And when they had set them in the middle, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have you done this?…
These are manifest —
I. IN THE NECESSITY FOR THE GOSPEL, AND IN ITS CORRESPONDING NATURE. Two correlative words summarise the whole Bible — sin and salvation. But our knowledge of these is not derived from the same source. There is a distinction between what is revealed and what is only recorded in Scripture. Salvation is revealed. But sin is only recorded. It was already in the world, and the consciousness of it was interwoven with human experience before salvation was proclaimed (Romans 3:20). The Scriptures assume this terrible fact. All their warnings, invitations, and promises are based upon it. All the rites prescribed in the Old Testament and all the forms of worship recognised in the New take it for granted. It lies at the foundation of all prayer. The Scriptures also directly assert it. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The most formal and elaborate argument of the Bible (the Epistle to Rome) sustains these assertions. On the dark background of natural religion, by which all men are tried and found guilty, the glorious gospel shines resplendent. Jesus Christ is not a light, but The Light of the world, without which there is no deliverance from the power of darkness. God has laid at the foundation of all revealed theology, and of all Christian effort, that Stone which foolish builders have rejected, and has graven upon it this indelible inscription, "Neither is there salvation in any other — for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
II. IN THE BIBLICAL HISTORY OF THAT NAME. It is not a mere collection of arbitrary titles, but the embodiment of the Divine nature and purpose. The Elohim created the heavens and the earth; but Jehovah Elohim entered into covenant with man. This new name (Exodus 6:3) runs through and characterises the Old Testament economy, until its last prophet proclaims the promise, "Jehovah whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple; even the Angel of the Covenant, whom ye delight in" (Malachi 3:1). The New Testament revelations begin with the fulfilment of the promise that closes the Old. Jesus is the human name of the Covenant Angel. In the synagogue at Nazareth He claims to be the Anointed of God, and from that time His words evoke the recognition of His nature and His mission. Andrew declares, "We have found the Messias," and Philip confirms the testimony. Nathanael falls down before Him, and says, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel." The woman of Samaria exclaims, "Is not this the Christ?" Peter falls prostrate at His feet, crying out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" and "No man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." Now He is not only Jesus, He is Jesus the Christ, and "Our Lord Jesus Christ." That name is above every name. It translates the ineffable name of Jehovah into human speech, and interprets it to human hearts. It runs through and unifies all Scripture. It embodies the expressed essence of a thousand titles, by which all that is glorious and amiable in God and man, in heaven or earth, is appropriated to Him.
III. IN THE CONSTITUTION OF HIS PERSON. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the most stupendous fact in the history of the universe. This it is that makes His name Wonderful. This is the foundation God has laid in Zion, and calls upon men and angels to behold — the elect, tried, and precious stone, rejected of men, but made in the Divine plan and in human experience, the head of the corner. And that which demonstrates this stupendous fact as the power of God unto salvation is the revealed purpose that Jesus Christ should come in the flesh to be "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Among the human builders there are none whose speech is so utterly confounded, and whose wisdom is more manifestly taken in their own craftiness, than those who undertake to re-write the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to explain His mission, and the confessed power of His name, omitting the recognition of His Deity, and the cleansing power of His atoning blood. Regarded simply as a man and a teacher, He is a bundle of contradictions. For while we are not competent to set limits to the Almighty, we do know what man can do; and we know that no uninspired and deceitful man could have drawn this consistent portraiture of the incarnate God. It is only when we add to the human name and nature of Jesus — the Divine attributes and purposes of which the angels sang when they declared Him to be "a Saviour who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11) — that we can apprehend the truth and grace which shine out in all His recorded ministry, or the power with which the story of His life comes home to the universal heart.
IV. IN THE OFFICES THAT NAME DESCRIBES, AND FOR THE EXECUTION OF WHICH HE IS QUALIFIED BY THE CONSTITUTION OF HIS WONDERFUL PERSON.
1. He is that Prophet whose coming Moses predicted, and for whose teaching he challenged an absolute credence. His instructions prepare the way for the effectual application of His sacrifice.
2. This Prophet is also the great High Priest, and by the one offering of Himself He has both satisfied Divine justice, and for ever perfected them that are sanctified.
3. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ is King. His royal power underlies and gives efficacy to His prophetic and priestly offices.
4. These offices impart a Divine efficacy to the facts of His death and resurrection. He died as a Prophet and Martyr, to confirm His testimony. He died as a King, to conquer death, and him that hath the power of it. He died as a Priest, that by His precious blood He might redeem and purify unto Himself a peculiar people.
V. IN ALL TRUE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. The power of God unto salvation resides in the gospel, i.e., in the open proclamation of the truth as it is in Jesus; and demonstrates itself in them that believe. "All power," says the ascending Saviour, "is given unto Me; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations." So the apostles understood it, and because they believed, therefore have they spoken. When the Jewish council charged them to speak no more to any man in this name, they answered, "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard." Wherein consisted their inability to keep silence? Doubtless they were constrained by loyalty to Christ. But their loyalty ran much deeper than the external commandment. It was but another name for a Divine sympathy and oneness with Him.
(H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?