1 “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of
the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,” The captain of the temple.
Only here and ch.5:24, and Luke 22:4, 52 in the plural some have thought that the
commander of the
Roman garrison of the
the scene is
laid in the court of the temple, this is very improbable. Josephus (‘
Jud.,’ 20, 6:2) speaks of an officer apparently of the temple, who was
called , and was certainly a Jew by his name
Ananus, and being, as Josephus relates farther (‘Bell Jud.,’ 2, 12:6), the son of the
high priest Ananias. He also
mentions the captain of the temple (‘
5:3) at the time of the destruction of the temple. There can be little doubt,
therefore, that the captain of the temple here spoken of was a priest who
had under him the Levitical guard, and whose duty it was to keep order in
the temple courts in these turbulent times, he appears from ch. 5:25-26,
Luke 22:4, 52, and the passages in Josephus, to have been an officer of high rank.
2 “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through
Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Sore troubled for grieved, Authorized
Version; because for that, Authorized Version; proclaimed in Jesus for preached
through Jesus, Authorized Version. The preaching the resurrection of the Lord Jesus
as the “First fruits of them that slept,” would be especially obnoxious to the
Sadducees, “which deny that there is any resurrection” (Luke 20:27). The
Sadducees were at this time in power (see ch. 5:17; and compare ch. 23:6-8);
and we learn from Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’20. 9:1) that the son of this Annas
(or Anauus) went over to the sect of the Sadducees, being himself high priest
as his father had been.
3 “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next
day: for it was now eventide.” Ward for hold, Authorized Version (see v. 18);
morrow for next day, Authorized Version. They laid hands on them. The harsh
persecution of the disciples at
in power is in exact accordance with Josephus’s statement in the passage just
referred to, that the Sadducees were more severe and cruel in their administration
of justice than any other Jews. Their tenet of no life to come made them look to
severe punishments in this life.
The First Prisoners for Christ (v. 3)
It appears that by this time the movements of the apostles were beginning
to be an object of serious concern to the religious
Probably the Sadducee party, which succeeded in securing our Lord’s
death, was still predominant in the great council; this is indicated by the
prominence given to the “Resurrection” by the enemies of the disciples. In
addition to the general annoyance at the public preaching of the apostles,
the officials of the temple were grieved at the crowding of the people
round the new teachers in the temple courts. So in the name of order, but
really in the spirit of jealousy, they were arrested, late in the evening, and
put in safe keeping until the next day. Jewish rules did not allow judgment
to be given at night. Imprisonment was only a precautionary measure; the
Jews did not punish by imprisonment. Where mention is made of it, as used
for punishment, in the Scripture records, the authorities who inflicted it
were not Jewish. The point to which we now direct attention is, that a
confession of moral impotence is made in all physical attempts to stop and
crush teachers. Intellectual and moral error can only be fairly met by the
teaching of the corrective truth. Only when men fail to conquer by
reasoning, can they wish to take up material weapons of any kind. When
reason fails then men imprison, and beat, and torture, and kill. And physical
forces never can succeed in crushing moral ones. It has been true for every
age, and is as true as ever today, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed
of the Church.” Physical restraints are only proper in relation to wrongs
that disturb the social order. They are wholly out of place in connection
with matters of opinion.
the people. They only appealed to mind and judgment. They only
announced some new truths. They only invited the people’s belief. Part of
the offence against them arose from the known fact that they were
unlearned and ignorant men; not specially trained rabbis, and so not
regarded as fit to preach. An instance of the class-prejudice which sadly
prevails still. Illustrate from the story of great missionaries. They have only
been teachers, yet how often, in different countries, they have excited
prejudice and suffered persecution! The same is still, in measure, true of all
great thought-leaders; all men who are “before their time” must expect to
be misunderstood and persecuted.
ORDER. They did not encourage vice or lawlessness. They did not
interfere with family life, local government, social customs, or politics.
Like their Master, they dealt with broad and general principles, expecting
these, when implanted, to gain their own growth and expressions. Even
their little excitement in the temple courts, and temporary interference with
the temple order, was a matter of no moment. There was no occasion for
the temple police to interfere with them.
CEREMONIAL RITES. There were, indeed, personal examples of diligent
and devout Mosaism; strict in all matters of ceremonial duty. They never
uttered a word that could be regarded as disrespectful to the temple or the
Jewish system. They never tried to break one single person away from his
ceremonial duties. Their teachings were within Judaism, and the most
jealous conservators of the old system had no good reason for fearing their
influence. This, however, applies to true Mosaism, and not to the
burdensome ritual added by the rabbis, against which both our Lord and His
disciples vigorously pleaded. But on this particular occasion the apostles
had not even attacked the rabbinical system.
TENDED TO PRESERVE SOCIAL ORDER AND MAKE BETTER
CITIZENS. Such is everywhere the natural results of the preaching of
Christ and the teaching of Christianity. Loyalty to Christ helps to secure
loyalty to the earthly ruler, and the virtues Christianity cultivates find their
expression in the social and national spheres. (I have never met a Christian
that was not a good citizen! CY – 2016) Then why were these men
arrested? Because the men in power were jealous of the influence they
were gaining, and feared they would lose their own authority and influence
on the people. Self-seeking is at the root of all religious persecution. And
because the men who opposed them could not meet and answer them in
argument, they had to fall back upon the unworthy weapons of threatening
and force (see vs. 16-17). Impress that no physical bonds have ever yet
been forged that could bind in the truth.
4 “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number
of the men was about five thousand.” But for howbeit, Authorized Version;
that for which, Authorized Version ; came to be for was, Authorized Version.
The number of the men; strictly, of the males () (ch. 5:14),
but probably used here more loosely of men and women. It is not clear whether
the five thousand is exclusive of or includes the three thousand converts at the
Feast of Pentecost; but the grammar rather favors, the former, as there is nothing
in the word , itself to signify “disciples,” or “believers,” and therefore
it is more naturally referred to those of whom it had just been predicated that,
having heard the Word, THEY BELIEVED IT!
The First Persecution (vs. 1-4)
Ø Religious intolerance — “the priests.”
Ø Political animosity — “ the captain of the temple.” A representative of
Ø Rationalistic unbelief — “the Sadducees.” The troubles of the Church
are thus foreshadowed, proceeding from the three different sources which
will always unite against the truth. Against two facts they rose up: the
people were taught; the Resurrection was the substance of the teaching.
Popular religion is never liked by priests, rulers, and infidels. They are
“sore troubled” when the gospel manifests its power. So it was in the
Reformation. The old and corrupt Church gained over the state to its
purposes. And soon there was a great rising up of the proud intellect of
man against the simplicity of the message. At the bottom of this combined
movement was a stricken conscience. The Resurrection condemned them
all. They knew it. So still the Resurrection condemns the corruptions of the
Church, the despotism of the world, and the pride of unbelief. We must
never reckon on a peaceful victory. The people are not really cared for by
the high ones of this world. They learn no lessons from the past. Progress
must be in spite of them.
Ø Cautious. “Put them in ward unto the morrow” (Revised Version). Fear
of the people; recognition of the power of the apostles; bewilderment in the
sense of their own guilty part in the Crucifixion; pretended respect for the
forms of justice and self-deceived conventionalism. Underneath
punctiliousness (showing great attention to detail or correct behavior:
in our day is it not “political correctness?” – CY – 2016) there is often
a great depth of pride and hollow-heartedness.
Ø Tentative. It was not a full burst of fury against the apostles, but an
experiment to see how far they would go in their defiance of authorities. It
was supposed that a night in prison would quell their courage, that an
appearance before the Sanhedrim would probably break off the rising plant
at the root, (in our day, a hefty fine, or a threaten lawsuit from the ACLU –
CY – 2016) for it was seen that there was no great display of physical force
among the sect.
Ø Ignorant and perplexed in policy, for there could be no decided and
deliberate movements against the new doctrine on such grounds. Nor were
the elements of the conspiracy congenial. Priests would care nothing for
Sadducees, and Roman rulers despised both. They could not have studied
either the facts of the case or the characters of the apostles. They made a
dash upon them in the provocation of the moment, hoping to snuff out the
light at once. Their ignorance of Scripture and worldliness of spirit made
them capable of such folly, and the fruit of it was a very significant rebuff.
Ø On the Church itself. (See the rest of the chapter.) Deepening the
spiritual life; promoting brotherly love, prayerfulness, and sympathy;
preparing for future trials; revealing the utter weakness of the opposition;
fulfilling the promise of Christ as to their endowment in the presence of
enemies; magnifying the gospel in their sight; helping them to feel that they
must hearken unto God and not unto men; deepening their insight into
Scripture and enlarging their prospect of the future triumphs of the gospel,
which they thought of in the spirit of prophecy.
Ø On the world. Drawing to them popular sympathy; making them the talk
they were prepared to encounter such dangers for Christ. The five
thousand would be henceforth drawn together, and the world would see
the Church more distinctly. It was well that the new doctrine should be
manifestly put over against the old. Many may have been perplexed by the
reverence which apostles showed for the temple and its worship. While still
addressing themselves to Jews, it was now plain that to be a disciple of
Christ was to break away from Judaism. The effect of the miracle would be
heightened; for it would be asked, naturally, why the workers of such a
cure should be so treated. It has never been a success to persecute. It
shows weakness in the persecutor; it reveals power in the persecuted; it
spreads abroad facts that might otherwise be ignored. This beginning of the
Church’s fight with false religion and worldly pride throws great light
along the ages, and teaches us many a lesson concerning Church history.
5 “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders,
scribes,” Were gathered together in
or, as it should rather be rendered, to — some of them probably living in the
country. This clause is placed in the Authorized Version at the end of v. 6 because, in
the Textus Receptus, Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander are in the accusative case,
whereas, in the Received Text, they are in the nominative case; for which reason the
Revised Version supplies the words “was there” in v. 6. We see here the different
classes which composed the Sanhedrin.
6 “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,
and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together
Authorized Version . This is the same Annas as is mentioned in Luke 3:2 and
John 18:13, and is described as “father-in-law to Caiaphas.” He is called by
Josephus, Ananus. The succession of the high priests was so irregular, and their
tenure of the office so uncertain, in these later years of the Jewish
commonwealth, being dependent upon the caprice of the civil rulers who
appointed and deposed them at their pleasure, that it does not surprise us
to find Annas and Caiaphas high priests at the commencement of John the
Baptist’s ministry, then Caiaphas at the time of our Lord’s passion, and
now Annas again. It is possible, however, that Annas may have continued
to be president of the Sanhedrin, and be called high priest, even when not
actually so. He seems to have lived to old age. He is mentioned by
Josephus (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 20, 60:1) as having had the singular felicity not only
of enjoying the high priesthood himself for a great length of time, but of
having five sons promoted to the dignity of high priest, viz. Eleazar,
Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and Ananus (or Annas). Caiaphas
(John 18:13). Of John and Alexander nothing further is known, but
Farrar conjectures that John may be “the celebrated Johanan Ben Zakkai,
and Alexander perhaps the wealthy brother of Philo” (‘Life of St. Paul,’ 1.
p. 107). Of the kindred of the high priest; rather, of the high priestly race.
The high priests were only taken from certain families; the members of which
were called or chief priests, Authorized Version
(Matthew 16:21; 26:47, etc.), Many of these would naturally be the near
relations of the high priest.
7 “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by
what name, have ye done this?” Inquired for asked, Authorized Version ; in for
by, Authorized Version. In what name; – poia - what, means exactly,
“what kind.” The miracle might have been wrought, as it seemed to them, by
Beelzebub, or by magic (ch. 13:6; 19:19, etc.; Luke 15:15, etc.), as well as
by Divine power and in the Name of God. They asked which it was. In the Greek
there is an emphasis upon the “ye,” which is placed last, equal to “such as you,”
unlearned and contemptible men.
8 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of
the people, and
and Textus Receptus. Filled with the Holy Ghost; in direct fulfillment of the
promise (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; 21:14-15; compare ch. 7:55). Peter addresses
them with all respect (see Matthew 23:2).
9 “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent
man, by what means he is made whole;” Are for be, Authorized Version;
concerning a (good deed) for of the, Authorized Version ; an
(impotent) for the, Authorized Version ; this man for he, Authorized Version.
We; emphatic, probably in response to the emphatic “you” at the end of v. 7.
An impotent man. The following – houtos – this one, this man, makes it
necessary to supply the definite article, as the Authorized Version has done.
Peter alludes to the good deed, i.e. the benefit done to the lame man, being the
subject of a criminal inquiry, as a tacit condemnation of the unrighteousness
of such a course.
10 “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of
name of Jesus
raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before
you whole.” In (the name) for by, Authorized Version , and again, in (Him) for by,
Authorized Version; but if is rightly rendered
by what means, – en to onomati – in the name and -
en touto – in this ought to be rendered as in the Authorized Version, by.
Be it known unto you all, etc. Peter skillfully excuses himself from any
presumption in preaching to the rulers by making his words the direct and
necessary answer to their inquiry.
Jesus Christ of
Whom ye crucified, whom God raised. With what wonderful conciseness and
force are the great doctrines of the gospel condensed into a few words! The
human nature, the mediatorial glory, the humiliating but atoning death, the
glorious resurrection (a cardinal point in all the apostolic preaching), and
the present might of Christ to save His people on earth, are all set out in
half a dozen pregnant words. Even in Him. The apostle thus passes from
the Name to Him whose Name it was. Before you. How could they deny
what was actually before their eyes?
11 “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is
become the head of the corner.” He for this, Authorized Version; the builders
for builders, Authorized Version; was made for is become, Authorized Version.
He is the stone. He had just appealed to their own senses; he now adds the witness
of their own prophets. These had declared that the stone which was set at naught
by the builders should become the chief corner-stone; just as it had come to pass.
