In the track of
what or of whom would the quickening, enlightening. convincing,
converting Spirit Himself rather follow? And this is what was seen now.
When Jesus Himself wrought His own mightiest works, the Spirit’s course
seemed restrained. But, wonderful grace! when His disciples and apostles
are facing the world and encountering the inevitable dangers involved in
doing so, mighty miracles are brought home by the mightier Spirit, and
spiritual results follow such as may be described in terms unknown to the
lifetime of Jesus Himself. “Believers were the more added to the Lord,
multitudes both of men and women.” Nevertheless, then were plainly
fulfilled the words of Jesus to His disciples, “Verily, verily, I say unto you,
He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater
works than these shall he do: because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
Bodily Healings May Prepare for Spiritual Ones (vs. 15-16)
Comparing apostolic miracles with those wrought by our Lord, it should be
noticed that He showed power over nature by stilling storms, walking on
waters, multiplying food, and withering trees; but the apostles’ power was
limited to various forms of bodily danger and disease. In each case the
miracles illustrated the higher work of those who wrought them. Christ’s
miracles illustrated His Divine claims and mission as the revelation to men
of the Father. Apostolic miracles illustrated their mission to preach Christ
to men as the Healer of the soul’s disease, Redeemer from sin’s penalties,
and Savior from sin. The question is often discussed whether the power of
miraculous healing has been lost to the Church. Claim to such power has
been made in every age, with more or less confidence, and such claims are
made now. Singular and interesting instances of bodily healing in response
to faith and prayer are narrated by sober witnesses; and it may be admitted
that there are certain classes of diseases which can be affected and relieved
by the strong will and faith of a fellow-creature. But it is difficult for us to
recognize the properly miraculous character of such cures. We may
efficient healing agents for all man’s diseases, He has given to some among
men healing skill, to be used in the service of others. No nobler ministry is
entrusted to men than that of healing. A vast and almost overwhelming
mass of human suffering calls for the healer’s art. Though some forms of
bodily disease are beyond human cure, few, if any, are out of the reach of
relieving agencies. Apostolic healings materially differed from those of the
Ø They were immediate.
Ø They were without the use of medicinal agencies.
Ø They were complete, without peril of any return of the disease.
Ø They were wrought by spiritual power — and that not the apostles’
own, only operating through them — reaching the very springs of vitality
and giving new life. How such healings illustrate the Divine work in sin-sick
souls may be fully shown.
apostolic ministry. The end was not reached when a suffering man was
cured; that was but the means to a further and higher end, even that soul-
healing which comes by the reception of Christ the Savior, whom apostles
taught. Illustrate how medical missions are made the agency for winning
the attention of the heathen to the gospel message. Point out what are the
particular points of spiritual teaching which gain effective illustration from
bodily healings; e.g.:
Ø The assertion of a necessary relation between SIN and SUFFERING.
Suffering is no accident, no mere calamity; it is the divinely appointed
fruitage and consequence of sin. It is designed to fix the character of sin, to
give men conviction through feeling, vision, and sympathy, of THE EVIL
OF SIN! When more clearly understood, suffering is seen to be the
corrective agency through which man may be delivered from sin.
Ø The assertion of the Divine relation to suffering. God does not pass
aside of the diseased or disabled; every day He is working gracious works
in sick-rooms and hospitals. Of this His constant work Jesus gave full
illustrations in His miracles, when He came to “show us the Father;” and of
this apostles renewed the assurance when they healed, in Christ’s Name, all
the sick and suffering ones that were brought unto them.
Ø The consequent assertion of the Divine relation to sin. God would not
concern Himself with the mere effects; we may be quite sure that He deals
with the cause. The great Physician is concerned about OUR SIN!
He would not that any of us should perish in our sins. And, therefore, when
the apostles healed a sufferer they preached unto him Jesus, who is precisely
this, “GOD SAVING MEN FROM THEIR SINS!”
17 “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him,
(which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,”
But for then, Authorized Version; they were filled for were filled, Authorized
Version; jealousy for indignation, Authorized Version. The high priest rose up.
It was high time for him and his friends the Sadducees to be up and doing, if
they wished to stop the spreading of the faith of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection.
Which is the sect of the Sadducees (ch. 4:1-2, note). It does not appear
that Annas himself was a Sadducee, but his son was, and hence it is highly
probable that the Sadducees should have attached themselves to Annas,
and made a tool of him for suppressing the doctrine of the Resurrection.
The sect; αἵρεσις – hairesis – sect; heresy - (see ch. 15:5; 24:5, 14; 26:4; 28:22).
The word was applied first by Jews to Christians, and then by Christians to sects
(I Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; II Peter 2:1). Jealousy scarcely so well
expresses the idea of ζῆλου – zaelou – jealousy here as indignation does. It is
only occasionally that it means that kind of anger which we call jealousy. The
high priest and his party were indignant at the defiance of their authority, and at
the success of the doctrine which they had made it a special object to put down.
18 “And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common
prison.” Laid hands (as ch. 4:3, Authorized Version and Revised Version;
for laid their hands, Authorized Version. and Textus Receptus; in public ward
for in the common prison, Authorized Version. Laid hands, etc. Laid their hands
is equally right, even when αὑτῶν – auton – their – is omitted, as the translation of
τὰς χεῖρας – tas cheiras - the hands. There is no difference in the sense in the two
renderings, or in the two passages, though in ch.4:3 the phrase is ἐπέβαλον αὐτοῖς
τὰς χεῖρας – epebalon autois tas cheiras - they laid hands on them and ἐπέβαλον τὰς
χεῖρας αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀποστόλους – epebalon tas cheiras auton epi tous apostolous –
and laid their hands on the apostles. In public ward. The Authorized Version. is
more idiomatic and expresses exactly what is meant by the phrase τηρήσει δημοσίᾳ -
taeraesei daemosia – public custody.
19 “But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought
them forth, and said,” An angel for the angel, Authorized Version; out for forth,
Authorized Version. An angel, etc. The phrase is a translation of the Old Testament
phrase מַלְאַך יְהוָה. But in Hebrew it is impossible to insert the definite article before
יְהוָה, and therefore the phrase is properly rendered, “the angel of the Lord.” In the
passage before us and other similar passages, Κύριος – Kurios – Lord - seems to stand
for יְוָה, and therefore the rendering of the Authorized Version. would seem to be
right, in spite of what is said by eminent grammarians to the contrary. Compare,
too, the phrases ὁδὸν εἰρήνηνς – hodon eiraenaens - (Luke 1:19); ῤῆμα Θεοῦ -
rhaema Theou – word of God (Luke 3:2); φωνὴ βοῶντος – phonae boontos –
voice of one crying (ibid. v. 4); and see especially ibid. ch.2:9, where,
ἄγγελος Κυρίου – aggelos Kuriou - the angel of the Lord) and δόξα Κυρίου –
doxa Kuriou - the glory of the Lord stand in parallel clauses. The Revised Version
inconsistently renders the first “an angel,” and the second” the glory.” In like
manner φωνὴ Κυρίου – phonae Kuriou (ch.7:31) is “the voice of the Lord;” and in
Psalm 29:3-5,7-9 the Septuagint have uniformly φωνὴ Κυρίου for קול יְהוָה
(see ch. 8:26, note). Out (compare ch. 12:7, etc.).
Angel-Help (v. 19)
Angels are constantly referred to in Holy Scripture. The Angel-Jehovah, or
angel of the covenant, who appeared in human form to the patriarchs as a
sign and foreshadowing of the Incarnation, must be distinguished from the
ordinary angelic appearances. The Old Testament conception of angels is
that they were agents or executors of Divine missions to individual men or
to communities. Thus we have angels visiting
pestilence; angels guarding Jacob, etc. From the earlier poetical and
imaginative point of view, the angels were veritable beings, belonging to
other spheres but able to communicate with men in the earthly spheres. To
our more formal and scientific notions, angels are regarded as the
personification of material agencies, as used by God for moral and religious
purposes. “He maketh winds His angels, and flames of fire His ministers.”
(Psalm 104:4) Very little can be really known about angels, and no doctrine of angelology can be pressed on universal acceptance. The New Testament
conception of angels is given in Hebrews 1:14 (Revised Version), “Are they not
all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall
inherit salvation?” The precise work of ministry is that entrusted to them,
and apostolic assertion of the fact of their ministry is probably designed to
oppose the Sadducees’ teaching that “there is neither angel nor spirit.”
Ø Angel-announcements and preparations for His birth.
Ø Angel-comfortings in the time of his desert temptations (Matthew 4:11).
Ø Angel-strengthenings in the moments of His conflict and agony in Gethsemane.
Ø Angel-attendance upon His resurrection.
Ø Angel-announcementsts concerning His ascension and His coming again.
From these instances we may learn the kind of help which angels may be
expected to give to Christ’s tempted and tried disciples.
Ø As deliverance from prison (see text, and incident narrated in ch.12:7).
Ø As communicating Divine messages (see ch. 8:26; 10:7).
Ø As ensuring safety in times of peril (see ch. 27:23). It may be
observed that what may be called the materiality of the angel began
gradually to fade away, and the visionary realization of the angel-help took
its place. In this we trace the transition to the form in which we now may
apprehend the help of the angels. No man may expect such actual working
in the physical spheres as Peter knew when his prison doors were opened.
Even in Paul’s time this work was done by the natural shakings of the earthquake.
that it is granted. The only question is — In what manner do we realize the
help? Spiritual forces are around us. We are influenced, for good and for
evil, by unknown agencies. This is as yet almost an unstudied Christian
phenomenon; one, however, which often brings comfort as a sentiment to
pious souls. Such angel-help is very properly put into a secondary place in
our consideration when we have a full and strong conviction that the Lord
Jesus Christ Himself is with us, the Inspiration, Guard, and Guide of our
whole life and thoughts. They who consciously realize the presence of the
Master will make comparatively little of the presence of the Master’s
ministers and servants working out His gracious purposes for Him.
We may properly cherish the idea of angel-help in everything that is good.
20 “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of
this life.” Go ye for go, Authorized Version. In the temple; not in the house,
but in the courts. The words of this Life; i.e. this life which is in Christ, whom
ye preach, through His resurrection from the dead (compare John 6:68,
“Thou hast the words of eternal life;” see too the whole chapter and
I John 1:1-3).
“Go, stand and speak,” etc. Acts of apostles the model for acts of God’s
people always. Lessons on relation of the Church and the world. The Gospel
began to lay hold of the masses. There were envy and hatred of the Sadducean party,
because a religion which lifted up the people, they thought, would lower
the wealthy and ease-loving. We must expect social difficulties as the
kingdom of righteousness spreads, but the angel’s message is the rule of all
times; while opportunity offers, stand and speak, not your own message,
but “all the words of this life.” While we listen to the angel’s words, we
should keep our eye fixed on the unveiled secret of Divine strength
delivering and protecting all true-hearted preachers of Christ’s truth.
