On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 4:1-12.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 315 - August 1882


Chapter 4:1-12.

The discourse of the apostle was interrupted at this point, which is lost to many a reader by the division of the chapters.

" Now as they were speaking unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being distressed because of their teaching the people, and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead; and they laid hands on them and put them in ward unto the morrow; for it was already evening. But many of those that heard the word believed, and the number of the men became about five thousand." (Ver. 1-4.)

Religious authority took umbrage. Who were these men to speak within the precincts of the temple? It is true that a mighty miracle had been wrought publicly, and undeniably; but officials are sensitive to any invasion of their rights, and are apt to leave God out of the account, speaking as of the world and knowing none else than the world to hear them. But a class came forward now, which had been comparatively in the background whilst the Lord lived and laboured. Then were the Pharisees His active adversaries, the advocates of defective and spurious righteousness opposing the Righteous One. Now the enemy had ready another and very different body among the Jews, the Sadducees, roused from their habitual calm by a truth which convicted them of utter infidelity and consequent antagonism to God and His word. Miracles were bad enough in the eyes of free-thinkers; they brought the power of God too near; they were a sign to unbelievers that they might hear the truth. But the resurrection, exemplified in the person of Jesus, was intolerable; and none so intolerant, as those who boast of tolerating every shade, when the truth confronts them. The mild Sadducee outdoes the previously fierce Pharisee; none so disturbed by the announcement of Jesus risen from the dead.

And no wonder. The resurrection of Him whom man had just slain is the most conclusive and irrefragable proof of God's power according to His word, the most complete refutation of those who admit nothing beyond the natural course of things in this world. Laws which govern that course none dispute; nor the knowledge of such laws men call science. But the resurrection proves One above those laws, which in no way control or limit His power, as He will demonstrate in the day in which He makes all things new. Meanwhile the raising of Jesus from the dead, while the ordinary course goes on, is the sufficient and striking witness to the power which will destroy the world that now is, and create a new one, wholly different, to His own glory.

Hence the sceptical school took fire et the apostles for proclaiming. in Jesus the resurrection from the dead; for it laid bare their evil unbelief and convicted them of being enemies of the truth, fighting against God Himself. Otherwise they world have inquired into the facts and compared them with the Scriptures; and must have rejoiced that He had done so blessed and glorious a thing according to His word. For the resurrection of Christ is the pledge that those who are Christ's shall rise as He rose: He is avowedly the first fruits of those who are fallen asleep. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. They are the heads of the two families, the Adam family, and the Christ family, death having come in by the one head, as now resurrection by the other. Those that are Christ's rise at His coming. It is a resurrection from among the dead, as His was; and they reign with Him for a thousand years. The rest of the dead do not live till the thousand years have been completed. Blessed and holy he who has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. No one doubts that in another sense they will reign for ever, to the ages of ages, as will all the godly who will be born of God during the millennial reign. But this period of special reigning over the earth ought not to be ignored, because of the eternal blessedness of the glorified after the kingdom is over and the new heaven and earth are come in the absolute sense, when the wicked have been raised, judged, and cast into the lake of fire. Theirs is not a resurrection from the dead; for there are none more left in the grave, they themselves being the last remainder after the righteous were raised.

Thus it was not merely the truth of resurrection which roused Sadducean spite, but the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection of the unjust, of the mass of mankind, is not from among the dead; like the resurrection of the just, it is the effect of the power. of Christ, the Son of God, when He summons the wicked from their graves to judgment. The righteous have life in the Son now, and rise to a resurrection of life; as the unjust to a resurrection of judgment a thousand years after, when they must honour Him whom they now despise. So perfectly does John v. agree with Rev. xx. There is no discrepancy; but there are two resurrections according to Scripture, not one only. The general indiscriminate resurrection of the creeds is according to tradition, but a fable. There will be a resurrection of both just and unjust, of the just to reign with Christ at His coming, of the unjust to be judged by Him before He delivers up the kingdom to Him who is God and Father, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. Men, and even believers, whose mind is on the things of men, are offended at the grace which discriminates now, as it will yet more manifestly by the resurrection from the dead. They prefer a "dim religious light," with its vagueness and uncertainty; they shrink from that blessed hope—at least in its definite shape—which is the fruit of sovereign grace for the believer, involving as it does the solemn and dark background of judgment for all who despise both grace and truth in Christ.

But if the apostles were put in ward that evening till the morrow, the word was not bound, the true light was already shining. Many of those that heard believed. The number of the men rose to about 5,000. This would suppose not a few women and children. Compare Matt. xiv. 21, Luke ix. 14, John vi. 10. No sufficient reason appears for taking "men" (ἀνδρῶν) otherwise than in its usual preciseness.

"And it came to pass on the morrow that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together at Jerusalem, and Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of high-priestly lineage. And having set them in the midst they inquired, By what power or in what name did ye this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Rulers of the people and elders [of Israel], if we this day are examined as to a good deed done to an infirm man, hereby he hath been cured, be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in [or, by] Him [or, in this (name)] he standeth before you whole. He is the stone that was set at nought by you the builders, that became the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation; for neither is there a different name under heaven that is given among men by which we must be saved." (Ver. 5-12.)

On the morrow flocked together the religious authorities from the highest, including all grades; and the two apostles were challenged. Peter answered in the power of the Spirit who filled him, that the good deed was done in His name whom they had crucified, and God had raised from the dead; whom His word characterise as the Stone, set at nought by the builders, yet become the head of the corner, the rejected but exalted Messiah. What a situation for the rulers and people of Israel! And what a light on all that had befallen " Jesus Christ of Nazareth " was afforded by the testimony of Scripture to the Stone, the unquestionable figure used about the Messiah!

Consider ever so briefly Gen. xlix. 22-24, Ps. cxviii. (22 the very passage referred toy, Isa. xxviii. 16, Dan. ii. 34, 44, 45, specially with the use made of it by. our Lord Himself in Matt. xxi. 42-44, to which we may add Eph. ii. 20, and 1 Pet. ii. 7-8. There is first His relation to Israel; then His rejection by the chiefs, but exaltation notwithstanding; next, Jehovah's commendation of Him to the believer in the face of divine judgment; and, lastly, His establishment 'of God's kingdom here below, to the destruction of the Gentile powers which had displaced Israel. The New Testament, while it of course confirms, supplements all this by connecting the Stone with the two advents of the Messiah rendered necessary alike by God's grace and His judgment, and by Israel's unbelief now and repentance in view of His coming again, crowned by Christ's place as the chief corner-stone, who brings even no* those of the Jews who believe in Him into better blessings than the nation will by and by receive at His appearing, even to be a holy and a royal priesthood with all that is suited to each of these blessed relationships.

Into this Peter does not enter here; for he was addressing, not the believing remnant of Christian Jews, but the proud and bitter enemies of both Christ and the Christian. But he does set forth, to Christ's honour, and in love even to those who had so guiltily cast Him out, the sure and exclusive assurance of salvation in Christ. " In none other is there salvation; neither is there another—a different—name under heaven that is given among men whereby we must be saved." How blessed that, though God has set Him up at His own right hand in heaven, His name is given under heaven among men on earth, by which we must be saved if saved at all! It is here and now that we must be saved; for it is of grace, and by faith. There is no other name—our own least of all; and no other way, for He is the way. Faith exalts the Saviour and the God who gave Him, and leaves no mom for works of righteousness of our doing, even were we capable of them, which in our unbelieving state we certainly were not. All is of grace; but grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. How awful that men should neglect so great a salvation—yea, though on behalf of Christ His servants beseech them to be reconciled to God.