The quotation is from Psalm 118:22; only Luke here substitutes the word
ἐξουθενηθεὶς – exouthenaetheis – to set at naught, for that used by the Septuagint,
ἀπεδοκίμασαν – apedokimasan - to refuse, or reject as unfit. The word ξουθενήσας –
exouthenaesas – scorning; set at naught - is applied directly to our Saviour in
Luke 23:11, and the similar word, ἐξουδενηθῇ - exoudenaethae – may be being
scorned; set at naught - in Mark 9:12.
The Despised Stone a Sure Foundation (v. 11)
For the Scripture figure here used the following passages may be
compared: Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; I Peter 2:7. The
construction of our modern buildings does not permit of special importance
being given to a foundation, stone. We now put in memorial stones. Very
probably the Scripture figure is taken from the immense work of masonry,
found necessary at one corner of the temple area, in order to complete the
sacred precincts. This corner foundation, raised right up out of the valley,
made a deep impression on the Jewish mind, and was regarded as the
foundation of the temple. Some prefer to think that reference may be to the
virgin rock which was probably covered by the holy of holies. A
foundation, in the sense of a basis-truth or principle, is necessary for a
religious system or a personal faith. Here Peter’s words are addressed
to certain persons, and we consider:
because they were at the head of the ecclesiastical government of the
people; they settled the order of ceremonies, duties, and obligations, and
required men virtually to take their religion from them. They would advise
and direct, and the people should have no will of their own in religious
matters. A new rabbinical system had grown up round the
Mosaic, and crushed out its life. For this rabbinical system, as bringing the
people entirely under their sway, the members of the Sanhedrin were so
jealous. Fix attention on the exceeding peril and amazing folly of men in
trying to formulate and impose a religious system, when one had been fully
revealed and its principles adequately detailed. No wonder they went
astray, binding burdens on men’s shoulders grievous to bear. No wonder
they were wholly wrong, both in their foundation and in their superstructure.
religious system he may construct, ever be but works — man’s works?
There is nothing else they can select. If they want anything better, they
must give up trying to find it or to lay it, and let God both find and lay.
Disguise it how we may, call it by what skilful names we please, men’s
foundations for religious systems or personal hopes are always self;
something we can do ourselves. Illustrate from other systems than
Christianity, showing that self and self-service and works are the
foundations of Brahmanism, Mohammedanism, heathenism, and
Catholicism. Those trying to feel confidence in the foundation-stone of self
are sure to pass by, and fail to find interest or attraction in, the stone God
offers to lay in Jesus Christ, the sure Foundation. This point may be urged
in its application to personal religious seeking and experience. Many a man
has had to see the utter ruin of his buildings raised on self, before he could
find interest in, or care to build upon, the Rock of Ages.
Builder interfered, choosing His own good and wise time. Sanhedrins and
rabbis could only be under-builders. Because of their willful errors He puts
them aside, and sets forth the apostles in their stead — just as, in older
days, He made prophets take the place of incapable priests — and bade
those apostles lay firmly down the despised Stone, even Jesus, the
Nazarene. It is to be the very Head of the comer, and the whole erection of
the Christian Church is to lean safely up against it and upon it. Impress that
still there are mistaken builders, who pass by Christ, and assume authority
to lay other foundations. And still it is as true as ever it was, that God
makes Jesus Christ, for each soul’s salvation and life, the “tried Stone, the
precious Corner-stone, the sure Foundation; and he that believeth on him
shall not be ashamed.”
12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name
under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
And in none other is there salvation for neither is there salvation in any other,
Authorized Version; neither is there any other, etc., for there is none other,
Authorized Version; that is given for given, Authorized Version; wherein for
whereby, Authorized Version. The eighteenth Article of Religion refers
directly to this verse as proving that ETERNAL SALVATION can be obtained
ONLY BY THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST!
The Servants in the Footsteps of their Lord (vs. 5-12)
Jesus stood. Some of the same were present. Actuated by similar feelings
against the truth. But notice:
Ø Called together on the ground of one specific fact — the miracle done
(v. 7) undeniably real.
Ø Without any accusation as in the Lord’s case. No false witnesses called.
Ø In appearance, at least, orderly and candid; inquiring, “By what power,
or in what Name, have ye done this?” certainly evincing, as does the
sequel, considerable reaction from the fury of the Crucifixion.
Conscience was at work. A sign that the gospel was already beginning
to lay hold of
Ø The substance of it. It pointed to the signs of Divine power present;
connected those signs with the Name and authority of Jesus Christ; clearly
announced the fulfillment of Scripture, and invited all to rejoice in the
blessings of the gospel.
Ø The inspiration of it; seen in its simplicity, boldness, wisdom, and yet
supreme gentleness and love. A perfect respect for the old, and yet an
entire acceptance of the new with all its consequences. It was not the
address of a criminal excusing himself, or of a suspected man putting by
the misconstructions of enemies; it was the appeal of a herald and inspired
ambassador, fulfilling his Divine office to be a witness to Jesus. There was
in it a sublime indifference to human opposition, and yet a confidence in the
sufficiency of the gospel which could not have been of merely human
origin. Peter spoke as one “filled with the Holy Ghost,” the Spirit of truth,
life, and love; as a true Israelite, without one word of disparagement of
what was represented in that Sanhedrin; and yet as a true apostle of Christ;
as the priest of that restored temple, of which Jesus was henceforth the
Cornerstone; and as a true prophet, able to connect the present with the
past and the future, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
The Unfolded Banner of Salvation (v. 12)
“Neither is there salvation in any other,” etc. The contrast between the
position of Christ’s heralds then and now. They pointed to one miracle just
wrought; we point to the whole succession of wonders along the line of
Christian history. Already the Name of Jesus is “above every name.”
(1) A proclamation;
(2) a warning;
(3) an invitation.
Ø The proclamation of witnesses. They knew the person, they saw the
power, they were subjects of the grace. The Name was a history, testified
by those who published it. Others could take knowledge that they had been
with Jesus. So Christians still can speak of the Name as in their own hearts
and lives “above every name.”
Ø The proclamation of inspired teachers. The name misunderstood among
Jews, because salvation itself was nothing to them, not being spiritually
regarded. The Name of the “Messiah” represented:
o the promise of atonement, and
o spiritual deliverance.
The apostles themselves were taught of God, otherwise they would
never have known the secrets of the Name. They proclaimed salvation
necessary to all, denouncing the self-righteousness of the Jews.
Ø The proclamation of sincere philanthropists. “Under heaven given
among men.” The standard was set up at
of the whole world. No name will bear this test but Christ’s. Other names,
Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, have but a limited range, of sympathy and
divide the world, not unite it. The history of man is a progressive
preparation of the race to acknowledge a Name which shall be adapted for
universal recognition and homage. A missionary spirit is the test of a true
dangers of our present time. The builders at the temple of human progress
are SETTING AT NAUGHT THE CORNER STONE. An emasculated
Christianity, robbed of its deepest adaptation to the wants of men; a mere
bundle of moral principles and examples. The pride of the human intellect
set on the throne; in rationalistic criticism; the dry bones of the Bible offered
instead of the living reality; in socialistic theories put in place, of spiritual
change, which alone can produce the fruits of righteousness; in sophistical
arguments against the leading doctrines of the gospel; and pretended
philanthropy, which means nothing but trifling with the awful realities of sin,
and undue exaltation of the material above the spiritual interests of men.
Other names in the Church. The priest hiding the Savior; the ritual shutting
out the truth; sectarianism dishonoring Christ; names of leaders and teachers
made into temptations to spiritual pride, and mere hero-worship substituted
for simple-minded obedience to Christ’s commandments. Yet the Name
above every name in fact, and MUST BE SEEN TO BE SO! The Name
of the coming Judge, who, though He find not faith on the earth, will still
destroy all that exalteth itself against him, “that God may be all in all.”
(I Corinthians 15:28)
Ø To acceptance of a free gift. “Given amongst men.” Contrast between
Christ’s method of helping men and that of the world’s teachers.
Ø To separation from a lost cause. The names of the world represent the
old things which are passing away. Come out and be separate. Name the
Name of Christ in order to realize salvation. Half-hearted religion is no joy.
Ø To anticipation of a final victory. As the Name we honor represents a
life which went up from the lowliest places on earth to the highest in
heaven, so those who are called after the Name rise to the throne to reign
with Christ. Will you sell such a birthright for vain delight? Will you
forfeit such a prospect for lack of faith?
The One Saving Name (v. 12)
As one of the earliest preachings of the gospel, this sermon contains a
striking illustration of the simplicity of the gospel message. From it we may
learn what things were set forth as the primary and essential facts of
Christianity, before the development of Christian doctrine. Theology is a
science formulated by human genius; for it we are mainly indebted to
Augustine and Anselm and Calvin. But it would be a sad thing indeed, for
the thousands of “wayfaring men,” if an adequate apprehension of a human
theology were essential to personal religion. This sermon deals with facts,
with the known historical facts of our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection;
and with the unknown facts, declared upon the apostolic authority, of
Christ’s office, commission, and authority, as risen and exalted. Upon these
facts the sermon makes deductions and applications, as in our text.
salvation at all to man, must deal with and compass it. For this sin that has
wrought and is working in us we need “salvation,” and it is but to mock us
to say that Christ is not the Savior from sin. Show what a large,
comprehensive word “salvation” is; compare it with healing, teaching,
reforming, etc. It is the word which expresses the deepest need to which
any soul can ever awake. At the very edge of death the aroused jailor cries,
“What must I do to be saved?” (ch. 16:30) Plead as to whether there has yet
been open vision to the discovery of this master-need. What, indeed, can it
profit any one of us to gain the whole world, and have our soul unsaved?
Ø A name stands for a person, and includes whatever rights may belong to
him. Illustrate by the ambassador acting in the name of the queen; travelers
finding safety in using the name of Englishmen; Moses coming forth in the
Name of Jehovah. So the apostles went forth, spoke and wrought, in the
Name of Christ. And salvation is by the Name, i.e. by the present rights
and power of the living Savior, whom apostles introduced to men.
Ø A name stands for a plea. As Paul used his name as a Roman citizen.
The Name of Jesus is a sufficient plea to secure acquittal, for all due
satisfactions have been wrought by Christ. The Name of Jesus becomes a
sufficient plea to secure acceptance, for all required righteousness has been
won by Christ; and we, by faith united to Him and bearing His Name, come
into His power and share His rights.
Ø SALVATION ONLY BY ONE NAME. “None other name” is
designed to be exclusive. Then see what it excludes. Few, perhaps, will
now actually substitute something for Christ, and deliberately say, “I will
not be saved by Christ.” But there was, in older times, a subtle substituting
of fancied ideas about God’s mercy; and there is now danger of our
substituting knowledge and science. Many will try to put something along
with Christ. Men try to join their own name with Christ’s; or they put
together the Virgin Mary and Christ; or the Church and Christ; or even, in
subtle forms, the Bible and Christ; or feelings and Christ. All are wrong
things if they are set in the first place with Christ; all may be good if kept
in their proper second places. For soul-salvation there is only one Name;
the essential thing is that we stand in living relations of faith and love with
Him whose “Name is above every name.”
not be exclusive. If it is to be the only Name, then it must be the all-sufficient
Name, or God would be deceiving us in permitting such broad
and gracious invitations to be made to us. The real wants of men are
common to all men. We all want:
Ø knowledge, and
and it is equally true that we all want:
Ø pardon of our transgressions,
Ø liberty from the slavery of self and sin,
Ø the life of righteousness, and
Ø the hope of the eternal glory.
“Salvation” gathers up all these, and all these are found in
and through Christ Jesus only.
the word of this salvation sent.” There is one Name — only one Name;
believe, and you shall be saved. Search the world over and the ages
through, there is no other; and yet one day to this Name “every knee shall
bow, and every tongue confess.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived
that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and
they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Beheld for saw,
Authorized Version; had perceived for perceived, Authorized Version.
The boldness; literally, free or outspokenness (),
and properly used with words signifying to speak (see ch.2:29; here vs. 29, 31;
28:31; John 7:13, etc.), and so the verb (
means to speak freely and boldly - ch. 9:27, 29; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26;
elsewhere in the New Testament only in Ephesians 6:20; I Thessalonians 2:2).
Peter had shown his free-spokenness in so boldly proclaiming the resurrection
and mighty power of Him whom the rulers he was addressing had crucified.
Boldness of speech, when combined with love and moderation, is a most important
grace for a minister of Christ. Unlearned and ignorant men. The term unlearned
() means that they had no “knowledge of
Jewish culture” beyond the Scriptures. Ignorant men (
) was a technical term for those who had not
studied in rabbinic schools. The word hediot occurs frequently in the
Talmud (Farrar’s ‘Life of St. Paul,’ vol. 1. p. 106). They took knowledge,
etc. Annas and Caiaphas or some of their people, it is likely, had seen them
in the high priest’s palace (John 18:15-18).
Signs of Having Been with Jesus (v. 13)
We should always keep the thought close to us that our spirit and our word
and our conduct, as the professed disciples of the Lord Jesus, are being
daily watched; sometimes kindly, sometimes unkindly, always keenly. Men
do “take knowledge of us.” Something must be wrong if our life as
Christians is not so toned and characterized as to arrest attention. There was
something about the apostles which puzzled the Sanhedrin: there was
more than they were able to discern. We may see what actually did impress
them, and also what might reasonably have impressed them.
the apostles had gained FROM CHRIST! Power, high personal influence,
moral courage, had been characteristic of the Lord Jesus. In the apostles
power showed itself in firm, noble witnessing to the facts they knew and the
truths which had been entrusted to them, however offensive the facts and
the truths might be to the rulers who listened. In us the like power, given
by Christ, may show itself in steadfastness to principle, even when that
may place us in social disability; and in practical consistency, whatever
may be our surroundings. Illustrate by firm keeping of the sabbath law; and
by such passages as:
Ø “Having done all, stand;” (Ephesians 6:13)
Ø “Quit you like men, be strong;” (I Corinthians 16:13)
Ø “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (II Timothy 2:3)
There is great need of a more steadfast opposition to accepted worldly
maxims and worldly habits. Christians should dare to be singular when
Christly principles and the Christly spirit are imperiled.
apostles, as fashioned by Christ. The character of the Lord Jesus had been
peculiarly His force, and these apostles had come so fully under its
influence that they had become, both consciously and unconsciously,
molded thereby. They had learned, as Christ’s disciples, to seek
“whatsoever things are true, …. honest, ….just, …..pure, ….lovely,
…..of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). Their natural characters
were being sanctified; and, in measure, they were exerting the influence
of personal moral excellence and virtue, even as their Lord had done.