Ø Copy the example of the Master. “Common people heard him gladly.”
Ø Best on the adaptation of the gospel to the people’s wants. They are
deceived by false teachers, run after false remedies.
Ø Take courage by the facts of the early history of Christianity. All moral
prowess from the people. Illustrate in the course of Christianity in the
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Ø Note the events. The future in the hands of the people. Speak to them of
Christ; for their power is great, and they may abuse it to the destruction
of society. Babel-greatness must end in confusion and misery.
Ø Consider the responsibility of Christians. Believe, and therefore speak;
silence is shame. Activity is the hope of the Church, the cure of its
strifes and the uprooting of its doubts.
Ø Reality — life. Men’s daily struggle is about life. Yet the world full of
delusions about life. This life! That life! We invite the people to live the
true life, Christ’s life, the life that death cannot touch.
Ø Announcement. “Words of this life.” We proclaim facts, a Divine
Person, a life that can be described by example, confirmed by testimony,
studied in the written pages. Religion no dream of enthusiasts, no mere
sentiment floating like a cloud in the air, no empty ritualism, but words of
life translated into action.
Ø Philanthropy. “All the words.” Different from mere human teachers with
their reservations and selfishness. Philosophers taught for money. Christ
says, “Speak all to the people freely.” Religion in the hands of priests has
made the people enemies, but this new message in the temple would shake
down the wails of superstition, prejudice, and pride, and build up a new
humanity. In our message we must put so much heart that the people see
we give them all that we have, because we love their souls first and their
earthly interests as included in their spiritual welfare.
Ø Aggression. “Go, stand in the temple;” “Be not afraid of their faces.”
(Jeremiah 1:8) Bold policy always the wisest in spiritual things. Special
necessity that the desecrated temple should witness the faithfulness of
Christ’s messengers. False religion the great obstacle to progress of the
gospel. People misunderstand the message; think of priests as their enemies;
have reason to think so. The gospel does not reject what is good in other
systems, but plants itself in the midst of the world as it is; finds in the temple
of the old religion a standing-place from which to preach the new tidings.
Every fresh instance of Divine interposition should embolden us. You are
free now, go to the work again. In all fields of labor discouragement must
be absolutely excluded. Follow the Spirit of God, and He will point to
new platforms. We shall speak with fresh power if we refuse to be thwarted
by opposition or put out of countenance by suffering.
The Theme of Themes: The Angel’s Charge (v. 20)
“Go, speak, of this life.” There can be no doubt as to what is essentially the
reference in this expression used by the angel. But whence the angel, so to
say, borrowed it admits of a thought and a question. The angel speaks of
the life involved in the fact of the Resurrection — that fact so unwelcome
to the pinched, impoverished Sadducees, who now were the leading
persecutors of the apostles. However great the single fact of the
resurrection of Jesus, its greatness is magnified by some infinite number,
when we regard it as an earnest and “first fruits” of very much in its train.
Had it been a unique fact, and been designed to remain so, it would have
been shorn of the crown of its glory. Solitary grandeur and majesty must
necessarily have robbed it of its power to thrill unnumbered millions with
hope and joy, and to point all humanity to the one quarter from which light
arises to it. And probably the simplest will be the best account of the
angel’s naming it “this life.” “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the
people all the words of this life,” viz. the life which has been the unceasing
theme now for some days, of your thought, your one unbroken affection,
and your testimony. We have here an angel’s charge. Let us notice of what
it is made up. The angel urges:
OF EARTH IS NOW TO BE THE BURDEN OF THE APOSTLES’
PREACHING. Some persons object to the prominence given in preaching
to what is to come and the circle of subjects involved therein. They think it
unnatural, artificial. However, not to do this is to put off again the
unspeakable advantages of revelation. That the practical duty of the
present life should be preached by the Christian preacher is a truism. That it
should be preached without the light of the eternal future, and what is most
distinctive of it revealed in Scripture, is to turn the back on the priceless
GIFT OF REVELATION! Hence come the mightiest of living practical impulses for right, for elevated, for holy life on earth. The mind stirs with a new and wondering gaze; the imagination is divinely tempted — not to be either
deluded in the nature of what it takes hold upon or defrauded in the
measure of it; and the heart is reached to its deepest wants. The infinitely
enlarged horizon that comes of the revelation of eternal life does neither
affect nor for a moment wish to alter the foundations of moral truth and of
duty. But it does throw a light and color and interest into the very midst of
them, and for the mass of mankind first brings them into the class of
acknowledged practical forces. At any time machinery is one thing, and
motive force another. Christ’s destruction of the boundary view death, and
his illimitable extension of the boundary view onward to eternal life,
legitimately make the very essence (not at all of the foundations of
morality, but) of a very large part of the force of His appeal to mankind.
The angel’s charge is dead contrary to anything looking in the direction of
affecting to be able to dispense with his method or to throw it at all into the
shade. And the centuries that have passed since the angel released the
apostles at early dawn from prison, and bade them go and preach “the
words of this life,” have vindicated his charge. The preaching that has been
filled with moral aphorisms has been dead and barren of force. That which
has reverently but confidently dealt with the tremendous realities of the
great future unseen — unseen except by the light of revelation and faith —
has been the preaching that has been fruitful of influence and has shown
changed hearts and changed lives. (“While we look not at the things
which are not seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the
things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not
seen are ETERNAL” - II Corinthians 4:18)
APPEAL TO “THE PEOPLE.” The distinguishing facts or doctrines of
Christianity know no distinction of esoteric and exoteric. They are what
may be understood of the people, and they are what may be trusted to the
people. Sadducees and others, not a few who would profess themselves
conversant with these higher matters of life and its outlook, are putting
from them their grand opportunity. But to “the people,” “the gospel,” “the
words of this life,” are preached. The gospel is to try its genius and its
force among them, and then it tries it ever, not altogether in vain. It is to be
noticed that this crowning doctrine or fact of the future life or eternal life is:
Ø to be announced in closest connection with the personal history of
Jesus Christ — with His Resurrection; and
Ø that it is to be announced with all the fullness and variety of which it
may admit — “All the words of this life” are to be enlarged on without
o what it is in its own intrinsic self,
o what it is as gained for man by Christ,
o what it is as illustrated by Christ’s own resurrection.
MERE MEN, MEN UNASSISTED BY ANY EARTHLY POWER AND
EXPOSED TO ALL EARTHLY DANGERS. Jesus Christ has done His
work, so far as the part of it on earth was concerned. Angels, it clearly
appears, have their share too in furthering the work of Christ on earth. But
their share is of a more indirect kind. When Jesus goes, men, feeble, erring,
sinful men, are called to take up the work, are honored to take it up. Let
this mean what it may, and harmonize with what it may or may not, the fact
merits probably more thought than all it has yet received. And if it is to be
rightly estimated, equal regard must be paid to two facts:
Ø that man is to be the worker, and that
Ø the man who is thus to work is to be one “called” and one qualified by
the Holy Spirit. Thus called and thus equipped within, he is to “go, and
stand,” as though in unassisted strength, and to stand in the place of
courted and solemn observation, in the publicity of “the temple,” and to
take heed that he “speak to the people all the words of this life.”
21 “And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the
morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were
with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the
This for that, Authorized Version; about day. break for early in the morning,
Authorized Version; prison-house for prison, Authorized Version. About daybreak.
In the hot climate of
Matthew 26:57, 75). But the high priest, etc. The narrative would run more clearly
if the passage were translated more literally, Now when the high priest and
they that were with him were come (to the council-chamber the next day)
they called together, etc. The narrative is taken up from vs. 17-18.
Having (v. 18) put the apostles in prison, they met the next morning to
decide how to punish them. The council (τὸ συνέδριον – to sunhedrion –
the Sanhedrin); i.e. in the Hebraeo-Greek, the Sanhedrin, the great council of
the nation, consisting of seventy-two members, usually presided over by the
high priest. It is frequently mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22;
26:59; Mark 14:55, etc.; and ch. 4:15 22:30; 23:1). On the present occasion,
besides the members of the Sanhedrim, there were gathered together all the senate
- senate) of the children of
occurs only here, but which seems to comprise all the elders of the Jews, even
though they were not members of the Sanhedrim. But some understand it as merely
another phrase for the Sanhedrin, added for explanation and amplification.
The council, of course, were ignorant of the escape of the prisoners. The
prison-house (δεσμωτήριον – desmotaerion - prison (Authorized Version)
represents φυλακή - phulakae – jail - in the next verse.
22 “But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they
returned and told,” The officers that came for when the officers came and,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; and they returned for they returned,
23 “Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the
keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened,
we found no man within.” Prison-house for prison, Authorized Version,
as in v. 21; we found shut in all safety for truly found we shut with all safety,
Authorized Version at the doors for without before the doors, Authorized
Version and Textus Receptus. But the within at the end of the
verse seems to require the without of the Textus Receptus.
24 “Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the
chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto
this would grow.” The captain of the temple for the high priest and the captain,
etc., Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; words for things, Authorized
Version; were much perplexed concerning them for doubted of them, Authorized
Version. The captain of the temple, etc. Meyer, followed by Alford, retains the
Textus Receptus, in which the word for the high priest is ὁ ἱερεὺς – ho hiereus. It is
true that this word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament for “the high priest.”
But in the Old Testament כֹהֵן is very frequently used to designate the high priest, as
Exodus 29:30; 35:19; Numbers 3:32; II Chronicles 22:11; II Kings 22:10; I Kings
1:8, etc.; and in such places is represented by ἱερεὺς in the Septuagint. So that
Luke may very probably have used it here where the context made the meaning
clear, and where he intended to use the word ἀρχιερεῖς – archiereis - for “the
chief priests.” For the captain, see above (ch. 4:1, note). He was
especially interested as being, probably, the officer who had arrested the
apostles the day before. Were much perplexed concerning. The verb
(διαπορέω – diaporeo – were bewildered), which only occurs in the New
Testament here and ch.2:12, 10:17, Luke 9:7, and (in the middle voice)
Luke 24:4, means properly “to be in doubt which road to take,” hence generally
to be in doubt, perplexity. Them may apply either to the words, the strange things
just reported to them, or to the apostles about whom the things were
reported. It seems most natural to refer it to the words. They were in doubt
and perplexity as to what it would all grow to.
The Hopelessness of Fighting against God (vs. 21-24)
The narrative indicates that the Sanhedrin had fully entered on the work of
checking and crushing the party of Christ’s disciples. Gamaliel expressed
what the nature of their action might possibly prove to be — it might be
even a “fighting against God.” Some effort should be made to realize what
they thought about their work, and how they deluded themselves with the
notion that they alone were guardians of the truth of God, and in opposing
the Christian party were really fighting for God. It is one of the saddest
effects of cherished exclusiveness and self-confidence that these things
actually blind men, and make it impossible for them to receive truth as
newly presented to them. A little self-criticism, a little skill in testing their
own motives, would have revealed to these men the low and unworthy
passions and prejudices by which they were permitting themselves to be
ruled. So often we need to “see ourselves as others see us,” and may
thankfully welcome any light that reveals ourselves to ourselves. These
men were really “fighting against God.”
