An Interpretation of the English Bible

 

 

THE ACTS

 

 

by B. H. CARROLL

 

Late President of Southwestern Baptist

Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Edited by

J. B. Cranfill

 

BAKER BOOK HOUSE

Grand Rapids, Michigan

New and complete edition

 

 Copyright 1948, Broadman Press

Reprinted by Baker Book House

with permission of

Broadman Press

ISBN: 0-8010-2344-0

First Printing, September 1973

Second Printing, September 1976

 

PHOTOLITHOPRINTED BY GUSHING - MALLOY, INC.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

1976

 


CONTENTS

 

(Return to Main Contents)

 

I                  Historical Introduction and Analysis

II                 The Dedication, the Introduction, and the Waiting Church (1:1-26)

III                An Introduction to the Second Chapter of Acts,

                   and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (2:1-36)

IV               Pentecost and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (2:1-47)

V                 Pentecost and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Cont.) (2:1-47)

VI               Pentecost and the Kingdom (2:1-47)

VII              The Theory of Baptismal Regeneration (2:38)

VIII             The Theory of Baptismal Regeneration (2:38)

IX               The Gift of the Holy Spirit – The Habit of the Early Church (2:39-3:1)

X                 The Sadducean Persecution (3:1-5:42)

XI               The Office of Deacon, the Pharisaic Persecution, Stephen and Saul

                   to the Front, a New Issue, and the Rejection of the Holy Spirit

                   and the Anointed Church by Jerusalem (6:1-8:3)

XII              Philip to the Front (8:4-40; 21:8-9)

XIII             The General Superintendence of the Apostles Over the Work Outside Jerusalem,

                   The Samaritans Welcomed into the Kingdom (8:14-26; 9:1-12:25; Gal. 1:18-20)  

XIV             An Introduction to a Study of Paul

XV              Paul's Early Life Before He Enters the New Testament Story

                   (21:39; 22:3; 23:6, 34; 26:4-5)

XVI             Saul, the Persecutor (7:57-68; 8:1-4; 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:9-11)

XVII           Saul's Conversion, His Call to the Apostleship and His Commission

                   (9:1-19, 22:5-16; 26:12-20)

XVIII          Saul – From His Conversion to His Ordination (21:1-36)

XIX             Antioch of Syria, the Center, and Paul's First Missionary Tour to the Heathen

                   (13:1-14:28)

XX              Antioch of Syria, the Center, and Paul's First Missionary Tour to the Heathen (Continued)          

XXI             The Great Conference at Jerusalem Concerning a

            Vital Question of Salvation and the Private Conference at Jerusalem on Paul's Independent Apostleship and Gospel (15:1-35)

XXII           The Great Social Question at Antioch and the Separation of Paul and Barnabas in Missionary Work (15:36-39)

XXIII          Paul's Second Missionary Tour, or the Gospel Carried Into Europe (15:40-16:40)

XXIV          The Ministry of Paul and His Companions at Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens

                   (17:1-34)

XXV           Paul at Corinth and the End of the Second Missionary Tour (18:1-22)

XXVI          Paul's Third Missionary Tour – Paul at Ephesus (18:23-21:16)

XXVII         Paul's Third Missionary Tour (Cont.)

XXVIII       From Ephesus to Jerusalem (21:1-36)

XXIX          Paul in the Hands of His Enemies at Jerusalem and His Speech on the Stairway

                   (21:37-23:30)

XXX           Paul Before Felix and Felix Before Paul (23:31-24:27)

XXXI          Paul and Festus: Festus and Agrippa; Paul and Agrippa (25-26)

XXXII         From Caesarea to Rome (27-28)

                                   

 

 

I

 

(Return to Contents)

 

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS

 

That Luke is the author of this book appears from its first sentence (Acts 1:1), making it a continuation of his Gospel, and from the use of the personal pronoun, first person, in some chapters, showing that he was a companion of Paul, as in 16: 10_16; 20:5; 28:16. The book was probably written at Rome, during Paul's first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30), Luke being then with him (Acts 28:16), and as we also see from the references in Philemon 24 and Colossians 4:14. Its date was about A.D. 63. The person addressed was Theophilus (Arts 1:1), to whom his Gospel was dedicated (Luke 1:1).  

 

There are several New Testament references to the author. We learn from Colossians 4:14 that he was (1) a physician; (2) a Gentile Christian, probably one of Paul's converts; (3) the author of two New Testament books (see Luke 1:1; Acts 1:1); (4) a companion and fellow worker with Paul from whom he received many of the facts, given both in his Gospel and in Acts; (5) he first appears in the story at Troas (Acts 16:10-11) and again at Philippi (Acts 20:5) and so continues with him to end of the book, and (6) he was with Paul in both of his Roman imprisonments. In the first imprisonment we have the testimony of Philemon 23; Colossians 4:14; Acts 28:16; and in the second Roman imprisonment we have the testimony of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11.

 

The title of the book is, as the manuscripts say, "Acts of the Apostles" or, without the article, simply, Acts. Two of the general limits of the book are (1) the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, to Rome, the capital of the world; (2) the time period, AD. 33 to A.D. 63, i.e., thirty years. Many commentaries contest the propriety of its title, "Acts of the Apostles", but that propriety is supported by the following considerations: (1) It does give some of the acts of all the apostles, i.e., it recites the names of eleven of the original twelve, and of their place of meeting in an upper chamber (1:13); (2) it gives the history of the filling of the place of Judas by Matthias (1:15-26) ; (3) it gives an account of the baptism of all of them in the Holy Spirit (2:1-4) ; and subsequently of the teaching of all of them (2:42) ; (4) it gives an account of their great prayer meeting (4:23-31); (5) it teaches us that they all wrought miracles (5:12), and were all imprisoned in the Sadducean persecution (5:18), and were all delivered by an angel of the Lord (5:19), and were all beaten with stripes (5:40), and that they continued their teaching (5:42) ; (6) it shows that they all participated in the ordination of the deacons (6:2-6); (7) they all remained in Jerusalem when the disciples were scattered abroad by the Pharisee persecution led by Saul (8:1); (8) it shows that they all participated in sending Peter and John to confer the power of the Spirit on Philip's converts in Samaria (8:14); (9) it shows that some of them received Paul when he was introduced by Barabbas (9:27); (10) they all received and justified Peter's account of the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius (11:1-18); (II) it shows that they all participated in sending Barabbas to Antioch to look into the preaching unto the Greeks there (11:20-22); (12) they were all suffering under the Herodian persecution, one of them, James, the brother of John, being killed (12:9-24), and Peter imprisoned; (13) they all participated, including Paul, in the decision of the great question – the greatest of the apostolic times – whether Gentiles must become Jews in order to be saved (15:1-21), and joined in the decree to the churches officially settling this great question (15:22-30; 16:4) ; (14) there was also full and official recognition of Paul's independent apostleship and of the division of labor – Paul and Barabbas to go to the Gentiles, and the others to the circumcision (this we learn from Gal. 2:1-10); (15) from chapter 13 to the end of the book we have the acts of the Apostle to the Gentiles. From these fifteen particulars, the propriety of the title is sufficiently evident. It must be observed that the title in the manuscripts is without the article, and hence makes no claim to record all the acts of all the apostles. Indeed, its first beginnings at Jerusalem, then in Samaria, then among the Romans at Caesarea, then the Greeks at Antioch and various Greek cities of Asia Minor and in Europe, and finally at Rome.

 

Another important matter is settled by the book, viz.: that the apostles, though inspired, illumined, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, were "set in the church." We find the church, the whole 120, participating in the selection of Matthias; we find the church participating in the baptism of the Spirit, in the institution of the office of deacon, and in every detail of the worldwide character of the gospel. For example, the action of the church in the case of the Samaritans receiving the gospel, the action of the church in the case of the Greeks getting it, and in the great judicial decision of Acts 15, as set forth in Acts 15:2, 6-7, 11-12, 15. This is a very important matter – to know that even inspired, illumined and Spirit-empowered apostles were set in the church and worked through the churches.

 

Many special names, or ascriptions, have been given to this book, e.g.: Barnes calls it, The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Chrysostom, the great Greek orator, The Demonstration of the Resurrection. Luther calls it, A Commentary on Paul's Epistles. Eichorn, A History of Missions Propagating Christianity. Lekebusch, A Continuous Fulfillment of the Promise in 1:8. Grotius, A Biographical Description of the Work of Peter and Paul. Baumgarten, The Teachings and Deeds of the Risen and Ascended Savior. Others, "An unfinished history of the church of the first century." Yet others, "The growth of the church, external and internal, from its foundation in Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, to its establishment in Rome, the center of heathendom." Canon Norris has named it, The Continued Action of the Risen Lord, Through the Spirit, in the Interval Between the Gospels and the Epistles. – (See the fine introduction by Professor Lindsay.)


Certain facts that justify somewhat the definitions of Barnes and Norris as given above are as follows: (1) Jesus gave his sentence limits the record to "beginnings." We have here worldwide commandment through the Holy Spirit, 1:2; (2) they were to tarry until they were endued with that Spirit- power (1:4) ; (3) they received this power (2:1-4) ; (4) every advance toward a broader gospel was specifically Spirit-guided, viz.: the freer preaching of Stephen, the broader work of Philip, the still broader work of the reception of Cornelius, the preaching to the Greeks, the sending out of Paul and Barnabas, the recognition of their work, the great decision in Acts 15, the "Where-to-go," the "how-long-to-stay," the making of officers in the church, and the blessings on their work, all of the Holy Spirit.


The human heroes of the book are Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Paul.


We do well to trace on the map the missionary journeys of the book:

 

1. The Journeys of Philip: (1) From Jerusalem to Samaria; (2) From Samaria to the desert land between Jerusalem and Gaza; (3) Thence to Azotus, and thence to Caesarea.

 

II. The Journeys of Peter: (1) He first goes (with John) from Jerusalem to Samaria, and then returns; (2) he goes to Lydda; (3) to Joppa; (4) from Joppa to Caesarea; (5) thence to Jerusalem; (6) from Jerusalem he goes back to Caesarea, where he is left, so far as this history goes. (See, again, Professor Lindsay's Acts of the Apostles.)


III. At the dispersion caused by Saul's persecution we have the journeys of some unnamed brethren who (1) carried the gospel from Jerusalem to Phoenicia; (2) others to the island of Cyprus; (3) yet others to Antioch of Syria.


IV. The Journeys of Barnabas: (1) From Jerusalem to Antioch; (2) from Antioch to Tarsus after Paul; (3) from Tarsus back to Antioch with Paul; (4) from Antioch back to Jerusalem with Paul; (5) from Jerusalem back to Antioch with Paul; (6) from Antioch with Paul and Mark, on a long missionary tour and return; (7) from Antioch, with Paul, to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) ; (8) back to Antioch; (9) from Antioch to Cyprus, with Mark, after the separation from Paul.


V. The Journeys of Paul: (1) As a persecutor from Jerusalem to Damascus; (2) after his conversion, from Damascus to Arabia and back to Damascus, three years; (3) from Damascus to Jerusalem to see Peter; (4) from Jerusalem to Tarsus, several years; (5) from Tarsus to Antioch, with Barnabas; (6) from Antioch with Barnabas to Jerusalem, carrying alms, about the time James was killed and Peter imprisoned by Herod (Acts 12); (7) from Jerusalem back to Antioch; (8) then follow his three great missionary tours, ending at Jerusalem (Acts 13:1 to 21:19); (9) being arrested at Jerusalem, he, with many vicissitudes, by land and sea, is carried to Rome (Acts 21:20 to 28:31).


We should note the contemporaneous history in the thirty years covered by Acts:


I. Roman Emperors: (1) Tiberius, under whom Christ was crucified; (2) Caligula, A.D. 37; (3) Claudius, A.D. 41, mentioned in Acts 18:2; (4) Nero, A.D. 54.


II. Civil Rulers in Judea: (1) Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator until A.D. 36; (2) Herod Agrippa I, the Herod of Acts 12. Under Caligula, the Roman Emperor, he obtains, first, Gaulonitis, then Galilee and Perea. Under Claudius he gets Samaria and Judea, and so rules all Palestine until his death, A.D. 44. (3) Cuspus Fadus, at the death of Herod, becomes Roman procurator. (4) Herod Agrippa II, the King Agrippa of Acts 26, was king, but not of Judea. (5) Felix was made procurator by the Emperor Claudius. He is the Felix who trembled under Paul's preaching, but left him a prisoner (Acts 23:24). (6) Festus was made procurator by the Emperor Nero. He is the Festus before whom Paul appeared (Acts 25).


III. The High Priesthood, which underwent many changes: (1) Caiaphas, before whom Christ appeared; (2) Jonathan, son of Annas, A.D. 37; (3) Theophilus, son of Annas, A.D. 38; (4) Simon Cantherus, A.D. 41; (5) Matthias, son of Annas, A.D. 42; (6) Elionacus, son of Cantherus, A.D. 45; (7) Ananias, A.D. 47; (8) Ishmael, son of Phabi, A.D. 59.


The divine purpose of the book appears in its relation to the Gospel by the same author, and the relation of both to the glorious person of our Lord. This book must be considered primarily as a continuation of Luke's Gospel concerning the one glorious person, our Lord Jesus Christ, in his saving relation to the whole human race – the Gospel telling us what Jesus began to do and teach until his ascension and exaltation to his mediatorial throne; Acts telling us what this glorious King continued to do and teach until his kingdom had extended from Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, to imperial Rome, the capital and center of the heathen world. The Gospel gives an account of the earth life of Jesus, while Acts gives an account of his heaven life.

 

The stress in both books is on the humanity of our Lord in his relation to the whole race of man, the Gospel, unlike Matthew, tracing his genealogy beyond Abraham, and even Noah, back to Adam; and unlike John, stressing less his antecedent deity, while Acts shows the risen, ascended man made both Lord and Christ, and reigning in heaven to carry out on earth and for all nations the purposes of his sacrificial death in Jerusalem, beginning, indeed, at Jerusalem, but extending to all nations.


We miss the mark in interpreting the book if we do not see this aim of the two books, set forth so plainly in Luke 24: 44-48. "And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things."

It is reaffirmed in Acts 1:6-8. "They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." It is repeated in Peter's Pentecostal sermon: "For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him" (Acts 2:39), and abundantly evidenced in the freer preaching of Stephen, the wider work of Philip, and the startling commission to Paul at his conversion (Acts 9:15; 22:14-21; 26:16-18), and in the vision of the ark to Peter, followed by the reception of Cornelius, and in the preaching to the Greeks at Antioch: "But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord" (Acts 11:20-21) ; in the sending out of Barabbas and Saul to the Gentile world (Acts 13:1-4) ; in the decision of the great question of salvation in Acts 15, preceded by the solemn giving of the hand of fellowship to the Gentile workers (Gal. 2:1-10); in the side-light settlement of an involved social question just after (Gal. 2:11-21); and in the devotion of the greater part of the book to the labors of the great Apostle to the Gentiles.


The divine superintendence in all the transactions recorded in the book appears from the evident reluctance of the human agents to follow the broader lines of salvation, on equal terms for all men. Every forward step was questioned, investigated, contested, and reluctantly taken. The Jewish prejudice fought hard and long. If Philip preaches to Samaritans, as our Lord did, that matter must be investigated (Acts 8:14). To even our Lord himself, urging the open door to Gentiles, Peter characteristically replied, "Not so, Lord" (Acts 10) ; and when Peter was convinced himself, he had to explain to a questioning church (Acts II); and so long as the disciples, scattered abroad by Saul's persecution, preached to Jews only, it was all right, but when some of them preached to Greeks, a deputation was sent to look into the matter (Acts 11:19-23).


What a solemn time they had over the great question decided in the council at Jerusalem! How strange that Peter, who so successfully justified himself when believers of the circumcision arraigned him for "going in to men uncircumcised and eating with them" (Acts 11:2-4), in the case of Cornelius, should allow himself to be browbeaten into dissimulation by the same men on precisely the same point, but a little while after, at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-21). How fiercely the same narrow-minded element obstructed every step of Paul's advance toward a worldwide gospel! And how stubbornly even Paul himself insisted on being a home missionary to the Jews, instead of going far hence to the Gentiles! (Acts 22:17-21.)


The marked difference between this book and the Gospel by the same author appears from two facts: (1) While the purpose of Acts is to show a continuation of the Gospel account of what Jesus "began to do and teach," in the Gospel, Jesus acts immediately in his own person, but in Acts he works mediately through the Holy Spirit. Hence Acts has been aptly styled "The Gospel of the Spirit." When in his lifetime he had said, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you," and when in the great church commission he says, "Lo, I am with you all the days," the meaning is this: "I will come by the Holy Spirit; I will be present by the Holy Spirit." This omnipresence by the Spirit was far more expedient and profitable to them than a limited presence in the flesh. (2) While Acts is a continuation of Luke's Gospel account of what Jesus began to do and teach, the Gospel tells of what he did and taught on earth – Acts, what he did and taught from his throne in heaven. In both, the stress is on the humanity of our Lord in his saving relation to the whole race. This purpose overrides the prejudices of all the Jewish subagents.

 

OUTLINE OF THE BOOK

 
I commend to you as fine, clear, and simple, Dr. A. T. Robertson's "Outline" as it appears in his Student's Chronological New Testament:

 

I. Jerusalem as the Center (1-12).


1. Waiting for the promise of the Father (1).


2. The promise fulfilled at Pentecost (2).


3. An incident in the work of Peter and John, and opposition encountered from the Sadducees (3:1 to 4:31).


4. Wrestling with a social problem in church life (4:32 to 5:11).


5. Outward prosperity and renewed hostility from the Sadducees (5:12-42).


6. Meeting a crisis in church administration (6:1-7).


7. The Pharisees aroused by the preaching of Stephen, and his consequent death (6:8 to 8:la).


8. The forced expansion of Christian effort in Judea, Samaria and the surrounding countries, as illustrated in the career of Philip (8:lb-40).


9. The complete change in the affairs of Christianity wrought by the conversion of Saul the persecutor (9:1-31).


10. The door opened to the Gentiles (9:32 to 11:30).


11. The new persecution from the civil government – Herod Agrippa 1 (12).

 

II. Antioch as the Center (13:1 to 21:14).


1. The formal entrance of Barnabas and Saul upon the missionary enterprise (13:1-3).


2. The first great mission tour of Paul and Barnabas (13: 4 to 14:28).


3. The conference at Jerusalem over question of Gentile freedom from Jewish ceremonialism (15:1-35; cf. Gal. 2: 1-10).


4. Paul's second great mission tour (15:36 to 18:22).


5. Paul's third great mission tour (18:23 to 21:14).

 

III. Paul in the hands of his enemies (21:15 to 28:31).


1. In the toils at Jerusalem (21:15 to 23:30).


2. Before Roman Court at Caesarea (23:31 to 26:32).


3. To Rome with appeal to Nero (27:1 to 28:15).


4. For two years awaiting Nero's pleasure (28:16-31).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

There are many good commentaries on Acts available for English Bible students who know no Greek. As examples I name:


(1) Professor Lindsay; publishers, T. and T. Clark. This, in two parts, is small, portable, clear, and simple. Any country preacher without knowledge of Greek can easily understand it.


(2) Hackett on Acts – American Commentary. This is critical and classical, but cold. One never reaches the revival spirit through Hackett. From some of its critical statements and interpretations we dissent.


(3) As an old, but warm, spiritual commentary, Barnes on Acts is good.

 

QUESTIONS

1. Who wrote the book of Acts, and what is the internal proof?


2. Where was the book written?


3. When was it written?


4. To whom was it written?


5. What are the chief New Testament references to the author?


6. What is the title of the book?


7. What are some of the general limits of the book?


8. What may we say of the propriety of its title, Acts of the Apostles, which has been so generally contested by the commentators?


9. What great matters touching the kingdom were thus settled, not by one apostle, but by the body of apostles?


10. What other important matter is settled by the book?


11. Mention some special names, or ascriptions, men have given to this book.


12. Cite some facts which justify somewhat the definitions of Barnes and Norris.


13. Who were the human heroes of the book?


14. Give the missionary journeys of the book.


15. What contemporaneous history in the thirty years covered by Acts?


16. What is the relation of Acts to the Gospel of Luke, as to time, and how are these books related, as to the glorious person of our Lord?


17. What is the stress of each of these books?


18. What is the aim of the book, and its bearing on the interpretation?


19. What is the evidence of the divine purpose of the book?


20. What are the marked differences between this book and Luke?


21. What outline commended, and what the main points of this outline?


22. What books are commended on Acts?

 

 

II

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE DEDICATION, THE INTRODUCTION,

AND THE WAITING CHURCH

Acts 1:1-26.

 

The key passage of the book of Acts, taken in connection with Luke 24:47, is 1:8: "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."


The whole book is a development of that passage. The scope of the book is the progress of the gospel by the church through the Spirit from Jerusalem to Rome, and the time period of the book is thirty years. The first chapter is divided into two parts: (1) A dedication, and the introduction, the first eleven verses; (2) the waiting and preparing of the church for the promise of the Father (5:12), to the end of the chapter.


This discussion will be devoted to chapter 1. The book, like Luke's Gospel, is dedicated to Theophilus – a Greek word, meaning a friend of God. We do not know about Theophilus beyond what is stated in the Gospel and in this book. The chapter is divided into two time periods – the introduction covering forty days from the resurrection of Christ, until his ascension, and the ten days in which the church waited and prepared for the giving of the promise by the Father.


It will be observed at once that this book is a continuation of the Gospel by Luke, the first fourteen verses being but little more than a resume of Luke 24:33-53, and as in the Gospel he recites what Jesus began to do and to teach, until his ascension, so in this book he recites what Jesus began to do and to teach from the ascension up to the time that the gospel reached Rome in the person of Paul. It is quite necessary, however, to distinguish between the doing and the teaching of Christ in the Gospel, and the doing and the teaching of Christ in Acts. In the Gospel, we have an account of what Christ did and taught on earth, and here what he does and teaches from heaven. Especially note that both the Gospel and Acts confine what they say to the "beginnings" of his doings and his teachings. The Gospel does not attempt to enumerate everything that Jesus did and everything that he taught. So in Acts, only the beginnings are presented. We have the beginning in Jerusalem, in Samaria; the beginning at Antioch; the beginning at all the places visited by Paul, but not everything that was done at any of those places is told in this book. The object of the book is to show the start in each place.


Another distinction between the two is this: The Gospel tells what Christ did and taught directly and personally; the Acts tells what Christ did and taught mediately through the Holy Spirit and the church. But Jesus is the hero of both books. It is important to remember – to keep in mind continually – the conception of Jesus Christ in the book of Acts. Where is he? In heaven. What is his position there? He is enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords, at the right hand of the Father. What is he doing there? He is reigning as King, and through his providential government caring for his gospel, his kingdom, his church here upon earth; and so making all things work together for good to them that love God; and up there, he is also interceding as High Priest for his people. He is their Advocate in heaven. In this book, the Holy Spirit, his alter ego, is their Advocate on earth.


We are next to consider in this book the conception of the church, particularly in the ten days of waiting, and we are to understand the church as already organized. It has its chief officers, the apostles. Its laws and ordinances as an institution are already established. As a particular church at Jerusalem it will soon have its deacons and pastors. We are to conceive of the church also as commissioned – that the church is commissioned to do two things: (1) To bear witness – to give testimony – and the fact to which they are to give testimony or bear witness, is the resurrection of Christ; that the same Jesus who was crucified gave the resurrection as a sign and proof of his messiahship; that same Jesus was raised from the dead, and was received, after being recognized on earth, up into heaven. That is the first part of the commission of the church – to bear witness to the fact that Christ is risen. (2) Another duty of the church is to proclaim to the whole world this risen Christ as the Saviour of the world, and that is the theme all through the book.


Notice that the church, while organized, is yet ignorant of some points, viz.: "Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" That is the question they propounded to him. They had in mind an earthly, Jewish kingdom, Just as the premillennialists have in mind an earthly, Jewish kingdom, at the second advent of our Lord. He evades that question by telling them it is not for them to know the times or the seasons. Our words, "times" and "seasons," indicate long and short periods. Chronos means a long time; kairos, a short period of time. In this way Jesus hints that there are to be long periods of time before the prophecies concerning himself in his word are to be entirely complete.


Note also, concerning the church, its form of government. Though there are apostles who are ambassadors for Christ, and qualified to speak for him, yet in the church, they are all on an equality, with a congregational form of government; no distinction between apostles, deacons, and other brethren, and none between man and woman. It is the only pure democracy the world ever saw. A pure democracy is one in which all of the people of the state, without regard to age or sex, or previous condition of servitude, participate on a footing of equality. In this church, we see three classes of people: (1) The eleven apostles, kingdom officers, (2) certain noted women, to whom Luke, in his Gospel, refers several times, as did the other Gospels – women that had sustained Jesus by their contributions, and we know the names of most of them, names given in the Gospels and 'in Acts, (3) also the four brothers of Jesus. In the last Gospel account of them we find that they were unbelievers: "Neither did his brethren believe on him," is. e., his brethren according to the flesh. But here they are in the church, and we safely infer that they were led to faith by the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ to James, the oldest of the brothers. When Jesus appeared to James after his resurrection, it doubtless led to the conversion of James, Jude, Simon, and Joseph, the four half-brothers of Jesus. They are now in church, and one of them is to be very prominent. He is to be the pastor of the first particular church; he is to write, perhaps, the first New Testament book that was written. Another of them, Jude, is to write one of the latest of the New Testament books. These are the brothers of our Lord. And these are the three special classes named in that first church – the apostles, the women, and the brethren of our Lord. Among the women his mother is particularly specified, and this is the last reference to his mother that we have in the Bible.


You don't get from the Bible the Mariology and the Mariolatry of Roman Catholicism.


You will remember that Jesus, when dying, commended his mother to the apostle John. His brothers were very poor; they were not able to take care of her. But John was wealthy, and Mary, the mother of our Lord, remained with John until she died. But the Bible does not tell anything about her being taken up to heaven without dying, or anything about her own immaculate conception; nor that she was born holy; nor does it tell us that she is queen of heaven, and the fountain of all grace, and the source of salvation. All that comes from the perversions of the doctrines of Christ in the later ages.


This church, in that ten days of waiting, occupied itself in doing the following things: At the close of his Gospel, Luke says that they worshiped in the Temple with great joy; that they continued in the Temple. In that upper room where the Lord's Supper was observed, and where some of the appearances of Christ were made to them, they continued steadfastly in prayer. We infer the object of those prayers by the promise which had been given: "Ye shall be endued with power not many days hence . . . and ye shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth," i.e., "tarry until you are endued with this power; Is will send upon you the promise of my Father." Naturally, in those ten days, when they prayed, they prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit to qualify them to do their work as a church. The thing that gave them joy was that when Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels came and said, "This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven." So that the ascension of Christ is directly connected with the second advent of Christ in its teaching. As the Lord's Supper continually points forward to the final advent, so the ascension points to the final advent. But you have not fairly started in theology until you are able to answer these three questions: (1) Why was Jesus exalted to the right hand of the Father? (2) What is he doing up there? (3) How long is he to stay up there? Acts answers them. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells us that because he voluntarily laid aside his glory in heaven and took upon himself human nature, and in the nature of mankind suffered and died for the salvation of men, therefore, "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name . . . far above all angels, principalities, and powers."


Man was made originally a little lower than the angels, but with the purpose of God that he should one day be above the angels. And this is first fulfilled in the ascension of Christ. We do not see all dominion, once conferred upon man, exercised by man, but we do see Jesus Christ, who was made a little lower than the angels, exalted to the right hand of the Father, far above all principalities and powers.


In connection with this ascension, so far as Luke's Gospel goes, and so far as the book of Acts goes, Jesus passes out of sight in the cloud. But the book of Daniel, and one of the psalms tell us more about the passage up into heaven. The psalm describes him as he approaches heaven, telling us how he left the earth, and that as he approached the heavens he cried out, Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates; Yea, lift them up, ye everlasting doors: And the King of glory will come in. Who is this King of glory? Jehovah of hosts, He is the King of glory.

 

Then Daniel tells us exactly how he was received in heaven, saying, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a Son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14).


And that the kingdom was to be fulfilled down here upon the earth among the saints, for an everlasting possession. Notice in studying the Bible how one book supplements the teaching of another book. This book of Acts lifts him up out of sight in a cloud; that psalm shows him approaching heaven; Daniel shows him reaching heaven and receiving his kingship; Philippians shows the extent of his domain when be had ascended into heaven. As to how long he will stay there, this book of Acts and the psalm distinctly answer (Psalm 110:1): Jehovah saith unto my lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies they footstool.


How long? Until he has made his enemies his footstool; and that psalm tells us how he will exercise his power – that he is sending forth his power (army) through Zion; that in the day in which he leads out his armies here on earth his young men shall be volunteers, and shall go forth in the beauties of holiness, and shall be as multitudinous as the drops of dew in the dawn of the morning. It is very important in the beginning of this book to see that the hero of Acts is the hero of the Gospel by Luke; that the hero of Luke is the hero on earth, and the hero of Acts is the hero in heaven – the one continuing in heaven his teachings and deeds on earth, but through the Holy Spirit and the church. But while that psalm limits his stay in heaven "until his enemies are made his footstool," this book limits his stay thus "whom the heavens must receive [or retain] until the times of restoration of all things."


The last conception of the church to which Is shall refer in her waiting state is that while it is organized and complete, and while it is commissioned, yet as a house, since Jesus left it, it is empty. While Jesus was with it, that house; was not empty. During its emptiness it is waiting for its infilling and for its power.


In that waiting period of ten days, or toward the end of it, there is quite an important incident given. Peter, whose mind has been illumined, as we learn from the last chapter of Luke, where the Lord opened their minds that they should understand the scriptures, cites passages from the psalm, one of which had been fulfilled in the death of Judas, and one other was to be fulfilled in a successor to Judas, and he wants the apostolic college complete before the power comes down. So he goes up in the presence of the 120, not as a dictator, but speaking to them as brethren, on the footing of equality, saying, "Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. . . ." For it is written in the book of Psalms, "Let his habitation be made desolate, and let no man dwell therein; and his office let another take." "Office" here means overseership.


This scripture says, "Let another take his office." Now they must have the number complete, and so the manner of selecting a successor to Judas comes up. The church determines certain qualifications (5:21-22): "Of the men therefore that have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection."


Note the qualifications: He must have continued with the Lord up to the present time, beginning with the baptism of John, and be a competent witness of the resurrection of the dead. Those qualifications he must have to be one of the twelve apostles to the Jews. The baptism of John was the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and as he is to occupy the position of a witness, he must have continued all the time that the Lord went in and went out among the disciples. There were several men in the congregation who had that qualification, from whom they might nominate, but here was a matter which the church could not determine – who of the men so qualified the Lord himself would choose to fill that office. They could refer the case to him, but they could not decide the question. Christ alone can call; he alone can call one to be an apostle. He is not there in person; the Spirit has not yet come down; and so Peter proposes that the church nominate, and appeal to Christ by his province, to determine which of those nominated shall be the one. They selected two – Joseph, called Barsabbas, and Matthias – both good men; both, from the baptism of John to the present time, had been with Jesus; both were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus; they have the general qualifications. But the church could not know the heart of Matthias, nor the heart of Joseph; so they prayed. Here then is a prayer made particularly to the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the right to select an apostle: "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show of these two the one whom thou hast chosen."


The method of determining the decision of Jesus Christ was by lot. There are many places in the Old Testament where matters are decided by lot. The lot is cast, but the disposing of the lot is of the Lord. So they would write on little tablets, "Matthias" or "Joseph Barsabbas," and they would put these tablets into an urn and shake them, and one of them would fall out. The one that fell out had the name "Matthias" on it, and if the Lord disposed of the lots of those nominations by the church, Matthias is designated as the apostle to take the place of Judas.


Just here, note that we get our word "clergy" from that transaction, derived from kleros, a lot, and as the lot was used to determine who should enter that ministry, and as the lot designated which one was to be in that ministry, so the ministry at large are called "clergy," from that word "lot."


Here arises the question: Was the election of Matthias presumptuous and unauthorized, and what is the argument pro and con? An old Hardshell brother once said about it: "Brethren, you know that man Peter; well, he was always going off with his mouth half-cocked, continually getting into trouble, and though the Lord distinctly said, 'Wait until you be endued with power from on high,' this Peter in his forwardness proposes to elect an apostle, and who do you think they elected? You never will guess if I don't tell you. It was that little man, Matthias, and he has never been heard of from that day to this; and if I had been there, I would have voted for Paul, sure." That is the Hardshell position. One of the greatest Methodist bishops practically takes the same position, and many other people believe that the election of Matthias was unauthorized. They say, "When we see the foundations of the heavenly city there are twelve names on them, the names of the twelve apostles. Now, if Matthias is to come in, where does Paul come in? We know that Jesus did call Paul."

All of that is very plausible. Some very good men have held and do still hold that view. I take the other view, for the following reasons: (1) It was essential that this house, which now was built, to be occupied by the Spirit, to be complete, should have the full number of the apostles. (2) Christ did not only inspire Peter, but he had illumined his mind to understand the scripture. (3) This man Matthias, from that time on, was numbered with the apostles. With the others, he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; with the others he participated in all of the general actions of the apostles, throughout the book; and the book does continually refer to the whole number of them, including Matthias.


Paul's apostleship stands upon an entirely different basis. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. There were to be twelve apostles to the Jews. The number never would have been completed if Matthias had not been chosen.

 

JUDAS ISCARIOT


Just here we need a restatement of certain matters concerning Judas Iscariot already considered in the interpretation of the Gospels: Was Judas ever a regenerate man? Did he fall from grace as well as from office? Was this fall total and final, so that he was forever lost, or did he so repent that he was finally saved? The passage from which these questions arise is Acts 1:15-26, and the answers to them divide the Christian world into Calvinists and Arminians.


The abstract doctrine is embodied in the proposition: A child of God by regeneration, or a penitent believer in Jesus Christ, i.e., one acquitted by justification, may and does backside through sin after justification, but never does so fall away as to be totally and forever lost. On this proposition Calvinists affirm, Arminians deny.


Or a part of the issue may be hypothetically stated: If it were possible for a regenerate man to lose his regenerate state, it would be impossible to renew him to repentance. On the divine side the first proposition is called "The final preservation of the saints." On the human side, "The final perseverance of the saints."


The concrete cases usually cited for argument, pro and con, are Samson, Saul, king of Israel, David, Solomon, and Judas. Our present case is Judas. Peter himself says of Judas, what no one denies, "He was numbered among us ['us,' meaning the twelve] and received his portion in this ministry," and quotes a psalm to prove that his office was vacated and must be filled. The prayer offered to Jesus calls upon him to show which of the two nominated, should "take the place in this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place."


The evidence from this passage alone is clear that Judas, by "iniquity," fell from an office, and not from a regenerate state. And it certainly intimates that he was forever lost, since he fell that "he might go unto his own place." It is clear from many scriptures that Judas was never a regenerate man. Long before, in the Galilean ministry, just after the great discourse on the bread of life, which offended many, our Lord had said of Judas, "He is a devil" (John 6:70-71). The statement by John (12:4-6) demonstrates that Judas was both a hypocrite and a thief before he betrayed the Lord, and the statement by our Lord at the paschal supper certainly intimates his eternal doom (Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21).


Dr. Adam dark, the greatest Methodist commentator, bases & hope of the ultimate salvation of Judas on his alleged repentance, confession of sin, and restoration of the bribe money (Matt. 27:3-4). The contention is untenable because: (1) The verb expressing this so-called repentance is not metanoeo, used to express evangelical repentance, but metamelornai expressing remorse or worldly sorrow. (2) We know from Paul's use of the latter word (2 Cor. 7:10) it "worketh death," while true repentance "is unto salvation and life." (3) So in the case before us, the remorse of Judas worked death: "He went out and hanged himself," which means suicide, or self-murder.


In our interpretation of the Gospels, particularly of Matthew 27:3-4, in the very passage upon which Dr. Adam Clark bases his contention, it is shown that a modern author, in the Edinburgh Review, somewhere about 1870 to 1873, posing as an ancient Roman living near the time of Christ's betrayal, and philosophizing concerning Judas, writes a poem assuming that he betrayed Christ, in the hope that the Lord, by the display of miraculous power, would rescue himself and overthrow all his enemies. But when he saw that the Lord quietly submitted himself to capture and condemnation, he bitterly repented, gave back the price of blood, testified of Christ's innocence, and in despair destroyed himself. The poem is very ingenious, but cites no scripture to support its view of the motive of Judas, and goes squarely against all the scriptural accounts of the traitor.


It was Satan, who finding an apostle who was a hypocrite and thief, disappointed that Christ's kingdom was not to be of this world, and its treasurer not likely to have opportunity of large stealing, put it into his heart to betray, and then led his despairing victim to suicide. All of the action of Judas, subsequent to the betrayal, is on a line with the remorse of criminals, who, fleeing from their own despair, seek relief in suicide.


It is very difficult to harmonize satisfactorily Peter's account of the manner of Judas' death, and the disposition of the price of blood (Acts 1:18-19), with the Gospel account of Matthew 27:3-10. The difficulties are three: (1) Peter says, "This man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity," the natural force of which is that Judas himself purchased a field with the reward of his iniquity. Matthew shows that the bribers of Judas bought this field, which was a potter's field. (2) Peter says that "falling headlong, [i.e., in this field] he burst asunder, . . ." Matthew says, "He went and hanged himself." (3) Peter intimates that this field received its name, "Akeldama," i.e., field of blood, from the blood of Judas. Matthew intimates that it received this name because purchased with the "blood money" that bribed Judas to betray the Lord.


It would be uncandid to deny an apparent lack of harmony between the account of Matthew 27:3-10 and the briefer account in Peter's parenthetical statements (Acts 1: 18:19). It would unnecessarily weary the reader to recite the multitudinous attempts at reconciliation, or per contra, the efforts to show hopeless contradiction. A fairly good report of them may be found in Broadus' Commentary on Matthew.


