‘To Their Own Company’
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
"And being let go, they went to their own company", Acts 4. 23.
Looking into the context of these words, it is evident that there was relief in the hearts of the apostles as they were "let go". They had been arraigned before the high priest, his kindred, their rulers, with the elders and scribes. Because of the dramatic events surrounding the healing of the lame man at the temple gate, it had become clear that there was unusual power, not only in the preaching of the apostles, but also in the activities accompanying it. They saw the boldness of Peter and John, and noted that they were unlettered and uninstructed persons, simple men without learning. They could not but recognize that they had been with Jesus-marvellous recommendation! They had to admit that a miracle had been performed, yet took severe steps to put a stop to their activities, v. 17. But Peter and John were driven by a compulsion that the rulers could not understand, "we cannot but speak". So they threatened them, and let them go, v. 21. While the priests and rulers grumbled, all the people glorified God for that which was done. "And being let go, they went to their own company". They had somewhere to go. They were not simply acting in isolation, neither were they individuals who had no connection with others likeminded.
It does us good to ponder carefully the words, "they went to their own company". Even in those very early days of Church History, there were companies of people with the interests of their Lord at heart; they were set in towns and villages as testimonies, providing places of refuge and fellowship for persecuted saints. We may sense that those who were "let go" knew where their spiritual home was. Let us consider this situation, and apply its relevance to the local assembly today. There is a great value in knowing the place where we can meet together with likeminded believers in harmony, sharing their fellowship with the Lord.
It was for them a place of praise. Strange paradox in the light of their suffering! They told their story to the others, and then together they lifted up their voices to God in heaven. Circumstances did not depress or defeat them. So it was in a later encounter with the council; when they departed they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name, 5. 41. Let us always see to it that we look on the assembly as the place where hearts and voices are lifted to heaven in praise. No exercise is more stimulating and strengthening to believers.
Yet it was also for them a place of prayer. "Lord, behold their threatenings", v. 29. This cry reveals that they felt deeply the hurt that opposition brought. They were not insensitive to the cost of faithfulness to the Lord. But the gatherings of God's people provided a place where their needs could be laid openly before God. We do well to remember this when the neglect of the prayer meeting seems to be so prevalent in our day. It is a rewarding exercise in the study of the Acts to note the recorded instances of corporate prayer. We have such a burden of spiritual need today, so let us grasp every opportunity, not only to pray for one another, but also to pray with one another.
So it was that the assembly became the place of power for these men. "When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together", v. 31. In persecution they felt their weakness, and when released they went where they knew they were loved, and could love. Here was the place where the divine presence meant refreshment for them, and renewal of power to witness without fear. As they went forth again, they gave their own personal witness to the resurrection, in the power of the Holy Spirit. What dynamic vitality was here! No wonder they made an impact on those outside. Among themselves there was great grace too. They had gone "to their own company": united they were strengthened.
Do we know today where our "own company" is? Is the local church the place where we delight to be found, where we share with likeminded believers the things that belong to our faith? Perhaps we must challenge ourselves regarding our attitude to church fellowship. Can it be that convenience dominates rather than conviction, as to where the Lord wants us to be? What is our commitment to our "own company"? May we always have that instinct within us, planted by the Holy Spirit and preserved by our obedience to the Lord, to find the place which can truly be described as "our own company". It is in this that we shall find a sphere of increasing joy and usefulness.