And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:…
I. THE MESSAGE.
1. This begins with the assurance that there is a moral government. There is a Judge over the race of men. Men are not permitted to do whatsoever is right in their own eyes. The race is not left to anarchy: Jesus Christ is Head of all.
2. We have to go on to say that there will be a judgment. Consider —
(1) The character of God. Being the Ruler of the world, He must do justice. We should count any man a miserable counterfeit of a monarch if he never administered justice. And "the Father who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's works" will not permit offenders to insult His laws with impunity.
(2) The character of man equally involves a judgment, for he is evidently a responsible being. We count not the cattle of the hills or the fish of the sea responsible; no one blames the wolf that he ravens, or the lion that he devours; but when we come to think of man, we regard him as a creature whose actions have a moral quality about them, and are either right or wrong. Surely, where there is responsibility there is a law, and where there is a law there must, some day or other, be rewards for well-doers and punishments for malefactors.
(3) The present tangled condition of the world's history requires that there should be a day of rectification at the end of time. We often see the wicked prosper, while the righteous are abased. The Judge of all the earth must do right; and how can this be but by a final adjustment in which it shall be clearly seen that, though the wicked prosper for a while, they are as bullocks fattening for the slaughter; and though the righteous suffer for a while, it is but as the gold suffers in the furnace, that it may come forth purified?
(4) Moreover, there is in the consciences of most a testimony to a coming judgment. I will not say of all men, for I believe that some manage so to drug their self-consciousness as at last to quiet all their fears; but yet the most of men believe in a judgment to come, and in their more thoughtful moods are alarmed thereat.
3. This judgment will be conducted by the Man Christ Jesus. He will be thus enthroned, I suppose, partly because it is involved in His mediatorial office, in which the Lord hath put all things in subjection under His feet. But specially remember that the Judge is the Man Christ Jesus. There must be special reason for this honour done to the manhood of our Lord, or it would not be so continually insisted upon (Daniel 7:13; John 5:22, 27; Matthew 25:31, 32; Matthew 13:41). Be ye sure, then, of His impartiality. He is God, yet Man, having an intense sympathy both with the King and with the subjects.
4. This judgment will concern all mankind. He will judge the quick and dead; that is, those who will be alive at His coming He will judge, as well as those who have already died. The summons will exempt no man. Here and there a criminal escapes the vigilant eye of human law; but there shall be no such instance at the coming of the Lord.
5. A few words concerning this judgment. It will be —
(1) A very eminent one. It will be a judgment fixed by the peremptory ordinance of God, for the text saith that He hath "ordained" Jesus to sit as Judge. The whole trial will be most solemnly conducted (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
(2) Very searching, into deeds (2 Corinthians 5:10); words (Matthew 12:36); every secret thing (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
(3) Very exact. It will proceed upon evidence and documentary testimony, and slander and hearsay will not be mentioned there. "The books were opened."(4) Very severe; for things will not be judged by their outward appearance, but put to thorough test and trial.
6. The sentences will be so just as to be indisputable, and even the condemned will own the justness thereof. That verdict will be final and irreversible. When Jesus has once pronounced it, there will be no appeal, no suing out of a writ of error, no reversal of the decree. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
II. THE EVIDENT IMPORTANCE OF THIS MESSAGE.
1. This may be gathered from the text.
(1) "He commanded us." Then God must know that there is a great necessity for its being declared.
(2) "To preach" — to herald, to proclaim. Lo, we this day precede the great Judge, as the trumpeters go before our judges on assize day, and this is our cry, "He cometh! Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead!"(3) "To testify." Having given the proclamation, we are then to bear witness solemnly, and to speak the fact over and over again for God, adding our own belief that it is surely true.
(4) "Unto the people" — not to some few, but to all.
2. There is importance in this from other reasons.
(1) It sheds a great light upon the future of the ungodly.
(2) It reflects great glory upon Christ. Ye may despise Him, but He is your Master after all.
(3) It has a beneficial effect upon our everyday life. I constantly hear people say, "Tell the people about something that has to do with today — about cleanliness and honesty, and all that." But if I want men to live righteously, I know of no motive that can have greater weight than this. You are stewards; you will have to give in your account. Will anybody tell me that this is unpractical? If God will judge men at the last, it behoves men to see how they live today.
(4) It has a convincing and awakening power. Men tremble when they hear of judgment to come, and they are led to cry," What must we do to be saved?" This is the plough which makes furrows for the good seed; the surgeon's knife which prepares for the reception of the healing balm. Years ago a gentlewoman had been spending an afternoon at cards, and the evening at a ball. She came home very late, and found her maid servant reading a book. "Ah," said she, "are you still poring over your dull books? They make you moping and melancholy." The lady retired to her chamber, but she slept not. In the night she was troubled, and fell a-weeping. She tossed to and fro; and at length she called her maid. She said, "Madam, what ails you? I thought I left you very merry and well." "Oh," said she, "but I looked over your book, and I only saw one word, but that word stings me: I cannot sleep; I cannot bear it!" "What word was it, madam?" "It was that word 'eternity.' Oh, maid," said she, "it is very well for me to sport and play and waste my time as I have done; but oh, eternity, eternity, eternity! How can I face eternity?" And so that night was turned to prayer. I could wish the like might happen now to many of you.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: