Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 15 (1900)

248/339

Ms 22, 1900

Witnessing for Christ

NP

March 8, 1900 [typed]

Previously unpublished.

The book of Acts is a wonderful revelation of God. In it are recorded the acts performed by the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Just before His ascension Christ said to the disciples, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” [Acts 1:8.] “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 1

The disciples did as they were commanded. We read, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [Acts 2:1-4.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 2

As Peter spoke to the people with the power of the Spirit, “they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” This question was answered just as decidedly as it was asked. Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” [Verses 37-39.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 3

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and that same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” [Verses 41-47.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 4

“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed to them, expecting to receive something of them.” We can imagine his disappointment when Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” [Acts 3:1-6.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 5

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” he added, taking him by the hand and lifting 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 happened unto him. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 6

“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. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, 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? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, hath glorified his son Jesus; whom ye delivered up and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 7

“But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised up from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name 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. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things which God before hath showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, so he hath fulfilled.” [Verses 6-18.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 8

The priests and rulers expected to find the disciples disappointed and discouraged after Christ’s death, but lo, they found them lifted above all fear and filled with the Holy Ghost. With earnestness and with the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples confirmed the word of prophecy and made the strongest appeals to the leaders of the nation. “Repent ye therefore,” they said, “and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” [Verses 19-21.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 9

This is the very testimony that God designed should be borne. The seed of truth had been sown by Christ, the great Sower. Now the disciples were to witness to His death and resurrection. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 10

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captains 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.” They did not believe the doctrine of the resurrection, and they were not pleased with the work the apostles were doing under the direction of the Holy Spirit. “They laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day; for it was now eventide.” [Acts 4:1-3.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 11

Did the apostles think that they must cease to bear their testimony because the teachers of the people were annoyed and disturbed by their message? No, indeed; they knew that God had given them their message, and nothing could hinder them from proclaiming it. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 12

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name have ye done this? And Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed we have done to the impotent man, but what means he is made whole; 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.” [Verses 5-12.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 13

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell at Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” [Verses 13-17.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 14

“And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, 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. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people; for all men glorified God for that which was done.” [Verses 18-21.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 15

The priests tried to hinder the advancement of the Word of God, but this Word could not be bound by any human authority; for Christ had said to the disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” [Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 16

After the death of Ananias and Sapphira, “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; ... insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” [Acts 5:11, 12, 15.] Of themselves the apostles could not have performed these miracles. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to do the work. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 17

God could work through them, for they were bearing witness of Him who had suffered humiliation and death at the hands of priests and rulers. Before these men, who in their wilful blindness had rejected the Hope of Israel, the name of the Lord was to be magnified. Those whom they had deceived and misled were to be given evidence of the Saviour’s healing power. “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed everyone.” [Verse 16.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 18

Did the priests and rulers rejoice at the good work done? Were they filled with gladness because the groans and signs of the sufferers were hushed? No; because this work confirmed the testimony borne by the apostles that He who had been crucified was indeed the Messiah. This work must not be permitted to continue; for it would bring on them the condemnation of the people for their cruel murder of the Christ. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 19

“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.” [Verse 17.] Had they not chosen Barabbas instead of Christ? When Pilate had asked, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?” and they cried out “Crucify him.” “We have no king but Caesar”? [Mark 15:12, 13; John 19:15.] And when Pilate took water and washed his hands, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person,” did they not answer with angry vehemence, “His blood be on us and on our children”? [Matthew 27:24, 25.] But they were not so eager to have their cruel work appear in its true light. They were inspired by the spirit that inspires all who turn from light and evidence and place themselves under the black banner of rebellion, and “they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.” [Acts 5:18.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 20

The heavenly universe was deeply interested in this transaction. Heaven would not allow the servants of the King of Righteousness to be hindered from doing the work He had given them to do. “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 the words of this life.” [Verses 19, 20.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 21

“When they heard that they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.” They were to be tried before a large and imposing council. “But when the officers came and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors; but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 22

“Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should have been stones. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, saying, Did we not 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. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 23

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 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.” [Verses 21-32.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 24

Thus was the message given to these wicked teachers. Thus they were warned of their danger. God was testing them, to see if they were still imbued with the spirit which had led them to crucify His Son. Their actions showed that they were determined to follow in the path of opposition. When they heard the words of the apostles, they were “cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.” [Verse 33.] In their hearts there was no feeling of repentance. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 25

“Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye 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 naught. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away such 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 naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found to fight against God.” [Verses 34-39.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 26

“And to him they agreed; and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded them that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” [Verse 40.] The priests professed great piety, but they were set in determined opposition against the work to which God had put His hand. Angelic agencies were working in behalf of the truth. But the priests were inspired by a spirit from beneath. In the bitterness of their hatred they longed to stop the work which Christ had commanded the apostles to do. Had they dared, they would have killed those who were witnessing for Christ, but they feared the people. They vented their wrath by beating them, and then let them go, commanding that “they should not speak in the name of Jesus.” 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 27

The disciples “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.” [Verses 41, 42.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 28

“And the word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 29

“Then they suborned men which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” [Acts 6:7-15.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 30

“Then said the high priest, Are these things so?” [Acts 7:1.] Then Stephen made his memorable defense, saying in conclusion, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” [Verses 51, 52.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 31

“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth. But he being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” [Verses 54-60.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 32

Thus men bearing sacred responsibilities ranged themselves in the side of the enemy to persecute those who were cooperating with Jesus Christ. This history will be repeated. There are men today who, if they dared, would act even as did the priests and rulers. As the truth is presented to the people, the religious leaders will do all they can to oppose God’s servants. But let the Lord’s people remember that He loves them, and that all heaven is interested in the great work in which they are engaged. Christ declared, “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33.] 15LtMs, Ms 22, 1900, par. 33