This may be illustrated in Peter. Pure and lovely character is still
the highest power on men everywhere. None can wholly withstand the
influence of sweet and saintly lives.
PRINCIPLE of the apostles’ CONDUCT, which they had learned of
Christ. It was the principle of the constraining love.
Ø Love to Christ, by whom we are redeemed.
Ø Love to the brethren who share with us in the common redemption.
Ø And love to the unsaved, for whom we may well desire the
unspeakable blessings which we have ourselves received.
Love is ever seeking to find expression, and will not be satisfied with
measures of self-sacrifice short of the self-sacrifice of Christ for our
salvation. We cannot hope to exert the same influence on those about us
that was wrought by the apostles on the Sanhedrin, until we learn to be
oftener with Jesus. And that we may be in two ways.
Ø In the outward fellowship of the Gospels. We may study them better.
We may meditate on them more frequently. We may realize more
perfectly the Christ they reveal, and so “know Him,” and feel the
power of His presence.
Ø We may be with Jesus in the inward fellowship of cherished thoughts.
Taking Him into our hearts as we take our dearest friend, and often
holding with Him secret soul-communing. Then men would plainly
see upon us, day by day, the signs that we “have been with Jesus.”
Association with Christ (v. 13)
We gather from these words:
persecutors of Peter and John “perceived that they were unlearned and
ignorant men;” not uneducated men, in the worst sense of that term, but
lacking in the higher culture of their time. But though thus comparatively
unlearned, they were men of strong faith, of true piety, of godly zeal,
admirable in the sight of men, acceptable servants of Jesus Christ. Human
learning is a desirable, but it is far from being, a necessary, thing to
excellence of character or nobility of life.
ARREST THE ATTENTION OF THOSE WHO ARE IN THE WRONG.
“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John… they marveled.”
Whatever virtues are unappreciated by the ungodly, courage always enlists
attention and provokes admiration. Be brave, and you will be heard; stand
to your colors with undaunted spirit, and men will, however reluctantly,
yield you their respect.
FOR ANY EXCELLENCY OF CHARACTER. When the priests and
elders wanted to account to themselves for the boldness of these two men
they remembered their connection with Christ, and were no longer at fault.
That will account for anything that is good. Much intimacy with Him who
“regarded not the person of man” will always make men brave; frequent
communion with that Holy One of God will always make men pure of
heart; close friendship with Him who came to lay down His life for the sheep
will always make men unselfish, etc.
THOSE WHICH ARE SUGGESTIVE OF JESUS CHRIST. There is
nothing which is such a tribute to human worth as that men are thereby
reminded of Christ. What impression are we most anxious to convey about
ourselves? The answer to that question will be a sure criterion of our
spiritual standing. If we are nearing the goal which is set before us, if we
are attaining to any real height of Christian excellency, we shall be truly
and earnestly solicitous that our constant spirit and daily behavior will be
suggestive of the temper and the principles of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Witnessing for Christ (v. 13)
“They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Fulfillment
of the promise, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me.” Reward for obedience to
the precept, depend on the Spirit. No mere human resources applied to; the
men simply spiritual men, bearing witness to Divine facts.
with fear, now bold, eloquent, full of the Holy Ghost, proclaiming a
doctrine once hateful to them, uplifted to a lofty conception of the
Jesus, as disciples, as chosen out by Him for their mission, as qualified
for it by His gifts of the Spirit.
Ø By the clear and decided expression of Christian faith. The world is
much more impressed by beholding a wonderful contrast to itself, than by
seeing Christians compromising principles for the sake of enlarging the
Ø By fearless condemnation of evil and proclamation of the kingdom of
Christ. We should remember that all wickedness is weakness. We must
speak like Peter and John. We must keep the Head of the corner in view.
Ø By the wonderfulness of spiritual work and life. Unlearned and ignorant
men can render an incalculable service to the cause of Christ by making
others marvel, when they speak out boldly their humble testimony. But let
all who hear it say, “They have been with Jesus.”
Ø To the apostles themselves. The power of faith; the protecting presence
of God; the safety of boldness; persecution making opportunity; the
suffering servant honoring the Master.
Ø To the council. To judge righteous judgments; to learn the method of
grace; to see the errors of the past. But we should be warned; for such
lessons were in vain, although enforced with such power.
Ø To ourselves. The whole incident teaches the strength of the spiritual
life; the method or the Christian work; the glory of the believer’s
prospects. Those that have been with Jesus shall share His victories.
14 “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they
could say nothing against it. 15 “But when they had commanded them to go
aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,” Beholding for
seeing, Authorized Version.
16 “Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable
miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in
Authorized Version; to all for to all them, Authorized Version. Only here and
at v. 22 and in Luke 23:8 has miracle been retained in the Revised Version as
the rendering of everywhere else it is sign. Wrought through
them; more literally, hath come to pass through them.
17 “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly
threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.”
Threaten for straitly threaten, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.
The subject of that it spread seems to be “a notable miracle.” They could
not deny that it had taken place, but they could prevent the knowledge of it
spreading, by forbidding the apostles to speak of the Name of Jesus in which
it had been wrought.
18 “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor
teach in the name of Jesus.” Charged for commanded, Authorized Version.
19 “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be
right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,
judge ye.” Rather for more, Authorized Version.
20 “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
Saw and heard for have seen and heard, Authorized Version. We cannot but
speak, etc. We have here another instance of Peter’s boldness of speech
under the influence of the Holy Ghost.
The Simpler and the Deeper Truth (vs. 19-20)
Here we have
and the human are in conflict, the human must yield to the Divine.
“Whether it be right… judge ye.” The judgment required was one that any
man could pronounce; the question may be answered by the humblest
Ø Ordinarily, the commandments of God and of man are in unison; it is,
as a rule, our duty to God to obey the human parent, teacher, magistrate,
Ø But occasionally, we are compelled to believe that God bids us act in a
way directly at variance with the commands of man. The apostles now
found themselves in this position. Since then martyrs, confessors, those
who have been persecuted for Christ’s sake, in every age and land, have
found themselves thus placed. And these have included not only the men
whose names history has preserved and whose praise poetry has sung, but
many thousands who have struggled and endured in quiet homes and
narrow spheres, whose heroism no tongue has told, no pen recorded.
Ø Then the human authority is nothing to the Divine. We must obey God
rather than man; we must give our first allegiance, our most dutiful
submission, to the Eternal Father, to the Divine Teacher, to the King of
kings, to the Head of the Church Himself.
that we are under a holy compulsion to testify the truth we know: “We
cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” All can
understand that men will speak the truth they know when, by so doing,
they will gain anything which satisfies their lower nature — pecuniary
reward, or personal prominence, or the gratification of receiving the
interested attention of others. But it is not every one who can understand
that men feel themselves under a holy compulsion to declare what God has
revealed to them in order to relieve a full and burdened heart. This is a case
in which “only the good discern the good.” But those who are in sympathy
with God and with heavenly wisdom will understand that human hearts
may be so impressed with the excellency, the beauty, the fruitfulness, the
divinity of truth, that they are positively oppressed while they remain silent,
until they have “spoken the things they have seen and heard.” The word is
in the heart as “a burning fire shut up in the bones,” etc. (Jeremiah 20:9;
Job 32:18, 20; Psalm 39:3; I Corinthians 9:16). The fact
that not only the apostles of our Lord, but thousands of souls since then,
have felt thus constrained concerning Christian truth, suggests:
Ø That it is a truth of transcendent worth which it is foolish and wrong to
Ø That we have not risen to the full height of appreciation of it if we do
not feel irresistibly impelled to make it known to others.
The Aggressiveness of the Gospel (v. 20)
“We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The early
history of Christianity is a striking proof of its Divine origin. Man’s method is
to wait opportunities, God’s to create them. Man prepares his strength
before he puts it forth; God makes His strength perfect in weakness. The
“foolishness of preaching.” We must pay no heed to the world’s scorn
and distrust of enthusiasm.
REAL. “The things which we have seen and heard.”
Ø Not speculative, but simply practical; things of men’s moral life, things
which concern all, things of infinite importance, having their roots in
Ø Not things of human systems and ecclesiastical dogmas. The apostles did
not preach either against the
government of Christianity, but about gospel facts which underlie all
systems and must make the substance of all creeds.
Ø Things of experience — “seen and heard.” They spoke as witnesses; and
the more we can preach as simply bearing testimony to the gospel, the
more power we have. The various false religions of the world are
powerless to help because they appeal little to fact and experience.
Ø Speaking before men. The notion of secret discipleship is utterly false.
There is a special value of outspoken faith, both to the believer himself, in
confirming, maturing, guiding, clearing the spiritual convictions
themselves, and in supporting practice by the help of a solemn, recorded
vow of service. The deeper and the more real the feeling, the more
necessity to speak it before others.
Ø Speaking to men in Christ’s Name. We hearken unto God and He bids us
speak. It is a power that grows with exercise. The world requires it more
and more. Books can never take the place of preaching. In all ages men
have looked for and trusted their spiritual leaders. The things of the gospel
were not done in a corner, and they must be brought out into public life.
Read the Bible in the midday light of modern thought and business
enterprise; it is fitted to every stage of human advancement. STAND
UP FOR JESUS!
21 “So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding
nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all
men glorified God for that which was done.” And they when they, etc.,
let them go for so when they, etc., they let them go, Authorized Version.
Truth from the Tribunal (vs. 1-21)
The principles which are illustrated or suggested here are:
ALL WRONG IN THEIR THEOLOGY. The priests were grieved that the
apostles taught the people that which we know to have been God’s own
truth (v. 2). In every age since then, the teaching of pure doctrine has
been a veritable grief to those who have been regarded by many as the
religious authorities of the land.
USING THEIR POWER AGAINST THE WELL-BEING OF THE
STATE. The state officials “came upon” the apostles of our Lord (v. 1),
and “laid hands on them, and put them in hold” (v. 3). How often has this
scene been reenacted since then; the men in office using their authority to
restrain and silence the teachers of truth, the reformers of national life!
OPPOSED AND SILENCED BY THE STRONG. That was not a very
unhappy evening which Peter and John spent in the stronghold of the
temple. As they walked within the narrow bounds of their captivity, they
thought rejoicingly of the “five thousand men” who had heard the word
they had spoken, and had believed it and been saved by it. Spiritual
successes are an ample compensation for material discouragements
CONSTANCY ACCORDING TO THEIR DAY. (vs. 5-13.) Before the
Sanhedrin Peter and John show themselves brave and fearless. There is
nothing apologetic about their demeanor, nothing supplicatory about their
tone. They stand erect and they “speak straight on,” as men who stand
before God and who speak for Him. In truth, they are men in whom God
dwells (v. 8); hence their noble attitude and their manly spirit. God gives them
grace according to their day. So will he to us also. Let us be receptive of
his truth when he speaks to us; let us be faithful at our post when we speak
for him; and then, when the trial hour shall come, he will nerve us for the
scenes through which we shall have to pass, and we shall be “strong in the
Lord, and in the power of his might.”
(v. 12.) Many paths lead into it; there are many ruts in the road; many
very different pilgrims along it; many views as we look out on either side of
it and at different stages on it. But there is only one way: this is found in
him who says, “I am the Way.”
ARE THE MOST COGENT WITNESSES ON ITS BEHALF. (v. 14.)
In presence of reclaimed drunkenness, silenced profanity, cleansed and
uplifted impurity, regenerated selfishness, humbled pride, what can
infidelity or irreverence do? It is dumb; it is helpless.
DIVINE TRUTH. (vs. 16-21.) Authority, in the person of this Jewish
Sanhedrin, is ill intentioned enough; it is willing enough to smite; it
considers patiently and earnestly how far it dares to go; it threatens, forbids,
threatens still further, and then impotently and ignominiously releases.
Error is often fiercely antagonistic, industriously hostile, actively opposed
to the truth of God; but let us take courage in dark hours — it is held under
restraint; there is a point beyond which it cannot go; it will be compelled
to relax its hold, and truth will come forth, before long, rejoicing in its liberty.
22 “For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of
healing was shewed.” More than for above, Authorized Version; wrought
for showed, Authorized Version. Wrought; literally, as in v. 16, came to pass,
or happened, or took place.
The First Trial of Christian Preachers
in a Court of Judgment, and their Victory
A few words of an historic character lay for us the scene of this trial, put us
in possession of the question at issue and of the parties, as between whom,
if not really so, it is to be settled. We are, however, justly at liberty to take
note of certain silence as well as of certain utterance and preparations for
utterance. Those who “laid hands” on Peter and John, “and put them in
ward” last night, were silent then as to the reason why. No such thing as a
civil uproar was hinted at, as matter of apprehension; and no sufficient
ecclesiastical reason could, it is evident, be so much as formulated into a
proposition capable of representing either morals or law. “Being grieved
(!) that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection
from the dead,” is all their case showed last night. And this morning the
Sanhedrin — who as much for moral as for civil reasons ought to have
been examples of something different from this — render themselves
collectively amenable to the same remarks. It was well for all of them that
Peter and John were not Romans, either by purchase or by birth (ch. 16:37;
22:28). On the other hand, the silence of Peter and John themselves
on this matter is worthy of notice. They remembered something of that
great gift, greater grace of their Master, and were now learning in practice
some lessons of Him. Sometimes the very achievements of silence are great,
and great often the rewards of it shall be. They were silent, for the injustice
of their imprisonment had been inconvenience personal to themselves, but
just as likely advantage to their Master’s cause. They were silent, rather
than waste time and waken temper as well as prejudice toward them in
their would-be judges. And they were silent, on the very wise principle of
letting “these men alone,” that they might run out the more quickly and
self- condemningly their humiliated career. And it was not long before it
was seen to what undignified shifts they were brought, Notice:
by courtesy that it could be dignified with the name of an indictment at all.