TEMPORARY SUCCESSES. Only apparent, because they always lead
men on to attempt further schemes, which involve them in utter ruin. Only
temporary, because God has the long ages in which to secure the
outworking of His purposes. Illustrate by the success of the Sanhedrin in
the conviction and death of our Lord, and in the imprisonment of the
BEYOND HIS REACH. And they are sure to master him. Compare man’s
range of power with God’s. Illustrate from the treatment of Christ; death
was man’s limit, resurrection was in God’s power. So with apostles;
imprisonment was man’s limit, angel-deliverance was in God’s power.
God’s miracles then, God’s providences and overrulings now, surely mate
and master man’s utmost antagonism. This is true of persecutions,
infidelity, or other forms of attack on Christian men, the Christian faith, or
the spread of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
25 “Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye
put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.”
And there came one for then came one, Authorized Version; behold for
saying, Behold, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the prison for prison,
Authorized Version; in the temple standing for standing in the temple, Authorized
Version. Standing implying the calm, fearless attitude of the men. There is an
apparent reference in the mind of the writer to the words of the angel in v. 20,
“Go ye, and stand and speak.”
26 “Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without
violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.”
27 “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council:
and the high priest asked them,” But without for without, Authorized Version;
lest they should be, omitting ἵνα – hina – that - for lest they should have been,
with ἵνα, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Lest they should be, etc.
The best way of construing the words, whether ἵνα is retained
or not, is to make the clause “lest they should be stoned” depend
upon “not with violence;” putting “for they feared the people” into a
parenthesis; thus explaining why they thought it dangerous to use violence.
Arrest of the Apostles (vs. 17-26)
Ø Zeal. It is good or evil in its effects, according to the objects to which it
is directed. There is no mood of which more opposite descriptions have
been and may not be with justice given. In the excitement of feeling, the
fire and fervor which zeal implies, egotism may be so easily mistaken for
public spirit. Our self-passions may and must mix with those of a purer
kind. Resentment against injury to our interests or indignity to our party, or
contempt for our opinions, is constantly mistaken for pure zeal for the
Ø Whenever anger and violence break out it is a proof that the dangerous
force of zeal is at work. The only way to correct its mischief is by denying
any personal interest which is apart from that of the truth. It is the clear
calm gaze at truth which cools the undue heat of zeal, or gives the force its
true direction. Here violence showed that egotism was the principle of
priestly zeal, and passionate interest, divorced from truth. The apostles are
seized and put in prison. Zeal is blundering, thinks that force is a remedy
for moral feebleness, believes that truth and spirit can be put down.
comes as an emissary of freedom, for the Word of God cannot be bound.
And freedom means new scope for duty. God does not give liberty to
tongue and hand for nothing. “If our virtues go not forth from us, ‘Tis all
as one as though we had them not.” Freedom imposes duties. If God sets
us free front the fear of man, which muzzles the tongue, then let us go and
publicly speak to the people “all the words of this life.” Again, with
freedom courage is given. The apostles go at daybreak to the temple, and
in the teeth of ecclesiastical prohibition proceed to teach. How truly is
courage the gift and grace of God! Too often we think of it as a mere
pagan virtue founded on pride. Far otherwise with the true courage of the
Christian soldier. “It was a great instruction,” said Mrs. Hutchinson, in her
‘Memoirs,’” that the best and highest courages were beams of the
Almighty.” As every passion and energy of the soul contains its opposite,
so moral courage contains fear of God, moral cowardice contains the false
courage to be untrue to God. The apostles, having chosen the fear of God
and obedience for their guide, knew no other fear.
of the human heart. When men are blinded by passion, the strongest
arguments and warnings of God seem only obstacles on which wrath
breaks with the greater vehemence. The news comes that the prison is
empty, and under significant circumstances. The guard stands as before at
the door, unconscious of the prisoners’ escape. The tidings are confirmed
from another source. The prisoners have escaped and are again in the
temple, teaching. Was not this the finger of God? Would not men in their
senses, free from the madness of passion, have argued that they did wrong
to offer violence to a power so majestical and so contemptuous of the
fetters of force and the ordinary laws of nature? Yet once more the foiled
attempt of human force against the will of God is renewed, and the
apostles are brought with a gentleness due to the fear of their captors
before the tribunal.
The Sanhedrin are at the outset again baffled and defied.
Ø Authority weak without moral support. The judges can only helplessly
repeat themselves. They refer to their former command and ask why it had
not been obeyed. As if the apostles had not warned them it should not be
obeyed. Might without right can only repeat its experiments and its
failures and is no match for right which rests upon eternal might.
Ø Physical weakness mighty is moral support. Here were but a few
unarmed men, without armed following, only temporarily backed up by the
uncertain sympathy of the crowd. What is the secret of their immovable
bearing? It is moral. Obedience to the higher law is the secret of all
command over the minds of others. Here again is the coincidence of
opposites. The servant of self-interest is weak, though he sits on a throne
and is surrounded by guards; while one moral will, one divinely determined
personality, suffices to set a city in commotion and to overturn
Ø Truth irresistible. The truth of the place, time, persons, circumstances,
launched from firm lips, is certain to go home. This is infallible. If we fail
with the truth, it is because of want of respect to some of these conditions.
o The act of God in raising Jesus is again insisted on. Fearful fact in its
grandeur, disquieting in its stubbornness, illustrated now by the events
of every hour.
o The guilt of the crucifiers again emphasized. Their own dark passions
are reflected in the cross of wood, and at the same time God’s rebuke
of them and disappointment of them.
o The exaltation and dominion of Jesus again set forth. At the fight hand
of God; at the apex of the moral universe, he now draws men unto him,
changing their hearts and pardoning their sins.
o The living evidence again appealed to. We, living, acting men, working
works that by the confession of one of your number (Nicodemus) no
man can do unless God be with him; we, not in our independent name
and personality, but as vehicles and agents of a holy power, are the
evidence that these things are so. And if they are so, then is the power
of the Sanhedrin, with all its support in Roman arms, the mere shadow
and ghost of authority. It is superseded by that of Jesus the true King
conviction, all the more penetrating because it is in the minds of all,
yet adored by none.
§ The root of courage, energy, moral influence, and command
lies in conscience, or obedience to God.
§ Where men combine against conscience and conspire against
truth, they undermine the foundations of authority and prepare
their own ruin.
28 “Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach
in this name? and, behold, ye have filled
doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
We straitly charged for did not we straitly command? Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; not to for that ye should not, Authorized Version; teaching
for doctrine, Authorized Version. We straitly charged, seems to require a
question to follow. Your teaching (for the command, see ch. 4:18). Intend to
bring, etc. Here the secret of the persecution comes out, The guilty
conscience winced at every word which spake of Jesus Christ as living. The
high priest, too, would not so much as name the name of Jesus. It was “this
name,” “this man;” as in the Talmud, Jesus is most frequently spoken of as
Teloni, i.e. “such a one,” in Spanish and Portuguese Fulano, or still more
contemptuously as “that man” (Farrar, ‘Life of St. Paul,’ vol. 1. p. 108).
This terror of blood-guiltiness is a striking comment on the saying recorded
in Matthew 27:25.
29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to
obey God rather than men.” But for then, Authorized Version; the apostles
for the other apostles, Authorized Version; must for ought to, Authorized Version.
Peter is the spokesman, the sentiment is that of the united apostolate.
Must obey God, etc. The rule is a golden one for:
o all men,
o all circumstances, and
o all time (compare ch. 4:19).
“We ought to obey God rather than men” (v. 29)
(or, “we must,” Revised Version). A great principle requires to be seen in
the full daylight before it can be made the foundation of great action.
Fanaticism borrows its strength from the night of ignorance, not from the
noon of truth. Persecution may vindicate itself on the ground of obedience
to God, but it proves itself to have no title to such a principle because it
Ø It is a requirement abundantly set forth in the Scriptures, in conscience,
in the teaching of providence in connection with revealed truth, and
especially in that inspired guidance which no true and earnest man is
Ø Enforced by the work of the Church, by the dangers of the world, by the
deceitfulness of the heart, by the promises of God’s Word.
Ø Rewarded by the sense of inward strength, by superiority to
circumstances, by successes in Christian effort — if not in this world
fully, IN ETERNITY!
Ø Human laws, human requirements, human errors, human passions, all
may say, “Obey the voice of man rather than of God.”
Ø Compromise the great danger of the Church. Under its new disguise of a
pantheistic submission to inevitable law of development, specially subtle.
Ø Lack of moral courage and conviction, obscuring principle and
magnifying the strength of surrounding obstacles. We need the Holy Ghost,
upholding the work of God in our own hearts, penetrating the deceptions
of the world, arming us with spiritual preparation against inevitable assaults
Ø Individually the same great question to be settled between ourselves and
God. His controversy. “Yield yourselves to God!”
Three Things Divine (vs. 17-29)
The success of the Christian cause had the effect which might have been
anticipated; it aroused the intense hostility of the enemies of the Lord, and
their bitter opposition found vent in a speedy arrest and imprisonment of
the apostles (vs. 17-18). But man’s adversity was God’s opportunity,
and we have:
shut out those whom God would have to enter, to shut in those whom He
would have escape! The hour had come for His interposing hand, and all
the contrivances of man’s wrath were broken through as if they were but
“the spider’s most attenuated thread.” We often wish for the direct
interposition of God now; we often ask for it; we often wonder that it does
not come, thinking that the hour for Divine manifestation must have
arrived. The duty and the wisdom of true piety are:
Ø to ask God to deliver in His own time and way;
Ø to expect His delivering hand at some time and in some way;
Ø to wait in patient endurance till His time has come;
Ø to recognize His gracious hand in whatever ways He may be
pleased to act.
this life” (v. 20). Doubtless the apostles well understood what was the
tenor of their commission. They were to speak all those words which
would enlighten their fellow-citizens on the great subject of the new
spiritual life which they had begun to live. They who stand now in the
relation of religious teachers to the men of their own time, may take these
words of the heavenly messenger as a Divine instruction to themselves.
They are to “speak all the words of this life;” i.e.
