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At the Temple Gate
THE disciples of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency, and
with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His strength,
their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His righteousness,
their poverty to His exhaustless wealth. Thus strengthened and equipped,
they hesitated not to press forward in the service of the Master.
A short time after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and immediately after
a season of earnest prayer, Peter and John, going up to the temple to
worship, saw at the gate Beautiful a cripple, forty years of age, whose
life, from his birth, had been one of pain and infirmity. This
unfortunate man had long desired to see Jesus, that he might be healed;
but he was almost helpless, and was far removed from the scene of the
great Physician's labors. His pleadings at last induced some friends to
bear him to the gate of the temple, but upon arriving there, he found
that the One upon whom his hopes were centered, had been put to a cruel
His disappointment excited the sympathy of those who knew for how long
he had eagerly hoped to be healed by Jesus, and daily they brought him
to the temple, in order that passers-by might be induced by pity to give
him a trifle to relieve his wants. As Peter and John passed, he asked an
alms from them. The disciples regarded him compassionately, and Peter
said, "Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive
something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none." As
Peter thus declared his poverty, the countenance of the cripple fell;
but it grew bright with hope as the apostle continued, "But such as I
have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and
"And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately
his feet and ankle-bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and
walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and
praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and
they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the
temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had
"And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the
people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's,
greatly wondering." They were astonished that the disciples could
perform miracles similar to those performed by Jesus. Yet here was this
man, for forty years a helpless cripple, now rejoicing in the full use
of his limbs, free from pain, and happy in believing in Jesus.
When the disciples saw the amazement of the people, Peter asked, "Why
marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our
own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" He assured them
that the cure had been wrought in the name and through the merits of
Jesus of Nazareth, whom God had raised from the dead. "His name through
faith in His name," the apostle declared, "hath made this man strong,
whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this
perfect soundness in the presence of you all."
The apostles spoke plainly of the great sin of the Jews in rejecting and
putting to death the Prince of life; but they were careful not to drive
their hearers to despair. "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just," Peter
said, "and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the
Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are
witnesses." "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it,
as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed
by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so
fulfilled." He declared that the Holy Spirit was calling upon them to
repent and be converted, and assured them that there was no hope of
salvation except through the mercy of the One whom they had crucified.
Only through faith in Him could their sins be forgiven.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted," he cried, "that your sins may
be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the
presence of the Lord."
"Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made
with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the
kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up
His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you
from his iniquities."
Thus the disciples preached the resurrection of Christ. Many among those
who listened were waiting for this testimony, and when they heard it
they believed. It brought to their minds the words that Christ had
spoken, and they took their stand in the ranks of those who accepted the
gospel. The seed that the Saviour had sown sprang up and bore fruit.
While the disciples were speaking to the people, "the priests, and the
captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved
that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection
from the dead."
After Christ's resurrection the priests had spread far and near the
lying report that His body had been stolen by the disciples while the
Roman guard slept. It is not surprising that they were displeased when
they hear Peter and John preaching the resurrection of the One they had
murdered. The Sadducees especially were greatly aroused. They felt that
their most cherished doctrine was in danger, and their reputation at
Converts to the new faith were rapidly increasing, and both Pharisees
and Sadducees agreed that if these new teachers were suffered to go
unchecked, their own influence would be in greater danger than when
Jesus was upon the earth. Accordingly, the captain of the temple, with
the help of a number of Sadducees, arrested Peter and John, and put them
in prison, as it was too late that day for them to be examined.
The enemies of the disciples could not but be convinced that Christ had
risen from the dead. The evidence was too clear to be doubted.
Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, refusing to repent of the
terrible deed they had committed in putting Jesus to death. Abundant
evidence that the apostles were speaking and acting under divine
inspiration had been given the Jewish rulers, but they firmly resisted
the message of truth. Christ had not come in the manner that they
expected, and though at times they had been convinced that He was the
Son of God, yet they had stifled conviction, and crucified Him. In mercy
God gave them still further evidence, and now another opportunity was
granted them to turn to Him. He sent the disciples to tell them that
they had killed the Prince of life, and in this terrible charge He gave
them another call to repentance. But feeling secure in their own
righteousness, the Jewish teachers refused to admit that the men
charging them with crucifying Christ were speaking by the direction of
the Holy Spirit.
