Teaching and Persecution
Acts 4:1-22
And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came on them,…

1. Not only did Peter and John cure the lame man, they proceeded to "teach the people." Herein was their greatest fault. Christianity is a teaching religion. It seeks out all the people, and speaks the popular tongue. It is just here that preachers may learn their most useful lesson. Our danger is that we speak to the classes; the apostles taught the masses. We can never get back to that universal speech unless those of you who are educated and highly refined will support us. You must be content to be partially neglected in so far as intellectual luxuries are concerned, and must assist us in providing good wholesome bread for the common people. That is precisely the difference between Christianity and every other religion. Others say, "Keep the people in the dark"; this, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Others draw a screen, as lectured from behind a curtain to his disciples, and from behind they mutter their unintelligible incantations; this lifts its red banner, throws it out upon the willing wind, and on it is written, "This thing was not done in a corner." Other religions are philosophies only; Christianity is a gospel as well.

2. A very marvellous thing occurs here, in a kind of parenthesis. The rulers put them in prison. "Howbeit"! — God has His finger in this! He comes through very narrow spaces, and seizes very transient opportunities. "Howbeit" — Wait there a while to get the full rush of this glorious announcement — "many of them which heard the Word believed." Why should not that be the case now, so that whatever may happen to the preacher within the next hour be may know, as he goes to his account, that he has left behind him a harvest before the time?

3. The morning came, and justice must be done. This question was hurled at them, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" Beware of turning your religion into a piece of metaphysical inquiry. It is at that point that Christianity is often defeated in her most beneficent purposes. The learned men wanted to analyse what we now call the modus operandi. Instead of accepting the man, the concrete, positive, indisputable fact, they wanted to lure the apostles, and those who followed them, into metaphysical quagmires and difficulties. Preachers do not answer the "why" and the "how" of merely inquisitive minds. Have the man himself with you, and let him be your argument. Christianity rests on facts, not upon opinions. If the Church of Christ has not the Man with it, any amount of mere philosophical theorising and speculation will do harm rather than good. Where is the man you have saved? Produce him. Where are the hungry you have fed, the ignorant you have instructed, the enslaved you have emancipated? Produce them. This is a fact. not a quibble. By whatever means it is done the effect is certain, and the cause of such an effect must itself be good.

4. Peter and John will surely stammer before this glittering assembly I The maid that taunted the rough-spoken Galilaean was too much for Peter; when he sees Annas, etc., there will be no spirit left in him. How does the narrative road? "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost." That is a thousand Peters: Peter multiplied by the very Deity. Peter? — a straw blown away by the mocking wind, by himself. But Peter "filled with the Holy Ghost" was a man of war clothed with heavenly panoply, eloquent with heaven's thunder, gracious with heaven's love. Have we received the Holy Ghost? The question is not, "Are we well trained intellectually?" "Have we read many books?" "Are we able to conduct very subtle arguments?" We shall know whether we have received the Spirit by the fire that is in us. We have received the first baptism, we have been "christened," Christ-named, christianised in the sense of having been brought to the church, and had the initial water sprinkled upon our forehead; but have we received the Holy Ghost? There is no mistaking Him.

5. Peter having been challenged to give an account of the circumstance, made the eloquent reply which you find within verses 9 to 12 inclusive. Whenever Peter spake suddenly, on great subjects, he spake the very heart of God. How much he makes of Christ in the 10th verse! We seem hardly to have heard the whole style and title of Jesus before. We have them here. We have called the Saviour "Jesus," sometimes we have called Him "Jesus Christ." By some short indication of this kind we have made reference to the Redeemer. But how seldom have we given Him His full style and title! — "Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him." There is no mistaking that address. What Christ do you preach? We have heard of the Christ of the painter — a figure tenderly coloured, set in wondrous lights and shades. We have stood before it, and sometimes we have thrilled in its presence, and felt the waters stealing into our eyes. But that Christ never saved the Soul, it is only a creation of art. We have heard of the Christ of the poet. Christ has been spoken of in flowing rhyme and stately blank verse; but that Christ never came from the intellect into the depths of the heart in its deadliest remorse on account of sin. We must go back to the apostolic Christ if we have to realise apostolic conceptions and to win apostolic successes in the ministry. Peter might well have ended by the statement contained in the 10th verse, but Peter often found it difficult to conclude when Christ was the theme. How can a river end except in the sea? The little pool, the purling rill, soon sinks in the sand; but the river — deep, broad, fluent — moves on through channelled rocks and shady woods, on, on to the solemn sea. Peter went onward. Said he, "This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner." The place trembled under the vibration of that living voice! He might have ended there; but it was difficult, let us repeat, for Peter ever to end when Christ was the theme. So he continued, "Neither is there salvation in any other," etc. The original question was not one of salvation, it was merely a question of healing a lame man. But you never find the apostles confining themselves to the mere incident. Every miracle is only a text. Let an apostle heal a man's ankle-bones, and from those ankle-bones he swings clear off to Christ's world. saving Cross. "If we have healed your ankle-bones, we meant it to be symbolic of the greater healing of your soul."

6. Now, it was the turn of the Sanhedrim to be shut up and put "in hold unto the next day," and every day after that. When they saw the boldness of Peter and John "they marvelled." Any man that can be accounted for will never influence his age. He will make a splash in the pool; but the bubbles will be seen a moment, then will sink for ever. You never can make out the secret of a Whitefield. You never can make out the secret power of any man who makes a whole world hear him. If you could account for him you would be as great as he is. What then did the wise and influential Jews do? "Threaten them." You feel the difference of temperature between vers. 11, 12, and vers. 16-18. The apostles must not speak any morel There must be an end of this nuisance. Society is not to be disturbed by such propagandists. Peter, having heard the threatening, said unto them, "Whether it be right " That is the word that makes history, that thrills the ages. And the apostles having received this threatening, "went to their own company, and reported," etc. What a talk they had! How they reminded one another of the occasion of the movement! And when the company had heard it all "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,... "They too became eloquent. And when they had prayed, "the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Pentecost after Pentecost! Poor Church! Thou hast fallen upon empty times. They are but mean challenges that are addressed to us now. If we could be once more threatened with the prison and the stake, the rod of iron and the keen double-edged weapon, some of us might be heroes. At present we may be but common clay.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,

WEB: As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came to them,

Righteous Boldness
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