Ø to explain and enforce the truth, that beneath and beyond the life which
is material and temporal is the life which is spiritual and eternal;
Ø to make known the conditions on which that life is to be entered upon
— repentance toward God, and faith in a crucified and risen Savior;
Ø to make clear the way by which that life is to be sustained — by
“abiding in Him;”
Ø to assure all disciples that “this life” is to be perpetuated in the
(v. 29). God demands our first obedience — that is the teaching of His
Word; it is also the response of our own conscience. We agree, when we
consider it, that God has a claim, transcendently and immeasurably superior
to all others, on our allegiance. That Divine One who called us ourselves
into existence; by whom we have been endowed with all our faculties; in
whom “we live, and move, and have our being;” from whom we have
received every single blessing we have known; who is the righteous and
holy Sovereign of all souls throughout the universe of being; on whose will
absolutely depends our future destiny ; — to Him we owe our allegiance in
such degree, that any claims man may have upon us are “as nothing, and
less than nothing.” There are many reasons why we should yield ourselves
to His service — the example of the worthiest and the best of our kind; the
excellency, dignity, exaltation of that service; the present and future
advantages we gain thereby; the awful issues of disloyalty and persistent
rejection, etc. But there is one thought which should weigh the most, and
be of itself sufficient — “ we ought to obey God.” We cannot decline to do
so without violating the plain teaching of our moral judgment. When we do
yield ourselves to Him, we put ourselves in the right and have the strong
and blessed sanction of our conscience. We should hear the voice within,
saying daily, hourly, in tones which will not be silenced, “You ought to
Peter does not deny having received the prohibition, but pleads the superior force
of the command of God, as set forth in the following verses.
30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged
on a tree.” Hanging Him for and hanged, Authorized Version. The God of our
fathers, etc. Observe how carefully Peter preserves his own brotherhood with the
Jews whom he was addressing, and the continuity of the New Testament
with the Old Testament as being the sequel of the acts of THE SAME GOD of
anistae – shall be raising; upstanding; raising, as ch. 3:22, 26. Some, however
take ἤγειρε, as here used, to mean “raised up” in the wider sense of ἀναστῆσαι –
anastaesai - as in the Textus Receptus of ch. 13:23, where, however, the Textus
Receptus has ἤγαγε. Slew; viz. with your own hands, as διεχειρίσασθε –
diecheirisasthe - slew; lay hands on - means. It only occurs besides in ch.26:21.
31 “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a
Savior, for to give repentance to
Did God exalt for hath God exalted, Authorized Version; remission for
forgiveness, Authorized Version. With His right hand; i.e. by His mighty
power, as the instrument of Christ’s exaltation. A Prince (ch. 3:15, note).
Repentance first, “a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26), and
forgiveness next (compare ch. 2:38; 3:19, etc.).
The Throne of Mercy (v. 31)
“Him hath God exalted,” etc. The Jewish temple a material symbol of the
Divine method of grace. The chief chamber was the place of God’s glory
— the innermost presence-chamber of the great King; its chief feature, the
mercy-seat, a proclamation of love to all. Yet access to the blessedness
only by the appointed way, through the consecrated rites and persons; thus
the will and righteousness of God sustained at the same time as His mercy.
Compare heathen ideas of Divine favors — slavish, cruel, degrading,
capricious, destructive of righteousness both in God and in man.
Moreover, no heathen system appealed to a universal humanity.
Ø Deliverance from sin, both by remission and moral elevation. Show that:
o the conscience regains satisfaction,
o the life security, and
o the heart peace.
Ø A free and unpurchased forgiveness, lest we should be:
o burdened by their inequalities,
o destroyed by their despair,
o seduced by their errors, or
o enslaved by their superstition.
Ø Confidence without fanaticism, peace of mind without inertia, and a
sense of righteousness without pride.
Ø It is built upon facts — a personal history, an accumulation of historic
supernatural absolutely necessary to hold up the human spirit in its greatest
emergency. God’s right hand must be seen, must be conspicuous. We
cannot depend on mere human sympathy, wisdom, or strength.
Ø The twofold character of Christ meets the twofold demand of the soul,
for the greatness of the King and the compassion of the Savior. The
exaltation of Christ was both human and Divine. We recognize the great
fact of mediation and reconciliation.
Ø The one supreme test of sufficiency, the gift of the Holy Ghost. We do
not appeal to men on the ground that God can save them, or that there is in
Christianity a satisfactory theory of the atonement, but on the ground that
the Spirit of God is saving them, that the gift is there — repentance and
Jewish world was the condemnation of all men. If God so wrought for us,”
“how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3-4)
The gift has all God’s heart in it. Return His love.
The Present Royalty and Rights of Jesus (v. 31)
It is interesting to notice how the Jewish conception of Messiah, as a
conquering King of the house of David, gave form and tone to the earlier
ideas which the apostles had of their risen and ascended Savior. He proved,
indeed, to be a King in quite another sense than that in which they had
regarded Him, and at first they felt much disappointment in the crushing of
their national hopes; but still they knew that He was a King, they gradually
gained clearer notions of the spirituality of His kingdom, and they freely
asserted His present royal rights, demanding the immediate submission of
men to His authority. The claim of sovereignty is closely joined to the
promise of salvation. If Christ seeks to rule over men it is that He may
save them. It is usual to note the meanings of the Resurrection viewed in
its relation to the redemptive scheme; but it is not so usual for Christian
teachers to dwell on our Lord’s office, dignity, commission, authority, and
active operations as exalted to the right hand of the Father. The circle of
the Christian doctrine is by no means complete on this side, and the
mystery of the Ascension is but very imperfectly unfolded. A sentiment has
been allowed to prevail that Christ is practically absent now from us; the
affairs of Christ’s Church are delegated to the ministry of the Holy Spirit,
and Christ is coming some day to assume place and power, and establish an
everlasting kingdom here on earth. The apostles declare that the Lord is
exalted now to His royal princely place. They affirm not only that He now
has, but also that He now claims, His royal rights. It is not their way of
putting it to say that “He will take to himself his great power and reign;”
they say, “Him hath God exalted,” or, as Revised Version, “Him did God
exalt.” This is a truth which the modern Church needs to have more fully
and frequently presented to it. Due attention to it would relieve the
tendency to exaggerated representations of salvation by faith in our Lord’s
work. The salvation is revealed to faith in the Lord Christ Himself, the
Prince and Savior. Christ is actually now:
as the direct rule of Jehovah, and show that the idea is realized spiritually in
our Lord’s present relation to His Church. It should be no disability to
regenerate and spiritual men that He is unseen. The quickened soul can
have spiritual communications, and the secret soul-life of the Christian man
is His real life. Whoever controls it controls the whole bodily life and
relations too. In the line of the text it may be shown that, as Prince,
Christ’s law and claim, brought home to men’s souls, bow them down to
penitence; and Christ has in full commission the expression of the Divine
mercy in forgiveness and restoration.
be a result of man’s faith in Christ’s redemptive work, but of man’s faith
which opens his soul and life to the present redemptive workings of the
living Savior. The moral forces now actually working at:
Ø the subduing,
Ø renewing, and
Ø sanctifying of men
are the present and active forces of Christ, the exalted and glorified Savior. So apostles preached unto men “Jesus,” bade them open their hearts to His love
and power, carry to Him the burden of their sins and needs, and expect that
He would as really — though in a spiritual manner — deal with them as He
dealt with the sorrows and the sins of men while He was with them in the
flesh. This is the great glory of the gospel message, and the point of it to
which prominence should be given in these our times — “ JESUS LIVES!”
He is exalted, He holds His commission. His “Father worketh hitherto, and
He works.” As the Prince, He demands our submission and our obedience. As
our Savior, He takes our whole case upon Him, and:
Ø redeems, and
32 “And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy
Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” Witnesses for His
witnesses, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; so is the Holy Ghost
for so is also the Holy Ghost, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. We are
witnesses. The direct reference is to the command recorded in ch. 1:8, which they
felt imperatively bound to obey. So is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost
bare witness to the gospel preached by the apostles by the powers which He
gave them to heal and work miracles, and by the conversion of many who
heard the word: “the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from
heaven” (I Peter 1:12). Mark the solemnity and authority which Peter
claimed for the gospel by thus asserting that the Holy Ghost was the witness
with the apostles to the truth of their testimony concerning Jesus Christ.
The Cross and the Crown (vs. 30-32)
In this address which Peter delivered to the Sanhedrin we have another
epitome of the gospel.
hanged on a tree” (v. 30). The Son of God was “made a little lower than
the angels,” even a Son of man, “for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9).
He stooped to the level of our humanity, in order that He might “taste
death for every man.” And He underwent that experience in its most
dreadful form — in darkness, pain, shame, desertion, inexpressible agony
of soul. He went deliberately down to the very lowest point to which He
could stoop, that He might finish the work the Father had given Him to do.
our fathers raised up Jesus... Him hath God exalted with His right hand to
be a Prince and a Savior” (vs. 30-31). “From the highest throne of glory
to the cross of deepest woe” He had come; now He re-ascended from the
grave to the throne, to the seat of heavenly power and blessedness. He has
become an enthroned Redeemer, a sovereign Savior,
Ø occupying the foremost place in heavenly rank,
Ø dispensing salvation to the lost children of men, and
Ø receiving the willing homage, the affectionate service of the multitude
He has redeemed.
What more honorable, enviable, blessed position can we conceive
than that of One who, seated in the very highest post of honor, is conferring
the best of all imaginable blessings, and is receiving, in return, the
freest, richest, most rejoicing worship and service of His redeemed, both of
those who are about His person “in the heavens,” and of those also who are
serving Him and striving to follow Him below?
a Savior, “to give repentance.., and forgiveness of sins.” How does the
exalted Lord carry on His great work as He reigns in heaven? By giving
repentance and remission.
Ø He gives to human souls a sense of the heinousness of their sin.
Ø He dispenses to them, through His atoning sacrifice, full and free
forgiveness of their sin. Thus He leads men everywhere away from their
iniquity, and restores them to the favor and so to the happy service of the
ELEVATION. (v. 22.) The apostles could assure the council that these
things were so; they could place it beyond all doubt, inasmuch as:
Ø they themselves were witnesses of the facts, and
Ø the Holy Spirit had confirmed their testimony by the signs and
wonders He enabled them to work.
We too have testimony, both human and Divine.
Ø The human testimony of the apostles of our Lord; also of all Christian
souls in all succeeding generations, who have witnessed for Him and the
power of His grace; and also the assurance of our contemporaries, who
rejoice in the liberty with which He has made them free.
Ø The Divine testimony of that gracious Spirit of God, who, though He
works no signs and wonders around us, does work conviction, comfort,
sanctity, strength, within us.
33 “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel
to slay them.” But they, when they heard this, for when they heard that, they,
Authorized Version; were minded for took counsel, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus (ἐβούλοντο – eboulonto - for ἐβουλεύοντο – ebouleuonto –
took counsel; they planned). The word for were cut to the heart (διέπριοντο –
dieprionto – were cut; harrowed ) is found only here and in ch.7:54, where the
full phrase is given. It means literally, in the active voice, “to saw asunder.”
In Hebrews 11:37 it is the simple verb πρίω – prio – saw asunder which is used
(ἐπρίσθησαν – epristhaesan – they are sawn); πρίω and several of its compounds
are surgical terms.
34 “Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named
Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the
people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;”
But there for there, Authorized Version; in honor of for in reputation among,
Authorized Version; the men for the apostles, Authorized Version and Textus
Receptus; while for space, Authorized Version. A Pharisee named Gamaliel.
