But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.…
I. Division. "Behold I come not to cause peace, but division." So said the Master; so felt the disciples.
1. The gospel causes division in —
(1) The man himself — between inclination and conviction; interest and conscience; intellect and passion.
(2) Families, between parents and children; brothers and sisters, etc.
(3) Society. The gospel has often sundered life-long friendships and associations.
(1) Because of the incessant vigilance and activity of the great enemy of the gospel, who stirs up opposition to it.
(2) Because of the revolutionary power of the gospel. Men do not like to have the old convictions, customs, etc., disturbed. There is no objection per se to the existence of the gospel, if its possessors will only keep quiet. Professing Christians who make no effort to disturb existing arrangements live quietly enough.
(3) Because of the intolerance of the gospel. Had Christians in ancient times been content with a place for Christ in the Pantheon there would have been no persecutions; it was because they claimed for Christ the only place, that excited the ire of heathendom. And men of all shades of opinion today would allow Christianity a place as a system of thought or ethics; but it is when she claims for herself absolute and undisputed supremacy in politics, society, business, etc., that the conflict begins.
II. OPPOSITION. Part held with the Jews.
1. Sympathetically. There is an opposition nowadays which does not proceed to active antagonism. Indifference to the gospel is sympathy with its foes. "He that is not for Me is against Me." This form of opposition is the most difficult to deal with. An army would sooner meet its enemy than pass through a country secretly at league with the enemy. What the gospel has to dread is not infidel propaganda, or blatant vice; but mere intangible negativism. This we find not only outside the Churches but within.
2. Actively. This opposition exists in various forms.
(1) Intellectual — controversy.
(2) Political — bad laws.
(3) Moral — vicious influence.
(4) Social — evil customs.
(5) Physical — persecution.
III. ACCEPTANCE. "Part with the apostles." This acceptance is —
1. Secret. There are thousands like Nicodemus, in heathen and Christian lands, whose whole sympathy is with the gospel, but who, for domestic or social reasons, withhold profession. This is not to be commended, but condemned; nevertheless, in estimating the forces for and against the gospel it should be considered. If it shows a heart yet unrenewed, it is evidence of feelings touched, intellect convinced, and perhaps will trembling in the balance. Such should be encouraged to not only hold with the apostles, but to stand boldly by their side.
2. Public. To take part thoroughly with the apostles is —
(1) To defend their gospel.
(2) To assist them in their work. Something more is required than to listen to their teaching and to attend ordinances at which they preside once a week. Yet how many who profess to be decided Christians do no more. The work of the gospel requires the help of every disciple; as a matter of fact an average congregation yields one worker to ten members.
(J. W. Burn.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.