Peter and John Before the Council
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. The name of Jesus was the power that wrought the miracle; or to use the incomparable language of the preacher himself, "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before yon whole." By the name we are to understand all the powers and prerogatives that centre in the Person. An ambassador borrows all his authority from the name of his sovereign. Paul, in the provincial court at Philippi, saved himself by invoking the name of Caesar. The inquisitors before whom Peter stood on this occasion supposed that Jesus was dead. It was, indeed, true that bodily He had vanished from the sight of men; but He had left behind Him a name in which resided the tremendous power of His spiritual presence, which was destined thereafter to be the working force in history until the whole world should be subjugated to God. For want of ability to discern this fact, Hume and Gibbon and all other undevout historians have been at their wits' end. They have marked the operations of a mysterious force, working like a magnet, and leading the nations on toward a brighter, better day; but for the most part they have frankly acknowledged their inability to locate or characterise it. The name of Jesus is this unnamed factor in universal history.

2. The name of Jesus, though despised by these inquisitors, has taken precedence of all others in heaven or on earth. Or, again to quote the preacher, "This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." Christ dead? Ah, no! Could these ecclesiastics have looked forward through the centuries they would have seen His name written on all scrolls of honour, His Cross glowing on innumerable spires that were to point, like index-fingers, to His throne in heaven, and His kingdom spreading like a vast tabernacle to enfold the world. In vain do kings of the earth set themselves and rulers take counsel together against this Jesus.

3. The name of Jesus alone has power to save; in Peter's words, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved." Among those who listened to the apostle that day there was probably not one who did not cherish some sort of hope of salvation; but if these words were true they were all leaning on broken reeds.

(1) No doubt there were rabbis there who congratulated themselves on their acquaintance with current theology. They knew the technics of the argument between the schools of Shammai and Hillel, and were thoroughly adept in the traditions of the elders. But, without desiring to belittle the importance of dogma, it is right to say that the brain is a good way from the heart, and there is a vast difference between theology and religion. Many a man has, intellectually, a faultless creed who is nevertheless an utter stranger to vital godliness. But souls are not saved that way. A man may know all about the Nicene and the Ante-Nicene fathers, and all about creeds and symbols and theological systems, but if he has not made the acquaintance of Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, he shall not enter into life.

(2) Then, doubtless, there were others in Peter's audience who hoped to be saved for their devotion to the Church. We cannot dispense with the Church; nor dare we cast reproach upon it, for it is the bride of Jesus Christ; nevertheless, to rely upon externals for salvation is to face an awful disappointment at the great day. This was the trouble with the Pharisees.

(3) No doubt there were moralists also in this company, and, if so, Peter's word ruled them out of heaven. For morality, as such, however admirable, has no saving virtue in it. Emerson objects to the use of the term "mere morality," but what else shall we call that sort of legalism which takes no cogni-sance of the Lawgiver? The trouble with "mere morality" is that it leaves uncancelled the mislived past; it has no power to atone for a single sin, while it ignores the claims of Jehovah. In saying that we say nothing against morality, for the law is good; but the atoning power must be sought for elsewhere. Peter's sermon had a remarkable effect upon the minds of his distinguished hearers.

(a) They marvelled that "unlearned and ignorant men" should have such forensic power. Bat they knew nothing of the influence of the Holy Ghost that rested upon them.

(b) They "took knowledge of these men that they had been with Jesus." The ground of that conclusion lay in the fact that they had manifestly caught His Spirit.

(D. J. Burrell, 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,

Peter and John Before the Council
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