Luke had mentioned (ch. 4:1 and 5:17) that there was an influential party of
Sadducees in the Sanhedrim. He, therefore, now specially notes that Gamaliel
was a Pharisee. There can be no doubt that this alone would rather dispose him
to resist the violent counsels of the Sadducean members, and the more so as the
doctrine of the Resurrection was in question (see ch. 23:6-8). Moreover, Gamaliel
was noted for his moderation. That Gamaliel here named is the same as that of
ch. 22:3, at whose feet Paul was brought up at
known in the Talmud as Rabban Gamaliel the elder (to distinguish
him from his grandson of the same name, the younger), the grandson of
Hillel, the head of the
Sanhedrim, one of the most famous of the Jewish doctors (as the title
Rabban, borne by only six others, shows), seems certain, though it cannot
absolutely be proved. The description of him as a doctor of the law, had
in honor of all the people; the allusion to him as a great teacher, learned
in the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and one whose greatness
would be as a shield to his pupils, in ch.22:3; the exact chronological
agreement; the weight he possessed in the Sanhedrim, in spite of the
Sadducean tendencies of the high priest and his followers; and the
agreement between his character as written in the Talmud and as shown in
his speech and in the counsel given in it, seem to place his identity beyond
all reasonable doubt. There does not seem to be any foundation for the
legend in the Clementine Recognitions, that he was in secret a Christian. If
the prayer used in the synagogues, “Let there be no hope to them that
apostatize from the true religion; and let heretics, how many soever they
he, all perish as in a moment,” be really his composition, as the Jews say,
he certainly had no inclination to Christianity (‘Prid.
said unto them, Ye men of
ye intend to do as touching these men.” He said for said, Authorized Version;
as touching these men transposed from the order of the Authorized Version;
are about to do for intend to do, Authorized Version.
36 “For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be
somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined
themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were
scattered, and brought to nought.” Giving himself out for boasting himself,
Authorized Version; dispersed for scattered, Authorized Version; came for
brought, Authorized Version. Rose up Theudas. A very serious
chronological difficulty arises here. The only Theudas known to history is
the one about whom Josephus writes (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 20:5), quoted in full by
Eusebius (‘Ecclesiastes Hist.,’2:11) as having pretended to be a prophet,
having lured a number of people to follow him to the banks
by the assurance that he would part the waters of the river, and as having
been pursued by order of Cuspius Fadus, the Procurator of Judaea, when
numbers of his followers were slain and taken prisoners, and Theudas
himself had his head cut off. But Fadus was procurator in the reign of
Claudius Caesar, immediately after the death of King Agrippa, ten or
twelve years after the time when Gamaliel was speaking, and about thirty
years after the time at which Gamaliel places Theudas. Assuming Luke
to be as accurate and correct here as he has been proved to be in other
instances where his historical accuracy has been impugned, three ways
present themselves of explaining the discrepancy.
1. Josephus may have misplaced the adventure of Theudas by some accidental error.
Considering the vast number of Jewish insurrections from the death of Herod the
Great to the
2. There may have been two adventurers of the name of Theudas, one in the
reign of Augustus Caesar, and the other in the reign of Claudius; and so
both the historians may be right, and the apparent discrepancy may have no
3. The person named Theudas by Gamaliel may be the same whom Josephus
speaks of (‘
a band of robbers around him, and making himself king at Herod’s death
(‘Sonntag,’ cited by Meyer, etc.). But he was killed by Gratus, and the
insurrection suppressed. A variety in this last mode has also been suggested
(Kitto’s ‘Cyclopaedia’), viz. to understand Theudas to be an Aramaic form of
Theodotus, and the equivalent Hebrew form of Theodotus to be מַתִתְיָה, Matthias,
and so the person meant by Theudas to be a certain Matthias who with one Judas
made an insurrection, when Herod the Great was dying, by tearing down
the golden eagle which Herod had put over the great gate of the temple,
and who was burnt alive with his companions, after defending his deed in a
speech of great boldness and constancy (‘Ant. Jud’ 17:6).
A consideration of these methods of explaining the apparent contradiction between
the two historians shows that no certainty can without further light be arrived at.
But it may be observed that it is quite impossible to suppose that any one
so well informed and so accurate as Luke is could imagine that an event
that he must have remembered perfectly, if it happened under the
procuratorship of Fadus, had happened before the disturbances caused by
Judas of Galilee, at least thirty years before. But it is most certain that
Josephus’s account of Theudas agrees better with Gamaliel’s notice than
that of either of the other persons suggested, irrespective of the identity of
name. The first way of explaining the difficulty above proposed has,
therefore, most probability in it. But some further corroboration of this
explanation may be found in some of the details of Theudas’s proceedings
given by Josephus. He tells us that Theudes persuaded a great number of
people to “collect all their possessions” and follow him to the banks of the
them to pass over; that they did so, but that Fadus sent a troop of horse
after them, who slew numbers of them, and amongst them their leader.
Now, if this happened when the business of the census was beginning to be
agitated, after the deposition of Archelaus (A.D. 6 or 7), all is plain.
Theudas declaimed as a prophet against submitting to the census of their
goods ordered by Augustus. The people were of the same mind. Theudas
persuaded them that, if they brought all their goods to the banks of the
the other side out of reach of the tax-gatherer. And so they made the
attempt. But this was an act of rebellion against the Roman power, and a
method of defeating the purpose of the census, which must be crushed at
once. And so the people were pursued and slaughtered. But apart from the
census of their goods, one sees no motive either for the attempt to carry
away their property, or for the slaughter of an unarmed multitude by the
Roman cavalry. So that the internal evidence is in favor of Luke’s
collocation of the incident, at the same time that his authority as a
contemporary historian is much higher than that of Josephus. Still, one
desiderates some more satisfactory proof of the error of Josephus, and
some account of how he fell into it.
this man rose up Judas of
and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all,
even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.” Enrolment for taxing,
Authorized Version; some of the for much, Authorized Version; as
many for even as many, Authorized Version; scattered abroad for dispersed,
Authorized Version. Judas of Galilee, otherwise called the Gaulonite, as a native
of Gamala, in Gaulonitis. He was probably called a Galilaean
was the seat of his insurrection (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’
18, 1:1 and 6; also ‘
8:1; 17:8). He was the great leader of the Jews in opposing the census
ordered by Augustus, after the deposition of Archelaus, and carried out by
Cyrenius, or rather P. Sulpicius Quirinus, the Propraetor of Syria, with the
assistance of Cumanus, the subordinate Governor of Judaea. Judas, with
Zadoc his coadjutor, was the founder of a fourth Jewish sect, nearly allied
to the Pharisees, and his sedition was founded on his philosophic tenets.
Josephus speaks of him as the author of all the seditions, tumults,
slaughters, sieges, devastations, plunder, famines, ending with the burning
of the temple, which afflicted his unhappy country. He gives no account of
his death. But his two sons, James and Simon, were crucified by Tiberius
Alexander, the successor of Cuspius Fadus. Another son, Menahem,
having collected and armed a large band of robbers and other insurgents,
after a partially successful attack on the Roman camp at
miserably slain. The enrolment (τῆς ἀπογραφῆς - taes apographaes –
of the registration, as Luke 2:1). The purpose of Augustus, which had been
delayed some years from causes not accurately known, perhaps in deference
to some remonstrance from Herod the Great, was now carried into effect.
Quirinus was sent, apparently the second time, as Proprsetor of Syria, to which
make a valuation of all their property. The Jews had been first persuaded by the
high priest Joazar, i.e. apparently in the end of Herod’s reign, or the beginning of
Archelaus’s, to submit to what they greatly disliked, but were now roused
to insurrection by Judas of Galilee (‘
Nothing is known of his death beyond this notice of it. Scattered abroad.
Not crushed, for the insurrection broke out again and again, having the
character of a religious war given to it by Judas of Galilee.
38 “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them
alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to
nought:” Be overthrown for come to nought, Authorized Version.
39 “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found
even to fight against God.” Is for be, Authorized Version; will not be able to
for cannot, Authorized Version; them for it, Authorized Version and Textus
Receptus; to be fighting for to fight, Authorized Version.
A Study of Jewish Character: Gamaliel (vs. 38-39)
“And now I say unto you,” etc.
1. Reverence for the Word and will of God — in truth and in providence.
The Jews, possessed in their Scriptures a good philosophy of history.
They taught that God must triumph.
2. Sense of humanity and righteousness deeply pervading all the Jewish
system. “Refrain from these men.”
3. Yet evidence of the corrupt and formal state of the Jewish teachers —
temporizing policy, weakness of conviction, unwillingness to face truth, the
ecclesiastical spirit in its mildest form.
Ø The influence of Gamaliel on Saul of Tarsus (see Conybeare and
Howson; Farrar) and so on the history of the gospel.
Ø The contrast between Gamaliel and his fellow-counselors in the
Sanhedrin. They agreed to him then, but how about their former action
and what followed? The Gamaliel character was then exceptional.
Ø The contrast between Gamaliel and the apostles. He was prudent, they
were earnest. Consider the necessity of following conviction. Sweetness
and light are not means but ends; they have to be fought for, not rested in,
before they are fully obtained.
Ø The great appeal: “Lest haply ye be found… fighting against God.” All
must acknowledge it. How easily ignored! The position of the soul is here
indicated; it is either fighting with God or against God. Though Gamaliel
did not see it, there is no middle position. “It is a fearful thing to fall into
His hands.” (Hebrews 10:31)
40 “And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and
beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus,
and let them go.” Called unto them (προσκαλεσάμενοι – proskalesamenoi –
calling toward them) for simply called, Authorized Version; they beat them and
charged them for and beaten them, they commanded, Authorized Version; not to
speak for that they should not speak, Authorized Version.