Before attempting my own interpretation I will ask the reader to have before him both accounts in parallel columns. He will so find them in Broadus' Harmony of the Gospels. Now assume, for argument's sake, that both accounts, in some way, are true, and supplementary to each other; that is, that neither tells the whole story, and both are needed to a full account, and then verify the assumption by an adequate explanation. The order of the facts, according to this interpretation, would be:


1. Judas, finding Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin, is stricken with remorse. The blood money burns his pocket. He tries to divest himself of it by throwing it down before the bribers. But he cannot thus separate himself from that money any more than Pilate could divest himself of sin by washing his hands.


2. Judas, driven by despair, fleeing from the sight of men, goes to an old potter's field, that is, a place where deep excavations have been made to get at the kind of clay used by potters in molding their pottery. We may today find such pits near cities, excavated for gravel. Whether this particular potter's field was in the side of the cliff overlooking the valley of Hinnom as tradition alleges, or north of the city, as some conjecture, is immaterial. It was a lonely, desolate place.


3. Here his urgent despair, wishing to escape itself, suggests suicide. How shall he accomplish it? First constructing a short cord, out of his outer robe or belt, he climbs down the side of one of the deep pits until level with the top, and having knotted one end of the cord around his neck he throws the loop of the other end over a projecting rock, and swings off. So, as Matthew says, "he hanged himself." But with the sudden drop of his weight, the loop slips over the rock, or dislodges the rock, or breaks – no matter which – "he falls headlong" (or face down), striking with terrific force the sharp rocks at the bottom of the pit, "and bursts asunder, all his bowels gushing out," as Acts declares.

4. "This became known to all the city."


5. The authorities became exercised on two points: "Where shall we bury Judas, and what shall we do with his bloodmoney?" "His suicide there has rendered the potter's field accursed. We will use his own blood money to buy it for his burial place, and it will also suffice as a Gentile cemetery." So says Matthew. And so also Acts: "This man obtained a field with the reward of his inequity." This causative sense of the word "obtained" is grammatically explained by Hackett in his Commentary on Acts, expounding this very passage. But it has more than grammar to support this sense, since as we have already hinted, Judas could not divest himself of his title to this blood money, by throwing it down in the sanctuary, nor divest himself of what was purchased with it.


6. Because his blood money purchased this field, it, according to Matthew, was called "The field of blood." Because this potter's field was stained by the blood of his own self-murder, it, according to Acts, was called "the field of blood." Both were true. Neither reason is expressed as exclusive.


7. But there is yet a higher reason justifying both records: The potter's field became a monumental evidence for ages of (a) the guilt of the bribers; (b) the guilt and doom of the traitor bribed; (c) the innocence of the betrayed Lord; (d) the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. This possible and probable explanation of both records fully supplies all that is necessary to offset a charge of contradiction between the two accounts.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What is the key passage of the book of Acts, and what is its relation to the book as a whole?

 

2. What is the scope of the book?

 

3. What is the time period of the book?

 

4. What are the two parts of the first chapter, and what the time of each?

 

5. To what was the forty days, or the first part, devoted?

 

6. To what the ten days, or the second part?

 

7. How does this book continue the Gospel of Luke, and what the distinction between the two?

 

8. What is significant from the use of the word "began," verse I?

 

9. Who then is the hero of both books?

 

10. How must we conceive Jesus throughout the Acts?

 

11. What does Jesus do in heaven, as enthroned?

 

12. How does he teach and do what he does on earth in that time?

 

13. What conception have we of the church in the ten days?

 

14. How does the church manifest its ignorance on some points, what the meaning of "times" and "seasons," and what the application?

 

15. What the form of church government?

 

16. What is the position of the women in the church?

 

17. What the three special classes in this first church?

 

18. What is the last account of the half-brothers of Jesus in the Gospels, and what clearly inferable concerning them from this account in Acts?

 

19. Which of the half-brothers of our Lord do we hear from again in the Scriptures, and what did each of them do, respectively?

 

20. What can you say of this reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and what of the Catholic system of Mariology and Mariolatry?

 

21. What did the church do during the ten days of waiting, and for what did they pray?

 

22. How is the ascension of our Lord connected with the second advent of our Lord?

 

23. What three questions must be answered in order to a fair start in theology, and how does the scripture answer the first?

 

24. How do the Psalms and Daniel carry on the story of the ascension?

 

25. How does Paul carry it on in his letter to the Philippians?

 

26. What is here notable with reference to the relation of the different books of the Bible?

 

27. How do the Psalms carry the idea yet further, and how does Acts show the same thing?

 

28. In this conception of the church, what is notable as to its occupant?

 

29. How was the matter of selecting a successor to Judas introduced, and what the qualifications for such successor as determined by the church?

 

30. Why should they pray especially to the Lord Jesus Christ in this instance, and what the method of determining his choice?

 

31. How do we get our word "clergy"?

 

32. Was the election of Matthias presumptuous and unauthorized, and what the argument pro and con?

 

33. What questions arise here concerning Judas Iscariot, what the passage from which they arise, and into what two classes do the answers to these questions divide the Christian world?

 

34. What the proposition of the abstract doctrine, and what position does each class take, respectively?

 

35. What the hypothetical statement of a part of the issue?

 

36. What is the first proposition called, from the viewpoint of the divine side, and what also from the viewpoint of the human side?

 

37. What the concrete cases usually cited for argument pro and con?

 

38. What says Peter of Judas, what is clearly evident from this passage, and what other Scripture proof cited?

 

39. What hope does Adam dark hold out for the salvation of Judas, and what the reply to this contention?

 

40. What he position taken by a modem author in the Edinburgh Review, and what the reply to this contention?

 

41. What did Satan find in Judas that made him an easy victim of suicide, or self-murder?

 

42. What the difficulties of harmonizing Acts 1:18-19 and Matthew?

 

43. Where may be found a fairly good report of the attempts at reconciliation, or the efforts to show hopeless contradictions of these accounts?

 

44. What the author’s interpretation of them, and according to this interpretation, what the facts.

 

 

III

 

(Return to Contents)

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND CHAPTER OF ACTS,

AND THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

Acts 2:1-36.



This discussion is but an introduction to a long exposition, or rather a series of discussions of Acts 2, with its correlative passage in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Without a clear understanding of it no man can establish a claim to be a theologian. From its typical and prophetic roots in the Old Testament, a retrospective view from it illumines the Gospels, of which it is a climax; and a prospective view from it illumines the mission of the churches, inspired letters which complete the Canon, and which define the scope, doctrine, discipline, and cooperation of the churches, and prophetically outlines their future. It is the fulfillment of many promises. These promises are not only distinct promises, but are promises with distinct meaning. It is the beginning of a new dispensation. That is to say, it is the beginning of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and the churches, until Christ comes to final judgment. And this involves many distinct promises, for example, in John's famous chapters (14-17), it fulfils the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit to abide with the church as Christ's alter ego, or the other Paraclete. Then, many times is the promise that Christ will baptize in the Holy Spirit. These promises are quite distinct in meaning. The coming of the Holy Spirit to abide with the churches, and the promise to baptize in the Holy Spirit are distinct things. Moreover, in the promise: "He will baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire," the baptism in fire "is distinct in meaning from the baptism in the Holy Spirit." Then again, the coming of the Holy Spirit as an abiding Paraclete, is not the same as the anointing of the most holy (Dan. 9:24, last clause), though both are here fulfilled and related to each other.


We must not mix the thought of the coming and abiding of the Holy Spirit with the churches till Jesus comes with that accrediting' of the church whose miraculous varieties of attestation will soon pass away with their passing need, for after "tongues have ceased" the Spirit will still remain, infilling with spiritual power, leading, teaching, and guiding the churches so that the people of God shall not be orphans. Indeed, there are so many distinct things taught in Acts 2 that an understanding of it calls for a conception of the meaning of very many scriptures.


I name now certain scriptures of both Testaments that bear upon the proper interpretation of Acts 2. The confusion of tongues at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Three Old Testament types: First, the cloud filling the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-38). Second, the cloud filling the Temple of Solomon (I Kings 8:10-11). Third, the cloud filling Ezekiel's ideal temple after Solomon's Temple was destroyed (Ezek. 43:1-6). Then, as has been already suggested, we must understand the last clause of Daniel 9:24, anointing the most holy and the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.


The New Testament promise is expressed in Matthew 3:1112; Mark 16:17-18; John 1:33; 7:37-39; Acts 1:8. The following New Testament scriptures show the fulfillment of this promise: Acts 2:1-6; 8:14-16; 9:17, connected with Is Corinthians 14:18; Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. These scriptures show what occurred, to wit: Acts 2:1-6 shows that the Jews received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:14-16 shows that the Samaritans received it. Acts 9:17 with 1 Corinthians 14:18 shows that Paul received it. Acts 10:44-46 shows that the Romans at Caesarea received it. Acts 19:1-6 shows that the disciples at Ephesus received it. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 shows that the Greeks at Corinth received it. The explanation of these several occurrences is given in the following scriptures: Acts 2:13-36; 8:18-20; II: 15-18, together with 15:7-9, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. The most important of all by way of explanation are these three chapters of I Corinthians. I would not trust any man to expound Acts 2 who did not understand these three chapters in Corinthians.


A study of these passages of scripture shows that the disintegration of one people, as one nation, by a confusion of tongues at Babel, was reversed by the gift of tongues; and as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, signifying that when the human race, because it was of one lip, one word, one speech, was united against God, he divided them into different nations by confusing their tongues, and multiplying their languages, the object of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was in part to restore the unity of the long-severed fragments of the human race into one family of God. The gift of tongues is to indicate how this unity is to be brought about.


As it was evident that the house built by Moses, his tabernacle, even though completed as a structure, was an empty house until the cloud filled it, showing that God himself was to be the occupant, and as the Temple of Solomon, though thoroughly completed, was to be the house of God after the use of the tabernacle as a portable house was no longer necessary, yet remained empty until the cloud filled it, and as this was equally true of the vision temple of Ezekiel, all of these by the infilling cloud symbolizing the presence of God as an inhabitant of these several houses, show that when Jesus built the antitype of these houses, which was the church, as an institution, it was essential that the new house should receive a heavenly occupant, or as Daniel puts it, there must be an anointing of a most holy place. Therefore, the church which Jesus had established was, on this day of Pentecost, infilled by what the cloud prefigured – that is to say, the coming of the Holy Spirit. I stress the Daniel prophecy which says: "Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon the Holy City, to finish transgressions, and to make an end of gin-offering, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy [place]." These events and the Hebrew use of the words "most holy" forbid any reference to Christ himself in this anointing. It is after the Messiah is cut off that the most holy place is to be anointed. To restate the whole thought: The tabernacle was the house that Moses built, and when complete was filled with a cloud signifying the typical presence of God. It was succeeded by the Temple of Solomon, to which, when complete, the cloud was transferred, and which was filled with the glory of God. When that Temple was destroyed, Ezekiel, in exile) sees a vision temple in which at a certain juncture a cloud came and filled it. Matthew shows that when Christ died the veil of the Temple, that is, Zerubbabel's Temple, enlarged by Herod, was rent in twain, and when that veil was rent in twain from top to bottom, it signified that the old Temple was made empty forever. Yet, God must not be without a temple. So after the death of Christ had made reconciliation for sin the true temple, the church, the truly holy place, was anointed by the coming of the Holy Spirit.


Let us look again at the New Testament promise concerning what was fulfilled in Acts 2. John the Baptist says, "I indeed baptize you in water, but there cometh One after me who is to be preferred before me. He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." The additional words, "and in fire," will be explained later. He afterward points to Jesus and says, "This is he who is to baptize in the Holy Spirit." We have already seen that in Acts I, just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said, "Ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence." It was only ten days, and in John 7 on the last great day of the feast, Jesus said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall outflow the rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." Then in the four chapters of John, from which I gave you references, Jesus says, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter [or Paraclete, or Advocate, or Helper] will not come unto you." Then he mentions the several things the Spirit will do when he comes, and not all the same things. That was the promise of the Father. If we look at the story as given in Acts 2:1-4, we see that three things occur: First, something audible: "And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." Second, what was visible: "And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them." Third, a result: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."


This evidently occurred in the upper chamber, where they had celebrated the Lord's Supper, and where our Lord had appeared unto them after his resurrection several times. The sound which was heard was audible, not alone to them. It was so heard over all the city that a great multitude came together – that multitude being largely composed of the Jews of the dispersion from various parts of the world. And they were confounded, amazed, at hearing each one of those, upon whom appeared the semblance of a flaming tongue, so speaking that each man heard what was said in his own language in which he was born. The sound must have been terrific, for it not only filled the house, but the city. It was like the rushing of a cyclone, the sweeping down of a tremendous current of wind. The people were able to locate the sound, and came rushing to the place where it was echoing. Everybody could bear witness to this because it was audible and so loud. Then, there was an appeal to sight.


There appeared unto the 120ω"tongues distributing themselves, tongues like as of fire," that is, they saw a luminous appearance of tongues, just as we have seen a lambent flame act that way. So these luminous tongues distributed themselves and sat upon the head of each member of the 120, including the twelve apostles, those women, the mother of Jesus, and others, and the brothers of Jesus. This luminous phenomenon has often been seen in an electric storm, when the electricity would fasten itself upon some object, like the point of a spear, or the top of a mast, and play about like a tongue of fire. It is especially so seen on ships at sea. Virgil alludes to it, saying that when he saw in a storm that one of these lambent tongues rested upon the head of young Iulus, the sailors took it as an omen that he was favored of the gods. Anyhow, that is what was visible. The results to the 120 are thus expressed: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." These are the things told in the first four verses of this chapter, as to what they heard, what they saw, and the double result: First, filled with the Spirit; second, all of them speaking with tongues.


Later we will take up the question, "What is meant by speaking with tongues?" This result took place in Jerusalem, the holy city, in Samaria, in Caesarea, in Damascus, and in Corinth, so that the Jews, the Samaritans, the Romans, the Orientals at Ephesus, and the Greeks at Corinth, all were baptized in the Holy Spirit. There are some differences in the details as to the results in these various places. The record says, "Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John; who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet he was fallen upon none of them." It gives no details of how it was manifested at this place. It must have been manifested some way, because Simon Magus was so much impressed by it that he thought that if he could obtain the power of imparting such a gift he could bring much money. Of the case at Caesarea the record says, "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God," that is to say, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was not to be limited to Jerusalem. The Samaritans, the kinspeople of the Jews, received it. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, received it at Damascus, and the Romans at Caesarea received it.


The record in the case at Ephesus is this: "It came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples; and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given." Whereupon Paul explained John's preaching and baptism, and then baptized these disciples. "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Spirit came on them and they spake with tongues and prophesied." Here is a diversity. It is stated as plainly as elsewhere that the baptism in the Spirit was to be received only by Christians. But heretofore its only manifestation was the speaking with tongues. Here prophesying is added.


We now take the remarkable case at Corinth as described by Paul in the first letter to that church, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:4: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." So far we have only found the diversity of tongues and prophesying. "To one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues." Indeed, in chapter 14 he adds: "What is it then, brethren? When you come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation." He is speaking wholly of these miraculous gifts. The most remarkable thing about Paul's explanation in 1 Corinthians 12 is that the baptism in the Spirit was diverse in its results in different cases. One man was truly baptized in the Spirit who could only speak with tongues, but another man was also baptized in the Holy Spirit who could work miracles, while, as it was foretold in the last of Mark's Gospel, others could, with impunity, drink a deadly poison or be harmlessly bitten by venomous reptiles. And that passage in Mark says, "These signs shall follow them that believe."


Consider further the explanations of the several instances of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:13, 30-37 the recipients of the baptism in the Holy Spirit appeared to be very highly stimulated in some way, so that the outsiders looking on them said, "These men must be drunken with new wine." But Peter's explanation, while admitting the stimulus and the intoxication, shows it to be a spiritual intoxication to which a reference is made in one of Paul's letters: "Be not drunk with wine wherein is riot, but be ye intoxicated with the Holy Spirit."


That the case at Caesarea was a real baptism in the Holy Spirit appears in Peter's explanation in Acts II, where he says, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized in water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we believed the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God? And when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life." That is to say, if this baptism of the Spirit could come only to those who believe, in harmony with Paul's question at Ephesus, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" and the Caesareans had received the Holy Spirit, it followed that God had antecedently granted unto them repentance unto life.


It is evident, from an examination of the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the miraculous manifestations of the reception of this baptism, that it was no ordinary work of the Holy Spirit, such as conviction, repentance, faith, which had been occurring from the days of Abel. It was yet a thing of promise when Jesus ascended into heaven. In no way, then, could the baptism in the Spirit be counted as regeneration. In regeneration the Holy Spirit is the agent, a sinner is the subject and the purpose is to make him a Christian; but here Jesus is the agent, the subject is a Christian, and the purpose is to increase his efficiency as a Christian man – to accredit him. It is evident that in Acts 2 the members of the church, converted people, received this baptism, but after Peter's preaching, outsiders were converted. None of them that day was baptized in the Spirit. They were baptized in water. There was a promise, however, to them and to their children limited by "those whom God should call," that they should receive this baptism of the Spirit, or this gift of the Spirit, if God called them to it, and that in making the call there would be no distinction as to age or sex.


To contrast the baptism of the Spirit and regeneration more particularly let us consider two passages in John. In John 4: 10-15 Jesus speaks of the water of life as a benefit to the recipient. He says to the woman, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." She says, "Thou hast nothing to draw with. How are you going to get the water?" To this Jesus replied: "Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life." That is certainly conversion, and the Joy of it. Whoever is converted has in himself and for himself a spring – an unfailing spring of life. But in John 7:37-38, where the reference is clear to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he said: "If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall outflow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believed on him would receive." Here is again a river of water, but it is not for the benefit of the person. It is beneficial only when it outflows to other people, and it is expressly declared to be that outgoing power from a converted man which follows the reception of the Holy Spirit that is given.


Again, regeneration, or conversion, is of grace in all of its exercises – contrition, repentance, faith. But the baptism of the Spirit is a gift, and in Is Corinthians 13 Paul sharply contrasts the difference between a gift and a grace. He says, "Whether there be tongues they shall cease, whether there be prophecies they shall fail; but now abideth faith, hope, love – these three, and the greatest of these is love." This is often manifest in preaching. A man may have a preaching gift; he may be apt to teach, but he may be devoid of Christian graces; if so devoid, yet be truly a regenerate man. The references that have been cited show that no man could receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit until after he was converted. Paul asks, "Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?" Se also writes to the Galatians) "Received ye the Holy Spirit by works of law, or through the gift of faith?" Showing that they had to have faith before receiving the miraculous gift of the Spirit. In every age of the world, through all of its preceding dispensations, the plan of salvation was one; that is, by regeneration on its divine side and by contrition, repentance, and faith on its human side.


Paul in 1 Corinthians gives an additional thought. He says, "Ye were all baptized in the one Spirit unto one body." He is not here discussing water baptism at all. He says, "Ye were all baptized in one Spirit," and the object of the baptism in the Spirit was unto the church, or the one body. It is, perhaps, well to make clear just here another distinction. I once asked a man if be had been baptized. His reply was, "I have been baptized in the Spirit," implying that water baptism amounted to nothing, but the true baptism was the baptism in the Spirit. I tried to show him that in water baptism a man is the administrator, and in the Spirit baptism Jesus is the administrator; that Jesus personally never did baptize in water. Pointing to him John said, "He is the One that shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit."


In water baptism the element is water: "I, indeed, baptize you in water." The element in the Spirit baptism is the Spirit: "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit," making a distinction in element as well as in administrator. There is no distinction in the subject of the two baptisms. Only a Christian should be baptized in water, and only a Christian could be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the design of the two baptisms was very unlike. The object of the water baptism is to make a public confession of faith in the Messiah; as it were, to put on the uniform of the Lord, or to show forth in a figure the resurrection of Christ, and to accept the pledge of our own resurrection. But the design of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is thus expressed: "Ye shall receive power when the Spirit is come upon you," as it is expressed in John 7: "Out from you shall flow rivers of water."

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the importance of Acts 2?

 

2. What its relation to certain promises, what the promises, and what distinction in their meaning emphasized?

 

3. What Old Testament scripture and incident bearing upon the interpretation of Acts 2?

 

4. What 1,wo Old Testament prophecies of this coming of the Spirit?

 

5. What three Old Testament types, of which the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is the antitype?

 

6. In what New Testament scriptures is the promise of the baptism in the Spirit expressed?

 

7. What New Testament scriptures show the fulfillment of this promise?

 

8. What occurred in each instance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

 

9. What scriptures give the explanation of what occurred in these several instances, and which is the most important explanation of all?

 

10. A study of these scriptures shows what?

 

11. What the similarity between the tabernacle, the Temple, the vision temple of Ezekiel, and the house which Jesus built?

 

12. What the prophecy of this in Daniel, and to what does "most holy" in Daniel refer?

 

13. Now restate the whole thought.

 

14. What was the promise of the Father as stated by John the Baptist, by Jesus, in John 7:37-39, chapters 14-16, and Acts 1:5?

 

15. What three things occurred on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:1-4?

 

16. Where did these things occur, and what the effect on the city?

 

17. Describe what they saw when they came together.

 

18. What natural phenomenon described by the author to which this appearance is likened? Give special instance.

 

19. What the double result of this baptism in the Spirit?

 

20. What nationalities are represented among those who received this baptism in the Spirit, and what the significance of it?

 

21. What the differences in the details as to the results in these several instances?

 

22. What the record of the case at Ephesus, and what diversity here?

 

23. What the diversities of gifts at Corinth, and what the results in some instances as foretold in the last of Mark's Gospel?

 

24. In what was the stimulation in the case of this baptism of the Spirit like intoxication, what Peter's explanation of it, and what reference to this similarity in one of Paul's letters?

 

25. What the proof that the case at Caesarea was a real baptism in the Holy Spirit, and how does this prove that only Christians received the baptism of the Spirit?

 

26. How do you prove that this baptism of the Spirit was not an ordinary work of the Spirit, such as conviction, repentance, and faith?

 

27. What the difference between the baptism in the Spirit and regeneration, as to the agent, the subject and the purpose?

 

28. What limitation as to the ones who should receive this baptism of the Spirit?

 

29. Show the contrast between regeneration and the baptism in the Spirit from two passages in John.

 

30. What other distinction between regeneration and the baptism in the Spirit?

 

31. Prove from the scripture that only Christians could receive the baptism in the Spirit.

 

32. What was the object of this baptism in the Spirit?

 

 

IV

 

(Return to Contents)

 

PENTECOST AND THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

Acts 2:1-47.



Considering baptism in the Spirit as one of the things that occurred on the day of Pentecost, let us restate the difference between it and water baptism in these distinct particulars: administrator, element, subject, design, form, duration, objective, establishing the last particular, i.e., the objective, by bringing out clearly the New Testament usage of the verb, baptizo, and the noun, baptisma, followed by the preposition, eis.


It is important to note the distinction between baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit: (1) As to the administrator: In water baptism the administrator is a man in the flesh; in the Spirit baptism the administrator is Jesus in glory. (2) As to the element: In the one, water is the element, and in the other, the Holy Spirit is the element: "I indeed baptize you in water . . . he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit." (3) The distinction as to the subject: In both cases the subject is a Christian; it is, or ought to be, a Christian who is baptized in water, and it is a Christian who is baptized in the Holy Spirit. (4) As to the design: In the one the design is to declare or symbolize what has been done; and in the other the design is to confer efficiency for what is to be done. The design will be brought out more clearly later. (5) What is the distinction in form? Water baptism is uniform – always the same thing. The Spirit baptism is diverse in form, or manifestation. A man may be really baptized in the Spirit, and another man baptized in the Spirit, and they both may not have the same thing, being thus diverse in form. (6) What is the distinction in duration? Water baptism in the one form continues until our Lord's second advent. The chief event of the day of Pentecost, is. e., the coming of the Holy Spirit, was once for all, as the coming of our Lord in the flesh was once for all. The baptism in the Spirit, after it had come in its diverse accrediting form, was transitory, ceasing with the sufficient attestation. (7) The distinction in the objective is even more important. It is made clear by the New Testament usage of the verb, baptizo, or its noun, baptisma, followed by the preposition, eis. Eis in connection with this verb, or its noun, means in or into, when the reference is to the element, as in Mark 1:9: "Was baptized of John eis (in or into) the river Jordan." But with these references to the element ]ust now we have nothing to do. We consider the usage when the reference is not to the element, but only to the object or objective.


In these cases eis does not mean because of, as some zealous Baptist would render Acts 2:38, nor in order to, as some Campbellites would render it, but unto, somewhat like with reference to. For example: (1) Baptism in water is unto repentance, eis metanoian (Matt. 3:11); (2) unto remission of sins, eis aphesin . . . hamartion (Acts 2:38). Here the first example (Matt. 3:11), "unto repentance," enables us to avoid a mistake in interpreting the second one (Acts 2:38), "unto remission of sins."


The text of Matthew 3:11 absolutely forbids "in order to" aa a translation of this preposition, because John is there insisting on repentance of the subjects before he would baptize them. He refuses to baptize the Pharisees until they bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Therefore baptism unto repentance is not "in order to." It would destroy the whole sense of the context, and equally so when we come to consider Acts 2:38. It does not mean "in order to" there. Brother E. Y. Mullins has a way of making it mean "in order to" there, by bringing out a kind of a split result, which I think is unjustifiable by the laws of language. (3) Unto a death: "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized eis ton thanaton autou – i.e., into his death" (Rom. 6:3). Here the closest meaning seems to be with reference to. It certainly could not mean in order to there; that when we are baptized, we are baptized "in order to" his death; it could not mean that. (4) Unto his death also explains another instance immediately preceding, i. e., "unto Christ," eis Christon lesoun (Rom. 6:3), that is, baptism into Christ means baptism into his death: "All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death." The latter passage is epexegetical of the former.


Again we find an example in Galatians 3:27: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ," that is, as a uniform. (5) With a side of the objective in water baptism: "Into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," eis to onoma (Matt. 28:19). But baptism in the Spirit has an objective different from any of these. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul has discussed baptism in the Spirit and compared it with other things. And in chapter 12 he uses this language: "For in one Spirit were we. all baptized into one body, eis hen soma (I Cor. 12:13). Then in explanation of the one body he continues: "God bath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues." These gifts conferred in the baptism in the Spirit were "unto" one body – the church.


The difference in objective, then, between the two baptisms is evident: The baptism in water may be "unto repentance," "unto remission of sins," "unto Christ's death," "unto the triune name." The baptism in the Spirit is "unto the church." As no other objective, its object was to empower the church, to dower the church, to accredit the church. The baptism in water has no such object.

As the church was established by our Lord in his lifetime, and commissioned by him, it was God’s building; it was the true temple. But in his absence, after his ascension and until the Spirit came, as a temple it had no shekinah; as a house it had no occupant; as an ecclesia it had no attestation. We thus see how the baptism in the Spirit was "unto" the church.


1. If the baptism in the Spirit is eis the church, what is the real significance of this great transaction, as foreshadowed in the tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, the vision temple of Ezekiel, and the prophecy of Daniel 9:24, recognizing that the baptism of the Spirit is unto the church? The significance of the great transaction described in Acts 2:2-4, and explained in 2:16-18, is intensified by its evident fulfilling of certain foreshadowings in the Old Testament. For example: The cloud filling the tabernacle, which was the house that Moses built, when it was completed. In Exodus 40:33-35 we have a clear account of this; that when this house of God, this tabernacle was completed, no part was left out, not a mere particle of the material of which it was to be constructed, but when that material was put together so that it formed a house; when Moses had thus finished this house of God, the cloud which symbolized the glorious presence of Jehovah, came down and filled it, so that it was occupied by a symbol of Jehovah's presence.


2. The cloud filled the Temple, which was the house that Solomon built, when it was completed. We have the record of it in I Kings 7:51 to 8:11. David gathered this material, and received from God the architectural plan of it; then Solomon, with every piece of material prepared beforehand, put it together; and that day when it was finished the Inhabitant came down – a cloud representing the glorious presence of Jehovah, and filled that house.


3. The cloud of the glory of Jehovah filled the vision temple of Ezekiel, when it was seen as completed. We have in the latter chapters of Ezekiel a description of the ideal temple, and that record goes on to show that when it was completed (Ezek. 43:1-4) the glory – the cloud of glory – of the presence of Jehovah came and filled this temple. It was the anointing of a new temple, or most holy place) after the Messiah, by his vicarious, expiatory death, had made reconciliation for iniquity and brought in everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24).


Let us note again the order of events: "Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, (1) to finish transgression, (2) and to make an end of sins, (3) and to make reconciliation for iniquity, (4) and to bring everlasting righteousness, (5) and to seal up vision and prophecy, (6) and to anoint the most holy [place]."


It is important to observe that the tabernacle as a typical, but transitory house of God, was occupied by the symbol of the glorious presence of Jehovah, but when the people were settled in the land, filling all the borders promised to Abraham (Gen. 15) and there was peace through all the borders, then there was no more need for the portable house of wandering and war; so the cloud symbol of the glorious presence was transferred to the fixed habitation built by Solomon, restored by Zerubbabel, and still more restored by Herod – it makes no difference. Just so, when a fixed typical house had served its purpose, its veil was rent in twain from top to bottom, when Messiah died, and though it survived as a shell until destroyed by Titus, it was empty – an empty, uninhabited house, because the new house, built by our Lord himself – his temple, his church, was, on this famous Pentecost, filled by the glorious presence of Jehovah in the coming of the Holy Spirit; and so, according to Daniel, there was the "anointing of the Most Holy."


You need not be disturbed because commentators unwisely interpret this last clause of Daniel 9:24 as referring to the anointing of a person, even our Lord himself. Three insuperable obstacles stand in the way of their interpretation: (a) The Hebrew usage demands that the "most holy" of Daniel 9:24 be considered as a place, or rather a house, and not a person. (b) The orderly sequence of events in this verse places the anointing of the most holy as the last of the great series, and after reconciliation has been made for iniquity, (c) Our Lord's own anointing took place at his baptism, the beginning and not the end of his public career, according to prophecy (Isa. 11:1-5) and to fact (Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18-21; John 6:27). Even when Jesus spoke about the anointing in the address that he made at Nazareth, he quoted Isaiah, and he claimed that he had that anointing of the Spirit testified to by Isaiah, and that it was fulfilled that day as he spoke.


It is quite important also to note that as in Ezekiel's vision the river of life outflowed from the sanctuary (Ezek. 47), after the cloud of glory filled it (Ezek. 43:1-4), so, as has been stated, according to John the outflowing rivers of living water from the believers was to be after the coming of the Spirit (John 7:37-39): "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they which believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." The waters of the sanctuary came trickling down, then they became a streamlet, next as it were ankle-deep, later, up to the knees, then waist-deep, until they became a river big enough to swim in, wherever it went conferring life and fertility to the land. John 7 shows the growth and depth of the stream from the sanctuary, and this passage should be compared with every passage in Ezekiel; then can be seen what occurred on the day of Pentecost – an infilling of the house that Jesus built, which is clearly foreshown in Ezekiel and clearly fulfilled in John 7.


It is further to be noted that as the cloud filled the portable house of Moses, which served only during the period of wandering and war, then was succeeded by Solomon's cloud-filled and fixed habitation in time of peace, so the new house, the "time church" of our Lord, the Spirit-occupied house, on this famous Pentecost, for the war and moving period, itself will be succeeded in the eternal peace period by the church in glory, as an everlasting habitation of God (Rev. 21). These are not mere annals; they are more than incidental correspondents. If ever on this earth in the library of sixty-six books of the Bible there was an articulate system of truth conjoined: coupled, capable, adaptable, without marring the symmetry of the whole, it is this truth.


So when you go to interpret this book your interpretation must fit all round. Thus would "the fathers"ω1 don't mean patriarchs, but our Baptist fathers – make this statement: "The interpretation of one passage must be in accord with one canon (or rule) of faith."


We will not carry forward this line of thought, answering again in enlarged form and in distinct particulars, the following questions: What the clear distinction between the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the subsequent or attending baptism in the Spirit that day? What and why the baptism in the Spirit, its extent as to persons or classes, and its duration? What the distinction between the ordinary graces of the Spirit, both before and after Pentecost, and the extraordinary gifts of the baptism in the Spirit? These are very important questions, and we will take them up in order:


1. The coming of the Holy Spirit on this Pentecost, and the baptism of the 120 in the Spirit after he arrived, are two distinct things which must not be confounded. The baptism was only one of the many results of his coming, or rather fulfils only one of the many purposes of his coming. For example: Acts 2:2-4 is one result. In the same chapter are many, but one will suffice here: "And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting among them, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."


That is one of the results of the Spirit's coming that day. After Peter had preached, we read ( 2:37) : "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?"


Notice it was a different crowd – a sinner crowd – and that sinner crowd was not baptized in the Spirit. This is another result of the Spirit's coming that day. Acts 2:2-4 is one result, i.e., this baptism of which the 120 are the subjects, fulfilling the promises of Acts 1:8, first clause, and last clause of Mark 1:8. Whereas Acts 2:37 expresses another, but quite distinct result, fulfilling John 16:8-11, in which sinners are convicted of sin: "And he, when he is come, he will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged."


The Holy Spirit came on this Pentecost as the other Paraclete, the only Vicar or Vice-Regent of our Lord, to remain on earth, while our Saviour remains in heaven. He is our earth Advocate (Rom. 8:26-27) only so long as Jesus is our heaven Advocate (Rom. 8:34, last clause; Heb. 7:25; I John 2:1). When the Lord comes again, the Vice-Regent will cease to be vicar, just as the vice-president presides only in the absence of the president, and does not act when he is present. Some people want an earthly vicar, and call him "Pope." The Holy Spirit is the only vicar, who mediately continues the immediate teaching begun by our Lord (John 14:26; Rev. 2:7, II, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). When Jesus was here, he did the teaching directly; since he went to heaven, he still does the teaching, but he does it mediately, through the Holy Spirit. Hence the statement of our Lord, "He will teach you all things, . . . and guide you unto all truth," and the statement in Acts 1:1-2: "The former treatise I made, 0 Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen."


Thus he came to be the great witness to our Lord. He came to reveal the Lord in us, as the Lord came to reveal the Father to us.


These multiform purposes of the Spirit's coming, in all which he is the agent, are not to be confounded with the baptism in the Spirit, in which our Lord is the agent.


2. The baptism in the Spirit, then, is that miraculous submersion of certain early Christians in the power of the Holy Spirit, which accredited the church established by our Lord, as a new and divine institution, superseding the narrower Jewish institution, by its inclusion of all people into the family of God. In order to accredit this, power was manifested in the miraculous gifts enumerated in Acts 2; 8; 10; 19; 1 Corinthians 12. To this end, understand that the baptism in the Spirit is the submersion of certain Christians into the power of the Spirit in order to accredit a new institution, distinct from the Jewish institution, in itself to include all peoples, and not just one people, and for spiritual reasons, not fleshly reasons. To this end this power came first on Jews (Acts 2) then on Samaritans (Acts 9), then on Romans (Acts 10), then on Greeks (Acts 19; Is Cor. 12). The accrediting was just as much needed to Peter as it was needed to the heathen. He was mighty hard to convince that this new institution was meant for all people. Jesus gave him some keys, one to open the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, and one to the Gentiles, and he was very prompt in opening the Jew door on this day, but that other key lingered, and its door remained closed, until he was on a certain housetop. The key had rusted, but then came that vision of an ark, in which Peter learned that God, who had cleansed the Gentiles, was no respecter of per- sons and that the door of faith had to be opened to the Gentiles also. That accrediting was very hard for the church to receive. When called to account for the baptism of Cornelius, a marvelous baptism, Peter said: "Who was I, that I could withstand God?" Why, there was this same gift that they received on the day of Pentecost, and there it was on this Gentile, Cornelius, and he was speaking with tongues. "Who was I, that I could withstand God?" Then when Philip went to Samaria, as soon as the church at Jerusalem heard that he was over there baptizing Samaritans, they sent a delegation to look into the case, for they had no dealings with the Samaritans. But when the Spirit came in the same way on these Samaritans, they spake with tongues. You will notice the enlargement all the time – from Jews to Samaritans, to Romans, to Greeks. We are getting at the purpose of this accrediting. I put my definition more clearly on the baptism in the Spirit than heretofore, as a new institution, superseding the old, and gathering all peoples into one family of God.


What was the result of that sort of attestation? Paul says (and I am sure he thoroughly understood it), in that circular letter to the Ephesians, including besides that Greek city, other cities in the Lycus valley (Eph. 2:11-22): "Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel) and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace [is. e., he makes peace between us and another party that we have been at war with], who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two, one new man, so making peace."


What a light that throws on the death of Christ on the cross, to which he refers I And therefore, as contained in a letter to the Colossians, where the peculiar Jewish ordinances are referred to, he says, "Nailing it to the cross . . . Let no man therefore judge you in meat, . . ." Let no man therefore judge you, "for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father." There we have the Trinity. Then the result: "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." "In whom each several building [the church at Ephesus, at Laodicea, at Smyrna, at Antioch, at Jerusalem], fitly framed [Jews and Gentiles] together." I am sure that the accrediting on that day, is of the greatest importance to the whole universe, in having convinced Peter, even, that this was a new institution; that it was not to be a Jewish institution, and that it was to supersede the old institution.


3. As this baptism was merely to attest, to accredit the church, it was not necessarily something to be continued permanently, but to cease when the attestation was sufficient. This very transitory nature was one of the things contrasted with the graces of the Spirit, in 1 Corinthians 13:8: "Whether there be tongues, they shall cease, etc."

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the distinction between baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit as to the administrator?

 

2. What the distinction as to the element?

 

3. What the distinction as to the subject?

 

4. What the distinction as to design?

 

5. What the distinction as to form?

 

6. What the distinction as to duration?

 

7. What the distinction as to the objective? Illustrate by the use of baptize and baptisma, followed by eis.

 

8. Restate the real significance of this great transaction on the day of Pentecost, as foreshadowed in the tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, the vision temple of Ezekiel, and the prophecy of Daniel 9:24.

