THE CHURCH OF CHRIST ENTERING ON ITS MISSION—THE FIRST APOSTOLIC MIRACLE
1. The Beautiful Gate of the Temple; or, the healing of a Lame Man (Act ).
2. Solomon's Porch; or, Peter's Second Sermon (Act ).
1. The Secret of the Miracle explained (Act ).
2. The People comforted and counselled (Act ).
Act . Peter and John.—The old companionship which had existed between these two disciples before the crucifixion (Joh 1:20; Mat 17:1), and was resumed after the resurrection (Joh 20:2), is here continued. A peculiar affinity of nature as well as of grace appears to have bound these together. Went up.—Rather, were (in the act of) going up—up because the Temple stood on Mount Moriah. Together.—Lit., into the same place, as in Act 1:15, hence together or in company. The ninth hour.—I.e., about 3 p.m., at which time the evening sacrifice was offered. For the hours of prayer see Act 2:15; Act 10:9; Act 10:30.
Act . Was carried.—Was being carried along just when the apostles arrived. Compare Luk 5:18-19. They laid.—Or, it was their custom to lay taking at the hours of prayer and carrying him back between times (Alford). The gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.—Either,
1. The gate Shushan of the Talmud on the east side of the outer wall which led into the court of the Gentiles (Bengel, Alford, Zckler); or
2. The Corinthian gate, which opened from the court of the Gentiles into that of the women (Lightfoot, Delitzsch, Olshausen, Schrer, etc.; or
3. The Nicanor gate (Ewald, Holtzmann, Lechler, and Gerok), between the women's court and that of the men. Other gates have been selected, as,
4. That from the Tyrophan bridge in the south-west to the beautiful southern cloister built by Herod (Conder); and
5. The gate of the Cotton Merchants, in the west wall of the Haram (Wilson). The choice lies between the first and second, the third being too far within the sacred enclosure, and the fourth and fifth too distant from Solomon's porch. The first lay in close proximity to this colonnade, and may have been styled ὡραία, Beautiful, because, in commemoration of Cyrus the Liberator, a picture of Shushan, the City of Lilies, (whence its name), the royal residence of the Persian kings, was painted or carved upon its panels, or because of the lily-shaped capitals with which it was crowned. Whether this gate should be identified with the golden door in the east Haram wall is doubtful. Yet ground exists for thinking the Golden Door has supplanted the gate Shushan of the Mischna. The second derives countenance from this, that if it, the Corinthian gate, was the door described by Josephus (Wars, V. Act ; VI. Act 3:3)—which is not certain—the epithet, ὡραία, "beautiful," must in its case have been exceedingly appropriate (see "Homily"). To ask alms.—"The approaches of the Temple, like those of modern mosques, were commonly thronged with the blind, lame, and other mendicants. Compare Joh 9:8 (Plumptre).
Act . Fastening his eyes.—Or, having gazed intently (compare Act 1:10; Act 13:9), so as to read the man's character and (perhaps) discern that he had faith to be healed.
Act . Gave heed unto them.—The apostles. Rather, fixed his mind ( νοῦν being implied) upon them (compare Luk 14:7), expecting to receive something, τι, somewhat from them.
Act . In the name of Jesus Christ.—I.e., speaking and acting with His authority. Christ always wrought miracles in His own name and with His own authority (Luk 5:24). Rise up and are omitted in the best MSS., as an imitation of Luk 5:23-24. Post-apostolic writers report marvellous deeds as having been wrought in the name of Jesus (Origen, c. Celsum, I.; Justin, Dial. c Tryp., 85; Lact., Inst., iv. 6).
Act . Feet and ankle bones.—These words, like "came from his mother's womb" (Act 3:2), show traces of Luke's professional knowledge. Proprie locutus est medicus, Lucas (Bengel).
Act . And he leaping up, stood.—A proof of the reality of the miracle, though, of course, rationalistic interpreters see in this only a proof of the unhistorical character of the whole narrative.
Act . All the people saw him.—Another evidence that the healing was no deception.
Act . Wonder.— θάμβος, belongs more to the domain of the feelings. Amazement.— ἔκστασις, more to that of the intellect.
The Beautiful Gate of the Temple; or, the Healing of a Lame Man
I. The scene of the miracle.—
1. The temple. Herod's, which, when Christ entered on His public ministry, had been building for six-and-forty years (Joh ). It stood upon the threshing floor of Araunah, on the summit of Mount Moriah, the site formerly occupied by the temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel, and presently covered by the "noble sanctuary" of the Mahommedans. In Herod's time the area was surrounded by a wall which Josephus (Ant., XV. xi. 3) thought "the most prodigious work that had ever been heard of by man," while the sacred edifice, in his estimation, "wanted nothing that was likely to surprise men's minds or eyes." Built of immense blocks of beautiful white limestone, from the royal quarries under Bezetha, a hill in the north of Jerusalem, and gleaming with gold and marble, viewed from a distance it must have been a gorgeous spectacle (compare Psa 48:2).
2. The beautiful gate. Either
(1) the gate Shushan, whose site is now occupied by the golden door in the eastern wall of the great quadrangle on Mount Moriah, and which led from the outer world into the court of the Gentiles; or
(2) the Corinthian gate, which opened from the court of the Gentiles into the court of the women, The preference should perhaps be given to the former in consequence of its proximity to the porch called Solomon's. (See "Critical Remarks.")
II. The time of the miracle.—Probably a few weeks, or, it might be months after Pentecost. At the ninth hour, or 3 o'clock in the afternoon, at which hour three things were taking place in connection with the temple.
1. The Jerusalem populace were flocking towards it. The Jews were a religious people, fond of their temple, and given to devotion, and this was the hour of evening sacrifice, the favourite season for devotion in Jerusalem, as then the business of the day was over, and the time for the evening meal had now arrived.
2. Peter and John were bending their steps towards it. The disciples of Christ had not yet broken with the outward forms of Jewish worship (Act ), and Peter and John, who possibly since their early days had been companions (Mat 4:18; Mat 4:21; Luk 5:10), and who certainly since they had cast in their lot with Christ (Joh 1:40-41) had frequently acted in concert (Luk 12:8; Joh 18:16; Joh 20:6; Joh 21:7), were, in accordance with wont, as pious Jews repairing to the house of prayer. An example worthy of imitation by all, and much needed in days when men are so engrossed with business that only with difficulty can they find leisure for devotion.
3. A cripple was being borne along to be laid at its gate. Like the gates of heathen mosques, that of the temple was a frequent resort for mendicants. This particular mendicant had probably been deposited at his usual station when the two apostles arrived upon the scene. Worth observing how all the above-mentioned three groups of persons, which were necessary for the miracle, converged towards the temple at this moment—the multitude to witness it, the apostles to work it, and the lame man to be the subject of it. Nothing wonderful when it is remembered who the Prime Mover was.
III. The subject of the miracle.—The malady from which the patient suffered was—
1. Extremely severe. Lame in both feet, he required to be carried. Difficult to say which form of affliction is easiest to be borne—blindness, deafness, or want of power to walk or stand. All fitted to excite pity for such as suffer from them.
2. Of long standing. Forty years. Indeed his lameness was congenital. He had never known the luxury of leaping, walking, or even standing. Compare the cripples at the pool of Bethesda (Joh ), and at Lystra (Act 14:8), and the man blind from birth (Joh 9:1).
