At the Temple Gate
[This chapter is based on Acts 3; 4:1-31.]
The disciples of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency,
and with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His
strength, their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His
righteousness, their poverty to His exhaustless wealth. Thus
strengthened and equipped, they hesitated not to press forward in the
service of the Master.
A short time after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and immediately
after a season of earnest prayer, Peter and John, going up to the temple
to worship, saw at the gate Beautiful a cripple, forty years of age,
whose life, from his birth, had been one of pain and infirmity. This
unfortunate man had long desired to see Jesus, that he might be healed;
but he was almost helpless, and was far removed from the scene of the
great Physician's labours. His pleadings at last induced some friends to
bear him to the gate of the temple, but upon arriving there, he found
that the One upon whom his hopes were centred, had been put to a cruel
His disappointment excited the sympathy of those who knew for how
long he had eagerly hoped to be healed by Jesus, and daily they brought
him to the temple, in order that passers-by might be induced by pity to
give him a trifle to relieve his wants. As Peter and John passed, he
asked an alms from them. The disciples regarded him compassionately, and
Peter said, "Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to
receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I
none." As Peter thus declared his poverty, the countenance of the
cripple fell; but it grew bright with hope as the apostle continued,
"But such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth rise up and walk.
"And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and
immediately his feet and anklebones received strength. And he leaping up
stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and
leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and
praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the
Beautiful Gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and
amazement at that which had happened."
"And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all
the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's,
greatly wondering." They were astonished that the disciples could
perform miracles similar to those performed by Jesus. Yet here was this
man, for forty years a helpless cripple, now rejoicing in the full use
of his limbs, free from pain, and happy in believing in Jesus.
When the disciples saw the amazement of the people, Peter asked,
"Why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as
though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?"
He assured them that the cure had been wrought in the name and through
the merits of Jesus of Nazareth, whom God had raised from the dead.
"His name through faith in His name," the apostle declared,
"hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith
which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of
The apostles spoke plainly of the great sin of the Jews in rejecting
and putting to death the Prince of life; but they were careful not to
drive their hearers to despair. "Ye denied the Holy One and the
Just," Peter said, "and desired a murderer to be granted unto
you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead;
whereof we are witnesses." "And now, brethren, I wot that
through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things,
which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that
Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled." He declared that the
Holy Spirit was calling upon them to repent and be converted, and
assured them that there was no hope of salvation except through the
mercy of the One whom they had crucified. Only through faith in Him
could their sins be forgiven.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted," he cried,
"that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing
shall come from the presence of the Lord."
"Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which
God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall
all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having
raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every
one of you from his iniquities."
Thus the disciples preached the resurrection of Christ. Many among
those who listened were waiting for this testimony, and when they heard
it they believed. It brought to their minds the words that Christ had
spoken, and they took their stand in the ranks of those who accepted the
gospel. The seed that the Saviour had sown sprang up and bore fruit.
While the disciples were speaking to the people, "the priests,
and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being
grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the
resurrection from the dead."
After Christ's resurrection the priests had spread far and near the
lying report that His body had been stolen by the disciples while the
Roman guard slept. It is not surprising that they were displeased when
they hear Peter and John preaching the resurrection of the One they had
murdered. The Sadducees especially were greatly aroused. They felt that
their most cherished doctrine was in danger, and their reputation at
Converts to the new faith were rapidly increasing, and both Pharisees
and Sadducees agreed that if these new teachers were suffered to go
unchecked, their own influence would be in greater danger than when
Jesus was upon the earth. Accordingly, the captain of the temple, with
the help of a number of Sadducees, arrested Peter and John, and put them
in prison, as it was too late that day for them to be examined.
The enemies of the disciples could not but be convinced that Christ
had risen from the dead. The evidence was too clear to be doubted.
Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, refusing to repent of the
terrible deed they had committed in putting Jesus to death. Abundant
evidence that the apostles were speaking and acting under divine
inspiration had been given the Jewish rulers, but they firmly resisted
the message of truth. Christ had not come in the manner that they
expected, and though at times they had been convinced that He was the
Son of God, yet they had stifled conviction, and crucified Him. In mercy
God gave them still further evidence, and now another opportunity was
granted them to turn to Him. He sent the disciples to tell them that
they had killed the Prince of life, and in this terrible charge He gave
them another call to repentance. But feeling secure in their own
righteousness, the Jewish teachers refused to admit that the men
charging them with crucifying Christ were speaking by the direction of
the Holy Spirit.