 

9. Does the "most holy" of Daniel 9:24 refer to a person or to a place, and what the argument?

 

10. What the constructive argument based on Ezekiel 43:1-4; 47:1-2; John 7:37-39?

 

11. What the relation of tabernacle, Temple, and church, and what the bearing of this fact on correct interpretation?

 

12. What the clear distinction between the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the subsequent or attending baptism in the Spirit that day?

 

13. What and why the baptism of the Spirit, what its extent as to persons or classes, and what its duration?

 

14. How was the accrediting by the baptism in the Holy Spirit received by the church and the proof?

 

15. What the distinction between the ordinary graces of the Spirit, both before and after Pentecost, and the extraordinary gifts of the baptism in the Spirit?

 

 

V

 

(Return to Contents)

 

PENTECOST AND THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT (Continued)

Acts 2:l-47.

 

Was the baptism in the Spirit the same as the baptism in fire? The form of my answer to that is in Matthew 3:11-12: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire." I will now explain the additional words, "in fire," and answer the question, Is the "in fire" fulfilled in Acts 2:3: "And there appeared unto them tongues, parting asunder [or distributing themselves], like as of fire"?


About the fairest, most trustworthy, most thoroughly critical explanation given by expositors is to be found in Dr. Broadus' great Commentary on Matthew, to which you are referred. My own statement of the case, pro and con, is this:


1. One side (but a view that I am going to controvert) is this: The baptism in the Spirit and fire is one baptism, indicated by the absence of the preposition before "fire."


2. The "in fire" is epexegetical of "in the Holy Spirit," merely expanding the thought, as in John 3:5: "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, . . ." (3) John the Baptist appears to have had in mind Malachi 3:1-3, particularly: "He is like a refiner's fire . . . and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver." Therefore, the baptism in the Spirit and fire is a purification, a sanctification. (4) The one pronoun, "you" – "He will baptize you" – shows that the same persons baptized in the Spirit were baptized in fire. (5) Hence in the fulfilment we find "tongues of fire," the visible expression of the baptism of the Spirit. This is one side, and very fairly given, and just as strong as one who holds that view can state it.


1. The other side: It is admitted that the absence of the preposition before "fire" is strong presumptive evidence of the unity of the baptism in the Spirit and fire; but it is not conclusive evidence, and cannot be pleaded against a context strongly the other way, as many examples of usage clearly show. The context of the passage quoted as analogous (John 3:5): "Except one be born of water and the Spirit" very strongly supports the unity of the birth, and that John 3:5 is epexegetical of "born from above" (John 3:3). But the context of Matthew 3:11-12 and of Luke 3:16 is overwhelmingly the other way. Let us examine Matthew 3:10-12, noting the fire in each case: "And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshingfloor; and he will gather up his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire." The ax hews down, and the trees that bring not forth good fruit, the fire burns; in v. 12 the fan winnows the chaff from the wheat, and the fire burns the chaff. In both these verses are two classes with different destinies. The good trees are not cut down and burned; the wheat is not burned with the chaff, but gathered into the garner. The "you" whom John addresses are two classes – not one – represented by good and bad trees, and by wheat and chaff. How then can we make the "fire" in the intervening verse sanctifying and not punitive – consuming? Some of the "you" Jesus will baptize in the Spirit, but others of the "you" he will baptize in fire, just as he discriminates between the destiny of good trees and bad trees, and of wheat and chaff. This view is confirmed by the significant fact that in every case where the baptism "in fire" occurs, the context shows it to be punitive, and a consuming fire. The context of Matthew 3:11 has been given; see also the context of Luke 3:16-17, where also the fire is given. You will find that some punitive character is placed upon it. Then if you will note the absence of such context in Mark 1:8, you will observe that there is also an absence of the fire. Mark say\ "I baptize you in water; but he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:5 says, "Ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit," and does not mention fire; and where it does not mention fire it does not mention the punitive character.


2. The citation from Malachi, presented for the first side of this argument, is unfortunate for those who cite it, since the context there supports a contrary view. Malachi 4 is the context of the third. Let us examine Malachi 4:1-3, and note the punitive office of the fire, and the class to which it is applied: "For behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Jehovah of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings [beams]; and ye shall go forth, and gambol as calves in the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I make [do this], saith Jehovah of hosts."


That chapter closes by referring to John the Baptist; that Elijah was to come; Jesus says that John the Baptist was meant by Elijah in that prophecy. If John the Baptist, as is claimed, and as I grant, had in mind what Malachi says, then he had in. mind two very distinct classes of people. Upon one class the sun of righteousness was to arise, with healing in its beams. The other class was to be burned up, and be ashes under the feet of that first class.


A refiner's fire is not intended to make the gold or silver better metal; it does not change the intrinsic value of the gold or of the silver a particle. But the object of the refiner's fire is to eliminate and destroy that which is not gold and silver, but which is mixed up with it. To separate and consume the dross is the object of the refiner's fire. Therefore, no sanctifying power is referred to here; for if it be claimed that Malachi 3:4 presents two comings of the Lord, far apart, it is granted. But Joel's prophecy, which Peter quotes as explanatory of the baptism in the Spirit, does this same thing (Acts 2:17-18), referring to Christ's coming in the Holy Spirit, while verses 19-20, also quoted from Joel, seem rather to refer to Messiah's final advent for judgment, as can easily be seen by the parallel passage in Matthew 24:29-30, and by comparing these phenomena with Matthew 25:41-46, the end of the discussion. There it is clear that the baptism in fire means "Depart from me, . . . into everlasting fire . . . And these shall go away into eternal punishment."


3. The contention that "tongues of fire" in Acts 2:3 fulfils the "fire" of Matthew 3:11 is both untenable and inexcusable, for the viewpoint of either of the theories here contrasted. Therefore, no "tongues of fire" are in Acts 2:3. There appeared unto them tongues which parted asunder, or distributed themselves, "like as of fire." This reference is not even to the color of the tongues seen, but to the method of parting or distributing among them. Parting among them like as of fire. Fire, when it is a great flame, parts asunder, separating in tongue-shaped flames. Whenever we see a great fire we see these tongues. There parted unto them tongues, whether black, white or red, the record does not say, but it does say that they parted asunder, just as a fire will part asunder, into several flames that are in the shape of tongues. The point of likeness, therefore, is not in the color of what they say, but in the method of its distribution; and "like as" never expresses identity. That is my point of view of the subject, and it can readily be seen that it is not untenable, because there was no fire. Something did occur which finds a likeness in fire.


I will now suppose that I am on the other side, and I will show that it is untenable and inexcusable; that this is not intended to fulfill the other; these tongues did not sanctify those who possessed them. Says Paul, "Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to the unbelieving," therefore they accredit. These tongues did not make the people any better, but they did accredit the people who spoke them to the unbelieving crowd that stood around. "For a sign," not to the believer, but to the unbeliever. Again Paul says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal." Once more he says, "Love never faileth: but whether there be tongues [and he is discussing this baptism in Spirit altogether], they shall cease. . . . But now abideth faith, hope, love"; the things that benefit one are the graces of the Holy Spirit, and they stay in the world and in the church. They will be here when Jesus comes, but that tongue business ceases. Why? Because it is not the purpose of the sign to be continuous. Just as soon as it serves its purpose, it is valueless. It has exhausted the purpose of it having been brought into being.


A sign is not to sanctify the one who exhibits it, but to accredit him.


God gave Moses signs to show unto Pharaoh – not signs to himself; he had signs for him. The object of these signs to Pharaoh was not to make Moses better, but to accredit him before Pharaoh as a messenger from God.


What then is meant by "baptism in fire"? Hell! It means everlasting punishment in hell. (See in my first book of sermons the subject thus treated.)


Would you, then, in this way, pray to be baptized in the Spirit and in fire? I would not. I have often heard it: "Come now, 0 Lord, and baptize us in the Spirit and in fire." The reason I would not pray for both of them is that they do not harmonize; the two things do not go together. If I were going to pray for the one, I certainly would not pray for the other. I would not pray for the baptism in the Spirit, because that was a credential, and its day has passed. (Credentials are not continuous.) I would not pray for the baptism in fire, because I do not want to go where it takes place. But I am quite sure that many people pray that, with a meaning they have put on those words; and I do know that God oftentimes answers their prayer, not according to what they say, because they miscall it, but according to what they mean. And I doubt not that people often pray for things they do not name rightly, and the Lord hears and answers according to the intent.


That brings us to another important question: Were there any influences of the Spirit communicated at Pentecost which may now be received? Unquestionably. I have already called attention to the distinction between the fullness of the meaning of the coming of the Spirit, and the narrowness of the meaning of the baptism in the Spirit. The very thing those people prayed for may be involved in the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit came occupying and infilling the church, and he came to stay until Christ's final advent. And if he stays, he stays for that purpose; and I have a right to pray for all things which he came to give, except that of accrediting, as the early church was. Take, for example, what Paul prays for in the letter to the Ephesians. He prays the two biggest prayers that I have ever read or heard (Eph. 1:15-21): "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling; what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." These are all mighty spiritual gifts.


Take his next prayer (Eph. 3:14-19): "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." That is a titanic prayer. Paul prays that for the church at Ephesus. So the importance of this question: Were there any influences of the Spirit communicated at Pentecost that may now be received?


The next question: Was the gift of tongues a power to speak in other languages, or a mere ecstasy, unintelligible to other people, and that the man himself oftentimes did not understand? On that point we find the commentators parting asunder like the forks of a road. Conybeare and Howson, m their Life and Epistles of Paul, when they come to discuss the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians claim that it was not a gift to speak in different languages.


Now, was it the power to speak in other languages? Certainly it was, or I have to take back what I said about Pentecost reversing the incident at Babel. Let the record answer whether this was a mere ecstasy, or actual power to speak in different languages: "Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:5).


That does not describe mere ecstasy, but the power to speak in the different languages; and the record goes on to specify the nations from which they came: "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and Proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God." While they were all Jews, yet Jews of the dispersion, who had ceased speaking the Hebrew tongue, they spoke the languages of the country where they lived, and what amazed them – the thing that startled them – was to see these ignorant Galileans, having a corrupted dialect of Aramaic, speaking better than they could these words in their own languages, to which they were born. Is have more respect for Conybeare and Howson's commentary than for many others, but I have not a bit of respect for their position on this subject. We will now show the likeness between the subjects of these influences and drunken men, quoting Paul. When the Spirit came that day to fill the church as an abiding presence, the subjects of these influences of the Spirit were swept off their feet. It was like the communication of the divine afflatus, which showed in their eyes, in their courage, in their mountain high, star-high faith. It showed that they were in a measure possessed – so much so, that outsiders who did not believe in religion, said, "These men are drunken; that is the way a drunken man does." There is a likeness. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says, "Be not intoxicated with wine, wherein is excess, but be intoxicated with the Spirit." It is an intoxication in each case, a mighty stimulation. In one case it is a good Spirit, and in the other, a very bad spirit; in the one a Spirit of love, in the other a spirit of woe, as a man standing on a whiskey barrel, once said, "There are spirits above, and spirits below [pointing to the barrel]; spirits of love, and spirits of woe." Each one is a mighty stimulation. One stimulates the soul; the other dethrones the reasoning power. And yet there are certain resemblances. I have heard this called drunkenness by infidels who came to a big meeting, who were rapt, even when gazing in their faces; as these sighed, others were sobbing, or weeping, or shouting the power of the truth. "Why," the infidels would say, "these people here are crazy; they are possessed; they act like drunken people."


What did this marvelous coming of the Spirit demonstrate? I give an illustration to lead up to the answer: A husband and father loves his family in the old world. They are in privation. The father comes to the new world. He says, "If I get there and prosper, I will send you back something that will make it certain to you that I have arrived and have prospered." Months pass away. At last, that wife and those lonely children get a letter, and in it is a check on a London bank for ten thousand pounds. What did that check demonstrate? "That the man had gotten there, and that he had prospered. Jesus says, "It is expedient for you that I go away. You think I am leaving you orphans; but I am not leaving you orphans. If Is go not away, the Paraclete, the Comforter, will not come to you. Is go to my Father, and Is will send him to you. Now you wait and see." They waited ten days; they prayed. And on the fiftieth day from his expiatory death the demonstration came that Jesus was in heaven; that he did get there, and was exalted to the throne of God, and he is there living as King and Priest, the whole universe subject to him. It was a demonstration of the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father.


Is will explain the typical signification of Pentecost, the 3,000: The Jews had three national feasts. Every Jew was expected to attend these three feasts. One of them was the Feast of Pentecost, the one following the Passover, and separated from Feast of the Passover by fifty days. On the fiftieth day from the time the paschal lamb was slain, which of course would be in April, was the time of the firstfruits of harvest, and at that feast, they offered unto God the firstfruits of the incoming harvest, which was to be a pledge of the greatness of the harvest, of which this was only an "earnest," or foretaste. Therefore, if on this Pentecost, the firstfruits amounted to 3,000 souls, "oh, what shall the harvest – the final harvest – be?" That day, what shall the harvest be – that day – when in the fulness of time, out of every nation and tribe and tongue and kindred, a multitude that no man can number, will constitute the redeemed of the Lord? The spiritual significance of Pentecost was these 3,000ωthat is, the lifting up of the sheaf of the first fruit offered unto God.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. Was the baptism in Spirit the same as baptism in fire, and what the scripture proof?

 

2. Is this additional phrase, "in fire," fulfilled in Acts 2:3, and what the explanation of "in fire," pro and con?

 

3. Is it right to pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and why?

 

4. Would you pray for the baptism in fire, and why?

 

5. Were there any influences of the Spirit communicated at Pentecost which may now be received? If so, what?

 

6. Was the gift of tongues a power to speak in other languages, or a mere ecstasy, unintelligible to other people, and that the man himself oftentimes did not understand?

 

7. What the similarity between the subjects of these influences of the Spirit and drunken men?

 

8. What admonition of Paul relative to these effects?

 

9. What the "drunken man's" couplet?

 

10. What did this marvelous coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost demonstrate? Illustrate.

 

11. What the typical signification of Pentecost?

 

 

VI

 

(Return to Contents)

 

PENTECOST AND THE KINGDOM
Acts 2:1-47.

 


Let us consider the kingdom of heaven in its relation to this Pentecost. When I was a young preacher I was challenged to debate with a Campbellite. Young preachers debate oftener than the old ones. One of the topics for discussion was, "Resolved, that the kingdom of heaven was set up on the day of Pentecost, and not before." He affirmed; I denied. When I came to reply to his first speech I asked him these questions:


"What did Christ give to Peter?"


He said, "The keys of the kingdom."


"How many keys?"


"Two; one for the Jews, and one for the Gentiles."


"When did Peter use the key that opened the door to the Jews?"


"On this Pentecost."


"When Peter opened that door of the kingdom on that day, did he open it from the inside or from the outside? If from the outside, when did he get in, and how?"


He was so confused that he did not answer.


There is not a word said in this chapter about setting up a kingdom – not a syllable. It is forced in there. The laws of the kingdom had been established; the subjects of the kingdom were there; the executive body of the kingdom had been established; the house was complete. The King had gone up to be crowned, but the kingdom was there.


Was the church instituted, established, or organized on this Pentecost? There is not a syllable on that in Acts 2.


Christ instituted the church. He established it in the days of his flesh. The church was this day accredited – received its credentials.


It was a house complete, but empty. It then received its Inhabitant, but the church was not instituted, nor established, nor organized on this Pentecost.


Now let us go through this chapter, and simply look at some things in several verses, calling for explanation.


We will first locate the countries of the people mentioned in verses 9-11, taking the names where the peoples are expressed, and then where the countries are named: "Parthians and Medes and Elamites – Cretans and Arabians." Take your map and locate Parthia, and Media where the Medes came from, and Elam where the Elamites came from. They come in their order. Parthia is the highest up, next Media, and then Elam. Look northeast of the Euphrates. Follow that and commence high up on the map to get Parthia, then drop down to Media, and lower still for Elam. The Cretans were the inhabitants of the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, and the Arabians inhabited Arabia. Luke mentions "Dwellers of Mesopotamia" – people living between the Tigris and the Euphrates, between the rivers, or in the midst of the rivers, as the word signifies. Judea you know. The following are in Asia Minor: Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia; those are the Asia-Minor provinces, Asia there meaning not the Continental, but Proconsular Asia. Egypt is in the northern part of Africa, around the' Nile. Parts of Libya about Cyrene, also in the northern part of Africa. Vast multitudes of Jews were carried there, strangers of Rome; the site of Rome is in Italy.


All these came from these countries, and were Jews or proselytes, one or the other, but all of them, except those living in Judea, were Jews of the dispersion, or Hellenistic Jews. The great majority could not speak a word of Hebrew. They spoke the tongues of the countries where they lived.


Now here is a question on verse 20: The Sun shall be turned into darkness, And the Moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day.


What is that great and notable day of the Lord? Notice that the prophet in his prophecy has what is called a perspective ; he glances at a mountain range, peak upon peak, and the highest peak is the less distinct; and to the eye in this perspective the whole range looks like one mountain, but when he goes there he finds – that it is a mountain back of a mountain. Joel sees two mountain peaks in his prophecy. One is the coming of the Spirit, which is here described, and the other is the final advent of our Lord. In Matthew 24 we have this same description, applying to the final advent of our Lord.


Let us expound 2:23: "Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay." I call attention first to the reading of the Revised Version, the latter part of the verse: "you have taken and by the hands of lawless men [or men without the law did crucify." Notice there is a change in thought, and the Revised Version is more accurate than the Authorized Version which reads "by wicked hands have slain." But it is not on account of that difference in rendering that I call attention to verse 23. Here we have presented three things: (1) The determinate counsel of God, his purpose, and (2) the foreknowledge of God, and (3) the crucifixion of Christ by men, where another purpose comes in, the man-purpose. The man purpose is to crucify Christ. Here is a good purpose: That Christ should die for man; God's motive is good, looking to salvation. Man's motive is bad, wicked, looking to murder. Notice that this purpose of God, and this foreknowledge of God are before the world began – before there was any matter or universe, or any part of the whole earth. In particular before man was made there was a purpose of God in Christ, and in Christ's death. That foreknowledge of God was before the creation.

God's purpose and his foreordination and man's agency go right along without any conflict, and if you can get the fact in your mind that it does, you need not bother about the philosophy of the explanation.


We are conscious every day that there is a will above our will, that has to do with carrying out our will and sometimes not according to our will. Everybody knows both those things, and it is not worth while to argue about the philosophical reconciliation.


Acts 2: 27, 31 needs some notice. Verse 27: "Thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption." Verse 31: "He, foreseeing this, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption." Note:


1. The distinction here between the soul and the body. When I was a soldier and not a Christian, I heard a Restorationist preach about the soul. His theory was that man has no soul in our sense of the word soul – no more than a brute, but that a converted man has the pneuma or spirit, and that is immortal. He said, "As for my soul, it can go to hell whenever it wants to." Then he further said, "The word translated soul in the Bible means so many things that it does not mean anything. For example, it means, for one thing, a smelling bottle." Then he said, "Does anybody want to ask a question?" "Yes," I said, "I'll ask you one. It is the law of language, that when you put the meaning of a word in the place of the word, that it makes sense. Now, what sort of sense does this make: 'Why art thou cast down, 0 my smelling bottle? Why art thou disquieted within me, 0 my smelling bottle? Thou wilt not leave my smelling bottle in hell. What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and 'lose his own smelling bottle?' " I did not tell him that somebody else used that before I did, but it had a practical effect on that audience.


2. The other distinction between soul and body is, "Because a man goeth to his everlasting home, and the mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it." Never be beguiled on two points: (a) that there is no distinction between soul and body; (b) never waste time on trichotomy; that is, that there are three parts of the man, the soma, body, the psuche, soul, and pneuma, spirit. Spirit and soul are used interchangeably, and to fix up a double man is sufficient. It is an easy matter to explain how pneuma would be used in one instance and psuche, or soul, in another. We have not, however, got to the main point in my mentioning this: How could both of these, the "not abandoning the soul unto hell," and the "not suffering the body to see corruption," be expounded in the resurrection of the body? The answer is that when Christ's body was raised, and glorified, then the soul of Christ came back to it, and both can be expressed by the resurrection of the body. But the distinction is there, which leads us to the next thought: "Thou wilt not abandon my soul unto hell." What does that mean? I am going to discuss it in two meanings and let you take your choice. Take the Greek, Hades, follow strict grammatical thought, and see when he says, "Thou wilt not abandon my soul unto Hades," that it would be equivalent to, "Thou wilt not allow my soul to remain disembodied, houseless." Hades, the state as well as the place of the soul, is bodiless. "Thou wilt not let my soul remain a part, just a part of man, the spiritual part disembodied; nor wilt thou suffer my body, the other part to become corrupt." The resurrection will come to prevent the corruption, and reunite the soul and body, and thus fulfill both the thoughts.


All that sounds plausible, but I am going to advance an idea on which I do not speak dogmatically, but put a slight interrogation point after it myself. The old creed says, "I believe that Christ died and was buried and descended into hell." On that they built this theory – that the soul of Christ, after his body died, went into the spirit world, not only, as they advocate it, into paradise or purgatory. As the Catholics say, he went to bring out the old saints, and when there, another expounder of the passage in Peter says, to preach to the souls of the antedeluvians, and bring salvation to them in hell. But I don't believe he went there after he died, and you cannot take the document and support the idea that Christ's soul went to hell after he died. You cannot take their papers and make them agree on any point, first as to whether he went before the resurrection, or after the resurrection.


It is unquestionable that Christ's soul entered hell while he was on the cross: "The pangs of hell got hold upon me." He died the spiritual death, which is absence from God, when he said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And the devil and the demons were around him; the thirst of hell was upon him.


But, "Thou wilt not abandon my soul unto hell." He was there, but not to stay. He came out of that to say to the Father, "Receive my spirit." He was no longer forsaken of the Father. That is when I think Christ descended into hell. I am sure that he went, neither in soul, nor in body, after death, because his soul went to heaven, for he had particular business up there, which had to be attended to. He had to go there at once to offer the blood of the atonement as the High Priest, and when he came back to his body, I am sure his soul did not go down there; it went up when he died. So his descent into hell, if you locate it anywhere, you have to locate it in the three hours' darkness, when he was God-forsaken and in the power of Satan.


We will take up 2:28: "Thou hast made known unto me the ways of life." There are two ways – the way of the soul, and the way of the body. Christ makes known what becomes of the soul on the dissolution of the body. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, abolished death and brought life and immortality, life to the soul and immortality to the body. These are the ways of life. If we take what Christ did on the cross away a valley impenetrable drops down into the future as to the soul Where does it go?


"If a man die, where is he?" Christ showed us. "If a man die, shall he live again?" Christ says, as to the body, that he makes known the ways of life for both. I will illustrate in this way: Some inland travelers in Africa reported a huge river on the western coast – the Niger. But sailors said that there was no such river running into the ocean, and that these travelers had lied. Dr. Lardman determined to solve the question by experiment. He went inland until he saw this river, and it was a big one. He went in a boat, and never left that boat until he came out into the sea, and he noticed that before it got to the sea it divided into many mouths, not one of them large. Thus, by an actual experiment, Dr. Lardman brought to light the existence of the Niger. So Jesus Christ comes down to earth, enters into the stream of human life, soul and body. His separated soul does not remain disembodied. His body does not remain in the earth, the grave of the body, and he comes back. He is the one traveler that has returned from that bourne. He comes back, and flashes a light on the question: Where is the soul of the dead man, and what is it doing? What shall become of the body of the dead man, and when? This is what is meant by making known to us the ways of life.


Acts 2:34 says, "For David ascended not into the heavens." I heard a Baptist preacher once allege that there was no forgiveness of sins to the Old Testament saint, nor reception of the Old Testament saint into heaven until after Christ's death and resurrection – that the soul stopped in some half-way house. I could cite scripture for half an hour to annihilate that position. This means here, that David in his body is not ascended into heaven. He is discussing the resurrection of Christ, and it cannot refer to David, that his body never saw corruption. He hasn't ascended into heaven. Why? His grave is here.


In 2:36, "Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Here are two thoughts. Many others will occur to you, but two are all I will bring out now. "This Jesus whom ye crucified."


In preaching the Convention sermon before a Southern Baptist Convention, several years ago, a Baptist preacher said, "As to Christ's resurrection body, we do not know what became of it. It was assumed merely for purposes of identification. It is not important that we know."


I stick that phrase, "this Jesus," right through his position. "This Jesus whom ye crucified," that same Jesus who was recognized, and that same Jesus who ascended into heaven, and that same Jesus who is made both Lord and Christ. It is very important for us to know what will become of our bodies.


You take the keystone out of the arch, when directly or indirectly you deny the propitiatory efficacy of the cross, and the resurrection of Christ.


The resurrection of Christ is the demonstration of the other; it is the sign – "Lord and Christ." And here we have the thought of "Christ, the Anointed One" separated from "Lord." And yet it is true that the King is anointed as well as the Priest. You keep the King and Priest distinct in your mind, but the person is the same, in Christ. He is a King who is a Priest, and a Priest that is a King. The offices of Christ are those of the Anointed One. He was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, King, Judge) and Sacrifice. All these are distinct, and would come under the term, "Christ," just as the English word corresponds to the Greek, Christos, and to the Hebrew, "Messiah."


I now expound 2:37, and compare it with 5:33 and 7:54. Here is something a little peculiar: "Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart." Somebody once asked to show how repentance comes, and what brings it about. It is evident here that this pricking of the heart – this conviction – brought about contrition. Conviction is God's side. God convicts a man, and he becomes contrite. Without conviction there is no contrition. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Not that their hearts were pricked. Peter says, "Repent." I have called attention to that pricking in the heart, and ask you to compare it with the word in 5:33, where Peter is talking again: "When they heard that they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay him." Notice that in 2:37, when they were pricked in the heart, they said, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" In 5:33 they were cut to the heart and sought to slay Peter. Now turn to 7:54, and this time is it Stephen speaking, preaching substantially the same sermon that Peter preached on both of these occasions: "When they heard those things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and they were pricked in their heart, eventuating in salvation. In chapter 5 he preached the same sermon and they were cut to the heart, and sought to slay him, Stephen preached his sermon, embodying the same facts, and they were cut to the heart and gnashed on him with their teeth. The word in Acts 2 in Greek is not the same word used in the other two places. In 2:37 it is katenugesan; in 5:33 and 7:54 the word is dieprionto, to saw through; middle voice, to be vehemently enraged. However, I do not set much store by the fact that the words are different. I merely call attention to the fact. I make no capital out of the distinction. But there must be something important in the meaning of a word, and that word, "cut," expressed by dieprionto, is a word of importance. It might appear that one of these led to salvation, but the other to murder, but I do not think so. What I call attention to is this: You often Hear the question: Can a man resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Stephen says, "You do always resist the Holy Spirit," and in verse 51, right before this. Is it possible that a convicted man can be lost? I think millions of them are in hell now. But you ask, "Can the contrite man be lost?" I say that the contrite man cannot be lost. Whenever the conviction by the Holy Spirit eventuates in contrition, or godly sorrow, that man will be saved; but if the conviction does not eventuate in godly sorrow, it is turned into a murderous direction as in these two cases. It does not result in salvation. A man cannot commit the unpardonable sin unless the Holy Spirit has been enlightening him. That is the unpardonable sin – the presumptuous sin – the sin that hath never forgiveness. It is a sin not against daylight or intellectual light, but a sin against spiritual light.


So that you may, without going into a refined theological discussion, by taking a common sense view and keeping with the scriptures, see that the same preacher, Peter, preaching the same thing each time, and another preacher like him preaching the same thing, the Holy Spirit of God being present each time, had different effects on the hearers. Here are the facts: "Pricked in the heart," . . . "cut to the heart," and also a twofold result. In one case, conviction becomes contrition, or godly sorrow, and they repent, believe, and are saved. In the other cases the conviction was not sufficient to produce contrition. They know that Jesus is the Christ. In chapters 5, 7 they know that he not only is the Christ, but also the Spirit bears witness to the word of Stephen and Peter.


I once heard a preacher rebuke some young people for laughing in church, stating that they might commit the sin against the Holy Spirit. I think his remark was very much uncalled for. Here is the condition when one may commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, not when he does a thing thoughtlessly, but when he is in a great revival of religion, when the power of God is following him, when the place is awful on account of his presence, when sinners are overwhelmingly convinced, and he then and there rejects Christ, saying, "No" – when he does not trust him, but goes off and gets drunk, etc. There is the danger. Such are sinning against the spiritual light, just as these men mentioned in Acts 7 were.


Consider now Acts 2:38: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins." Here I call your attention to the fact that the word, "repent," is in the plural: "Repent ye," a strong imperative; and then there is a mild imperative, simply "let every one of you be baptized," that is, every one of you who has repented. So that the first question that comes up is: Does the remission of sins connect with both of these words? Is it "repent ye" – eis aphesin hamartion – or "repent and be baptized" – eis aphesin hamartion?" Does it connect with just one of these imperatives, and if so, which one, and what is the meaning? I will give some interpretations, some of which I do not think worth a snap of the finger:


1. Luke 24 says, "Repentance and remission of sins shall be preached." That shows the relations between repentance and remission of sins. It is said that John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance "eis aphesin hamartion – repentance unto the remission of sins."


2. Here is the strong imperative, "repent," and then follows a subsidiary thought: "Let every one of you be baptized." Take the main sentence: "Repent ye" – eis aphesin hamartion, i.e., repent ye . . . unto remission of sins," and that would mean just the same as Peter used the word in chapter 3 where he says, "Repent ye . . . that your sins may be blotted out," using hopos, the remission of sins connecting with the first, and making the word a strong imperative, the other being subsidiary, and intended to imply that repentance has been accomplished, as: "Go make disciples, baptizing them." Make disciples first, then baptize the disciples. Now they say that this means, "Repent ye unto the remission of sins, and let every one of you be baptized," i.e., every one who has repented and received remission of sins, that one is to be baptized. Dr. Hackett says that this one is not right, and that the remission of sins connects both words. I am not discussing this as a Greek expert just now. I am showing the way to interpret, viz.: that there is a harmony between every passage in the Bible as to repentance and remission of sins.


3. Some take this position: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto remission of sins," connecting the remission of sins with Christ, the Anointed One, that when one believes in Christ it is unto the remission of sins, and he cites the passage in Acts 10:43, where Peter says, "To him gave all the prophets witness that whosoever believeth on him, through his name shall receive remission of sins," or be baptized in his name unto the remission of sins."


4. Brother E. Y. Mullins explains it this way, that eis here means in order to, i.e., repent and be baptized in order to the remission of sins that you receive through repentance and faith in Christ, and in order to symbolic remission of sins that you receive in baptism." That is what he told the Campbellite convention, and he sent it to me and asked me what I thought of it. I told him I did not like that split result, making the word mean double. Using the same word in the same connection with two different meanings violates the laws of language. Is have now given a list of interpretations.


Let us connect remission of sins with the verb, baptistheta, to be baptized, eis aphesin hamartion. How shall we interpret it? I interpret it just exactly as I do a passage in Matthew.

 

QUESTIONS

1. Was the kingdom of heaven set up on the day of Pentecost, and why?

 

2. Give the controversy of the author on this point.


3. Was the church instituted, established, or organized on the day of Pentecost, and if not, what was done to it?


4. Locate on a map the countries of the peoples mentioned in Acts 2:9-11.


5. What is the great and notable day of the Lord mentioned in 2:20, and what is meant by the perspective of prophecy?


6. What the difference between the revised version and the authorized version of Acts 2:2-37.

 

7. What three things are presented ill. this verse, and what their application?


8. On verses 27 and 31 what two distinctions between soul and body, what the position of the Restorationists on this point, and what the author's experience with, one of them?


9. What is trichotomy, and is there any scripture for it?


10. What the first theory of interpretation of the expression., "Thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades," given by the author?


11. What the teaching of the old creed?


12. What false doctrine founded on a misinterpretation of this and other scriptures?


13. What the author's position and argument on this question?


14. What the meaning of verse 28, "Thou hast made known unto me the ways of life"? Illustrate.


15. What is the meaning of verse 34, "For David ascended not into the heavens"?


16. What author's position with reference to the "half-way house" theory?


17. What two thoughts brought out on Acts 2:36, and what the importance of each?


18. Expound Acts 2:37, and compare it with 5:33 and 7:54.


19. Can a man resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit and be lost? If so, can a contrite man be lost, and what the relation and the difference between conviction and contrition?


20. Under what conditions may one sin against the Holy Spirit, and what is the unpardonable sin?


21. As an introduction to Acts 2:38, what is the first thing about it to which the author calls attention, and what the first theory of interpretation given?


22. What the second theory, and the argument?


23. What the third theory, and its argument?


24. What is Dr. Mullins' theory, and what the objection to it?


25. Does the author connect the remission of sins with the verb "repent," or with "be baptized," or with both?

 

 

VII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE THEORY OF BAPTISMAL REGENERATION

Acts 2:38.

 

We now come to an important subject growing out of Acts 2:38 to which I devote two whole chapters because (1) the two opposing theories of interpretation to this and other passages, supposed to be kindred, have divided the Christian world since the second century, resulting in modern times in the formation of the distinct domination, the "Campbellites," and (2) the consequences are that one of these two theories has changed the plan of salvation, necessitated a new system of theology, introduced new ordinances, changed the subjects of church membership, prepared the way for a new church polity, and for a union of church and state. That being the case, and as that battle has been going on from the second century till this day, it justifies these two whole chapters being devoted to the subject.


The first theory mentioned above, is expressed in the following propositions: (1) The plan of salvation by grace has ever been, is now, and will ever be, just one plan in its essential requirements of man. (2) These requirements are all spiritual. (3) They are the new birth, repentance toward God, and faith toward (in) the Messiah. (4) The great model of the faith which brings salvation is the faith of Abraham, prior to his subjection to any external ordinance. (5) Salvation before ordinances. (6) Blood before the laver. That is the first theory.


The opposite theory is: (1) Salvation by ordinances. (2) Baptismal regeneration. (3) Baptismal remission (4) Baptism, like repentance and faith, a condition of the new birth, salvation and remission of sins.


The entire New Testament usage of the verb, baptize, and its noun when followed by the preposition, eis, with the accusative for its object must be considered, in order to correctly interpret Acts 2:38. The New Testament usage of the verb, baptize and its noun, when followed by the preposition, eis, with the accusative as its object, is more important than classic usage. When you write down all such New Testament passages, in their order, and look at them carefully, each in its context, then we must render that preposition, eis, by an English word or phrase that will meet the requirements of every context. When you write down sentences in the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation, that have the verb, baptizo, or its noun) followed by the preposition, eis, and that followed by the accusative for its object, look at those in their respective groups, then stop and rub out that preposition, eis, in every case, and substitute its meaning in an English word or phrase, you must see that it would give a rendering in English that would fit everything. The meaning of a word when substituted for that word, will make sense. That is a fine text which takes the entire New Testament usage. Take an English-Greek Concordance – it will save much trouble – and make out a list of passages, commencing with Matthew 3:11: "I baptize you in water unto repentance." The verb, baptize, is there, the preposition, eis, and metanoian in the accusative, which is the object of the preposition. Go thus through the whole New Testament and note every passage. Each passage, however, must have baptize), or its noun, followed by the preposition, eis, with the accusative as the object.


As we go through the New Testament in this manner we find a circle of scriptures used to support the theory that water baptism, like repentance and faith, is a term, or condition, of salvation. Here are those passages on which the people rely who hold that baptism is in order to remission of sins: The passages in which the verb, baptize, or its noun, is employed, followed by the preposition, eis, with the accusative as it object; they select only three. They select as their first group the following:


1. Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:27. They take the passages only of "baptized eis" with the accusative. One of them is, "baptized eis remission of sins"; another is, "baptized eis Christ"; and the other, "baptized eis his death." These passages form their first group. The grammatical construction is the same in every case, and they say, "You Baptists have no plan of induction." If we ask them how they get into the remission of sins, they say, "We are baptized into it." If we ask, "How do you get into Christ?" they answer, "We are baptized into Christ." If we ask, "How do you get into the death of Christ?" they say, "We are baptized into the death of Christ." They also say, "We know how to get in, but you have no method of induction." When I come to these passages I will tell you what to say to them. One scripture will answer: "By faith we enter into this grace wherein we stand." That is our method of induction.


2. Their second group is that which connects baptism with the washing away of sin, without the preposition, eis. "And now why tarriest thou? – arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). This is the only passage in this group.


3. The third group consists of those passages which connect baptism with salvation, Mark 16:16: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," and I Peter 3:21: "Baptism doth also now save us."


4. The fourth group is that which seems to connect baptism with regeneration, consisting of, "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3: 5). "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word" (Eph. 5:25). "According to his mercy he hath saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).


When you can correctly interpret these four groups of scriptures you have the heart and the body, the center and the circumference, the substance and the shadow of it all. This is the second theory, and it thus makes salvation to come through ritualism – through ordinances.


The real substance of this contention is this: (1) It is a salvation by ritual. (2) It is a sacerdotal salvation, since it requires the presence, the office and performance of another party, the administrator of the ordinances, and thereby securing our salvation, making you responsible) when your salvation is dependent upon somebody else, and on what somebody else does. That is what we call "sacerdotal" – sacer, & Latin word for priest – a priestly salvation.


(3) This requires competent authority to pronounce on the fitness of the "sacer" (priest) or administrator, and thus makes it an endless question with any man as to whether he is saved until he can prove that the one that baptized him is a qualified administrator, and thereby contradicting the statement of Paul, that God made salvation by faith, is. e., Is may repent and believe by myself, just thinking about the Bible, or reasoning about it.


