You rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
witnesses (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8). In these their early sermons or addresses, we may find the points which they considered were specially entrusted to them to declare. They would be sure to give first the basis or foundation facts on which the Christian system rested, and then gradually unfold the various doctrines which were embodied in those facts. Their central, foundation fact was their Lord's resurrection. It even seems that, at first, the Resurrection stood out more prominently before the apostles' minds than the sacrifical death. The precise proportions and relations of the Christian truths became matters of later adjustment; and, indeed, we are still trying to get them complete and satisfactory. Very many of the modern doctrinal controversies and sectarian disputes are occasioned by a failing sense of the proportions and relations in the whole of truth; some things are exaggerated and some underestimated; men fight hard for pieces of truth, as if they were the whole. The true work, worthy to engage all our thought and heart, is the fair estimate of all the various pieces, and the skilful setting of each in its fitting place. In the early preaching of the apostles may also be noticed how they seem to stand aside, so that Christ, their Lord and Master, only may be seen and honored. In this following the example of that Master, for he seemed ever to be stepping aside in order that men may fully see the Father. And in this also showing to us what is the essential spirit of all Christian preaching. The preacher's self must never be prominent; we may only set forth "Christ Jesus the Lord." The scene in "Solomon's porch," or portico, may be described. It was on the eastern side of the temple, and "consisted of a double row of Corinthian columns, about thirty-seven feet high. It was, like the porticoes of all Greek cities, a favorite place of resort, especially as facing the morning sun in winter" (John 10:23). In this same portico Jesus himself had taught. The prominent points concerning the Lord Jesus presented by St. Peter are -
I. JEHOVAH SENT AND ACKNOWLEDGED HIM. (Ver. 13.) The word Son would be better Servant, and then the passage (Isaiah 42:1), "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold," is at once brought to mind. In addressing the Jews, it was necessary to show that no claim was made for Jesus Christ as a new and independent God; the teaching of his divinity was consistent with both the teaching of the Divine Unity, which was the Jews' great truth, and the teaching of the Divine Trinity, which is the great Christian truth. To the Jew a new God must be a false God, for Jehovah is one. Messengers of Jehovah they could receive. Manifestations of Jehovah they could accept. The conception of the "Son of God" was not to them an impossible one. And therefore our Lord so earnestly pressed that the Father God had sent him; and the apostles urge that Jehovah's seal of acceptance rested on him and on his work. This truth is needed still. We cannot rest in the salvation wrought by Christ unless we can fully see that it is God's salvation (see John 3:16).
II. MEN DENIED HIS MISSION, AND CRUCIFIED HIM. (Ver. 13.) St. Peter gives the fact-Jesus was "delivered up;" and the aggravation of the fact - the clamors of malice actually overcame the natural sense of justice in the Roman governor. In reminding the people of this, St. Peter declares the Moral character of their act; and charges home upon the people the guilt of the judicial murder of no less a person than the national Messiah. For the actual denial of Christ, see John 19:15; and for the purpose of Pilate to release Christ, John 19:4. The fact of the denial is made the basis of the appeal for repentance. The fact of the crucifixion is urged as the guarantee of his actual death. Such enemies as they were would never leave their work imperfect.
III. HE WAS FREE FROM CRIME, AND JUST BEFORE MEN AND GOD. (Ver. 14.) The personal innocence of Jesus aggravates the iniquity of those who secured his death; but it also bears directly upon the work of redemption that he wrought. Had he to bear the true burden of penalty for his own sins, he could not be the efficient Burden-bearer for others. Had he spot, stain, or blemish, he could not be the acceptable sacrifice for humanity, which must he the "Lamb without blemish." Show how much is made, in the Epistles, of the personal innocence and perfect virtue of the Savior. "Holy, harmless, undefiled," etc.
IV. HE WAS THE PRINCE AND AUTHOR OF SALVATION AND LIFE. (Ver. 15.) For the term "Prince of life," see Acts 5:31; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2. It means, "He who is the source whence life and salvation flow." The chief thought in St. Peter's mind is that of the Resurrection. He who conquered death is "Prince of life," and has power to give life. St. John also says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." Our Lord himself said," I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" "I am come that they might have life;" "I give unto them eternal life." The worthy apprehension of what Christ is, and can do, makes the Jewish denial and crucifixion of him seem a most hateful crime; and our long neglect of him our unspeakable shame (Hebrews 2:3, 4).
