Loyalty to God
THE apostles continued their work of mercy,
in healing the afflicted and in proclaiming a crucified and risen Saviour, with great
power. Numbers were continually added to the church by baptism, but none dared join them
who were not united heart and mind with the believers in Christ. Multitudes flocked to
Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those who were vexed by unclean spirits. Many sufferers
were laid in the streets as Peter and John passed by, that their shadows might fall upon
and heal them. The power of the risen Saviour had indeed fallen upon the apostles, and
they worked signs and miracles that daily increased the number of believers.
These things greatly
perplexed the priests and rulers, especially those among them who were Sadducees. They saw
that if the apostles were allowed to preach a resurrected Saviour, and to do miracles in
His name, their doctrine that there was no resurrection of the dead would be rejected by
all, and their sect would soon become extinct. The Pharisees saw that the tendency of
their preaching would be to undermine the Jewish ceremonies and make the sacrificial
offerings of none effect. Their former efforts to suppress these preachers had been in
vain, but they now felt determined to put down the excitement.
by an Angel
The apostles were accordingly
arrested and imprisoned, and the Sanhedrin was called to try their case. A large number of
learned men, in addition to the council, were summoned, and they counseled together what
should be done with these disturbers of the peace. "But the angel of the Lord by
night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in
the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they
entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught."
When the apostles appeared
among the believers and recounted how the angel had led them directly through the band of
soldiers guarding the prison and bade them resume the work which had been interrupted by
the priests and rulers, the brethren were filled with joy and amazement.
The priests and rulers in
council had decided to fix upon them the charge of insurrection and accuse them of
murdering Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and of conspiring to deprive the priests of
their authority and put them to death. They trusted that the mob would then be excited to
take the matter in hand and to deal by the apostles as they had dealt by Jesus. They were
aware that many who did not accept the doctrine of Christ were weary of the arbitrary rule
of the Jewish authorities and were anxious for some decided change. If these persons
became interested in, and embraced, the belief of the apostles, acknowledging Jesus as the
Messiah, they feared the anger of the entire people would be raised against the priests,
who would be made to answer for the murder of Christ. They decided to take strong measures
to prevent this. They finally sent for the supposed
prisoners to be brought before them.
Great was their amazement when the report was brought back that the prison doors were
found securely bolted and the guard stationed before them, but that the prisoners were
nowhere to be found.
Soon the report was brought:
"Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the
people." Although the apostles were miraculously delivered from prison, they were not
saved from examination and punishment. Christ had said when He was with them, "Take
heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils." God had given them a
token of His care and an assurance of His presence by sending the angel to them; it was
now their part to suffer for the sake of that Jesus whom they preached. The people were so
wrought upon by what they had seen and heard that the priests and rulers knew it would be
impossible to excite them against the apostles.
"Then went the captain
with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest
they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the
council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye
should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine,
and intend to bring this Man's blood upon us." They were not as willing to bear the
blame of slaying Jesus as when they swelled the cry with the debased mob: "His blood
be on us, and on our children."
Peter, with the other
apostles, took up the same line of defense he had followed at his former trial:
Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than
men." It was the angel sent by God who delivered them from prison, and who commanded
them to teach in the temple. In following his directions they were obeying the divine
command, which they must continue to do at any cost to themselves. Peter continued:
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath
God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to
Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also
the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him."
The Spirit of inspiration was
upon the apostles, and the accused became the accusers, charging the murder of Christ upon
the priests and rulers who composed the council. The Jews were so enraged at this that
they decided, without any further trial and without authority from the Roman officers, to
take the law into their own hands and put the prisoners to death. Already guilty of the
blood of Christ, they were now eager to imbrue their hands in the blood of His apostles.
But there was one man of learning and high position whose clear intellect saw that this
violent step would lead to terrible consequences. God raised up a man of their own council
to stay the violence of the priests and rulers.
Gamaliel, the learned
Pharisee and doctor, a man of great reputation, was a person of extreme caution, who,
before speaking in behalf of the prisoners, requested them to be removed. He then spoke
with great deliberation and calmness: "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what
we intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting
himself to be somebody; to whom a number
of men, about four hundred, joined themselves:
who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much
people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or
this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it;
lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
The priests could not but see
the reasonableness of his views; they were obliged to agree with him, and very reluctantly
released the prisoners, after beating them with rods and charging them again and again to
preach no more in the name of Jesus, or their lives would pay the penalty of their
boldness. "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they
were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every
house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
Well might the persecutors of
the apostles be troubled when they saw their inability to overthrow these witnesses for
Christ, who had faith and courage to turn their shame into glory and their pain into joy
for the sake of their Master, who had borne humiliation and agony before them. Thus these
brave disciples continued to teach in public, and secretly in private houses, by the
request of the occupants who dared not openly confess their faith, for fear of the Jews.
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The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
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