(4) Now this other thing: the theory is that, like repentance and faith, it is a term of salvation, but this is unlike repentance and faith, in that they are personal, and this other is not personal; it is still more unlike repentance and faith in this, that the scriptures expressly say, "Except you repent, you shall perish," and, "He that believeth not is condemned." Nowhere in the Bible do we find an expression of that kind about baptism.


The greatest modern advocate of their theory is Alexander Campbell, and a short history of his contention is this: He came over from Scotland and settled in Virginia. He had a certain quasi connection with a Baptist church. Anyhow, he was present at Baptist associations, and named his first paper The Christian Baptist. But he says, "When I began my debate on the act of baptism with McCall, who was a Presbyterian, while studying for that debate I found out that baptism, unless it was intended to secure the remission of sins, was as empty as a blasted nut."


That was the germ of the idea in his mind, according to his own statement, hence Mr. Campbell, from that time on, began to publish things that the Baptists did not believe, and soon he brought out a new paper, which he called the Milllennial Harbinger. In other words, he considered himself to be the harbinger, the forerunner, the "John the Baptist" of the millennium; and that it was this new theory of his that was bringing about the millennium. In that Millennial Harbinger was an "Extra" on the remission of sins. It was a little too long to go into his little paper. In this Extra, which was the first general and formal announcement of his proposition, he took the position of baptismal regeneration, baptismal remission, or baptismal salvation – that wherever you find "purifying" or "sanctifying" it means baptism. In other words, he made it mean the whole thing.


When he brought out that extra the "fur began to fly." All over the land the Baptists rose up and said, "This man does not belong to us," and their leaders began to reply to his extra, among whom were the celebrated Andrew Broadus, the elder J. B. Jeter, both of Virginia; also Carr, pastor of one of the great Richmond churches. Whereupon everybody knew there would be a war at the next meeting of that association. The association met and a committee was appointed to consider the state of the churches. That committee, of which Carr was chairman, found that the churches were being wrecked by a new doctrine, set forth in the extra of the Millennial Harbinger. So the committee recommended that the churches withdraw fellowship from the preachers who advocated that doctrine, and from the members who accepted it. The churches acted instantly, all over Virginia. And since they drew that line of cleavage, Campbellism has no longer hurt the Baptists. This heresy passed into Kentucky. There it divided the associations and the churches. Wherever it went a fire arose. Where there are two horses going in opposite directions, no man had better try to ride both at the same time. Where two are not agreed they ought not to try to walk together. Then Mr. Campbell organized his own denomination. In the meantime, he held debates with quite a number of people on the subject.


His two great lines of argument were as follows: He relied most upon the grammatical construction, i.e., Metanoesate, kai baptistheto hekastos human en to onomati lesou Christou eis aphesin ton hamartion humon, kai lempsesthe ten dorean tou hagiou pneumatos. He said that the grammatical construction placed aphesin hamartion, remission of sins, as the object to be secured by the baptistheto, and be attempted to prove his points by the citation of many scholars who admitted his grammatical constructions. His second argument was that from the second century down to the present time, great multitudes of Christians had held to that, and the majority of those who claimed to be Christians, which would include all the Romanists, all the Greek Catholic churches, and a number of others. Those are the main lines of his argument.


A kindred theory, similarly based, which he combated to the very last, stands or falls with the theory, viz.: the proposition that the Lord's Supper at the hands of the priest, after it has been converted into the very body and blood of Christ, is essential to salvation. The advocates of this theory would say, on grammatical construction, Jesus said, "This [holding up the bread, after they had blessed it] is my body broken for you," and then [holding up the cup]: "This cup is my blood, shed for the remission of sins," and then they would quote a passage in another part of John: "Except a man eat this flesh and drink this blood he has no life in him." So they made much of grammatical construction, and also of historical argument. They made out a stronger case for their part of the theory than Campbell did for his) and on precisely the same line of argument. I have always contended that the Campbellites must abandon their theory, or accept this one as here stated.


If it is true that there is no -way to get into Christ except through baptism, then there is no way to get Christ into us except through the Lord's Supper.


The induction must be both ways: "I in you and you in me." There is no shadow of a doubt that the two are like two pillars which support an arch. The arch is one, and the pillars are the two supporters of the arch.


The antecedent arguments opposing both Campbell's theory and the kindred Romanist theory, similarly based, are as follows:


(1) The plan of salvation from the book of Genesis to Revelation is one plan. Whatever has been essential as a requirement is always essential, just as much so in the Old Testament as in the New Testament, and yet baptism and the Lord's Supper were not parts of the Old Testament. And all must admit that some Old Testament people were saved. If so, according to their theory, they were saved by compliance with terms that we do not have to observe, and we are saved by compliance with terms that they did not have to observe; therefore, the plan was changed in the essential terms of salvation.


(2) But the model case of Abraham, the model case of salvation by faith as in Abraham) utterly nullifies any change in the plan: "Abraham believed Jehovah, and it was imputed to him for righteousness," or justification, and Paul says, "This was written not for Abraham's sake alone, but for our sake." When we believe in Christ it is imputed unto us for righteousness, and we must follow in the steps of our father, Abraham, showing that the plan of salvation was the same.


(3) Another antecedent, argument is the testimony of the prophets. Peter said to Cornelius, "To him [that is, to Jesus] bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins." Here is remission of sins conditioned upon faith, and all the prophets bore witness to the fact that a man who believed on him received the remission of sins, and there was no baptism at the time that the prophets bore that testimony.


(4) Acts 16:30 is the only place in the Bible where the express question is put, "What must I do to be saved?" and the express answer is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."


(5) In many instances in the life of Christ he said to men and women, "Thy faith hath saved thee," and that where there was no baptism at all.


(6) A certain passage in Hebrews goes to the heart of the matter. Talking about the ritual of the Old Testament it says, "It was not possible that the blood of bullocks and of goats could take away sin." Why?


Because there was no intrinsic merit in the blood of bulls and goats. Apply that principle: It is not possible that baptism in water shall take away sin. There is no intrinsic merit in it.


"The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The Old Testament ritual did not do it, and the New Testament ritual does not do it.


(7) If we make some external act to be performed by another party essential to our salvation, then the promise of salvation can never be made sure to us, and yet the scriptures teach that God made salvation by faith that it might be made sure.


That penitent thief, for instance, was up there dying, hanging on his cross. Suppose baptism is an essential condition to salvation; he is lost, for he could not come down. But Jesus looked at him who had complied with no ritual, and said, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."


I discuss this subject at length because I want to solemnly impress upon the mind the way these two theories fight, have been fighting, and will continue to fight until the end of the world.


(8) I will assume a perpendicular line as upon a blackboard. Write on one side of it, "Lovers of God," and on the other side, "Haters of God." On one side are believers; on the other side, unbelievers. Now, from which of these two sides will you take the subjects for baptism – people who love God, and believe in Jesus Christ, or haters of God and unbelievers? A follower of Campbell will say, "Take lovers of God and believers in Jesus Christ." Then I say, "Whosoever loveth is born of God," and "we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," and "He that believeth has been born of God." They may wrestle with that perpendicular line as much as they please – they can never break it.


(9) Paul says, "I thank God I baptized none of you; God sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel."


If baptism were one of the terms of salvation, Paul was thanking God that he had refused to perform one of the things essential to salvation.


Does he not make a distinction there between the essence of the gospel that saves, and baptism? No man can deny it if he carefully studies the passage.


(10) The repeated declarations in the Bible, e.g., take this one: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and "he that believeth shall not come into condemnation, but hath everlasting life." So the scriptures might be multiplied, but Is must stop here.


We have for the next chapter the interpretation of the four groups of scriptures which are very necessary to the under-standing of the things that oppose one of these theories, as follows: The first group, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:27; the second group (just one), Acts 22:16; the third group, Mark 16:16; Is Peter 3:21; the fourth group, John 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5.


Is have now led up to the exegesis of these four groups. Is want to settle some things while Is am on this. Is would go to the end of the earth to oppose any man who says that he is necessary to my salvation by making any rite or ceremony a term of salvation.


Is would never go and look for the remissions of sins in a pool of water.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What justifies two whole chapters devoted to Acts 2:38?


2. What the propositions of the first theory?


3. What the propositions of the second theory?


4. What particular usage must be considered, that we may correctly interpret Acts 2:38?


5. What the method pursued in the investigation of this truth?


6. What the first group of New Testament scriptures used to support the theory that water baptism, like repentance and faith, is a term, or condition of salvation, and what the distinguishing characteristic of this group?


7. From these scriptures, what their method of induction, and what the opposite theory of induction?


8. What the second group, and its distinguishing characteristic?


9. What the third group, and its characteristic?


10. What the fourth group, and its characteristic?


11. What the real substance of this contention?


12. What the meaning of "sacerdotal"?


13. Who the great modern advocate of this theory, and what is a short history of the contention?


14. What were his two lines of argument?


15. What kindred theory, similarly based, which he combated to the very last, stands or falls with this theory?


16. What antecedent argument opposes Campbell's theory, and the kindred Romanist theory, based on the unity of the plan of salvation?


17. What one based on the model case of Abraham?


18. What one based on the testimony of the prophets?


19. What one based on the plain question and answer?


20. What one based on the teaching of Christ?


21. What one based on a passage in Hebrews?


22. What one based upon the promise of a sure salvation to them that believe?

 

23. What one based on the illustration of the dividing line? 24. What one based on Paul's statement that he did not baptize certain people? 25. What one based on the repeated declaration in the Bible?

 

 VIII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE THEORY OF BAPTISMAL REGENERATION (Concluded)

Acts 2:38.



The last chapter was devoted to the great principles which interpret Acts 2:38, and I would have you bear in mind everything that was said in that chapter. The object of the present discussion is to give a brief exegesis of the circle of scriptures cited. I showed that four classes of scriptures were generally cited in favor of the Campbellite position, is. e., that Acts 2:38 should be interpreted to mean that baptism is "in order to" remission of sins; that these cases are where the verb, baptize, or its noun, is followed by the preposition, eis, and the accusative case, of which the most notable is Acts 2:38. There we have the verb, baptistheto, let him be baptized, and the preposition, eis, with the accusative case, aphesin hamartion, the remission of sins.


Words in all languages may have, and do have: (1) the common, ordinary meaning; (2) a frequent meaning, different from the ordinary; (3) a rare meaning, different from both the others. Just so this Greek preposition, eis, in the New Testament with the accusative case, commonly means, in order to; frequently it means with reference to, or in token of, or concerning and it rarely means because of.


There are three principles of interpretation which enable us to safely determine when to depart from the ordinary meaning and render this word according to the frequenter rare meaning. These principles are (1) the bearing of the local context; (2) the bearing of the general context (by general context I mean the trend of the whole Bible teaching, or what is called the "canon," or rule of faith); (3) the nature or congruity of things. You do not need any more than those three principles when you come to study that Greek preposition in the New Testament to enable you to know whether to give in its ordinary, its frequent or its rare meaning.


I will illustrate these principles in reverse order:


(1) The ritualistic Jews, holding to the letter of the law of sacrifices and strict grammatical construction, insisted that their compliance with the law of appointed sacrifices did secure to them the actual remission of sins, and hence there was no necessity for a new covenant, with a nobler Sacrifice. But Paul, in the letter to the Hebrews, shows that it was impossible for the blood of bullocks and goats to really take away sin. They had not the intrinsic merit. It was incongruous, contrary to the nature of things, that the blood of a soulless brute should expiate the sins of a man. Just so when the Romanist quotes Christ's words: "This cup of the covenant which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins" claims a literal, ordinary meaning for the word, eis, according to strict grammatical construction, we reply: It is impossible for grape juice to take away sins.


(2) To illustrate the power of the general context in determining the meaning of a word in a specific case, we say, scripture must interpret scripture. The trend of the Bible must govern a literal, grammatical construction of a single passage. The passage must harmonize with clear, abundant passages elsewhere. If the book teaches in a thousand passages that only the blood of Christ, apprehended by faith, can take away sin, we are not warranted in attributing to an external rite the same power, merely on the ground or literal, grammatical construction in a few passages. These few detached passages concerning external rites must be interpreted in harmony with the spiritual trend of the entire revelation. That is an unquestioned principle of interpretation.


(3) To illustrate the power of the local context in determining the meaning of the Greek preposition, eis (here we have the preposition with the accusative case after it), we now cite most pertinent New Testament examples: Matthew 12:41: "They repented eis the preaching of Jonah." Because eis ordinarily means in order to, must we so render it here? It is a fact, according to chapter 3 of Jonah, and did our Lord so mean it? If so, they failed in the object of their repentance, because Jonah never preached to them after they repented – not a word. The only preaching he did preceded the repentance, and was the cause of the repentance. Therefore, Dr. Broadus teaches in his Commentary on Matthew that eis here must have its rare meaning – because of. They repented because of, eis, the preaching of Jonah. But they say we must make the ordinary meaning the meaning in every case.


(4) We will now consider a frequent meaning of eis, also determined by local context, in the following still more pertinent passage, for in it we have the verb, baptize, as well as the preposition, eis (Matt. 3:11): "I indeed baptize you in water eis repentance." All the context shows that John required repentance, and even its fruits, as a condition precedent to baptism. It would be foolish to render it, "I baptize you in order to repentance." Here the preposition has not its ordinary meaning, in order to, nor its rare meaning, because of, but its frequent meaning, with reference to – a repentance that they had exercised. "Is baptize you with reference to that exercising of it," is what John means. Or, as Tyndale, in his version (it was a very fine version for his time) says, "I baptize you in token of repentance." That makes fine sense.


Matthew 3:11 has a bearing on Acts 2:38. It is the first New Testament use of the verb, baptizo, followed by the preposition, eis, with the accusative case, and is the key passage for unlocking the meaning of Acts 2:38. They stand or fall together, so exact is the parallel. That they do stand or fall together is evident from their exact parallelism. A further evidence that they stand or fall together is found in the fact that both Mark and Luke tie them together: Mark 1:4: "John preached the baptism of repentance" – eis aphesis hamartion; Luke 3:3: "He came preaching the baptism of repentance" – eis aphesin hamartion. Here are two gospels, then, that tie those passages together. And right after them is used Acts 2:38: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ" – eis phesin hamartion. If we then translate Matthew 3:11, "I baptize you with reference to repentance," and "John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance with reference to the remission of sins," why not here go right on and say, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ with reference to the remission of sins?" Remember that in every case we render the preposition in all these conjoined cases (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38) by "unto" in the frequent sense of with reference to. Now that will fit the local context, and it will fit the general context.


To find another instance of eis is nearer to Acts 2:38 we have only to glance back to verse 25, another unmistakable instance of eis in the sense of concerning, and not in order to. Note that it is in the same speech: "For David saith eis (concerning] him," speaking of Christ. What is to hinder us, then, from taking Acts 2:25, where the eis means concerning, or with reference to, and putting that meaning of it in verse 38?


The classics abound with this sense of the preposition, eis. Dr. Broadus quotes three: (1) From Aristophanes: "To jeer at a man eis his rags," i. e., with reference to his rags. Now we would not jeer at a man in order to his rags. (2) From Xenophon: "To reproach eis friendship." We do not reproach a man because of his friendship, and certainly not in order to his friendship. (3) From Plato: "To differ from one eis virtue." We do not differ from a man in order to virtue.


We may apply the ad hominern argument to our Campbellite brethren. They evade the many cases of remission through faith and without baptism, in the life of our Lord, by saying, "The law of pardon was not given till Pentecost." How, then, do they dispose of Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3, paralleling remission under the preaching of John the Baptist with the preaching of Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2:38? John baptized eis aphesin hamartion, exactly paralleling what Peter did in Acts 2:38. Then, briefly, the meaning of eis in Acts 2:38 is this: Repent ye – plural, and a strong imperative – "and let every one of you who has repented be baptized" – a mild imperative – "in the name of Jesus Christ eis aphesin hamartion" – with reference to remission of sins.


I am willing to risk my scholarship on that. One thing I am sure of is that however much a man may rely on the technical, grammatical construction, his common sense is constantly pushing him off that platform when it leaves him to the idea that he cannot obtain remission of sins from God unless he submits to an external rite. All the world revolts at that, and so does the teaching of the Bible.


The second group of scriptures is where baptism is connected with the washing away of sins, without the preposition, eis, in it. There is only one passage of that kind (Acts 22:16): "Arise [Ananias said to Paul], and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." The points here are: (1) Paul is commanded to wash away his sins; (2) to wash them away in being baptized. Two simple questions will unveil the meaning: (a) Can a man himself really wash away his sins? (b) Can water on the outside really wash away sins on the inside? The two are answered by the scripture: "God alone can forgive sins," and when we come to the real remission it must come from God. Again: "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." Therefore, it is evident that when Paul was commanded to wash away his sins – Paul himself, not God, was commanded to wash them away – that it is not a real washing away of sins that is meant, because that contradicts the other scripture, that God alone can take away sin. And when it says that he was commanded to wash away his sins in baptism, it is evident that it is not a real cleansing from sin that is contemplated, for the scriptures so abundantly teach that the blood of Jesus Christ alone really cleanses from sin. Then what does it mean? That Paul in baptism might symbolically wash away his sins. What God himself accomplished through the sacrifice of his Son, Paul might show forth in a symbolic cleansing, just as what Christ's blood accomplishes in the remission of sins, the wine of the Lord's Supper may symbolically accomplish. As there must first be a substance to cast a shadow, so the symbolic cleansing is just like taking the Lord's Supper, if we are not really saved.


So baptism is unmeaning without a prior and real remission of sin. Being really saved, we may picture symbolically that salvation in a memorial. Otherwise it would be like Bunker Hill Monument without a previous battle to commemorate.


Peter expressly declares that baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh, using the term "filth" in the sense of spiritual defilement (not dirt on the body), and using the word "flesh" in its common meaning of the carnal nature (not the physical man). I think Peter in that little parenthesis, "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh," was inspired of God to put in a precaution against attributing to baptism real cleansing of the defilement of sin. He foresaw the coming of the Campbellites, and put in a word against them.


The third group of scriptures is apparently connected with regeneration: (a) "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). (b) "According to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). (c) "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word" (Eph. 5:25).


These three passages constitute the third group of scriptures. For a full explanation of John 3:5, see author's first volume of sermons, page 181, on, The Human Side of Regeneration. The following is a quotation from it: He must be "born of water and Spirit." There is just one birth, "born of water and Spirit"; and it means exactly what "born again" means; and it means exactly what "born of the Spirit" means; and it means exactly what "born of God" means; just that and no more. Then, if it means just that, why put it in this form: "born of water and Spirit''? I will tell you why. In the new birth there are at least two distinct ideas: (1) cleansing; (2) renewing. If you took only the idea of cleansing and left out the renewing, cleansing would not do any good. The sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mire because she is a sow. If you do not change her nature, then you do no good to cleanse her, but if you change the nature and do not cleanse, then you have left purity imprisoned in filth. So there are two ideas always, at least two, in the new birth: (1) cleansing; (2) renewing.


For explanation of Titus 3:5 see the same volume, page 183: "For we ourselves also were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Notice how overwhelmingly conclusive and how comprehensive is this scripture: (1) We were every way evil and lost till the love of God to man appeared in our Saviour. (2) It appeared not by our works of righteousness. And baptism is a work of righteousness (Matt. 3:15). (3) But it appeared in the shedding on us abundantly the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. This is the new birth. (4) But this new birth consists of two things: (a) The washing of regeneration, i.e., the cleansing from sin secured by the Spirit's application of Christ's blood, in other words, "born of water." (b) The renewing of the Holy Spirit i.e., the giving of a new heart, which is "born of Spirit."


From the same work, page 187, is also taken this extract on Ephesians 5:25: "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he alight sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," Therefore "born of water," which means the "washing of regeneration," which means "the sprinkling of our hearts from an evil conscience," which brings justification, which is apprehended by faith, must be such a "washing of water" as comes "by the word," because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and, therefore, the sanitizer of babes who finds literal water-baptism in Ezekiel’s "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you," exchange the blood of Jesus, and an essential part of the "new birth" for water, and very little of that. And the immersionist who finds literal water-baptism in John's "born of water," makes the same exchange, only getting a little more of the water. But even this compensation is lost in a birth for a burial. His more water has drowned him.


The fourth group of scriptures consists of two: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16), and "which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (I Peter 3:21-22).


The first thing I have to say on Mark 16:16 is that it is very doubtful whether it is a part of the word of God. Certainly if you were in the Vatican library in Rome, and they were to hand you the old Vatican manuscript of the New Testament and you were to read Mark's Gospel you would not find in it the last twelve verses of chapter 16. And if you had before you the Sinaitic manuscript, discovered by Tischendorf, and which is supposed to be the oldest manuscript, you would find that this last paragraph of twelve verses is not in it. On that account I never preach from any part of those twelve verses. I never preach from a passage where it is really questionable as to whether or not it is a part of God's Word, and especially would I not attempt to build up a doctrine on it.


And there is only this one passage in the whole Bible upon which you can plausibly build a baptismal salvation argument (Mark 16:16).


It is very easy to answer all those other passages; it is not go easy to answer this one. But let us suppose that it really belongs to God's Word. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." I would construe it just exactly as I construe the passage, "He that endureth unto the end shall be saved." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved"; that is true. He that endures to the end and is baptized shall be saved; that is true also. But when the negative is stated, it does not say, "He that believeth not and is not baptized shall not be saved, or shall be condemned." When you put it negatively it has no reference to baptism. It does not say, "He that is not baptized shall not be saved." It does not make any difference how many things one may put in – believe, be baptized, keep the law, go to church – with salvation, it does not affect salvation. If the first one was to secure salvation, it will be true if you put all of them in. That will not take away from the truth. He that believeth hath everlasting life; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Some would make it read: "He that believeth and is baptized and goes to church every Sunday, etc., etc. etc., hath everlasting life." You can put in as many as you please and they all follow from the first one. But to put it negatively, you could not say, "He that does not go to church every Sunday will be lost." And in negation it does not say, "He that believeth not and is not baptized" – it stops at the believer. This is the explanation of this passage, assuming it to be a part of the Bible.


Is once had a controversy with a Methodist brother on falling from grace. I was stating the fact that if you have your name in the Lamb's book of life God will in no wise blot it out – that it stuck. He said, "I can disprove that." I said, "Where is the passage?" He said, "Over there where Jesus is talking about those who have their names in the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 3:5)." I said, "That does not say what he will do; it says that he will not blot the name out." So when you come to prove a thing you must not rely upon an implication. You must bring up a clear-cut statement of God's Word. If that text had said, "He that believeth not and is not baptized shall be condemned," I would not know what to do with it. Bear these in mind then: (1) It is a very doubtful text. (2) Saving faith is faith that is fruitful (fruit-bearing). (3) It does not mean that baptism is a condition of entrance into a saved state, by what follows – "He that believeth not shall be condemned," like "except ye repent, ye shall perish."


On I Peter 3:21 I make this point on the picture of baptism: "Baptism doth now save us." Baptism doth now save us in a figure; baptism doth now save us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is the figure, but baptism does not put away the impurity of the carnal nature – does not put away the filth of the flesh. These are the four points: (1) Baptism saves us in a figure. (2) That figure is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (3) Paul says, "You have been planted in the likeness of his death, so ye shall be in the likeness of his resurrection." Wherever you see a baptism you see a burial and a resurrection. This is not a real salvation, but a pictorial one – a figure of salvation, and baptism does save us that way, and nobody will deny it. (4) The injury of a good conscience toward God. And the force of this last is: (a) The conscience is bad before it is cleansed, (b) How made good? Hebrew 9:14: "By the blood of Christ." (c) The place of a good conscience – 1Timothy 1:5 explains.


This, my last general remark, is on the evil consequences of this doctrine. In the history of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, baptismal salvation, or baptismal remission, the consequences have been fearfully evil. By its fruits ye shall know it. What has been its fruit in history?


(1) The first fruit was that as soon as Christians, after the apostles, reached a conclusion from these scriptures that I have been expounding that sins were really remitted in baptism, and that baptism is never to be repeated, they instantly began to postpone baptism, so as to include, when they were baptized, just as many of their sins as possible. From the time of Augustine and Tertullian it was very manifest. Tertullian said, "Why hurry baptism? All the sins you commit up to that time are washed away. Then put it off as long as possible." That is consequence number one.


(2) If baptism means the absolution, or remission of sins, "Why not," said the mother, "baptize my baby?" And just as sure as the sun shines in the heavens this doctrine of baptismal remission forced "infant baptism." There never would have been any but for that. And the testimony of history is as clear as a sunbeam as to the relation between these two things – that infant baptism is the product of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. That is the second fruit – a fruit that is not good, either.


(3) "Since I may baptize my baby, in order to save it, why not sprinkle it? Why need I dip the little fellow? Why not simplify the ordinance, and just sprinkle a few drops of water on it?" And it is certain that that is the doctrine which changed the act of baptism from immersion to sprinkling. It is certainly true. Dr. Burleson was once telling a Campbellite friend of ours, Dr. Carrington of Austin – we both thought a great deal of him – that if there were no infant baptism in the world today, that which he (the Campbellite friend) was preaching would bring it about. "Oh, no," he said, "that could not do it." Yet it happened with this very Brother Carrington that he was sent for by a family, and the mother said, "Brother Carrington, my preacher is gone; you are a preacher, not of my faith, it is true, but you are a preacher, and here's my baby about to die; I believe it is lost if it is not baptized, and I ask you to baptize the baby" – and Dr. Carrington, the Campbellite preacher, sprinkled that baby I That is a fact of Texas history. I do not like that fruit.


(4) The next fruit is sacerdotal salvation – a salvation at the hand of a priest, or some other human being. That is not good, either.


Another fruit is that if you baptize all the babies, and keep up baptizing all the babies, then you banish believer's baptism out of the world.


There would be none at all. You go to a country where this "sacramental" ordinance by baptism has prevailed, and where it has necessitated infant baptism, and where it has necessitated this change in the form of baptism, there is no one in the whole nation to be found, since being administered to infants as they come into the world, not a man could be found who could pass to maturity to be baptized on a profession of his faith, and he is taught to believe that it is all right. They say, "We cannot repeat the baptism." So if these false teachings are accredited there is utterly no use for these scriptures: "Believe and be baptized; repent and be baptized; they that believed his word were baptized, etc."


(5) The next fruit is this: If there is no salvation without baptism, suppose I had a brother, a cousin, or an aunt who died, and was not saved, then I would say, "Why not let us have a baptism for the dead?" And it brought that in just as certain as there is anything in the world; for those who died without having been baptized, and hence, according to that doctrine, were not saved, and therefore there arose a baptism from the dead.


Take again this fact: It reverses the gospel. Instead of repent, believe and be baptized, they put it: Believe, repent and be baptized.


(7) And it certainly also brings a union of church and state, as sure as the world stands. This is the fruit of the doctrine in history.

 

QUESTIONS

1. Give a brief statement, in review, of the discussion of Acts 2:38 thus far.


2. What three meanings may a word in any language have?


3. Apply this principle to the Greek preposition, eis.


4. What three principles of interpretation enable us to safely determine when to depart from the ordinary meaning and to render this word according to the frequent or rare meaning?


5. Illustrate the principle of "the nature or congruity of things."


6. Illustrate the principle of "the bearing of the general context."


7. Illustrate the principle of "the bearing of the local context."


8. What the bearing of Matthew 3:11 on Acta 2:38?


9. What further evidence that they stand or fall together?


10. What other instance of eis nearer to Acts 2:38?


11. What the classic usage of eis? Give examples.


12. What argument may be applied to the Campbellites? Explain fully.


13. Then, briefly, what is the meaning of Acts 2:38?


14. What constitutes the second group of scriptures, and what the explanation?


15. In the light of this explain I Peter 3:21.


16. What the third group of scriptures?


17. Explain John 3:5.


18. Explain Titus 3:5.


19. Explain Ephesians 5:25.


20. What the fourth group of scriptures?


21. Explain Mark 16:16.


22. What the picture of baptism in I Peter 3:21, and what the points contained therein?


23. What are the evil consequences of the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration?

 

 

IX

 

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THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT –

THE HABIT OF THE EARLY CHURCH

Acts 2:39 to 3:l

 

So now we take up Acts 2:39 to 3:1 for exposition. The closing part of Acts 2:38 says, "And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," and verse 39, “For to you is the promise and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him." I take that last clause of 2:38 – "Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" – because of its connection with the succeeding verse; and so the question arises – what is meant by the gift of the Holy Spirit? Does it mean the ordinary graces of the Spirit, such as men received before Pentecost, and are receiving now, and have been receiving through all the history of the world, i.e., the convicting power of the Spirit, repenting power of the Spirit, and believing power of the Spirit? No, it does not mean that. The promise refers to the prophecy of Joel: "It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh," and then this baptism in the Spirit is described. Peter says to the convicted men of Israel: "You have witnessed our reception of the baptism of the Spirit; you have seen its effect on us. Now, if you will repent and believe, and be baptized, ye shall receive that gift." He goes on to say, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and unto all that are afar off," limited by just so many as God shall call to receive it.


Joel says, "I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh," i.e., all kinds of people – old men, young men, maidens, – the promise is unto you, fathers, and unto you, children of the fathers, and unto you that come from a great distance, afar off, whether of the dispersion of the Jews, or of the Gentiles. The "afar off" refers to all of those. "After your conversion, these signs shall follow them that believe" – that which comes after the baptism in the Holy Spirit. You who then will repent, who will believe, you shall receive the same thing that you wonder at in these. In Acts 2 Peter says, "Who was I, that I could withstand God?" And seeing that these Gentiles received the same gift which they had at the beginning, while he was talking to Cornelius and his household, the Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household, and he began to speak with tongues. Peter says, "It was the same gift that came to us on Pentecost." So in Acts 19, when Paul asked certain disciples he found there, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" he is asking if, upon their part, they have been baptized in the Spirit. That is what he means exactly. That being the meaning of the word "gift" in the passage, "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," because it was promised to them and to their children, and to just as many as God should call.


It means that the number of people to receive this baptismal power of the Spirit was limited to just as many as the Lord our God should call to receive it.


He could limit it to some Jews on the day of Pentecost, to some Gentiles afterward, as in the case of Cornelius; to some at Corinth, to some at Ephesus, and long enough to fully accredit the church before his call on that was brought to a stop – just as many as he would call.


Is now expound 2:42, particularly giving the four services that constituted the habit of the early church. The King James Version says, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." From that translation we get the idea that to continue steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine is to remain firm in the faith. That is not at all the thought of the original, however. They were constant in attending upon the following things: The teaching of the apostles, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayers. They were constantly attending or they were constant in attending upon the teaching of the apostles, who kept on with their teaching. It is the object of that verse to express a habit of the early church – a habit of continual attention to the following things: (1) Public worship; (2) the contribution worship (for that is what fellowship here means) ; (3) the Lord's Supper worship; (4) the prayer meeting worship.


Let us put that into a little plainer English. If God converts my soul and I believe in Jesus my Saviour, the habit of my life must be along the line of that faith; and inasmuch as God has appointed the public services of his church, I will be constant in my attendance upon those services. I won't stay away half the Sundays. If public worship is appointed by the congregation for every Sunday, then unless providentially hindered, I will be there at those services. Then in order to carry on the kingdom of God, if contribution services are appointed, I won't skip those on the days appointed, whatever they may be, few or many; if observing the Lord's Supper, I won't stay from that. The meetings appointed for prayer, I will attend. That is the true sense of the Greek. It is one of the finest themes upon which any preacher can preach. Here were 3,000 people happily converted. They were brought into a new covenant, and these young converts were constantly attending all the public teaching of the apostles.


This is the literal Greek: "And they were stedfastly continuing on the teaching of the apostles"; "and they were stedfastly continuing koinonia," which has several meanings. Of course it expresses the idea of participation, and hence we sometimes use it in the sense of fellowship; they were constantly attending upon the "contributions."


The necessity for those constant contributions is seen from the context. The record says twice, epi to auto – all who believed were epi to auto, i.e., together; they were at the same place, and there were thousands of them there. There people were in a great revival meeting. The meetings were held every day. Some came from a distance, and there were necessary expenses involved in keeping that great crowd of people epi to auto – at the same place; and therefore there had to be a distribution of rations. They had to be fed, just as when we hold a big meeting – a camp meeting – and the people gather to stay through the meeting. From twenty to thirty miles around they came epi to auto, "together," or "at the same place." One brother says, "I will furnish so and so," so many hogs, for instance; another so many beeves, and another so much money, as in this case in Acts where the contributions were necessary. They had all things common.


They took those funds for the support of that meeting into a common fund, under the conditions of that great gathering, and they were held together at one place, just as we get a large sum of money, etc., for the camp meetings of today, barrels of ice water with cups, thus having meals all together. A long table is spread, and everything cooked is placed upon it. We have often seen that kind of a thing – great crowds of people coming together, having their meals, not separately, but "together." And in order that this big crowd be held together, some man was so full of the Spirit of God that he said, "To the end that this meeting may go on, I will bring all I have here and put it in the general fund." Later on we strike the account of that man doing it. But I am trying to show the force of epi to auto, together, or at the same place. It is a question of that pronoun reference, as to what "at the same place" means. That would put them together; therefore the word "together" should be translated, "that place," because they were at the same place. Therefore they were together. Many times in the New Testament the word which is translated fellowship evidently means contribution. I have not space to recite all the passages. We come to a number of them in the New Testament.


It was a great task to care for such a vast congregation, even for one day. The believers numbered 3,000, and a little later 5,000, not counting the women and children. Later still, it included a very great number, such as Greeks, and still later, when the disciples were multiplying and kept multiplying, there arose a complaint concerning the distribution of the provision for that great camp meeting, because some did not get enough, and did not get anything to eat. I have seen at camp meetings the bread or beef give out, and some of the crowd could not get to the table before it gave out.


This situation in the early church led to the appointment of deacons. The apostles said, "It is not reason that we should quit our preaching, our ministry, of the word, and go around and see that these people are fed, – that this great volume of food is equally distributed. It is all here common. You must appoint somebody to take charge of this. We cannot stop to serve tables. We have to attend to the preaching and prayer meetings – to the ministry of the word and of prayer. That is our special charge, so you bring business men here who can attend to that."


It was characteristic of those young converts, who were coming by the thousands, to continually attend all the public services – the preaching services, the contribution services for the support of the meeting, the services for observing the Lord's Supper, and the prayer meeting services.


We used to have a big horn, a conch shell, a trumpet or a triangle, anything that would give a loud sound, at our big meetings, to announce the services as commencing. They would have a sunrise prayer meeting, a nine o'clock prayer service, a ten o'clock song service, an eleven o'clock preaching service, and then an afternoon service.


Next, in order that these young people and all new converts who were being brought into the church might be introduced to the ordinances of God, they would have the Lord's Supper. Note that it is said of these converts that they formed four habits: Constant attendance on the preaching service, on the contribution service, the observance of the Lord's Supper, and on the prayer service. And when you get a church to do that you have a power.


I preached on that text at a great meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The most distinguished Baptists in the United States, and the most learned theological seminary professors, the presidents and professors of literary institutions, the great evangelists and missionaries, at home and abroad, some of them white-headed, just ready to go away to God, were present. I presented these four points as the points of power in the church: Constant attendance on these four services – that if a man wouldn't dodge the preaching, nor the giving, nor the prayer meeting, nor the observance of the Lord's Supper, he would not be very apt to backslide, but would keep in line. But if he was willing to attend the prayer service, and shut his eyes when the contribution plate was passed around, singing, "Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel," and yet put in nothing to make its wings flap, he convicted himself. He was leaving out one of God's appointed methods of worship. Now we are enabled to interpret the next thing.


"And all who believed were epi to auto, 'at the same place,' 'together'; epi to auto – kai eichon hapanta koina, and had all things common." This passage of scripture has given rise to the doctrine called "the community of goods." There are men now who say, "Let every one of us, whether rich or poor, put into a common pile everything we have, and then each one take out enough to sustain him every day." That is the key passage of the Scholastics. But is it the intent of this passage (2:44) to teach what is commonly understood as "community of goods," is. e., if one has $10,000 worth of property, another $5,000, and another $2,000, does this passage require you to lump in your money and to ride out even?


It does not, and here is the proof. I am going to show that there is no law here establishing what is understood as a community of goods. In order to do that I will turn a little forward, where the same matter comes up again. In 4:34 we have this account: "For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostle's feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need. And Joseph, a Levite, having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?" This shows that his private ownership had not departed from him. It was not the object of the scriptures concerning this great lesson to teach that private ownership was done away with at all. It was a voluntary thing, done under the impulse of the great meeting that was going on to take care of all those people, to keep them together, epi to auto – at the same place. A man did not have to sell his property; he was not obliged to do it; but if he felt prompted to do it, in order that the meeting would not stop, he was not afraid to do it. But if he sold his land the money was still his; there was no law that required him to bring it all. But Ananias and Sapphira claimed that they had put it all in, but they had kept back part, telling a lie about it to God, or to the Holy Spirit, as if he did not know. They wanted to have the reputation that Joseph had, who sold all he had and brought the whole of it and put it into the fund. So they sold a piece of land, conspired together to fool Peter and to fool God – that they would go and say that they had received so much and that was all of it. But Peter says, "Ananias, that property was yours before you sold it, and after you sold it the money was still yours. Your offense is, then, that you said, 'We received for it so much and put the whole of it into the common fund.' " So that Ananias' case disproves any idea of "common property."


I will illustrate it: In the Madera Mountains, at the headquarters of the warlike tribe of the Comanche Indians, for many generations there has been a beautiful valley, plenty of water and plenty of grass, and when the moon is at its full, it is one of the best places in the world for holding a meeting. So every year they make great provision for a meeting. They say, "F. W. Johnson, what will you do towards it?" He says, "I'll give ten beeves, and so many sheep." Another says so many quilts, another a big table, so that anybody may be invited to come. The crowd is too big to make it all into one table, however, and there is no time to average just what they give, but what they do bring there is "common." You step up to F. W. Johnson, or to W. D. Cowan, who are the main supporters of that meeting. You have just come, maybe a stranger riding horseback, and you say, "I'd like to have a place to sleep tonight – blankets, etc." "We have it for you," these brethren say; "just come here; everything is 'common.' " Now that did not mean that Johnson sold all he had and put it in, but for the purpose in view it was truly a common affair.


