Witnessing to Sadducees

Acts

Witnessing to Sadducees

April 24th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 4:1-12

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. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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WITNESSING TO SADDUCEES 

Dr. W. A. Criswell 

Acts 4:1 

4-24-77    10:50 a.m. 

 

We welcome you once again who are worshiping with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas on radio and on television.  In our preaching through the Book of Acts we have come to chapter 4.  And the title of the sermon is Witnessing to Sadducees or Witnessing to Modern Materialists.  The reading of the text is this: 

 

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]

 

So many times will you find those two placed together, anastasis and Iēsous.  In Athens – concerning which we just read a moment ago in our Scripture passage – those pagan philosophers thought he was talking about a male and female god: Anastasis and Iēsous, Jesus and the resurrection.  So they were grieved, that they were preaching here Jesus and the resurrection.  "And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold."  That is a good Old English word for jail, for prison, "hold."  It survives today in our modern language, we use the word stronghold; "placed them in prison until the next day: for it was now eventide" [Acts 4:3].

Do you remember the third chapter when this incident began?  It was at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon that Peter and John went up into the temple to pray [Acts 3:1].  And now, these events have transpired and it is about 6:00 o’clock in the evening.  Because of the lateness of the day, they could not bring them before the Sanhedrin, so they put them in prison [Acts 4:3].  Now, the Lord puts a little comma there.  Put those preachers in jail, Peter and John.  "Howbeit," God says, "just wait a minute; just pause here, just for a moment.  I have got My finger here," says the Lord. 

 

Howbeit  many of them who heard the word believed; and the number of the andrōn, the men, distinct from the women and children, the andrōn, was about five thousand. 

[Acts 4:4]

 

Put those preachers in jail, but the people who believed were increasing by the thousands. 

 

And it came to pass on the morrow, in the morning, that the rulers, and the elders, and the scribes, 

And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, all of them Sadducees, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 

And when they had set them in the midst, in the midst of the council, in the midst of the Sanhedrin – Sanhedrin was always translated council in the New Testament – when they set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 

Then Peter, filled with upon Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 

If we be examined this day of this good deed, this miraculous healing, done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 

Be it made known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand here before you whole.

[Acts 4:5-10]

 

We are going to preach tonight at 7:00 o’clock on that saving and marvelous and healing name.  But this morning, our message concerns witnessing, preaching, testifying to the materialist, to the rationalist, to the Sadducees.  Their party arose during the interbiblical period between Malachi and Matthew, a period of about four hundred years.  They arose with the other parties: the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Zealots, , one of the parties in the Judean state was also the Sadducees.  

Now, the salient feature of the Sadducees is, and was, that they were the ruling aristocracy.  The government of the Jewish state under the conquering empire was in the hands of the Sadducees.  The high priest was their leader, and all of his family belonged to that noble aristocracy.  And everything of the Jewish government and economy was under their direction.  They were the rulers of the people.  

Now, they bargained always to see that that obtained.  Whether it was in the Persian Empire or in the Greek Empire or now in the Roman Empire, the Sadducees were always astute in so bargaining with the conquering leaders, that they remained as head of the Jewish sacerdotal state.  They always placed themselves first.  They would compromise, sell out anything, in order to keep their place in office.  

Now let me give you a good illustration of that.  In the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, after the marvelous resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, why, the high priest says, "If we let this fellow alone, talking about the Lord Jesus, everybody will believe on Him as the messianic King, and leading what he thought would be a messianic rebellion."  Then he adds, "And the Romans will come and take away both," now look how he says it, "both our place and our nation" [John 11:47-48].  Incidentally the nation, mostly "our place."  

Those are the Sadducees, wherever they appear, in history, in the Jewish state, always they are bargaining, and compromising and welcoming and supporting the alien conquerors in order to keep themselves rich and affluent and in the leadership among the nations.  Well, they were destroyed, in 70 AD, when the city was destroyed by Titus.  When the nation was carried into captivity by the Romans, the Sadducees ceased to exist. 

It is Pharisaical Judaism that we know today.  Whenever you see a synagogue anywhere in the world, that is Talmudic Judaism, Pharisaical Judaism, "the tradition of the elders" Judaism.  The Sadducees perished under the rubble of the destruction of the temple and of Rome.  Having no longer a nation, there was no way for them to continue to exist. 

