|stempublishing.com : J. N. Darby : Synopsis : Acts : Chapters 3 and 4||Next chapter|
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 6 and 7
Chapters 10 to 11:18
Chapters 11:19 to 30
Chapters 18:1 to 19:7
Chapters 19:8 to 41
God's patience and grace in virtue of Christ's death and resurrection answered by opposition and rejection
In Acts 3 the Spirit addresses His testimony to the people by the
mouth of Peter. God still acted in patience towards His foolish
people, and with more than patience. He acts in grace towards them, as
His people, in virtue of the death and intercession of Christ — alas!
in vain. Their unbelieving leaders silenced the word.*
The lame man healed; Christ preached; the return of the rejected Lord in blessing dependent on repentance
The attention of the people is attracted by a miracle that
restored strength to a poor lame man, known to all who frequented the
temple; and, the multitude crowding to behold him, Peter preaches
Christ to them. The God of their fathers, said he, had glorified His
servant Jesus, whom they had denied, when Pilate would have set Him
free. They had denied the Holy One and the Just — desired a murderer
— killed the Prince of Life; but God had raised Him from the dead.
And His name, through faith, had healed the impotent man. Grace could
esteem their act done as through ignorance, and that as to their
rulers also. We here see the Holy Ghost responding to the intercession
of Christ: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
Guilty of the ten thousand talents, the great King remits it them,
sending the message of mercy which calls them to repentance. To this
Peter invites them: "Repent ye, and be converted; so* that the time of
refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may
send Jesus, whom the heaven must receive," he tells them, until the
time ordained of God for the restoration which should accomplish all
that the prophets had foretold. That is to say, he preaches repentance
to the Jews as a nation, declaring that, on their repentance, Jesus,
who had ascended up to heaven, would return; and the fulfilment of all
the blessings spoken of by the prophets should take place on their
behalf. The return of Jesus with this object depended (and still
depends) on the repentance of the Jews. Meanwhile He remains in
Moreover Jesus was the prophet announced by Moses: and whosoever would
not hear Him should be cut off from the people. His voice still
sounded in especial grace by the mouth of His disciples. All the
prophets had spoken of these days. They were the children of the
prophets, the natural heirs of the blessings which they had announced
for Israel, as well as of the promises made to Abraham of a seed in
whom all nations should be blessed. To them also in consequence, God,
having raised up His servant Jesus,* had sent Him to bless them, in
turning away every one of them from his iniquities.
The apostles imprisoned
In a word, they are invited to return by repentance, and enjoy all the promises made to Israel. The Messiah Himself should return from heaven to establish their blessing. The whole nation is here addressed as natural heirs of the promises made to Abraham. But, while they were speaking, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to lay hands on them, being grieved that they preached the resurrection, which their unbelief and dogmatic system did not receive. They put them in prison, for it was evening. The hope of Israel was set aside; the grace of God had spoken in vain, great and patient as it was. Many, however, believed their word: five thousand persons already confessed the Lord Jesus.
The deliberate answer of the rulers' inmost heart; the stone rejected by the builders
We have seen the address which God, in His grace, sent to Israel by the mouth of Peter. We shall now see, not only the reception (already noticed) which it met with from the rulers of the people, but the deliberate answer of their inmost heart, as we may call it. On the morrow the rulers, the elders, and the scribes assemble at Jerusalem, together with Annas and his kindred; and, setting the apostles in their midst, they demand by what power or in what name they have wrought this miracle on the impotent man. Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, declares — announcing it to all Israel, and with the utmost readiness and entire boldness — that it was by Jesus, whom they had crucified, and whom God had raised from the dead. Thus the question between God and the rulers of Israel was very formally stated, and that by the Spirit of God. Jesus was the stone rejected by them, the builders, which had become the head of the corner. Salvation could nowhere else be found. No carefulness not to offend, with regard to the adversaries and the rulers; with the people, as such, ignorant and misled, everything to win them. The council recognised them as former companions of Christ: the man who had been healed was there. What could they say or do in the face of the multitude who had witnessed the miracle? They could only exhibit a will in decided opposition to the Lord and His testimony, and yield to the public opinion, which was necessary to their own importance, by which too they were governed. With threats they commanded the apostles to teach no more in the name of Jesus. We may remark here, that Satan had Sadducean instruments arrayed against the doctrine of the resurrection, as he had Pharisees as suited instruments against a living Christ. We must expect the well-ordered opposition of Satan against the truth.
God's command or man's prohibition
Now Peter and John allow of no ambiguity with respect to their course. God had commanded them to preach Christ: the prohibition of man had no weight with them. "We cannot," say they, "but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What a position for the rulers of the people! Accordingly, a testimony like this plainly demonstrates that the leaders of Israel were fallen from the place of interpreters of the will of God. The apostles do not drive them away — do not attack them: God would judge them; but they act immediately on the part of God, and disregard their authority altogether with respect to the work that God had committed to themselves. The testimony of God was with the apostles, and not with the rulers of the temple; and the presence of God was in the assembly, and not there.
The Holy Spirit's power and God's presence and guidance in the midst of the disciples
Peter and John return to their own company, for a separate people who knew each other was formed; and all, moved by the Holy Ghost (for it was there that God dwelt by His Spirit, not now in the temple), lift up their voice to God, the Governor of all things, to acknowledge that this opposition of the rulers was but the accomplishment of the word and the counsels and the purposes of God. These threatenings were but the occasion of asking God to manifest His power in connection with the name of Jesus. In a word, the world (including the Jews, who formed a part of it in their opposition) had stood up against Jesus, the Servant of God, and opposed itself to the testimony rendered to Him. The Holy Ghost is the strength of this testimony, whether in the courage of those who bore witness (v. 8), or in His presence in the assembly (v. 31), or in the energy of service (v. 33), or in the fruits that are again produced among the saints with a power which makes it manifest that the Holy Ghost has dominion in their hearts over all the motives that influence man, making them walk by those of which He is the source. It is the energy of the Spirit in the presence of opposition, as before it was His natural fruit in those among whom He dwelt. Fresh persons sell their goods, and lay their price at the apostles' feet; among others, a man whom the Holy Ghost takes pleasure in distinguishing — Barnabas, from the island of Cyprus.
To sum up this chapter demonstrates, on one side, the condition of the Jews, their rejection of the testimony which was addressed to them in grace; and on the other, the power of the Holy Ghost and God's presence and guidance elsewhere, namely, in the midst of the disciples.
These three chapters (Acts 2-Acts 4) present the first forming of the assembly, and its blessed character through the Holy Spirit dwelling in it. They present to us its first beauty as formed of God, and His habitation.
|Previous chapter||Index||Next chapter|