Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


The Power of Jesus' Name

Acts II. 37; III. 26.

"A Name which is above every name."

R ECAPITULATE last Lesson.—Story of Pentecost—Birth of the Church—The First Sermon. To-day we think of the great power  which our Lord had sent down upon the infant Church. He was still present in its midst, working by means of it. Remember in Lesson on chap. i. we saw this book, not "Acts of Apostles"  so much as Acts of Christ,  invisibly present in His Church.

§ 1. The First Sermon

Recapitulate from last Lesson. (a) Sermon not eloquent or clever, but intensely earnest. (b) All about Christ. (c) Full of courage. Had Peter ever preached before? Often. All sent out preaching through the country by our Lord. Ever a great success like this? Why not? The mysterious promised power not come. God the Holy Ghost not yet indwelling in the Church. Now see that vast crowd. How perceptible is the mysterious power!

Often before they had heard these Scriptures—often had heard of and seen the Lord; but somehow everything seems so different to-day—the prophecies so clear—the purpose of God so evident—the Messiahship of Christ, their own awful mistake and sin—all come with overwhelming power. Thoughts of pain are rising in their hearts. "Oh! how could we be so blind! How could we be so wicked!" Remember the Lord's promise (John xvi. 8), "Shall convince of sin." Think of the invisible Christ present and rejoicing! Think of the invisible Holy Ghost touching all those hearts. In a moment a great wave of feeling, and a great cry of penitence from 3,000 hearts. What did they cry? (v.  37). What a glorious result if we could have it amongst all careless boys and girls, and men and women, in this town! Is it possible? What prevents it?

Now see Peter's answer. Find this repeated in Nicene Creed? Meaning of "repent"? Some foolish people would have answered that ignorant, emotional crowd, "Only believe." Does Peter? Why not? Because it would be putting it in its wrong place. Repentance is the first thing always. See Baptist's teaching—the Lord's—the Apostles'. Everywhere it is a preaching of repentance first and then putting faith in its proper place. (Children find out texts Mark i. 15; Acts xx. 21, etc.)

Something else besides repentance necessary in order that they might receive remission of sins and gift of Holy Ghost? (v.  38). Baptism is the Lord's appointed way of admission to the Church. What was the great use of being admitted into the Church? There  was the remission of sins and the blessed work of Christ's Kingdom of God on earth; there especially was the presence of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit's power; there, too, they would have the teaching and the fellowship of Christian men, and the training for their inheritance in Heaven. Your Baptism has admitted you to all these things. (Catechism, Answer ii.) See that you value and use your privileges.

See how these 3,000 used their privileges. Not scatter about as individuals, each to live his own life as he thought best. No. Members of the Kingdom of God, to be used for blessing the world, must not break loose or be disloyal to that Divine Society. Continued steadfastly in Apostles—what? (1) Teaching; (2) Fellowship; (3) The Breaking of Bread; (4) The Prayers. Such is the duty of Christians to-day—(1) Must keep in the Apostolic teaching. What was that? See Matthew xxviii. 20. No new doctrines unauthorized by Scripture. But is that enough? (2) Must keep also in the great fellowship of the Divine Society, not neglecting or ignoring their brethren, but helping and loving them; not splitting up into schisms and parties at their own fancy. What more? (3) Must be regular at Holy Communion—the great channel of spiritual food. (4) And in "The Prayers." Probably they had soon formed a set of Christian prayers. All the Apostles and disciples in their boyhood accustomed to set forms of prayers. We have remains still of the Synagogue prayer-book, and the Temple prayer book, and very early Christian prayer-book—earlier than some of New Testament. See how all were thus kept together and nourished for accomplishing the great work that the Lord had left to His Church to do—the establishing of the "Kingdom of God."

Did their new religion make than very miserable? (v.  46). Some people have only enough religion to make them scrupulous and miserable. These were filled  with Holy Ghost—thoroughly  given up to religion. So they did eat their meat in gladness. It is always so. The way to get full  gladness out of religion is by full  yielding of one's life to Christ. See the effect of this enthusiastic religion on outsiders (vv.  43, 47). With the same fresh eagerness and enthusiasm (i.e.,  with the same power of the Holy Ghost) the Church to-day would have same effect. And we could  have it if we were all determined to have it. (Here correct by Revised Version the dangerous misreading of v.  47, "those that were being saved.")

§ 2. The First Miracle

Again see the presence and power of the invisible Lord. It is afternoon; what o'clock? Peter and John going to Church to the evening sacrifice. Arrive at the "Beautiful Gate," with its burnished pillars of brass glowing in the sunlight, and its group of ragged beggars looking for alms.

One poor fellow they especially noticed. Never had walked or played boys' games—now carried every day and left at the gate to beg. What does he ask for? What receive? Think of his quick start, his wondering, half-doubting effort to stand, and then—oh! the bewildering delight of it!—to feel the new power tingling through every nerve; to feel himself walking and leaping among the people. "Oh! how good God has been to me!" No wonder he should hurry into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.

Now repeat the words with which Peter healed him. What great difference between this and the Lord's miracles? Christ was the Master, the Lord, doing everything by His own power—"Rise, take up thy bed and walk." (John v.  8). Peter only a servant—"In the name of Jesus Christ walk." Peter begins his speech by pointing out this. Where? (vv.  12-16). Yes, and he goes on to tell them what the same Christ could do for them. What? Question on the main points in this sermon. Contrast murderer with Prince of Life in vv.  14, 15. Note the kindly attitude in v.  17, so like our Lord's disposition to make every possible allowance for men,—"Father, forgive them; they know not," etc. See the quotation, v.  22, "a prophet," etc. Compare St. John i. 21; vi. 14; vii. 40—"This is that prophet." Peter says—By His Name hath this man got "perfect soundness in the presence of you all." By His Name, he tells them, you, too, can get—what? (v.  26). What of us to-day, what can we get through His Name? Think of Him standing invisible amongst those early Christians, honouring the faithful calling on His Name. Think of Him equally present amongst Christians here, equally ready to hear all that call upon Him.

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