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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 5

 

 

Verse 12

A PROPHECY FULFILLED

‘By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people (… and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)’

Acts 5:12; Acts 5:14

Nathanael and St. Bartholomew are one and the same person. Some think that Nathanael under the fig tree had been meditating on the story of Jacob’s ladder, and that our Lord now tells him that the true ladder is being set up between heaven and earth, even Himself. What a vision this was! And what a long time the faithful, guileless Nathanael would have to wait before he saw the ‘greater things’ realised. But he did not give way. That day marked the turning-point in his life as a religious man. He gave himself to Christ. He had overcome his prejudice, he had believed and surrendered.

I. Then there came to him a time of testing. For two or three years he followed our Lord in His ministry with the others. He learned the lesson of true life from Christ. He found it hard, as they all did, hardest of all when he had to face the Passion and Cross. Probably he was one of those who forsook Him and fled. But the Easter victory renewed his hope and faith, and on that morning on the lake, as we read in John, when he saw with his companions the same dear Master Who had found him under the fig tree, now risen in His glory and sat down on the shore to eat the humble meal He had prepared for them, he once more committed himself in faith and love to Him Who would never leave him.

II. At last we see him working signs and wonders among the people, filled with the Holy Ghost and power. At last the promise of our Lord is completely fulfilled. He sees greater things. The ladder is set up. The Cross has been lifted up. Christ has triumphed and opened the gate of heaven. Angels ascend and descend. Power comes down to heal the people. The praises of forgiven men and women, washed in the blood of the Lamb, rise up to heaven. God and man are reconciled, and all through Him Who had first spied him out under the fig tree and called him.

III. Let us once more renew our faith in Jesus.—He knows us every one as we sit here in church under our fig tree. He knows us in our ordinary everyday life. He wants us. Shall we be prejudiced and keep away, or shall we come and see? Shall we not come to Him, and seek Him where He is to be found in prayer and sacrament?

—Rev. the Hon. J. Adderley.


Verse 14

A PROPHECY FULFILLED

‘By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people (… and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)’

Acts 5:12; Acts 5:14

Nathanael and St. Bartholomew are one and the same person. Some think that Nathanael under the fig tree had been meditating on the story of Jacob’s ladder, and that our Lord now tells him that the true ladder is being set up between heaven and earth, even Himself. What a vision this was! And what a long time the faithful, guileless Nathanael would have to wait before he saw the ‘greater things’ realised. But he did not give way. That day marked the turning-point in his life as a religious man. He gave himself to Christ. He had overcome his prejudice, he had believed and surrendered.

I. Then there came to him a time of testing. For two or three years he followed our Lord in His ministry with the others. He learned the lesson of true life from Christ. He found it hard, as they all did, hardest of all when he had to face the Passion and Cross. Probably he was one of those who forsook Him and fled. But the Easter victory renewed his hope and faith, and on that morning on the lake, as we read in John, when he saw with his companions the same dear Master Who had found him under the fig tree, now risen in His glory and sat down on the shore to eat the humble meal He had prepared for them, he once more committed himself in faith and love to Him Who would never leave him.

II. At last we see him working signs and wonders among the people, filled with the Holy Ghost and power. At last the promise of our Lord is completely fulfilled. He sees greater things. The ladder is set up. The Cross has been lifted up. Christ has triumphed and opened the gate of heaven. Angels ascend and descend. Power comes down to heal the people. The praises of forgiven men and women, washed in the blood of the Lamb, rise up to heaven. God and man are reconciled, and all through Him Who had first spied him out under the fig tree and called him.

III. Let us once more renew our faith in Jesus.—He knows us every one as we sit here in church under our fig tree. He knows us in our ordinary everyday life. He wants us. Shall we be prejudiced and keep away, or shall we come and see? Shall we not come to Him, and seek Him where He is to be found in prayer and sacrament?

—Rev. the Hon. J. Adderley.


Verse 29

A WONDERFUL CHANGE

‘Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.’

Acts 5:29

Such were the bold words of St. Peter and the other Apostles when on their trial before the chief priests and the magistrates of their country. And what we notice is that they were spoken by one who only a few months before had denied with an oath that he even knew Jesus Whom now he witnesses to so boldly. It is a wonderful change. What wrought it?

The Holy Spirit came into the soul of St. Peter on that first Whit Sunday, and by His Almighty power He gave to St. Peter those graces and powers of character which St. Peter naturally was without, and converted him from being the man he was before into being the man we see him now.

I. He was naturally impatient, self-confident, and rash.—If you read his Epistles, you will see that the tempers he shows most all through those letters are the exact opposite of these—patience, calmness, and quiet endurance. He was naturally specially averse from shame or disgrace; probably there was in him, by nature, a touch of natural pride such as usually goes with an impetuous disposition. In the chapter from which our text is taken, you see him rejoicing in worldly disgrace. He was naturally unstable and wavering. He became the very model of steadfastness to the end. The change is thorough. He became all that he once was not. Hence from this we learn to look upon our natural defects—not as excuses for falling into the corresponding sins—but as indications to us of what ‘gifts’ we are to seek from God the Holy Ghost, if we are to be saved by Christ’s salvation.

II. What tempers do our duty to God and our duty to man demand that we should exercise?—In St. Peter’s case his peculiar duty was to lead what we may describe as the forlorn hope of the militant Church of Christ, and to brave everything, for all the years he had to live, in that service. Whoever else gave way he must not. Yet he had been the very man to give way most flagrantly, and, as we might think, most disgracefully. All forsook their Lord and fled; but no other Apostle had gone the length of denying Christ. And the position to which St. Peter was called was one which made it necessary, both in his duty to God and his duty to the Church, that he should stand firm in his allegiance to the one and in his duty to the other. And God the Holy Ghost made him fit to do both.

III. The one thing for us to do, and to be, is to be in earnest about our service, and to be undoubting in expecting, and in seeking, God’s grace and help. And here St. Peter is our example again. For let his natural weaknesses be what they might, St. Peter was hearty in his desire to serve God, and he was also thorough in his reliance on the aid of God. Nothing in all St. Peter’s early sermons is more to be remarked than the energy with which he referred all that he did and was to the power of God, and not to his own.


Verse 42

A MODEL MINISTRY

‘And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.’

Acts 5:42

I. The subject of their ministry.—‘That Jesus is the Christ.’ Not things about Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ Himself. Creeds may satisfy the reason, but the heart craves a Person—the Christ. The heart grows, but creeds are stationary, lifeless. Christ and His fullness ever transcend our utmost need. A Christian ministry of which Christ is not the grand theme is a misnomer—worthless, and injurious.

II. The method of their ministry.—‘Teaching and preaching.’ ‘Preaching,’ literally evangelising. ‘Teaching,’ instructing those who had received the evangel. Notice, (a) The great importance of these two things. (b) The difficulty of one person doing both well. (c) The difficulty of obtaining appreciation for both in one congregation. Yet the Church must have and exercise both.

III. The sphere of their ministry.—‘In the temple and at home.’ Their ministry was—(a) Public. (b) Domestic (compare chap. Acts 2:46). And still we need the ministry of both the temple and the home.

IV. The frequency of their ministry.—‘Daily.’ ‘Every day.’ Here is a message to those who never enter the sanctuary except on the Lord’s-day. Urge the full and frequent preaching of Jesus Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/acts-5.html. 1876.

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