By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know has been made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through Him that has given him this complete healing in your presence.
I. THE NAME OF CHRIST THE SOURCE OF THE POWER.
1. His personal merit as Redeemer. He himself worked miracles; not as a mere instrument in the hands of God, but as Divine. When he left the world, he appointed his apostles to be his representatives, giving them all power in heaven and earth in his Name. He ascended to the right hand of God as an accepted Savior, and from thence sends down the gifts.
2. His royalty as Head of the Divine kingdom. The sufferings of the world belong to its state of ruin, though not caused by the sin of the individual. The kingdom of Christ is set up in the midst of the fallen race to bring about "the restitution of all things." The heavens are opened. The light comes down into the darkness.
3. His Name as an object of faith. The spiritual draws up the lower world into itself. To believe is to lay hold of the hand which exalts us. As Peter laid hold of the lame man by the right hand and raised him up, so the representatives of Christ lay hold of a dying world; and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but rise with him into a new life.
II. THE POWER OF FAITH PUT FORTH.
1. From the Church upon the world. By listening to the world's cries, and directing the souls of men to the true Help. By taking the sufferers by the hand and calling down upon them the blessing of God. By proclaiming everywhere the gospel of "perfect soundness," in lieu of the world's false gospels of imperfect remedies, and as a free gift of God to man.
2. From the individual soul upon the life. The apostles represent faith; the lame man, the ruined state of our nature. The living principle implanted by grace works an entire healing of the whole of humanity. Show that all the evils which belong to our life are in some way traceable to the want of faith; that is, of harmony with God. Vital, practical religion lifts up one part of the nature after another. The Christian is the highest style of man. The gospel of the Resurrection preaches a renovation which begins on this side of the grave. The power of the risen Christ works through the whole man; at last gives him perfect soundness. The blessed effect of the Name of Jesus in our heart, in our circumstances, in our family, in our prospects of the future. We cannot receive the special gifts poured out on the early Church, which, in the form they then had, were intended to serve a temporary purpose, but we can receive that "most excellent gift of faith." The Church should not rest satisfied while there is little manifestation of the power of faith in the works accomplished. Why are we content to go to and fro to the temple, and see the wretchedness of fellow-creatures, without attempting to remove it? Why is any enterprise reckoned impossible? No limits to the successes of the Church when she is filled with faith. We want to lead the world "leaping and praising God" into the temple of his truth. We shall do it, not by argument, not by ritual, not by excitement, but by the putting forth of the power of the Holy Ghost. - R.
And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong.
I. FAITH MOVED PETER TO SEEK THE POOR MAN'S GOOD. Faith had united the apostle to the Saviour, and brought him into sympathy with His benevolent designs. The love of "Christ still constrains those who enjoy it by faith" with like results.
II. FAITH ENABLED PETER TO PRONOUNCE THE MAN'S CURE. Peter believed the promise, "The works that I do shall ye do also"; that Jesus, though out of sight, was able and willing to cure the cripple; and, acting under a gracious impulse which that faith secured, he bade the man be whole. It was faith that made this conduct consistent; but without faith it would have been an act of presumption, and even of blasphemy. When God is taken at His word and fully trusted, there is exercised a confidence which enables its possessor to defy all adverse power. This is the faith which overcomes.
III. FAITH FURNISHED AN EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY WHICH EVEN ITS ADVERSARIES WERE OBLIGED TO ADMIT. The cripple had been seen and known, and his cure had taken place in the presence of all. The faith exercised, being invisible, might have been talked of long without becoming the means of any one's full persuasion; but here was an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace. What could be said against such an evidence? And what can be said at this day against the evidence presented in conversions and holy lives? But to some even this evidence is as nothing. They love not the Lord; they have no sympathy with His gracious purposes; and they lack that spiritual discernment which can come only in connection with the faith which is the evidence of things not seen.
But now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it
I. REMINDED THEM OF THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE PROPHECIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. God had shown what the prophets had set forth; the prophets as with one mouth had declared the mind of God; and of every part of revealed truth it was to be remembered that "the mouth of the Lord had spoken it." This, in the judgment of a Jew, was a firm, foundation, and this foundation remains to this day. But what was now to be built upon it?
II. INDICATED THE KEY-NOTE TO WHICH ALL THE PROPHETIC HARMONIES HAD BEEN TUNED. It was "that Christ should suffer." Then it would become evident that salvation through the death of Jesus was not a new doctrine invented by His disciples. One who began to apprehend this would quickly discern new meaning in the leading events of the last few months.