The Sanhedrin greatly stood in need of a word from the governor Porcius
Festus of just thirty years later, when he said to King Agrippa, in reference
to Paul, “For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not
withal signify the crimes laid against him” (ch. 25:27). The
Sanhedrin are guilty of this very unreasonableness.
Ø They interrogate instead of indicting. They are going the way to make
themselves beholden to their own prisoners for some information and
Ø There is this prima facto weakness in the very interrogation, that it is
not directed to the character of what has been done, but simply as to how
something has been done, that is all the while tacitly admitted to be
unchallengeable in its nature.
Ø However, though their course be ever so much at fault for informality
and for worse reasons, it has one commanding excellence about it. It does
go at once to the point. It goes home to what was in their own heart. They
cannot, in the nature of things, find fault with Peter and John for relieving
of his lameness a man now “above forty years old,” and who had never
been anything but lame. And they cannot find fault with them for doing this
on a sabbath day, because it was not the sabbath. So it is only left them to
try and find something to take hold of, in “the kind of power,” or “the kind
of name,” by or in which they had “done this thing;” which, it is noticeable,
they do not choose to call here by its right name, “a notable miracle” as
they do immediately afterwards in their secret conclave (v. 16). And,
further, they may hope to find something to take hold of in “the kind” of
answer the two apostles may proffer. But this does not prove to be the
case; for their discretion, silence, temperateness, cannot be surpassed. If
the picture, then, of this trial shows the court put in a foolish position, it
shows the accused or the prisoners in an intrinsically proud position. They
are masters of the position, strange to say.
Ø That the method of it may be justly assigned to the presence of the Holy
Spirit. Peter is emphatically described as “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Ø That, nevertheless, it is of the simplest character. It might be said to be
of nature’s simplest style.
o It consists of a mere statement of facts. “You ask,” says Peter, “of a
deed, a ‘good deed, done to an impotent man.’ You ask by what, by what
virtue-call it ‘power’ or call it a ‘name ‘as you will — that impotent man
has taken the advantage of what is contained in that good deed.” And Peter
continues, without a word, or tone, or sign of apology, “Be it known to
you, and to the whole nation beside, that it is by the virtue of One whom
and they know but too well — Jesus of
crucified, and — wonderful contrast of rebuke — whom God raised from
the dead. Here standing before you, and beside us, your prisoners, is a
man, who is more to be remarked upon for the fact that he was made
whole by that Name, than simply for the fact itself, that (as none can deny)
he has been made whole — genuinely made whole.”
o It consists, further, of a quotation from the Old Testament, of words
most personal to the court listening to Peter, and the application of which
to them Peter minces not at all. Peter speaks just as though it were one of
those cases in which truth must and will out. There can have been no
effrontery in the manner of Peter’s utterance, nor any appearance of
intentional affront, else we cannot imagine that his sentence would have
been allowed to come to an end. Often as wrong manner prejudices the
interest of welcome truth, the present was an instance of the converse how
truth of the most unwelcome kind got its fair force, being unprejudiced by
any flavor of bitterness, spite, taunt, or malignity. (And thus Christians are
admonished by Paul to “speak the truth in love!” - Ephesians 4:15 – CY –
o It consisted of a word of genuine universal gospel as well. Now does
even Peter speak a more universal gospel than he is at the moment
conscious of. He anticipates in one breath the apostle of the Gentiles, who
was yet to come. But independently of this, and stopping short of it,
Peter’s aim is to speak of that Name of Christ as the Name of the only
Savior, rather than to speak of the universal sweep of His dominion and
virtue. He has got his foot in; he sees the narrow end of the grand wedge
in; he seizes the priceless opportunity, and uses it. The defense had the
seeds of triumph in it, and it triumphed.
was, in very deed, a most pronounced embarrassment. It is spoken by the
historian in five plain enough statements The signs of it, also, were
probably only too plain, or otherwise the case was a great exception to a
very general rule.
Ø Those who sat in the seat of authority were, unfortunately for the
position they filled, stricken with amazement. “They marveled” at the
umperturbed flow of speech and resolute wielding of argument which
proceeded from two men who, as being “unlearned” and unprofessional
men, ought rather to have been overawed in the presence of such as
themselves — as they thought. In the midst of their amazement, however,
they either remembered the fact, or saw in the very bearing of the men the
fact, that they were old associates of Jesus.
Ø They were fairly stricken with silence. There, present before them —
there, at the very side of the prisoners, proffering himself as a living
monument of their last evening’s work — was the veritable healed man
himself. Such a juxtaposition of facts ties into silence very perverse-wayed
tongues. “They can say nothing against it.”
Ø They are stricken with an idea that a private conference with one
another may suggest a way out of their undignified difficulty. There is
always something very suspicious, ominous of impending disaster, if the
men that love the broadest daylight of public glare suddenly are for
retreating into the unloved shade.
Ø Retired from public gaze, they find themselves still stricken with a
perplexity that grows no better for deliberation and secret conference. For
one thing only do we seem able to admire in any sense these men. They
have eyes to see, and they have not got to the point of seeing facts to deny
them. They will not hazard themselves into the position of denying a
“notable miracle manifest” to all the rest of the world that lives in
Ø Because they are fearful of the one thing, TRUTH which should have made
them fearless, they are stricken with love of an expedient simply so insane
in its certain working that it at once worsened their whole case and plight.
They will forbid the tide. They will command, “Hitherto shalt thou come,
but no further.” (Job 38:11) They will bid to flow back a river that shows
an unmistakable force and breadth and depth of current. They will threaten
and prohibit. Whether they are counted as legislators, or statesmen, or
judges, (like many in the United States Government today – CY – 2016)
they are CHILDISH and INCOMPETENT!
(v. 18.) “They command” the apostles “not to speak at all nor to teach in
the Name of Jesus.” Thus began the struggle between civil command and
human conscience, not indeed in the history of the world, but in the history
that has ever shown it in most intensified form, of the Christian Church.
Ø The parties to this struggle. Traced home, they resolve themselves into
the wish of some against the conscience of others.
Ø The intrinsic and even notorious inequality of these. That wish, it is true, will
be said to be founded upon opinion, judgment, experience, and consent of
many. But this is equivalent to an open betraying of the proportionately
easy access to it, of disturbing causes — causes that lay it actually open to
suspicion, and render it unreliable. Wish notoriously sins in being the
victim of feeling, and none can be “ignorant of its devices.” A hundred
elements, each one of which is a possible avenue of error, go to form that
wish or will of the some which then presumes or endeavors to impose upon
the conscience of other some. On the other hand, conscience, whether it be
allowed to be more or less of an original faculty or principle of human
nature, owns to and justly claims a native prerogative, the prerogative of
the judge. And it may err. It will be liable to err, and has in point of fact
often shown itself liable to err — on one side, through being uninformed,
or ill informed. Yet, whoever flouts it (whether the owner of it himself or
another for him), is guilty of flouting pro tem. “The powers that be,” and
those powers, powers that “be of God.” Say whatsoever may be said to the
derogation of the individual conscience, that man stands on perilous
ground indeed who risks what is involved in neglecting his own
conscience, or who takes in hand to supersede that of others, by his own
fiat, under whatsoever name or misnomer it may endeavor to pass muster.
To very different moral zones of being do the voices of external command
and of internal command belong. As once a whole world was on one side,
and Noah and the Divine command on the other, so it is quite possible that
the whole world might be on one side, and an individual man and his
conscience be on the other side, and these be in the right. And it was
something like this, though not this, that was to be seen now. The whole
authorities of a nation were in this court on one side, and Peter and John
on the other; and these were in the right, and the real strength of position
lay with them.
Ø The unconquerable deep facts of human nature and life to which these
phenomena conduct. For we get here a suggestion and a glimpse of the
idea according to which God has provided for the security of His mighty
grasp on the mighty mass of mankind. There is left no doubt which is the
mightier. This method of securing a certainty and even facility of hold upon
the vastest bulk of mankind, to disintegrate it if one corrupt mass, or
gradually to reintegrate it, without recourse to flood or deluge or any
physical force, invites most grateful and reverent study. The analogies of
physical nature, more and more laid bare to light by science, offer many an
inferior harmony with it. God’s moral hold upon the great mass depends on
and is regulated by His hold upon the individual and the individual
conscience; and often exhibits itself in this shape — that one conscience
touched will prevail against ten thousand men, will suffice to make “a
divided house,” and put a wonderfully centrifugal tendency into the
constituent parts of what seemed a very compact whole. While, on the
other hand, thousands and all the influence they could wield, and all the
torture they could apply to martyrdom itself, will leave the conscience
unharmed and unmoved. “Command,” then, and “threat,” varied only by
“threat” and “command,” are the singularly weak weapons to which this
embarrassed and undignified court now resort. And these soon enough
crumble to their touch.
rebuff contains not a few points which make it remarkable.
Ø It is no doubt uttered in a respectful tone and manner, but for decision of
language and firmness of front it wants nothing. It distinctly emphasizes the
subordinate character of the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin; it distinctly
emphasizes their prisoners’ knowledge of it; and as distinctly it emphasizes
the intention of the prisoners to continue to do the things they were
commanded not to do, and respecting which they were threatened.
Ø The rebuff administered by Peter and John contains a reiteration of that
which was so often the unconcealed strength of the apostolic message —
the doctrine and impulse of “God,” the matters of fact, such as they
themselves had “seen and heard.” Three forces sustained (and should still
sustain) the Christian preachers:
o that they spoke things within their own knowledge,
o that they found themselves irresistibly moved to speak of these
o that their undying conviction was that those things were the
things of God.
Upon what a platform of unassailable strength do they now
stand, who hold this reply only to prohibition and threat, “Whether it be
right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge
ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”!
The implications are manifest. That the apostles must do what is right; that
by right they mean what is so in the sight of God; that this may utterly
traverse and contravene the criterion of right with the Sanhedrin; and that
they are cognizant of a call to speak which they cannot and will not
Ø The rebuff so fits in to truth, to time, and to circumstance, that there is
nothing left for those most smitten by it but to sit down quietly under it.
Except for the inanity of “further threatening” Peter and John, those who
now smart are also like certain others, “speechless” (Matthew 22:12).
So sometimes does God cover with the shield of His wondrous protection
His servants. They are without a shred of worldly position, of influence, and
of wealth. They sit on no throne, can summon no legions, nor wield one
weapon. Yet are they themselves kept safe as “the apple of His eye.” They
gaze, too, with the light of the Divine eye on human hearts, darkened with
guilty tumult because unloyal to the truth. And it is entrusted to them to
wield the weapon of unanswerable rebuke. Many a victory falls far short of
what it seems. Greater than all, it showed, was the victory of Peter and
John, when the Sanhedrin, after enduring keen rebuke and blank rebuff,
nevertheless “let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them,
because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.”
It is so, God protects and exalts and all in one honors His servants with
highest service in His Name.
The Impotence of Unbelief (vs. 13-22)
In contrast with the moral strength of people with deep conviction and
straightforward allegiance to truth there is the cowardice, malice,
dishonesty, sophistry, and blasphemy of modern unbelief. Their question
concerning the resurrection was not “What shall we do with the facts?” but
“What shall we do to these men?” This is the resort of weak and
dishonest minds, who, if they will not believe, they persecute. The idea is
“That it spread no further among the people.” There is folly in such policy.
The people see through the devices of a false Church — are not long deceived
by the vain boastings of infidelity. A bold and aggressive method must be the
hope of the Christian Church in the climax of opposition now reached. We
must plant ourselves firmly on the rock of undeniable facts, and hearken unto
God rather than unto men. “All men then will glorify God for what is
Spiritual Inflexibility: A Sermon to Those in the Midst of Life (v. 22)
The words of the text indicate that there was one fact which contributed
greatly to sustain the miraculous character of the healing act that had been
wrought. We might interpolate between this verse and the preceding —
there could be no manner of doubt that this work was of God, “for the
man,” etc. We instantly recognize the force of the reasoning. When a man
has suffered for forty years from physical deformity or rigidity and is
restored in a moment, there is obviously some supernatural power brought
into exercise. Long continuance in such a case immensely aggravates the
difficulty and enhances the virtue of the cure. In this, as in so many other
respects, the moral world answers to the material.
TOUCH OF TRUTH. As God made us, and before we are acted upon and
injured by the forces of evil, we are impressionable and flexible of soul. The
mind is eager to learn and ready to receive; the conscience is quick to approve
or to rebuke; the heart is tender and affectionate, readily responsive to goodness
and to love; the soul is appreciative of that which is spiritually fair and beautiful;
the will is open to change if cause be shown for reformation and return.
This is the time when moral maladies can best be cured, when we may well
hope that the heart will be healed of its sicknesses, and that the spirit will
“be made whole” by the great Physician.
soul has continued for forty years in an evil habit or in a state of sin, it has
become hardened in its way. Conscious wrongdoing acts harmfully on
every faculty of our nature.
Ø It blinds “the eyes of the understanding.”
Ø It hardens the heart.
Ø It weakens and blunts the conscience so that its stroke is decreasingly
Ø It stiffens and fixes the will in its chosen course. Thus it makes the man
himself unapproachable, unimpressionable, incurable. They who are
passing on from youth and young manhood into middle life, not having
entered the kingdom of God, have urgent need to “consider their ways.”
