Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,…
I. THE APOSTLES IN PRISON. The high priest and the Sadducees "were filled with jealousy."
1. Because of the popularity and success of the apostles (ver. 12-16). The rapid growth of the Church was a threat to them. It presented to them the uneasy suggestion of some day being called to account for having crucified the Head of the Church (ver. 28).
2. Because the apostles were still giving, with great power, their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:33). They were tolling the knell of the Sadducees as a sect.
3. The apostles represented the vital energy of this new sect. If they only could be silenced, the propagating power of the new faith would be gone.
II. THE APOSTLES RELEASED. Observe —
1. Its manners By an angel in such a way that the prison guards were unaware of their going (ver. 23).
2. Its suggestions.
(1) As to the power of God. Men had incarcerated His followers, but He took them out of their prison as easily as we take a fly out of the meshes of a cobweb.
(2) As to the vigilant care of God. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge. It was not in His design to leave the apostles at the mercy of the Sanhedrin in this time of the genesis of His Church. By miraculously delivering them first, He would warn the rulers not to proceed too far.
(3) As to the ministry of angels. For illustrative instances, take the succouring of Elisha under the juniper tree (1 Kings 19:5-7); the invisible celestial host round about Elisha at Dotham (2 Kings 6:16, 17); the delivery of Peter from prison (Acts 12:1-11), etc. For the scriptural teachings relative to the mission of angels with regard to God's servants refer them to Psalm 14:7; Hebrews 1:14. But just here a caution is needed. Generally speaking, it is true that the Lord delivers those who fear and trust in Him, but it is not always so. He brought the apostles out of prison, but he suffered Stephen to be stoned. He delivered Peter, but He permitted James to be slain with the sword. There are circumstances where death is worth more than life. Whether He delivers or permits one to suffer, God acts towards His servants in the best, the wisest, and the tenderest way.
III. THE APOSTLES IN THE TEMPLE. Note —
1. That the apostles were not allowed to flee, they were released that they might return to the thick of the fray.
2. That with the release of the prisoners the mission of the angel ceased. They were to speak the words of eternal life. It is not by the eloquence of angels, but by the often faltering testimony of men, that the world is to be won to Christ.
3. That the apostles were to speak "all the words," not a part merely — to speak without fear and favour — to speak just as freely as though no Sanhedrin or prisons or crosses were in existence.
4. That they must have spoken that morning with peculiar power. The circumstances suggest that they could not have done otherwise.
IV. THE APOSTLES ON TRIAL. Before they were brought to trial, the Sanhedrin "were much perplexed," and were particularly concerned as to " whereunto this would grow." They were in dread of miracles and of the influence of miracles. In the midst of their perplexity, the astounding information was brought that their late prisoners were doing openly what the Sanhedrin had forbidden them to do. But on account of the manifest favour of the people toward the apostles, the officers brought them without violence, fearing to be stoned if, in any way, they roughly treated them. When brought before the council the apostles —
1. Were reminded of the prohibition which they had just been disregarding — a prohibition which the apostles, at the time, intimated that they must disregard.
2. Were accused now of trying to bring "this man's blood" upon them. This man's blood, however, they had invoked upon themselves (Matthew 27:25).
V. THE APOSTLES' ANSWER.
1. It was bold. It laid down the principle, "We must obey God rather than men." That was like the reply of that heroic trio (Daniel 3:16, 17). So Socrates at Athens, "I honour and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you."
2. It was faithful. In reciting the facts that impelled them to speak in spite of the prohibition of the Sanhedrin, Peter again pressed home the guilt of the rulers before whom he stood. God had raised up Jesus, whom they slew, and exalted Him with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour.
3. It was suggestive of mercy. Peter pointed out that God had exalted Jesus "to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins." In this was an answer to the charge that the apostles were endeavouring to bring the blood of "this man" upon them. They were — but for their redemption! Peter's address is short, but it contains the substance of the gospel. To the rulers as well as to the people in the temple, the apostles were enabled to speak "all the words of this life."
4. It gave the reason why they must speak. They were "witnesses of these things." They were chosen of Christ to speak. They were not alone in their witness. The Holy Spirit witnessed with them, and through them, and through others — thus Divinely confirming their testimony. And here was a hint to the rulers. If they would not accept the witness of the apostles, they should accept the higher witness of the Spirit.
(M. G. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,