V. HIS MESSIAHSHIP, HIS MISSION, AND HIS POWER TO SAVE, ARE, ONCE FOR ALL, AND SUFFICIENTLY, DECLARED IN HIS RESURRECTION. (Ver. 15.) If that resurrection be a fact - and to it all the apostles and disciples give witness, and on the literal truth of it St. Paul is even willing to stake the Christian system - then there are important inferences to be drawn from the fact, and especially this one: Jesus is the Christ. Therefore to him every knee should bow, and to him every sin-burdened heart should seek. So it is seen that the apostles were true preachers, model preachers; they set Jesus forth, and bid all eyes look to him. - R.T.
The God of Abraham... hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up.I. THE VINDICATION OF CHRISTIANITY FROM A JEWISH STANDPOINT. "The God of Abraham," etc., not God generally considered, but God in relations acknowledged by the Jews — the God of Abraham, as such, had glorified Jesus. If this were the case, then Judaism was logically at an end. The God of Abraham, in a sense, had glorified Moses, and had so terminated the patriarchal dispensation, which every good Jew would acknowledge was thereby legitimately closed, and religion thus advanced a stage. Now the same God had glorified the great Teacher whom Moses had predicted (ver. 22), under whom the legal dispensation must pass into the Christian. When that Teacher came He said, as Moses might have said, "I come not to destroy, but to fulfil," and when He died He exclaimed, "It is finished." By glorifying Jesus, therefore, God put His seal upon the further advance which religion had made out of Judaism into Christianity. A true servant of the God of Abraham was thus logically a Christian.
II. THE GLORIFICATION OF THE HUMILIATED CHRIST.
1. No depth of Christ's degradation is here left unexplored.(1) He who claimed to command legions of angels was "delivered up."(2) He who demanded the profoundest homage and the complete allegiance was "destined."(3) This denial came from "His own" for whom He had done so much, and to whose loyalty He had every right.(4) It took place in the presence of a heathen governor, whose jurisdiction was thereby acknowledged, and in spite of even his protestations.(5) And to crown all the release of a murderer was demanded, while the Prince of Life was handed over to the Cross.
2. The glorification reversed all this. Deep as Christ descended it was higher that He rose.(1) Jesus was released from a more terrible than Roman tyranny after Jews and Romans had been allowed to do their worst.(2) The belief and confession of the apostles then, and of adoring Christians since, more than compensates for the denial before Pilate — the inveterate denial which has since characterised the stubborn race. The grand testimony of Paul before Felix, Festus and Nero makes atonement for the shameful denial of Caiaphas and his rabble before the Roman judge — not to mention the innumerable testimonies all through Christian history which, "before princes and governors" have been borne to Christ.(3) That Cross to which Christ was nailed gave Him power to give life to dead humanity, and that power He now wields from the throne of heaven.
III. THE INVETERATE DEPRAVITY OF THE HUMAN HEART — the denial of the Holy One and the preference of a murderer. Here sin is seen in its ghastliest development, but the ghastliness lies in the circumstances. We are horrified at the Crucifixion, but the Crucifixion was only a detail, the denial was the essence of the act. And this denial of Christ, and the preference of one who is "a murderer from the beginning" is normal. The sinner is doing to-day that the only logical outcome of which is crucifixion, and letting loose the devil on his life. This is what is being done on a large scale, and the same is being done on a smaller. What is history but the record of the preference of murderers to deliverers? What was the reward of Socrates, of Savonarola, of Cromwell, of the early Christian martyrs, and later Protestant confessors?
IV. THE IMPOTENCE OF SEEMING MIGHT AND THE POWER OF APPARENT WEAKNESS. The power of Rome was at its greatest, and the malignancy and craft of Judaism most intense and concentrated, and both were exerted to crush the Prophet of Nazareth. And both said that He was crushed — killed upon a cross and shut up in a carefully guarded tomb. And then it might seem was that poor, weak Prophet at His weakest and poorest. Who could help Him now? Himself. "The Prince of Life," "could not be holden of death"; and that "stone cut without hands" has crushed in succession the mightiest despotisms that have dominated the race. And that the weakness of God is stronger than the power of man, let the history of all great and beneficent monuments bear witness. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The leader is killed but the cause flourishes. The thinker starves; but his thoughts become the potent forces of the world. The inventor dies of a broken heart with the products of his genius lying in ruins around him; but his invention lives, and helps to make civilisation what it is.