There is a change from the American Version in the Revised Version of 2:47 and 3:1 which is a textual matter. Let us compare these two versions. The last verse of the chapter of the American Version reads: "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." The Revised Version says, "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved." Is there any church in it? No; "to them," epi tois, or epi to auto – the same phrase again. "And the Lord added" to the same crowd, the same place, daily such as were being saved. In the best of the Greek manuscripts the word "church," does not appear, but the Revised Version takes that epi to auto from the first verse in the next chapter and puts it there. In other words, chapter 3 begins epi to auto, and joins it together. "Now Peter and John were going up to the temple." We have no "together" in the Revised Version, and the revised is correct. It follows the true original manuscript. The "together" of 3:1 in the American Version belongs to 2:47, and this word "together" should be put there in the place of the word "church." The idea of the church is there. It was one church.


Is interpret this passage according to the Revised Version. Some later manuscripts give the idea as "church" by putting that word in, just like they put it in once before in the same chapter, where "church" does not occur, though the idea of church is there. It was an immensely big church. Before they got through, the way Is count it, there were 100,000 members right in Jerusalem, and the crowd just kept gathering by the thousands every day. It swelled and swelled, got bigger and bigger, all of the apostles preaching. Just like we would say, "Brother A. preaches in the First Church at 9 o'clock; Brother B. at the Second Church at the same hour, and Brother C. in the Tabernacle, while Brother D. will hold forth in the Court House." All over the town that great multitude gathered and had preaching. They were brought there and held together by the power of that meeting. If the reader would like to do a little private work, let him take an English-Greek concordance, and translate the word "fellowship" and see its relation to money. You will see that here it means participation in a money meeting, that is, a fellowship meeting. They had fellowship in the public services; fellowship in giving money' participation in the giving of money; they had fellowship when the Lord's Supper was observed; they participated m the prayer meeting, and everybody took part.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What is meant by the "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38?


2. To whom was the gift limited?


3. Expound Acts 2:42, particularly giving the four services that constituted the habit of the early church.


4. Why was it necessary for those constant contributions?


5. What church office was instituted here, and what the circumstances of its institution?


6. What was characteristic of the young converts in the Pentecost meeting?


7. Is it the intent of Acts 2:44 to teach what is commonly understood as "Community of Goods"? What the proof?


8. What illustration by the author of the scriptural idea of having things "common"?


9. What change from the Authorized Version found in the Revised Version of Acts 2:47 and 3:1, and what is the true idea of the passage?


10. Interpret this passage according to the Revised Version.

 

 

X

 

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THE SADDUCEAN PERSECUTION
Acts 3:1 to 5:42.

 

Chapters 3-5 are devoted to the history of the first great persecution of the Spirit-filled and accredited church, with attendant circumstances. This, quite naturally, was of Sadducean origin. (1) The Sadducees were the rulers of the people, dominating in politics, and through the high priest, dominating the Sanhedrin. (2) They were materialists, believing in neither angel nor spirit, nor in the resurrection of the body. (3) The great issue, publicly and boldly made by the Spiritfilled church, was that Jesus was risen from the dead and exalted to the sovereignty of the universe, and was demonstrating these great truths by unmistakable signs and wonders. (4) The people were being swept away by these demonstrations, so that what the Sadducees might well call "the last error" was worse than the first. (5) Hence the Sadducees had to meet this issue, so publicly and convincingly made, or else lose both political and ecclesiastical power. (6) Moreover, the demonstration of the resurrection of Jesus established his messiahship, and convicted the rulers of sacrilege and murder in putting him to death, so that they were on trial for their lives, their faith, their offices, and their political leadership.


This important issue had been forced on them by Peter. In his great sermon on Pentecost he had alleged in the presence of myriads of the people, from all parts of the world, the following things: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:22-24). And again, "This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear" (Acts 2:32). And also, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36). He had introduced the testimony of the prophet Joel, and particularly the declaration of the great king, David. Three thousand of the people were converted in one day, and every day following vast additions were made to their number. The meeting was protracted. They held services publicly in the Temple every day. Money, by voluntary contribution, poured into the treasury. Their baptisms and observances of the Lord's Supper were public and continuous. They were jubilant in praise, and had favor with all the people. The revival was a conflagration threatening to wrap all Jerusalem in its spiritual flame.


At this juncture occurred a public incident which forced the Sadducean rulers to take official notice of the great movement. In the very gate of the temple, Peter and John had wrought an amazing miracle on a well-known cripple, hopelessly lame from his mother's womb; the miracle was wrought in the name of Jesus of Nazareth; a great concourse of the people were attracted to the scene of the miracle, recognizing the subject of it, witnessing the completeness of the healing, and standing in amazement before the miracle workers. Peter replies to their amazement (a) by disclaiming any power or holiness in himself and John to do this mighty work; (b) he boldly accuses them of denying the holy and righteous One, preferring a murderer instead, delivering him up to Pilate and forcing him reluctantly to condemn him, and of killing the Prince of Life; (c) that the God of Abraham raised him from the dead, of which fact they were witnesses, and (d) that through his name – through faith in his name – was given to this hopeless cripple, so well known to them, this perfect soundness in the presence of them all.


Peter further improved the occasion thus: (1) He admitted that spiritual ignorance caused the people and their rulers to commit so grave a blunder and so heinous a crime. (2) But the passion of the Messiah, foreshown by all the prophets, was thus fulfilled. (3) He therefore exhorts to repentance and turning, so that (a) their sins might be blotted out; (b) that great revivals might come from the glorified Lord; (c) that he must remain in heaven until the times of restoration of all things attested by all the prophets; (d) that this Jesus was the great Prophet like unto Moses, who according to Moses, God would raise up from among the brethren; (e) that whoever would not hear this prophet would be cut off from Israel; (f) that Samuel and all succeeding prophets foretold these things; (g) that they, as sons of the prophets and of God's covenant that in Abraham's seed, who is the Messiah, all nations should be blessed, were first offered the blessings of forgiveness. To this indictment of rulers and people and this marvelous exhortation, the people made great response. About 5,000 men, not counting women and children, were converted (Acts 4:4).


This issue, so made by Peter, was the boldest and most comprehensive challenge in all history.


It claimed all the books of the Jewish Bible, all their covenants and promises, all their patriarchs, mediators, prophets, illustrious kings and heroes, all their sacrifices and rituals. It charged sacrilege and murder in the rejection of Jesus. It affirmed the resurrection, the exaltation and the glorification of the rejected Lord. It preached repentance on account of this sin. It promised remission of sin and eternal life to those who believed. It threatened exclusion from the covenant of all the impenitent and unbelieving. It intimated a transfer of the kingdom to the Gentiles, if they persisted in their rejection, so the Sadducees had to accept the challenge.


The Sadducees felt compelled to respond to the challenge: (1) They arrested Peter and John, imprisoned them for the night, and held them to trial before the Sanhedrin on the morrow. (2) They gathered all the Sadducean kindred of the high priest, Caiaphas, including Annas, his father-in-law, ex-high priest, John and Alexander, thus assembling those most responsible for the crime of the murder of the Lord, and by thus gathering the special Sadducean kindred dominating the council. (3) The Sanhedrin itself was convened, and the prisoners set before it.


Their inquisition concedes the fact of the miracle, but demands, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" A prophecy of the Lord was thus fulfilled: "They shall deliver you up to councils." Our Lord had foretold and provided for this very exigency. He said, "Be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11; Matt. 10:16-20).


In this foretold strait, Peter obeyed the direction of Christ, as we find in Acts 4:8-12: "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders, if we this day are examined concerning a good deed to an impotent man, by what means this man is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him, doth this man stand here before you whole. He is the stone which was set at nought of you, the builders, which was made the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved."


That is the noblest answer in history.


The effect of Peter's boldness on the council is thus described – Acts 4:13: "Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." That council could not understand that ignorant and unlearned men) arrested and imprisoned, and brought before that supreme court of the Jewish nation, should stand there, not as prosecuted, but as prosecutors, indicting their judges. This shows that the power of preachers is not dependent upon, or I should say, not proportioned to the amount of their education, but it 13 proportioned to their being filled with the Holy Spirit, and to their being educated or trained in the Word of God. Dr. Alexander, of Princeton, had a theory that only college graduates should be allowed to be preachers, and they refused to receive into their seminary anybody who did not graduate at a reputable institution of learning. He was amazed to hear of some work done by a blacksmith, who never had been to school much, and he kept on hearing so much about this blacksmith that he, after investigation, was himself persuaded and convinced that this unlearned man did shake the gates of hell every time he preached to the people. Dr. Wayland, who differed altogether from the Presbyterians (he was a Baptist), about the absolute necessity for college education in order to preach, cites this case of Alexander's honest testimony to something that he did not understand – and he never did understand how that blacksmith could be such a power for God in his preaching.


This is why I have said in one of my opening addresses before our seminary that while I would always encourage every man to get all of the education that his means and his family condition would allow, yet I would never be guilty of the folly of saying that only college men could be preachers of power, and that when any theological seminary took the position not to admit into its theological department any but college graduates, it took a position that would have prevented either Christ or any one of the twelve apostles from entering it.


Here were two indisputable facts: A miracle confronted the Sanhedrin, and it was a good deed of healing and mercy. How keen the sarcasm of Peter: "If we be examined this day for a good deed, healing this impotent man."


A well supported tradition exists among the Baptists of Virginia. It was in the period of the union of church and state. Two Baptist preachers were indicted for preaching without Episcopal license. This tradition says that Patrick Henry was employed to defend them, or took the case voluntarily, and that all he did was to stand up before the court and say, "What is the indictment against these men? Preaching the glorious gospel of the Son of God? Great God I That is the indictment! Are there no thieves going around unarrested and unconvicted? Are there no murderers upon whom to visit the vengeance of law, that you must indict and try men for preaching the gospel?"


This should ever be the challenge of the people of God: Here is our good work! Behold this monument of grace! This work was not done in a corner. It is self-interpretative. Here is a drunkard; look at him. See what he was, and behold what he is!


The result of the deliberation of this inquisition before the Sanhedrin seems a most impotent conclusion. It is expressed in Acts 4:15-18, thus: "But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been wrought through them, is manifest to all that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and charged them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus." That was their conclusion; so they called them back in again and charged them accordingly.


Acts 4:19-20: "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard." In other words, "You may pass any judgment you please. You are the earthly court, but so far as we are concerned, being under higher authority, we must ignore both your threat and charge, and speak boldly and openly what we have seen and heard." If one should wonder why the Sadducees stopped at a threat, the reason is given in Acts 4:21-22: "And they, when they had further threatened them, let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people; for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was more than forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was wrought." They had malice enough to kill them, but they were afraid of the people, and did not like to go before the people on such a case as that, with a forty-year-old man, who from his mother's womb had been a cripple, and everybody knew him. It was a good thing done, and there he stood, perfectly healed.


Peter and John report the whole case to the church. Acts 4:23: "And being let go, they came to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them." The church reports it to God. "And they, when they heard it, lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, 0 Lord, thou that didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say, Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, And the rulers were gathered together, Against the Lord, and against His Anointed: for of a truth, in this city against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever way thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass." Let us hear them pray: "And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy servant, Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness."


This courage and fidelity on the part of leaders and people had a wonderful, fivefold result – first on themselves and then on others: (1) "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul. (2) And not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (3) And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and (4) great grace was upon them all. For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as anyone had need." Persecution unifies God's people; it increases their love for one another, and makes them sacrifice for one another; it opens their hearts and their purses. As an old sailor once said, "It takes a side-wind to fill all the sails." (5) lt developed great men, for example, Acts 4:36-37: "And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, son of exhortation), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet."


From this it may be observed that in every meeting of very great power, when the root of things is gotten at, when the topmost twig is being shaken, when the sound of the wind is in the mulberry trees, when the fire is burning in every meeting of that kind, there suddenly steps out to the front some man who afterward shakes the world. That is one of the great powers of revivals of religion. It calls out heroes, who up to that time had never been awakened. Moreover, it exposes and eliminates hypocrites – for example, the marvelous judgment of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10).


From three viewpoints this case is very instructive. It is evident that these two were swept into the church on the wave of a great excitement, without spiritual preparation. They could not understand the coming of the Holy Spirit, nor the mighty emotions and deeds of those around them who were filled with the Spirit. They had witnessed the heroic sacrifice of Barnabas, and coveted, not a similar spirit, but the credit of his deed, without the sacrifice. They conspired together to obtain this credit. They sold a piece of land, agreeing to keep back a part of the price, while affirming that the part offered was all they received. They had neither a consciousness of the presence of the omniscient Spirit, nor that Peter, as an apostle filled with the Spirit, could read their minds. They supposed they had only to fool a mere man. They were not prepared for the exposure, nor his awful sentence in Acts 5:3-5. They were filled with Satan – not the Holy Spirit. Similar tragedies frequently occur in great revivals. The shortest road to the eternal sin – the unpardonable sin – is from a great revival. Satan attends them, ever ready to suggest a quick way to instant and eternal ruin.


Indeed, it is only from a place of great light that the unpardonable sin can be committed.

A second viewpoint of instruction is the apostolic power of judgment. It was not often exercised, but always possessed. A similar case thus appears in Acts 13:6-12. Here again the apostle recognizes the presence of Satan opposing, through an agent, the work of the Holy Spirit. There are other New Testament cases, but these two illustrate.


I have often heard Major Penn and other great evangelists affirm that, on certain occasions, when the Spirit's power was greatest, by a kind of spiritual instinct they felt the hostile presence of Satan working some form of opposition through some human agent. On one occasion I witnessed his dramatic exposure of this hostile occult influence.


A not less important viewpoint is the effect of this judgment (1) on the church, (2) on hypocrites, and (3) on outsiders. On the church it brought great fear (5:11); on the hypocrites it says, "Of the rest durst no man join himself to them" (5:13). It was getting too hot for hypocrites. It is only in lukewarm times that conscious hypocrites most seek to join themselves to the churches. People then come in without regard to the spiritual requirement – regeneration. Let the time come when "judgment must begin at the house of God," and the lightning begins to strike, they become very shy of joining the church.


What was the effect on the outsiders? The answer is found in 5:14: "Howbeit, the people magnified them; and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." The power of the apostles grows: "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people: and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch." That is an answer to the prayer found in 4:29-30: "And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy servant, Jesus." Here Peter's power reaches a climax in special miracles. Here we have it: "Insomuch that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that, as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some one of them" (Acts 5:15).


My brother, J. M. Carroll, has a regular "sugar-stick" sermon on "The Shadow of Peter, or the Power of Influence." When you get so near to God and so full of the Spirit that the people will bring the helpless cases where you would walk along, so that your shadow might fall on some of them, then you may know you are at the topnotch of power. The author has a sermon on special miracles – "The Bones, Fringes, Shadows, Handkerchiefs, and Aprons." Here you have a miracle by a shadow. In Elisha's case the miracle was by bones. In our Lord's time they touched the fringe, the hem of his garment; and in the apostle Paul's time they sent out aprons and handkerchiefs that had touched him.


The last two paragraphs of this chapter (Acts 5:17-42) recite a revival of the Sadducean persecution. The apostles not only continued their witness of the resurrection, but the Holy Spirit magnified their witness by mighty signs, wonders and Judgments, until vast multitudes were converted to the faith, and they grew to an astonishing height in love, faith, unity, and courage. The streams of the sick, of the troubled souls, that converged in a tide toward the apostles and the happy church, and every increase of the shouts of the healed and the joy of the redeemed, excited their wrath.


The record says: "But the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him [which is the sect of the Sadducees], and they were filled with jealousy, and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in public ward." [This time they get all of them in prison.] "But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said, 'Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple.' " So they are to go right on preaching the word. And when the Sanhedrin the next morning sends for the prisoners, their officer cornea back with his finger on his lip, saying, "They're gone." Another comes running in and says, "I saw them; they are right back there in the Temple, still preaching, and great crowds of people around." Then they send officers very quietly, without tumult or violence, for fear of the people, and bring them before the court again, and this is the inquisition now: "And the high priest asked them, saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."


That shows that Peter had hit the mark. He had been indicting them as murderers in every speech he had made, and now they see the point. They say, "You intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Peter replied, "We must obey God rather than men." He repeats his accusation: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. And we are witnesses of these sayings; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him." They do not make much out of that man, but were cut to the heart, and thought in their hearts to slay them.


The end of the Sadducean persecution comes in this way: An old man, Gamaliel, who was a Pharisee and the teacher of Paul, a doctor of the law and of great repute, requests that the prisoners be put apart for another consultation. Gamaliel makes a great speech, commencing with a word of caution (5:35). He then recites two well-known incidents of turbulent movements, which, though so threatening for a time, came to naught, and the agitators perished, and then hinting that this movement had higher ends, motives and issues, closes with the advice found in 5:38-39. The record says, "And to him they agreed." But the context shows their agreement was only partial. (See 5:40.) Just how weak and futile was their half- way measure appears from 5:41-42. And so ended the Sadducean persecution. We may not leave the subject, however, without suggesting a dominant reason for their failure. Their unbelief in the supernatural utterly disqualified them for leadership.


Materialists who do not believe in angels, nor in spirit, nor the resurrection, but in this life only, never can carry the crowd. Therefore, the one who broke up this persecution, as we will see in another issue, was a Pharisee, who would not Join them on that issue. They were ready enough to join in the persecution in another issue, as we will see later, but they did not join in an issue of the resurrection, and that was the issue Peter had made – that Christ was risen. Therefore, we learn in our Lord's time, as recorded in Luke 20:27-40, that when the Sadducees came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection, he replied to them, and the Pharisees sympathized with his answer in putting the Sadducees down. And in Acts 23, when Paul was arraigned before this very council, he divided the crowd by saying, "Brethren, the only thing against me is that I preached the resurrection of the dead," and instantly the Pharisee part of the council stood with Paul. They would not fight on that issue, and today you need not have any dread of any opposition that comes from a materialist. He can't get a following, for all over the world men's consciences and their nature teach that there is a life beyond this life – that there is a God and a place for the soul. The materialists, therefore, are a very small crowd; so the Sadducean persecution came to naught.


Before closing this chapter we recur, for practical observations, to several antecedent paragraphs lightly passed over in giving rapid history of the Sadducean persecution. First, the reply of Peter to the request of the lame man at the beautiful gate of the Temple: "Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."


It is related that a distinguished visitor on one occasion was waiting on the Pope, to whom the Pope showed all his treasures, jewels, the money, explaining that streams from all over the world continued to flow into this treasury. Says the Pope, "There has been a very great change since the first pope's time) for Peter said, 'Silver and gold have I none.' " "Yes," said the visitor, "and I am afraid there has been a very great change in another direction: that you cannot now make an impotent man walk; you have the silver and the gold, but have you Peter's faith and power?"


We do well also to note that "silver and gold" are not the greatest, and most times, the best gifts in our power, and to be thankful for the fact, since otherwise only the rich could give.


Second, there can be no better example of true homiletics than Peter's sermon to the people on the occasion of this great miracle. It equals his Pentecost sermon. It deserves a special analysis. It was a great occasion. Carlyle, on Stump Speaking, affirms that the first prerequisite to a great oration is a great occasion. It must not be manufactured to afford an opportunity for a speech. The stirring times and even the urgent hour must call for it. Then the speech must fit the occasion, and supply its calls and needs, leaving nothing more to be said.


There must be a man for the occasion, who, God-called and qualified, has something to say, and will so say it that action and not applause will cap its climax – prompt, decisive, fitting, and adequate action. All these conditions are filled in this case in Peter himself and the results.


The supreme court of the nation has put itself in opposition to the supreme court of heaven on the gravest question of conscience. Those who believed in rendering unto God the things that are God's, were making an open, daylight, life and death issue. At the beautiful gate of the Temple God magnified their testimony by an amazing miracle. A beggar, crippled from his mother's womb, and known to all the people, received as alms an instantaneous perfect healing. His frantic exhibitions of praise to God, and joyous, grateful clinging to Peter and John, drew an immense crowd whose speechless amazement and staring, louder than words, demanded an explanation. Peter's sermon is that explanation.

 

ANALYSIS

1. He rebukes their marveling at the man: "Why should it be thought incredible that God should work a miracle?"


2. He rebukes their staring at him and John, as though this wonder should be attributed to either their goodness or power.


3. He attributes the miracle exclusively to his risen Lord, through faith in his name.


4. He then begins his indictment) seeking their conviction of sin, contrasting their way with the Father's (Acts 3:1315).


5. He shows again, without any attempt at harmony between free will and divine agency, that notwithstanding they had wickedly and murderously contributed to Christ's sufferings, all these sufferings had been foreshown in all their prophets.


6. His tender heart next goes out to the indicted and convicted (Acts 3:17).


Here he introduces a new kind of ignorance characteristic of the New Testament, and delimiting the unpardonable sin. Theirs was not mental ignorance, for they had head knowledge of all the matters involved. They lacked spiritual enlightenment, without which the eternal sin cannot be committed. Compare the case of Paul. (See Acts 26:9; I Tim. 1:13.) See also the veil over the hearts of the Jews when they read Moses, 2 Corinthians 3:5, and compare Hebrews 10:26-29. And yet this spiritual illumination does not necessarily reach regeneration, for the regenerate cannot commit the unpardonable sin (see I John 5:16-18). Nor does spiritual conviction always result in that contrition or godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto life.


7. He now comes with great clearness and force to his exhortation and application (Acts 3:19-21). .Here he finely discriminates between repentance and conversion. Logically a change of mind must precede a change of life course.


8. But we are particularly interested in the motives toward, or the results conditioned on the repentance and conversion enjoined. These are. three: (1) "So that your sins may be blotted out." (2) "So that there may come seasons of refreshings (is. e., revivals) from the presence of the Lord." (3) "So that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restoration of all things." This part of his exhortation bristles with eschatological doctrine. It fixes far off the final advent of our Lord.


It unquestionably teaches, as many other scriptures, that the dramatic conversion of the whole Jewish nation, so vividly described by Paul, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Isaiah must not only precede the advent, but the advent itself cannot be until all prophecies of antecedent events have been fulfilled.

9. His sermon closes with the identification of the prophetic Messiah with Jesus of Nazareth, and suggests him, not only as their Messiah, but the one "in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


Third, Acts 4:31: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together." This miracle on nature, like the earthquake which followed the midnight praise and prayer service of Paul and Silas in the Philippian Jail (Acts 16:25-26), caused the solid earth to respond in thrills to its Creator's mandate.


Fourth, Acts 4:32 (see the passage). From time immemorial this passage has been made the basis of the socialistic doctrine of "Community of goods – no private ownership of property." The contention is untenable. It is true and deducible from many other passages, that as against God, there is no absolute ownership of private property – and in the light of his stewardship no Christian can say, "Aught of the things I possess is my own." But it is not here taught that "Community ownership of private property is substituted for stewardship to God." This is certainly the teaching of Peter's reply to Ananias (see Acts 5:4). It does prove, however, that individual owners of private property, moved by love to God, did voluntarily sell their goods, and put it into a common fund for the necessitous believers. This was a charity fund for the poor in a great necessity. This necessity arose mainly from the Jews of the dispersion, enumerated by nations in Acts 2, lingering so long in Jerusalem to attend the great revival meeting commencing at Pentecost and lasting until the Christian part of it was all dispersed abroad by the Pharisee persecution under Saul of Tarsus (see Acts 8:1-3; 11:19). This is further evidenced by the necessity for the office of deacon (Acts 6). It became too burdensome a. matter for the apostles personally to distribute daily the alms of this common fund. There is no hint here or elsewhere of "community ownership of private property," but everywhere a custom of the churches to provide for their own poor, or in case of great necessity, for the poor saints elsewhere. See Paul's great collections for the poor saints in Jerusalem, and his specific instructions to Timothy about each church's home poor (I Tim. 5:3-16).


Let us now explain Acts 4:4: "But many of them that heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand." Thus reads the Revised Version, and the King James has it: "The number of the men was about five thousand." Now, does that mean, with or without counting the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, that the number came to be 5000, or that 5000 were converted this day? It is based on the exegecies of the Greek, which reads: "The number of the men came to be about five thousand." Dr. Newman says it means that there had been about 2000 converted since Pentecost, 3000 that day, and by this time had come to be about 5000, counting men only. Meyer says the same thing in his Acts; the great exegete, Hackett, a Baptist, in his Book on Acts, also says it, as do a great many others. But I say that it means 5000 that day; 5000 heard the word that day and 5000 believed that day; and the number, as they kept hearing and believing, came to be 5000 men in all. There is no reference to any conversions connecting with any previous occasion, and if we look in the "Pulpit Commentary," Acts we find a fine Greek scholar saying that the grammar, although itself is a little doubtful in construction, is in favor of the position that 5000 that day were converted.


The Sadducees complained, saying, "You intend to bring this man's blood upon us" (Acts 5:28). When they were crucifying the Lord, this very crowd said, "His blood be upon us, and our children." Peter is not putting the blood on them; they put it on themselves, knowingly and willfully. They had said, "His blood be upon us and upon our children." They took that responsibility then, and now they begin to realize it. But there is a greater realization ahead of them.


Nations, like individuals, are responsible, and when they complete their rejection of the Spirit's witness, as their rejection of our Lord himself, the doom and long exile of this favored people will commence with the destruction of Jerusalem and last until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What the theme of Acts 3:1 to 5:42?


2. Why does the first persecution come from the Sadducees?


3. Who of the church was to the front in making this issue, and what the 8cripture showing the issue?


4. What the public incident which forced the Sadducean rulers to take official notice of the movement, what the effect of the incident on the people, and what Peter's reply to their amazement?


5. How did Peter improve the occasion, and what the analysis of his exhortation?


6. How did the people respond to this exhortation?


7. What may we say of this issue so made by Peter, and what in particular makes it so?


8. How did the Sadducees respond to the challenge?


9. How did they begin their inquisition?


10. What prophecy of our Lord was thus fulfilled?


11. What direction did our Lord give for such exigency?


12. How did Peter obey the direction of Christ?


13. What the effect of Peter's boldness on the council?


14. What does this show as to the preacher's power, and what heresy here pointed out?


15. What the two extreme positions with regard to this subject? Illustrate.


16. What the force of Peter's answer? Give the Virginia illustration.


17. What may always be the challenge of the people of God? Illustrate.


18. What the result of the deliberation of this inquisition before the Sanhedrin?


19. What was Peter's great reply to their threatening?


20. Why did the Sadducees stop at a threat?


21. How did Peter and John and the church respond to the injunction not to preach, and to the threat if they should preach?


22. What prophecy was here fulfilled as indicated by their prayer?


23. What were the results to the church in this first issue with the Sadducees?


24, What illustrious man comes to the front and, as an example of this, what benevolence?


25. What awful judgment at this juncture, and what the three viewpoints of the case?


26. What was the effect of this judgment (1) on the church, (2) on the hypocrites, and (3) on outsiders?


27. What is notable in the apostles now, and to what prayer is 5:12 an answer?


28. In what did Peter's power find a climax?


29. What sermon of the author here cited?


30. How did the Sadducees again take up the challenge, and what was the result?


31, What ended the Sadducean persecution, and how did it end?


32. Why the failure of all Sadducean opposition and persecution, and what illustration from our Lord's time?


33. What the story of the Pope and the visitor, and what the important lesson of this incident in Arts to us?


34. What great example of homiletics in this connection, and how does it rank with his other recorded sermons?

 

35. What, according to Carlyle, are the prerequisites to a great oration, and how do the occasion and Peter measure up to these prerequisites in his event?


36. Give complete analysis of Peter's sermon here.


37. What can you say of the earthquake of Acts 4:31?


38. What false doctrine founded on Acts 4:32, and how does the author refute it?


39. What does the passage really prove, and how is this further evidenced?


40. Explain Acts 4:4.


41. Explain Acts 5:28.


42. What greater realization was just ahead of these Jews?

 

 

XI

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE OFFICE OF DEACON, THE PHARISAIC PERSECUTION, STEPHEN AND SAUL TO THE FRONT, A NEW ISSUE, AND THE REJECTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE ANOINTED CHURCH BY JERUSALEM

Acts 6:1 to 8:3.

 

So far in the book of Acts we have considered two leading thoughts: (1) the coming of the Holy Spirit to occupy and to accredit the church; (2) the Sadducean persecution, waged on account of the issue made by the church and the Holy Spirit that Christ was risen from the dead. The topics of discussion in this chapter are very important. We have already noted that the protracting of the great revival commenced at Pentecost (which really lasted three and a half years), detained, in the Holy City, multitudes of the Jews of the dispersion for so long a time that great necessity arose, which was met by a burst of philanthropy never surpassed in the world's history.


Our first topic is the creation of the office of deacon. The church was composed of Hebrews and Hellenists, or Grecians. The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews, speaking the mixed Hebrew tongue, called Aramaic, and were generally more rigid than the Hellenists in devotion to all the rites and traditions of the past.


The problem of fairly distributing the benevolent fund of the church to all the needy ones now confronted the church. There came up a complaint on the part of the Grecians, that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. That was the problem. It would not do to have the church divided on a matter of that kind, and there had to be a solution of that problem. The solution was that the apostles ordered the church as a whole to select a body of men who should attend to this financial, or secular matter; and that they would then be ordained to the work by prayer and the laying on of hands. The church thereupon elected seven men, calling them from among the Grecians, the parties from whom the complaint came, and these seven men took charge of this matter and relieved the apostles from having to consider the temporalities when all their energies should be devoted to preaching the Word. That was the solution of the problem.


Let us connect and explain the following: Acts 2:45, where they had everything common, and out of that common fund provided for all the necessitous cases of the entire congregation; 4:35, where Barnabas and others sold their possessions and put the proceeds of the sale into this common fund; 6:1, where complaint arose about the fairness in the distribution of this fund; 11:29 and 12:25, where a contribution was made for the purpose of aiding the poor saints in Jerusalem; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, where Paul says, "As I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store . . . that no collections be made when I come," this fund to be sent to Judea to help the poor saints; 2 Corinthians 8-9, which is devoted to the same subject; and I Timothy 5:3-11, where Paul instructs Timothy, who was then at Ephesus, as to what kind of widows to receive on this beneficiary list.


My object in grouping these scriptures is to show more clearly than heretofore in what respect they had "all things common" – that it was with regard to the necessity. Those who had abundance either gave money, or sold their property and got money, and put it into a common fund, and that fund had to be distributed among all of the necessitous cases, according as each had need.


When you study this account all the way through the New Testament, you will see that it did not approximate in meaning what the Socialists now claim for it; that it did not mean that all of the property was to be common, but that all should participate according to the ability, to create a fund common to the necessity.


We have here the lesson in church polity, that though the apostles themselves were present, the election of officers must be by the church, being congregational in form and polity, and every member of the church, male and female, being entitled to an equal vote in matters that related to the congregation. We have already found the same thing in the election of the successor to Judas. Here again it is made perfectly plain that even the twelve men, inspired of God, did not assume to elect officers of the church. They directed the church to do the electing, and they participated in the ordination. This was the institution of the deacon's office referred to in Philippians 1:1, where Paul writes to the bishops and deacons, and whose qualifications are set forth in I Timothy 3:8-13.


The philosophic ground on which this institution rests is the division of labor. An Old Testament parallel is Jethro's suggestion to Moses to appoint judges to judge the small matters, and let him (Moses) judge only of matters God-ward. In Christ's time, Judas exercised the deacon's office. That college of apostles was a church in embryo, and Judas, one of the twelve, carried the bag, with the result that he extracted from it its contents. "He was a thief," John says. We may well ask another question: Is there a failure when the preacher exercises the deacon function, and was that the reason for now putting this temporal matter into the bands of laymen?


A preacher can dip a brush In lampblack and swab out all the white in his reputation, if he goes wrong on the use of church funds.


I knew a preacher who wanted all the time to be deacon as well as pastor; he kept all the funds, and there was a great row at the final examination of his financial accounts.


The Methodists and the Romanists both hold that a deacon is an order of the clergy. It cannot be that it was intended to institute a new order in the ministry, for the reason assigned: "We cannot leave the word of God and serve tables; therefore, look ye out brethren from among you, suitable men, to attend to this, and we will give ourselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer." That makes it perfectly plain that they were not intending to create a new order of preachers, but secular officers to attend to the temporalities of the church.


I heard a sermon by a great Mississippi Baptist preacher, S. S. Lattimore, father of J. C. Lattimore, of Waco, and 0. S. Lattimore, of Fort Worth. The subject was, "We Cannot Leave the Word of God to Serve Tables," and the position he took was that the deacon is elected to serve tables: (1) The tables of the poor. (2) The table of the Lord's Supper. (3) The table of the pastor. I thought it a very ingenious division of the table question.


If, then, it was not intended to create a new order in the ministry, what about the preaching of two of these deacons – Stephen and Philip? The explanation is that deacons sometimes become preachers. Two of these seven did. We see such things happen now, but they were not elected to the office of preacher in this case (Acts 6:1-6).


The present classifications in the ministry are: (1) pastors, meaning shepherds; bishops, meaning overseers of the work, which refers to the same office; pastors or bishops are those that have charge of the church; (2) evangelists, or kingdom preachers; (3) missionaries. A missionary may not necessarily be an evangelist. Those can hardly be called different orders in the ministry – that is, one is not higher than the other; it is not a graded thing, but it is a classification.


Some people are concerned to know whether a deacon should be a married man and a father. I will say that is better, but I would not consider it absolutely necessary. We certainly cannot infer it from the passage that is usually quoted: "Likewise their wives . . . grave." The word does not mean "wives," i.e., the wives of deacons, but it means "deaconesses." It is better that these men be men of rich religious character and experience, and possessing the confidence of the denomination, as they are going to handle public funds.


The result of the solution of this problem which confronted the church is found in Acts 6:7: "The word of God increased, and multitudes were converted." There are certain essential elements of the rite or ceremony of ordination indicated here: (1) election by the church; (2) prayer; (3) laying on of hands. Those three things belong to the rite, or the ceremony, or ordination.


These remarks have been preliminary. We now advance in the discussion. A new man came to the front at this time, and his character and work rendered him prominent, not only then, but in all ages since. That man was Stephen, and the character of his work was as follows. The record states (1) that he was full of the Holy Spirit; (2) that he was full of faith; (3) that he wrought miracles and wonders. When it says that he was full of faith, it means that he had a clearer and stronger faith than any other man then living on the earth. No one of the apostles had such clear recognition of the meaning of the kingdom of God and of the church and of the work of the church as this man Stephen. He is the colossal figure in the history of the early church. He presented a new matter to the people which it took the apostles a long time to see.


In 6:9 we find a synagogue and some other terms of the verse that need explanation. This was a Jewish synagogue, not for resident Jews, but for Jews of the dispersion, who stayed for a long time in Jerusalem, and as they did not understand the Hebrew language, the ordinary Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem did not benefit them much, so it is called (1) the synagogue of the "Libertines" (Freedmen); (2) "Cyreneans and Alexandrians" – Jews from northern Africa, where they had been settled by one of the Ptolemies; (3) "Cilicia and Asia," the home of Saul; a great many Cilician Jews were in that synagogue. It is implied in their making an issue with Stephen that Stephen himself, being a Grecian, being one of the dispersed Jews, and better able to speak to that class than to the Hebrews, was pushing, particularly among these dispersed Jews, the grand thoughts concerning the kingdom of God that he bore in his own mind. He was very aggressive; he carried the war into the enemy's territory. Saul of Tarsus was probably the rabbi of this synagogue. He was educated first at home, then he was graduated in their theological school, of which Gamaliel was president, and became a rabbi, and was of this particular synagogue.


The method of resistance to the gospel now adopted by this synagogue, which was entirely new, was to debate the question. There had been no debate heretofore. The Sadducees did not try to debate with them. This young man, Saul, was a trained thinker, speaker and logician, and he did not propose to let this thing go without "tackling" it in debate. So there was a challenge for debate. Stephen was making certain points, and he was making them among these Grecian people. Still young and ambitious, he had his fire; he believed confidently in his ability to beat any man in -the world. They put it up to him to debate the question. And this is the new method of resistance. The two opposing were the rabbi of this synagogue, and Stephen, who was pushing war over into that synagogue. I would like to have heard the discussion. I am sure it was a fight of the giants.


The issue now is not the resurrection of the dead, but on the whole of the old dispensation having served its purpose; it is vanishing and a new dispensation takes its place. Many of the things in the old dispensation were nailed to the cross of Christ. Their great Temple is now an empty house; its veil is rent in twain from top to bottom; a new temple has been anointed, according to the prophet Daniel, in chapter 9 – the anointing of the most holy place – the Holy Spirit coming down and filling the house that Jesus built, leaving the other house vacant. Everything in connection with that system that is local and transitory has vanished away. In other words, Stephen was making right there in that debate just exactly the argument that is made in the letter to the Hebrews that in the new dispensation is a greater than Moses, a greater than the angels, a greater than Joshua, a greater than Aaron. That a greater sacrifice than the bullocks, sheep, and goats, offered on Jewish altars, had been offered. There is then the new temple, the new Sabbath also, everything new now; just what the letter to the Hebrews discusses. This is the issue that Stephen made that this Jesus is the one pointed out by Moses and by the prophets as the true Messiah. That is the forward step taken by Stephen.


The result of the debate is given in 6:10: "And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spake." They could not resist the power of his eloquence, and Saul went down in the fight. A deaf man was once asked why he attended a big debate, since he could not hear. He said he could always tell which side got whipped. "Why?" he was asked. "Because the one that gets whipped gets mad." So Saul, failing in this new method of resistance by discussion, revived an old one, an account of which we find in 6:11-14. They took up that old "rusty sword of persecution" that the Sadducees had tried. They took this thing into the courts, and brought the power of the council to bear on it, and decided this matter dogmatically.


