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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 5 - Verse 41
Verse 41. Rejoicing. Nothing to most men would seem more disgraceful than a public whipping. It is a punishment inflicted usually not so much because it gives pain, as because it is esteemed to be attended with disgrace. The Jewish rulers, doubtless, desired that the apostles might be so affected with the sense of this disgrace as to be unwilling to appear again in public, or to preach the gospel any more. Yet in this they were disappointed. The effect was just the reverse. If it be asked why they rejoiced in this manner, we may reply,
(1.) because they were permitted thus to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. He had been scourged and reviled, and they were glad that they were permitted to be treated as he was. Comp. Php 3:10; Col 1:24; 1 Pe 4:13, "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings."
(2.) Because, by this, they had evidence that they were the friends and followers of Christ. It was clear they were engaged in the same cause that he was; enduring the same sufferings; and striving to advance the same interests. As they loved the cause, therefore they would rejoice in enduring even the shame and sufferings which the cause of necessity involved. The kingdom of the Redeemer was an object so transcendantly important, that for it they were willing to endure all the afflictions and disgrace which it might involve.
(3.) They had been told to expect this; it was a part of their enterprise. They had been warned of these things, and they now rejoiced that they had this evidence that they were engaged in the cause of truth, Mt 5:11,12; 10:17,22; 2 Co 12:10; Php 1:29; Jas 1:2.
(4.) Religion appears to a Christian so excellent and lovely, that he is willing, for its sake, to endure trial, and persecution, and death. With all this, it is infinite gain; and we should be willing to endure these trials, if, by them, we may gain a crown of glory. Comp. Mr 10:30.
(5.) Christians are the professed friends of Christ. We showy attachment for friends by being willing to suffer for them; to bear contempt and reproach on their account; and to share their persecutions, sorrows, and calamities.
(6.) The apostles were engaged in a cause of innocence, truth, and benevolence. They had done nothing of which to be ashamed; and they rejoiced, therefore, in a conscience void of offence, and in the consciousness of integrity and benevolence. When other men disgrace themselves by harsh, or vile, or opprobrious language or conduct towards us, we should not feel that the disgrace belongs to us. It is theirs; and we should not be ashamed or distressed, though their rage should fall on us. See 1 Pe 4:14-16.
Counted worthy. Esteemed to be deserving. That is, esteemed fit for it by the sanhedrim. It does not mean that God esteemed them worthy, but that the Jewish council judged them fit to suffer shame in this cause. They evinced so much zeal and determination of purpose, that they were judged fit objects to be treated as the Lord Jesus had himself been.
To suffer shame. To be dishonoured or disgraced in the estimation of the Jewish rulers. The particular disgrace to which reference is made here was whipping. To various other kinds of shame they were also exposed. They were persecuted, reviled, and finally put to death. Here we may remark, that a profession of the Christian religion has been in all ages esteemed by many to be a disgrace. The reasons are,
(1.) that Jesus is himself despised;
(2.) that his precepts are opposed to the gaiety and follies of the world;
(3.) that it attacks that on which the men of the world pride themselves—rank, wealth, fashion;
(4.) that it requires a spirit which the world esteems mean and grovelling— meekness, humility, self-denial, patience, forgiveness of injuries; and,
(5.) that it requires duties—prayer, praise, seriousness, benevolence-which the men of the world despise. All these things the world esteem degrading and mean; and hence they endeavour to subject those who practise them to disgrace. The kinds of disgrace to which Christians have been subjected are too numerous to be mentioned here. In former times they were subjected to the loss of property, of reputation, and to all the shame of public punishment, and to the terrors of the dungeon, the stake, or the rack. One main design of persecution was to select a kind of punishment so disgraceful as to deter others from professing religion. Disgrace even yet may attend it. It may subject one to the ridicule of friends—of even a father, mother, or brother. Christians hear their opinions abused; their names vilified; their Bible travestied; the name of their God profaned, and of their Redeemer blasphemed. Their feelings are often wantonly and rudely torn by the cutting sarcasm, or the bitter sneer. Books and songs revile them; their peculiarities are made the occasion of indecent merriment on the stage and in novels; and in this way they are still subjected to shame for the name of Jesus. Every one who becomes a Christian should remember that this is a part of his inheritance, and should not esteem it dishonourable to be treated as his Master was before him, Joh 15:18-20; Mt 10:25.
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