Having committed themselves to a course of opposition to Christ, every
act of resistance became to the priests an additional incentive to
pursue the same course. Their obstinacy became more and more determined.
It was not that they could not yield; they could, but would not. It was
not alone because they were guilty and deserving of death, not alone
because they had put to death the Son of God, that they were cut off
from salvation; it was because they armed themselves with opposition to
God. They persistently rejected light and stifled the convictions of the
Spirit. The influence that controls the children of disobedience worked
in them, leading them to abuse the men through whom God was working. The
malignity of their rebellion was intensified by each successive act of
resistance against God and the message He had given His servants to
declare. Every day, in their refusal to repent, the Jewish leaders took
up their rebellion afresh, preparing to reap that which they had sown.
The wrath of God is not declared against unrepentant sinners merely
because of the sins they have committed, but because, when called to
repent, they choose to continue in resistance, repeating the sins of the
past in defiance of the light given them. If the Jewish leaders had
submitted to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, they would have
been pardoned; but they were determined not to yield. In the same way,
the sinner, by continued resistance, places himself where the Holy
Spirit cannot influence him.
On the day following the healing of the cripple, Annas and Caiaphas,
with the other dignitaries of the temple, met together for the trial,
and the prisoners were brought before them. In that very room and before
some of those very men, Peter had shamefully denied his Lord. This came
distinctly to his mind as he appeared for his own trial. He now had an
opportunity of redeeming his cowardice.
Those present who remembered the part that Peter had acted at the trial
of his Master, flattered themselves that he could now be intimidated by
the threat of imprisonment and death. But the Peter who denied Christ in
the hour of His greatest need was impulsive and self-confident,
differing widely from the Peter who was brought before the Sanhedrin for
examination. Since his fall he had been converted. He was no longer
proud and boastful, but modest and self-distrustful. He was filled with
the Holy Spirit, and by the help of this power he was resolved to remove
the stain of his apostasy by honoring the name he had once disowned.
Hitherto the priests had avoided mentioning the crucifixion or the
resurrection of Jesus. But now, in fulfillment of their purpose, they
were forced to inquire of the accused how the cure of the impotent man
had been accomplished. "By what power, or by what name, have ye done
this?" they asked.
With holy boldness and in the power of the Spirit Peter fearlessly
declared: "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel,
that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom
God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before
you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,
which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in
any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved."
This courageous defense appalled the Jewish leaders. They had supposed
that the disciples would be overcome with fear and confusion when
brought before the Sanhedrin. But, instead, these witnesses spoke as
Christ had spoken, with a convincing power that silenced their
adversaries. There was no trace of fear in Peter's voice as he declared
of Christ, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,
which is become the head of the corner."
Peter here used a figure of speech familiar to the priests. The prophets
had spoken of the rejected stone; and Christ Himself, speaking on one
occasion to the priests and elders, said: "Did ye never read in the
Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become
the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in
our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken
from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And
whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it
shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Matthew 21:42-44.
As the priests listened to the apostles' fearless words, "they took
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
Of the disciples after the transfiguration of Christ it is written that
at the close of that wonderful scene "they saw no man, save Jesus only."
Matthew 17:8. "Jesus only"-- in these words is contained the secret of
the life and power that marked the history of the early church. When the
disciples first heard the words of Christ, they felt their need of Him.
They sought, they found, they followed Him. They were with Him in the
temple, at the table, on the mountainside, in the field. They were as
pupils with a teacher, daily receiving from Him lessons of eternal
After the Saviour's ascension, the sense of the divine presence, full of
love and light, was still with them. It was a personal presence. Jesus,
the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who had
spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of peace
was upon His lips, been taken from them into heaven. As the chariot of
angels received Him, His words had come to them, "Lo, I am with you
alway, even unto the end." Matthew 28:20. He had ascended to heaven in
the form of humanity. They knew that He was before the throne of God,
their Friend and Saviour still; that His sympathies were unchanged; that
He would forever be identified with suffering humanity. They knew that
He was presenting before God the merit of His blood, showing His wounded
hands and feet as a remembrance of the price He had paid for His
redeemed ones; and this thought strengthened them to endure reproach for
His sake. Their union with Him was stronger now than when He was with
them in person. The light and love and power of an indwelling Christ
shone out through them, so that men, beholding, marveled.
