And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
I. Many people can imagine Church workers feeling pleasure under certain conditions and experiences of their work — in its hours of success, and scenes of glad acceptance and sympathetic reception; but hardly any, without careful thought, could understand men professing themselves as happy after enduring such an ordeal as the apostles had just passed through. Yet let me point you to analogies. First take the case of the scholar, the man who loves and pursues knowledge for its own sake. Have we not heard of men who are content, nay, supremely happy in toiling on steadily and silently for years, wrapped up in and devoted to enlarging their ever-increasing stores of information? Such there have been and are, who deny themselves all other pleasures, even health, not to speak of worldly advantage or social advancement, who work on in silence and solitude, finding their one joy in their enthusiastic devotion to this their only object in life. Or take the case of the man of science. Not the man who studies literature or law or history, but the man who is engaged in wresting fresh secrets from nature; not in order to patent an invention and make a large fortune, but who loves nature and science for their own sake, whose one object seems to be making constant additions to the number of known facts or verified laws and operations. Again, have we not read of travellers and explorers perfectly possessed by their life of adventure; ever seeking to scale heights which no one else has reached, to penetrate further into unknown regions, and who for this purpose have endured almost incredible hardship and toil; to whom labours well-nigh superhuman seemed as nothing, who would face with readiness situations where they verily went with their lives in their hands? I might go on to speak of the love of the soldier, the engineer, the artist, the musician, for their callings. For we shall find that the greatest men in every sphere of life have had, as it were, a perfect passion for their profession, and have followed it not for any outside reward or emolument it might bring, but for its own sake. Now, may I take Christianity as a profession, and give the widest interpretation to the true Christian work? Is it quite impossible for the Christian worker to find such an interest in the work itself, apart from any hope of reward, as a scholar, an artist, a soldier finds in his profession? The true artist has a pure and enthusiastic love for art; the scholar's one object in life is knowledge; what, then, is the Christian worker's means and object of rejoicing? Must it not be in the increase of goodness? Christ and Christianity have but one object — the righteousness of man, the placing of good in the stead of evil. Notice how different the conduct of the apostles now from what it was previous to the resurrection. Then, at the advent of a few armed men, they had fled in terror and deserted their Master. Now, they were joyfully prepared to suffer persecution and death on His behalf. What had produced the change? What but a revelation of the true nature of their Master?
II. With joy is closely allied peace. Peace is the inward state of feeling of which holy joy is the manifestation. The Christian lives in two spheres — in the world and also in Christ. In the first sphere he must be in a state of conflict with much he finds around him. But he lives also in close communion with his Master; and so far as he tries to do his Master's service, to obey His will, to be led by His Spirit, he is at peace. We are all, in one way or another, seeking for happiness. Physical life depends on conformation to the laws of nature. Spiritual life depends on conformation to the Spirit of God. The object of the will of Gad is righteousness, goodness, truth. This, if we would have peace, must be the object of our wills also. Hence, in the pursuit of goodness, even in the midst of tribulation, shall we find joy.
(W. E. Chadwick, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.