The Divine Presence of God
The Divine Presence of God
After the Saviour’s ascension, the sense of the divine presence of God, full of love and light, was still with them. It was a personal presence.
Jesus, the Saviour, who had walked and talked and prayed with them, who had spoken hope and comfort to their hearts, had, while the message of peace was upon His lips, been taken from them into heaven.
As the chariot of angels received Him, His words had come to them, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.”
The Sense Of The Divine Presence of God
He had ascended to heaven in the form of humanity.
They knew that He was before the throne of God, their Friend and Saviour still; that His sympathies were unchanged; that He would forever be identified with suffering humanity.
They knew that He was presenting before God the merit of His blood, showing His wounded hands and feet as a remembrance of the price He had paid for His redeemed ones; and this thought strengthened them to endure reproach for His sake.
Their union with Him was stronger now than when He was with them in person.
The light and love and power of an indwelling Christ shone out through them, so that men, beholding, marvelled.
Christ placed His seal on the words that Peter spoke in His defence.
Close beside the disciple, as a convincing witness, stood the man who had been so miraculously healed.
The appearance of this man, a few hours before a helpless cripple, but now restored to soundness of health, added a weight of testimony to Peter’s words.
Priests and rulers were silent.
They were unable to refute Peter’s statement, but they were nonetheless determined to put a stop to the teaching of the disciples.
Christ’s crowning miracle—the raising of Lazarus—had sealed the determination of the priests to rid the world of Jesus and His wonderful works, which were fast destroying their influence over the people.
They had crucified Him; but here was a convincing proof that they had not put a stop to the working of miracles in His name, nor to the proclamation of the truth He taught.
Already the healing of the cripple and the preaching of the apostles had filled Jerusalem with excitement.
In order to conceal their perplexity, the priests and rulers ordered the apostles to be taken away, that they might counsel among themselves.
They all agreed that it would be useless to deny that the man had been healed.
Gladly would they have covered up the miracle by falsehoods; but this was impossible, for it had been wrought in the full light of day, before a multitude of people, and had already come to the knowledge of thousands.
They felt that the work of the disciples must be stopped or Jesus would gain many followers.
Their own disgrace would follow, for they would be held guilty of the murder of the Son of God.
But notwithstanding their desire to destroy the disciples, the priests dared not do more than threaten them with the severest punishment if they continued to speak or to work in the name of Jesus.
Calling them again before the Sanhedrin, they commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John answered: “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.”
“for all men glorified God for that which was done.”
So, with repeated threats and injunctions, the apostles were set at liberty.
While Peter and John were prisoners, the other disciples, knowing the malignity of the Jews, had prayed unceasingly for their brethren, fearing that the cruelty shown to Christ might be repeated.
As soon as the apostles were released, they sought the rest of the disciples and reported to them the result of the examination. Great was the joy of the believers.
“They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ.
For of a truth against Thy Holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.
“And now, Lord, behold their threatening’s: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy Holy Child Jesus.”
The disciples prayed that greater strength might be imparted to them in the work of the ministry; for they saw that they would meet the same determined opposition that Christ had encountered when upon the earth.
While their united prayers were ascending in faith to heaven, the answer came. The place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were endowed anew with the Holy Spirit.
Their hearts filled with courage, they again went forth to proclaim the word of God in Jerusalem. “With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,” and God marvellously blessed their efforts.
The principle for which the disciples stood so fearlessly when, in answer to the command not to speak any more in the name of Jesus, they declared,
is the same that the adherents of the gospel struggled to maintain in the days of the Reformation.
When in 1529 the German princes assembled at the Diet of Spires, there was presented the emperor’s decree restricting religious liberty, and prohibiting all further dissemination of the reformed doctrines.
It seemed that the hope of the world was about to be crushed out.
Would the princes accept the decree?
Should the light of the gospel be shut out from the multitudes still in darkness?
Mighty issues for the world were at stake.
Those who had accepted the reformed faith met together, and their unanimous decision was,
“Let us reject this decree. In matters of conscience, the majority has no power”Merle d’Aubigne, History of the Reformation, b. 13, ch. 5.
This principle we in our day are firmly to maintain.
The banner of truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands.
The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His word.
We are to receive this word as the supreme authority.
We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere.
But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men.
God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation.
A “Thus saith the Lord” is not to be set aside for a “Thus saith the church” or a “Thus saith the state.”
The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.
We are not required to defy authorities
Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order.
We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily close up our way.
We are to go forward in Christ’s name, advocating the truths committed to us.
If we are forbidden by men to do this work, then we may say, as did the apostles, “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.”