Now, what they believed: they were rationalists.  They were materialists.  Their interests were entirely earthy and in this world.  They did not believe in a spirit world.  They did not believe in the angels.  They did not believe in the immortality of the soul.  They believed the soul died when the man died.  They did not believe in heaven; they did not believe in hell.  They did not believe in retribution.  They did not believe in rewards, good and evil.  They certainly did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  They were entirely rationalists and materialists.  Then another thing about them, nor did they believe in the sovereignty of God, and the hand of God in human life, in human nations, and in human affairs.  They believed that all things were mortal and in our hands, and God had nothing to do with it.  I would call them "practical atheists" and "practical infidels."  They were, in all ways, defined ever as materialists and rationalists.  

Now, their confrontation with the Lord Jesus is one of the most interesting studies that you could ever find in the Bible.  For one thing, the two, the Lord Jesus and the Sadducees, were diametrically opposite.  Whatever one was, the other wasn’t.  And they met in a deadly and unresolvable confrontation. 

The Lord Jesus believed, and taught, the world of God: heaven, and the hope we have in the resurrection, the immortality of the soul, the life beyond the grave, and the rewards of God for those who love Him.  That is the very heart of the Christian faith, every syllable of which was denied by the infidel, atheistic, rational Sadducees.  There is not a record; there is not an instance, either in history or in the Bible, of a Sadducee ever embracing the Christian faith.  Not one.  Not one. 

Many of the Pharisees were obedient to the faith.  For example, when I turn the page here in the Book of Acts, in the next chapter, chapter 5, Gamaliel, one of the seven great rabbon, Gamaliel defends the apostle saying, "We ought not to persecute them.  If the movement that they represent is not of God, it will die.  It will atrophy.  It will perish, of itself.  But, if it is of the Lord, we do not want to oppose it, lest haply we find ourselves fighting against God" [Acts 5:34, 38-39].  That was the great Gamaliel, the teacher of one of the rabbinical schools in Jerusalem.  Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the apostle [Acts 13:9], was a Pharisee and boasted of his lineage.  He said, "I am a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee" [Acts 23:6].  

In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Acts, when Saul, when Paul, is tried before this same Sanhedrin, noticing that part of the council members were Sadducees and part were Pharisees, he said, "I am a Pharisee.  And for the sake and the hope of the resurrection of the dead am I called in question" [Acts 23:6], before this body.  And when he said that, there was immediately a violent dissension in the group.  The Sadducees wanted to condemn him and destroy him.  But the Pharisees defended him and spoke up for him [Acts 23:7-9].  I’m just illustrating the fact that there is never an instance, even though many of the Pharisees became Christians, there is never an instance of a Sadducee ever becoming a follower of the Christ.  Not one!  

Now, they had a reason for their bitter hatred of the Lord Jesus.  So bitter that finally they encompassed His execution.  They hated Him because of His spiritual teaching.  As I said, there was nothing that the Lord taught that the Pharisees believed in.  They hated Him for that.  But most of all they hated him for something else.  The Sadducees had control of the temple.  And they had control of the ruling clique that took care and was responsible for the temple and for the Jewish state.  

Now, that temple was one of the most lucrative instances that you could find in human history.  It was not possible, when the Jewish people from the ends of the world, coming to those great festival seasons, such as Passover, and Pentecost, and Tabernacles, and Dedication, and Purim, all of the rest of their great feasts; they came to worship at the temple from the ends of the earth, from every nation under the sun.  And when they came, they brought their own money with them, but you could not give into the temple money from say Rome or Athens or from Cappadocia or Cairo or Memphis or Thebes or anywhere else in the world.  It had to be changed into the coin of the temple; had to be changed into Judaic coins. 

So all through that vast Court of the Gentiles, that covered twenty-six acres, there were money changers.  And the Sadducees got a little bit of profit off of every one of those monetary changes.  When a man came to worship God, like the Ethiopian eunuch that we will read about a little later in Acts, he came from Ethiopia.  When he came to worship in the temple, he had to change his money into Judaic coins.  And when he did that, at the money changer’s tables, the Sadducees made a little profit.  And they liked that.  

Another thing; in that twenty-six acres on which the temple sat, there were everywhere men who sold sacrifices.  There were oxen.  There were goats.  There were bullocks.  There were calves.  There were lambs.  There were sheep.  There were even turtledoves and pigeons.  There was not a transaction made in that temple area but that the Sadducees made money off of it.  If you went up to worship and brought a sacrifice to offer unto God, it was sold to you there in the temple and the Sadducees profited.  