When they arrested Stephen and tried him before the Sanhedrin there were three charges, and that shows what he had been preaching:


(1) Their witnesses testified that this man Stephen had spoken blasphemous words about their Temple. I have no doubt that Stephen said it was an empty house that had served its day – that it was only waiting a short time until it would be blotted out from the earth, and one stone would not be left upon another – that it was never to be erected again, never to have the altar of sacrifices again. That is the first charge, and we see how plausible they made it.


(2) That he spoke against the law. I have no doubt that they made plausible proof on that, and yet it was false. He did not speak against the law, but just as Christ said: "I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil it" – that the law in all of its types and shadows and ritual had been completed, filled full, and there was no more use for it; that there was a new law, calling for a different Sacrifice, calling for a different Priest.


(3) That he preached that so far as the customs taught by Moses were typical and ritualistic, and pertaining to a past dispensation, they would be changed. I have no' doubt that he stood there and preached that the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles was broken down and ground to powder. And he had more faith in that than any other man of his time. His appearance and bearing before the Sanhedrin were marvelous. He did not look like a guilty man; he did not look scared. When they looked steadfastly at him they saw a face illumined – a face like the face of an angel. The Lord God was the light of his countenance. The light and glory of God was in his eye. He stood there as a king among men. He did not come in like a whipped cur, begging pardon for existence or appealing for pity.


Let us analyze his defense, and especially make clear his charge against them. The defense corresponds to the charge in its three partsω6:13-14. It shows that the Jews misunderstood their own scriptures, which distinctly showed the transitory nature of the old dispensation. He submits his proof: (a) That Moses foretold the coming of a Prophet like unto himself, whose teaching should be final, (b) The prophets foretold the same thing, (c) The tabernacle of Moses was temporary, and succeeded by the Temple, (d) That God had left the old Temple, since he dwelleth in a temple not made with hands. Stephen was preaching a temple not made with hands – the church – every stone in this new temple being a living stone, or a converted man or woman, (e) That all through the probations of their history they had rejected the definitely appointed leaders. They had rejected Moses; they had rejected God; they had rejected the prophets; they had rejected the Lord himself, when he came in fulfilment of the prophecy of Moses; and now, to cap the climax, they were rejecting the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent from heaven; they were resisting the anointed church which that Spirit accredited. The effect of the defense and the charge on that Sanhedrin was terrific: "They gnashed on him with their teeth." They were "cut to the heart." The word of God was a sword in the hands of Stephen. It was living and powerful, and dividing the joints, reaching the marrow and laying bare the soul itself in its nakedness. His face was shining. One of the great painters, Rembrandt, obtained his special style by putting a halo around the face. The photographers adopt that style now, in which the face is flooded with light, and this is exhibited in the picture. We read that the face of Stephen was illumined, and looking up, far above earthly courts, he sees the heavens opened, and the heavenly court. He sees the supreme court of the universe, the glory of God, and Jesus, who is represented as seated on the right hand of God. He has leaped up to his feet. Stephen said, "I see Jesus, standing at the right hand of the majesty on high."


That vision was according to a prophecy of our Lord. When Christ had been put on oath, about three and a half years before this time, by this same Sanhedrin, having the same officers, he said (testifying under oath that he was the Messiah), "Hereafter ye shall see me at the right hand of God." They counted that blasphemy when Christ said it. Now Stephen, remembering the words of the Lord says, "I see him. He said he would appear at the right hand of God. I see him there." His appearance was his demonstration that he was the Messiah. According to what promise of the Lord? Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself." When the time of a Christian's death approaches, there is a coming of the Lord. Jesus meets him at the depot of death, and receives him into the everlasting tabernacles. Stephen, the brittle thread of his life about to be snapped in twain, and his soul to be evicted by violence from his crumbling body, says, "I see him; he is standing; he said he would come, and he has come." What was the reason of the effect on that council? It is that this vision which this man evidently saw was a plea established upon what Christ had said, and, therefore, they were affected instead of this man being affected, and though affected, yet not in love with the truth brought to light. They hated it. The greater its light the more they squirmed; the greater the light, the more they writhed in it. Just like a worm exposed to the light, they could not stand the effect of the light. So they brought in a verdict on the charge of blasphemy, and he was executed as indicated by the penalty, which was stoning. Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin and voted in rendering this verdict, the proof of which is found in Acts 8:1; 26:10: "Saul was consenting unto his death . . . when they were put to death, I gave my vote against them." But Stephen made a twofold prayer, which sustains a relation to the words and deeds of our Lord. His first prayer was, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," looking into the face of Jesus, just as we look into any man's face. Jesus was there, and as the tenement of clay was about to crumble, and the soul was about to be evicted, Stephen said, "Lord, receive my spirit." What word of Christ does he recollect? "It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." The other part of his prayer was, "Lord Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge," praying for his murderers.. Jesus made intercession for the transgressors: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." So Stephen was talking to the Lord, that he lay not this sin to their charge. Augustine said of this prayer in one of his great homilies:


Si Stephanus non sic orasset, Eccleaia Paulum non haberet.


If Stephen had not so prayed, The Church had not had Paul.


I sometimes think of that prayer and that fiery disputant who was mad because he had been defeated in the debate, and who is now a persecutor, a witness and judge, and of Stephen, looking in the face of the Saviour, and saying, "Lord, lay not this sin to Saul's charge," and then I track that prayer until I see it answered.


There is special significance in the fact that the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of Saul. He was the chief persecutor, and as the law required that the witnesses should lay aside their outer cloaks, and cast the first stone, so when they disrobed themselves of their outer cloak in order to stone Stephen, they brought their clothes and put them at the feet of this young man named Saul, showing that everything was being done under his direction and leadership.


The persecution now commenced is unlike the Sadducean persecution. It is the most sweeping transaction that the Jews ever conducted in their history. It includes that most abominable of all exercises inaugurated – inquisitorial visitation into the private home, and the dragging of men and women violently before the courts, and then when they were put to death, Saul gave his vote against them. It reached every man, every woman, and every child in the church, except the apostles, and expatriated those whom it did not select. The fire was so hot that they fled in every direction.


A distinct prophetic period here ends according to Daniel, who said that when the Messiah comes, he will confirm the covenant with many for one week; that in the middle of the week he should be cut off – that is, he would confirm it for one week of three-and-a-half years during his public ministry, and then he would confirm it three-and-a-half years after his death. This persecution of Saul is the end of the second three and-a-half years. Hereafter the salvation of the Jews is an exception; hence there will be no ingathering of the Jews until they shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." It means that the God of salvation is now shut out from their faces. But this persecution affects the church in a broader understanding of its commission. Its members see now, as I will show in a subsequent discussion, that Samaria must have the Word of God; that the Gentiles must also have it, as was seen in the forward step of this fiery Stephen, such as they had never had before, and that no apostle had up to that time. This gives Stephen a prominent place in the transition. He is a keystone figure in the transaction. He is the colossal leader that gets the church out of its rut of preaching to Jews only, and puts the wheels of the carriage of salvation on a graded road and track that will lead to every nation, tribe, tongue, and kindred in the world. Likewise Saul sustained a vital relation to this great transition. He was the man who by that debate and that persecution, just as effectually, though unconsciously, helped to spread the gospel to the whole world, as he did later when he preached it himself. Thus again the wrath of man was made to praise God.


But what of the execution of Stephen on the verdict of a Jewish court, on a Jewish charge, with a Jewish penalty, as compared with what the same Sanhedrin had said three years before to Pilate (John 18:31) of the unlawfulness of their putting a man to death? Pilate said, "Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law," and they said, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." Here they were putting a man to death, and they were trying him according to their law, and Paul says, "We tried and put to death." Here is the explanation: This was the year A.D. 37, in which Tiberius, the Emperor, died, and the new emperor had not come in, and as procurators were appointees of emperors, there were no procurators. At this juncture there was no procurator in Palestine, no Pontius Pilate, and, therefore, they took matters into their own hands at the risk of a subsequent explanation of it when the emperor should come to it. Just here the Pharisee persecution ended by the conversion of Saul, and then the church had rest (Acts 9:31).


Acts 7:2-3, 22, 25, 53 shed much light on the Old Testament. Acts 7:2-3 says, "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee." The Revised Version of Genesis indicates that God's call to Abraham took place after he got into the promised land. Stephen here says that that call came before he got to Haran. The King James Version rightly translates Genesis 12:1 and the Revised Version "slips up" on it. The Authorized Version says, "God had said to Abraham." Acts 7:22 says, "And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and works." That throws light on the education of Moses, and also on the public official deeds of Moses. Acts 7:25 says, "And he [Moses] supposed that his brethren understood that God by his hand was giving them deliverance." That throws light on the interference of Moses in Egypt, and shows that God had told him that he was to deliver Israel. He had a revelation which we do not learn from Exodus. He supposed his people understood that they were to be delivered by him. Acts 7:53 says, "Ye who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not." That is light on the Sinaitic covenant – that it came through the ministry of angels, later reaffirmed in the New Testament, accepted by Jews, and especially claimed by Josephus. Just here is needed an explanation of Acts 7:16, which says, "And they were laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for the price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem." The only explanation of that is that there is an error in the text of the copyist. Abraham did not buy that land. If we go back far enough we will see that it was Jacob's and not Abraham's; and that Jacob claimed that he got it by bow and spear. His sons, Levi and Simeon, got it by as rascally a trick as was ever perpetrated.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What the leading topics so far discussed in Acts?


2. What the themes of this chapter?


3. What the distinction between Grecians and Hebrews in Acts 6:1?


4. What problem now confronted the church, and what its solution?


5. Connect and explain the following scriptures: Acts 2:45; 4:35; 6:1; 11:29; 12:25; I Cor.16:1-14; I Cor. 8-9; and 1 Timothy 5:3-11.


6. What lesson of church polity here taught?


7. Was this the institution of the deacon's office referred to in Philippians 1:1, and whose qualifications are set forth in I Timothy 3:8-13? What the proof?


8. On what philosophic ground does this institution rest, what Old Testament parallel, who in Christ's lifetime exercised the deacon's office, and what the result?


9. Was the deaconship, now established, an order in the ministry as taught by some denominations? If not, how explain the preaching of Stephen and Philip, who were deacons?


10. What the present classifications in the ministry? Give examples.


11. Must a deacon be a married man and a father?


12. What was the result of the solution of this problem, which confronted the church?


13. What the essential elements of the rite of ordination?


14. What new man now comes to the front, and what character of his work rendered him prominent, not only then, but in all ages since?


15. Explain the synagogue of 6:9 and the other terms of the verse, and what is implied in their making an issue with Stephen?


16. Who was probably the rabbi of this synagogue?


17. What entirely new method of resistance to the gospel now adopted by this synagogue, and who were the opposing leaders?


18. What the issue this time as contrasted with the Sadducean issue, and what great forward step had been taken by Stephen which created this issue?


19. What the result of the debate?


20. Failing in this new method of resistance by discussion, what old one did they revive?


21. What charges did they bring against Stephen, and what the plausibleness of each?


22. What his appearance and bearing before the Sanhedrin?


23. Analyze his defense; especially make clear his charge against them.


24. What the effect of the defense and the charge, on the council?


25. What the vision of Stephen, what its relation to a prophecy of our Lord, also to a promise of our Lord, and what the reason of its effect on the council?


26. Did they render a verdict, and on what charge was he executed, as indicated by the penalty?


27. Was Saul a member of the Sanhedrin, did he vote in casting this verdict, and what the proof?


28. What Stephen's twofold prayer, and what its relation to the words and deeds of our Lord?


29. What said Augustine of this prayer in one of his great homilies?


30. What the significance of the witnesses laying their clothes at the feet of Saul?


31. What the sweeping persecution that followed, what its signification, what its character, what its extent, and what its result?


32. What distinct prophetic period ends here, and what its meaning to the Jewish nation?


33. How did this persecution affect the church with reference to the commission?


34. What may be said of Stephen's relation to this great transition?


35. What was Paul's relation to it?


36. Compare the execution of Stephen on the verdict of a Jewish court, on a Jewish charge, with a Jewish penalty, with what the same Sanhedrin had said three years before to Pilate, and explain.


37. How did the Pharisee persecution end?


38. What light on the Old Testament from Acts 7:2-3?


39. What light also from 7:22?

 

40. What from 7:25?


41. What from 7:53?


42. Harmonize Acts 7:14 with Gen. 46:26f; Ex. 1:5; Deut. 10:22.


43. Explain Acts 7:16.


44. Explain the word "church" in Acts 7:38.

 

 

XII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

PHILIP TO THE FRONT
Acts 8:4-40; 21:8-9.

 

You will find in the four lists of the twelve apostles the name of Philip (see Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14f; Acts l:13f). Was the Philip we are to discuss here, Philip, the deacon of Acts 6:5, or was he Philip, the apostle, and what the proof? My answer is: (1) In 8:1 it is declared that in the persecution conducted by Saul of Tarsus, all of the congregation was scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles, and these latter were not scattered; (2) Acts 8:14 locates the apostles still at Jerusalem when they heard of Philip's work in Samaria; (3) 8:40 carries this Philip to Caesarea; (4) 21:8-9 shows that many years later he was still living at Caesarea where he entertained Paul, and expressly declares that he was one of the seven deacons. I submit this circumstantial proof of identity because Romanist traditions confound him with Philip the apostle, just as they confound James (Acts 15:13) and Jude (Jude 1), half-brothers of our Lord, with the apostles – James, the son of Alpheus (Luke 6:15), and Judas, the brother of James (Luke 6:16). The scriptures concerning this Philip are Acts 6:5; 8:4-13; 8:26-40; 21:8-9, which show that he was a Hellenistic Jew, and that he is said to have had four daughters who prophesied.


It is well just here to locate on a map the Azotus of Acts 8:40 and trace a line to Caesarea. Gaza is near to Azotus, the most southern of the Palestinian cities on the Mediterranean coast, and going up that coast to Caesarea, straight up the coast line, you have the line of Philip's travels, and the cities in which he preached. On this same line are Lydda (9:32) and Joppa (9:36). This shows that Philip's work probably led to Christ the disciples whom Peter found at these two cities.


In Acts 10:37 Peter declares that Cornelius, the centurion at Caesarea, already knew the word published about our Lord. It is quite probable that through Philip's preaching at Caesarea he had obtained some of the knowledge which prepared him to receive Peter, as he is the only preacher that we know of at that time preaching in Caesarea.


Now, trace a line on the map from Tyre through Ptolemais to Caesarea. Tyre is in Phoenicia, the northern part of the Mediterranean coast of Judea. Going from Tyre south of Caesarea, an intervening seaport between Tyre and Caesarea is Ptolemais. It is probable that the congregations at Tyre and Ptolemais found by Paul (Acts 21:3-8) were established by Philip. If we connect Acts 2:17-18 (Joel's prophecy), that on the handmaidens should the Spirit of God be poured out, with 21:9, "Philip had four daughters who prophesied," and Mark 16:17-18, and connect, "These signs shall follow them that believe," with Acts 2:43, which tells us that the apostles gave many signs and wonders, with 8:7, where Philip works miracles, it is evident that both Philip and his daughters had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


With these facts and probabilities before us, let us give a summary" of the scriptural history of the life and labors of Philip. He was a Hellenistic Jew, attending the Passover at which our Lord was crucified; was in the great audience addressed by Peter on the day of Pentecost (2:5-11); was converted, with his daughters, and all received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and were well-known factors in all the marvelous history of that series of great meetings, lasting for three-and a-half years, recorded in Acts 2:5 to 8:4. Being well known to all the multitude of the disciples, he was by them elected to the office of deacon, and was second of the seven. But when the persecution of Saul ended the great series of meetings, dispersed the congregation, and thereby left no deacon's work to do, he became an evangelist, and boldly carried the gospel to the Samaritans, as our Lord himself had done (John 4), and under Spirit-guidance went into the desert near Gaza, and led the Ethiopian treasurer, a Jewish proselyte, to Christ, through which convert, according to history and tradition, Ethiopia was evangelized. Then, under the same Spirit-guidance, he carried the gospel to the whole Mediterranean coast of Judea, from Azotus to Tyre, establishing congregations at Saroaria; Peter following him at Lydda, Sharon, Joppa, and Azotus, Lydda, Sharon, Joppa, Caesarea, Ptolemais, and Tyre, thus influencing the tides of commerce and merchants that through these great seaports reached all the western world.


The remarkable things in these labors are: (1) He commenced at the important city of Samaria, on the great northern thoroughfare from Jerusalem to Galilee, Damascus, and the Euphrates. (2) Then near Gaza on the great thoroughfare from Jerusalem to Africa. (3) Then the coast line of the Mediterranean, whose seaports were the starting points of the sea thoroughfares over which travel and commerce reached northern Africa, Asia Minor, and all Europe. (4) With headquarters at Caesarea, the Roman capital of the East, he was in touch with all the thought, official power, and intercommunication of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world. (5) The selection of these strategical positions was not accidental, but Spirit-guided in every instance; so we see from the record that he was to be the forerunner of the Jerusalem apostles and of Paul, Peter, and John following him to the city of Caesarea; Paul following him at Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea. (6) He was the first, after our Lord himself, to openly carry the gospel to the Samaritans, thus breaking down the wall of partition that had stood between Jews and Samaritans since Assyria conquered and led away into captivity the ten tribes, and repeopled the city of Samaria with aliens, and put over the country captive priests that established a rival worship to Jerusalem (2 Kings 17:23-24), which later, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, and persisted in hostility and alien worship until the days of our Lord (John 4:9-26). The hostility that had stood that long, all through these centuries of strife, was now broken down by the preaching of Philip in that city of Samaria.


His position in the spread of the kingdom is between Stephen and Paul in understanding that in Christ there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, bondmen, nor freemen, "but Christ is all in all"; he stands between Stephen and Paul in following worldwide lines of evangelization. Just here we are interested to know what were the themes of Philip's preaching in Samaria.


The record says that he preached Christ unto them (8:5); and he preached unto them concerning the kingdom of God in the name of Christ. These themes indicate that Jesus died to save Samaritans, and that the kingdom of heaven was intended to include Samaritans. The record also says that demons were cast out, and malignant diseases cured as signs of this man's preaching. Then followed a most remarkable result. When those of the city of Samaria understood that Christ had died for them, and that they were included in the scope of the kingdom of heaven, and this was attested by such remarkable signs, then they all were of one accord, giving attention to the preaching of Philip, "And there was much joy in the city" (8:8).


For a long time there had been a man in Samaria named Simon, a magician, or sorcerer, who dominated Samaria, and who claimed to have the great power of God. He had bewitched these people by his sorcery, so that they held him in regard as the messenger of God in their city. No doubt the bewitching by sorcery included all of these magical arts and tricks of legerdemain, and even pseudomiracles, in order to attest him, so that the city of Samaria, when Philip reached it, was thus full of malignant forms of diseases. It was demon-possessed, diseased and deluded by sorcery.


In this connection we notice that Acts 8:12 says that those who had been subject to Simon, when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, were baptized, both men and women. You learn from that, that faith must precede baptism, and, therefore, subjects of baptism must be people able to repent and believe and hence they are here said to be men and women. From 8:13 we learn that a mere demagogue, when the crowd won't follow him, will follow the crowd. When Simon's flock all left him, he jumped over the fence.


There are some exceedingly fine lessons concerning Simon Magus that will come out in the next chapter; so I gather just this one here. Later we will take up this theme: "The apostles following Philip." Then we will consider Simon Magus in connection with Peter. The only lesson to which I call attention here is that when the true miracles of God come in touch with pseudomiracles, they show up the pseudomiracles. Simon saw that Philip had a power which he did not possess, and that when the crowd left him he followed the crowd, and. was filled with wonder at these signs of Philip – they were so different from his, so manifestly genuine, so much more to the point, while his were so manifestly demerited in their intent – just as when Paul came to a certain island there was a sorcerer, Elymas, who dominated the island and influenced the government, but he was rebuked and smitten with blindness by Paul, and sorcery gave way before the power of the gospel. Just as in the city of Ephesus, the people who had been deluded by books of magic, when the true gospel of Jesus Christ came in conflict with it, the magic was abandoned and their books piled on the street, though very costly, and made into a bonfire, whose sparks ascended to the skies, announcing the triumph of the word of God over the delusions of Satan.

 

PHILIP AND THE EUNUCH – ACTS 8


The great moral lessons of this section are the following:


(1) God sometimes calls men from preaching to crowds in a city to preaching to one man in a lonely place. Just so we trace Philip. There, in that big meeting in Samaria, he receives a call to pass Jerusalem by, going down into the desert a strange direction of God. When he gets there his audience is just one man.


(2) Men sometimes get less from a heterodox and hypocritical Jerusalem than from a wayfarer in a desert place. This treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia was a proselyte, not a Jew, but a proselyte to the Jews. He had been attending the great feasts in Jerusalem, and was now returning. He found no light in Jerusalem. He had made a long trip, and out there on his way back he meets a solitary man in the desert and gets light and life and salvation from him.


(3) The third moral lesson is that the conversion of one man may revolutionize a nation. There are more results abiding today from this desert meeting of two men than from the great meeting in the city of Samaria. History tells us that this man, after his conversion, being so influential, became a preacher of the gospel in his own country, Ethiopia, which answers to Abyssinia of the present day; that the whole country was brought to Christ through this man, and in Abyssinia today there is more religion than there is in Samaria where this big meeting was, and it is a purer religion. So God understood what he was doing.


Once a pastor preached a sermon somewhat on that line on Sunday, and a man in the audience was greatly distressed at heart, and it seemed that it would be a great difficulty to get him to move away from a great position of usefulness to loneliness. He came back from hearing the sermon saying, "Maybe God wants me to lead somebody to Christ like that Ethiopian eunuch," and he may revolutionize a nation.


(4) There is much profit in an inquirer's study of God's Word. This was a very sincere man. He did not go to Jerusalem except for religious purpose; and driving along, back home in his chariot he was reading God's Word. What great good comes to a man from a study of God's Word!


(5) Where one wants to understand, and is in desperate earnestness about it, an interpreter will be found. You may rest assured that in your study of God's Word, when you come to matters that you cannot explain, if you really want to understand them – if you are desperately in earnest about them – God is sure to bring you somebody that can explain every case of perplexity.


(6) The docile spirit will receive instruction from any competent source. This man had the teachable spirit. Here he is accosted by a stranger: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And he said, "How can I, except some one shall guide me?" "And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him," whereupon this traveler climbed up into his chariot to expound that passage of God's Word.


(7) The next moral lesson is that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. He was reading a prophecy, and the place where he read was this: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth.


(8) The next lesson is that from any text in the Bible the shortest road leads to Jesus Christ. Philip took that very scripture which was puzzling this man, and showed him that the shortest road from that scripture would bring him to the very same Jesus Christ that he was reading about in that scripture. He is the lamb, the sheep, which openeth not his mouth. This was Jesus, as thus fixed by the Spirit of interpretation, and shows the deep significance of that famous fifty third chapter of Isaiah.


(9) When one is converted he seeks to obey. The eunuch says, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" In other words, he says, "You preached Christ to me; I have taken him. Why not let me obey Christ right now? Why wait till I get back home?"


Here the question arises, Why could not the Jews at Jerusalem expound Isaiah 53?


This eunuch was up there, where were priests, rabbis, and all the Jewish people of Judea. Why could not they tell him what the prophet meant? The answer is that the Jews believed only those prophecies to be messianic that spake of the conquests of the Messiah, and as making the Jews the nation of the world. They refused to attribute to him the humiliating passages – those that told of his suffering and of his death. Some Jews even said that there had to be two Messiahs – one the great leading Messiah that was to be the great king of the dews, this conqueror of the world – and the other a Messiah of suffering.


This passage has a bearing on the act, subject, and administrator of baptism. The passage says that they got down from the chariot and that they both went down into the water, and that Philip baptized him, and that they came up out of the water. That certainly has a very decisive bearing on the "act" of baptism, as to what it is. In the preceding verse, when the eunuch said, "What binders me from being baptized?" Philip replied, "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest." That means that it is not lawful unless one believes with all his heart. But it is very doubtful indeed whether verse 37 is a part of the text; it is certainly not in the oldest manuscripts. It was doubtless first written on the margin by some copyist and afterward got into the text.


Alexander Carson said that it was impossible for man or Satan to keep this witness from saying that immersion is baptism. Then he said that a fool once followed a wagon all the way from Glasgow to Edinburg to see if the hind wheel would ever catch up with the fore wheel. "That fool," he said, "had an errand in all that long journey, though a fool's errand, but whoever will take both the baptizer and the baptized down into the water for the purpose of sprinkling him has not even a fool's errand."


Old Dr. Fisher, with whom I had a debate in Waco, and also at Davilla in Milam County, in commenting on this passage, said, "If Philip preached an immersion sermon he had a sprinkling text," and quoted from Isaiah 53: "He shall sprinkle many nations." I replied by saying that the word "sprinkle" in that scripture, meant astonish, or startle, and proved it by the scholarship of the world, and that the word in Greek was thaumazo: "So shall he astonish many nations," and that it was evident by the very word astonish, which also is implied from the context: "Like as many were astonished at thee [his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men], so shall he startle [or astonish] many nations." That was my reply to him.


It may here be asked, Was the baptism of the eunuch authoritative as to the administrator? If so, why cannot a deacon baptize now? This deacon, Philip, was the evangelist at this time, and not a deacon. He had become a preacher. I have known deacons to become preachers, and I have known, in some cases, a good deacon to be spoiled to make a mighty poor preacher, but it was not so in this case.


Philip went ahead and prepared the way under God, for the apostles. We have already seen that after he baptized the eunuch he was found at Azotus, and then it is said that he preached in all the cities up the coast to Caesarea, among which were Lydda and Joppa, which Peter afterward visited and found a congregation already there, just as he had followed Philip into Samaria. He never thought to go to Samaria himself to preach, but when he heard that Philip had reached there, he and John went over to look into it. So he followed Philip to Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea; and we see from chapter 21 that Paul, returning from a foreign missionary tour, stops at Tyre, finding a congregation, and at Ptolemais, also finding a congregation, and at Caesarea, where he found another congregation. Paul also stopped at the house of Philip, the evangelist. It is astonishing how that after the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, the pressure generally took hold of the people. They went everywhere preaching the word. They carried the gospel to Samaria, to Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, Ptolemais, Tyre, Phoenicia) and Antioch. They are the ones that changed the tone of the preaching from Jews only, to Gentiles as well, and the apostles could hardly keep up following. They were getting there after these men had broadened the lines, lengthened the cords, and strengthened the stakes.


In 8:26-29 it is said that the angel and the Spirit spoke to Philip, and, in 8:39, the Spirit caught away Philip. Now, how did the angel and the Spirit thus deal with Philip? Doubtless the angel of the Lord spake to Philip in a vision; doubtless the Spirit of the Lord spake to Philip by an inside impression, and doubtless the Spirit of God moved on Philip powerfully to go to a new place.

 

QUESTIONS

1. Was the Philip of this section the Philip of Acts 6:5, the deacon, or the apostle Philip? What the proof?


2. Why submit this circumstantial proof of identity?


3. Group in order the scriptures concerning Philip.


4. From these scriptures was he probably a Hebrew Jew or a Hellenist Jew?


5. What do we know of his family?


6. Locate on the map the Azotus of Acts 8:40, and trace a line to Caesarea.


7. Are Lydda (9:32) and Joppa (9:36) on this line?


8. Then whose work probably led to Christ the disciples whom Peter found at these two cities?


9. In Acts 10:37 Peter declares that Cornelius, the centurion at Caesarea, already knew the word published about our Lord. Is it probable that through Philip's preaching at Caesarea he had obtained some of the knowledge which prepared him to receive Peter?


10. Trace a line on map from Tyre through Ptolemais to Caesarea.


11. Connect Acts 2:17-18, Joel's prophecy that on the handmaidens shall the Spirit of God be poured out, with 21:9, "Philip had four daughters who prophesied," and Mark 16:17-18, and connect "These signs shall follow them that believe" with Acts 2:43, which tells that the apostles did many signs and wonders, with 8:7 where Philip works miracles, and then state the relation of Philip and his family to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.


12. With these facts and probabilities before us, what is a summary of the scriptural history of the life and labors of Philip?


13. What the remarkable things in these labors?


14. What then is his position in the spread of the kingdom?


15. What were the themes of Philip's preaching in Samaria?


16. What do these themes indicate?


17. How was this preaching attested?


18. What was the remarkable result?


19. Who at this time dominated Samaria, and how, and what is meant by sorcery?


20. What lesson do we gather from 8:12 on the relation between faith and baptism, and consequently on the subjects of baptism?


21. What lesson do we gather from 8:13 which says, that when the crowd left him, Simon also believed and was baptized, and followed Philip, wondering at the miracles that he wrought?


22. What are the great moral lessons of this section?


23. Why could not the Jews at Jerusalem expound Isaiah 53?


24. What is bearing of this passage on the act & subject of baptism?


25. What said Alexander Carson of this passage?


26. What about that verse 37: "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest?"


27. What said a Methodist preacher about this?


28. Was the baptism of the eunuch authoritative as to the administrator? If so, why cannot a deacon baptize now?


29. Show how Philip went ahead and prepared the way under God for the apostles?


30. Explain how the angel and the Spirit spoke to Philip (26, 29), and how the Spirit caught away Philip (39).

 

 

XIII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE GENERAL SUPERINTENDENCE OF THE APOSTLES OVER THE WORK OUTSIDE OF JERUSALEM, THE SAMARITANS WELCOMED INTO THE KINGDOM, ETC.

Acts 8:14-26; 9:26-12:25 with Galatians 1:18-20.

 

The scope of this section extends from 8:14 to the end of chapter 12, omitting the Philip section, which we have discussed; also omitting the Paul section, which will be discussed later. The time covered by it lies between the dates A.D. 34-44; so I am discussing about ten years of history in this chapter. The great themes of the section are: (1) The general superintendence of the apostles over the work outside of Jerusalem, Peter leading. (2) The Samaritans formally welcomed into the kingdom, and receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the case of Simon, the sorcerer. (3) Superintendence of the apostles continued, Peter following up the work of Philip on the Mediterranean coast. (4) Peter leading, the door of the kingdom opened to the Gentiles at Caesarea, and their baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). (5) Should Jewish Christians eat and socially dwell with uncircumcised Christians? (11:1-18). (6) The first blended church – Jew and Gentile – and the name, "Christian." (7) The Herodian persecution (Acts 12).


The passages showing apostolic superintendence of the kingdom of God outside Jerusalem are: (1) Acts 8:14. "When the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John"; (2) 9:32: "And . . . as Peter went throughout all parts, he came down also to the saints that dwelt at Lydda," and then follows this Mediterranean coast business, where he goes over Philip's ground; (3) 11:22 shows that at this time the church, not the apostles, when it heard that the Grecians had received the kingdom at Antioch, sent unto them Barnabas. These passages indicate general apostolic superintendence. Any apostle, by himself, or apostles by themselves, or by point act, might authoritatively supervise any work in any part of the kingdom of God, but they had no successors.


Great advance is indicated by the reception of Samaritans into the kingdom of God. You have only to go back into history to see the fact of the hostility of the Jew against the Samaritan. When the ten tribes revolted, and Samaria was made their capital and leader, the ten tribes were conquered by the king of Assyria and led into captivity, and the cities of Samaria were repeopled by an alien element, brought from beyond the Euphrates. This element intermarried with the resident poor of the Jews that were left of the ten tribes, and the king of Assyria sent back a captive priest to establish a religious headquarters for them. So they built a temple in Samaria on Mount Gerizirn, and claimed to be the true successor to Moses. They retained the Pentateuch in a corrupt form, and still have it. They said, "It is in this mountain and not in Jerusalem that you should go to worship." Therefore, if the Jew was moving south, which indicated he was going to Jerusalem to worship, they would not receive him into their houses. They even refused to receive Christ when he came that way) but they would welcome him if he came from Jerusalem. This hostility became so bitter in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah that the Samaritans endeavored to frustrate the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In John 4 we read that the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Therefore, if the Samaritans, through the bold preaching of Philip, received the word of God, and if such apostles as Peter and John go there and confirm and ratify that work, a moving of the fence is indicated.


The record says, "And Simon also himself believed; and being baptized, he continued with Philip." Those who believe in apostasy, like our Campbellites and Methodist brethren, insist that he was converted, just like everybody else, and was baptized, and fell from grace. The argument on the other side is this: There is a belief which is not faith. It is an intellectual acceptance of the proposition, but not a heart reception of it; and as a proof that this man was not at heart a Christian, Peter says to him, "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee." Simon believed, as a great many other people believe and are received into the church. Ostensibly they are all right; preachers cannot read their hearts. Profession of faith is made; it may be a credible profession, too, but after circumstances will develop that there was no true reception of, and reliance on, the Lord Jesus Christ. So I hold that Simon Magus was not a Christian. It is not probable that he repented afterward and was saved. He was guilty of the sin against the Holy Spirit. He offered to purchase the power, that on whomsoever he laid his hands, they might receive the Holy Spirit, and he would have the power of working miracles. He tried to buy the power of the kingdom of God, and it was a sin against the Holy Spirit. Peter seems to feel it is a case like that of which John speaks: "There is a sin unto death; I do not say you should pray for it." It is an eternal sin, for which there is no forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come. He seems to have that impression on his mind when he says, "If perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee." The legal offense in medieval and modern times called "simony" is derived from this name. A man is guilty of simony when he obtains by bribery an ecclesiastical office or gift.


There are later ecclesiastical traditions concerning Simon and Peter and they are legion. Beginning even from the time of Justin Martyr, and going on for several centuries, there are legends, and the books are full of them, to this effect: (1) That Simon Magus, from the time of this meeting with Peter, hated him and determined to devote his life to blocking the gospel of God. (2) That he followed Peter to Rome, and there he claimed himself to be the Christ, and that he had the oracles of God, and Justin Martyr says that a statue was inscribed there with that legend, and that he obtained, according to this tradition, great power with the apostles. The tradition further alleges that he was the founder of that gnosticism which Paul had to combat in the Lycus Valley, and of which so much is said in my sermon before the Southern Baptist Convention in Hot Springs. Now when we receive these traditions, let us always do so with a great deal of salt. Some of the most powerful forgeries ever perpetrated in ecclesiastical history are connected with these traditions of Simon.


The Holy Spirit states that Peter went to Lydda, and there he found a certain one named Aeneas, who kept his bed eight years, and healed him; and the miracle was so astonishing that all the section of Lydda and Sharon, seeing him, turned to the Lord. While he was there at Lydda the brethren at Joppa, who had already been led to Christ through Philip, sent for him on account of the death of a most estimable woman Dorcas a woman of great charity. And when Peter got there the weeping friends exhibited the garments she had made for the poor. Peter raised her to life, and that miracle further spread the power of the gospel. From the transactions at Joppa the modern "Dorcas" societies get their name.


The case of Peter and Cornelius has many great texts and lessons: (1) Cornelius, the man, was captain of a hundred in a Roman band, part of the real bodyguard of the emperor. (2) He was a religious man, doubtless what the Jews called "a proselyte of the gate," not circumcised, but a man who prayed to God always, and gave much alms to the people. This man, a poor Gentile of the uncircumcision, had a vision from God, telling him that his prayers and alms had come up before God as a memorial. They had not yet reached their consummation. He was not a saved man yet, but they were gone up as a memorial. That showed that he was near the kingdom of God, and also showed his attitude toward the kingdom. To whom the angel said, "Send men to Joppa, and fetch one Simon, who is surnamed Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside, . . . who shall speak unto thee words whereby thou shalt be saved." In other words, "You are not saved, but you are in a condition now to be saved, and this man will tell you how to be saved." This is Cornelius and his vision.


We now take the other man, Peter, as the third messenger to Cornelius. On the way, according to a Jewish custom, Peter, preaching to the cities, at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, goes up to the housetop to pray – one of the regular praying places. He prayed; he became hungry, and suddenly he saw a vision. He saw a great ark, as though it were a sheet with its four corners drawn together, making something in the shape of the ark, slowly let down from the heavens. Peter peeped over into it and saw everything that was in Noah's ark – every kind of bird, beast, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus – lions, tigers, leopards, jackals, hyenas, and every bird from the condor and eagle to a humming bird, and every snake that crawled – the horse, the rabbit, the dove, the pigeon – all mixed up together in that ark. Certainly a sight such as Peter never saw before, nor even the Roman emperors, when they gathered at their magnificent feasts the trophies of the chase from the hunting fields of the world. They never saw the multitude and the magnitude of animals that Peter saw in that ark. The lion and the lamb, and the leopard and the goat were all there together. So Cornelius said, "If it is good for me, it is good for my wife, and for my servant, and I have gathered all my household to see if you can tell us words whereby we can be saved. I would like for these people to hear, that they may be saved also."


Peter makes a confession: "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." It was high time that he was learning that. But in every nation wherever the heart hungers after union with God, after reconciliation with God, whether civilized or barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, longing for redemption, and as Paul says, "is seeking after God," God is ready to save. "I see that now, but I never saw it before," says Peter. So Peter was convinced, and preached Christω Christ for the Gentiles. Finally, as he threw the doors to the Gentiles wide open, he said, "To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins." That is a fine text. We strike the same thought in Revelation: "Whosoever will, let him come." As Peter said it, the heart of Cornelius laid hold of Christ. I will prove that presently. He then and there repented toward God and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the very words of it. He then and there received the remission of sins, and following that, received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The whole crowd of them was saved in a body, and they began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


When Peter narrated these facts to the questioning Jews, they heard it all and said, "Then hath God granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life." And recounting the facts in the great meeting, Peter described it thus: "God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us." So they repented, had faith and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The question came up before: "This is a Gentile crowd; yet, in view of these facts can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized?" In other words, "Who is going to oppose the baptism of these people with these facts before them?" And he commanded them to be baptized. That, then, is the case of Peter and Cornelius. "Whosoever" was the wide gate for the Jews on the day of Pentecost. Here we see the gate for the Gentiles opened.