3. Greatly aggravated. Poor, he had no means of supporting himself, except by soliciting alms. A man who could not stand would not quickly learn a trade. Clearly a sad case, deserving commiseration, and a fit subject for miraculous assistance. A case also impressively symbolising the natural estate of man.
IV. The performance of the miracle.—
1. A voice of invitation. "Look on us." Intended to enlist the man's attention, and spoken by Peter in John's name as well as his own. The man's response indicated that he expected to receive something from them; as yet his faith rose not to the height of anticipating a cure. Even Christians little dream of the great things God is preparing for them (1Co ).
2. A note of exposition. "Silver and gold have I none." Designed to repress the carnal and material hopes of the beggar, to explain that Christianity was not merely a philanthropic mission to relieve man's bodily wants, and to kindle anticipations of something higher.
3. A word of command. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk." On the face of it, an order impossible to be obeyed; yet an order issued in the name of One who had all power in heaven and on earth, and was both able and willing to give what He commanded.
4. An act of assistance. As if to proffer the divine aid, without which the injunction could not be carried through, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up (compare Mar ). Suggesting two thoughts—that God never enjoins orders He is not willing to extend help to perform, and that in seeking to succour others more is demanded than simply to say "do this"; there is needed also sympathy and assistance.
V. The proof of the miracle.—
1. The behaviour of the man. In the consciousness of new power he leaped up, stood, began to walk, entered with the apostles into the temple, and gave thanks to God, all of which actions were inconsistent with the idea that the man had not been healed but only deceived, perhaps through a species of hypnotism energised for a season but not permanently restored to health. So, when a soul has been cured, the spiritual health it has received manifests itself in an analogous way. It leaps up out of its old sinful condition; it stands, realising its new-found power, it walks in the way of God's commandments; it exults or dances inwardly for joy; it praises God for His grace and mercy.
2. The testimony of the people. They saw Him walking, and heard him praising God. They knew he was not what he had once been, a cripple and a beggar. They could not account by natural means for what had happened. So is it a strong argument that one has been spiritually healed when those who knew one formerly can perceive and are obliged to confess the change.
3. The admission of the Sanhedrim. When the case was brought before the highest tribunal of the day it could not be gainsaid (see Act ). So is it the crowning evidence of one's conversion when his enemies are constrained to acknowledge its reality.
1. That Christ's people should love to pray in Christ's house.
2. That intending worshippers may be lawfully detained from Church by works of necessity and mercy.
3. That the cries of the poor should not fall unheeded on the ears of Christ's people.
4. That the best help Christ's people can give is to point men to Jesus Christ.
5. That the clearest evidence of conversion is a reformed life.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Act . Peter and John.
I. In early days partners in trade (Mat ; Mat 4:21; Luk 5:10).
II. In the time of the Baptist seekers after God (Joh ; Joh 1:42).
III. After their conversion colleagues in the apostleship (Mat ; Act 1:13).
IV. During the days of the Son of man fellow intimates of Christ (Luk ; Luk 9:28; Mat 26:37).
V. In the passion week companions in action (Luk ; Joh 18:16).
VI. After the resurrection, comrades in witness bearing (Act ).
The Hour of Prayer.
I. Divinely appointed.
II. Devoutly hallowed.
III. Sweetly refreshing.
IV. Always profitable.
V. Frequently forgotten.
Act . Alms-asking and Alms-giving.
1. Should never be practised unless absolutely necessary.
2. Should always be practised with respectful courtesy.
1. Should always be performed with discretion and kindness (Rom ).
2. Should never be performed with ostentation or vanity (Mat ).
The Beautiful Gate of the Temple.—That gate is entitled to be so called, which—
I. Admits sincere worshippers.
II. Echoes with the sound of the gospel.
III. Witnesses deeds of love and mercy.
Act . The Church's Poverty and the Church's Wealth.
I. Destitute of silver and gold.—No great calamity since:
1. Material wealth is not indispensable to her progress.
2. Material wealth might corrupt her sincerity.
3. Whatever material wealth she needs can be obtained from her exalted Head, to whom the gold and silver belong.
II. Abounding in the treasures of salvation.—Which are:
1. Laid up in Christ her living Lord (Joh ; Col 1:19; Col 2:19).
2. For distribution through her hands (Mat ; Php 2:16).
3. Without money and without price (Mat ).
Peter's Pence; or, the Wealth of the Apostles.—A study for persons in the Christian ministry.
I. Not material.—"Silver and gold have I none."
1. It had not been their practice to levy contributions from the faithful. Although the faithful may have ministered, and doubtless did minister, to their support (Luk ). N.B.—It cannot be argued from this practice of the Twelve or of Paul (Act 20:34; 2Co 11:7) that a paid ministry is unscriptural (1Co 9:14).
2. They had not applied their talents to the acquisition of money (Mat ), but had consecrated their lives to the work of preaching the gospel, having left all—Peter and John with Andrew and James, their boats and nets (Mat 4:18-22), Matthew his customs' booth (Mat 9:9), and the others their respective occupations, to follow Christ (Mar 10:28; Mat 19:27). The work of the ministry is too important, and, where faithfully executed, too laborious to admit of the sacred calling being combined with secular avocations.
3. Whatever goods they may have had they had doubtless cast into the common fund (Act ).—This fact alone would account for Peter's being without pence on his way to the temple. Here, again, it cannot be inferred that a Christian minister should devote all his goods to feed the poor (1Co 13:3), though undoubtedly he ought to practise charity (Gal 6:10).
II. But spiritual.—"Such as I have." Peter and John, with their colleagues, were possessed of unseen and imperishable treasure.
1. Of personal grace.—The beauty of holiness by which their characters were adorned (Act ; compare Psa 90:17). Such wealth immeasurably superior to material riches.
2. Of spiritual power. Which enabled them (not at discretion, but when directed by the Holy Spirit) to work miracles, a power which has ceased in the Church, though the power of working (instrumentally) spiritual miracles (such as conversion) remains.
3. Of posthumous influence. The apostles still sit upon twelve thrones in the Christian Church (Mat ), their writings and example constituting a standard for the regulation of duty and the determination of controversies. Similar influence, though in a lesser degree, is exerted by all true disciples.
4. Of heavenly glory. Of such treasure in the heavens as awaits all who on earth are rich in faith and abound in good works (Mat ).
Changed Times, etc.—Cornelius A. Lapide relates that on one occasion Thomas Aquinas paid a visit to Innocent II., arriving at a moment when that Pontiff was engaged in counting a large sum of money, "See, Thomas," said the Pope, "the Church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none,'" to which Aquinas answered, "True, Holy Father, but neither can she now say, ‘Arise and walk.'"
I. A believing man is a man of large possessions.—Silver and gold he may have none; but not the less on that account are his possessions great. There is no end, no measure of his possessions, for they are summed up in the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. He is rich beyond measure in all things whereby he can benefit his fellows.
II. A believing man is a man of large liberalities.—He cannot keep anything he has got to himself. His joy is in pouring out, not in hoarding up. But, indeed, the heavenly gifts which constitute his possessions cannot be hoarded. They must be used, or they will vanish away.
III. A believing man is a man of large sympathies.—He pities the world in the midst of whose miseries and sins he lives, and would fain contribute to its relief.
IV. A believing man is a man of large powers.—He has power from God, and power with God. He is strong in weakness, and resistless in dependence.