Having committed themselves to a course of opposition to Christ,
every act of resistance became to the priests an additional incentive to
pursue the same course. Their obstinacy became more and more determined.
It was not that they could not yield; they could, but would not. It was
not alone because they were guilty and deserving of death, not alone
because they had put to death the Son of God, that they were cut off
from salvation; it was because they armed themselves with opposition to
God. They persistently rejected light and stifled the convictions of the
Spirit. The influence that controls the children of disobedience worked
in them, leading them to abuse the men through whom God was working. The
malignity of their rebellion was intensified by each successive act of
resistance against God and the message He had given His servants to
declare. Every day, in their refusal to repent, the Jewish leaders took
up their rebellion afresh, preparing to reap that which they had sown.
The wrath of God is not declared against unrepentant sinners merely
because of the sins they have committed, but because, when called to
repent, they choose to continue in resistance, repeating the sins of the
past in defiance of the light given them. If the Jewish leaders had
submitted to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, they would have
been pardoned; but they were determined not to yield. In the same way,
the sinner, by continued resistance, places himself where the Holy
Spirit cannot influence him.
On the day following the healing of the cripple, Annas and Caiaphas,
with the other dignitaries of the temple, met together for the trial,
and the prisoners were brought before them. In that very room and before
some of those very men, Peter had shamefully denied his Lord. This came
distinctly to his mind as he appeared for his own trial. He now had an
opportunity of redeeming his cowardice.
Those present who remembered the part that Peter had acted at the
trial of his Master, flattered themselves that he could now be
intimidated by the threat of imprisonment and death. But the Peter who
denied Christ in the hour of His greatest need was impulsive and
self-confident, differing widely from the Peter who was brought before
the Sanhedrin for examination. Since his fall he had been converted. He
was no longer proud and boastful, but modest and self-distrustful. He
was filled with the Holy Spirit, and by the help of this power he was
resolved to remove the stain of his apostasy by honouring the name he
had once disowned.
Hitherto the priests had avoided mentioning the crucifixion or the
resurrection of Jesus. But now, in fulfilment of their purpose, they
were forced to inquire of the accused how the cure of the impotent man
had been accomplished. "By what power, or by what name, have ye
done this?" they asked.
With holy boldness and in the power of the Spirit Peter fearlessly
declared: "Be it known unto you all, 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 nought of you
builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there
salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved."
This courageous defence appalled the Jewish leaders. They had
supposed that the disciples would be overcome with fear and confusion
when brought before the Sanhedrin.
But, instead, these witnesses spoke as Christ had spoken, with a
convincing power that silenced their adversaries. There was no trace of
fear in Peter's voice as he declared of Christ, "This is the stone
which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the
Peter here used a figure of speech familiar to the priests. The
prophets had spoken of the rejected stone; and Christ Himself, speaking
on one occasion to the priests and elders, said: "Did ye never read
in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is
become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is
marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God
shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits
thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on
whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Matthew
As the priests listened to the apostles' fearless words, "they
took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
Of the disciples after the transfiguration of Christ it is written
that at the close of that wonderful scene "they saw no man, save
Jesus only." Matthew 17:8. "Jesus only"-- in these words
is contained the secret of the life and power that marked the history of
the early church. When the disciples first heard the words of Christ,
they felt their need of Him. They sought, they found, they followed Him.
They were with Him in the temple, at the table, on the mountainside, in
the field. They were as pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from Him
lessons of eternal truth.
After the Saviour's ascension, the sense of the divine presence, full
of love and light, was still with them. It was a personal presence.
Jesus, the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who
had spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of
peace was upon His lips, been taken from them into heaven. As the
chariot of angels received Him, His words had come to them, "Lo, I
am with you alway, even unto the end." Matthew 28:20. He had
ascended to heaven in the form of humanity. They knew that He was before
the throne of God, their Friend and Saviour still; that His sympathies
were unchanged; that He would forever be identified with suffering
humanity. They knew that He was presenting before God the merit of His
blood, showing His wounded hands and feet as a remembrance of the price
He had paid for His redeemed ones; and this thought strengthened them to
endure reproach for His sake. Their union with Him was stronger now than
when He was with them in person. The light and love and power of an
indwelling Christ shone out through them, so that men, beholding,
Christ placed His seal on the words that Peter spoke in His defence.