V. The potency of faith — Of all things the weakest in the world's estimate. Are there not circles in which faith and folly are convertible terms? And on what does this faith rest? On what the world would call an accomplished failure. "Stark imbecility" — then says the world. But here, again, God chooses the weak things to confound the mighty; for in this early instance of its exercise it accomplished what all the science of the world before and since has failed to do; it gave a man perfect physical soundness. And here, and here alone, is the cure for personal, social, literary, commercial, national unsoundness. Everything else has failed. Let this be tried on a large scale, and faith in Christ will give "perfect soundness" to a crippled world.
(J. W. Burn.)
Homilist.I. The PERSON against whom the outrage was perpetrated. Men thought Him a mere Jew; and yet He possessed a universality and fervour of love inconsistent with the Jewish character generally. Men regarded Him as only a carpenter; and yet He evinced a strength of mind and soul which enabled Him to grapple with Divine things altogether beyond the grasp of the Jewish doctors. Men thought Him a mere man; and yet there were profound depths and majestic heights about His nature, which entirely separated Him from the common herd.
1. He looked like a man; but His words proved Him more.
2. He looked like a man; but His works proved Him more.
3. He looked like a man; but His life proved Him more.
II. The NATURE of the outrage that was enacted.
1. It was the culminating act of human transgression.
2. It was sin against their highest good.
III. The OUTCOME of it all. God turned the curse into a blessing. "He made the wrath of man to praise Him."
1. From the death of Christ came deliverance from the curse.
2. From Christ's death came the magic force which conquered man's rebellion.Sinai's terrors and the Levitical law failed to evoke the deep affection and fervent devotion of men. But the Cross of Christ succeeded.
I. BY THE TESTIMONY OF A HEATHEN. The sentiment of common humanity was against this treatment. How often has the conduct of professors shocked the prayerless.
II. BY THE NATURE OF THE THING ITSELF. This is set forth in an awful gradation. The rejected One was —
3. The Prince of Life, without whose interposition no man could have had life.
4. God's own chosen Servant.Those who in rejecting Him had repudiated purity, justice, needful grace, and indispensable Divine service, might well prefer a murderer. What is reserved for those who now reject Christ with clearer light and further knowledge?
III. BY GOD'S MANIFEST OPPOSITION TO IT.
1. Men put Jesus to death, but God raised Him from the dead.
2. Men cast Him out, but God declared Him to be His accepted servant by the Resurrection.Men thought the Crucifixion would put an end to His influence, but God augmented that influence by the energy of the Holy Ghost which empowered the apostles. The argument showed that they had been fighting against God, and that God had completely overcome their evil course.
IV. BY THE KEEN REBUKE WHICH THE APOSTLES WERE DIRECTED TO KEEP UP. "Whereof we are witnesses."
Ye killed the Prince of Life
I. THAT JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE.
1. Of natural life. "In Him we live and move," etc. It is only for Him to say to dead Lazarus "Come forth," and He proves Himself to be the source of life. Let us not, then, deny Him the use of the faculties He has given.
2. Of spiritual life. H we admit that we cannot give ourselves physical life, how absurd to think we can give ourselves spiritual life. And yet multitudes are under this delusion. It is only by Christ's almighty fiat that the "dead in trespasses and sins" can "hear the voice of the Son of God and live."
3. Of eternal life. Jesus is the life of all the joy, the glory, and the love of heaven.
II. THAT LIFE CENTRES IN HIM AS REGARDS SENSIBLE ENJOYMENT OF IT. The common comforts of Christ without Christ are monotonous and miserable; but if Christ be enjoyed in them, if He be eaten with our bread, received with our water, breathed with our air, then life has a blessedness and a dignity conferred upon it which the world knows nothing of.
III. THAT HE SUSTAINS THE LIFE HE GIVES. "He giveth power to the faint," as well as life to the dead. Does the life of faith, of hope, of love, wane through trial and loss and disappointment? Christ has inexhaustible resources of vitality for their invigoration. Dost thou fear lest thou shouldest lose thy little life in the fierce conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil? Hear His promise, "They shall never perish."