Now do you remember the life of our Lord?  His first public act in that temple was to cleanse it.  He overturned money changers’ tables.  And He drove out them that sold oxen and cattle and sheep and goats saying, "It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer.  And you have made it a house of merchandise" [John 2:12-16].  They hated Him.  But He did that once again in the last week of His life [Matthew 21:12-13].  After the royal entry, Palm Sunday [Matthew 21:7-11], the next day, when He returned to the temple He cleansed the temple; turned over those money-changers’ tables; drove out those that sold oxen and calves and goats [Matthew 21:12].  And the Sadducees, seeing Him destroy their means of lucrative profit, counseled together how they might, forever, put Him away.  So the Sadducees had a cause to despise and to hate and depose the Lord Jesus.  

Now, they did it all through His ministry.  They tempted and tried to entrap Him.  You remember in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Sadducees come to Him, tempting Him and saying, "So you are a prophet.  Well, a prophet needs credentials.  If You have come to us from heaven, show us a sign from heaven," seeking to discredit the Lord before the people, "Show us a sign from heaven [Matthew 16:1].  What sign do You bring to us to make us believe that You are a true prophet of God?"  

And of course, the Lord replied several things.  One of which, "No sign shall be shown you except the sign of the prophet Jonah" [Matthew 6:4].  He was in the belly of that whale three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be buried in the earth and the third day rise again.  But they didn’t know what He was talking about.  A rationalist will never know what a spiritual man is talking about.  Nor will he ever comprehend.  He can’t do it.  His mind is blinded by his own acumen and astuteness and supposed academic learning and philosophical achievements.  They couldn’t see.  

Do you remember again in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Matthew, it is the Sadducees that come to the Lord, and they tell Him a story that they had been using to decimate the Pharisees all through the years and the generations.  The Lord Jesus was teaching the resurrection and heaven and a great spiritual world and life beyond the grave.  And the Sadducees scoffed at such a prospect.  And in order to discredit the very thought of a resurrection from the dead, they had an old story, and they had been telling it for the years and the generations; and they did it with a, ha, ha, ha, ha! 

And they continued to pulverize their enemies with this story.  And you remember it.  There was a man who had a wife and he died without issue, had no son to carry on his name or his family.  And according to the levirate Mosaic law, his brother had to take his wife and rear children up to his brother, lest the brother’s name die in the earth.  So this man had a wife and he died and left no issue.  So the brother took her.  And he died, leaving no issue.  And the third brother then took her, and died without any issue; and the fourth brother; and the fifth brother; and the sixth brother; and the seventh brother.  Ha, ha, ha, ha!  And last of all, the woman died.  "Now, in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be? [Matthew 22:23-28]  For all seven ha, ha, ha, ha had her.  Answer that!"  Now, that’s the Sadducees.  

Our Lord based the doctrine of the resurrection upon the tense of a verb in the Bible.  That’s one reason why I wrote that book, Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True.  Every word of it, and every tense of every word, and every declination of every noun, and every conjugation of every verb, is inspired by the Lord [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  And His answer to those rational, materialistic infidel, unbelieving Sadducees, He based the doctrine of the resurrection on a tense of a verb. 

His answer was, "Did you never read in the Bible where God said: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" [Matthew 22:32].  I am, not I was.  "I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob."  And the Lord Jesus said, "He is not the God of the dead, He is the God of the living" [Matthew 22:32].  He is the Lord God of Abraham, who still lives in His presence, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, and all of the saints" [Matthew 22:32; Exodus 3:6].  That’s the Lord Jesus.  And that is the Sadducees.  

Now, it is these same people who encompassed the execution and the death of the Lord Jesus, who were now confronting the apostles who are preaching Jesus and the resurrection, lesous and anastasis, Jesus and the resurrection.  Now, let’s follow it down for the remainder of our time.  These Sadducees coming upon them, being grieved that they taught the people and preached about Jesus and the hope in the world that is yet to come [Acts 4:1-2]. 

That’s not the first time that an official legate has ever sought to stop the witness of the man of God.  Had the disciples just healed that lame man, they would have thought, "A fine deed, that’s just good!"   But when they began to teach, and to preach the power of the name of the Lord, these Sadducees being grieved, came upon them; and sought to interdict them, to oppose them, to prohibit them, to stop them, to shut their mouths.  