III. AFFIRMED THAT GOD HAD ACCOMPLISHED HIS OWN WORD IN REGARD TO JESUS BY UNCONSCIOUS AGENTS. They bad ignorantly pursued Him to the Cross. This was some mitigation of their guilt, though not an excuse for their sin. But in all their error and evil conduct God was bringing His own purpose to pass. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering, and His death and resurrection made and declared the way of life open to all who should repent and believe. Wicked men had not meant to accomplish this, but God had wrought His sovereign will. Peter's hearers must now feel that God had been infinitely better to them than they had been to themselves.
IV. TENDERLY HINTED THAT THOSE WHO, WHILE DOING WICKEDLY, HAD UNCONSCIOUSLY FULFILLED THE WILL OF GOD WERE STILL OBJECTS OF BENEVOLENT CONCERN. Being of the stock of Abraham, they were the children of the covenant. Peter's endearing word "brethren" contained the suggestion of great blessing. There are still those who need encouragement, and this can best be obtained from the Word of God, which sets forth the Saviour of men accessible to all penitent, inquirers.
(W. Hudson.)1. An act of cruelty excites both compassion for the sufferer and indignation at the actor, and perhaps the latter feeling is the stronger. Your sympathy with the martyr is almost lost in your anger at the persecutor, because, perhaps, you do not make sufficient allowance for him. He may have been acting under a mistaken sense of duty. "Whosoever," says our Lord, "killeth you shall think he doeth God service." Much, too, may have to be attributed to the temper of the times. Many a man who now only argues against heresy would have been for the stake when the rights of conscience were less understood. Men are apt to condemn the Jews — and very justly — for their crimes, but Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," and here St. Peter corroborates this. He did not hesitate to charge on them the crime of having "killed the Prince of Life," but, as though he feared driving them to despair, he used words which seem in a measure to extenuate their crime. But we shall find that this plea of ignorance does not apply to modern unbelief.
2. What right had Peter to make this allowance? He must be understood to mean that the Jews were not acquainted with the character and dignity of Christ. They did not crucify Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, but as a blasphemous pretender. But were they innocent in that their ignorance was involuntary and unavoidable, arising from the insufficiency of the evidence, or from feebleness of understanding? St. Peter did not imply this, otherwise he had impeached the whole of Christ's ministry, and represented His miracles as defective credentials. Undoubtedly the ignorance was blameworthy. They might and ought to have known that Jesus was the Christ, and ignorance is only excusable when we do not wilfully neglect the means of obtaining information or cherish prejudices which bar out the truth. Yet it is probable that we use the Jews too harshly in respect of the crucifixion. It was not in that, but in rejecting the final evidence afforded by the descent and miracles of the Holy Spirit, that they committed the unpardonable sin.
3. It may be strange to us that, though He did so many mighty works, Jesus was rejected by His countrymen. But we do not sufficiently consider their powerful prejudice in favour of a Messiah attended with all the pomp of earthly dominion. It is true they were to blame for cherishing this prejudice, since due search into prophecy would have dispersed it; but it is also true that it was contracted not through shutting their eyes altogether against prophecy, but through fixing them so intently on one part that they overlooked all others. They associated with Christ's first coming the characteristics of the second. So, then, the Jew had not sinned against all the evidence that Christ meant to afford — he had sinned against a suffering Redeemer, but not against a triumphant; and so the sin was something that admitted of extenuation — a sin against evidence as yet incomplete. The ignorance was not excusable; it was only not unpardonable.