IV. THAT HE BRINGS LIFE TO FRUITION. "Be thou faithful unto death," etc.
V. THAT HE DOES ALL THIS IN A PRINCELY MANNER. "I am come that they might have life... abundantly."
We are witnesses
I. "We are witnesses" THAT THE RELIGION OF CHRIST IS ABLE TO CONVERT A SOUL. You say conversion is only an imaginary thing. We know better. People laughed at the missionaries in Madagascar because they preached ten years without one convert; but there are thirty-three thousand converts in Madagascar to-day. People laughed at Dr. Judson because he kept on preaching five years without a single convert; but there are twenty thousand Baptist Christians in Burmah to-day. People laughed at Dr. Morrison for preaching seven years without a single conversion; but there are fifteen thousand Christians in China to-day. People laughed at the missionaries for preaching at Tahiti and in Bengal years without a single conversion; yet in all those lands there are multitudes of Christians to-day. But why go so far to find evidence? "We are witnesses." We were so proud that no man could have humbled us; we were so hard that no earthly power could have melted us. But one day a power seized us, from which we tried to wrench ourselves, but could not. It flung us on our knees, and when we arose we were as much changed as Gourgis the heathen. He went into prayer-meeting with a dagger and a gun, but the next day was found crying: "Oh, my great sins! Oh, my great Saviour!" For eleven years be preached the gospel of Christ to his fellow-mountaineers, and the last words on his dying lips were, "Free grace! Oh, it was free grace!" There is a man who was for ten years a hard drinker. The dreadful appetite had sent down its roots until they were interlinked with the vitals of body, mind, and soul; but he has not taken any stimulants for two years. What did that? Not temperance societies. Not prohibition laws, Not moral suasion. Conversion did it, "Why," said one upon whom the great change had come, "sir, I feel just as though I were somebody else!" There is a sea captain who swore all the way from New York to Havana, and from Havana to San Francisco, and when he was in port he was worse than when he was on the sea. What power was it that washed his tongue clean of profanities, and made him sing to the glory of God? Conversion. There are thousands who are no more what they once were than a water-lily is nightshade, or a morning lark a vulture, or day night.
II. "We are witnesses" THAT THE GOSPEL HAS THE POWER TO COMFORT. When a man has trouble the world says: "Now get your mind off this; go out and breathe the fresh air! plunge deeper into business." What poor advice. Get your mind off of it I when everything reminds you of what you have lost. They might as well advise you to stop thinking. Take a walk in the fresh air I Why, along that very road your dead wife once accompanied you. Go deeper into business! Why, she was associated with all your ambition, and since she has gone you have no ambition left. And yet you have been comforted. How was it done? Did Christ come to you and say: "Get your mind off this," etc. No. There was a minute when He came to you, and He breathed something into your soul that gave peace, so that you could take out the photograph of the departed one and say: "It is all right; she is better off; I would not call her back." There are Christian parents who are willing to testify to the power of this gospel to comfort. Your son had just graduated and was going into business, and the Lord took him. Or your daughter had just left the school, and you thought she was going to be a useful woman and of long life, but the Lord took her. Or the little child came home with the hot fever that stopped not for the agonised prayer, or for the skilful physician. What has enabled you to stand all the trial? "Oh," you say, "I threw myself at the feet of a sympathising Saviour, and when I was too weak to pray, or to look up, He breathed into me a peace that I think must be the foretaste of that heaven where there is neither tear, nor a farewell, nor a grave." Is there power in this gospel to soothe the heart? There comes up an answer from comforted widowhood, and orphanage, and childlessness, saying —
III. "We are witnesses" THAT RELIGION HAS POWER TO GIVE COMPOSURE IN THE LAST MOMENT. We are very apt when we want to bring illustrations of dying triumph to go back to some distinguished personage — to a John Knox, or a Harriett Newell. Such illustrations are of no use to me to-night. I want you for witnesses. I want to know whether you have seen or heard anything that makes you believe that the religion of Christ gives composure in the final hour? "Oh yes," you say; "I saw my father and mother depart." How did they seem to act? Were they very much frightened? Did they take hold of this world with both hands as though they did not want to give it up? "Oh, no," you say; "she had a kind word for us all, and there were a few mementos distributed among the children, and then she told us how kind we must be to our father in his loneliness, and then she kissed us good-bye and went asleep as calmly as a child in a cradle." What made her so composed? Natural courage? "No," you say, "mother was very nervous; it was because she was so good." Here are people who say, "I saw a Christian brother die, and he triumphed." And some one else, "I saw a Christian sister die, and she triumphed." Conclusion: You see I have not put before you to-night anything like guess-work, but affidavits of the best men and women, living and dead. Two witnesses in court will establish a fact. Here are not two witnesses, but millions. If ten men should come to you when you are sick and say they had the same sickness, and took a certain medicine and it cured them, you would probably take it. Now, suppose ten other men should come up and say, "We don't believe there is anything in that medicine." "Well," I say, "have you ever tried it?" "No, I never tried it, but I don't believe there is anything in it." Of course you discredit their testimony. The sceptic may come and say, "There is no power in your religion." "Have you ever tried it?" "No, no." "Then avaunt!"
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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