The Sanhedrin and the Apostles
Acts 5:17-26
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,…

In considering the lessons to be drawn from this history we see —

I. HOW GOD OVERRULES OPPOSITION FOR THE GOOD OF HIS CHURCH. It seemed indeed a dark hour for the cause of Christ when the apostles were shut up in the common prison, and left, apparently, in the power of their bitterest enemies. They were now beginning to realise the truth of their Lord's words: "They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you," etc. But they had no reason for despondency, for in that same prediction was also the promise of help: "And it shall turn to you for a testimony." In the faith of this they waited on the Lord. Nor did they wait in vain. It was a triumphant answer to the teaching of the Sadducees, who denied the existence of angels, and it was also calculated to instruct and elevate the faith of the Church. Nor was the lesson lost. As mercies granted make us bold to ask for more, so, we may believe, this deliverance was remembered on a subsequent occasion, when the disciples met together to pray for the release of Peter. But more especially was this event blessed to the apostles themselves. The angel who delivered them said, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." Their trial and deliverance, after all, increased their qualifications to preach. Satan defeated himself. So it has ever been in the experience of God's faithful ministers. Many a sore trial or dark night of sorrow has fitted them to proclaim more clearly and positively the words of life. The apostles in prison, Paul in Nero's dungeon, and John Bunyan in Bedford jail, are events which show how God can make the trials and persecutions of His servants advance His glory and turn to them "for a testimony." We cannot but admire the prompt and faithful obedience of the apostles. To stand in that public place and teach in the name of Jesus was to expose themselves again to danger and death. Carnal prudence might say, "You are now delivered; hide yourselves until this storm of indignation has swept by." But no; these were men who thought more of Christ than of their personal safety.

II. RATIONALISM CONFOUNDED. The high priest and his council slept undisturbed by the visits of angels. On the morrow they were to pass sentence, But instead of their anticipated triumph came their discomfiture. Evil is never so near its defeat as when it seems to be in the hour of its triumph. The morrow came; the high priest, his council and the Sanhedrin were assembled, and officers were sent to bring in the prisoners. The officers return, with their faces proclaiming their amazement, saying, "The prison truly found we shut with all safety," etc. (ver. 23). Here was something that confounded all their plans and put a new phase on the matter before them. Just when rationalism thought to put down the supernatural, lo! it appears in a new manifestation before them. The perplexity of the council is further increased when one came saying, "Behold, the men whom ye put into prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people." When men escape from prison it is to hide themselves, but these prisoners go at once to repeat their offence. It was this conduct, as much as the strangeness of their deliverance, that impressed the senate. Then, as often since, men were made to see that there is a hidden spiritual force about the gospel which cannot be accounted for, save on the ground that the life of Christ is in it.

III. THE ENEMIES OF THE GOSPEL MADE TO FEAR AND RESPECT THOSE WHO ARE FEARLESS IN PROCLAIMING IT. The high priest and his council have now heard where their former prisoners are, but how were they to arrest them? A short hour before they deemed it enough to send the ordinary officers to drag them to their tribunal. But now (ver. 26) they were compelled to show special consideration to the apostles, and the latter are set before the Sanhedrin with something of honour and deference. The meeting is most significant: it presents one of those striking contrasts between the old and the new which history now and then furnishes. On one side are men of this world, who have no aims or hopes beyond the grave — men of policy and self-interest, controlled in their actions by "fear of the people"; on the other side, men who are living for eternity, and who through the risen Christ have seen the glorified life beyond the grave — men whose conduct is shaped only by the fear of God. The issue between them is the struggle of the ages; they represent the parties of to-day. Which side are you on?

(S. J. Niccolls, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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,

WEB: But the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy,

The Priests and the Preachers
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