V. A believing man has large opportunities.—He both has and he makes opportunities every hour.
VI. A believing man has large returns for his gifts.—"Give and it shall be given; good measure, pressed down, and running over." Some of this now, most hereafter.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Act . The First Apostolic Miracle.—Typical of the Church's future work.
I. It was a beggar that was healed, and the beggar typified humanity at large.
II. The beggar received blessing when the Church roused itself to the discharge of its great mission.
III. The beggar's conversion was effected through his healing. Spiritual work went hand in hand with healing power.—G. T. Stokes, D.D.
A Miracle of Healing.—Look at this miracle in the light of what has already taken place. There is great enthusiasm in the Church. The divine life is, so to speak, at its highest point. The Church, though on earth, has been brought very nearly to the gate of heaven. We are now invited to go beyond the Church line, and at our very first step we find a man who appeals to our sympathy in his pain and helplessness. See how world lies within world, and how misleading are all the inferences drawn from a limited set of facts:
1. The man who has access to every means of mental and spiritual culture may think all the world as highly privileged as himself.
2. The healthy and prosperous family may forget that other households are afflicted and depressed. Look beyond your own sphere. You have not far to look; there is but a step between thee and the world which is either higher or lower than thine own.
I. The social side.—
1. We may be able to carry the cripple when we are unable to heal him. Do what you can. Human helplessness is a continual appeal to human power. There are secondary services in life. We cannot always do the great deed.
2. The commonest minds, as well as the highest, have always associated the idea of charity with the idea of religion. This is right. This is a high compliment to any form of religion. The theology that has no philanthropy is its own vain god.
3. Look at the compensations of the poorest life. The man was carried daily by friendly hands. The man had the temple as his daily hope. The sun shines even on the poorest lot.
II. The apostolic side.—
1. The apostles never attempted to do without public worship. Such worship has distinct advantages—
(1) Provocation of thought;
(2) Development of sympathy.
2. The apostles never neglected human want in their anxiety to render divine worship. Some people are one-sidedly religious.
3. The apostles never attended even to physical necessities in their own name. The incident as thus regarded suggests two questions:
(1) Are we too pious to be philanthropic?
(2) Has the name of Jesus lost its power?—J. Parker, D.D.
Act . Christian Work.
I. The need for it. To heal the bodies and save the souls of men.
II. The power for it. That which comes from Jesus Christ, through His Spirit.
III. The method for it. Faith in Christ, sympathy for the sufferers, and personal service.
IV. The encouragement for it. The certain hope of success.
Act . A State of Sin, a State of Impotence.
I. The case of this sufferer as illustrating the state of fallen man.—
1. His infirmity was natural. Congenital. Birth-sin.
2. It caused total inability to walk. Moral inability is as total as natural inability.
3. It was long continued. Forty years and more.
4. It was accompanied with poverty. The sinner a beggar.
II. The nature of his cure as illustrating the plan of salvation.—
1. It was miraculous.
2. It was unsolicited.
3. It was instantaneous.
4. It was real and permanent.
III. The effects of the cure as illustrating the effects of faith in Christ.—
3. Gratitude to the instruments of the cure.—G. Brooks.
Act . The Miracle at the Temple Gate.
I. As a manifestation of power.— δυνάμις.
1. Not the power of nature. The healing of the lame man could not be explained by what is called the vis medicatrix natur. The long-standing character of the man's trouble was against this (Act ).
2. Not the power of man. Either of superior will (animal magnetism) or of moral goodness, or even of exalted faith.
3. But the power of God, or of Jesus Christ, the risen and glorified servant and Son of God.
II. As a phenomenon of wonder.— τέρας. Three things removed this act of healing outside the category of ordinary occurrences.
1. The instantaneousness of the cure, which was effected, not by any slow and laborious process of pharmacy, but suddenly, in a moment, and at a word.
2. The completeness of the cure, which was patent to all, and could not be denied (Act ), nay, which was permanent, and showed no symptom of tending to a relapse.
3. The means of the cure, which was faith in the name of Jesus Christ, exercised, if not by the man, at least by the apostles—an instrumentality that seemed altogether inadequate to the effect produced.
III. As the exhibition of a sign.— σημεῖον.
1. Of the reality of Christ's resurrection and ascension, since it was manifestly impossible that any such work of power could be performed by a dead Christ.
2. Of the certain descent of the Holy Spirit, since it is clear that something must have happened to make two men like Peter and John, to all appearance, depositaries of a supernatural influence.
3. Of the wonders that might be expected from, faith in the name of Jesus, wonders not alone of a physical kind, but of a moral and spiritual sort, the healing of the cripple being typical of the salvation of a soul.
Act . For the lame man which was healed the best codices read he. The porch (or portico) that is called Solomon's ran along the eastern wall of the temple on both sides of the gate of Susa, and overlooked the Valley of Jehoshaphat. It had three rows of columns fifty feet high, and two walks thirty feet wide. The columns were each of one stone (white marble), the walks were paved with stones of various colours, and the roofs adorned with sculptures in wood. The porch, which was a survival from the Solomonic temple, was frequently resorted to, especially in winter, as a promenade or public walk (Joh 10:23; Jos., Ant., XV. xi. 5).
Act . At this.—Sc. man rather than thing. Look earnestly.—Fasten your eyes, as in Act 3:4. For this man read him.
Act . Hath glorified.—Better, glorified not by this particular miracle (Meyer, Spence), or by all the mighty works which attested His mission (Hackett), but by His exaltation through death, as in Joh 12:23; Joh 17:10 (Alford). His son.—Should be His servant, this being an Old Testament title of Messiah (Isa 41:8; Isa 42:1-7; Isa 49:3-6); and applied as such to Christ by Matthew (Act 12:18), and outside of canonical scripture by Clem., I. ad Cor. 59:3; Barnabas, vi. 1; Didache, ix.
2. Had determined.—Or decided that it was just (see Luk ; Luke 20-23; Joh 19:4).
Act . Prince.—Author, in the fullest sense (see Heb 2:10; Heb 12:2). Whereof.—Or of whom (compare Act 2:32; Act 13:31).
Act . Through, or on the ground of, faith.—Not the man's or the people's (Olshausen) but the apostles' (Alford, Spence, Holtzmann, Hackett) faith in His Christ's name.
Solomon's Porch; or, Peter's Second Sermon.
1. The Secret of the Miracle explained
I. The people's excitement calmed.—The effect produced upon the healed man was scarcely greater than that wrought upon the multitude who saw him in the Temple. Filled with wonder and amazement at what had taken place, the crowd swarmed round the two apostles, to whom the cured cripple was eagerly clinging in Solomon's porch as if unwilling to permit them to depart. Taking speech in hand, Peter, with his customary readiness, proceeded to address them with a view to quieting their agitation. Their wonder and amazement he—
1. Admitted as not unnatural. It would have been surprising if they had not marvelled on seeing a forty years' old cripple restored to perfect health. When in Capernaum a similar miracle had been wrought by Christ (Luk ), "amazement took hold on all … and they were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day." So wherever Christ's religion operates it performs moral miracles, at which men gaze sometimes with incredulity and even with hostility, but always with astonishment (see Act 17:6).
