Before leaving his disciples, Christ told them that they were to be the executors of the will in which he bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life. To them he said: You have been witnesses of my life of self-sacrifice in behalf of the world. You have seen my labors for Israel. And although my people would not come unto me, that they might have life, although priests and rulers have done unto me as they listed, although they have rejected me, they are to have still another opportunity of receiving me as their Saviour. You have seen that all who came unto me confessing their sins, I have freely forgiven. To you, my disciples, I commit this message of mercy. It is to be given to all nations, tongues, and peoples. . . .
The disciples were to carry their work forward in Christ’s name. Their faith was to center in him as their source of power. In his name they were to present their petitions to the Father, and they would receive answer. Christ’s name was to be their watchword, their badge of office, their bond of union, the authority for their actions, and the source of their success.
The men to whom this trust had been committed realized the greatness of their work. They knew that they held in their hands the bread of life for a famishing world. The love of Christ constrained them, and they could not forbear breaking the bread of life to all who were in need. The commission given them was constantly sounding in their ears.
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 of the temple 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 earnest 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 death.
His disappointment excited the pity of those who knew how long he had eagerly hoped to be healed by Jesus, and they daily brought him to the temple, that the passers-by might be moved to give him a trifle to relieve his wants. As Peter and John passed, he asked an alms from them. The disciples looked on him compassionately, and Peter said: “Look on us. Silver and gold have I none.” The countenance of the cripple fell as Peter thus declared his own poverty, but it grew bright with hope and faith as the apostle continued, “But such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” [Acts 3:6.]
“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 happened.” They were astonished to think 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.
The apostles saw the amazement of the people, and asked why they should be astonished at the miracle, or why they should regard them with awe, as if they had performed this miracle in their own power. Peter assured them that the cure had been wrought in the name and through the merits of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had rejected and crucified, but 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.” [Acts 3:16.]
Having spoken plainly of the great sin of the Jews in rejecting and putting to death the Prince of Life, the apostles were careful not to drive their hearers to despair. “And now, brethren,” Peter said, “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.” [Verse 17.] He declared that the Holy Spirit was calling upon them to repent and be converted, assuring 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.” [Verse 19.]
These words should come to us today with impelling force. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!” [11 Corinthians 7:10, 11.] This is genuine repentance. It will lead to a transformation in the life. It is the absence of this true sorrow for sin that makes many conversions superficial. Reformations are not made in the life. But when sin is viewed in the light of the Law of God, and its true character is realized, it will be put away from the heart and life.
True sorrow for sin brings the penitent soul near to the side of Jesus. There he may effectually plead for pardon, and obtain grace to conquer. There his darkened understanding may be enlightened, and the stony heart transformed into a heart of flesh. There the rebellious sinner is subdued, and his will is brought into conformity to the will of God.
“Ye are the children of the prophets,” Peter continued, “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.” [Acts 3:25, 26.]
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 believed the gospel. The seed that the Saviour had sown sprang up and bore fruit.
“And as they spake unto 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.” [Acts 4:1, 2.]
After Christ rose from the dead, the priests spread far and near the lying report that his body had been stolen by the disciples while the Roman guard slept. We can not be surprised that they were grieved when they heard Peter and John preaching the resurrection of the One they had murdered, and when they saw that converts to the new faith were multiplying rapidly. The captain of the temple and some of the other officials were Sadducees. These were greatly roused by the preaching of the disciples. They felt that their favorite doctrine was in danger, and their reputation was at stake. The captain, 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 opponents of the disciples could not but believe that Christ had risen from the dead. The evidence was too convincing to be doubted. Nevertheless, many hardened their hearts, refusing to repent of the horrible deed they had committed in putting Jesus to death. When power from heaven came upon the apostles in so remarkable a manner, fear kept the Jewish leaders from violence, but their bitterness and malice were unchanged.
Five thousand individuals had already accepted the truth proclaimed by the disciples, and both Pharisees and Sadducees agreed that if these teachers were suffered to go unchecked, their own influence would be in greater danger than when Jesus was upon the earth.
The Holy Spirit is often rejected because it comes in unexpected ways. Abundant evidence that the apostles were speaking and acting under divine inspiration had been given to the Jewish rulers, but they firmly resisted the message of truth. Christ had not come in the way they expected, and though at times they were convinced that he was the Son of God, yet they stifled conviction, and crucified him. In mercy God gave them still further evidence, and another opportunity to turn to him. He sent the disciples to tell them what they had done, and in the terrible charge that they had killed the Prince of Life, he gave them another call to repentance. But feeling secure in their own righteousness, the Jewish teachers were not prepared 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. Irrespective of the fear or favor of men, the apostles proclaimed the truths which had been committed to them. But though the Jews could not fail to see their guilt in refusing the evidence sent by God, they would not cease their wicked strife. 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 the attributes of Satan, and determined to be opposed to God. They persistently rejected light, and stifled the convictions of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that works in 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 against 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 declared against unrepentant sinners not merely because of the sins they have committed, but because 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 Christ, they would have been pardoned, but they were determined not to yield. In the same way, the sinner, by continued resistance, places himself where he knows nothing but resistance.
Review and Herald, June 8, 1911.
Ellen G. White (1827–1915) wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books during her lifetime. Today, in-cluding compilations from her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent.