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187. Bonds Which Could Not Hold
Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Acts 2:24
OUR Lord felt the pains of death truly and really. His body was in very deed dead, yet there was no corruption.
But from the pains of death his body was loosed by resurrection.
I. IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE THAT THE BANDS OF DEATH SHOULD HOLD OUR LORD.
He derived his superiority to the bondage of death
1. From the command of the Father that he should have power to take his life again (John 10:18).
2. From the dignity of his human person.
- It was not needful: it could have borne no relation to our redemption.
- It would not have been seemly.
- It was not demanded by the law of nature; for he was sinless, and sin is the worm which causes corruption.
3. From the completion of his propitiation.
- As in union with Godhead.
- As being in itself absolutely perfect.
4. From the plan and purpose of grace which involved the life of the Head as well as that of the members (John 14:19).
5. From the perpetuity of his offices.
- The debt was discharged; he must be freed.
6. From the nature of things, since without it we should have
- "Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20).
- King "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Ps. 45:6).
- Shepherd "brought again from the dead" (Heb. 13:20).
II. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE THAT ANY OTHER BANDS SHOULD HOLD HIS KINGDOM.
- No assurance of our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:17).
- No certainty of justification (Rom. 4:25).
- No representative possession of heaven (Heb. 9:24).
- No crowning of man with glory and honor, and exaltation of him over the works of God's hands.
l. The firm establishment of error shall not prevent the victory of truth. The colossal systems of Greek philosophy and Roman priestcraft have passed away; and so shall other evil powers.
III. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO HOLD IN BONDAGE ANYTHING THAT IS HIS.
2. The scholarship of his foes shall not resist his wisdom. He baffled the wise in his life on earth; much more will he do it by his Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:20).
3. The ignorance of mankind shall not darken his light. "The poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matt. 11:5). Degraded races receive the truth (Matt. 4:16).
4. The power, wealth, fashion, and prestige of falsehood shall not crush his kingdom (Acts 4:26).
5. The evil influence of the world upon the church shall not quench the divine flame (John 16:33).
6. The rampant power of unbelief shall not destroy his dominion. Though at this hour it seems to bind the church in the bands of death, those fetters shall melt away (Matt. 16:18).
1. The poor struggling sinner shall escape the bonds of his guilt, his depravity, his doubts, Satan, and the world (Ps. 124:7).
Here is a true Easter hymn for all who are in Christ.
2. The bondaged child of God shall not be held captive by tribulation, temptation, or depression (Ps. 34:19; Ps. 116:7).
3. The bodies of his saints shall not be held in the grave (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
4. The groaning creation shall yet burst into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21).
The Lord is risen indeed, and the happiest consequences must follow. Let us rise in his rising, and walk at large in his loosing.
Christ being imprisoned for our debt, was thrown into the bands of death; but, divine justice being satisfied, it was not possible that he should be detained there, either by right or by force, for he had life in himself and in his own power, and had conquered the prince of death. Matthew Henry
The Emperor Theodosius, having on a great occasion opened all the prisons, and released his prisoners, is reported to have said, "And now, would to God I could open all the tombs, and give life to the dead."
But there is no limit to the mighty power and royal grace of Jesus. He opens the prisons of justice, and the prisons of death with equal and infinite ease: he redeems not the soul only, but the body. Dr. Stanford
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart. Acts 2:37
PETER'S sermon was not a fine display of eloquence.
I. SAVING IMPRESSION IS A PRICK IN THE HEART.
To be cut to the heart is deadly (Acts 5:33); to be pricked in the heart is saving.
1. All true religion must be of the heart.
Neither was it a very pathetic plea. Nor was it a loud but empty cry of "Believe, believe!"
It was simple, a plain statement, and a soberly earnest argument.
Its power lay in the truthfulness of the speaker, his appeal to Scripture, the concurrence of his witnessing brethren, and his own evident faith.
Above all, in the Holy Spirit who accompanied the word.
2. Impressions which do not prick the heart may even be evil.
- Ceremonies are useless (Isa. 1:13).
- Orthodoxy of head is in vain (Jer. 7:4).
- Profession and a constrained morality fail (2 Tim. 3:5).
- Loud zeal, excited anal sustained by mere passion, is useless.
- They may excite to wrath and opposition.
- They may lead to sheer hypocrisy.
- They may create and foster a spurious hope.
3. Even when such superficial impressions are good, they are transient; and when they have passed away, they have often hardened those who have felt them for a season.
4. They will certainly be inoperative. As they have not touched the heart, they will not affect the life.
II. WHAT TRUTHS PRODUCE SUCH A PRICK?
- They will not lead to confession and inquiry, nor to repentance and change of life, to glad reception of the word, nor to obedience and steadfastness.
- Heart-work is the only real work.