2. Rebuked as wrongly directed. The multitude imagined that Peter and John had healed the cripple by their own power and in virtue of their own goodness. Hence their wonder and admiration were turned rather upon the instruments than towards the agent. The sole connection John and Peter had with the miracle was that a higher power had used them as a means of effecting His gracious will. It does not appear that the apostles ever had the power of working miracles at their own discretion, but only at a signal given by the Holy Spirit. Significant as proof of this is the circumstance that Paul, though he wrought miracles, could not cure Epaphroditus when he was sick nigh unto death (Php ), or Trophimus, whom he left at Miletus sick (2Ti 4:20). So the moral miracles performed by the Gospel in changing men's hearts and lives are due to neither the ability nor the piety of those who preach the Gospel but solely to Him of whom the Gospel speaks. The right to say "I am He who healeth thee" belongs to God alone (Exo 15:26; Psa 103:3; Psa 147:3).
3. Instructed as ill informed. The miracle had been done
(1) instrumentally by the apostles, which they did not deny: they had made the lame man to walk (Act ); and
(2) mediately by the man's own faith, or at least by the apostles' faith—a point which is duly emphasised (Act ; compare Act 14:9); but nevertheless
(3) causally, or efficiently by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, or by the power which that name represented, and which accompanied the utterance of and belief in that name. So the healings of a spiritual sort which are effected by the Gospel of Jesus Christ are to be ascribed neither to the human agents by whom it is preached nor to the words in which it is set forth, but to the spirit and power alone of the exalted Christ (1Co ; 2Co 4:6; Eph 2:1; Php 1:6).
II. The people's guilt rehearsed.—This is done indirectly and, as it were, by way of parenthesis, while introducing to their notice the real author of the miracle. The extent of their guilt lay in four things:
1. Treachery. By acquiescing in the wickedness of Caiaphas and Judas they had been practically guilty of delivering up Jesus into the hands of His enemies—they had, in fact, endorsed the crimes of their leaders and rulers. The solidarity of nations which renders the individual members thereof responsible, in a certain measure at least, for the deeds of their representatives, is apt to be forgotten.
2. Denial. When He stood before Pilate, and was by that Roman Governor pronounced "innocent," and offered to be released as a compliment to their nation, they had cried "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" (Mat ; Joh 19:4; Joh 19:15.) In the most deliberate manner possible they had disowned Him who was really God's holy and righteous One.
3. Rejection. Nor was that the worst that could be charged against them, but when Pilate gave them an opportunity of choosing between Jehovah's Servant, the Prince of Life, and Barabbas, who for a certain sedition had been cast into prison, they actually chose the murderer to be granted to them (Joh ). To such a depth of moral depravity had they sunk in their hostility to Jesus of Nazareth.
4. Crucifixion. They paused not in their hate till they had killed the Prince of Life, who not only had life in Himself but on more occasions than one had given life to others (Mat ; Luk 7:15; Joh 11:44)—killed Him by adjudging Him to the shameful and painful death of the cross (Joh 19:17-18). Here it should be noted that, heinous as these sins were, as great may still be committed against Christ (Heb 6:6).
1. The mistakes men make in judging of Christianity and its preachers.
2. The humility that ought to characterise every true servant of Christ.
3. The covenant-keeping character of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The possibility of repeating the crimes of the Jews who crucified the Prince of Life.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Act . The God of our Fathers.
I. Our fathers had a God.—They were not atheists or agnostics. Descent from a pious ancestry a great privilege, entailing large responsibilities.
II. The God of our Fathers covenanted with them to bless their children.—The promise was made to them and to their children (Act ). And He is faithful who hath promised (Heb 10:23; Heb 11:11).
III. For this purpose the God of our fathers raised up Jesus and sent Him to bless us.—The whole mission of Christ, in His incarnation, death, resurrection, exaltation, and coming again in the spirit, a carrying out of the divine idea and purpose of salvation to which in a manner God had pledged Himself by His gracious promises to the fathers of Israel and the father of the faithful.
IV. Have we, the children of those fathers and the heirs of these promises, risen to the height of our privileges?—Have we taken our fathers' God as our God? And the Saviour promised to the fathers as our Redeemer?
The Glory of Christ.
1. That which He had with the Father before the world was (Joh ).
2. That which belonged to His own person when on earth—the glory of an only begotten from a Father full of grace and truth (Joh ).
1. When appointed by His Father to be the High Priest of humanity (Heb ).
2. When in answer to prayer His Father showed Him to be the conqueror of death (Joh ).
3. When by His own death upon the cross He triumphed over the principalities of evil (Joh ; Joh 17:1).
4. When raised from the dead by the glory of His father (Act ; Rom 6:4).
5. When the Spirit reveals Him to the soul of man (Joh ).
1. The glory of sitting on the mediatorial throne (1Co ).
2. The glory of being worshipped by the Church universal (Rev ).
3. The glory of being the heir of all things (Heb ).
4. The glory of being the final judge of mankind (Joh ; Act 17:31).
Act . A Model for the Christian Preacher.—Found in Peter and his sermon, which reveal—
I. The spirit which should animate the preacher.—A spirit of self-abnegation and humility, which turns away the attention of his hearers from himself, as did John the Baptist (Joh ; Joh 3:30).
II. The object at which the preacher should aim.—To exalt Christ and bring His glory and claims before the minds of his hearers, as again did the Baptist and Paul (1Co ).
III. The manner in which the preacher should address his hearers.—With much plainness of speech, and even with personal directness, but yet with tenderness and sympathy, as once more did Paul (Php ; 2Co 3:12).
IV. The theme on which the preacher should descant.—Not on himself, his own virtues and achievements, but on the name of Jesus, its glorious excellence and its power to heal and save, with the terms and conditions on which alone it can operate, as again did Paul (1Co ).
Act . All His holy prophets.—Best taken as a collective phrase for the prophets as a whole. Most of the Books of the Old Testament foretell distinctly the sufferings and death of the Messiah (Hackett).
Act . That your sins may be blotted out.—According to Isa 53:12, Christ's death was to be the meritorious cause of forgiveness. When the times of refreshing shall come, should be in order that times or seasons of refreshing may come. These "seasons of refreshing" have been interpreted as equivalent to "the times of the restitution of all things" of Act 3:21. Both seasons considered as identical have been explained differently:
1. as referring to the Second Coming of Christ (according to this view spoken of in Act ), which will be (subjectively considered) a season of refreshment, peace, and repose, after the toils and tribulations of life, but objectively regarded a season of the restoration of all things (Alford, Hackett, Spence, Gloag, Holtzmann); 2, as alluding to the inward refreshment of soul which follows after the blotting out of sins consequent on conversion, which refreshment is also a fulfilment of all those gracious promises God had before spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began (Stier, Zckler). A third, and in our judgment, a better interpretation distinguishes the "seasons of refreshing" and "times of restitution," making the former the inward quickening which should follow on sincere repentance and experience of forgiveness, and the latter the restoration of all things which should accompany the Second Coming of the Saviour (Plumptre).
Act . Whom the heaven must receive.—Decidedly preferable to who must possess the heaven (Bengel, Luther, Olshausen, Stier).
Act . For and unto the fathers should be omitted as a gloss. £ prophet, etc.—Partly cited from the LXX. (Deu 18:18-19), and partly new. Stephen (Act 7:37) as well as Peter ascribes this prophecy to Moses, and interprets it of Christ, Raise up.—Not "from the dead," but in the sense of causing to appear. Like unto me.—Or as He raised up Me.
Act . Shall be destroyed from among the people, should be, shall be utterly destroyed. Peter here interprets the Deuteronomic phrase, "I will require it of him," which meant that he would be excluded from the congregation.
