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STUDIES IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
PETER AND JOHN BEFORE THE COUNCI.
LESSON V., JULY 31, ACTS 4:1-18
Golden Text—”There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12
This lesson continues the narrative of the preceding one, and shows how the glorious doctrine, of redemption and restitution through the death and resurrection of Christ, was received by those who heard. We learn that so many of the people believed that the number of disciples who openly espoused the cause of Christ was greatly increased. (Verse 4.) This manifestation of power, to influence the people to believe in the crucified Jesus and in the doctrine he taught, greatly incensed the priests, who resolutely refused the truths of the new dispensation, and were determined, so far as lay in their power, to hinder the people from believing them, and thus to retain their own former prestige and honors and influence.
The Sadducees also, a large sect of the Jews who denied, not only the doctrine of the resurrection and a future life, but also the existence of spirit beings, were greatly annoyed by this teaching, and joined with the priests and the captain of the temple in an effort to put an end to it. Then Peter and John were seized and put into prison, and afterward brought before the rulers and elders and scribes to answer for this heresy.
Evidently they appreciated the privilege of thus enduring reproach for the cause of Christ. With great boldness Peter again affirmed before the rulers that this miracle had been performed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they had crucified. They were so filled with the spirit of the glorious message they bore, that prisons and persecution and even the possibility of sharing their Master’s fate did not deter them from speaking boldly in his name, and of the blessed tidings of his coming kingdom and glory. “Be it known unto you all,” said Peter, “and to all the people of Israel, that 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 you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner [the chief corner stone in the divine plan of the ages]. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
How differently the truth affects men according to the attitude of their hearts with reference to it. Here was the man who had been healed of his lameness gratefully acknowledging the favor of God by accompanying God’s accused servants to prison and to judgment, bearing his witness to the truth thus by his personal presence with them, and willingly enduring with them whatever of reproach or persecution this testimony might bring. And how eloquent and convincing was the silent testimony of his presence; for these priests and rulers, the enemies of Christ and his doctrine, “beholding the man which was healed standing with them, could say nothing against it.” Then there were numerous others who openly identified themselves with the Church, ready and willing to bear whatever of reproach or persecution it might bring to them. On the contrary, there were those priests and rulers, the professed leaders and teachers of the people, forced to admit in their own hearts the truth of this miracle, yet, blinded by prejudice as to the teaching, secretly plotting and scheming as to how they might be able to hedge up its course and stamp it out, and secretly conferring among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle had been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” And they finally decided that it would not be advisable to rashly antagonize the numerous followers of the apostles who had been so impressed by their teaching. And therefore they let them go after strictly charging them to speak no more in this name.
To the one class the truth brought peace and joy and the blessed hope of everlasting life; while to the other class—the prejudice-blinded rejectors of God’s truth, though professedly his chosen leaders and teachers of the people in the truth—it brought only condemnation, and deepened and intensified their darkness. “Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers,” said the Master, “how can ye escape the condemnation to gehenna” [symbol of the second death]?—Matt. 23:33.
Those who cultivate a spirit of opposition to righteousness and who plot and scheme to withstand
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God are trifling with a dangerous propensity to evil which will sweep them on to destruction with almost irresistible force, rendering it next to impossible for them ever to turn to righteousness and truth. How great is the responsibility, then, of those who hear and understand the truth, both toward themselves and toward their fellow men. We cannot trifle with God’s truth with impunity: when it is testified to us it is our part to receive it into good and honest hearts, to act upon it and to let it have its proper effect upon our lives; and then, with grateful hearts toward God the giver, to bear its precious testimony to others in whatever way we can. If, like the man that was healed of his lameness, we have no talent of eloquence, we can at least company with those who love and serve the truth and let others see what the Lord has done for us, and in simple language we can tell how we who were once lame with ignorance and superstition and doubt and fear have been healed of our lameness and can now run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint; and how that through faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus the great work has been accomplished.
Let all who have heard the blessed gospel of redemption and a restitution of all things, and of the precious promises to the Church of being made co-workers with the Lord in bringing to all mankind the blessings of restitution, and of being made joint-heirs together with him in his kingdom, be faithful to the truth—faithful in esteeming it of highest importance, faithful in complying with its conditions of life, faithful in declaring it to others, faithful in standing up with and for those who publicly proclaim it, and faithful in holding it firm to the end.
The Golden Text of this lesson deserves more than a passing notice; for too many seem to lose sight of its import. As it was “through faith in his name”—the only name given,
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whereby we can be saved—that the impotent man was healed, so it is and is to be with all men and with all diseases of body and of soul. Only through the channel of faith in Christ flows the blessing of God. Not through faith without Christ, and not through Christ without faith, but through faith in him whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.—1 John 2:2.
As men’s hearts expand and as they come to realize that but a very small proportion of humanity, now living or dead, ever heard of the ONLY NAME WHEREIN IS SALVATION, they rebel against this text and either twist it or deny it, because they hold as truth the human teaching that the present life ends all probation and all hope. On the contrary, how much better it would be for them to say with the Apostle: Let God be true though it prove all humanity to be in error; and, affirming with Peter and all the apostles that there is no salvation without faith and no other name in which faith will avail, they should seek for the Scriptural solution of their difficulty. They would find it in the words of all the holy prophets and apostles, as well as in our Lord’s words: that as the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, this glorious gospel must be testified to all in due time (1 Tim. 2:6), and that this “due time” is coming in which the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (Isa. 11:9; 35:5.) Then all that are in their graves shall obey the voice of the Son of Man and come forth—and they who then obey him shall live in a sense and to a degree that they never lived before—an everlasting life.—John 5:25,28.
— July 15, 1892 —