4. Here comes in the case of modern ignorance and unbelief — the sin of those who, by rejecting Christ, "crucify the Son of God afresh." Can the plea of Peter be urged in favour of modern infidels and of those who nominally believe in Christ without the consent of the heart? Remember that the Jew had not the whole of the evidence before him; but we have the whole before us. The Jew crucified Christ whilst His appearance was that of an ordinary man; we crucify Him afresh now that He has assumed His Divine glory. Christ had not then given the most touching proof of His love, nor was it understood even by the apostles that His death was a propitiation; but now the whole plan of redemption is set forth, and we who reject Him crucify afresh a loving Saviour, and one who sends down His Spirit to persuade us to be reconciled. What did the Jew in comparison with this? And how absurd to plead an extenuating ignorance! How can anything be known if this is not? Or, if the ignorance be not impossible — besotted as men are by the cares of the world, or the pleasures of sin — men might, if they would, know what they do. Ignorant they may be, but unavoidably and innocently ignorant they cannot be. Therefore "he that believeth not shall be damned."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)Matthew 18:20). He promises to help those who pray in His name (John 14:13, 14; John 15:16; John 16:23, 24, 26). It appears, also, that devils were cast out by the use of the name of Christ. This, at first sight, seems like magic. For magic is essentially this, a power obtained over the supernatural world by the use of charms and talismans. In the story of the "Forty Thieves," the door of the cave opened by enchantment to whoever used the right word, and said, "Open Sesame," whether it was said by the robbers or by the good man. If, therefore, we believe that by merely putting the word "Christ" at the beginning or end of our prayer, we shall obtain some blessing from God which He would not otherwise bestow, we degrade Christianity to the level of a magical process and demoralise it. Now, I think it quite clear that the whole spirit of Christianity and teaching of Jesus is utterly opposed to any such magical notions. According to Jesus, men were saved, not by the use of His name as an outward formula, but by obeying His precepts and doing good actions. In the Sermon on the Mount He distinctly rejects any such merely outward use of His name (Matthew 7:22, 23). Elsewhere He says, "Many deceivers shall come in My name." "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord! shall enter," etc. What, then, does He mean when He says that God will hear us and help us if we pray "in His name"? To answer this question we must understand the peculiar way in which the Jews regarded the name of any person. A name with us is an arbitrary appendage, having no relation to a man's character. But to the Jew a name carried a mysterious power, expressive of what was deepest in the parent's heart, and capable of influencing the child's destiny. If the man or woman appeared to develop new qualities, the name was changed. So Jesus added to Simon's name that of Peter — a rock: and Saul's name, which meant "a destroyer," was changed to Paul, which means "a worker." Thus it happened that to come in the name of any one meant to come in his spirit. So John the Baptist was said by Jesus to be the Elijah that was to come, because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. When the Lord said to Moses, "Thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name," it means that the Lord knew his character, and that it was equal to his work. Whenever trust "in God's name" is spoken of, it means trust in His wisdom, or His love, or His providence. When it is said that "a good name is better than riches," it means a good character. When Jesus says that "he who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward," it signifies that he who is in sympathy with the spirit of the prophet, and helps the prophet on that account, shall have the reward of being himself filled with the same prophetic spirit. And so when He tells them to "pray in His name," He means to tell them to pray in His Spirit; to "cast out devils in His name" is to cast them out by the power of a Christian spirit. There are a great many devils in the world — devils of pride, of vanity, of lust, of dishonesty, of falsehood, of cruelty. Now, if we attack these devils in the name of the devil we can do nothing If we meet pride with pride, falsehood with cunning, selfishness with self-will — if we try to put down evil with evil, we shall never succeed. We must cast out devils in the name of Christ — that is, "overcome evil with good." There is a wonderful power which belongs to him who allies himself to truth and right. When we "overcome evil by good," then only do we cast out devils in the name of Christ. And so, to pray "in the name of Christ" does not mean to put the name of Christ at the end of our prayer, and say, "We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord"; but it means when we pray to be in Christ's Spirit; to forget our vanity, selfishness, egotism; to desire the good of others; the coming of God's kingdom of love. If we pray thus, we may ask what we will and it shall be done unto us, for we shall ask only what God wills. To meet together "in the name of Christ" means to meet for the purpose of doing good and getting good. Where the spirit of Christianity is there is the coming of Christ. Therefore, when Peter said to the lame man, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise and walk," he did not utter these words as a charm. But he thus openly avowed his faith in the Master he had denied a few weeks before, and the man was healed, not by the magic of words, but by the wonderful power which attends a sincere faith in God. Not the word of Jesus, but the faith in Jesus cured him. Not the word, but the thing, makes the power of Christianity. When I see a man walking the road of duty, faithful to every obligation; true and just, when those around him are false; when I see him hold his principles of honesty, though the world grows dishonest, standing by his purity, no matter what comes; then I say that this man is casting out devils "in Christ's name." And when I see a youth, beset by temptations from without and within, making a brave struggle to be true to his mother's counsels and his father's honour, and saying to the Satan who tempts him to go astray, "Get thee behind me," I say that this boy also is fighting devils "in Christ's name." And when I see a young girl in the midst of a happy home, surrounded by love, called to leave life and all its hopes, and go to meet the great mystery, and going tranquilly, peacefully, trustingly, comforting all around her with the comfort wherewith she herself has been comforted by God, I say that she is going to heaven in the strength "of Christ's name." The name of Christ stands for immortality, for He is the Resurrection and the Life. The name of Jesus Christ means Saviour and King. Jesus means Saviour, Christ means King, and the whole means that He who saves men is the King of men. It means that love is to conquer hatred, that truth is mightier than falsehood, life than death, eternity than time.
(J. Freeman Clarke.)
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