Act . Samuel.—Though nothing remains from him which can be construed into a prediction of the latter times, he may nevertheless have uttered such; or his name may be introduced simply because he was the "father of the prophets."
Act . Children of the prophets and of the covenant.—Not "sons" in the sense of "descendants," which would be incongruous with the clause "of the covenant," but sons in the sense of participants of what the prophets and the covenant held out (compare Mat 8:12; Joh 4:22; Rom 9:4, etc.).
Act . Raised up, as in Act 3:22. From your iniquities.—A conclusion similar to Act 2:40. "Aculeus in fine orationis" (Bengel)—A sting in the tail of his address.
Solomon's Porch; Peter's Second Sermon.
2. The People comforted and counselled
I. The people's alarm soothed.—That such an appalling charge, pressed home upon the consciences of the auditors, awakened in their bosoms guilty fears is what one would naturally suppose. Possibly this is why Peter so dexterously wove into his discourse words that were fitted to administer comfort to those among them who might be troubled.
1. The disastrous results of their wickedness had been undone. The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of their fathers, had glorified His servant Jesus, whom they had delivered up (Act ). Observe the tenderness with which he leads back their thoughts to their glorious ancestry and up to their covenant God, as if he meant to suggest to their troubled hearts that the merciful Jehovah had not yet cast them off. Then note the kindness with which he places in the foreground the fact that their appalling crimes had been, as it were, rendered harmless before he mentions the crimes themselves. It was not without a purpose of love that, both before and after the recital of these, Peter speaks of the resurrection of the Crucified One.
2. Their wickedness had been the result of ignorance. If not total, yet partial; which, though not an excuse, was still an extenuation of their fault (Act ). Peter's verdict as to the knowledge concerning Christ which was possessed by the rulers and the people is confirmed by the opinion of Paul (1Co 2:8). Both apostles seem to imply that neither the people nor their rulers had an adequate idea of the divinity of the Saviour when they demanded His crucifixion. Nor need this be wondered at, when it is remembered that the crowning demonstration of Christ's Godhead was only furnished by the Resurrection, and that before this event occurred the conceptions of the apostles themselves as to Christ's true personality were but dim.
3. Their wickedness had been the means of fulfilling the Divine predictions concerning Christ recorded in Scripture. "The things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled" (Act ). Though this did not relieve them from blame, it nevertheless tended to mitigate their grief, by showing that Christ suffered in accordance with the Eternal purpose of God Himself (Act 2:23). The like comforts belong to sinners of to-day who, through their connection with the first Adam, are more or less responsible for the death of Jesus; and yet because of their ignorance and want of actual participation in the crime of Christ's death are not left in a condition of despair (1Th 5:9).
II. The people's duty set forth. In two particulars.
1. To repent and be converted (or turn again). Always insisted on in Scripture as a condition of forgiveness and salvation (Isa ; Jer 3:12-14; Eze 14:6; Joe 2:12; Zec 12:10; Mat 4:17; Mar 6:12; Luk 13:3; Luk 24:47), repentance signifies a change of mind, heart, and conduct (see on Act 2:38). For this four reasons are assigned by the Apostle:
(1) That their sins might be blotted out and their guilt removed; since without heartfelt repentance, meaning sincere godly sorrow on account of sin, acknowledgment of guilt and desire as well as resolution after new obedience, pardon is impossible.
(2) That times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord, seasons of gracious quickening for them, Israel, and through them for the world at large—eras of spiritual awakening, epochs of revival, when men's souls being refreshed and stirred would manifest an interest in heavenly things, as parched ground, when moistened with showers of rain, puts forth herbs and flowers. Moreover, every such season of refreshing would prove a prelude of, and preparation for, the grand culmination of the future, "the times of the restitution of all things."
(3) That Jesus Christ (or the Christ) might be sent unto them, that same Christ who had been appointed for (R.V.), and in the days of His flesh preached unto (A.V.) them, but whom they had rejected and the heavens had received, no more to be manifested till the close of time (1Ti ). It is clear that Peter meant by this that in answer to every such "season of refreshing" in which longings after heavenly gifts would be awakened in renewed hearts, there would be a sending forth of the Christ, the Risen and Ascended Lord, not visibly, but spiritually, in the plenitude of His power and grace to bless men's souls by deepening in them the feeling of repentance and turning them away from their iniquities (Act 3:26; compare Heb 6:7).
(4) That finally the times of the restitution of all things might come. This should be the goal of that stupendous restoration movement which was heralded by John the Baptist (Mat ), and initiated by Jesus in the days of His flash. Of which so far as they were concerned their repentance would be the first step (2Co 5:17), and the revelation of the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2Pe 3:13) the last—the summing up of all things in one under Christ (Eph 1:10), the subjection of all powers and things to His authority and rule (1Co 15:27-28)—not necessarily the salvation of all intelligent beings, but the subordination of the universe, each part in its place, beneath His sway.
2. To hearken in all things to Christ. And that for a variety of reasons.
(1) That Christ was a prophet whom the Lord God, their own covenant Jehovah, had raised up, and was therefore as much entitled to their obedience as had been Moses himself or any of the prophets from Samuel downwards.
(2) That Christ was a prophet raised up from among themselves, again as Moses and Samuel had been—one of their own flesh and blood (Heb ; Heb 2:17), and therefore one who might be supposed to have their best interests at heart—their emancipation from the guilt and power of sin—and therefore as much entitled as Moses had been to receive their confidence.
(3) That Christ was a prophet like unto Moses, their renowned lawgiver, in respect of the authority He bore; yea, better than he in respect of the announcements He made (Joh ), and on this account more entitled than even he to their respectful attention.
(4) That the soul which would not hearken to Christ would be cut off from amongst the people, exactly as the disobedient Israelite who refused to obey Moses was excluded from the congregation.
(5) That Christ had been fore-announced as their Messiah by the whole race of prophets from Samuel downwards, so that in refusing to hear Christ they were rejecting the voices of the prophets (compare Act, Act 13:27; Act 13:40).
(6) That Christ had a claim on their submission because of their covenant relation to Jehovah, the God of Abraham their father, to whom He, Christ, had been promised (Act ). If Christ was the seed of Abraham (compare Gal 3:16), they could not reject Him without sin.
(7) That Christ had been offered to them first, so that their responsibility for accepting Him was greater than it would otherwise have been, while their guilt would be more heinous if they declined to receive Him (Act ).
1. That it is dangerous to sin against the light.
2. That all true preaching aims at convicting of sin.
3. That the prime blessing of the gospel is the blotting out of sin.
4. That unforgiven sin blocks the way to higher gifts of grace.
5. That disobedience to Christ is pre-eminently inexcusable.
6. That Christ's supreme desire is to turn men away from their iniquities.
7. That Christ's triumph, though long delayed, is absolutely sure.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Act . Sins of Ignorance.
I. A man may sin through ignorance.
II. Ignorance is not a valid plea in extenuation of sin.
III. Sins of ignorance require an atonement quite as much as sins of knowledge.
IV. Sins of ignorance require to be repented of as sincerely as sins of presumption.
Act . The Sufferings of Christ.
I. The character and dignity of the Sufferer.—
1. The Son of God (Act ).
2. The Holy and Righteous one (Act ).
3. The Prince of Life (Act ).
II. The form and severity of His sufferings.—
1. As to form. He suffered
(1) in His reputation (Act ),
(2) in His soul (Mat ), and
(3) in His body (Joh ).