Close beside the disciple, as a convincing witness, stood the man who
had been so miraculously healed. The appearance of this man, a few hours
before a helpless cripple, but now restored to soundness of health,
added a weight of testimony to Peter's words. Priests and rulers were
silent. They were unable to refute Peter's statement, but they were
nonetheless determined to put a stop to the teaching of the disciples.
Christ's crowning miracle--the raising of Lazarus--had sealed the
determination of the priests to rid the world of Jesus and His wonderful
works, which were fast destroying their influence over the people. They
had crucified Him; but here was a convincing proof that they had not put
a stop to the working of miracles in His name, nor to the proclamation
of the truth He taught. Already the healing of the cripple and the
preaching of the apostles had filled Jerusalem with excitement.
In order to conceal their perplexity, the priests and rulers ordered
the apostles to be taken away, that they might counsel among themselves.
They all agreed that it would be useless to deny that the man had been
healed. Gladly would they have covered up the miracle by falsehoods; but
this was impossible, for it had been wrought in the full light of day,
before a multitude of people, and had already come to the knowledge of
thousands. They felt that the work of the disciples must be stopped or
Jesus would gain many followers. Their own disgrace would follow, for
they would be held guilty of the murder of the Son of God.
But notwithstanding their desire to destroy the disciples, the
priests dared not do more than threaten them with the severest
punishment if they continued to speak or to work in the name of Jesus.
Calling them again before the Sanhedrin, they commanded them not to
speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered:
"Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more
than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we
have seen and heard."
Gladly would the priests have punished these men for their unswerving
fidelity to their sacred calling, but they feared the people; "for
all men glorified God for that which was done." So, with repeated
threats and injunctions, the apostles were set at liberty.
While Peter and John were prisoners, the other disciples, knowing the
malignity of the Jews, had prayed unceasingly for their brethren,
fearing that the cruelty shown to Christ might be repeated. As soon as
the apostles were released, they sought the rest of the disciples and
reported to them the result of the examination. Great was the joy of the
believers. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and
said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the
sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast
said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The
kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together
against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy
Holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius
Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered
together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined
before to be done.
"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy
servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching
forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the
name of Thy Holy Child Jesus."
The disciples prayed that greater strength might be imparted to them
in the work of the ministry; for they saw that they would meet the same
determined opposition that Christ had encountered when upon the earth.
While their united prayers were ascending in faith to heaven, the answer
came. The place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were
endowed anew with the Holy Spirit. Their hearts filled with courage,
they again went forth to proclaim the word of God in Jerusalem.
"With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of
the Lord Jesus," and God marvellously blessed their efforts.
The principle for which the disciples stood so fearlessly when, in
answer to the command not to speak any more in the name of Jesus, they
declared, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto
you more than unto God, judge ye," is the same that the adherents
of the gospel struggled to maintain in the days of the Reformation. When
in 1529 the German princes assembled at the Diet of Spires, there was
presented the emperor's decree restricting religious liberty, and
prohibiting all further dissemination of the reformed doctrines. It
seemed that the hope of the world was about to be crushed out. Would the
princes accept the decree? Should the light of the gospel be shut out
from the multitudes still in darkness? Mighty issues for the world were
at stake. Those who had accepted the reformed faith met together, and
their unanimous decision was, "Let us reject this decree. In
matters of conscience the majority has no power."--Merle d'Aubigne,
History of the Reformation, b. 13, ch. 5.
This principle we in our day are firmly to maintain. The banner of
truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel
church and by God's witnesses during the centuries that have passed
since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands. The
responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed
with a knowledge of His word. We are to receive this word as supreme
authority. We are to recognise human government as an ordinance of
divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within
its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of
God, we must obey God rather than men. God's word must be recognised as
above all human legislation. A "Thus saith the Lord" is not to
be set aside for a "Thus saith the church" or a "Thus
saith the state." The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the
diadems of earthly potentates.
We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or
written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on
record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law
and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily
close up our way. We are to go forward in Christ's name, advocating the
truths committed to us. If we are forbidden by men to do this work, then
we may say, as did the apostles, "Whether it be right in the sight
of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot
but speak the things which we have seen and heard."