Fighting against God
Acts V. 17, VI. 18.
"The rulers take counsel together against the Lord."
§ 1. The Secret of Strength
Title of Lesson to-day?
Is it any use for people to "fight against God"? Who
always wins in the end? Who fighting against God
here? Why Sadducees? (See Lesson XX.) First thing done?
Think of the wonderful power and courage that comes from feeling oneself in the right! Here were, on the one hand, rulers and priests of high position, backed up by their bands of soldiers and police; and on the other hand a few unarmed, uneducated common men. Which conquered? Why? Obedience to God and Duty and Righteousness is the great secret of power over others. If you are sure that you are in the right and have the approval of God, you have an inward feeling of courage and strength that enables you to dare all things. Not peculiar to Peter and Apostles. All brave, true men, living for God and Right, have such courage and strength.
§ 2. Attitudes towards Religion
Question closely on
(1) Men opposed to religion. Some wilfully,
because they hate goodness. Many not wilfully—men
brought up from childhood in unbelief, and with wrong
thoughts of religion and of Christ. Will God blame both
equally? (2) Neutrals—like Gamaliel. Cold, calculating
men, not very enthusiastic for or against. He gives
wise, cool advice to Sanhedrin. But he did not help
religion much. Many like him. "Let it alone," they
say; "don't bother about it, don't help it, and don't
hinder it. If it succeed, let it succeed. If it fail,
let it fail." And many add in their hearts what perhaps
Gamaliel would not add—"We have something else to
think of—our business and our newspapers and our
amusements, etc. Let religion shift for itself without
us." Is that a good attitude? (3) Friends—who are they?
All who go to church and Sunday-school? No. What verse
describes them? (v. 41). Those who are so determined
on the side of the Kingdom of God that they will do or
bear anything for Christ's sake, "rejoicing that they
are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." Our
Lord tells who are his friends. "Ye are my friends if
§ 3. Evil Turned to Good
The Apostles of course were at the head of all,
and responsible for all. Think of them longing to keep their
souls fitted for their highest work—Preaching, and
Prayer, and Sacraments, and yet worried continually by
this wretched grumbling about bread and money and
clothing, and such like. What did they propose?
But God wrought good out of the evil. How many orders
of clergy are there in the church to-day? Yes. Bishops,
priests, and deacons. So they were in the early Church.
The Apostles were the bishops; the clergy ordained by
them were the priests or presbyters. And here we have
the deacons, originally, you see, appointed to "serve
tables," look after poor, etc. So now, at ordination of a
deacon, the bishop tells him that his duty is "to
search for the sick, poor, and impotent people in the
parish," etc. (See Ordination Service.) Who chose the
deacons? But who ordained them?
§ 4. Fighting against God
Now, see the result of the
"fighting against God" and against the spread of His
Ever watched tide coming in? Could you stop it? Build a wall of sand to stop it—what happens? Soon it meets a rock and beats against it. Does this stop it? No; in a few minutes the rock is under water, and the tide sweeps on. Its waves rush in on the strand, but they seem to go back all the way every time. Do they? Sometimes three or four waves don't quite reach as far as the one before them. It seems as if tide were getting tired, going to give up defeated. Does it do so? No. In a moment more it sweeps on again with renewed power, and never fails to fulfil its course.
So with Church of Christ—the kingdom of God on earth.
Think of its tide coming in through all the ages—has it
had hindrances? Here is one in this chapter. Chapter
after chapter we find them in this early history. Did
they stop its progress? No. First, only 120 disciples.
Then opposition. Then we find number in a few weeks
3,000. More opposition. Then number raised to 5,000.
(Here again see