2. As to severity. They were aggravated by the fact that they were all foretold and so known to Him beforehand.
III. The reason and purpose of His sufferings.—
1. To glorify God (Joh ).
2. To save sinners (Isa ; Joh 3:16).
I. Foreordained by the Father.
II. Foretold by prophets.
III. Inflicted by men.
IV. Endured with patience.
V. Rewarded with glory.
VI. Recorded in Scripture.
VII. Proclaimed by evangelists.
VIII. Believed on by sinful men.
IX. Studied by angels (1Pe ).
Act . The Blotting out of Sin.
I. What it implies.—
1. The liability of men to condemnation on account of sin.
2. The exercise of grace on God's part towards the condemned.
3. The complete release from condemnation of all who experience such grace.
II. What it presupposes.—
1. On God's part that no obstacle exists to the outflow of grace and exercise of forgiveness; in other words, the removal of antecedent obstacles by the work of Christ.
2. On man's part the frank acknowledgment of guilt conjoined with repentance of sin.
III. What it secures.—
1. Times of refreshing, or the joy of forgiveness.
2. Times of restoration, or the ultimate attainment of perfect holiness, felicity, and glory.
Times of Refreshing.
I. What they mean.—Seasons of soul quickening, when, the inward life reviving, the soul begins to manifest desires after heavenly things.
II. Whence they come.—From the Presence of the Lord. Such seasons can never be got up, but must always be fetched down.
III. What must precede.—
1. Pardon. Spiritual quickening can belong only to those whose sins have been forgiven; though all may enjoy this heavenly gift who will comply with the second condition.
2. Repentance. Change of mind, heart, will, concerning Jesus Christ and the things of salvation.
IV. What will follow.—Christ with the fulness of His joy and salvation will be sent into the soul that repents and is forgiven.
Act . Times of Restoration.
I. When they shall arrive.—
1. At the end of Time.
2. With the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.
3. On the completion of the present world plan.
II. What they shall introduce.—
1. Not the re-erection of the monarchy of Israel, and far less the bringing about of universal salvation. But
2. The delivering up of all things, now in the Mediator's hand, to God that He may be all and in all (1Co ). Which will imply—
3. The glorification of the Church. And
4. The subjection also of the wicked to the rule of God.
III. How they should be waited for.—
1. By the children of God, with faith, patience, holy living, and eager expectation.
2. By the unbelieving world, with assurance of their certain coming, with apprehension of the peril they will bring with repentance and turning to God and Jesus Christ.
Act . The Prince of Life.
I. Jesus presented.—Jesus did not need to be brought forward. There was no necessity of going up to heaven to bring Christ down. He was there—there in their midst, there in all the perfection of the God-man, in all the majesty of the Godhead, in all the plenitude of His Messiahship, and in all the kindness and helpfulness of the Friend. He was there, but unseen by the multitude. Two obstacles stand in the way of His being seen. First, the disciples, Peter and John. They perceived this. The miracle was being ascribed to them. How promptly they remove this obstacle! how promptly and emphatically they step aside! "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power and holiness we had made this man to walk?" Thus they stand aside that Jesus may be seen. But blind men cannot see the most conspicuous object. Those whose eyes are thickly veiled are the same as blind. This was the condition of these Jews. Hence the second thing necessary that Jesus might be seen was to remove the veil, to snatch the thick covering of moral and intellectual ignorance and prejudice from their eyes. This the disciples proceed to do with characteristic promptness and energy, "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers"—thus they seize the veil at its farthest extremes; there the lift must begin if the uncovering would be successful and complete—"You believe in God, the God of our fathers; this miracle was wrought by His power; it was performed in honour of His Servant, His Messiah. That Messiah, that Servant, is Jesus. He is the Prince of life. He is the Messiah of prophecy. He was crucified in exact fulfilment of the writings of all the holy prophets. He is exalted, has passed into the heavens, has there His dwelling-place—there for a purpose, a purpose sublime and eternal, to bring in the final, complete, and glorious restoration of all things. Behold, then, in the miracle that fills you all with amazement so profound, behold, not the power of men, but of God. Ascribe the glory of this miracle not to us, but to Jesus, your Messiah." Thus Peter presented Jesus to the multitude. This is preaching Christ, and Him crucified.
II. Sinners condemned.—The Spirit by which the disciples witnessed made no mistakes; a different spirit, I fear, guides not a little of the witness-bearing of the present. That Spirit did not allow the disciples to make the miserable mistake of preaching Christ to those who could get along very well without him. And what a condemnation! How the astonished thousands must have shuddered as Peter passed from one count to another of his fearful indictment! Note these terrible counts: First, he charges upon them the infamy of betrayal: "Whom ye delivered up." But, second, betrayal, infamous as it is, was not the extent—nay, it was but the first act—of your wickedness, for after ye had betrayed Him, when natural justice demanded His release, when Pilate, the Roman governor, who was neither scrupulous nor tender-hearted, was about to let Him go, ye denied the Holy One and the Just. Third, but betrayal, denial, and rejection, damning as these charges are when in the rejection ye must take a murderer to your bosoms, are not the weightiest counts of this indictment nor the extent of your infamy and wickedness. Ye are guilty of the awful crime of killing the Prince of life. There is no shifting the guilt and responsibility of that death. Thus with firm and steady hand does Peter thrust the iron of a terrible accusation into their guilty breasts.
III. Pardon proclaimed.—Peter was severe in his indictment, but he was wounding to heal. He thrust the keen lance of conviction into their souls, that he might open the way to pour into their hearts the grace of pardon and peace. Hence, the moment he saw that the truth had done its work of conviction, he hastened to apply the balm of Gilead.
1. He softens the indictment by referring their murderous deed partly to their ignorance: "I know that through ignorance ye did it." Ignorance is no excuse for wrongdoing, especially such criminal ignorance as theirs; still, there is a distinction between a crime committed by one fully informed and the same crime by one largely ignorant of the real character of the act. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," said Jesus. "But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief," wrote Paul.
2. He urges upon them the consideration that God had overruled their murdorous work to the accomplishment of His eternal purpose. All the suffering which, through their cruelty, Jesus had endured was, in the wise ordering of God, endured on their behalf. While this did not lessen their guilt, it did hold out to them a good hope of mercy and pardon.
3. He calls them to repentance and a different life: "Ye are guilty of the blackest crime, but it is mitigated by your ignorance of what ye were doing, and it has been overruled to the fulfilment of God's purposes; and the very sufferings that ye caused Messiah prepared the way, in the eternal purpose of God, for the pardon of your sin in crucifying Him. Now, if ye are truly sorry for your sin, and will but turn from it unto God with all your heart, God will blot out your transgressions." He urges all this upon them by a glorious consideration. This consideration was the fact that the times spoken of by all the holy prophets, the glorious times of deliverance, rest, refreshment, and joy which Messiah was to introduce, had come. Let us now attend to a few of the important lessons suggested.
1. We are reminded that it is strong faith, on the part of the disciples, in the name of Jesus, that works wonders. No one engaged in any way in the Master's service can afford to be unmindful of this fact. To be faithless is to be helpless and useless, so far as spiritual matters are concerned. You can do nothing for your own or another's welfare without faith. The faith of the humblest disciple may yet work wonders that will startle and amaze the world. Let this be the first inquiry in every work we undertake, "In whose name?"
2. The wise and true teacher always puts Jesus forward and hides self. How easy would it have been for these disciples to have secured for themselves the fame of that miracle! Is there not a profound lesson here for us all? Are we always careful to bring Jesus forward when our works of kindness and acts of faith turn the eyes of unbelievers toward us?