They are reaching the moral condition in which their conversion to God is
a thing of greatest difficulty and serious unlikelihood. In the Book of Life,
if their name should be recorded, will it not be added, as a proof of the
wonder-working power of the Spirit of God, “for the man was forty years
old,” etc.? Remember that:
o salvation is never impossible: at twice forty years of age it is
within the reach of penitence and faith; but
o it becomes growingly unlikely as the periods of human life
pass by. The Holy Ghost saith, “TODAY IS THE DAY OF
Christ’s Servants before the Tribunal (vs. 1-22)
Ø The jealousy of those in ecclesiastical power. Caste, privilege, and
established professions are ever jealous of popular influence. It is ill for
learning and for religion when they come to be identified with the interests
of a class. But neither can be shut up to the few. LIGHT and TRUTH are
the common property of all, as there is no function higher than that of the
genuine teacher of religion, so there is none which attracts more suspicion
and jealousy. The essence of bigotry is exemplified by the Sadducees. Not
believing in the Resurrection, they would put down any teaching of it by
force. (“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of
knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering
in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52) The force of persecution never comes
from love of truth, but ever from some form of interest. The temper of
the truth-lover is ever for free speech and free thought. He knows that the
TRUTH, being a beam of God, cannot be quenched, and is reflected
with all the more glory from the MISTS OF ERROR! Often men mean
by “the truth” THEIR OWN OPINIONS AND PREJUDICES!
History shows, and passion constantly ignores, that to put down opinions
is impossible. The spirit of man acquires force both in good and evil by
resistance. Let what you consider false be either ignored, or, far better,
honestly examined and discussed. But, in fact, no absolute falsehood can
live an hour; and when desire is shown for suppression of free utterance,
fear of THE TRUTH, not love of it, is betrayed.
Ø Another cause was the popular acceptance of the gospel. The thousands
may be despised as individuals, but their collective feeling commands
respect. When the multitude wait on a preacher, and their lives are changed
by his influence, we may be certain that there is a deeper agency at work
than appears. The very extravagances which attend popular religious
movements are in their way evidences that men are being acted upon by
unusual spiritual power.
Sanhedrim — the great ecclesiastical court and ruling body of the nation. It
is a sublime contrast between the power that is and the power that is not of
the world. The parts of the prisoners and the judges are really reversed.
Sincerity is ever the judge; appearances go for nothing in the spiritual sphere.
Ø The question. The fact is not disputed; the question is — How is it to be
accounted for. What power, whose Name, had been at work here? The
surging up of a new power in Church or state is a formidable thing. What is
its nature? how must we deal with it? is the care of the powers that be.
Ø The answer. First, a good thing has been admittedly done. Out of
prostration and weakness a sufferer has been restored to health and
freedom. Facts are stubborn things. Our acts speak louder than words, and
tell for us or against us irresistibly. So let us live that the facts of our life
may plead for us trumpet-tongued. Second, the interpretation of the fact.
The name and power of Jesus are behind it. Thus does spiritual force rise
up and react against those who idly fought against it. Here was the
crucified One darting a ray of His glory upon suffering. The Resurrection:
it was no fancy; it stood illustrated in the person of the restored man in the
presence of the court. What else was or could be the meaning of the fact?
No other explanation is attempted. Accusers and accused stand beneath the
shadow of a power of which the one are feeble foes, the others mighty
agents. Life is full of these contrasts, these coincidences of extreme
opposites; power dwindling into impotence, feebleness lifted into power.
The stone cast aside on the highway proves to be the corner-stone of a
new building. The rejected of men, who could not save Himself, becomes
revealed the Elect of God, and SOLE SOURCE OF SALVATION!
Contempt of goodness is avenged by the manifested contempt of God.
of themselves by the extraordinary contrast before them. It is rare that the
learned do not feel a deep secret contempt for the ignorant and unlettered.
An overvaluation of words and logic blinds to realities. But here the calm
eloquence of those simple men breaks out like the ray of a pure gem hidden
in some rough matrix, and dazzles the intelligence. Memory is stimulated,
and Peter and John are identified as disciples of Jesus. There was a
combination of evidences which fairly reduced the judges to stupefied
silence. There stood the well-known figure of the paralytic; side by side his
confessed healers; the clear statement of the Divine agency in the case has
been boldly and impressively given by them; finally their former connection
with Jesus is recognized. The whole chain of antecedents and consequents
hangs firmly together. The logical recess in fact and thought is complete
Infinitely better the silence which bows before irresistible reasons than the
silence which is gained by force. Here again extremes meet. Mute are the
lips of the unjust, who have evoked eloquence from the innocent; the
silencers have reduced themselves to dumbness. ‘Tis ever so. When
violence seems to have made the truth to retire for a time, it has really sent
it on a larger arc of travel, from which it will surely return to smite the
absent. It is dubious, and flies to compromises. There were three courses
open: to punish the apostles — this, in the state of popular feeling, could
not be ventured on; to approve their conduct — this was conscience’
dictate, but conscience was here stifled by a powerful conspiracy of
interest; the miserable compromise remained — to discharge the prisoners
for fear of the multitude, to warn them against further teaching in fear for
themselves. There is danger in all societies and committees of men for the
conscience. They are more timid than in isolation, and timidity is mean and
treacherous to the noblest instincts of the heart. Men will back one another
up in doing things or refraining from doing things, when they would have
been more true if left to themselves. ‘Tis a moral trial in these respects to
act with others. Shelter for our cowardice, stimulus to our active passions,
is found in the fellowship of close interests. “Thou shalt not follow a
multitude to do evil.” (Exodus 23:2)
“speak in this Name,” which had proved so mighty a spell to loose. More
definitely utterance of, and teaching in, the Name are forbidden. The Name
stands as usual for all that lies behind it — the whole contents of Christian
Ø The prohibition aimed at an impossibility. The mind cannot be chained;
the spontaneous movements of the spirit cannot be checked by force;
THE WORD OF GOD cannot be bound. Force can only act within the
laws of nature; it enters not the kingdom of spirit.
Ø The martyr’s alternative. Shall he obey God or man? The tyrant must
tremble when he hears the question put. Physical necessity is on his side;
moral necessity, revealed in the conscience, on the other. The one says to
the witness — You shall not; the other replies from his breast — cannot
but. Obedience to God gives confidence and security. The tyrant and his
victim change places when it is seen that the latter has placed himself
against the rock of eternal right.
Ø The martyr’s decision. He will not obey man rather than God. He has
one clear principle only — to obey the voice in his soul. Immediate
consequences form no element of calculation. They may be favorable to
him, as now in the physical sense, for the many may be for the moment on
his side; or they may be fatal. With eye far fixed on eternity, and ear attent
upon the Divine voice, he goes forward. He trusts God and is not afraid.
His being is only safe in devotion to duty.
23 “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all
that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.” Came for went,
Authorized Version; the elders for elders, Authorized Version. To their own
company (compare Malachi 3:16). The chief priests ();
evidently the same as those who were described as being “of the kindred of
the high priest,” in v. 6 (where see note).
The Use of Freedom (v. 23)
“Being let go, they went to their own company.” We have here an apt
restraint being taken off them — “they went to their own company;” they
followed the bent of their own inclination, and went to those with whom
they were in sympathy. This is the constant accompaniment of human
freedom. As soon as the parental hand is relaxed, as soon as the teacher’s
eye is off them, as soon as the restraints of home and the guardianship of
elders are removed, the young take their own course, follow their own
bent, choose their own company. We never know what men really are until
we take away the bonds by which we hold them in check, and they go
“whithersoever they will” — whither their own principles allow, and their
own tastes direct them.
OTHERS. It is of little use to hold the reins so tight that, as long as they
are held by a firm hand, there can be no wandering. What is to be the event
when the reins must be thrown up? What will be the course chosen when
they whom we guard are “let go”? If we do nothing more and better than
carefully imprison within walls of correct behavior, we shall be bitterly
disappointed with the result. It is our wisdom and our duty to provide for
the hour when those for whom we are responsible will be “let go,” and
when they will assuredly go to their own company — will seek out those
persons and those things with which they sympathize. We can only do this
Ø by implanting right principles, and
Ø cultivating pure tastes.
These, and these only, will lead the young, in the days when they act for
themselves, to shun that which is wrong and to pursue that which is holy,
Ø You will soon stand at the point where you will decide on your own
Ø If, then, you are right at heart, you will walk in the path of life; choosing
the company of the good, the ways of wisdom.
Ø If, then, your heart is not right with God, you will be tempted to follow
an evil bent. It will be a most perilous hour with you.
o To give way to the lower inclinations is to enter the road of ruin.
o If you love life and hate death, go not whither you would, but
where conviction tells you you should. Hearken to the heavenly
voice which says, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
24 “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with
one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven,
and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:” They, when they heard it, lifted
for when they heard that they lifted, Authorized Version; O Lord, thou that didst
make, or as in margin, thou art He that did make, for Lord, thou art God, which
hast made, Textus Receptus and Authorized Version; the heaven and the earth
for heaven and earth, Authorized Version. With one accord (
) occurs eleven times in the Acts (ten times in the Textus Receptus)
and only once elsewhere in the New Testament, viz. in Romans 15:6. O Lord, etc.
Either the margin or the Authorized Version is preferable to the Revised Version,
which gives an unmeaning vocative pendent. The word here used for “Lord” is
, from which our
English word “despot” comes. It means “master, owner,” in respect of slaves,
and “a lord” or “king,” whose power over his subjects is similar to that of a
master over slaves. Here, with reference to creation and God’s unlimited power
overall that He has made, the Church in danger finds support and solace in the
thought of GOD’S ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY! The term is applied to God
in the New Testament elsewhere only in Luke 2:29 (where observe its relation to
); II Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4, Received Text
(of our Savior); and Revelation 6:10, where – sundouloi auton –
fellow slaves of them immediately follows ibid. v. 11, as here in v. 29 does “thy
servants.” In the Septuagint it sometimes answers to Elohim, and sometimes to
Adonai. As regards the question how the whole assembly joined in this
prayer, whether by a common inspiration, or by repeating the words after
him that prayed them aloud, or by merely singing the second psalm, or by
all using what was already a formulary prepared for the needs of the Church,
it is difficult to speak positively, nor is it of any moment. Another possible
explanation is that several members of the congregation, under the influence
of the Holy Ghost, uttered brief prayers and praises, the consenting matter of
which Luke thus puts together.
25 “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage,
and the people imagine vain things?” Who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our
father David thy servant, didst say for who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said,
Textus Receptus and Authorized Version; Gentiles for heathen, Authorized Version;
peoples for people, Authorized Version. Who by the Holy Ghost, etc. The Received
Text here is impossible, but the Textus Receptus is perfectly easy and natural. The
confusion in the manuscripts from which the Received Text is formed appears to
have arisen from having been accidentally mistaken
for – pneumatos – Spirit - which led to other changes. Three
readings resulted and seem to be combined:
: or the original one,
, which is preserved in the Textus Receptus .
26 “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered
together against the Lord, and against His Christ.” Set themselves in array
for stood up, Authorized Version; Anointed for Christ, Authorized Version.
Set themselves in array, Παρέστησαν – Parestaesan – stood; stand by; take a
stand - does not specially mean “to set themselves in array,” which implies a
battle, of which there is not question here, but it means simply “to present” or
“show themselves” (ch. 1:3) “to be ready,” or, as in v. 10, “to stand.” Anointed.
The text in the whole citation follows the Septuagint exactly.
27 “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast
anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the
Authorized Version. Servant for child (as in ch. 3:26), Authorized Version;
didst anoint for hast anointed, Authorized Version; peoples for people, Authorized
Version. For of a truth, etc. The saying just quoted is proved to have
been the word of God by its exact fulfillment in the heathen and Jewish
rulers and peoples who were concerned in the crucifixion of the Lord
Christ. In this city. This is omitted in the Authorized Version and Textus
Receptus, but found in most uncials and Fathers. Herod. Luke (Luke 23:1-12)
is the only one of the evangelists who records the part taken by Herod in
conjunction with Pontius Pilate in the condemnation of Christ. Possibly the
inference may be that Luke was led to record it in his Gospel front knowledge
of this application of Psalm 2 to him and Pilate. Peoples, in the plural, either
because of the “many nations” (ch. 2:5) from which the Jews of the dispersion
“Thou shalt be a multitude of peoples,” Hebrew).
28 “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before
to be done.” To do for for to do, Authorized Version; foreordained to come to
pass for determined before to be done, Authorized Version. To do (for the sentiment,
compare 2:23; 3:18). They were gathered together for the purpose of executing,
their own will, as they thought, but really to fulfill the purpose of God (see also
Isaiah 10:5-15; 37:26-27). See here the comfort to the Church of looking upon God
as the of the whole earth.
29 “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy
servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,”
Look upon for behold, Authorized Version; to speak thy word with all
boldness for that with all boldness they may speak thy word, Authorized Version.
Lord. This time – Kurie – Lord; Master, the word in the Septuagint for
Jehovah, and the special designation of Jesus Christ (ch. 2:36, etc.), but here
applied to God the Father. Look upon; a more forcible rendering than the
Authorized Version. Look upon, for the purpose of frustrating and punishing.
The only other place in the New Testament where the word (
) occurs is in Luke 1:25, where the Lord “looked upon” Elisabeth
to confer a blessing upon her. In II Chronicles 24:22, “The Lord look upon it and
require it,” the Septuagint have the simple verb – idoi – look at it - instead of
It is beautiful to notice how, in the heat of the unjust persecutions, the
Church hands over her quarrel to her Lord, and is only careful that she be not
stopped in her work by the threatenings of her enemies. To speak thy word with
all boldness (for the word “boldness,” see v. 13, note).
30 “By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be
done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” While thou stretchest for by stretching,
Authorized Version; thy for thine, Authorized Version; through for by, Authorized
Version; Servant for child, Authorized Version, as in v. 27 and ch. 3:13, 26. While
thou stretchest, etc. The Authorized Version seems preferable.
