Acts 5




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.”


  • THE CONVCTION AS FELT BY ANANIAS. Throughout he must

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 νεανίσκοιneaniskoi - 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 πρεσβύτεροιpresbuteroi – 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



  • One in their Jewish religion,
  • one in their conversion to the faith of Christ,
  • one in their hypocrisy,
  • one in their terrible death,
  • one in their common grave!
  • one in the undying record of their guilt in the Book which

            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





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.




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)





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.


  • THE COMMON JUDGMENT. The same fate overtook both, as they

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 —


  • THE SIN HERE RECORDED. Though it may seem desirable to

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




The First Hypocrisy (vs. 1-11)


Hitherto all had been bright and beautiful in the new-born Church of God.

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

Church of God. It is good to dwell upon this account of it, upon its

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.


  • THE SIN OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. Essentially it was the

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.


  • PETER’S EXPOSURE OF THE SIN. His words are deep and

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



  • THE JUDGMENT. It was sudden, marking the interposition of God.

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.


  • The intimate connection of the proclamation of gospel truth and mercy



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

absolute truthfulness.


Ø      The awful judgment was a proclamation of mercy — Come and hide

under this Divine power and be safe.


  • A marvelous display of THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY poured out on

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.


  • A GRACIOUS APPLICATION of extraordinary facts.


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 Apostolic Church, and none durst join them from mere

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:


  • THE SANHEDRIN PARTY. This partly consisted of Sadducees and

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 Jerusalem at the time of

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

dwell together.


  • THE OFFICIALS OF THE TEMPLE. Priests, Levites, door-keepers,

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.


  • THE RICH MEN OF THE COMMUNITY. These were hindered by

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.


  • THE TERRIBLE. “Great fear came upon… as many as heard these things”

      (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,



  • THE BENEFICENT. (vs. 15-16.) In apostolic times Christian

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 India and China, and the

philanthropic institutions in the United States, initiated and sustained by

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.


  • THE SACRED. “The people magnified them” (v. 13). To

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.


  • THE SUCCESSFUL. It is clear, from the fifteenth and sixteenth

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. Success in Jerusalem begat success in “the

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 SUPERNATURAL. “Signs and wonders are not now wrought by

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.


16 “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem,

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 Jerusalem for about unto

Jerusalem, Authorized Version; folk for folks, Authorized Version; that were for

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)


  • THEY ARE VEHICLES OF DIVINE POWER. The lips and the hands

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.


  • ITS ATTRACTIVE FORCE. The multitude love goodness and revere

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

Jerusalem we have the picture of the effects of Christianity. It is and ever

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 Nazareth (Luke 4.), and it is surely a sign of weakness

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.



  • An increase in the manifestation of THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT.


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.



Jerusalem’s Second Summer (vs. 13-16)


While we read these fewest verses of what was going on in Jerusalem, and

of how “multitudes from the cities round about Jerusalemthronged that

mother of them all,” to seek, not in vain, healing virtue, we seem to be

removed by a world’s diameter from the Jerusalem that was stricken to 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 said, “O Jerusalem,

Jerusalem,… behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” (Matthew 23:37-38)

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 Jerusalem. Yet the sun is

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 Jerusalem. Surely it is second

summer with Jerusalem. Reminiscences of bright days, indeed, these were,

and they were bright in their own brightness; yet, alas! to linger but for a

while. Meantime what a touching evidence they were, for Jerusalem, of the

unrevengefulness of Jesus, of His forgivingness, of the very wistfulness of

His loving-kindness! Let us notice the distinguishing features of these days.




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

nature; and

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

every one.”

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.”




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.




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



  • HEALINGS ALONE. God has provided in nature sufficient and

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

ordinary doctor.


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.


  • HEALINGS WITH TEACHINGS. This was the special feature of the

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



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; αἵρεσιςhairesis – 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 χεῖραςepebalon 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 Sodom; angel of the

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.”


  • ANGEL-HELP AS GIVEN TO CHRIST. The principal instances are:


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.


  • ANGEL-HELP AS GRANTED TO US. And we may distinctly affirm

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).



                        The Church’s Mission to the World (v. 20)


“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.


  • THE GREAT COMMISSION. “Speak... to the people.”


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

Roman empire — from the cottage to the throne. In the Reformation,

especially in England. Lollards. Luther. Preaching of the revivalists in

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.