Acts 11 says that Peter got into trouble, for some of the brethren rose up and said, "We hear that you went unto the Gentiles – uncircumcised men – and did eat with them and drink. We know that Gentiles ought to be Christians in order to be saved, but Jesus is the king of the Jews, and you eat with Gentiles, i.e., uncircumcised people who violate the law of Moses." Peter stated the case over again, and it was decided he had done right, but it did not stay decided, not even for Peter, not even after that great decision stated in chapter 15, where came up the whole question. There was Peter, in the presence of all the apostles, also Titus, Paul and Barnabas, and after that gathering he went to Antioch and ate with the Gentiles, as he had done with Cornelius, until certain of them came from James; then Peter drew out, and even Barnabas was overcome by their doctrine. So Paul leaped up, shook his finger in Peter's face, saying, "Thou art tearing down what thou didst once build up." (See 10:4-29, 34,43.)


Certain circumstances led to the planting of the gospel in the capital of Syria, the great city of Antioch. A crowd of brethren were going ahead of the apostles all along here. The apostles were not scattered. They first preached to the Jews only, but in chapter II it says that some of them, when they got to Antioch, preached to the Gentiles, just as Philip had done to the Samaritans, and the Gentiles here accepted and were baptized, and there, for the first time, was a blended church of Jew and Gentile, the middle wall of partition broken down, ground to powder and pulverized to dust, and God's prophets blew even the very dust away, and made thus of twain one new man in Christ Jesus, in whom is neither Greek nor Jew, nor Scythian, barbarian, bond nor free, indicating thus how it started there.


Here we find the origin of the name, "Christian." The word occurs three times in the New Testament. In chapter 11 it is said, "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." At Jerusalem they were called Jews; they were called Gentiles at Rome; but here they were called "Christians." The outsiders gave them a name in Antioch, the city which belonged to Antiochus Epiphanes – that Greek city, one of the four dependencies of the kingdom of Alexander the Great. Seeing this blending of different nationalities they said, "They are Christians, whether Jew or Greek." In Acts 26 Paul, speaking before Agrippa, the latter said, "With a little trouble you would persuade me to be a Christian," and Paul replied, "I would that not only almost but altogether you were just as I am, except these bonds." Then in I Peter 4, Peter says, "If you suffer for your own sins, bear it; you deserve that, but if you suffer as a Christian, – if affliction is put on you simply because you are a Christian, not because you have done wrong, rejoice and glorify God in it."


Campbellites of the present day quote a prophecy to the effect that this name was divinely given, God intending it to be the name of his people, and therefore, instead of calling themselves Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc., they took the God-given name, "Christian," and want us to so call them. They say that theirs is the "Christian church" and ours is only the Baptist church. That is their contention. But when Barton Stone and others raised the point, Alexander Campbell said in his book, "This name was not God-given; but given by the heathen as an expression of their conception of that blended church; the name 'disciple' is God given. Let no man among us be guilty of trying to force upon us the peculiar name of Christian." They squirm when Alexander Campbell is quoted on their name. Calling yourself a name, does not make you what that name signifies. Better wait till others bestow that name, and not usurp it. If God calls you a Christian, all right; if your neighbors give you the apostolic character, all right, but just because you say, "I am a Christian; mine is the Christian church," that does not make it so, and it is supreme folly to force a man who does not believe that they have the gospel, to continually call them Christians.


Let us compare the Revised Version text of 9:31 with the common version, and harmonize this use of the word "church" with the Baptist view. The American Version reads, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified." The Revised Version says, "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified." Baptists say you cannot use the word "church" in a provincial sense. Does not this Revised Version rendering "knock the bottom out" of this position? I say no. Why? Because at that time there was only one church. "Then had the church rest." Its members were scattered all over Judea, but later, when those scattered crowds were brought together into separate organizations, Paul says, "The churches of Judea," and Dr. Broadus endorses my position.


In chapter 12 we have the case of Herod against the church. Herod the Great was the one who sought to destroy Jesus when a baby; the record tells of his death. This is the Herod here that had Christ brought before him and crowned with thorns, and mocked him. When we come to Acts 26 we find Herod Agrippa, still a different one. You have seen the Sadducean persecution and the Pharisee persecution. You now come to the Herodian persecution – not the ecclesiastical but the governmental. The Roman appointee-power persecutes and kills James, the brother of John, and imprisons Peter, intending to put him to death. And the church got together at the house of John Mark's mother, and prayed, "0 God, spare Peter! Spare Peter!" They prayed, Herod slept, and an angel swooped down and opened the prison doors and released Peter, setting him down before the prayer meeting crowd. Peter answered their prayer by knocking at the door, at which answer they were startled, saying, "This surely must be a spirit"; the answer came quickly; when they knocked, it was opened. Then the record says that Herod made out he was God; that God struck him and the worms ate him, and the word of God waxed mighty and prevailed. It has been that way ever since. He who tries to crush the gospel and its teachings will be eaten of worms. Voltaire, Ingersoll, and finally all the higher critics, have preached the gospel's funeral, yet it is today the livest thing on God's earth, and the worms will eat the man who opposes it.


The word "Easter" occurs in the American Version of 12:4: "Intending to bring him forth to the people after Easter." The Revised Version says, "Intending after the Passover to bring him forth." So the common version says that Herod intended after Easter to bring him forth. Pious Episcopalians and Romanists use this verse of the American Version to confirm their custom of celebrating Easter, but the Greek plainly shows that "Passover" is precisely the word.


The events and factors in the great transition from a Jewish conception of the kingdom and the church, to a conception of the kingdom and church of all people, are as follows: (1) Stephen's enlarged gospel; (2) Philip's broader practice; (3) the conversion and commission of Saul of Tarsus; (4) the opening of the door of the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles (Cornelius and others) at Caesarea; (5) the blending of all together in one great church at Antioch. Thus the whole matter was accomplished.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What is the time and scope of this section, and what its several themes?


2. Cite the passages showing apostolic superintendence of the kingdom of God outside Jerusalem.


3. What great advance is indicated by the reception of Samaritans into the kingdom of God?


4. Was Simon Magus a Christian, & what the argument pro & con?


5. Is it probable that he repented afterward and was saved? If not, of what sin was he guilty?


6. What legal offense in medieval and modern times was derived from this name?


7. What the later ecclesiastical traditions concerning Simon & Peter?


8. Summarize the work of Peter in following up Philip at Lydda and Joppa.


9. What modern organizations get their name from the transactions at Joppa?


10. Summarize the case of Peter and Cornelius, telling its great texts and their lessons.


11. What the issue in the Jerusalem church over this case, how decided, and did it remain decided for Peter?


12. Recount the circumstances of planting the gospel in the capital of Syria, the great city of Antioch.


13. What was the origin, and what the New Testament usage of the name "Christian?"


14. What the Campbellite contention concerning the name, and your view of it?


15. Compare the Revised Version text of 9:31 with the common version, and harmonize this use of the word "church" with the Baptist view.


16. State the case of Herod against the church in chapter 12, and its issue, and distinguish this Herod from the others in the New Testament.


17. Explain the use of the word "Easter" in the American Version 12:4: "Intending to bring him forth to the people after Easter."


18. State, in order, the events and factors in the great transition from a Jewish conception of the kingdom and the church, to a conception of the kingdom and church of ail peoples.

 

 

XIV

 

(Return to Contents)

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO A STUDY OF PAUL

 

We now make a new start in our study of Acts, and I open the discussion with a general bibliography of Paul. Some of the most helpful books on Paul are: (1) The textbook, Goodwin's Harmony of the Life of Paul; (2) Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of Paul, which is the greatest that has been published, and no book on this line has ever equaled it; (3) Farrar's Life and Works of Paul. While Farrar is semi-infidel as to the Old Testament scriptures, and not quite so bad, but bad enough in that respect concerning the New Testament, yet his treatise on the life of Paul is wonderful, and to be highly recommended; (4) Stalker's Life and Works of Paul; (5) Malcolm McGregor's Divine Authority of Paul's Writings; (6) Monod's Five Lectures on Paul; (7) The Epic of Paul, by W. C. Wilkinson, who wrote that fine Epic of Moses, and who is great in these epics; (8) the author's two lectures, Paul, the Greatest Man in History, and The Fifth Gospel; (9) Ramsay's books on Asia Minor, and Paul's Travels; (10) Hackett on Acts; (11) Lightfoot on Galatians; (12) Luther on Galatians; (13) Smith's Bible Dictionary, article, "Paul"; (14) Paley's Horae Paulinea. I read that when I was a boy. My father had some books which would now be considered "old," but they beat anything we can get hold of today, and this is one of them. Nothing has ever been published since to equal some articles by Paley.) (16) Various commentators on Acts and Paul's letters; (17) a late but valuable book on Paul is Wilkinson's Paul and the Revolt Against Him.


The New Testament bibliography of Paul consists of: (1) Acts of the apostles; (2) Paul's letters; (3) 2 Peter 3:15-16, and (4) James 2:14-26. The New Testament passage that goes farthest back in the history of Paul is Acts 9:15: "He is a chosen vessel unto me, . . ." The next passage going back in Paul's history, is Galatians 1:15.


The following is the chronological data in the history of Paul, and probable conclusions:


1. At the first mention of his name, he is called "a young man" (Acts 7:58), and in his letter to Philemon, written during his first Roman captivity, he calls himself "Paul, the aged."


2. (a) Though a "young man" when first mentioned in the history, yet he was probably a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), which necessitated that he must be at least thirty years old. (b) He was probably rabbi of the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9, which had the debate with Stephen, and which also called for thirty years of age. (c) The high powers conferred on him by the high priest (Acts 9:2) and the Sanhedrin (22:5) argues a man of reputation and assured position. (d) Daniel 9:26-27 teaches that the Messiah would confirm the covenant with many Jews for one week, or seven years, but that he himself would be cut off in the middle of the week; so that the confirmation of the covenant with many Jews must extend three and one-half years after the Messiah's death; but this abundant confirmation with many Jews ceased with Paul's persecution and conversion. (e) But Paul was converted when Aretas was king of Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32), which reign Josephus dates. (f) From all which we may fairly conclude that Saul was about the age of our Lord.


3. (a) The outside evidence: We learn from 2 Corinthians 11:32 that Aretas was king of Damascus when Paul escaped there from after his return there from Arabia, which was about three years after his conversion; and also the date of his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian (Gal. 1:18). The Aretas date we get from Josephus. (b) The death of Herod (Acts 12) coincides with Saul's second visit to Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; 12:23-25), and Josephus gives us the date of Herod's death. (c) Galatians 2:1 fixes his third visit to Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion, which was the occasion of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), A.D. 50. (d) Paul's two years' imprisonment at Caesarea, the outgoing of Felix and the incoming of Festus (Acts 21-26) furnishes dates from Josephus and Roman historians (A.D. 61), which, with the length of the voyage to Rome, aid us to know that he reached Rome about A.D. 62 or 63.


The profit and the delight of the study of history is most enhanced when we study the character, life, and labors of a great man in a great period of time. In every such case the thoughtful and candid student discovers that a higher power has prepared the man for the times and the times for the man – a fact less apparent, though no less true, in the case of ordinary men in uneventful times. Alexander the Great scattering the Greek civilization from Macedon to the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Indus; Caesar smiting Gaul, bridging the Rhine, and crossing over to Britain; Marlborough shattering the overweening power of Louis XIV at Blenheim, Oudenarde, Ramillies, and Malplaquet; Frederick the Great triumphing at Rossbach and Leuthen; Napoleon crumbling the monarchies of Europe; Bismarck welding feeble principalities into the Germanic empire, while Von Moltke's strategy culminates at Sedan, Metz, and Paris; Columbus discovering America; the Declaration of American Independence, fruiting at Yorktown; Dewey's victory in Manila Bay, with Schley's triumph off Santiago – All these, as interpreted by the wisest students, manifest God in history as unmistakably, if not so expressly, as the call of Abraham, Moses giving the Law from Mount Sinai, Samuel establishing the School of the Prophets, David sitting on the throne of united Israel, or Ezra restoring Jerusalem and the scripture canon.


Indeed, every broad generalization of history, by its disclosure of God's purpose and man's preparation, snatches the scepter from both the uncertain hand of Chance and the relentless grasp of Fate, to put a diadem on the brow of Providence.


It did not just happen that Hebrew civilization, expressed in one word, "religion," was distributed over the world by the dispersion of the Jews, by their synagogues in every city, and by a propaganda that compassed sea and land to make one proselyte. Nor was it by mere chance that Greek civilization, expressed in one word, "culture," was next diffused throughout all the lands by conquest, colonization, trade, and language. Nor by accident did Roman civilization, expressed in the one word, "government," follow after to bind the whole world into unity. These all, and many other confluent forces, were but constituent and essential elements of that "fulness of time" in which he came, whose accusation was "written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin." Nor was it a fortuitous circumstance that Jesus of Nazareth failed to impart all his gospel to the twelve apostles, unable to receive its fulness and unprepared for its worldwide propagation. Which one of the Galilean fishermen was ever able to interpret, expound, and apply all the significance of earth's greatest tragedy, the crucifixion on Calvary, or to set forth with equal clearness and correlation the respective parts of all the participants in that tragedy?


God did not intend Christianity to be like the Jordan River, which confines its flow within a narrow channel, but he designed it to become a river of life. Christianity would have been disseminated in its gospel merely to the Jew, but for Paul. But what part had the Jew, through the Sanhedrin and Herod? What part the heathen, through Pilate's court? What part the devil, whose was the power of death and darkness? What part God, the Father? What part the Holy Spirit? What part the Son himself, and what part you and I? Were they fully prepared to answer these other burning questions:


1. Under what law was Jesus condemned – Jewish, Roman, or Divine?


2. Of what offense was he convicted – blasphemy, treason, sedition, or sin?


3. By what court was the operative sentence pronounced – the Sanhedrin, Pilate, or God?


4. What penalty was assessed – separation of soul from the body, or separation of the soul from God, or both?


5. By whom was he executed – the centurion or the Almighty?


6. Who of them could systematize the correlated doctrines deducible from this execution into an inexorable and universal plan of salvation?


7. Will this salvation be all of grace, or all of works, or of grace and works combined?


8. Was this the death of a hero, or martyr, inciting to imitation and saving by example, or was it the death of a unique substitute for sinners, vicarious and expiatory?


9. Was the fountain of salvation, unsealed by this death, to be confined in its flow within the narrow channel of a small Jewish river, losing itself in the Dead Sea, with no outlet, or must it become a river of life, whose healing tide, ever wider, deeper and more irresistible, could neither be dammed up nor turned aside by any barrier of race, color, sex, caste, or condition, until its inflow should heal all dead seas?


10. Was Christianity intended to crystallize into historic form as only one of many Jewish schools or sects, or must it become in development the world's one "image of truth beside which the Jewish remnants are only as the shapeless fragments and powdered dust struck off by the sculptor's chisel from the block of marble in carving the snow-white statue?"


11. Was the service of this new religion to perpetuate the weak and beggarly rudiments of a typical ritual administered by robed priests at obsolete altars, through lifeless liturgies and cumbrous ceremonies, or be rendered in tiny essays on tinted paper, aping some heathen philosophy, charming by its conceit, but powerless to awaken or to save, or must it be proclaimed via voice, by living heralds, face to face with dying men wherever found – in the home, on the street, in the field, or in the forum?


The requirements involved in the complete answers to these and kindred questions called for a new man and an independent apostleship. That man was Saul of Tarsus – a man prepared for his work by nature, culture, and grace. As antecedent probabilities we need not inquire what things were supposedly requisite to his fitness. We have something more reliable in the actual facts.


Let us rapidly glance at the most salient and significant of these facts which enter into his preparation or constitute his fitness for the apostolic office.


He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews – not a Hellenist – and specially qualified for his great work. A Hellenist was a Jew who had not been living in Palestine, but Paul did not Hellenize. He remained a Hebrew of the Hebrews. The orthodox Palestinian Jews not only retained the sacred speech, but were zealous in the maintenance of strict Hebrew traditions concerning their holy city, their Temple, and their law. On the other hand, most of the Jews of the dispersion had lost their Hebrew speech and manners in acquiring the Greek tongue and its culture. They were not merely liberalized and broadened by the spirit and genius of the Greek cities where they lived, but were loosened in attachment to many holy things of their ancient religion, by travel, trade, and cosmopolitan association with their philosophies and religions. If the Hebrew was too narrow, the Hellenist was too broad. But Saul of Tarsus, though a Hellenist, did not Hellenize. Born in one of the most famous university cities of the Gentile world, expert in the Greek language and literature, familiar from childhood with the trade, movement, culture, philosophies, and religions of foreign lands and nations, he was yet trained diligently in his childhood, according to Mosaic requirements, spent his boyhood in the secluded school of the synagogue, and was graduated from the sacred Jerusalem college. Thus profiting above all his associates in the Jewish religion, having sounded all its depths, climbed all its heights, traversed all its breadths, weighed all its merits, he was peculiarly qualified, in his own experience, to meet, resist, and overcome the deadly Judaizing tendencies that everywhere sought to sink Christianity into a mere Jewish sect.


He was a Roman citizen. This citizenship he did not purchase, but he was free-born. How this exalted privilege, once esteemed the world's highest honor, came into his family, we may only conjecture. Certainly, not from his being born in Tarsus, which, though a free city in being allowed to retain self-government after subjection to Roman power, was not a Roman colony like Philippi.


Perhaps his father, or grandfather, was one of the Jewish captives led away into slavery by Pompey, and was afterward not only manumitted, but enfranchised by adoption into some noble Roman family. However it came about, the fact is certain, Paul could say, in the sentence immortalized by Cicero, "I am a Roman citizen."


Exemption from chastisement by the lictor's rod and from other shameful indignities was not the chief value of this citizenship. It conferred access to circles of association from which a mere Jew was forever barred. Thus, unlike the original twelve, he was en rapport with the world's three great civilizations. As a Hebrew he faced all Jews. As a Hellenist he faced all Greeks. As a Roman citizen he faced the world. He might not only appeal to Caesar, but preach the gospel in Caesar's household.


There was an advantage and also a disadvantage in his being a Pharisee of the Pharisees. In national spirit, this constituted him a patriot, and not a Herodian. In religious spirit this committed him to a belief in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment. The Sadducean spirit could not give birth to an apostle.


Pharisaism also constituted him a legalist. The only way of life it recognized was that of obedience to the law of Moses. This obedience must meet, not only all the requirements of both the moral and ceremonial law, as written in the sacred books, but all additional requirements and subtleties of tradition imposed by rabbinical comment on the law. His theory of righteousness would be: "I need no regeneration by the Holy Spirit, because I am a child of Abraham. I was never in bondage to original sin. I need no suffering Messiah to vicariously expiate either my birth-corruption, or my actual transgression, seeing I am freeborn, and touching the law, have lived a blameless life. I need no continuous sanctification by the Holy Spirit, seeing that I keep myself without spot or blemish. I may well thank God that I am not as other men. I fast twice a week. I pay tithes of all I possess. I am as white as snow. I stand on my record under the great Mosaic Law: Do and live. I have diligently busied myself to establish my own righteousness, and need not to submit myself to the righteousness of another. If any man might have confidence in his record, and reasonably hope to be acquitted and not condemned in the final judgment, I more, since I have gone beyond all other men in the attainment of self-righteousness."


In other words, since Saul of Tarsus failed of life in this direction, let no other, till the end of time, hope to succeed. He followed that pathway to the mouth of the pit, and under his feet crumbled its last inch of standing ground.


Paul always obeyed the dictates of his conscience in matters of right and wrong. He was a sincere man. He allowed nothing to beguile him into doing what he believed to be wrong, or to restrain him from doing what he honestly believed to be right. He followed his convictions without shirking or faltering, into all their logical consequences. Even in his sins, conscience was king. If he persecuted by invading the sanctity of the home and dragging men and women to prison, judgment, and death, it was only because he verily thought within himself that he was doing God's service.


Before determining the exact value of this qualification for apostolic office, let us first settle the intrinsic value of a verdict of conscience. Conscience is that inward faculty or monitor, divinely implanted in the very constitution of man, which passes judgment on the rightfulness of its owner's motives and conduct. Its standard of right is the highest known law. It is, therefore, neither a law-maker nor a law-publisher, but a judge who interprets and applies whatever law is known. If the known law standard be faulty, or if the knowledge of a faultless law standard be imperfect, its mandates may not be expected to quadrate with abstract right. On this account, the decisions of one man's conscience, and what is adjudged wrong in one country, may be accounted right in another country. Moreover, if the very nature of man become corrupt, his conscience also suffers in the fall, and may itself need to be cleansed in order to normal purity. And, what is equally important to know, if the mandates of any individual conscience be habitually slighted and disregarded, it loses its sensitiveness and becomes callous. Its fine moral perceptions become dim eyed. While conscience, being an original and necessary faculty, is never the creature of education or custom, neither of which has creative power, it may become the slave of either, or of both. All these considerations militate against the infallibility of its verdicts.


But, notwithstanding these necessary disclaimers, conscientiousness is an essential element in all true goodness or greatness. The insincere man can never be either good or great. Moreover, the characteristic of conscientiousness is the most reliable ground of hope for the repentance and conversion of one who is in the wrong. Being right himself, one may hope to gain the most rabid and violent opponent, if only the opponent be sincere in his opposition, but if his opposition be only a cloak for his covetousness, a mask for his selfishness, or a mere subterfuge behind which he seeks for personal ends, then he will not likely be receptive of truth or amenable to reason. It follows that, until death ends probation, a conscientious man is always salvable.

 

Mark well that a conscientious man can never commit the unpardonable sin – the sin against the Holy Spirit – and therefore, conscientiousness clearly delimits the scope of possible salvation. It is just at this point that Saul's conscientiousness bears upon his fitness for his great apostleship, and makes his conversion a signboard marking the boundary line of possible salvation. He himself says, "Though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief" (1 Tim. 1:13). That is to say, that if he had committed these sins against spiritual knowledge and spiritual convictions, his sin would have been unpardonable. In yet other words, any man this side of death may be forgiven, who has not rejected Christ after spiritual knowledge, and after having established strong convictions that he is the Christ. The positive side of the doctrine is thus stated in that great dissertation attributed to Paul: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that hath set at nought Moses' law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much surer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:26-29). Thus, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus located one pole of salvation.


Paul was also the chief of sinners. Not counting those guilty of the unpardonable sin, he was the greatest sinner earth has ever known, or ever will know. If we could take all men from Adam to Christ's second advent, and grade them in single file according to the heinousness of their offenses, Saul of Tarsus would be the outside man, farthest from heaven and nearest to hell. The snatching of this man from the very brink of the pit, the plucking of this brand from the burning, to make him not only a Christian, but an apostle, gives ground for hope to all the prisoners of despair, and furnishes a model, beyond which Omnipotence could not go, of the superabounding grace of God. This is just what he says, "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief; howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his long suffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto life eternal" (1 Tim. 1:15-16). His conversion, therefore, locates the other pole of salvation.


He was a great thinker and profound reasoner. Only John, of the original twelve, is called a theologian, and his theology is of the mystical order, to be understood and appreciated mainly by the man already saved. But Paul's theology is intended to convince the unbeliever and overwhelm the gainsayer. He seems to have studied profoundly all the significance of the tragedy of Calvary, and to have formulated and correlated into a system all the doctrines which enter into the plan of salvation. If eloquence be rightly defined as "so speaking as not merely to convince the judgment, kindle the imagination and move the feelings, but to give a powerful impulse to the will," then Paul was profoundly eloquent. The letter to the Romans must remain to the end of time a monument of argument, towering higher, broader-based and more imperishable than the pyramid of Cheops. One such apostle was needed, that Christianity might commend itself to earth's thinkers, and remain unshaken by the assaults of all opposing philosophies.


Paul was the greatest sufferer. Before the scales of his dazzling call fell from his blinded eyes, the Master said, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my sake." Somewhat early in his ministry, the catalogue of his sufferings stood "in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, the anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:23-28).


Our last look at him discovers "such a one as Paul the aged, burdened with fetters, and the last word we hear is, "For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8).


Next to his Lord "he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Chains bound his wrists, while stocks enclosed his ankles. His back was often bared to the Jewish scourge and the lictor's rod. He was more storm-tossed than Aeneas, more wind-driven than Ulysses. If, by the turn of a helm, he shunned the maw of Charybdis, he must feel the grating of his keel on the granite edge of Scylla. While bonds confined him, ocean wrecked him that the viper might bite him. Mobs openly raved to rend him, while conspiracy lurked to assassinate him. Always danger sentineled his sleep, and death confronted his waking. He was tortured more than Tantalus by hunger that might not be appeased, and thirst that might not be quenched. Prometheus, bound on the cold rocks of Mount Caucasus, while vultures fed on his vitals, was not more a living sacrifice than Paul offered in his body, which died daily, and was ever under the sentence of death. He was lonelier in his responsibility than William Pitt, the great secretary, standing solitary against the world, or than Frederick the Great, with his world deluge of enemies pouring in on him from every side. And withal, the care of all the churches was heavier on him than the weight of the world on Atlas. But as the sandalwood tree perfumes the axe which smites it, so his sufferings exhaled the fragrance of intercession for those who smote him. On his lips the song would indeed have been eloquent: Must I be carried to the skies, On flowery beds of ease, Whilst others fought to win the prize, And sailed thru' bloody seas?


Now, at last, his own words of faith are fulfilled to him: "For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). He who can part from country and from kin, And scorn delights, and tread the thorny way, A heavenly crown through toil and pain to win – He who, reviled can tender love repay, And, buffeted, for bitter foes can pray – He who, upspringing at his Captain's call, Fights the good fight, and when at last the day Of fiery trial comes can nobly fall – Such were a saint, or more; and such the holy Paul!


He was the greatest worker. Rarely, indeed, do we find the thinker and the evangelist combined! The man who writes great books or matures profound philosophies is seldom a man of affairs. The mystic will likely be a dreamer, delighting in solitude and meditation. But Paul was no secluded monk, no Utopian idealist. He mixed with men. He loved the crowded city. Dr. Farrar seems to bewail that, unlike David, he never described the marvelous landscapes and the sea-views of his travels. May it not be that he was too much absorbed in the "manscape" to dwell on the landscape? Whoever traveled so much, preached so much, and labored so much?


Paul never had a vacation. Even in prison he wrote those letters which constitute the world's heritage. Doubtless he rests well now.


Paul was also the weakest man. We are accustomed to associate robust health with great endurance. But Paul was never well. His body was a body of death. Great sickness was the occasion of one of his mightiest ministries. He moved about in weakness and trembling. He was buffeted by a thorn in the flesh so excruciating that three times, as his Lord in Gethsemane, he earnestly besought his Master to remove it, and make him well. The world marveled when the Prince of Orange on the one side, and the Duke of Luxemburg on the other side, both invalids, directed every movement of their opposing armies from litters carried on men's shoulders, being unable to walk or ride. Paul was afflicted, doubtless, with acute and repulsive ophthalmia, and so oft-times must have been led by another. Poor groping man! How pitiable when left alone I With great sprawling letters must he write, when no amanuensis is at hand to receive dictation. Paul was a little man, like Alexander Stephens. He had no imposing presence like Sam Houston, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, and John C. Breckenridge. "His bodily presence was weak." But surely he had the silver tongue and golden mouth of oratory, did he not? Ah! no; "his speech was contemptible," in the judgment of his enemies; or, as he admits, he was "rude in speech." Perhaps he out-stammered Moses. Durer's picture of him, or the ivory German tablets of the eleventh century, is nearer to nature than Raphael's cartoon.


A poor, little, afflicted, blear-eyed, bald-headed, stuttering Jew!


Somebody must always be present to minister unto him, or direct his steps, or write his letters. How can this man travel? How can he endure privation? How can he do a man's work? With no gift or grace of elocution, how can he speak? William L. Yancey, Daniel Webster, Sargent S. Prentiss, Roscoe Conkling, W. J. Bryan – they are orators. But this man who rises in weakness, in fear and much trembling, whose stammering tongue cannot please fastidious ears, and who is estopped by conscience, will not speak with the enticing words of man's wisdom – how can he be an orator? He could not possibly look well. There is not only nothing imposing in his presence, but there is something unpleasant, if not repulsive.


Sir Walter Scott, in Rob Roy, makes Die Vernon say that "if only a woman were blind so as not to see his outward appearance, she would certainly fall in love with Rashleigh Osbaldistone's voice." But Paul had not even a voice. "His speech was contemptible." What on earth had he, then, to make him great?


He had a personality more striking and decisive than any other man of history. He had a Christian experience which he never doubted, and of which, as a fact, he made more than did any other man.


It comes out in every speech and letter. He had humility the lowest, and courage the sublimest. He had faith without wavering, love immeasurable, and hope without a cloud. He had exquisite sympathy for all the lost and the suffering, and the most lively appreciation of every word and deed of kindness. He had convictions which hell could not shake. He believed something. There was no palsy in his trust. He had a commission from God. He had high conceptions of, and loyal devotion to, duty. His fidelity to a trust could not be beguiled, purchased, nor intimated. The powers of the world to come possessed him at all times. The nearness, certainty, and eternity of heaven and hell he always realized. But more than all, he had the grace of God, which was made so perfect in his weakness that he could glory in his infirmities, and find strength in his very powerlessness. The faith of his converts stood, not in the wisdom or eloquence of man, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. He had all the internal equipment, but none of the external graces of the great orator.


He was the firmest and yet the most flexible of men. Let classic authors eulogize the combination of the suaviter in nodo, with the fortiter in re. This is the man more courtly than an old-time Virginia gentleman, and more inflexible than Wellington, who illustrates the combination. A vital principle he never surrendered nor compromised. In matters of mere expediency, he would go any length to conciliate and to gain, and, fortunately for mankind, he had the common sense to know a principle when he confronted it. He never could have mistaken stubbornness for firmness, or opinion for principle. He discriminated well between liberty and lawlessness. He was always careful lest his exercise of liberty and privilege should be the occasion of a brother's stumbling. In great love, he often declined to claim all his rights and dues. He excelled marvelously in adjustment and adaptation. In a perfectly innocent way, he was made all things to all men, if by all means he might save some. He put himself readily on the plane of either Jew or Greek. If one sought, however, to change his gospel into another gospel, he became as rigid as granite and as hot as a volcano. He would have buried an anathema into the face of an angel coming on such an errand. O, but he could stoop to the lowest, soar to the highest, weep with the saddest, rejoice with the gladdest, and pray for the wickedest.


He had a complete and independent gospel. He received it, not mediately, but directly from the glorified Lord. He had never read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, for they were as yet unwritten. He did not receive a syllable of his gospel nor a shred or his apostolic authority from any of the original twelve. We might as well call Peter the pope of Abraham and Moses as to call him the pope of Paul. The revelation to Paul was more complete than the revelation to Peter. The authority conferred on Paul was both independent and absolute. The pillars of the church at Jerusalem communicated nothing to him, but were constrained to recognize his authority, and to give the hand of fellowship to his independent mission. Peter never had occasion to rebuke Paul, but Paul was constrained to correct Peter. Every contention of Paul was sustained, not only by men, but by the Holy Spirit. And in his last letter Peter reckons Paul's writings among the scriptures of God. The reformatory power for erring churches and teachers rests in Paul's writings. There Augustine found it. There Luther found it. There Spurgeon and Whitefield found it. There must we all find the clearest data for determining Christian doctrine, Christian ethics, and church order.


In thus selecting for emphasis a few out of the many characteristics of Paul's power, we have suffered from the embarrassment of riches. The half a score might as well have been a full score. We find one-half of the books and one fourth of the bulk of our New Testament written by this man. It is also evident that part of Luke's Gospel was derived from Paul. In discussing such a man, there is danger of ascribing to the servant the glory of the Master. On this point Monod says, "Fear not from, however, a panegyric in which the saint of the day shall usurp the place reserved to his Master and ours. . . . It would be poorly apprehending the spirit of Saint Paul, to render him that which belongs only to the Lord. Could I forget myself to that extent, I should expect to see his image rush to meet me, crying out to me, as formerly to the inhabitants of Lystra, 'O, men, why do ye do these things? We also are men, subject to like passions with you.' "


Let us look to see what lies behind and before us. We have studied an important part of the Acts of the apostles. The rest of the book will be devoted to a study of Paul, centering on his work. I will add a few notes on books to those already mentioned, as follows: Conybeare and Howson will furnish the background or historical setting of the scriptural picture. Stalker's is the best summary of the subject; the more we study it the more its value appears. Dr. McGregor's has no equal in the matter considered. Farrar's surpasses all others in exegesis, though it contains some things much to be reprobated. Paley's, an old book and favorite of my youth, is devoted to an argument on the evidences of Christianity, based on the undesigned coincidences between the Acts and Paul's epistles. As most of these are by Pedobaptist authors, we may naturally expect some things to which the author may not subscribe.


And now, while none of us may aspire to Paul's place in history, may we each, according to his gifts and God's mercies, see to it that what history we make shall harmonize with his. May we in our day, be faithful to the deposit of truth left us by him and follow him, as he followed Christ.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What is the general bibliography of Paul?


2. Give the New Testament bibliography of Paul.


3. What New Testament passage goes farthest back about Paul?


4. What the New Testament passage going back in Paul's history?


5. What the chronological data in the history, and what the probable conclusions?


6. When is the profit & delight of study of history most enhanced?


7. Illustrate from history.


8. Give a brief generalization of history on this point.


9. Illustrate this generalization by the significance of three words.

 

10. Did God intend Christianity to be like the Jordan River which confines its flow within a narrow channel?


11. Can you answer all the questions propounded by the author as necessitating a new man and a new apostleship?


12. Was he both a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Hellenist, and what the qualifications for his great work?


13. Was he Roman citizen? How did he obtain and what its value?


14. What advantage & disadvantage of being Pharisee of Pharisees?


15. In what did his extreme conscientiousness consist?


16. What the intrinsic value of a verdict of conscience?


17. What the exact value of this qualification for apostolic officer?


18. How does this conscientiousness of Saul of Tarsus locate one pole of salvation?


19. In what way was he the chief of sinners, and how does this locate the other pole of salvation?


20. How was he a great thinker and profound reasoner?


21. How was Paul the greatest sufferer?


22. Show how he was the greatest worker.


23. How was Paul the weakest man?


24. Explain his being the firmest and yet the most flexible of men.


25. Show that he had a complete and independent gospel.


26. In selecting characteristics of Paul's power, from what may one suffer, and what the danger in discussing such a man?


27. What the testimony of Monod on this point?


28. What the best book commended for the background of this study of Paul, what the best as a summary, what the best on the authority of Paul's writings, what the best in exegesis, and what the best on the evidences of Christianity?

 

 

XV

 

(Return to Contents)

 

PAUL'S EARLY LIFE BEFORE HE ENTERS THE NEW TESTAMENT STORY

Acts 21:39; 22:3; 23:6, 34; 26:4-5; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Romans 11:1; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:4-6; I Timothy 1:12-13; 2 Timothy 1:3.

 

This discussion does not make much headway in the text book, but it covers an immense amount of territory in its facts and significance. This section is found in Goodwin's Harmony of the Life of Paul, pages 15-17, and the theme is Paul's history up to the time that he enters the New Testament story. Saul, now called Paul, a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the sect of the Pharisees, yet a freeborn Roman citizen, by occupation a tentmaker, by office a rabbi, and a member of the Sanhedrin, was born in the city of Tarsus, in the province of Cilicia, about the time of our Lord's birth. Tarsus was situated on the narrow coast line of the eastern part of the Mediterranean, just under the great Taurus range of mountains, and on the beautiful river Cydnus, which has a cataract just before it reaches the city, and a fall, beautiful then and beautiful now, coming down into that fertile plain where the city goes into a fine harbor, which opens the city to the commerce of the world through the Mediterranean Sea. It was on the great Roman thoroughfare, which was one of the best roads in the world. There were two of these mountain ranges, one of them right up above the city through the Taurus range into the coast of Asia Minor, the other following the coast line, which leads into Syria. This is the way that the mountains came down close to the sea, making a certain point very precipitous, and there was a typical beach between those mountains and the sea. That road into Syria was called the Oriental way. Over the Roman thoroughfare passed the land traffic, travel and marching armies for centuries. It was in that pass that Alexander fought his first great battle against the Persians, and thus obtained an entrance into the East. It was through that pass that, marching westward, and before Alexander's time, Xerxes the Great, the husband of Esther (mentioned in the Bible), marched his 5,000,000 men to invade Greece. I could mention perhaps fifty decisive battles in ancient history that were set and were successful conquests by preoccupation of that pass. That shows the strategical position of this city – that it commanded the passes of the Taurus into Asia Minor, and the pass into Syria, and through its fine harbor came in touch with the commerce of the world on the Mediterranean Sea.


Paul says that it was "no mean city," in size or in population. It was notable, (1) for its manufacture, that of weaving, particularly goat's hair, for on that Taurus range lived goats with very long hair, and this was woven into ropes, tents, and things of that kind; (2) because it was the capital of the province of Cilicia; (3) because, under Rome, it was a free city, i.e., it had the management of its own internal affairs, which constituted a city a free city, like the free city of Bremer in the early history of Germany. Other cities would be under the feudal lords, but there were a number of cities free, and these elected their own burghers, and governed their own municipal matters – a tremendous advantage.