Now, that is the history of the Christian faith, from its beginning to this present, tragic day, when the official of the government seeks to stop the witnessing and the preaching of the man of God.  It was so with Stephen.  It was so with Antipas.  It was so with Ignatius.  It was so with Justin Martyr.  It was so with John Chrysostom.  It was so with Savonarola.  It was so with Balthazar Hubmaier and Felix Manz.  It was so with John Bunyan and John Wesley.  It was so with Roger Williams, here in America.  And it is so today in all of the communist nations of the world, when the heavy hand of Red government seeks to stop and imprison and prohibit the preaching of the man of God.  

God only knows how many Baptist preachers are in Siberia or in prison in Russia today.  And God only knows how many Baptist preachers are in their graves or are languishing and rotting in dungeons in China today.  It always has been and it was here, grieved that they taught and preached the Lord Jesus and the hope we have of the resurrection in Him [Acts 4:1-2].  

So, it came to pass that the council met and called them together and placed them in the midst of the council.  So did Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, his son-in-law, who shared the high priesthood with him, and John, and Alexander, and all of the other kindred of that Sadducean aristocracy [Acts 4:5-6].  Now, here’s what they did.  There were seventy members of the Sanhedrin.  And they always sat in a semicircle, in a half circle.  Seventy members, all of them seated there in that half-circle, and in the center of them, stood the high priest; the great Sadducean aristocratic leader.  And he presided over the Sanhedrin. 

Now, do you notice it says that, after these council members are named and their leaders, it says, "And they set them in the midst" [Acts 4:7].  That is a very potent and powerful, full of imagery sentence there.  "They set them in the midst."  Very apparent what they were seeking to do.  That was a resplendent and brilliant and august body; that seventy members of the Sanhedrin, presided over by the high priest in all of his gorgeous gowns and robes.  And in the midst there, right by him, they set that preacher, Peter, and that preacher, John, unlearned and ignorant men according to them.  They were proposing to out-face those ignorant preachers [Acts 4:7]. 

You see, the story begins in the third chapter when Simon Peter looks at that beggar and says to that poor, impotent beggar, "Look upon us" [Acts 3:4].  "But," said the members of the Sanhedrin council, "it will be an altogether different kind of a looking when they face us.  They may be able to face a poor impotent beggar.  But they won’t be able to face us in the council.  And when we set them there in the midst, they will be like straw the mocking wind drives away.  They will be like rags.  They will stammer and stutter with nothing to say."  They meant to out-face those two ignorant preachers. 

So, having set them in the midst [Acts 4:7], and they look at that group with great awe.  Well, I can just see, can’t you, before that same Sanhedrin, just standing outside the door and watching, looking in, a little maid, a little maid, accosted Simon Peter and asked him about his Galilean accent, and Peter wilted [Matthew 26:69-74].  If Simon Peter wilted before a little maid outside the door, what will Simon Peter do now, as he faces Annas, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and the kindred of the high priest, and all of the members of the council?  So, as those two ignoramuses stand there, according to them, why, they ask apparently an innocuous, a plain, and a simple, and an innocent question.  And they asked them, saying, "By what power, or by what name, did you do this?" [Acts 4:7].

Doesn’t that sound innocent?  Just so innocuous, just so plain and simple, "By what name and by what power did you do this?" [Acts 4:7].  But there is a trap in it; that’s a decoy.  You see, these Sadducees are smart; these rationalists are always smart, always have been, always will be.  They’re shrewd.  They are trained.  They are academicians.  They are philosophers and metaphysicians.  They are brilliant.  They are now.  They were then.  So they propose a very simple, and plain, and innocent question.  "By what power and by what name did you do this, heal that impotent man?" [Acts 4:7].

Well, had they replied, "Jehovah God did it," why, all of the Sanhedrin and high priests would have said, "Well, bless His name.  Bless His name, Hosanna in the highest."  And the thing would have been over.  But you see, if they say some other name, some other power, then they are introducing strange and foreign and alien gods into that holy temple.  I can just see the high priest stand there, as he stood there in that same place once before when they were trying the Lord Jesus [Matthew 26:57-64].  And I can see him prepared just as he did before, when they say the name of Jesus, I can see him prepare to rend his garments and to cry, saying, "What need for further witness?  With your own ears have you heard them blaspheme!  What think ye?" [Matthew 26:65-66].  And they all reply, "They are worthy of death."  That’s exactly what he had done before with the Lord Jesus.  That’s exactly what he prepared to do here, rend his garments. "He has blasphemed.  Worthy of death!" [Matthew 26:66].