It was the fact that, while they preached the Word of God, the Lord
confirmed the Word with signs following, which gave them such
superhuman courage to persevere in the face of death and bonds. And this
was God’s method and means of encouraging them. And that signs and
wonders may be done. But this clause is better rendered in dependence upon
- en to – in the - and by signs and wonders being done, as the consequence
of the stretching out of the hand of Jesus. The other ways of construing the
sentence are either to make the clause, “that signs and wonders may be done,”
dependent upon “grant,” which seems to be the meaning of the Authorized
Version, or else to take it as an independent clause, expressing the aim of the
stretching out of the hand.
31 “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were
assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Wherein they were gathered
for when they were assembled, Authorized Version. When they had prayed. When
they had finished the preceding prayer. The place was shaken, perhaps by a mighty
wind, as in ch. 2:2. The word ἐσαλεύθη properly used
of ships or of the sea agitated and tossed by the wind; so Matthew 11:7, “A reed
shaken by the wind.” But it is also applied to the rocking caused by an earthquake
(ch.16:26), which maybe the kind of shaking here meant. In this fresh outpouring of
the Spirit, whereby they were enabled to speak the word of God with boldness,
they had a direct and immediate answer to their prayer (see Isaiah 65:24).
The First Persecution (1-31)
On observing the phenomena attending the introduction and spread of
Christianity in the world, one which arrests our attention is the persecution
which at different times its disciples have met with from the world. The
Lord Jesus Himself, “the Author and Perfecter of our faith,” was rejected of
men and crucified. And when, after His glorious resurrection, the apostles
preached the faith, and verified the truth of what they preached by such
signal miracles as that recorded in chapters 3 and 4, and in consequence drew
large numbers of people to the faith of Jesus Christ, we see the hand of
power immediately stretched out to arrest the progress of the gospel, and
to silence its preachers by threats, imprisonment, and death. What were the
secret springs of this first persecution, as they are exposed to view in the
narrative before us?
HUMAN POWER OF ANY GREAT MOVEMENT NOT EMANATING
FROM ITSELF. “By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?”
was their angry question. “Have any of the rulers believed on Him?” was
the similar question of the Pharisees in our Lord’s lifetime. The same
jealousy of any free movement, the results of which might be dangerous to
the existing power, and which implied an independent spirit on the part of
those concerned in it, is apparent also in the Roman persecutions of
Christianity, and in the crucial test of loyalty required of the followers of
the new doctrines, that they should sacrifice to the emperor. The
persecutions of Lollards and Protestants by our own monarchs before the
Reformation, and of Romanists and Puritans after the Reformation, were
due in some considerable measure to the same impatience of any rival or of
any non-dependent power whatever.
FIERCE HOSTILITY TO PETER AND JOHN AND THE REST OF
THE APOSTLES, ON THE GROUND OF THE DOCTRINE
PREACHED BY THEM. The doctrine of those in power was
Sadduceeism. They were the secularists of that day. Their creed was this
world, and nothing beyond it. No angel, no spirit, no resurrection, no life
to come. And this creed they held with a fierceness not unusual with those
who hold negative doctrines, and repudiate the bigotry of dogmatism.
When, therefore, the apostles with marvelous boldness and confidence, and
with a simplicity of purpose and force of eloquence which carried all before
them, not only preached generally the doctrine of the Resurrection, but
affirmed that Jesus Christ, whom Annas and Caiaphas had given up to be
crucified, was actually risen from the dead, that they had seen Him and
conversed with Him after His resurrection, and that by His power and in His
Name the lame man had been healed, their indignation knew no bounds.
They could not deny the miracle, they could not silence the preachers by
argument. But they could cast them into prison, they could, they thought,
silence them with threats; (Just this week I have seen on Facebook that
Disney is threatening to pull out
considering a law to protect people of faith from having their livelihood
ruined for not catering to gays – CY – 2016) and so they did the one and
attempted the other. And so it has been since. The pure and holy doctrines of
of Christ have been opposite alike to the polytheism of
power who held these various doctrines, have in turn drawn the persecuting
sword against the faithful who upheld them. It has ever been error and the
sword against God’s truth!
the apostles of Christ. We may be sure that the crime of delivering Jesus to
the Romans to be crucified had not been accomplished without many and
SORE REBUKES OF CONSCIENCE. They knew of Christ’s blameless
life of active goodness and beneficence; they must have heard from many
lips of His healing and His kindness to the sick and poor; they had heard His
teaching themselves, or had heard of it from others, how wise, how
instructive, how Divine it was. And yet, in their envy and malice, they had
given Him over to death. At least they hoped that no voice could come
from the grave to rebuke them, and that their Victim was silenced forever.
But now they were told that He whom they had slain was alive again; that
He whom they had seen hanging on the cross was at the right hand of God;
that He whose head had drooped helplessly in death was in possession of all
power in heaven; that He had sent His Holy Spirit with extraordinary gifts to
rest upon His disciples; that He healed and made alive: that the marvelous
which they saw in the poor fishermen of
that He would come again in glory to reign as the Lord’s Christ. Can we
doubt that their slumbering conscience was aroused to a very troublesome
activity, that guilt awakened fear and alarm, and that most unwelcome
crowded upon their minds? “Ye have filled
your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (ch. 5:28),
was their angry expostulation and the expression of their fears. Clearly,
unless these fears brought them to repentance, they would rouse them to
hatred and indignation. They did the latter, and this persecution was the result.
And beyond a doubt this disturbed but not converted conscience lies at the
bottom of much of the world’s hatred of the truth of Christ. Men have
sense enough to know that if the Word of God is true THEY ARE
CONDEMNED! The doctrines of the gospel are at variance with a heart
full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin. The same word which shows
the grace and love of God shows the foulness and hatefulness of sin. Men who
have settled down into a course of sin and willful ungodliness do not wish to be
disturbed. They wish to sin on in peace. They have no thoughts of
renouncing all their old ways of thinking and feeling and acting. Whoever
disturbs them, and breaks in upon their security, is an enemy. The
disturbing doctrines are hateful, and all the more so if reason or conscience
sides with them. And so anger and contempt and vengeance cry down the
feeble voice of conscience and prompt the hand to violence and
flinch not, but are bold to preach the truth unto bonds and unto death.
They do not avenge themselves, but commit their cause to God. They flock
together not to fight, but to pray, and to exhort and comfort one another.
And in the end, instead of being dismayed, they are strengthened. Their
faith is increased in the furnace of affliction; THE COMFORTER comes
to them; and the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
The Joy of Faith Confirmed (vs. 23-31)
The Church, on hearing of the recent events, break out into expressions of
joy. As usual on such occasions, the voice of ancient sacred song becomes
now to shun and now to seek almighty power. There are awful moments
when the soul’s sin seems to have called the lightning and the thunder from
the sky, to have awoke the threat of the earthquake, the storm, and the sea.
Other exultant moments, when the solemn sounds of the deep heart of
nature are like the cannon of a friendly force advancing to a beleaguered
city’s aid. The most powerful conqueror, like Napoleon amidst the snows
moral forces represented in the will of the Almighty and All-Holy cannot
be successfully resisted. This is the deep truth in the Davidic psalm.
Ø In the case of David and his kingdom. Study the historical circumstances
in the psalm. Look at the tiny
great foes on every hand. She led a threatened life for ages; it seemed
impossible she could survive. Yet the small one became a thousand, the
vine grew in spite of every cropping fox or wasting boar, the little lodge
in the garden was not overthrown till it had sent forth a ray of light over
the lands. Moral life, derived from the immediate inspiration of God, was
in her. The enmity of the world served but to elicit and mature that life.
Ø In the case of Christ and His kingdom. The like relation is repeated in
form. Corrupt Israel joins with pagan
suppress the truth and resist the will of God. David, the anointed king
of Jehovah’s selection, is the type, in a lower relation, of Jesus, the
anointed Prince in the higher and purely spiritual relation. Upon this
analogy hope is firmly built. As the great prince of olden time had
risen in Jehovah’s might superior to all his foes, so might his Antitype
expected to lay prostrate faithless
beneath His throne of moral majesty.
Of weakness, for it implies dependence; and were our wishes
convertible into facts, there would be no prayer. Some form of helplessness
alone brings men to their knees. Yet it is the expression of strength; for
strength in weakness is the very secret and heart of moral energy and of
Christian piety. (II Corinthians 12:9)
Ø The aim of prayer. It is that the human spirit may be united with the
Divine, whether in action or in suffering. Action lay before the suppliants
now — action chiefly or wholly by utterance, which is ever the special
action of the Christian witness. Boldness in that utterance — the very thing
which had impressed the Sanhedrin in Peter and John — was the thing
needed. The renewal of strength must come in prayer. God grants at one
time only sufficient for that time. He does not allow the accumulation of
capital. He lends that we may spend and come to Him again. But boldness
must rest upon the knowledge of facts. So closely does courage link with
knowledge that the Greek philosopher even said they were identical.
Without some evidence that God is on our side, we cannot have the heart
to go on. Where, then, may we look for such evidence? The apostles
sought it in the manifestation of Divine energy to cure. This was the
significant symbol of His presence and of the intention of the gospel in
those days. They were justified on the ground of experience, clear,
repeated, and definite, in expecting this kind of encouragement. We, on the
ground of our experience, are entitled to expect something different, but
equally in its way real. Divine energy to heal through ways and means not
less Divine because natural, we are to seek and make an object of our
Ø The answer to prayer. In this case it came in a manner not to be
mistaken — by an immediate impression on the senses and on the inward
consciousness of all The house trembled; their spirits vibrated to the inner
touch of God; their tongues were loosed, and the sought-for fluency and
confidence were given. How can we apply this to modern times? No sober
Christian teacher dares to encourage the expectation of such “signs and
wonders” now. They belong to a past mode of religious consciousness, a
disused mode of revelation. For “God fulfils Himself in many ways.” How
important to know in what direction to look for God — the point on our
horizon where He may be expected to appear. Much, the greater part, must
be left to individual experience. Let every worshipper seek for the
Shechinah in His heart. And in general, let us teach that no special
manifestation of God is to be expected out of the lines of clear intelligent
experience. Experience is itself the ordinary and most precious revelation
of God’s will. And the experience of every soul, devoutly read, contains
past wonders, and prophesies their recurrence.
The Grateful, Emboldened, and Prayerful Church,
the Spirit’s Witness (vs. 23-31)
With all the naturalness of simplest truth, we are told how the apostles, in
their new character of discharged prisoners, run away at once to their
brethren of the Church. And we are in this passage taught how:
FAITHFUL SYMPATHIES, AND OF HOLY SOCIAL INTERCOURSE.
Now it is too often the place of suspicion, distrust, and unhappy emulations.
Or it is the place of coldest indifference. None welcome the coming, speed
the parting, guest. Or it is only the place of an almost selfish seeking of the
proffered religious instruction, or exhortation, or enjoyment that may,
under those conditions, scarcely be realized. The germ of the Church
showed far otherwise. The highest type of Church life possible on earth
may be confidently calculated on to show something very different. And till
such difference become plain in any part of the Christian Church, it faintly
indeed reflects the glorious reality above.
CHRISTIAN NEWS, OF CHRISTIAN
CHRISTIAN BUSINESS. The world may know, and all the better that it
should know, the achievements of Christ and His truth. But the Church
should know them still better, and often under very different aspects. Nor
has the Church anything to conceal of its purposes or its methods; yet may
these oftener be hallowed, and be more abounding and richer in grace and
the elements of success, when considered and matured in the Church. If
only we could imagine the account in detail which Peter and John now
gave “to their own company” of their experience, and what their eyes had
seen and their ears had heard, and of the irresistible impressions of the
characters of others which had been made upon their minds, by the events
of the past, say, fifteen hours, since they had been put in ward! Now every
ear was attention, gladdened thought smiled on every countenance, and
emboldened purpose stirred every heart. While anon the “threatenings”
(v. 29), that had been among the things which the chief priests and elders
had said to them” (v. 23), received also their due consideration. It is
quite to be supposed that no one of that “company but found himself
stronger for the joy of that hour, and more watchful and forearmed for
what of forewarning it had in it.”
GRANDEUR OF ADORATION, GRATEFUL PRAISE, APPEAL, AND
PRAYER, MET TOGETHER IN ONE SERVICE. Everything argues that
the scene now before us was one of high inspiration. A large multitude of
sympathetic souls hear the simplest tidings on a certain subject of the two
liberated apostles; and though doubtless some one must have led off the
chorus, forthwith the whole company “lift up their voice to God with one
accord.” And as we listen to that most real orchestra, what is it that we
hear them singing? They uplift first the outburst of adoration; it is the
snatch of a song sung by their ancestors a thousand years before (vs. 24-
26), and it simulates the responsive too. For it quotes the confirming word
and declaration of God, putting it as if in response to the human ascription
made first to Him: “Lord, thou art God… and thou didst say, Why do the
heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?” We listen still, and there
follows the recitative — a few bars that tell the recent history of the
Messiah, the anointed Jesus. But these strains do not die off without
pronouncing in majesty the foreseeing, fore determining, sovereign counsel
that belongs to God. Then follow appeal (v. 29) and prayer (v. 30), and
they both were acceptable and accepted. In this appeal and prayer, with the
reverent suggestion they venture upon — “by stretching forth thy hand to
heal “ — there is something touching and pathetic. It were as though those
who prayed bespoke of their sovereign Friend that He would not overlook
the “threatenings” wherewith they were threatened, but that He would
divinely checkmate these by again “stretching forth the healing hand,” and
again and again working “signs and wonders by the Name of Jesus,” so
that, together with faithfulness granted to His servants to speak the word,
there might be superadded to them “boldness” in speaking it. Nothing less
befits the character of the Word of God, scarcely anything more dishonors
it, than to speak it fearfully, half apologetically, or with halting accents and
uncertain sound. It is worthy to be spoken with that boldness which is all
its own, and its own least due. Nothing on earth can equal the grandeur of
a service like this. Such a service cannot find its habitat except in the
Church. But has it found it there as often as it might?
