1. LIVING UP TO ALL THE LIGHT
a. What is our calling in the times of restitution today—to occur prior to Christ’s return? Acts 3:20–25. Explain our duty with regard to the light entrusted to each of us individually. Verse 26.
“Our responsibility is greater than was that of our ancestors. We are accountable for the light which they received, and which was handed down as an inheritance for us, and we are accountable also for the additional light which is now shining upon us from the word of God.”—The Great Controversy, p. 164.
“If we turn from the testimony of God’s word, and accept false doctrines because our fathers taught them, we fall under the condemnation pronounced upon Babylon; we are drinking of the wine of her abominations.”—The Great Controversy (1888), p. 537.
“You are accountable only for the manner in which you, independent of all others, use the light that shines upon your pathway. The lack of consecration in others will be no excuse for you. The fact that they pervert the truth by their wrong course of action, because they are unsanctified by it, will not render you less responsible.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 490.
2. WOUNDED PRIDE
a. How did the leaders at the temple react to the powerful message that Peter had presented? Acts 4:1–4.
“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. . . . 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 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 Review and Herald, June 8, 1911.
b. How can pride and rebellion lead to spiritual blindness? 2 Kings 17:13, 14.
“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.”—Ibid.
3. THE TRUTH UNVEILED
a. The next day, what did the Jewish rulers demand—and how can we be truly inspired by Peter’s valiant, comprehensive words? Acts 4:5–11.
“In that very room and before some of those very men, Peter had shamefully denied his Lord. This came distinctly to his mind as he appeared for his own trial. He now had an opportunity of redeeming his cowardice.
“Those present who remembered the part that Peter had acted at the trial of his Master, flattered themselves that he could now be intimidated by the threat of imprisonment and death. But the Peter who denied Christ in the hour of His greatest need was impulsive and self-confident, differing widely from the Peter who was brought before the Sanhedrin for examination. Since his fall he had been converted. He was no longer proud and boastful, but modest and self-distrustful. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and by the help of this power he was resolved to remove the stain of his apostasy by honoring the name he had once disowned.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 62, 63.
b. What was the memorable climax of Peter’s response—and how does it endure in the face of dangerous popular theories today? Acts 4:12.
“There is but one power that can break the hold of evil from the hearts of men, and that is the power of God in Jesus Christ. Only through the blood of the Crucified One is there cleansing from sin. His grace alone can enable us to resist and subdue the tendencies of our fallen nature. This power the spiritualistic theories concerning God make of no effect. If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power that is within him. . . .
“These theories regarding God make His word of no effect, and those who accept them are in great danger of being led finally to look upon the whole Bible as a fiction. . . . The unaided human will has no real power to resist and overcome evil. The defenses of the soul are broken down. Man has no barrier against sin. When once the restraints of God’s word and His Spirit are rejected, we know not to what depths one may sink.”—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 291, 292.
4. A POWER IN THE LAND
a. Why were the Jewish leaders amazed by Peter and John, and what should this cause all of us—both ministers and laypersons alike—to ponder prayerfully? Acts 4:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:27.
“After the ascension of Jesus, doctors, lawyers, priests, rulers, scribes, and theologians listened with astonishment to words of wisdom and power from unlearned and humble men. These wise men marveled at the success of the lowly disciples, and finally accounted for it to their own satisfaction from the fact that they had been with Jesus and learned of Him. Their character and the simplicity of their teachings were similar to the character and teachings of Christ. . . .
“Vanity and pride fill the hearts of men. God’s grace alone can work a reformation.
“It is your work, my brother, to humble yourself and not wait for God to humble you. God’s hand at times bears heavily upon men to humble them and bring them into a proper position before Him; but how much better it is to keep the heart daily humbled before God. We can abase ourselves, or we can build ourselves up in pride and wait till God abases us. Ministers of the gospel suffer little for the truth’s sake today. If they were persecuted, as were the apostles of Christ, and as were holy men of God in later times, there would be a pressing closer to the side of Christ, and this closer connection with the Saviour would make their words a power in the land.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 378, 379.
b. In their perplexity, what did the priests feel compelled to do? Acts 4:15–18.
c. What was the courageous response of the disciples—and the only option left for the priests? Acts 4:19–22.
“Gladly would the priests have punished these men for their unswerving fidelity to their sacred calling, but they feared the people; ‘for all men glorified God for that which was done.’ So, with repeated threats and injunctions, the apostles were set at liberty.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 67.
5. BRAVE TO STAND FOR CHRIST
a. Where did the disciples go after their release—and how can we be inspired by their prayer? Acts 4:23–30. What happened as a result? Acts 4:31.
b. As with reformers in ages past, what should be the type of prayer of those entrusted with solemn present truth? Psalm 60:3–5.
“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. . . . 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.’
“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 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.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 68, 69.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Even when other believers fail in their Christian duty, what is mine?
2. What type of temptation may put me in peril of rejecting the Holy Spirit?
3. How might I get a chance to turn defeat into victory as Peter did?
4. How can I gain courage from the apostles’ witness in the face of threats?
5. Why is learning of the Protestant Reformation a source of strength?