A Grand Victory for the Truth along the Whole Line;
All the Positions of the Enemy Taken. (vs. 17-40)
The few hours that were covered by this portion of the history must have
been hours charged with confirmation of the faith for the apostles. It is not
merely that they are again attacked and again get in the end the victory, but
that every position is carried for them by some strong arm invisible. It is
not altogether the force of the truth, at least of the truth as spoken and
spoken by them; still less is it their own force that gains this glorious and
memorable day, although doubtless both of these are involved in the day’s
achievements. But there was a “fighting from heaven” for them, “and the
stars in their courses fought against” their enemies. (Judges 5:20) And as
nothing so much daunts an enemy as the impression of this latter, so nothing
can be conceived more reinforcing to the faith and courage of the army or the
general who have evidence of the former. While, then, the bold and faithful
utterance of “all the words of this life” was now the loving care of the
apostles, God’s watchful providence and the living Spirit whom Christ sent
made the “heaven that fought for” them. We may view the present portion
of the Church’s history under this light. It is the history of a succession of
incidents, every one of which shows the foe as the party signally
discomfited. The apostles are still the representatives of the Church. They
sustain the brunt of any attack. And it is noteworthy, that at present, so far
as we read, no private member of the Church is exposed to any similar
treatment. Notice, then:
IMPRISONMENT. The high priest and those who were acting with him
had not, it appears, learned the lesson which their former failure might well
have taught them. It had been attended by circumstances and followed by a
sequel which should have made a lasting impression on their memory. But
memory’s good offices were scorned, and wisdom’s lessons set at naught
and lost. The experiment is to be tried again, whether certain facts to which
the word of the apostles gives great notoriety, with certain comments upon
them and explanations of them, can be hushed up, and a prison’s doors be
mightier than miracles. This very point was soon settled, and in the shape
that should have carried conviction and reproof in equal proportions. It is
to be remembered that the imprisonment policy stands condemned, not
altogether necessarily in itself, but emphatically, in this case, because the
facts to which the apostles gave the notoriety so unwelcome to the
authorities were facts within the knowledge of those same, and because the
whole action of the apostles had the abundant attestation of surpassing
miracles. Mouths can be stopped by imprisonment, no doubt. And the
method may, no doubt, be a legitimate method, even though there be
allowed to be prima facie a likely moral danger attaching to it. That danger
has shown itself so repeatedly and so malignantly — in matters of religion
to the oppressing of the conscience, in matters of science to the clouding of
the prospects of truth and the growth of knowledge. But the point of
interest and at the same time the hopelessness of the present conflict turned
on the fact that the method of imprisonment attempted to stop the mouth
of God’s Word and truth. The enemy was confounded signally. An
“abundant door” of exit from the prison for the apostles made a more than
ever “abundant door of entrance” for the truth, and it occasioned “great
boldness” of utterance of “all the words of this life” in the temple of
temples, and before the enemy was so much as awake.
BEFORE THE COUNCIL.
Ø In this proceeding embarrassment awaited the council; they stumble
upon the very threshold. The prisoners are duly sent for, but they are not to
be found. The prison is there; the keepers are there; the doors were shut
with all appearance of safety, and if they had been opened, there is not a
sign of it nor of any violence that might have effected it; the keys are
neither lost nor injured; and the locks are not disobedient to their own
keys, as though they had been tampered with. Yet to what all this, when
the prison itself proves as empty as ever place was? The officers return
with tale and face, no doubt, equally blank; but blankest of all was the
astonishment of those in authority under these new circumstances. That
“they were in doubt concerning them” (so the apostles) was no unnatural,
no unlikely account of the case in which “the high priest, and the captain of
the temple, and the chief priests” found themselves. And perhaps it might
have suited them and their reputation about as well if all had ended here.
But this was not to be. They had meddled with strife, nay, had not
“forborne them meddling with God” (II Chronicles 35:21); and they
shall not “leave off contention” before it has worsted them signally,
Ø A sudden relief from undignified bewilderment leaves them no choice
but to go on with a prosecution, hazardous much more to those who
prosecute than to those who are prosecuted. That by this time they began
to feel this there are not wanting certain indications.
o Though the narrative is very concise, very condensed, it does not omit
to describe the tender handling of the prisoners found speaking in the
temple — a tender handling the more notable because they were
escaped prisoners. “The captain and officers went and brought them
without violence; for they feared the people, lest themselves should
be stoned” —an unfavorable predicament, all things considered,
o Presumably because the narrative is very condensed it asks a second
thought on our part as to what is the precise meaning when it is said,
“The high priest, and the captain of the temple, and the chief priests,
doubted concerning them [i.e. the apostles], whereunto this would
grow.” We take it that their innermost darkness began to be harassed
with dawning day; their innermost mind with dawning convictions
that they had a very new sort of men to deal with; their conscience
with dawning of a fear very unfamiliar to their hitherto manner of
bearing themselves toward that same conscience. Possibly, more
than possibly afterwards, the same messenger who brought word as
to where the apostles were and what they were doing stated also the
apostles’ account of how they had got out of the prison. He
would have ample time to do this while the captain and the officers
went to bring them. That awkward interval must have been filled up
somehow by the dismayed court. Nor can there be a doubt that it was
filled up with abundant talk and question and discussion. This or some
such view is, it appears to us, essentially corroborated by the apparent
silence of the court, when the apostles were at last ushered into its
presence, as to their escape, and by its diligent abstinence from any
interrogations upon the matter. Silence absolute on that subject were
certainly their best wisdom when they had heard the real facts, and,
hearing, had seen them with eyes forced open. The silence of the
narrative is one thing, and is a token of historic accuracy and fidelity.
The silence of the court is another thing, and is a touch true enough
to nature, in fact, a great demonstration of nature, which sometimes,
in the supreme effort to cover defeat, then most convicts itself of defeat.
What, therefore, with a certain underswell and muttering of conscience
first, and then with the unease wrought by the plain discovery
of how things had been, it may be reasonably imagined that the
high priest and those associated with him wished already that they
were well clear of the whole matter.
o But the moment has come for the arraignment itself. It is at all events
plain, its meaning and. its implications not obscure. “You have
strict command, have filled
we disapprove, and are going far to fix on us the responsibility and
possibly the vengeance of the blood of this man.” Probably a spirit
of contempt and an intention to express it thinly veiled growing fear,
when they use the words, “this name,” and “your doctrine,” and
“this man’s blood,” instead of naming the Name that was already
“above every name” (Philippians 2:9) and naming the doctrine which
was certainly not “the doctrine nor after the commandments, of men”
(Colossians 2:22), and naming “the blood which speaketh better
things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)
o But the challenge is at once accepted by the apostolic band. They admit
their disobedience to human command. They assert their obedience to
Divine command, and assert the necessity of it — its moral ought.
They at once honor, by a firm and repeated utterance of it, the Name
which had just been regretfully flouted, but which, in very deed,
designated One who had known the unprecedented transitions of
resurrection and ascension, and who owned to the titles of
PRINCE AND SAVIOUR OF MANKIND! His princely gift
is the power of “repentance,” his saving gift is the “remission of sins.”
Occupying a position of vast moral purchase over their judges, the
apostles do not propose to shield these from an iota of their
responsibility. They had declined to name the Name of Jesus;
the apostles do not shrink at all from naming the name of their
sin and guilt, nor forbear to describe them as the persons
answerable for the blood of Jesus. “Whom ye slew, and hanged on
a tree.” And so they make out their text. We “ought to obey God.”
And as God, the God of our fathers, was He who “raised” Jesus,
and who “exalted” Him, we are His “witnesses,” in these glorious
wonders, of the history of His Son Jesus. And Peter adds, in one
of the most pronounced of the claims of inspiration peculiar to
revelation, that, in saying so much, he means that “the Holy Ghost”
in them is the real Witness, that Holy Ghost whom God gives to
those who obey Him. That God is to be obeyed, probably the now
judges of the apostles would not presume to deny. Peter and the
apostles have made out their case when they have proved that this
is all to which their censured and imprisoned conduct amounts.
So the close of their defense clenches the opening of it.
INCAPACITY IN THE COUNCIL. This experience was ushered in,
indeed, by one of a far more pronounced character. In a word which itself
expresses an intensity of suffering, we are told that they of the council
“were cut” to the quick, and in the first paroxysm of agony saw no option
but to slay their prisoners. The apostles were again called upon to retire
from the court (ch. 4:15) while the state of things was deliberated.
And “in the multitude of counselors was found safety” (Proverbs 11:14)
of some sort at least, and of some brief duration, thanks to the sage
prudence that dwelt in one of them, and apparently only one. Note here
to what different issue men have been cut to the heart.
Ø Some to deep penitence, contrition, conversion; so Peter
(Luke 22:61-62), and the first converts (ch. 2:37).
Ø But other some to deeper condemnation, and suicide either actual or
moral; so Judas (Matthew 27:4-5), and those here described, with
many an ancestor, many a descendant. The blindness of intense anger and
the malignant action of intense chagrin may be ranked among the certain
precursors of incapacity, but here they reveal it too. And that we read
under these conditions, “they take counsel to slay them,” serves little more
than to make assurance doubly sure that helpless floundering is the present
order of things at the ostensible seat of justice.
AN UNDIGNIFIED POSITION. A Pharisee — save the mark! — leads
the way out. And the way out leads just back by the way they came in.
That the members of the council put themselves as far as possible just
where they were before they stirred at all in the matter is the policy which
Gamaliel propounds. It comes to this, that he forcibly argues it were by far
the best thing to eat their own, both words and deeds. The conservative
shrewdness and blandness of this advice, and of the courteous way in
which it is advanced, are equally unmistakable and in a sort admirable. It
were uncharitable, however, to deny that it is open to intrinsic
Ø Gamaliel has noted and treasured and now uses well the lessons of
Ø Evidently he is before his time, and has a large and open eye for the
principles of even civil liberty.
Ø More remarkably still, he seems to have grasped the principle and the
very basis of the principle of religious liberty. “These men” (v. 35) are to
be looked at, as some possibly sacred thing should be looked at. “These
men” (v. 38) are to be “let alone,” as men possibly doing “the work of
God.” And their present would-be judges are to “refrain from” them,
because they ought themselves to shrink, for their own sake, from
incurring even the distant responsibility of “fighting against God.” The
principle of religious liberty always postulates these two aspects-one
presenting the view of the harm that may be done to others by hampering
their moral convictions or nature; the other the harm that may be done to
self in challenging the most solemn and critical responsibilities which even
“angels might fear.”
Ø It is difficult to resist the impression that Gamaliel was one of those who
far from the
scarcely warrants our saying that he had a leaning to “these men” himself.
But this “doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people” (v. 34),
does seem to have had this of religion in him, that “he feared God,” and
that he dared to say it in connection with taking a very unpopular side.
To the advice of Gamaliel his fellow-councilors “agreed,” glad to
escape the position in which they again found themselves. They retreated
from it for reasons which Gamaliel takes the credit of putting before them,
but which should have been before them long before, and should have
saved them from being where they now were. They do retreat, they know
they are in the wrong, they are morally again beaten; but the only thing
which would have taken from their retreat the description undignified
is withheld, for they do not confess their error. On the contrary, we notice:
THE APOSTLES AND A BARREN COMMAND LAID UPON THEM.
Whatever may be thought or charitably hoped of Gamaliel, the adviser in
this crisis, very clear it is that those whom he had influenced had no deeper
sympathies with the grounds of his advice. Against these they now as much
sin in principle as if they had laid violent hands on the apostles, according
to the first dictates of their rage. And so again do these men drop awhile
from our sight. They drop into the ignominious shade, while it fares far
otherwise with their beaten, commanded, but withal released prisoners.
Cruelty is the covering with which cowardice now chooses to take its
unavailing chance of concealing defeat already too shameful, but which
rather adds to it and to the revealing of it. They disappear from view,
“beating” the apostles, and “commanding them not to speak in the
Name of Jesus.” But it is a token of the literal fact that they themselves
have been ignominiously beaten along the whole line of battle, the
apostles and the truth and “the Name of Jesus” winning the day.