EMPHATIC WITNESS OF THE HOLY GHOST. Christianity is the
dispensation of the Spirit. It is very certain that the most perfect outline of
Christian truth is but a skeleton, and the most complete and harmonious
and scriptural body of Christian doctrine but a corpse, except as the Spirit
breathes life and power into them. The skeleton may be a marvel of
adaptation and symmetry laid bare to the eye of whoever will behold, and
the fashioned and filled-in body may be an exquisite model for grace and
proportion; but they are dead till the Spirit gives the life. This is not to be
supposed to need any proof now; but if it did, the word of Jesus Himself
about His own truth, previous to His death and after His resurrection, and
the conduct and directions of Jesus previous to His ascension and to the
day of Pentecost, amply prove it. But though it needs no proof, it may very
largely need enforcement. Probably nothing so stays the advent of the
grandest effects of Christianity as forgetfulness on the part of its professors
of THE FORCE NECESSARY, because divinely appointed, to give it effect.
The Spirit is not honored as He should be in the Church. The Church does not
“look for” His coming, nor wait for Him, with much longing and with
trustful prayer. At this very time and for some years past there has been a
wonderful activity within the borders of the Church — almost preternatural
— but, alas! not at all relatively evidencing the supernatural. “Lo, here!”
and “Lo, there!” has long been the cry; so-called “revivals” have been
proclaimed, and the stir of them, at all events, has been seen in most
various sections of the Church; undeniably an unwonted industry of head
and hand and foot has prevailed in the region of human instrumentality.
And those who have thus wrought have been far too ready to “blow the
trumpet and proclaim” a self-made and only self-found triumph. But where
has the real life been evidenced? Where have real abounding fruits been
witnessed? This is a thing not less remarkable than it seems, but far more
so, and it begs to be approached, not with offhand explanation, but with
exceedingly reverent scrutiny. That many men of incorrupt life and
unsuspected simplicity of aim have labored with extremest zeal to lay hold
upon their fellow-men for Christ, and the fruits of their labor have been a
grievous gleaning instead of an undoubted crop! Collateral explanations
and mitigating considerations must yield to the one solemn account of it.
The Holy Spirit HAS NOT BEEN in the midst of that work, has not been the
beginning and the end of that activity. But what is this which we have here?
It is a refreshing crisis for which truly everything had prepared the way.
Yes, but without it — if it had not come — everything that had gone
before would have been dried to the aridity of the sandy desert itself.
“When they had finished praying, the very place where they were
assembled together WAS SHAKEN!” It meant IT MEANT THE
ENTRANCE OF THE SPIRIT of ALL POWER and MIGHT!
“And the assembled believers were all filled with the
Holy Ghost” — Pentecost repeats itself — “and they spake the word of
God with boldness.” What thought, what hallowed musing, what prayer of
the Church, should seek both for itself and for the world ANOTHER
VISIT OF THIS SAME KIND!
The Two Kingdoms in Array against one Another (vs. 28-31)
Ghost spake it. The view given in Psalm 2 corresponds with that which
pervades the Bible. The
God making all things to work together for His purposes. The history of
Jesus Christ a wonderful confirmation of this view. The disciples in their
faith and fellowship following their Master and accepting the
responsibilities of the position.
Ø By prayer. Appeal to God to justify the faith of His people.
Ø By renewed self-consecration. “Grant to thy servants boldness.” They
did not shrink from the conflict, but laid hold of Divine strength.
Ø By expectation of manifestation of power. The miracle already done
was but the beginning of great things. We must not be satisfied with mere
moral order as a testimony to Christianity. We should pray for and expect
moral miracles; not a repetition of ancient signs and wonders, but marvels
of spiritual life:
o souls healed,
o the dead raised to life.
KINGDOM. Before the battle closes the commander speaks the word of
appeal and encouragement along the line of his army. When God has
appointed us to do a real work, He prepares us for it by the special gifts of
Ø External sign: “The place shaken” — to remind them that earthly
powers were in God’s hand.
Ø Spiritual grace vouchsafed: “All filled.” The sense of a brotherhood,
of an army going forth to fight, deepened by the outpouring of gifts
Ø The word spoken: “with boldness.”
Ø Force being made manifest: perfect, love casting out fear.
We commence from this time a new stage of history. Persecution is doing
Ø calling out the graces of the brotherhood,
Ø turning weak men into heroes.
The simple, devout dependence of those primitive believers are a great
example to us. The Church is lacking in boldness. We must be prepared
to grapple with the enemy. We must bring their threatening to God and
pray that He will look upon them. Above all, we must ask to be filled with
the Holy Ghost.
Praise for Safety and Prayer for Power (vs. 23-31)
From the court-room the apostles retired to the Church. Christian
confessers win their victories in the face of day; but the strength by which
such victories are won is only to be got where Jesus got His, IN SECRET!
Remember Luther’s broken cries as he lay on his chamber floor at early
morning on the 18th day of April, 1521 (D’Aubigne, ‘History of the
Reformation’ bk. 7. Acts 8.). In every crisis of strain and peril through
which our lives must pass, at every moment of supreme difficulty,
Sanhedrin threatenings, Worms Diets, or whatever less thing it be before
which our faith and courage quail, there is for us no place of help like the
secret footstool of Almighty God, nor any weapon like the cry of faith!
Notice that the prayer of the disciples is addressed to God, not to Christ.
Also that in the worship and prayer one voice led, finding
expression for the common feeling, and the rest of the company probably
responded with “Amens” spoken aloud. From the exegetical portion of this
Commentary the precise meaning and allusions of the prayer may be
learned. We dwell on two things.
prayers. Especially unfold that the praise took the form of a psalm.
Compare the so-called “Psalms of David.” It was a public rejoicing on
account of A DIVINE DELIVERANCE that was of public interest.
Compare Miriam’s song at the
duty of recognizing God’s hand in our lives, and praising Him for His
“merciful kindnesses.” The prayer took the form of a request for
precisely the things needed at the moment, viz. power to witness
and power to work miracles, in attestation of the truth witnessed.
This is an example of directness in prayer.
renewal of the special grace and endowment with which the apostles had
been started on their work. Renewals of grace are still God’s best answers
to our prayers (II Corinthians 12:9).
32 “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of
one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he
possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”
Soul for of one soul, Authorized Version; and not one of them said for
neither said any of them, Authorized Version. The great increase in the number
of believers had been recorded in v. 4. And the state of public feeling
alluded to in v. 21 makes it likely that yet more may have been converted
to the faith. This was very important, no doubt; but it was scarcely less so
that this great multitude were one in heart and soul, closely united in the
bonds of Christian fellowship and love.
The Bible is not a book of politics or earthly legislation. There is a danger of
misapplying its teaching, by forgetting that it does not dictate formal rules and
creeds, but describes the working out of great principles. This is a spiritual fact
set forth, “One heart and soul” which cannot be produced by mechanical means.
It is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was a great moral miracle wrought with the
absorption of individuality in brotherhood, a testimony to the power of Christ and
His doctrine. Christianity is the great uplifting and renewing power of the
world; not revolutionary, not by wars and strifes, but by sanctification of
the multitude of wills. The gospel is to be held up to the poor, not to excite in
them envy of the rich, not to delude them with predictions of a speedy deliverance
from necessary burdens, but to incite them to the prospect of a larger share in
the progressive prosperity of mankind, and to co-operation in the work of
uplifting their fellow-men. We should be of one heart and soul, rich and
Nothing our Own (v. 32)
The chief way in which at that time a member of the Church could express
his unshaken devotion to the common cause, or his willingness to sacrifice
to the last penny for the common weal, was by placing his realized capital
at the disposal of the brotherhood. The endangered position of the little
community (through the enmity of the Sadducean party) thus tended to
inflame the fervor of its charity, and gave a new impetus to that common
relief fund which had been started at Pentecost. There can be no question
that an expectation of Christ’s immediate return from heaven, acting along
with the unity of thoughts and feelings, made these men willing to part with
their possessions and goods. Such community of goods has always been
part of theories of perfect commonwealths. In this case each member of the
Church held his possessions only as a trust, and was prepared to yield them
up, if the exigencies of the brotherhood demanded such a surrender. We
have, then, in this picture of the early Church, a model of the spirit that
should animate the members of Christ’s Church in all ages. We do not say
models of conduct, because the application of such models in changing
generations becomes uncertain. Models of the essential principles, and of
the spirit, which we should cherish, are both more helpful and of more
constant application. The early Church expressed Christian feeling in
outward forms, just as childhood gets impulsive and unrestrained
expression for its sentiments and emotions. Their new faith in Christ
suddenly brought them close together, and made them conscious of new
and binding sympathies. There was at first a great gush of impulsive
brotherhood. Compare the intense feelings animating, and the
extraordinary sacrifices made, when the year A.D. 1000 drew near,
because of the expectation that Jesus would return on the first day of that
year. The feeling was so far right, but the mode of its expression did not
gain permanence. Compare the impulse for missions so often strongly felt
by young Christians. What these men actually did we may not make a
model. The spirit which led them to do it, and the spirit in which they did
it, are a model for us all. There are three sentiments that may be cherished
concerning our earthly possessions.
of the rich fool, who says he will build greater barns, “where I may bestow
all my fruit and my goods.” (Luke 12:18) This is both a false and an
unworthy sentiment; for “what have we that we have not received?”
(I Corinthians 4:7)
of Paul, who could say, “To me to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)
become talents for whose use we are responsible. And we learn to feel that
they are not to be spent for self, but used for others; and self-denial,
charity, and self-sacrifice are recognized as the first of virtues. Put
alongside this sentiment of the early disciples concerning their property, the
sentiment of the apostles concerning the disciples themselves — “Ye are
not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19) and then we have the twofold feeling
which Christians ought ever to cherish; and our anxiety concerns:
Ø holding ourselves for the Lord, and
Ø holding our property at the service of others for Christ’s sake.
“We are not our own.” Nothing that we have is our own. All is Christ’s.
We are Christ’s. And then Paul argues back, that “all things are” really
“ours” IN CHRIST! (I Corinthians 3:21-23).
33 “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection
of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Their witness for
witness, Authorized Version (
). Their witness. It was one of their chief functions as apostles to bear
witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (see ch.1:22, note). Great grace,
etc. Some understand this of the singular favor with which the people
regarded them. But it is better to take it of the grace of God which
abounded towards them in spiritual gifts and abundant unction and rich
blessing, crowning their labors with success.
Great Grace (v. 33)
This expression may refer to the measure of Divine favor resting upon the
early disciples; or to the favor which they found among men, who could
not fail to see and admire the spirit of “self-sacrifice” which was exhibited
by what they were doing. We dwell on the former of these references.
More grace, fresh grace, greater grace, rested on them after the
imprisonment and deliverance of their leaders. We are to understand that
the holy fervor manifested by them at this time was not accounted for by
such things as the incoming of wealthy members or the multiplying of their
numbers, but by the increase and enlargement of the “grace” that rested on
them. “Great grace” is ever the one secret of great spiritual power.
Looking at the incidents connected with the text, we observe:
the scene of the Pentecost. Show in what sense that may be spoken of as
the first coming of the Spirit. Explain why that coming was attended with
outward signs, and why the presence of the Spirit is not now manifest in
such miraculous gifts. The “grace” in us may be as great — may be greater
— though the attendant signs and expressions differ. Show what are the
first signs of” grace” working in us. Signs in thought, feeling, conduct, and
relations. Illustrate by what is said of Saul of Tarsus: “Behold, he prayeth.”
USED. This may be illustrated in the earnestness and zeal of the apostles,
as well as in the active, devoted, and zealous life of those converted under
the apostolic teachings.
GIVEN. The further grace enabled them:
Ø to suffer nobly and well;
Ø to testify for Christ even before governors and kings,
Ø to pray together and live together and work together, in loving union
and mutual forbearance, and charity.
And so we come to apprehend afresh God’s great and ever-working
law, expressed in the familiar words:
Ø “To him that hath shall more be given;” (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25)
Ø “Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord,” (Hosea 6:3)
God’s grace is indeed “free,” sovereignly free, but He has been pleased to
set it under conditions; and one of the chief conditions is that we shall have
used wisely and well THE GRACE already received. To those who are
faithful in using grace the promise applies, “He giveth more grace.”
(James 4:6) Then, if we feel the need of and long for “great grace,” let
us see that we deal rightly in response to the leadings and movings of the
grace we have. Empty the vessel in service for others, and GOD WILL
BE SURE TO REFILL IT! Trim the lamp, and let its light shine brightly all
around, and God will be sure to replenish it with abundance of fresh oil.
34 “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were
possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of
the things that were sold,” For neither for neither, Authorized Version; among
them any for any among them, Authorized Version. One striking proof of the
greatness of the Divine grace that was upon the Church at this time was that
there was no such thing as want or poverty among them. The equality typified
in the daily collection of manna was literally fulfilled among them (II Corinthians
8:14-15) for the rich sold their houses and lands, and laid the price of them at the
apostles’ feet, to be used for the common wants. The present participle in the Greek
) indicates the process as continuing.
35 “And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was
made unto every man according as he had need.” Laid them for laid them down,
Authorized Version; unto each… as any one for unto every man… as he, Authorized
Version, a change without an improvement. Laid them at the apostles’ feet. A
significant token of the place occupied by the apostles (as later by the bishops of
the Church) as the trustees and dispensers of the Church’s funds as well as of the
Church’s doctrines. We have, too, here an instance of the way in which Church
institutions rose gradually as occasion gave birth to them. So the institution of
deacons (ch. 6:2-3), of presbyters or priests (ch. 14:23), of bishops (I Timothy
chapters 1-3), of Confirmation (ch. 8:14-17), appear to have come about in each
case pro re nata (as the circumstances arise).
The Host of God Drawing together in Readiness for Action
Ø The spirit of faith.