3. The true gospel-teacher tells men the truth, however severe or distasteful it may be. What a contrast between Peter's method and that of not a few so-called teachers in our day!—men standing before the godless and guilty with cringing, shuffling, apologetic words and manner, aiming to excuse Moses and David and Isaiah, and all the inspired teachers, and prophets, and apostles, for their hard sayings against sin and sinners, "Oh, you know the race was not enlightened in the time of David"; or "Paul, being a Jew, could not, of course, get entirely rid of his Jewish ideas and prejudices." Miserable gospel-tinkers!
4. The true gospel-teacher calls to repentance and faith, and offers pardon to the worst of sinners.
5. We learn to encourage, in every legitimate way, those to whom we preach the gospel.—T. J. McCrory.
Act . A Prophet like unto Moses.
I. Moses a prophetic type of Christ.—
1. In being of the same race with those he delivered.
2. In delivering his brethren from a state of captivity.
3. In acting as mediator between his brethren and Jehovah.
4. In promulgating a system of divine laws to his brethren.
5. In leading them through the wilderness towards the borders of Canaan.
II. Christ though an antitype of, yet greater than Moses.—
1. In being one with his brethren, yet of superior nature to them.
2. In delivering His brethren from a sadder than temporal bondage, and at a greater cost to himself than Moses incurred.
3. In being the mediator of a better covenant than that formed at Sinai.
4. In revealing to men not the laws only, but the grace and truth of Jehovah.
5. In conducting all who obey Him, not to the borders merely, but to the interior also of the Promised Land.
Moses and Christ. Related to each other as—
I. Prophecy and fulfilment.
II. Law and gospel.
III. Servant and Son.—Leonhard and Spiegel.
The World's True Prophet.—The world needs a prophet—
1. Perfect, well-instructed, filled with true Wisdom
2. Authoritative, one who speaks, not from conjecture or in virtue of superior talent or position, but from authority, "as one having authority."
3. Divine, a teacher sent direct from God. So must be the world's true teacher. God has given us such an one; not for Israel only, but for the world. He has sent His Son as the world's Prophet. He is all that is described in the passage before us.
I. He is of our brethren.
II. He is raised up to God.—Not self-called, nor man-called.
III. He is like unto Moses.
1. Because God speaks with Him face to face (Num ; Deu 34:10).
2. Because. He is Mediator and Intercessor.
3. He is like unto Moses, because He is Israel's King. Moses was the only prophet who was also king,—"he was king in Jeshurun," he was Israel's captain.
4. He is like unto Moses because He is a worker of miracles.
5. He is like Moses because He is Israel's great Teacher.
6. He is like Moses because of His meekness.
7. He is like Moses because rejected of men. As Moses was rejected of his brethren (Act ), so was Jesus despised and rejected of men.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Act . Christ in the Prophets.
I. His incarnation (Gen ; Isa 9:6).
II. His humanity (Gen ; Psa 89:19; Isa 11:1; Isa 32:2).
III. His divinity (Psa ; Psa 110:1).
IV. His sufferings (Gen ; Psa 20:6-9; Psa 69:7-9; Psalms 20-26; Isa 1:6; Isa 52:14; Isa 53:2-10; Zec 13:7).
V. His death (Isa ; Dan 9:26; Zec 13:1).
VI. His resurrection (Psa ; Psa 16:9-10).
VII. His ascension (Psa ; Psa 68:18).
Act . The Abrahamic Covenant.
I. The parties.—God and Abraham.
II. The promise.—"In Thee and in Thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
1. A promise of salvation.
2. To all the families of the earth.
3. Through a descendant of Abraham.
III. The performance.—Seen in Christ.
1. A descendant of Abraham.
2. The Author of Salvation.
3. To as many as obey Him.
1. That salvation is all of grace.
2. That it should be offered to all.
3. That the New Testament Church is a continuation and development of the Old.
Act . The Mission of Christ.
I. By whom He was sent.—God.
1. To whom He stood in the twofold relation of son and servant; and
2. By whom He was raised up first, by His incarnation, and secondly, at His Resurrection.
II. To whom He was sent.—
1. To the Jews, who were God's ancient people, to whom pertained the adoption and the glory, etc. (Rom ).
2. To the Gentiles, who, no less than the Jews, were included in the Abrahamic covenant.
III. For what He was sent.—For blessing.
1. Of a spiritual sort, the turning away of sinful men from their iniquities, which meant more than the turning away from them of (the consequences of) their iniquities.
2. To every one—i.e., who was willing to be blessed—this condition, though not expressed, being manifestly and necessarily implied, since no one can be turned from his iniquities without the concurrence of his will.
1. The grace of God.
2. The power of Christ.
3. The responsibility of Man.
The Names of Christ.
I. Jesus, Joshua or Saviour, the personal name of Our Lord.
II. Christ, Messiah, His prophetic designation.
III. The son of God, indicating His relation to the first person in the Godhead.
IV. The servant of Jehovah, an official title expressive of His economical subordination to the Father.
V. The Holy and Righteous One, descriptive of His character as a man, and as servant of Jehovah.
VI. The Prince of Life, depicting Him as either the possessor or giver of life or as both.
VII. A prophet like unto Moses, setting forth the character of His work as mediatorial and legislative.
Act . Peter's Threefold Testimony concerning Christ. As—
I. The substance of all miracles (Act ).
II. The Redeemer of all souls (Act ).
III. The accomplisher of all prophecies (Act ).—Lisco.
The Speech of Peter may be regarded in four aspects:—
I. As showing the false method of looking at human affairs.—"As though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk."
1. The visible is not the final.
2. Second causes do not explain life. There is a false method of looking at the results
(1) of preaching;
(2) of business;
(3) of thinking. The man who does not look beyond second causes lives in distraction—in chaos!
II. As showing the true method of regarding the most extraordinary events.—"God hath glorified His Son Jesus." "Faith in His name hath made this man strong." That is the sublime explanation of all recovery, all progress, all abiding strength and comfort. Forget God, and society in every phase and movement becomes a riddle without an answer; its happiness is but a lucky chance, its misery an unexpected cloud. Regard human life as controlled and blessed by the mediation of Jesus Christ, then:
1. There is discipline in every event,—design, meaning, however untoward and unmanageable the event.
2. A purpose of restoration runs through all human training.
III. As showing the only method of setting man right with God.—"Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." The men who worked Christian miracles spoke plain words about men's souls. There is no ambiguity here! Are the old rousing words "repent," "be converted," being allowed to slip out of Christian teaching, and are we now trifling with the character and destiny of men?
1. Every man must repent, because every man has sinned.
2. Every man must be converted, because every man is in a false moral condition.
IV. As showing the sublime object of Jesus Christ's Incarnation.—"To bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."
1. Where iniquity is, there is no blessing.
2. Physical restoration is but the type of spiritual completeness. Two practical lessons arise out of the subject.
(1) It is not enough to wonder at the mighty works of God.
(2) God's glory is ever identified with the well-being of man. "Restitution," "refreshing," "blessing." Peter's appeal rested upon a solid biblical basis—Moses, Samuel, all the prophets. God's message is the summing up of all the voices of holy history.—J. Parker, D.D.