Let me tell you something, my brother and my Christian friend, whenever you let an infidel or a rationalist or an academician take your religion and bog it down in the quagmire of philosophical, metaphysical disquisitions, and hypotheses, and theories,  and you begin a discussion about the modus operandi, and ways, and means, and how, and why, and explanations – brother, they have pulled you away from the fact of the Christian faith.  And they are destroying you with metaphysical dissertations, and disquisitions, and questions, and hypothesis, and theories.  For you see, the Christian faith is a fact.  It’s based upon a great fact, and its power and presenting its message to the world is ever factual.  And when the preacher becomes philosophical and metaphysical, trying to answer the rationalist, he is immediately lost in a world of endless questions and discussions and minutia. 

What happened here?  The next verse says, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit" [Acts 4:8].  And when the Spirit of God came upon that witness for the resurrection of the living Lord [Acts 4:8-12], the power of the flow of his language was unstoppable.  The council was dumbfounded and amazed [Acts 4:13].  Peter is multiplied by the divine sovereignty from heaven.  He is surrounded by a panoply of the angels of God.  You can just see the chariots of fire round about him.  And his word of testimony is like thunder. 

And in that on-rush of the language of his sermon by which he answers the high priest, he does two things.  One, he points to Jesus.  He points to Jesus.  "Be it known unto you . . . that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" [Acts 4:10].  And then he points to the man who had been healed [Acts 4:10].  What a wonderful sermon!  Two points: one to Jesus, and the other to the lame man that had been wondrously healed.  That’s the way we ought to do in the world of materialism, and rejection, and infidelity, and unbelief, and metaphysics by which we are assailed and drowned in this earth of material values and materialism: pointing to Jesus and pointing to the saved man.  The best argument in the world is first, the facts of the Christian faith.  He was crucified for our atonement [1 Corinthians 15:3].  He was buried for our sins; He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], and He lives in my heart; pointing to Jesus [Acts 4:10]. 

And second, pointing to the saved man [Acts 4:10].  Always when you are in the discussion, have that saved man there.  Have that healed man there.  Have that whole man there.  He’s your exhibit A.  He’s the best argument in the world.  Look how it is in the verse 14.  "And beholding the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it" [Acts 4:14], just stopped them. 

How are you going to argue against a thing like that?  How can you?  How can any rationalist?  I don’t care how brilliant he is.  How can any philosopher?  No matter how many degrees he has behind his name, how is he going to argue against a marvelous conversion.  Look at that man gloriously delivered; marvelously, wondrously saved.  

I have great love and respect for one of the most marvelous expository preachers of our twentieth century.  His name is Dr. Harry Ironside, for a generation pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.  He came here to worship with us one time just to see how we were faring.  Dr. Harry Ironside was in San Francisco, standing out in the street with a band of Salvation Army lads and lasses, singing the praises of the Lord,  and Dr. Ironside preaching the gospel message of Christ out on the street in San Francisco.  When he was done with his message and making appeal for the Lord Jesus, a blatant infidel came up to him and addressing all of the throng that was there said, "I challenge this preacher to a debate.  I’ll show you how the gospel that he preaches is dust and ashes.  I challenge him to a debate.  I can refute every argument that he’s made."  

And Dr. Ironside replied, he said, "Sir, I accept your challenge.  I accept your challenge.  We’ll set the date and we’ll set the place.  The place, in the Salvation Army Hall; the date, tonight and the debate itself like this.  I will bring with me a hundred men who were in the depths of despair and darkness and who were lifted into the marvelous light by the Son of God.  And you bring a hundred men who have been saved by the gospel of infidelity, and we’ll have our debate tonight."  