41 “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that
they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” They therefore for
and they, Authorized Version; dishonor for the Name, for shame for his Name,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus (see I Peter 4:12-16; John 15:21).
42 “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to
teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Every day for daily, Authorized Version;
at home for in every hour, Authorized Version (see ch.2:46 note); to preach
Jesus as the Christ for preach Jesus Christ, Authorized Version and Textus
Receptus. The meaning is that they daily preached Jesus Christ
both in the temple and in the house or houses where the disciples were
wont to meet (see ibid., note). The spirit and conduct of the
apostles here recorded is a precious example to their successors. To glory
in the cross, to count shame endured for Christ’s sake the highest honor,
and to be unwearied and undaunted in teaching and preaching Jesus Christ
through good report and through evil report, is the true character and work
of every bishop of souls.
The Advancing Tide (vs. 12-42)
The gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ crucified and risen again had
would it ever cease to advance? would it ever meet with obstacles
sufficiently strong to turn back its current and to arrest its progress? When
the flowing tide is hurrying towards the shore, some particular wave is
checked by an opposing rock, and is shivered into spray before it can reach
the shore. But wait a little and the rock is sunken beneath the waters, and
the waves roll on unchecked to their goal. Sometimes a temporary lull
seems to have fallen upon the languid waves, and three or four in
succession do not reach the bounds which their predecessors had attained.
But yet a moment and the tide advances in its unbroken strength, and never
fails to fulfill its destined course. It is just so with the gospel of Christ. Its
advance is sure. Its strength is in the unchanging will of God. It has a
course to run; it will run it. It has an end to fulfill; it will fulfill it.
Hindrances, obstacles, defiance, it will meet with from man in a thousand
have intellect and philosophy on their side;
progress of a hated truth;
these and such like hindrances may occasionally seem to
check the onward flow of the waters of life, and at times to threaten its
further advance. But, like the irresistible tide of the mighty ocean, God’s
purpose is pressing surely on; and by the time decreed by His eternal
wisdom the whole “earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the
waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). The chapter now before us gives a
most striking view of this irresistible advance as well as of the obstacles
opposed to it. One hundred and twenty men and a few poor, weak women
are, as it were, the seed which the hand of the Lord has sown in an
uncongenial soil. Immediately around them was:
· all the bigotry of Pharisaic Judaism, clinging with desperate and
impassioned obstinacy to the traditions of their fathers, and ready
to kill and be killed on behalf of the Law of Moses, on the one hand,
· the hard, cold skepticism of the Sadducees on the other, denying
with agnostic incredulity the existence of anything beyond the ken of
their eyes or the grasp of their hands,
· the wider circle of the outside world there was:
the iron heathenism of
o imperial tyranny and Caesarean power;
o military force and the despotism of the sword;
o sensuality of the deepest dye;
o idolatry of the most aggressive and all-engrossing kind; and
o philosophies the most adverse to the cross of Christ.
How and where could the gospel make its way? Would it not die in
the upper room where it was born? But what do we read?
· “There were added to the Church about three thousand souls;”
· “Many believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand;”
· “Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and
and so on, marking the constant advance of the
while every effort was being made to check this advance. There were already
“prisons oft.” There were the fierce threatenings of those who had power to execute
them; there were stripes inflicted; there was the majesty of the law and the authority
of rulers arrayed against them. But it was all in vain.
to the persecuted.
The tide would flow on. It rushed over the heads of the opposing rocks. And then
worldly wisdom came in with its prudent counsel, “Leave these men alone.” And so
for a time the work of God went quietly on, gathering strength and acquiring solidity
from day to day, in preparation for future hostility from the world without, and
future hindrances from corruption within. But these first fortunes of Christianity
have left to the Church in all ages A MODEL of the conflicts that await her,
and of the only method of obtaining victory. They show us that through
opposition and contradiction, in sunshine and in storm, amidst
encouragements and under depression, the servants of God have to
persevere steadily in proclaiming the grace of God and the resurrection of
Jesus Christ, have to go forward in an unswerving obedience to the
commandment of Christ and an unfaltering confidence in His almighty
power, and that success is sure. “On this rock will I build my Church, and
the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Second Persecution of the Church (vs. 17-42)
1. It was the result of marvelous success. We must expect such opposition
when God gives us power among the people. The proud and formal have
no liking for that which can be set in contrast with their own inefficiency.
2. It proceeded from the sect of the Sadducees, i.e. the heretical school.
The league between the high priest and the scoffers was a sad sign of
religious degeneracy. So it is. When religion decays it becomes the food of
UNBELIEF! The latitudinarians hate spiritual earnestness.
3. It was weak and timid, evidently because there was a reproaching
conscience and a growing apprehension in the background. The apostles
were put into the public ward or prison, but probably not very jealously
4. The empty form of justice and wisdom was maintained — the council
was summoned, that the weight of ecclesiastical authority might be used to
crush the feeble apostles, that the people might be awed by the fear of
great dignitaries. They often are, but the Spirit of God overcome such
5. DIVINE WISDOM is more than human craft. The public trial or examination
of the apostles was a public proclamation of the weakness of their enemies
and the heavenly sanction given to their cause. The angelic deliverance of
the prisoners became a notorious fact through all
the council, on the captain of the temple, on the populace, must have been
immense. Evidently there was great excitement. “They feared the people,
lest they should be stoned.”
6. The two weak apostles in the presence of the council, boldly challenging
the contradiction of facts and appealing from man to God — a striking
manifestation of spiritual power. “We are witnesses, so is the Holy Ghost.”
7. The division in the council between the furious fanatical party and the
temperate Gamaliel party, reminding us of the division in the nation itself;
some dead to the voice of God, others ready to follow it though not
recognizing it. The influence of Gamaliel a sign of hope; there was a
remnant still according to the election of grace, and it promised a future
8. The whole occurrence a great help to the Church, to feel its power, to
deepen its devotion, to rejoice in hope of victory, to trust in the gracious
providence of God.
Power and Weakness (vs. 34-42)
is more deadly than that inflicted by words of truth upon false hearts. If the
heart will not receive the truth, the truth will pierce through it. And
murderous counsels show that truth has been denied in the heart. Instead of
answering the witnesses with reason for reason, the Sanhedrin seek to stop
their mouth with earth and put them to death. A cause is lost when it can
be no longer argued in the court of reason, when its only argument is the
sword, or the stake, or the rod, or the prison-cell.
sense undisturbed by zeal — of clear judgment unbiased by prejudice. It is
pretty evident that he did not sympathize with the apostles; still less,
probably, did he sympathize with the fears or the fanaticism of his
colleagues. He is perhaps “old and cold.” Seldom do men of strong
reflective habit feel much interest in novelties in religion. Seldom do the
observers of life, the students of human history, expect much from sudden
popular movements or popular teaching. Such was Gamaliel’s character.
But where so little is said there is much room for difference of opinion as
to what that character really was, how far really inclined to Christ’s
doctrine, possibly believing in His mission, or a disciple in secret. In the
absence of further knowledge of the man, we may consider his counsel,
and draw the following lesson :
Ø Prudence and caution are ever seasonable and especially so where there
is a temptation to violence and repression of others’ freedom. We should
never act without a clear call to do so. The alternation of inaction is best in
Ø Experience shows that movements which have no vitality in them come
to an end if left alone. They die for want of fuel, while persecution supplies
that fuel on which they live. Such had been the case with the insurrection
of Judas and that of Theudas.
Ø Time is required that the true nature of a movement be clearly seen.
Many a seed springs up that cannot live; many a threatened man lives long.
A new force cannot be judged by the first appearances and manifestations.
Ø There is always a danger in repression. The force you seem to have
quelled for the moment only bursts forth in a new direction. You may,
while you think to be putting down your enemy, be rousing up a more
formidable one, or exposing yourself to attack in some unguarded quarter.
Above all, you may be contending against Divine power and will, and
inviting its vengeance.
Ø Faith in truth, utter contempt for falsehood and imposture, is our safest
temper. This gives calmness under every emergency. The truth can never
harm us if we are on its side, nor can it be defeated by any power on the
other side. After all, this true attitude was Gamaliel’s. He was a man who
understood and believed in the moral laws. Well would it have been had
the Sanhedrin shared his intelligence and honesty. And had his advice been
followed at similar crises of religious history, much bloodshed and
retardation of the good cause would have been avoided. In private life,
how many an occasion when there is a restless desire to act, to fetter the
free action of others, to stop the course of moral laws, when the simple
question is pertinent! — “Can you not — let it alone?”
in its might resorts against helpless and unarmed men. Rods are for the
backs of those who are not amenable to reason. The chastisement which is
appropriate to the fool is absurdly applied to the man who acts from
deliberate counsel and proved determination. Blows are no match for
PRAYERS! The martyr is never in the tyrant’s power. He clings to God’s
skirts, and malice cannot touch his soul.
power starts from the very seed-bed of pain. Pain may be to the soul the
expression of God’s displeasure or of His love. If it is incurred in obedience
to Him, the soul wears it as a testimonial of HIS GOODNESS! The honor of
suffering for God’s sake is one of peculiar worth. There is a natural feeling
that any great suffering entitles the patient to some respect. The
consciousness of being selected for suffering in the noblest cause ennobles
the soul. It feels crowned and throned. Our capacity is enlarged both for
thought and feeling and for joy by such an experience. It is strengthened,
and every fresh trial, faithfully endured, prepares for new effort, goads to
perseverance, and so defeats the persecutor by the very means of his own
The Advice of the Cautious (vs. 33-42)
Such was Gamaliel. See expository portion for an account of him, and of
the rabbinical school to which he belonged. Interest attaches to him as the
teacher of Saul of Tarsus, but how great is the contrast between the calm
and prudent Gamaliel and the intense and impulsive Saul! The scene in the
Sanhedrin when this honored teacher rose to calm the prevailing
excitement, and plead for what he would call a “masterly inactivity,” may
be effectively pictured. The situation in which the Sanhedrin was placed
was an exceedingly difficult one, and certainly one which could not be dealt
fairly with while the council was under the influence of roused prejudices
and religious excitement. The cautious temperament should be described.
Those who have this characteristic quality have their place, their influence,
and their work; they are often valuable drags on wheels driven too
hurriedly; but they have also their disability, and lack the capacity to enjoy
much that appeals to other natures. They know nothing of emotion,
enthusiasm, self-forgetfulness, or rapture. Such a one was Gamaliel, and
his advice is quite a model of that always given by the cautious man.
finds some instances that had recently occurred and argues from them,
much as a modern lawyer does from the “cases” he can cite. Precedents are
often very valuable. They are often sad hindrances to enterprise. They are
always most annoying to those who are of impulsive temperament. They
are a very doubtful good to men of faith in a living God, who may be
pleased to work in fresh and surprising ways.
OF NATURAL FORCES. Gamaliel says — Wait and watch the working
of these things. Religious excitements tend to exhaust themselves.