Act . Prophets and Sons of the Prophets.—Therefore whatsoever the prophets did you may do. God is as near to you as He ever was to them. He may inspire you for the work of the hour—to understand its problems and to fight its battles—just as He inspired them for the problems and battles of their day. God did not speak to men for the last time nineteen hundred years ago. Poetry was not buried in Tennyson's grave, and, given the "eye to see," we may have Raphaels and Murillos yet, who shall find their subjects in the romance of these commonplace days. Romance! Ay, life still teems with romance. And so here. We may be sons not only of the scientists and poets, of the critics and painters: we may be "sons of the prophets"; we may receive messages as direct as any message they ever received, and do work as distinctly divine as they ever did. That, then, is my subject—the prophet, the prophet of the present hour, of to-day.
I. England as well as Judæa has had its prophets; and it is of the English prophet I want to speak. The prophet has always been the same man, whether in England or in Judæa. The form which his work has taken may be different in England from what it was in Judæa, but it has been essentially the same work. And, to start with—
1. The prophet is, first of all, the good man; the witness for truth and righteousness; the witness, not by his genius, not by the work he is able to do, but by what he is. That in the Old Testament is always the sign that a man is a genuine prophet—his soul burnt with a passion for goodness, for purity, for religion. The prophet would sometimes be a herdsman, sometimes a statesman; but he was always a noble man. You have noticed that in the Old Testament story there were "schools of the prophets," what we to-day would call theological colleges; but it did not follow that because a man had had a theological education he was a prophet. To-day there are "schools" of art, but every one who has been trained in the school is not an artist. The first thing the artist has often to do is to emancipate his own soul, and shake off every sign of the school. If a man have the soul of music in him the school may do him good; but the school cannot make him a musician. So there were "schools of the prophets," which turned out a prophet now and then, but turned out many who were not prophets. They had gone through all the drill, were perfect masters of the technicalities of their calling; they had a high sense, I have no doubt, of what was due to their order, of the respect that ought to be paid to them; but the fire that burns in the prophet's soul—the passion for truth, for goodness, for purity, the courage that would fight any battle for God—that burnt but feebly in them. They were no prophets. The prophet before everything was a good man, consumed with a passion for righteousness.
2. Then, secondly, the prophet was the man moved by what he saw and felt to act; to whom to do was the first necessity. Not only a man who understood the times, but who rose up to do the things which the times demanded; who not only saw, but who dared not be silent. Elijah the Tishbite was not the only man in Israel who saw the curse that Ahab was to the land. There were "seven thousand," so we read, "who had not bowed the knee to Baal"; but he was the only man who dared to confront the man who had really troubled Israel. Three things in this respect make the prophet, and the man is never a prophet unless the three be in him. First, he has the "eye to see." Nothing tortures you more than a man who tries to console you, but does not understand you; who imagines he is soothing you, when every word he utters cuts your soul until it bleeds. How many good people you have known who have been a terror to you! They wanted to help, but they did not know where the problems of life hurt you—good, tenderhearted souls, brimming over with concern and sympathy; but your soul shuts itself up, and you could die rather than talk of your difficulties to them. Others read you at their first glance; their first word proves that they have plumbed your soul's deepest depths. Like the physician who has the "eye to see," they lay their finger upon your soul and say, "Thou ailest here, and here." Then, secondly, the prophet feels. What he sees moves him, haunts him, draws a veil of sadness over his face. Many who imagine they are sitting at the feet of Jesus are calmly indifferent to the sorrows and woes of the world. What do hosts who "sit down to the feast" in our churches every Sunday care for the heathen London over which you fret? The prophet is the moved man, the man who has made the sorrows and problems of his generation his own; the throes of his hour beat in him. Every shock of the French Revolution broke through Carlyle's heart. Carlyle was not a spectator, but he tasted the bliss and the horrors of it. Carlyle in this also was a prophet. Once again: The prophet descries the remedy. He is the "seer." But even that is not all. He is not prophet merely because he is "seer." The prophet embodies his vision—works out what he sees.
3. The prophets are of many orders. I will mention a few. The great preachers. That goes without saying. England has had a noble line of them. No truth is established until it comes into the pulpit; the man who sets the hall-mark upon it and gives it currency is always the preacher. The great poets; and England has had a grand succession of them. We are only slowly getting to understand the poet's mission. The poet is not the mere reciter of the deeds of the past, the mere romancist or troubadour, though we do not despise him. The world will never grow weary of Homer. Shakespeare has brightened hosts in every generation for three hundred years; broken the clouds of their despair and moodiness. Spring breaks wherever he comes. The great reformers—creators of new eras. And these are always the world's great saints. Tyranny was buried in the grave of Charles. And the men that did it—Cromwell, Milton, Pym—did they no hard things? Nay, we cannot say that; stern times demand stern deeds, stern weapons. But these men were made out of the stuff of which prophets are made. And now—
II. You are in the succession of these prophets.—"Ye are the sons of the prophets."
1. That is your incalculable advantage. There are truths which the prophets have established that will never need to be opened up again. That is a great gain. The law of gravitation has been settled for ever. We shall not need to discuss that again. So there are social, political, and religious battles that will never have to be fought again. We shall never need another Magna Charta. So also of the great questions of theology. The hideous doctrines which tortured our fathers, once swept out of the Church, will never re-invade it. And now you stand upon the threshold of life—"sons of the prophets." What will you make of it? Solomon, when he came to build the temple, found all but everything ready to his hand. It was for Solomon to see that the temple should be worthy of the preparation that had been made for it. So you, who are just stepping out into life. The generations that have preceded you—I will venture to say, the generation that has immediately preceded you—has been hard at work; but we sometimes feel that we have been doing nothing but preparing material, making ready for YOU. And now it is for you to build. It is for you to determine the design into which the temple is to grow. Christian enthusiasm shall express itself. Will you remember this? "Ye are the sons of the prophets."
2. It is more than an advantage—it is an inspiration. I know a man at the present moment whom I revere—a noble specimen of an English man of business. I have often found him busy studying the story of his own family, tracing the line back through father, grandfather, great-grandfather—honourable men of business every one of them. And when I have come upon him so engaged, he has said, "I often go over the story of my forefathers' lives; I remind myself of what they were, for I must live to be worthy of them." Young men and women, ministers' children many of you, listen. I remind you of the homes in which you were nurtured. I would not be a rake, or an idler, or a spendthrift; I would be a man. I would not be frivolous, or shallow-souled and empty-headed, if I were you; I would be a godly woman. "Ye are the sons" and daughters "of the prophets."
3. Once again: That you inherit these memories is a great responsibility. Will you forget who you are? You are Englishmen. The blood of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, is in you. You are Protestants. The hand of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, John Rogers, is upon you. You are Puritans. Greenwood, Barrow, Penry, were your forefathers. That is the succession in which you stand. Shall your lives be small, narrow, wicked, mean? I leave you with one sentence: "Ye are the sons of the prophets."—J. Morlais Jones.
Act . Israel beloved of God.—"To the Jew first"; "beginning at Jerusalem." This was God's order, and it is so still. The designations of honour, and the intimations of privilege as still possessed by the sons of Abraham (as given in these two verses), are worthy of notice.
I. They are the children of the prophets.
II. They are the children of the covenant.
III. They are they to whom God first sends His risen Son.—
1. God's love to Israel. He looks down on them, yearns over them, pities them, says, "How shall I give thee up?"
2. God's purpose concerning Israel. God's desire that we should feel towards Israel as He does.—H. Bonar, D.D.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Saturday in Easter Week