Why, you don’t even have a song dedicated to infidelity that ever heard of.  I never heard one in my life.  How would you scour the whole earth and find a hundred men who had been saved from darkness and degradation by the gospel of infidelity.  My brother, Dr. Ironside, could easily and as quickly have said, "I will bring tonight one thousand men in San Francisco who have been lifted up into a light of life and glory by the saving message of the Son of God."  That’s your best argument.  Look at this man.  What God has done for him.  Look at him.  Look at him.  It is a wonderful thing, the Christian faith is factual.  It is never hypothetical.  It is never metaphysical.  It is never speculative.  It is always factual.  These are the facts of the faith.  

I remember reading in the life of John Wesley.  State Church of England pushed him out.  Never one time did they allow him to preach in an Anglican church; pushed him out.  So John Wesley and George Whitefield and Charles Wesley, the singer, they conducted their services out in the street square, out in the commons, where the colliers were digging out holes.  Wherever on the banks of the river, wherever men would gather to listen, the Wesleyan revival; it was just like heaven, and saved that nation from the bloody French Revolution.  

Well, anyway, John Wesley was preaching in Epworth, in the English town where he grew up as a lad.  And the angry neighbors gathered a whole wagon load of his heretics; of his converts and wagged them off to the magistery, to the magistrate.  Well, they forgot to think through the accusation.  It just never had occurred to them what they were going to accuse them of.  So the magistrate looked at that whole wagon load of Wesleyans, John Wesley’s converts, and turned to the angry neighbors and said, "What is the accusation?  What do you bring them here for?  What are they accused of?" 

And there was a long, long silence.  They just hadn’t thought about that.  So one of them finally spoke up and said, "Well, they think they were better than other people," then another long silence.  And then another one spoke up and said, "They pray all day long from morning to night," then another long silence.  And finally another fellow spoke up and said, "They converted my wife." 

And the magistrate was interested.  He said, "Oh, they converted your wife.  How was that?" 

"Well," the man said, "well, well, she had a tongue sharp as a razor and now she’s just meek like a lamb." 

And the magistrate said, "Take these people back and may God grant that they can convert the whole town of Epworth." 

What are you going to do?  Looking at the man, standing there, marvelously saved, marvelously whole, marvelously delivered [Acts 4:10].  That’s the faith.  That’s the faith.  It is never theoretical or philosophical or metaphysical or hypothetical.  It is always right here, where you can see it, and touch it, and feel it, and demonstrate it.  That’s the way John began his first epistle, "That which our eyes have seen, and our hands have touched, and our ears have heard" [1 John 1:1], there is no greater fact in the universe or in history or in experience than the fact of the Christian faith.  

May I point out in my reading just one another thing and then we are going to sing our appeal.  The reason that this thing stayed in my mind was, I have lived through every syllable of what this boy saw and felt and heard all of his life.  And then I have lived through what he found and what he discovered.  All right, it is this. 

The lad, the young fellow, is the son of a theological professor in the seminary.  And seated by his father one night, he says to him, "Dad, today, today, I saw the real thing down at the mission.  Dad, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it."  You see, the boy had grown up in the home of a professor of theology.  All the days of his life had he been conversant with and introduced to all of those fine spun theological arguments for the person of God, for the resurrection of Christ, for the propagation of the faith, everything about it, academically presented.  But the boy says to his father, "Dad, today for the first time, I saw it and realized it.  I was down at the mission.  And I never saw it before." 

Any time the Christian faith is word and language and argument, any time it is forensic, philosophical, speculative, it is nothing, but when the Christian faith takes flesh and blood and the conversion of men and the power of God to change human life, brother, that’s it.  That’s the faith.  It is always real and factual.  It will do to live by.  My brother, it will do to die by.  Some day, it will present us spotless in the presence of the great Glory [Ephesians 5:27], where we thank God in song and in hymn and in word forever and ever, amen. 

And that is the faith we offer you today.  It is God.  It is the Lord.  It is the truth; it is they way; it is the life [John 14:6].  It will lead us to heaven.  It will strengthen us and empower us here.  It will bless you forever. 

In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, "Today I have decided for Christ, and here I am.  I am coming now."  "We are going to put our lives in this wonderful dear church, and we are coming too."  "I want to accept the Lord as my Savior," come.  "I want to be baptized," come.  "I want to give my life to the Lord in this fellowship by letter," come.  "I want to answer a call of God in my soul," come.  As the Holy Spirit just press the appeal to your heart, make it now; make the decision now in your heart.  And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand, walking down one of these stairways, coming down one of these aisles, "Here I am pastor, I am on the way."  May angels attend you as you come.  Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.