1. The truth of the gospel has often, by the power of the Holy Ghost, produced an indelible wound in minds skeptical and opposed.
2. A sense of some one specially startling sin has frequently aroused the conscience (2 Sam. 12:7).
3. Instruction in the nature of the law, and the consequent heinousness of sin, has been blessed to that end (Rom. 7:13).
4. The infinite wickedness of sin, as against the very being of God, is also a wounding thought (Ps. 51:4).
5. The exactness, severity, and terror of the judgment, and the consequent punishment of sin, are stirring thoughts (Acts 16:25-30).
6. The great goodness of God has led many to see the cruel wantonness of sin against him (Rom. 2:4).
7. The death of Christ as a Substitute has often been the means of revealing the greatness of the sin which needed such an atonement, and of showing the true tendency of sin in having slain One so good and kind (Zech. 12:10).
8. The abundant grace and love revealed in the gospel, and received by us are sharp arrows to wound the heart.
III. WHAT HAND MAKES THESE PAINFUL PRICKS?
1. The same hand which wrote the piercing truths also applies them.
2. He is well acquainted with our hearts, and so can reach them.
3. He is the Quickener, the Comforter, the Spirit helping our infirmities, showing to us the things of Jesus; his fruit is love, joy, peace, etc. We need not utterly despair when wounded by such a tender Friend.
4. He is a Spirit to be sought unto, who acts in answer to his people's prayers. We turn for . healing to him who pricks.
IV. HOW CAN THESE PRICKS BE HEALED?
1. Only One who is divine can heal a wounded heart.
2. The only medicine is the blood of his heart.
3. The only hand to apply it is that which was pierced.
4. The only fee required is gladly to receive him.
Let us ask the question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Let us then obey the gospel, and believe in the Lord Jesus.
Conversion is a work of argument, for the judgment is gained by the truth. It is a work of conviction, for the awakened are pricked in their hearts. It is a work of inquiry, for they ask, "What must we do to be saved?" And, lastly, it is a work of comfort, for its subjects have received remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Sutcliffe
Peter, standing up, said: "We heard from him whom we know that God has raised from the dead the promise of the Holy Ghost. He hath shed forth this; therefore let Jerusalem know assuredly that God hath made him Lord." I call that Peter's colossal "therefore." It is the strongest word in the first oration delivered in the defense of Christianity. The Holy Spirit was promised; he has been poured out; therefore, let those who receive him know that the power behind natural law our Lord, who was, and is, and is to come is now breathing upon the centuries as he breathed upon us symbolically. He hath shed forth this; therefore, let all men know assuredly that God hath made him Lord. When they who were assembled at Jerusalem at that time heard this "therefore," they were pricked in the heart. Joseph Cook
Heart-work must be God's work. Only the great heart-Maker can be the great heart-Breaker. Richard Baxter
The Comforter came to convince the world. The Comforter! Does it seem a strange name to any of you, my brethren, for him who came on such an errand? Does it seem to you that, in convincing you of your sins, instead of comforting you, he must needs cover you with shame and confusion, and make you sink to the ground in unutterable anguish and dismay? No, dear brethren, it is not so. Those among you whom the Spirit has indeed convinced of sin, will avouch that it is not. They will avouch that, in convincing them of sin, he has proved that he is indeed the Comforter. If the conviction and consciousness of sin arises from any other source, then indeed it is enough to crush us with shame, and to harrow us with unimaginable fears. But when it comes from the Spirit of God, it comes with healing and comfort on its wings. Remember what the sin is, of which he convinces us that we believe not in Christ. All other conviction of sin would be without hope; here the hope accompanies the conviction, and is one with it. If we have a deep and lively feeling of the sin of not believing in Christ, we must feel at the same time that Christ came to take away this along with all other sins. J. C. Hare
When a man is wounded with a barbed arrow, the agonies he suffers will cause him to toss about in pain. But the harder he strives to release the weapon from his flesh, the more does it become entangled in his sinews, the wound becomes enlarged, and the torture is increased. When, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a man is wounded on account of sin, and the arrows of the Most High tear his soul, he frequently tries to pluck them out with his own hand, but finds that the misery becomes worse, and the inflaming wounds at last cause faintness and despair. Only the Good Physician knows how to relieve the pain without tearing and festering the spirit. Handbook of Illustration
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
189. The Golden Muzzle
And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. Acts 4:14
THE rulers and elders were opposed to Peter and John.
The opposition of ungodly men is
It is no new thing for the gospel to be opposed.
Nor a strange thing for the great, the official, the powerful, and the influential to be foremost in such opposition.
- Natural, seeing that the heart of man is depraved.
- Endurable, since our Lord and his apostles suffered it.
- Harmless, if we commit the case to God.
- Overruled for good by divine grace and wise providence.
The best and perhaps the only way to silence opposition is by exhibiting the blessed results which follow from the gospel.