  • THE GREAT MESSAGE, “All the words of this life.”


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:




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.





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

children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.”

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 Jerusalem people are about very early in the meriting (compare

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

(γερουσίαν – gerousian - senate) of the children of Israel, an expression which

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,

Authorized Version.


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

kingdom of God and the cause of goofiness.


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.


  • RENEWAL OF OPPOSITION. (vs. 22, etc.) Here is another study

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

established order.


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

of Israel.  Well may the priests and rulers be cut to the heart by a

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 Jerusalem with your

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

destroys freedom.


  • THE GREAT REQUIREMENT. Obedience to God.


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

left without.


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





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

from without.


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:


  • DIVINE INTERPOSITION. (v. 19.) How vain all bolts and bars to

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.


  • A DIVINE INSTRUCTION. “Go, stand and speak… all the words of

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

other world.


  • THE DIVINE DEMAND. “We ought to obey God rather than man”

(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

obey God.”


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

Israel. Raised up; viz. from the dead; ἤγειρεν – aegeiren - rouses, not ἀνίστη

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 Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

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

evidence, an ascent from Bethlehem to the heavenly throne. The

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



  • APPLICATION. What was true of Israel is true of us. The state of the

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:


  • THE PRINCE, OR THE RULING ONE. Explain the ancient theocracy

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.


  • THE SAVIOR, OR THE SAVING ONE. Salvation is not declared to

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      persuading,

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      delivers,

Ø      redeems, and

Ø      sanctifies.


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 Jerusalem, and who is

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 school of Hillel, and at some time president 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. Conn.,’ 1:361).


35 “And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what

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 of the Jordan,

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 destruction of Jerusalem, such a mistake is not very improbable.


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

    real existence.


3. The person named Theudas by Gamaliel may be the same whom Josephus

    speaks of (‘Bell. Jud.,’ it. 4:2) by the common name of Simon, as gathering

    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

Jordan, where he promised, like a second Elijah, to part the waters for

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

Jordan, he would divide the stream and enable them to carry them over to

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.


37 “After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing,

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 because Galilee

was the seat of his insurrection (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 18, 1:1 and 6; also ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 2.

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 Jerusalem, was

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

Judaea was now attached, with Cumanus under him as Procurator of Judaea, to

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 (‘Ant.,’ 18, 1:1). He also perished.

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.





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,

decisively. For:


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

disobeyed our strict command, have filled Jerusalem with the doctrine

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


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

commendation also.


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

were “not far from the kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:34)  The narrative

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:




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

issued from Jerusalem at the bidding of the Lord. Would it ever stop?

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

varying forms:


  • The opposition of hard unbelief in those who boast that they

            have intellect and philosophy on their side;

  • the opposition of adverse creeds seeking to supplant the true faith;
  • the fierce persecutions of ungodly power hoping to stop by force the

      progress of a hated truth;

  • the divisions and dissensions of Christians among themselves;
  • the abounding of iniquity and the chilling of Christian love;
  • the sudden rise of some heresy or apostasy;


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:

o       the iron heathenism of Rome,

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


  • “The number of the disciples was multiplied;”


and so on, marking the constant advance of the Church of God. And yet all 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.


  • The preachers could not be silenced;
  • the preaching could not be stopped;
  • the miracles could not be hid;
  • men’s hearts would turn to Christ when they heard of His grace;
  • multitudes would leave the side of the persecutors and join themselves

      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 Jerusalem. The effect on

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

restoration of Israel.


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.


  • SUGGESTIONS OF NEUTRALITY. Gamaliel is the type of common

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

doubtful cases.


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?”


  • WEAK VIOLENCE. Threats — prison — rods; to this the Sanhedrin

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.


  • THE MARTYR’S JOY. Joy of the purest quality and most triumphal

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

the boats.


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:


  • HOSTILITY. We may “be found even to fight against God.” It is,

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.


  • NEUTRALITY. We may take the position which Gamaliel advised

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

nor curse.


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.


  • COOPERATION. (vs. 40-42.) When they had beaten the apostles

— 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

this by:


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.






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.





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!”


  • THE NAME OF CHRIST the source of it. No such spirit in the world.

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?


  • THE TEACHING AND PREACHING, both in the temple and at

home, must be in the martyr spirit. We must expect to suffer some

dishonor. But such a spirit is invincible and victorious.


  • THE HONOR OF THE CHURCH over against the honor of the

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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