Ø Of self-sacrifice.
Ø Of fellowship.
Ø Of service.
They were of one heart and soul to speak and work for the new kingdom.
expression of the common spirit. Not the modern communism, or anything
like it, for that is man’s experiment to better himself; but the Christian
communism was the believers’ expedient to accomplish the will of God.
“Great grace upon all.” Great power in apostles; great testimony given to
Christ. An active, self-denying, speaking Church challenging the world.
36 “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being
son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of
Joseph for Joses, Authorized Version, as ch. 1:23; Son of exhortation for The son
of consolation, Authorized
Version; a man of
difficult to say which is right. Some consider the two forms as mere variations in
writing the name Joseph. But it seems more probable that Joses is the same name
as Josiah, only without the addition of the Divine Name (Jah) at the end.
It is found as a proper name in the Textus Receptus of Matthew 13:55; 27:56;
Mark 6:3; 15:40, 47; Luke 3:29 (Jose); and is not likely to have been
substituted for the common name of Joseph. The Codex Sinaiticus has
Joses only in Mark 15:40. The Revised Version has Joseph in Matthew 13:55,
and Joses in Matthew 27:56; Mark 6:3; 15:40, 47. In Luke 3:29 the Revised
Version has Jesus. But Joses is probably right both here and in the above cited
passages. Barnabas; literally, son of prophecy; i.e. a prophet, as he is
called in ch.18:1. Probably his exhortations under the influence of the
Holy Spirit in the Church assemblies were particularly stirring and edifying.
The Greek version of the name,
should be rendered, as in Revised Version, Son of exhortation,
for “son of consolation? is a meaning which can hardly be got out of the Hebrew.
The apostles seem here to have followed our Lord’s example in naming the sons
of Zebedee, sons of thunder. A man of
less accurate, but it gives the sense better.
born and lived, as, it is likely, his fathers had done before him. But he was hardly,
in our sense of the words, a Cypriot by race. We know that a great many Jews were
Alford, on ch. 11:19); and we
learn from ch.13:5 that in
37 “Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the
apostles’ feet.” A field for land, Authorized Version.
Church Unity (vs. 32-37)
We speak in these dark days of unity in Christ, of brotherly love, of the
communion of saints. But what do we see when we look around at the
multitude of them that believe? We see some forty or fifty denominations
of Christians, all keeping apart from one another, not willing to meet
together, to pray together, or to receive the Holy Communion together.
These different bodies are constantly at different degrees of strife with each
other; sometimes waging actual war one against another, at others engaged
in bitter controversies, and carrying on a strife of tongues and pens. Even
among those who belong to the same religious body what differences of
opinion, what unbrotherly denunciations, what schisms, what party
movements, are constantly breaking out! And yet we look with
complacency upon this broken surface of Christendom, and make no great
effort to correct it. Perhaps, if we can get a glimpse of true unity in Christ
as it was seen for a while in the
shame, and strive after something better.
MULTITUDE OF BELIEVERS WERE OF ONE HEART AND SOUL.
Rich and poor, learned and simple, Pharisees and Sadducees, Levites and
Jews, were so united in Christ that all other distinctions were lost.
Selfishness was gone, for each loved his brother as himself. What each man
had he held it not as his own, but as a steward of Christ for the good of all.
The love of money was swallowed up in the love of Christ. The ordinary
worldly life seemed to have melted into the life of faith and godliness. Their
wants were spiritual, their occupations were spiritual, their joys were
spiritual. In this happy state, in this clear atmosphere of love, the great
truths of the gospel shone out with marvelous brightness; the resurrection
of Christ especially stood out in the lineaments of a distinct reality; and
there was a rich glow of grace over the whole Church, The whole body
received the apostles’ doctrine, submitted to their rule, committed
everything to their ordering. It were difficult to say whether the apostolic
authority in the Church derived more of its vigor from the appointment of
Christ, or from the love and reverence of the people. The two forces were
centered on the heads of the twelve, and gave them an invincible power.
Such was Church unity in those golden days. This is not the place to
consider the causes which have broken to shivers that frame of heavenly
beauty. But it may be a not unfitting opportunity to entreat all who may
read these lines to dwell upon the beauty of the scene here depicted by
Luke, to contrast it with the miserable aspect of our schisms and party
divisions, and to make every effort in their own sphere to forward unity
and godly love, to put aside all stumbling-blocks and hindrances to
Christian harmony, and to labor after that oneness of heart and soul which
ought to result from fellowship in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, and
from having one and the same hope of sharing the resurrection of life
through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
The Resource of the Devout (vs. 23-37)
Released from the restraint of law, the apostles returned to “their own
company,” and there they related what they had passed through. We may
be sure that the whole of that community of brethren entered, with deep
and strong sympathy, into the feelings of their two leaders; they all felt that
a very critical hour had come to that new cause which they represented.
Under these circumstances they bethought themselves of:
God with one accord” (v. 24). They felt, as their prayer indicated, that:
Ø All power was in His mighty hand: “Thou art God, who hast made
heaven,” etc. Vainly would the heathen rage, and kings and rulers
conspire against the “holy Child Jesus,” the Son of the living God.
Ø A gracious purpose was in His sovereign will. However earthly
potentates might imagine they were carrying everything their own way,
they were but “doing what his hand and counsel determined before to
be done” (v. 28).
Ø He could impart a power which would make them superior to all fear of
man. They asked for boldness of speech (v. 29), and, with this end in
view, for signs of His presence (v. 30). Prayer is the constant, unfailing
resort of all holy souls. What time we are afraid we must trust in Him
(Psalm 56:3); we must flee unto Him to hide us.
His people’s prayer, and granted them:
Ø a manifest sign of His presence and favor (v. 31);
Ø the fearlessness of spirit they so much desired (v. 31);
Ø power to testify of Christ (v. 33); and
Ø inward, spiritual confidence and joy: “Great grace was upon
them all” (v. 33).
God now vouchsafes to His waiting children the blessings they seek of Him:
o the assurance of His presence,
o power to act as His witnesses,
o success in their labors, rest and
o joy of heart in Him and in His service.
essential part of this passage is the opening sentence, “The multitude of
them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (v. 32). The
measure which they adopted, viz. a community of goods, was peculiar,
exceptional, transitory. It is not a practical method, suited to such
conditions as those in which we find ourselves. It is not enjoined by
apostolic word, nor is it sustained by subsequent apostolic practice. It was
evidently special, local, temporary. But it is essential that those who belong
to the same heavenly kingdom, and especially those who are members of
the same Christian Church, should
Ø cultivate a true and deep sympathy, “oneness of heart,” and
Ø take some practical measures to supply the wants of the
necessitous from the treasury of those who have more than they
A Glimpse of Ideal Social Life (vs. 32-37)
Of life, that is, in the idea of the God of love. Such glimpses are given
doubtless to stimulate our faith and our aspiration; and withdrawn because
struggle, not perfect attainment, is the condition of actual life.
union. Here, from the depths of the spirit-life, this principle was for a brief
space brought to light. What was then made visible fact is constantly the
invisible fact and ground of the spiritual kingdom.
tenacious of institutions, because it is the product and the insurance of the
person, the individual, the self of each man. Were the self-life, whose
instinct is centrifugal and separates us from the commonalty, suspended, in
that moment property must cease. For then the centripetal instinct, or love,
must exert its force unfettered. This was what took place under the high
tide of the Spirit’s life in
knew and felt only the universal. One heart, one soul; the ideal of heroes,
patriots, philanthropists, was for a fleeting period realized. The magnet of
the Name that reconciles drew all wills to itself. Necessarily there was an
extraordinary access of power to individuals, for they drank of the very
central source of all power; as we are weak who think self-interestedly and
unsympathetically. And joy must accompany this entire emancipation of the
spirit from the fetters of self. Nor could there be that sense of indigence
which makes us ashamed and cramps our energies. All is for each, as each
is for all. (When I coached basketball, the Central City Golden Tide would
come out of their huddles saying, “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!”
CY – 2016) Self-sacrifice is the last test of love, its only inviolable proof.
When the pain of self-sacrifice ceases, there the triumph of love is
complete. And in the pouring of men’s once private property at the
apostles’ feet, was the illustrious evidence of the conquest of the Prince of
life over the human heart. As if to clench the argument, the special instance
of Joseph’s sale of his field is given. There is art in this. One such definite
fact suggests a multitude of others to the imagination. Christian ethics
simply teach that the inducement to work for wealth is the power for social
good. Whenever this is seen to be the theory of wealth acted on in our
society, it will be evidence of a new stirring of Divine love in its heart.
A Great Example of Spiritual Excellence (vs. 36-37)
The intention of the writer is to set in contrast the work of the Spirit in
Barnabas and the work of the devil in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira,
as also to show to us the relation of character and life to one another; the
blessing on those that obey the Spirit, the curse on those that lie against the
Holy Ghost and resist the will of God in His Church. The difference of
meaning in άη ι –paraklesis - according to some “exhortation,” according
to others “consolation,” helps us to keep in mind that the exhortation was
consolation; that those who preached appeared among men not as mere dry
exhorters and teachers, but as proclaiming a kingdom which is
“righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)
Ø A Levite, but not passing by the fallen and dying humanity (Luke 10:32).
Notice the contrast between the priesthood of the old covenant and the
priesthood of the new; between the man of a corrupt and decaying system
and the new man in Christ.
Ø A Cypriot from a country noted for its self-indulgent luxury and
sensuality, yet by the Spirit of Christ delivered from selfishness.
Ø A man of some wealth, becoming poor for Christ’s sake and the
gospel’s, and subjecting himself to the new law of the apostles. The
wonders of the Middle Ages anticipated. Yet our aim should not be to fill
the Church’s treasuries, but to bless the world with the spirit of self-
sacrifice. The abuses of the ecclesiastics have always been their not
being true sons of exhortation and consolation, but “greedy of
filthy lucre.” (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; I Peter 5:2)
Ø Counting all things loss for Christ. Losing life to find it. The Church, as
well as the individual, is richest and happiest when it reckons its whole self
as devoted to the work of helping others.
Ø The sons of exhortation and consolation, i.e. the messengers of mercy,
must be examples of self-sacrifice, and enforce their precepts with public
deeds of generosity, and manifestation of the work of the Spirit in their
own lives. The preaching of the Church will never much affect the world so
long as it does not lay its wealth at the feet of Christ.
Ø The true law of Christ’s kingdom is not “Each one for himself and by
himself,” but all faithful to the vocation of the Church. “At the apostles’
feet.” He was a rich man, and probably a highly educated man, but he did
not set up a Church for himself. He recognized CHRIST’S RULE! He was
willing to be a servant that he might fulfill his ministry of consolation to the
world, and so he was immediately recognized by those who represented the
Master — “ surnamed by the apostles.”
Ø The stamp of special, solemn approval is set on faithfulness to
conscience in the money matters of the Church. There is an eye watching
our hand. The money brought should be not merely what the world
expects to be brought, or what will satisfy the demands of the time and
maintain our reputation with fellow-Christians, but what the “law of
Christ” dictates, which is the law of absolute self-denial, and overflowing
brotherly affection. We may not be a Paul, or an Apollos, or a Peter, or a
John, lacking qualifications for such eminence, but we may emulate the
example of Joseph Barnabas, and be sons of consolation, channels of
blessing and comfort to the world. If we would be so, let us lay what we
have at the feet of the apostles, avoiding caprice, self-will, disorder, heresy,
strife, self-exaltation. There is a true apostolic doctrine and fellowship in
the world. Cling to it, and cast all to it.
The Power of a High Example (vs. 36-37)
That of Joses, or Barnabas. This man was the companion of Paul in his
first missionary journey (ch. 13:2). For his character, position, and
influence in the Church, etc., see the commentary on these verses. His was by
no means the only case of self-sacrifice, but it was, for some unexplained
reasons, the most striking case, and it was regarded as a typical one. Possibly the
subsequent influence gained by Barnabas led to the preservation of this
narrative of his noble self-denial. And we may learn from him what a
mission opens for those who can make great sacrifices for Christ.
our Lord’s teaching respecting the “camel and the needle’s eye.” “How
hardly shall they
that have riches enter the
18:24-25) “Not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (I Corinthians
1:26)The poor in this world are often the “rich in faith.” (James 2:5)
Barnabas’s property might have kept him from Christ, or made him only
such a timid and weak disciple as rich Nicodemus and rich
Joseph of Arimathaea were.
Illustrate from the case of the “rich young ruler” (Matthew 19:16-22;
Mark 10:17-22), who had some feelings and desires, but could not wholly
follow them. Love of position and of wealth was stronger even than
longing for “eternal life.” Compare Demas (II Timothy 4:10)
EXPRESSION, AND SO A MEANS OF RELIGIOUS CULTURE. It did
in the case of Barnabas. He used his talents and his gifts for Christ’s service
and his Church’s good, and he further found out how he might, for the
same purposes, use his money and his lands. He was both blessed in
himself and a means of blessing to others in so doing. Still those who have
the trust of riches need the impulse of the example of Barnabas, and may
even reach towards the completeness of his self-sacrifice. Explain that
there is sometimes an exaggeration in the surrender of all property, and
assumption of voluntary poverty, which is in no sense commended by this
example. To use our property wisely and well in the service of Christ is a
far nobler thing than to shirk our personal responsibility by surrendering it
all to others. The lesson to learn from the record concerning Barnabas is
that WE SHOULD HOLD ALL THAT WE HAVE:
EVERYTHING — at the call and service of our living Savior, and be ready
even to SACRIFICE IT ALL, if in that form we are required to testify our
“zeal for the Lord.” But the imitation of a high example has this peril. It
may be merely the imitation of the act, and not an act dictated by the
same motives and done in the same spirit. The followers of “them who
through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12) are those,
and those only, who act in the hallowing and ennobling influences of the
same “constraining love.” We must YIELD and GIVE only
FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!
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