Those who would say anything if they could, can say nothing of what they would, when they see before their eyes the cures wrought by the word of the Lord Jesus. "The man that was healed" is our best apologist. Better than Paley's "Evidences" or Butler's "Analogy" is the proof given by results.
I. THE GOSPEL IS VINDICATED BY ITS RESULTS.
1. On a broad scale in nations. England, the islands of the Pacific, Jamaica, Madagascar, etc.
2. In individual conversions from open sin. Some of the worst of men have become clear instances of the purifying power of the gospel.
3. In restoring to hope the comfortless and despairing. Very marvelous is its efficacy in the direction of healing mental maladies.
4. In elevating saints above selfish aims and designs, and inducing heroic consecrations. The biographies of gracious men and women are demonstrations of the divine power of the Word.
5. In sustaining character under fierce temptation. Wonderful is the preserving salt of grace amid surrounding putrefaction.
6. In holy and happy death-beds. These are plentiful throughout history, among all ranks; and they never fail to convince the candid.
Many another catalogue of results might be made.
Many a man is unable to be an infidel because of what he has seen in his mother, wife, or child.
II. GOSPEL-WORKS AND WORKERS MUST LOOK FOR LIKE VINDICATION.
Nowadays men ask for results; the tree must bear fruit, or the cry is, "Cut it down." We do not shrink from this test.
1. The minister must find in his converts a proof of his call, and a defense of his doctrines, methods, peculiarities, etc.
2. A society, college, or institution must stand or fall by its fruits.
3. The individual professor must abide the same test.
4. The church in any place, and the church on the largest scale, must be tried by similar methods.
5. Even our Lord himself loses or gains honor among men, according to the way his followers behave themselves.
III. THE GOSPEL AND ITS WORKERS DESERVE VINDICATION AT OUR HANDS. Those who are healed should boldly stand with Peter and John, as witnesses and fellow-workers
This suggests a series of practical questions
1. Has it produced blessed results in us?
Let the Church plainly see that her converts are her best defense; they are, in fact, her reason for existence.
2. Have we come forward to stand with the preachers of it in evidence that it has wrought our cure? Are we continually witnessing to the truth and value of the Gospel of Christ?
3. Does the influence of the gospel upon us so continue and increase unto holiness of life as to be a credit to its influence?
4. Are there not points in our character which harm the repute of the gospel? Should not these be amended at once?
5. Could we not henceforth so live as more effectually to silence the opponents of the Word?
Let converts see the reason why they should come forward and declare their faith, and unite with the people of God.
Cases in Point
In the course of one of his journeys, preaching the word, Mr. Wesley went to Epworth. Having offered to assist the curate on the following day (Sunday), and his offer being refused, he took his stand upon his father's tombstone in the evening, and preached to the largest congregation Epworth had ever witnessed. This he did night after night. He preached also during his stay of eight days at several of the surrounding villages, where societies had been formed and a great work wrought among the people, and some of them had suffered for it. "Their angry neighbors," says Wesley, "had carried a whole wagon-load of these new heretics before a magistrate. But when he asked what they had done, there was a deep silence; for it was a point their conductors had forgotten. At length one said, 'They pretended to be better than other people, and prayed from morning to night;' and another said, 'They have "convarted" my wife. Till she went among them she had such a tongue! and now she is as quiet as a lamb! 'Take them back, take them back,' replied the justice, and 'let them convert all the scolds in the town.'" Tyerman's Life of Wesley
Lord Peterborough, more famed for his wit than for his religion, when he had lodged with Fenelon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was so charmed with his piety and beautiful character, that he said to him at parting, "If I stay here any longer I shall become a Christian in spite of myself." G. S. Bowes
A person who had expressed doubts whether the Negroes received any real advantage by hearing the gospel, was asked whether he did not think one, named Jack, was better for the preaching. He replied, "Why, I must confess that he was a drunkard, a liar, and a thief; but certainly now he is a sober boy, and I can trust him with anything; and since he has talked about religion I have tried to make him drunk, but failed in the attempt." Arvine
Certain gentlemen waited upon Rev. Matthew Wilks to complain of the eccentricities of his discourses. Wilks heard them through, and then produced a long list of names. "There;" said the quaint divine, "all those precious souls profess to have found salvation through what you are pleased to call my whims and oddities. Can you produce a similar list from all the sober brethren you have been so much extolling?" This was conclusive; they withdrew in silence.
The behavior of some professors has often given the wicked an opportunity to reproach religion. Lactantius reports that the heathen were wont to say, "The Master could not be good, when his disciples were so bad." The malice of sinners is such that they will reproach the rectitude of the law, for the obliquity of their lives who swerve from it. Oh that your pure life did but hang a padlock upon their impure lips! William Seeker
Charles Hadden Spurgeon