And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.…
By so simple a term is the infant Church designated — "a company." As soon as Jesus had ascended, we find that there was an assembly of His followers, who continued with one accord in prayer, resorting to an upper room (Acts 1:18, 14). This small assembly was speedily increased by fresh adherents. Our Saviour never formally organised His Church: He left it to the operation of the human mind assisted by Divine influence. Men find it necessary to associate together for all important interests, and would be sure to do so for religious purposes.
I. The NATURE of the Church.
1. It is a voluntary company" one to which men are not born, but to which they attach themselves by choice and from conviction. Such assemblies were at first formed in various places, and were each called a church. The term was not then used, as it has since been, to mark the whole body of Christians in any district; but always either for the whole Church or for some particular society. In the former sense, we read that "Christ is head over all things to the Church." In the latter we hear of the Churches of Achaia and Macedonia; of the Church which is at Corinth, or at Ephesus, or even in the dwelling of a single family.
2. It is a separated company; a holy society; its members are called to come out from among the people of the world.
3. It is a spiritual society, as opposed to a merely civil association. Nothing secular properly belongs to the Church. Just as we cannot, by artificial embellishments, add anything to the real beauty of nature; so all that man has aimed to add, in the way of pomp and circumstance to the Church of Christ instead of adorning, rather disfigures it.
4. Though human instruments are employed in this society, yet it is wholly of Divine institution. All its varied offices and administrations are of Divine origin: "He gave some apostles... for the edifying of the body of Christ."
5. It is an immortal company. The individual members die; but fresh generations of saints are continually rising up in succession. The sacred lamp may be removed from one place, but it is only that it may burn brighter in another.
II. The DESIGN with which the Church is formed.
1. For the benefit of every individual belonging to it. The Good Shepherd, while He feeds the whole of His flock, has a particular respect to the state and wants of every member. As in the first age all had all things in common, so real Christians will now be ready to share their joys and sorrows; to help the needy in temporal wants; and most of all to cherish a spiritual union and sympathy. Christian intercourse unites the hearts of the saints, "they that feared the Lord spake often together."
2. For the salvation of others.
III. The manner of its GOVERNMENT. As every society, to be well-ordered, requires rules; so there are rules of Church government. These indeed are very few and very simple: real Christians need very little law; the law is for the lawless and disobedient: but theirs is the law of love; love is fulfilment of the law.
(R. Hall, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.