Christ placed His seal on the words that Peter spoke in His defense.
Close beside the disciple, as a convincing witness, stood the man who
had been so miraculously healed. The appearance of this man, a few hours
before a helpless cripple, but now restored to soundness of health,
added a weight of testimony to Peter's words. Priests and rulers were
silent. They were unable to refute Peter's statement, but they were
nonetheless determined to put a stop to the teaching of the disciples.
Christ's crowning miracle--the raising of Lazarus--had sealed the
determination of the priests to rid the world of Jesus and His wonderful
works, which were fast destroying their influence over the people. They
had crucified Him; but here was a convincing proof that they had not put
a stop to the working of miracles in His name, nor to the proclamation
of the truth He taught. Already the healing of the cripple and the
preaching of the apostles had filled Jerusalem with excitement.
In order to conceal their perplexity, the priests and rulers ordered the
apostles to be taken away, that they might counsel among themselves.
They all agreed that it would be useless to deny that the man had been
healed. Gladly would they have covered up the miracle by falsehoods; but
this was impossible, for it had been wrought in the full light of day,
before a multitude of people, and had already come to the knowledge of
thousands. They felt that the work of the disciples must be stopped or
Jesus would gain many followers. Their own disgrace would follow, for
they would be held guilty of the murder of the Son of God.
But notwithstanding their desire to destroy the disciples, the priests
dared not do more than threaten them with the severest punishment if
they continued to speak or to work in the name of Jesus. Calling them
again before the Sanhedrin, they commanded them not to speak or teach in
the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered: "Whether it be right in
the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For
we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Gladly would the priests have punished these men for their unswerving
fidelity to their sacred calling, but they feared the people; "for all
men glorified God for that which was done." So, with repeated threats
and injunctions, the apostles were set at liberty.
While Peter and John were prisoners, the other disciples, knowing the
malignity of the Jews, had prayed unceasingly for their brethren,
fearing that the cruelty shown to Christ might be repeated. As soon as
the apostles were released, they sought the rest of the disciples and
reported to them the result of the examination. Great was the joy of the
believers. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,
Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and
all that in them is: who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said,
Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings
of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the
Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy Holy Child
Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the
Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do
whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.
"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants,
that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth
Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name
of Thy Holy Child Jesus."
The disciples prayed that greater strength might be imparted to them in
the work of the ministry; for they saw that they would meet the same
determined opposition that Christ had encountered when upon the earth.
While their united prayers were ascending in faith to heaven, the answer
came. The place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were
endowed anew with the Holy Spirit. Their hearts filled with courage,
they again went forth to proclaim the word of God in Jerusalem. "With
great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus," and God marvelously blessed their efforts.
The principle for which the disciples stood so fearlessly when, in
answer to the command not to speak any more in the name of Jesus, they
declared, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God, judge ye," is the same that the adherents of the
gospel struggled to maintain in the days of the Reformation. When in
1529 the German princes assembled at the Diet of Spires, there was
presented the emperor's decree restricting religious liberty, and
prohibiting all further dissemination of the reformed doctrines. It
seemed that the hope of the world was about to be crushed out. Would the
princes accept the decree? Should the light of the gospel be shut out
from the multitudes still in darkness? Mighty issues for the world were
at stake. Those who had accepted the reformed faith met together, and
their unanimous decision was, "Let us reject this decree. In matters of
conscience the majority has no power."--Merle d'Aubigne, History of the
Reformation, b. 13, ch. 5.
This principle we in our day are firmly to maintain. The banner of truth
and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church
and by God's witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then,
has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands. The
responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed
with a knowledge of His word. We are to receive this word as supreme
authority. We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of
divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within
its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of
God, we must obey God rather than men. God's word must be recognized as
above all human legislation. A "Thus saith the Lord" is not to be set
aside for a "Thus saith the church" or a "Thus saith the state." The
crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.
We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or
written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on
record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law
and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily
close up our way. We are to go forward in Christ's name, advocating the
truths committed to us. If we are forbidden by men to do this work, then
we may say, as did the apostles, "Whether it be right in the sight of
God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but
speak the things which we have seen and heard."
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