Charlatans have no staying power. Leaders of sects want money
support, and as soon as this is made apparent their followers dwindle away.
There is little need for any interference, the natural process of exhaustion
will effect all you want. So, still, the cautious man often checks the energy
that would deal vigorously with social and moral evils, such as drinking
and vice. Earnest men cannot wait for the long outworking of natural
forces. With faith in the God of righteousness, they must enter and deal
with the evils as a new redeeming force.
Though allied to the previous consideration, this somewhat differs from it.
Time allays excitement; time tests the value of all things. And the very
heads of the Jewish religious system might surely be satisfied that time
would be on their side. But men are “perishing in their sins” while we wait;
and the earnest man hears God inspire him to active endeavor when He
says, “Now is the accepted time.” “TODAY is the day of salvation!”
PUBLIC EXCITEMENT. And no doubt much evil attends such
excitement, but worse evils attend stagnation. Public excitement only
alarms those who do not want anything done. The cautious among us are
always seeking to repress special missions, revivals, and reformations, and
fear that the blaze blown up so high will soon burn out, and leave only bare
cold ashes. Men of faith will ever plead that, maybe, the fire so lighted will
burn on forever. Cautious men may sometimes do good work by wisely
checking over-impulsiveness and unduly considered schemes. But they
may also check enterprise. They who would do noble work for God must
often do as did the great general — land on the enemy’s shores and burn
Our Attitude towards God (vs. 33-42)
There are three attitudes it is possible for us to assume towards our Maker
and Savior. They are those of:
indeed, as new as it is old for men to contend with God and to oppose
themselves to those ends for which He is working.
Ø Good men do so unwittingly; as when earnest and holy Catholics have
persecuted Protestant men and women; as when devout Protestants have
thrown obstacles in the way of their more energetic co-religionists who
have been evangelizing in ways not considered legal and correct; as
when we ignorantly misconstrue the sacred Scriptures, finding out,
farther on, that those views we combated were in harmony with truth.
Ø Bad men do so deliberately and guiltily:
o when they endeavor positively to overturn influences which
they know to be holy and remedial;
o when they practically encourage that which they feel to be
wrong and hurtful.
with so much policy on this occasion: “Let these men alone” (v. 38).
When any sacred cause comes up before us, challenging our approval and
asking our aid, we may determinately stand aloof, declining either to
befriend it on the one hand or to withstand it on the other: we neither bless
Ø It is impossible to take a neutral position, upon the whole, in relation to
Christ. “He that is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30) Our
influence is either telling in favor of His holy service, of Christian truth,
of eternal life, or else against these sacred things.
Ø It is possible that we may assume a neutrality toward particular
institutions, usages, movements, habits; and this neutrality may be:
o necessary, because we have not the means of arriving at a
judgment at all;
o wise, because we have not yet had the opportunity of coming to
an intelligent decision;
o culpable, because cowardly, selfish, unfaithful.
— an act of severe bodily castigation was a grim method of “letting them
alone”; it was probably a concession to the party of hostile action — they
did let them go, with strict prohibitions in their ear. We are to be “coworkers
with Christ,” “workmen together with Him;” and we shall become
Ø Speaking for Christ. “Daily in the temple…they ceased not to teach and
to preach Jesus Christ” (v. 42). In the Church, in the school, in the home,
— anywhere, everywhere, we too may speak for Him; uttering the truth
which He has taught us to prize, more especially upholding Him
as the one great Teacher, almighty Savior, Divine Friend, and rightful
Lord of the human soul.
Ø Suffering for Him. The apostles endured suffering and shame for His
Name; they did so gladly, rejoicingly. We may be “counted worthy”
to do the same. Many thousands of men, in heaven or on earth, have
had this high honor (Matthew 5:10-12; I Peter 4:13). And if we are
thoroughly true and unflinchingly faithful to our Lord, serving Him
to the full height of our opportunity, we shall surely:
o suffer bodily inconveniences, fatigue, exhaustion, if not pain
and sickness, for His sake;
o endure the dislike and ridicule, if not the blows and imprisonment,
of the ungodly. In such ill treatment we shall find occasion for
heavenly joy, as they did.
Joy in the Fellowship of Shame (v. 41)
“And they departed…rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for
His Name.” The great types of Christian character begin to show themselves. The appearances which we have here before us are unusual. They mean something very unreal or else they begin to speak something true to a higher nature than that
commonly found among men. It is against the grain of nature to rejoice in suffering
and pain; it is yet more against the grain of a high nature to rejoice in “shame.”
There must have been potent causes at work when men are to be found rejoicing
in suffering shame, and in being “counted worthy to suffer shame.”
Neglecting the supposition, which could not be sustained in this case, that
there was any affectation on the part of the apostles, it would be still open
to question whether this attitude were a justifiable one, whether it were a
lovely one, whether it did not betray a disdainful tendency, looking toward
haughtiness, with regard to their fellow-men. Perhaps these considerations
will be best met by simply asking on what grounds and moved by what
influences the apostles now rejoiced.
They are not of those who stoically glory in “suffering.” They are not of
those who cynically or self-relyingly glory in “shame.” They have not
courted the one nor flippantly encountered the other. And these facts
shelter them from blameworthiness, which might otherwise have very
possibly lain at their door. It is a shame already existing, and which has
already dragged a long suffering with it and after it — a shame
unoriginated by themselves or by anything in themselves — that they are
willing, glad, proud to share. This at once lends a character to their
rejoicing, and lifts it above a common kind of joy. There has, indeed, been
an abundance of shame in the world, and of suffering consequent upon it,
that could not in the very nature of things have shed any glory on the
principals concerned in them. Yet that abundance of shame and suffering
has found a very field of glory, new untrodden paths of glory, and lofty
heights of glory for not a few, who, having no part in the guilt, have
voluntarily entered into fellowship with the suffering, and the suffering of
shame, which it has involved. And here may be said to glimmer forth one
of the greater moral facts of our nature. To offer to share and to be
permitted to share the joy and prosperity of another can yield little praise to
him who offers, may yield some to the person who permits; but to
volunteer to share, while innocent one’s self, the ignominy and suffering of
another is all honor to him who volunteers — in ordinary cases mostly
humiliation to him who receives the advantage of that fellowship. To Him,
however, whose suffering of shame the apostles now rejoiced to share,
humiliation of this kind there was none.
THE MEMORIES ATTACHING TO IT, WAS TURNED FOR THEM
INTO HONOR AND GLORY.
Ø It “gathered round” Christ himself, One whom they knew to be
supremely great, supremely good. The center of this fellowship was their
own old matchless Friend, who had been such a Teacher, such an Example
to them; whom they had seen do so many mighty and gracious works for
others; whom they had watched for three years, and more and more
wondered at, admired, and loved; whom they had seen tried for no offence,
and condemned with no guilt on Him, and crucified for sins not His own;
whom a self-denying grave had restored, and a self-opening heaven had
received; and of whom a descending omnipotent Spirit had given abundant
and most touching attestation that He had not forgotten those same
disciples, nor the word of His gracious promise to them.
Ø It “gathered round” One of whom each of those apostles had, no doubt,
his own individual and most precious remembrances. Take one example —
Peter. What memories he had of Jesus. And now that, beyond all he
believed of Jesus, before He suffered death, being “the Son of the living
God,” he knew Him to be such, how intensified in significance many of
those memories must have become! — but not least that of his own at one
time great reluctance to share his suffering Master’s shame, and his thrice
repeated denial of Him! What a blessed revelation for Peter! And what a
forgiving condescension of the great Master, that He permits Peter now to
take the lead of his fellow-disciples, and gives him the opportunity of
showing how he would, if he could, fain repair his old grievous
transgression! Personal experience of Jesus Christ brings any one of us to a
much more hearty and thorough readiness of surrender to Him than all that
mere description of Him avails to do, though you add to it a willing
Ø It “gathered round” One whose suffering and shame the apostles
specially knew to be so unmerited, so absolutely uncaused by self and
unendured for any necessity of discipline, improvement, or punishment to
self. And yet the suffering and shame had been extreme, and, they well
knew it, had been borne so patiently, so meekly, and so forgivingly. How
thinking, grateful hearts must have longed, when now at last they were
fully enlightened, to share ever so small a portion of His unmerited shame,
though He Himself had passed on and up, if it should serve His cause! We
wonder nothing at the true devotion of those released apostles, but is there
no room left for a wonder at the rare reproduction amongst ourselves of
the same devotion? Evidently the Spirit had wrought in those apostles a
real sympathy with the heart of Jesus, so that they felt this an honor, not
such as the world giveth, that they were permitted, were “counted
worthy,” to stand in any sense on the same level of suffering and of shame
with Him. Though they might not, could not, suffer the same intensity of
suffering as Jesus, yet they could suffer for the same sort of reasons.
ONE WHO OWNED TO A NAME IN THE FUTURE GLORY OF
WHICH THEY HAD UNQUALIFIED FAITH. “For His Name.”
Doubtless it has been these twenty centuries the mightiest force and
motive of all. The apostles did not rejoice to suffer with Jesus or in the
track of Him merely because of their grateful memories, but also because of
their exulting faith in Him and the career that awaited Him. Their very love
to “His Name” did not feed only on past mercies and pensive memories;
these, indeed, were dainty and tender pasturage for it; but it fed also on the
stronger food of faith. “For His Name” was equivalent to an assertion of all
He would do and all He would be to the world, as well as all He had done
and suffered for it. And hence we are immediately told with what
redoubled energy, with what gladdened courage, the apostles did not cease
to teach and to preach Christ “in the temple, and in every house.” Well
might men rejoice to be “counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name,”
when that Name means all that has been in living form most loving and
most beautiful, and all that is to be greatest and most powerful in the
world’s onward history, till its glory shall culminate in the day of triumph
in heaven. The apostles loved the Name of Jesus; they had come to have a
perfect faith in it; they had been divinely endowed with a full sympathy
with all they could understand of it; and now they were learning, in
practical work and in suffering, the things which would make them really
like to Him who bore that Name. The “Name” of Christ turned the cross
from shame into glory. It now does yet more — it turns living men’s
estimates right round from the false and the unreal to the real and the true.
That in which they once gloried becomes their shame, and the reproach of
Christ their riches, honor, and glory. So did this Master of men’s hearts,
sympathies, and lives, among other things that He did by the humiliation
and shame to which He bowed, secure also disciples and servants of
inflexible fidelity and quenchless devotion and love.
The True Witnessing Spirit (vs. 41-42)
“And they departed…..rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame
for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not
to teach and preach Jesus Christ!”
Heroism may sustain strength, but does not give joy, unless it is like the
apostles’. Had not the Name been Divine, how could it have produced
such fruits in such men?
home, must be in the martyr spirit. We must expect to suffer some
dishonor. But such a spirit is invincible and victorious.
world. “Counted worthy.” God’s reckoning. Spiritual worthies. The joy
was not only a secret joy, it was the foretaste of heaven.
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