Tarsus received from the Roman Emperor the privilege of being a free city. Keep these facts well in mind, especially and particularly as regards the land and sea commerce. (4) Because it possessed one of the three great world-famous universities. There were just three of them at that time: One at Tarsus; one at Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile; and one at Athens. It was not like some other cities, remarkable for its great buildings, its public games and its works of art. You could see more fine buildings in Athens or in Ephesus or in Corinth than you had any right to look for in Tarsus. It celebrated no such games as were celebrated in the May festivals at Ephesus, and in the great Greek amphitheater in that city, or in such games as the Isthmian, celebrated in Corinth. It was not remarkable for any of these. Its popular religion was a low and mixed order of Oriental paganism. There is this difference between the Oriental and Occidental heathen – the former in the East, and the latter at Rome, and the West. Ephesus had an Oriental religion, though it was a Greek city. Tarsus, too, was a Greek city, but was partly Phoenician and partly Syrian. There were more arts and intellectuality in western paganism than in the Oriental, which was low, bestial, sensual, in every way brutal, shameful, immodest, and outrageous. The Phoenicians, who had a great deal to do with establishing the city of Tarsus, had that brutal, low form of paganism. That infamous emperor, Sargon, celebrated in the Bible, the Oriental king of the original Nineveh, was worshiped in that city. There never lived a man that devoted himself more than he to luxury in its fine dress, gorgeous festivals, its gluttony, its drunkenness, its beastiality. Paul was born in that city, and he could look out any day and see the heathen that he has so well described in chapter 1 of the letter to the Romans.


Citizenship in a free city under Rome did not make one a Roman citizen, as did citizenship in Philippi, a colony. To be born in a free city did not make one a Roman citizen. It conferred upon its members, its own citizens, the right to manage their own municipal affairs. To be born in Philippi would make one a Roman citizen, because Philippi was a colony. The name of its citizens were still retained on the muster roll in the city of Rome. They had all the privileges of Roman citizenship. Their officers were Roman officers. They had processions, with the magistrates, and the lictors and with the bundles of rods. But there was nothing like that in Tarsus. The question came up in Paul's lifetime, when the commander of a legion heard Paul claiming that be was a Roman citizen. This commander says that with a great sum of money he did purchase his citizenship in Rome. Paul says, "But I was freeborn." If freeborn, how then could he have obtained it? In one of two ways: Before Christ was born, Pompey invaded Jerusalem, and took it. He was one of the first great triumvirate, with Julius Caesar and Marcus L. Crassus. Pompey's field of labor was in the East, Caesar's was in the West, and he (Pompey) took Jerusalem and led into slavery many Jews of the best families. When these slaves were brought to Rome, if they showed culture, social position, educational advantages, they were promoted to a high rank or office, among slaves; and if they particularly pleased their owners they were manumitted, either during the lifetime of their owner, or by will after his death. In this way many noble captives from all parts of the world were carried as slaves to Rome. They were first set free and then had conferred upon them the rights of Roman citizenship. It could have been that Cassius, who with Brutus, after the killing of Julius Caesar, combined against Mark Anthony, and Octavius (Augustus), who became the emperor and was reigning when Christ was born, captured this city of Tarsus and led many of its citizens into Rome as slaves. Paul's grandfather, therefore, or his father, might have been led away captive to Rome, and through his high social position and culture may have been manumitted, and then received as a citizen. Necessarily it occurred before this boy's time, because when he was born, he was born a Roman citizen. It could be transmitted, but he had not acquired it.


There is a difference between the terms – Jew, Hebrew, Israelite, Hellenist, and a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." All these are used by Paul and Luke in Acts. We get our word, "Hebrew" from Heber, an ancestor of Abraham. Literature shows that the descendants of Heber were Hebrews, and in the Old Testament Abraham is called "the Hebrew." That was not the meaning of the word in New Testament times. We come to the New Testament meaning in Acts 6, which speaks of the ordination of deacons, and uses the word "Hebrew" in distinction from "Hellenist." They both, of course, mean Jews. While a Hebrew in the New Testament usually lived in Palestine, but not necessarily, he was one who still spoke or was able to read the original Hebrew language and who practiced the strict Hebrew cult. A "Hellenist" was a Jew who had either been led into exile, or who, for the sake of trade, had gone into other nations, and settled among those people and had become liberalized, lost the use of the Hebrew tongue entirely, and neither spoke nor wrote the Hebrew language, but who spoke and wrote mainly in Greek. "Hellenist" is simply another term for "Greek." Whether used in the New Testament Greek or the Hellenistic Greek, it means Jews living among Greek people, and who had acquired the language, and in the many respects had followed more liberal Greek customs. Then a Hebrew living in Palestine would not allow himself to be liberalized.


Paul lived out of Judea. He, his father, and indeed his grandfather, adhered strictly to all the distinguishing characteristics of the Hebrews. The "Israelite" and the "Jew" mean anybody descended from Jacob. "Israelite" commenced lower down in the descent. "Hebrew" gets its name from the ancestor of Abraham, but an Israelite was a descendant of Jacob. The distinction of "Jew" came a little later to those descendants of Jacob living in Judea. The "Hebrew of the Hebrews" means a Jew-who went to the greatest possible extreme in following the Hebrew language, cult, habits, training, and religion. He was an extremist among them.


Some people would suppose from Paul's occupation – tentmaking (he worked at that occupation, making tents with Aquila and Priscilla) – that from this unskilled labor his family were low in the social position, and poor. The inference is wholly untenable. In the first place, every Jew had to have a trade, even though he were a millionaire, and Paul's old teacher, Gamaliel, used this language: "Any kind of learning without a useful trade leads to sin." Paul took up this trade because he lived at Tarsus. There anybody could go out and learn the trade of weaving ropes and check-cloth made out of the long hair of Mount Taurus goats. The trade would not simply satisfy the Jewish requirement, but a man could make his living by it. We see Paul a little later making his living just that way. Well for Paul that he knew something besides books.


I am more and more inclined to follow an industrial idea in systems of education. We have our schools and universities where the boys and girls learn a great deal about books, and the girl goes home and does not know how to make bread. She does not know how to rear a brood of chickens; she does not know how a house is to be kept clean, nor how to keep windows clean. The floors in the corners and in places under the beds and sofas are unswept. Boys come home that cannot make a hoe handle. They have no mechanical sense, no trade. They can neither make a pair of shoes nor a hat nor a pair of socks, nor anything they wear. And thus graduates of universities stand with their fingers in their mouths in the great byways of the world – practically beggars – not knowing how to do anything.


The Jews guarded against that. Let Paul fall on his feet anywhere, and withdraw from him every outside source of financial support, and he would say, "With these hands did I minister to my necessities." He could go out and get a piece of work. He knew how to do it. All this is bearing on the social and financial position of Paul's family. Everything indicates the high social position of his family, and that it occupied a high financial position. They did not take the children of the lowest abode and give them such an ecclesiastical training as Paul had. They did not educate them for the position of rabbi, nor let them take a degree in the highest theological seminary in the world. Paul's family, then, was a good one.


Paul's religious and educational advantages were on two distinct lines: Purely ecclesiastical or religious, and I can tell just exactly what it was. A little Hebrew boy five years old had to learn the Ten Commandments, and the hallelujah psalms. When six, he advanced to other things which could be specified particularly. His education commenced in the home and went on until he entered the synagogue, which trained him in all the rudiments of biblical education. When he was twelve or thirteen years old he was called "a son of the commandments." Just like the occasion suggests when Jesus was twelve years old he had them take him to Jerusalem, and he was allowed to go into the Temple and to be with the great doctors there.


When Paul was twelve or thirteen his influential father sent him to the great theological seminary. There were two of these seminaries. One had a greater influence than the other in the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, he says, "I was brought up in this city. I was born in Tarsus, but brought up in the city of Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel." He was a very noble character. The opposite seminary differed from this one. It was the Shammai Seminary, differing from the other on this point: The Shammai Seminary was very narrow; did not allow its pupils to know anything about literature whatsoever except religious literature. But the aged Gamaliel said to Paul and to all his other students, "There are certain classical lines along which you may study and learn." This is the kind which Paul attended, the school of Gamaliel, graduating there and becoming a doctor of divinity, or a rabbi. He studied profoundly. This religious part of his education he got in the original Hebrew. When he and Jesus met at the time of his conversion, they spoke in the Hebrew tongue to each other. "There came a voice which said in the Hebrew [the old Hebrew tongue], Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he answered in the Hebrew. Then, of course, he spoke and wrote in the Aramaic, which was the common dialect in Judea, and different from the Hebrew, since the Hebrew had gone altogether out of use in the ordinary speech, and almost in the ordinary reading.


The New Testament abounds in evidence of Paul's general educational advantages. The city of Tarsus possessed one of the three great universities of the world. Did Paul take a course in that? There is no evidence that he did, and no probability that he did. For the universities in that day did not mean as much as they do today in a certain line, though I am sorry to say that the great universities of the present day are dropping back and adopting the old utterly worthless studies of the universities of that day; that is, speculative philosophy about the origin of things, and they do not know anything more when they get through than when they began. Also the Epicurean philosophy, which we now call "Darwinism," making a speculative study of biology, botany, geology, etc., trying to prove that everything came from a primordial germ, and that man not only developed from a monkey, but from a jellyfish, and that the jellyfish developed from some vegetable, and that the vegetable is a development of some inorganic and lifeless matter.


There never was at any time in the world one particle of truth in the whole business. None of it can ever be a science. It does not belong to the realm of science.


Saul never had a moment's time to spend in a heathen university, listening to their sophistries, and to these philosophical speculations, or vagaries. If he were living now he would be made president of some university. We learn from the Syrians that one of these universities, the one in Tarsus, had a professor who once stole something, and was put in "limbo." Their university professors were also intensely jealous. They had all sorts of squabbles, one part in a row with another part; so that after all there was not much to be learned in the universities of those times, and after a while there will not be much in ours, if we go on as we are now going. I am not referring to any university, particularly, but I am referring to any and all, where philosophical speculations are made thee basis of botany, zoology, natural history of any kind, geology, or any kindred thing. Paul struck it in the city of Athens, its birthplace, and smote it hip and thigh.


I do not suppose at all that Paul was a student in the university of Tarsus, but that while he was at Jerusalem, and under the teaching of Gamaliel, he did study such classics as would be permitted to a Jewish mind. Hence we find in his letters expressions like this: "One of themselves, a prophet of their own said, Cretans are always liars," and when at Athena he says, "Certain, even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." How could he become acquainted with those classical allusions if he had never studied such things? That chiliarch, who commanded a thousand men – a legion – said to Paul, "Do you speak Greek?" He had heard him speaking Greek. Of course he spoke Greek, and wrote Greek, All of his letters were written in Greek. He had learned that Greek language somewhere. He had not learned it in that university at Tarsus, but in the Seminary at Jerusalem. Take his letters and see his profound acquaintance with the Greek games of every kind. Some of them he may have attended, but he certainly knew all about them as though he had witnessed them. He may have seen only an occasional game. So he must have learned it from the literature, for he discusses every phase of it, especially the foot-racing, the combats in the arena between the gladiators, and the wrestling with the lions in the arena. His letters are full of allusions that indicate his acquaintance with the Greek literature. At Alexandria there was one of the other universities, a much greater one in its Greek literature than the university of Tarsus. Alexandria was founded by a Greek, Alexander the Great. One of the Ptolemies had a great library, the greatest library in the world, which was destroyed by the Saracens. But notice also how Paul puts his finger right upon the very center and heart of every heathen philosophy, like that of Epicureanism – our Darwinism; that he debated in Athens; and note the Stoics whom he met while there, and the Platonians, or the Peripatetics. You will find that that one little speech of his, which he delivered in the city of Athens, contains an allusion which showed that he was thoroughly and profoundly acquainted with every run and sweep of the philosophic thought of the day, and anybody not thus acquainted could not have delivered that address. This is to show the general culture of his mind.


Take the mountain torrent of his passion in the rapid letter to the Galatians. Take the keen logic, the irresistibility of its reasoning, which appears in the letter to the Romans, or take that sweetest language that ever came from the lips or pen of mortal man, that eulogy on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Then take the letter to Philemon, which all the world has considered a masterpiece in epistolary correspondence. It implies that he was scholarly. Look at these varieties of Saul's education. He was a man whose range of information swept the world. He was the one scholar in the whole number of the apostles – the great scholar – and I do not see how any man can read the different varieties of style or delicacy of touch, the analysis of his logic or reasoning, which appear in Paul's letters, and doubt that he had a broad, a deep, a high, and a grand general education.


As to Paul's family the New Testament tells us in Acts 23:16 that he had a married sister living in Jerusalem, and that that sister had a son, Paul's nephew, who intervened very heroically to help Paul in a certain crisis of his life. And in Romans 16:7-11 are some other things that give light as to his family: "Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners . . . who also have been in Christ before me." Here are a man and a woman, Andronicus and Junias, Paul's kinsfolk, well known to the apostles in Jerusalem, for he says, "Who are of note among the apostles." They were influential people, and they had become Christians before Paul was a Christian. Take verse 11: "Salute Herodion my kinsman," and verse 21: "Timothy, my fellow worker saluteth you; and Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen." So here we have found six individuals who are kinspeople to Paul, and who were all members of the church at Rome. We know that much of his family, anyhow.


The things which distinguished a Pharisee from a Sadducee were of several kinds: (1) The latter were materialists, whom we would call atheists. They believed in no spirit; that there was nothing but matter; that when a man died it was the last of him. (2) There were Epicureans: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," they said. (3) Also in their political views they differed from the Pharisees. The Pharisees were patriotic, and wanted the freedom of their nation. The Sadducees were inclined to the Roman government, and wanted to keep up the servitude to the Romans. (4) The Pharisees also cared more about a ritualistic religion. They were Puritans – stern, and knew no compromise, adhering strictly to the letter of the law, in every respect. If they tithed, they would go into the garden and tithe the cummin and the anise. The phrase, "Pharisee of the Pharisees," means one who would whittle all that down to a very fine point, or an extremist on that subject. He said (Gal. 1:14), "I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." They were just Pharisees – he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He went all the lengths that they would go, and he topped them. It meant something like this: "I am a son of Abraham; I am freeborn; I have never sinned; I need no vicarious expiation for me; I need no Holy Spirit; I was never in that bunch; you need not talk or present regeneration to me; I am just as white as snow." It followed that they were not drunkards, they were not immoral; they were chaste, and did not have any of the brutal vices.


Paul had perhaps never met Jesus. They were about the same age. Paul went to Jerusalem when he was thirteen years old, and stayed there until he graduated in the same city. Some contend from certain expressions, as, "I have known Christ after the flesh; henceforth I will know him . . . no more," that he had known Jesus in the flesh. It will be remembered that in the public ministry of Christ he was very seldom in Jerusalem. He stayed there a very short time when he did go. His ministry was mainly in Galilee. Even in that last mighty work of his in Jerusalem – there is a big account of it – but it just lasted a week. And Saul may have been absent at Tarsus during that time. I think when he saw Jesus the fact that he did not recognize him is proof enough, for if he had known him in the flesh he would have recognized him. But he said, "Who art thou?" when he saw him after he arose from the dead.


Paul, before conversion, was intensely conscientious in whatever he did – free from all low vice, drunkenness and luxurious gluttony and sensuality of every kind. He was a very chaste man, a very honest man, a very sincere man, a very truthful man, and all this before conversion. I take it for granted that he was a married man. An orthodox Jew would not have passed the age of twenty unmarried. He could not be a member of the Sanhedrin without marrying; and in that famous passage in Corinthians he seems to intimate clearly that he was a married man. Speaking to virgins (that means unmarried men and women and includes both of them that had never married) he says so and so; and to widows and widowers, "I wish they would remain such as I am." It seems to me that the language very clearly shows that at that time he was a widower. Luther says that no man could write about the married state like Paul writes if he was an old bachelor. I think Luther is right; his judgment is very sound. Paul did not marry again; he remained a widower, and in the stress of the times advised other widowers and widows to remain in that state; but if they wanted to marry again to go ahead and do so; that it was no sin; but the stress of the times made it unwise; and he boldly took the position that he had a right to lead about a wife as much as Peter had, and Peter had a wife.

 

QUESTIONS


1. What the theme of this section?


2. What Saul's name, nation, tribe, sect, citizenship, occupation, office, birthplace, and date of birth?


3. Give an account of Tarsus as to its political, strategical, commercial, manufacturing, educational advantages, and its popular religion.


4. Did citizenship in a free city under Rome make one a Roman citizen as did citizenship in Philippi, a colony?


5. How, then, could one obtain it?


6. Distinguish the difference between these terms: Jew, Hebrew, Israelite, Hellinist, and a "Hebrew of the Hebrews."


7. What the social and financial position of Paul's family, particularly in view of his occupation?


8. What Paul's religious and educational advantages?


9. What New Testament evidences are there of Paul's general educational advantages?


10. What do we know about Paul's family as seen in the New Testament?


11. Was Paul a rabbi? If so, where did he probably exercise his functions as a rabbi?


12. What is the meaning of the phrase, "Pharisee of the Pharisees?"


13. Did Paul ever meet Jesus before his death? If not, how account for it in view of the interest and publicity of the last week of our Lord's life?


14. What was Paul's character before conversion?


15. Was he a married man, and what the proof?

 

 

XVI

 

(Return to Contents)

 

SAUL, THE PERSECUTOR

Acts 7:57-68; 8:1-4; 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:9-11;

1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13, 22-24.

 
 
In a preceding chapter on Stephen we have necessarily considered somewhat a part of the matter of this chapter, and now we will restate only enough to give a connected account of Saul. In our last discussion we found Saul and other members of his family residents in Jerusalem, Saul an accomplished scholar, a rabbi, trained in the lore of the Jewish Bible and of their traditions, a member of the Sanhedrin, an extreme Pharisee, flaming with zeal, and aggressive in his religion, an intense patriot, about thirty-six years old, probably a widower, stirred up and incensed on account of the progress of the new religion of Jesus.


In considering this distinguished Jew in the role of a persecutor, we must find, first of all, the occasion of this marvelous and murderous outbreak of hatred on his part at this particular juncture, and the strange direction of its hostility. On three all-sufficient grounds we understand why Saul did not actively participate in the recent Sadducean persecution. First, the issue of that persecution was the resurrection, and on this point a Pharisee could not join a Sadducean materialist. Second, the motive of that persecution was to prevent the break with Rome, and Saul as a Pharisee wanted a break with Rome. Third, the direction of that persecution was mainly against the apostles and Palestinian Christians, who, so far, had made no break with the Temple and its services and ritual, or the customs of Moses. To outsiders they appeared as a sect of the Jews, agreeing, indeed, with the Pharisees on many points, and while they were hateful in their superstition as to the person of the Messiah, they were understood to preach a Messiah for Jews only and not for Gentiles. That is why Saul did not join the Sadducean persecution – because of the issue of it, because of the motive of it, and because of the direction of it.


1. Five causes stirred him up to become a persecutor: First, the coming to the front of Stephen, the Hellenist, whose preaching evidently looked to a Messiah for the world, and not only looked to a break with Jerusalem and the Temple, but the abrogation of the entire Old Covenant, or at least its supercession by a New Covenant on broad, worldwide lines that made no distinction between a Jew and a Greek. That is the first cause of the persecuting spirit of Saul.


2. Stephen's Messiah was a God-man and a sufferer, expiating sin, and bringing in an imputed righteousness through faith in him wrought by the regenerating Spirit, instead of a Jewish hero, seated on David's earthly throne, triumphant over Rome, and bringing all nations into subjection to the royal law. This is the difference between the two Messiahs. So that kind of a Messiah would be intensely objectionable to Saul.


3. Stephen's preaching was making fearful inroads among the flock of Saul's Cilicean synagogue, and sweeping like a fire among the Israelites of the dispersion, who were already far from the Palestinian Hebrews.


4. Some of Saul's own family were converted to the new religion, two of them are mentioned in the letter to the Romans as being in Christ before him, and his own sister, judging from Acts 23, was already a Christian.


5. Saul's humiliating defeat in the great debate with Stephen.


These are the five causes that pushed the man out who had been passive in the other persecution, now to become active in this persecution. They account for the vehement flame of Saul's hate, and the direction of that hate, not toward the apostles, who had not broken with the Holy City, its Temple, its sacrifice, nor the customs of Moses, but against Stephen and those accepting his broader view. We cannot otherwise account for the fact that Saul took no steps in his persecution against the apostles, while he did pursue the scattered Christians of the dispersion unto strange cities.


We may imagine Saul fanning the flame of his hate by his thoughts in these particulars:


1. "To call this Jesus 'God' is blasphemy.


2. "To call this convicted and executed felon 'Messiah,' violates the Old Testament teaching of David's royal son triumphing over all of his enemies.


3. "That I, a freeborn child of Abraham, never in bondage, must be re-born, must give up my own perfect and blameless righteousness of the law to accept the righteousness of another, is outrageous.

 

4. "That I must see Jerusalem perish, the Temple destroyed, the law of the Mosaic covenant abrogated, and enter into this new kingdom on the same humiliating terms as an uncircumcised Gentile, is incredible and revolting.

 

5. "That this Hellenist, Stephen, should invade my own flock and pervert members of my own family, Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen [Rom. 16:7], and my own sister [Acts 23:16], and shake the faith of my other kinsmen, Jason and Sosipater [Rom. 16:21], is insulting to the last degree.


6. "That I, the proud rabbi, a member of the supreme court of my people, the accomplished and trained logician, should be overwhelmed in debate by this unscholarly Stephen, and that, too, in my own chosen field the interpretation of the Law, Prophets, and Psalms, is crucifixion of my pride and an intolerable public shame. Let Stephen perish!


7. "But more humiliating than all, I find myself whipped inside. This Stephen is driving me with goads as if I were an unruly ox. His words and shining face and the Jesus he makes me see, plant convicting pricks in my heart and conscience against which I kick in vain; I am like a troubled sea casting up mire and filth. To go back on the convictions of my life is abject surrender. To follow, then, a logical conclusion, is to part from the counsel of my great teacher, Gamaliel, and to take up the sword of the Sadducee and make myself the servant of the high priest. Since I will not go back, and cannot stand still, I must go forward in that way that leads to prison, blood, and death, regardless of age or sex. Perhaps I may find peace. The issue is now personal and vital; Stephen or Saul must die. To stop at Stephen is to stop at the beginning of the way. I must go on till the very name of this Jesus is blotted from the earth."


That is given as imagined, but you must bring in psychology in order that you may understand the working of this man's mind to account for the flaming spirit and the desperate lengths of the persecution which he introduces.


Seven things show the spirit of this persecution, as expressed in the New Testament:


1. In Acts 8:3 (Authorized Version), the phrase, "making havoc" is used. That is the only time in the New Testament that the word "havoc" is found. It is found in the Septuagint of the Old Testament. But it is a word which expresses the fury of a wild boar making havoc – a wild boar in a garden: rooting, gnashing, and trampling. That phrase, "making havoc," gives us an idea of the spirit that Saul had, which is the spirit of a wild boar.


2. In Acts 9:1, it is said of Saul, "Yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter." How tersely expressed that is! The expiration of his breath is a threat, and death. Victor Hugo, in one place, said about a man, "Whenever he respires he conspires,” and that is the nearest approach in literature to this vivid description of the state of a man's mind – that the very breath he breathed was threatenings and slaughter.


3. The next word is found in Acts 26:11. He says, "being exceedingly mad against them." That is the superlative degree. He was not merely angry at the Christians, but it was an anger that amounted to madness; he was not merely mad but "exceedingly mad." So that gives you the picture of that wild boar.


4. "He haled men and women." "Haled" is an old Anglo Saxon word. We don't use it now, but it means "to drag by violence." He didn't go and courteously arrest a man; he just went and grabbed men and women and dragged them through the streets. Imagine a gray-haired mother, a chaste wife, a timid maiden, grabbed and dragged through the streets, with a crowd around mocking, and you get at the spirit of this persecution.


5. The next word is "devastate." Paul used this word twice, and Ananias used it once (Acts 9:21). That word is the term that is applied to an army sweeping a country with fire and sword. We say that Sherman devastated Georgia. He swept a scope of country seventy-five miles wide – from Atlanta to the sea, leaving only the chimney stacks – not a house, not a fence – with fire and sword. And that word is here employed to describe Saul's persecution.


6. Twice in Galatians he uses this word in describing it: "I persecuted them beyond measure," that is, if you want to find some kind of a word that would describe his persecution, in its spirit, you couldn't find it; you couldn't find a word that would mean "beyond measure."


7. The last phrase is in Acts 22:4, "unto death." That was objective in spirit, whether men or women. These seven expressions, and they are just as remarkable, and more so, in the Greek, as they are in English, give the spirit of this persecution.


The following things show the extent of this persecution:


1. Domiciliary visits. He didn't wait to find a man on the streets acting in opposition to any law. He goes to the houses after them, and in every place of the world. The most startling exercise of tyranny is an inquisition into a man's home. The law of the United States regards a man's home as his castle, and only under the most extreme circumstances does the law allow its officers to enter a man's home. If you were perfectly sure that a Negro had burglarized your smokehouse, and you had tracked him to his house, you couldn't go in there, you couldn't take an officer of the law in there, unless you went before a magistrate and recorded a solemn oath that you believed that he was the one that did burglarize your place, and that what he stole would be found if you looked for it in his house.


2. In the second place, "scourges." He says many times I have scourged them, both men and women, forty stripes save one; thirty-nine hard lashes he put on the shoulders of men and women. Under the Roman law it was punishable with death to scourge a Roman citizen. Convicts, or people in the penitentiary, can be whipped. Roman lictors carried a bundle of rods with which they chastised outsiders, but on home people they were never used. Cicero makes his great oration against Veres burn like fire when it is shown that Veres scourged Roman citizens. Seldom now do we ever hear of a case where a man is dragged out of his house and publicly whipped by officers of the law, just on account of his religion.

 

3. The next thing was imprisonment. He says, "Oftentimes I had them put in prison." A thunderbolt couldn't be more sudden than his approach to a house. Thundering at the door, day or night, gathering one of the inmates up, taking him from the home and taking him to jail. What would you think of somebody coming to your house when you were away in the night, and dragging your wife and putting her in jail, just because she was worshiping God according to the dictates of her conscience? We live in a good country over here. We have never been where these violent persecutions were carried on.


4. He says that when they were put to death he gave his voice against them. He arrested them and scourged them, and then in the Sanhedrin he voted against them.


5. In the next place he compelled them to blaspheme. The Greek doesn't mean that he succeeded in making them blaspheme, but that he was trying to make them blaspheme. For instance, he would have a woman up, and there was the officer ready to give her thirty-nine lashes in open daylight: "You will get this lashing unless you blaspheme the name of Jesus," Paul would say. Pliny, in writing about the Christians in the country over which he presided when he was ordered to persecute the Christians, says, "I never went beyond this: I never put any of them to death if when brought before me he would sprinkle a little incense before a Roman god. If he would Just do that I wouldn't put him to death."


6. Expatriation, ex, from, patria terra, "one's fatherland" – exiled from one's country. It was an awful thing on those people at a minute's notice either to recant or else just as they were, without a minute's preparation, to go off into exile, father, mother, and children. The record says, "They were all scattered abroad except the apostles."


7. Following them into exile into strange countries, and cities, getting a commission to go after them and arrest them, even though they had gotten as far from Jerusalem as Damascus.


8. The last thing in connection with the extent of this persecution is to see, first, the size or number of the church. Let us commence with 120 (that is, before Pentecost), add 3,000 on the day of Pentecost, add multitudes daily, add at another time 5,000 men and women, add twice more, multitudes, multitudes, then we may safely reach the conclusion that there were 100,000 Jewish communicants in that first church at Jerusalem. That represents a great many homes. This man Paul goes into every house, he breaks up every family. They are whipped; they are imprisoned; they are put to death or they are expatriated; and over every road that went out from Jerusalem they were fleeing, the fire of persecution burning behind them. The magnitude of the persecution has never been fully estimated.


There are eight distinct references by him in two speeches and four letters that show his own impressions of this sin. One of them you will find in the address that he delivered on the stairway in Jerusalem when he himself was a prisoner (Acts 22); another one is found in his speech at Caesarea before King Agrippa (Acts 26). You will find two references in chapter 1 of the letter to the Galatians (1:13, 23) ; there is one in 1 Corinthians 15:15; another in Philippians 3; still another, and a most touching one, when he was quite an old man (1 Timothy). We may judge of the spirit and the extent of a thing by the impression that it leaves on the mind of the participator.


Everything that he inflicted on others, he subsequently suffered. He had them to be punished with forty stripes save one; five times he submitted to the same punishment. He had them put in prison; "oftentimes" he was imprisoned. He had them expatriated; so was he. He had them pursued in the land of expatriation; so was he. He had them stoned; so was he. He attempted to make them blaspheme; so they tried to make him blaspheme under Nero, or die, and he accepted death. He had them put to death; so was he. Early in his life, before a great part of his sufferings had yet commenced, we find his catalogue of the things that he suffered in one of the letters to the Corinthians, and just how many particular things that he had suffered up to that time.


Two considerations would naturally emphasize his unceasing sorrow for this sin:


1. His persecution marked the end of Jewish probation, the closing up of the last half of Daniel's week, in which the Messiah would confirm the covenant with many. From this time on until now, only an occasional Jew has been converted. Paul did it; he led his people to reject the church of God and the Holy Spirit of God, the church which was baptized in the Spirit, and attested by the Spirit. He, Saul, is the one that pushed his people off the ground of probation and into a state of spiritual blindness – judicial blindness – from which they have not yet recovered.


2. The second thought that emphasized this impression was that he thereby barred himself, when he became a Christian, from doing much preaching to this people. In Romans 9 he says, "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh." "I bear them witness," he says in the next chapter, "that they have a zeal for God," and in Acts 22 he says that when he was in the Temple wanting to preach to Jews, wanting to be a home missionary, God appeared to him, and said, "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning me." That was one of the most grievous things of his life, and we find it, I think (some may differ from me on this), manifested in the last letter of his first Roman imprisonment – the letter to the Hebrews. He wouldn't put his name to it. He didn't want to prejudice its effect, and yet he did want to speak to his people.


Let us compare this persecution with Alva's in the Netherlands, and the one following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In a few words, it is this: There were two great bodies of Christian people, so-called, in France – the Romanists and the Huguenots. Henry of Navarre was a Huguenot. He became king of France, outwardly abjuring his Huguenot principles, but on the condition that liberty of conscience should be allowed to the people. His grandson, Louis XIV, revoked that great edict of toleration, and by its revocation, in one moment, commanded hundreds of thousands of his people to adopt the king's religion. If they didn't, troops or soldiers were placed in their homes with the privilege of maltreating them, and destroying their property, without being held responsible for any kind of brutal impiety that they would commit. Their young children were taken away from the mothers and put in the convents to be reared in the Romanist faith; the men had their goods confiscated, and in hundreds of thousands of instances were put to death. They were required to recant or leave France at once. Before they got to the coast an army came to bring them back, and when some of them did escape, my mother's ancestors, the Huguenots, when that edict was revoked, came to South Carolina. Some of them went to Canada, some to other countries where there was extradition. The Romanists pursued them, and when they were able to capture them, brought them back to France to suffer under the law. Some of those that reached Canada left the settlements and went to live among the Indian tribes. There they were pursued.


When Alva came into the Netherlands (Belgium and Holland), the lowlands, under Philip, the King of Spain, the inquisition was set up and he entered the homes; he made domiciliary visits; he compelled them to blaspheme; he put to death the best, the most gifted, those holding the highest social and moral positions in the land, to the astonishment of the world. With one stroke of his pen he not only swept away all of their property, but anyone that would speak a kind word to them, or would keep them all night in the house, such a person was put to death. All over that country there was the smoke going up of their burning, and the bloodiest picture in the annals of the world was what took place when Alva's soldiers captured a city. I would be ashamed before a mixed audience to tell what followed. The devastation was fearful.


This persecution illustrates the proverb, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Whenever Saul put one to death, a dozen came up to take the place of that one. Indeed, he himself caught on his own shoulders the mantle of Stephen before it hit the ground, as God put the mantle of Elijah on Elisha, and as God made John the Baptist the successor in spirit to Elijah. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.


The effect of this persecution on the enlargement of the kingdom, and on missions, was superb. Those Jewish Christians in Jerusalem – those terrapins – would never have crawled away from there, if Saul hadn't put fire on their backs, but when the fire began to burn and they began to run, as they ran, they preached everywhere. It was like going up to a fire and trying to put it out by kicking the chunks. Whenever a chunk is kicked it starts a new fire. When that persecution came, then Philip, driven out, preached to the Samaritans. Then men of Cyrene, pushed out, preached to Greeks in Antioch, and they opened up a fine mission field. Peter himself, at last, was led to see that an uncircumcised Gentile like Cornelius could be received into the kingdom of God. So it had a great deal to do with foreign missions.


The effect of this persecution in bringing laymen to the front was marvelous. They never did come to the front in the history of the world as they did in this persecution. The apostles were left behind. The preachers right in the midst of the big meeting in which 100,000 people had been converted, were left standing there, surrounded by empty pews, with no congregation. The congregation is now doing the preaching. A layman becomes an evangelist. These people carry the word of God to the shores of the Mediterranean, into Asia Minor, to Rome, to Ephesus, to Antioch, to Tarsus, to the ends of the earth, and laymen do an overwhelming part of this work.


It is well, perhaps, in this connection to explain how Saul, in this persecution, could put to death Christian people, since they, the Jews, had no such authority. In the case of Christ we know that it was necessary for the Jews to obtain Roman authority in order to put to death, but just as this time Pontius Pilate was recalled, the Roman Procurator was withdrawn, and a very large part of the Roman military force and the successor of Pilate had not arrived, so the Jews were left pretty much to themselves until that new procurator with new legions came to the country.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What of Saul already considered in a preceding chapter?


2. Why did not Saul participate actively in the Sadducean persecution?


3. What five causes stirred him up to become a persecutor?


4. How may we imagine Saul fanning the flame of his bate by his thoughts?


5. What seven things show the spirit of this persecution as expressed in the New Testament?


6. What things show the extent of this persecution?


7. What eight distinct references by him in two speeches and four letters which show his own impressions of this sin?


8. What his own sufferings, in every particular? Were they such as he inflicted?


9. What two considerations would naturally emphasize the unceasing sorrow for this sin?


10. Compare this persecution with Alva's in the Netherlands and the one following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.


11. How does this persecution illustrate the proverb, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church"?


12. What was the effect of this persecution on the enlargement of the kingdom, and missions?


13. What was the effect of this persecution in bringing laymen to the front?


14. How explain that, in this persecution, Saul could put to death Christian people, since they, the Jews, had no such authority?

 

 

XVII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

SAUL'S CONVERSION, HIS CALL TO THE APOSTLESHIP AND HIS COMMISSION

Acts 9:1-19, 22:5-16; 26:12-20; 1 Corinthians 1:1, 9:1; 15:7-10; Romans 7:7-35.

 

In commencing this chapter, I call attention to my address called, "The Greatest Man in History," which you will find in The Southwestern Theological Review, Vol. I, No. II. There are ten special scriptures which bear upon the conversion of Saul, and most of them upon his call to the apostleship. The accounts given are as follows: (1) By Luke, Acts 9:1-9, A.D. 36; (2) by Barnabas, Acts 9:26-28, A.D. 39; (3) by Paul at Corinth, Galatians 1:15-16, A.D. 57; (4) by Paul at Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 15:8-10, A.D. 57; (5) by Paul at Corinth, Romans 7:7-25, A.D. 58; (6) by Paul at Jerusalem, Acts 22:1-16, A.D. 59; (7) by Paul at Caesarea, Acts 26:1-19, A.D. 60; (8) by Paul at Rome, Philippians 3:4-14, A.D. 62; (9) by Paul in Macedonia, I Timothy 1:12-16, A.D. 67; (10) by Paul at Rome, 2 Timothy 1:9-12, A.D. 68. In order to understand the conversion of Saul of Tarsus we must be able to interpret these ten scriptures.


To prove that Paul was under conviction before his conversion I submit two scriptures: (1) The words that Jesus said to him when he met him, "It is hard for thee to kick against the goads." (2) What he says about his experience in Romans 7:7-25, that he was alive without the law until the commandment came, when sin revived and he died.


As to the time and place of Paul's conversion, the argument is overwhelming that he was converted outside Damascus. In the first place, the humility with which he asked the question, "Who art thou, Lord?" Second, the spirit of obedience which instantly followed: "Whereupon, O King Agrippa, Is was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." Again he says, "When God called me by his grace, he revealed Christ in me." So we may count it a settled question that Paul was converted out there on the road, when the light above the brightness of the midday sun shone about him, and he fell to the ground.


The proof that his vision of Jesus was real, and not a mere mental state, is found in 1 Corinthians 9:1, and also 15:8, in which he expressly affirms that he had seen Jesus, and puts it in the same class with the appearances of Jesus to the other disciples, after his resurrection from the dead. It was not simply an ecstasy, nor a trance, nor a mere mental state, but he actually met Jesus, and saw him. Jesus appeared to him, not in the flesh, as on earth before his death, but in the glory of his risen body. He and Paul actually met. There was a necessity for his actually seeing the Lord. He could not otherwise have been an apostle, for one of the main functions of the apostolic office was to be an "eyewitness" that Jesus had risen from the dead. So Peter announces when Matthias was chosen to fill the place of Judas that he must be one who had continued with them from the time of the baptism of John until the Lord was taken up into the heavens, and that he must be one eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. Other passages also bearing on his apostolic call, are, one particularly, 1 Corinthians 9:1-9, and then what he says in the beginning of his letters: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, not of man." I need not cite all of these beginnings. You can trace these out yourself. The second particular passage that I cite, to be put by the side of 1 Corinthians 9:1-9, is Galatians 1:15-16.


Let us distinguish clearly between his conversion and his apostolic call, and show what part of this point experience may not be expected in conversions today, and was not a part of his Christian experience, and what the elements of his Christian experience. When I was interested in the subject of my salvation, to me, a sinner and an outsider, the distinction between Saul's conversion and his call to the apostleship was very clear. You must understand that the light above the brightness of the midday sun was the glory of the appearance of the risen Lord to Saul, in order that he might see him to become an apostle, and the shock which Paul experienced by thus seeing the risen Lord was the shock that knocked him down, but it was not a part of his Christian experience – it was a part of his call to the apostleship. You must not expect anything of that kind in order to your conversion, nor must you teach other people to expect it. But the elements of his Christian experience were these: (1) He was convicted that he was a sinner; (2) Christ was revealed to him; (3) he did believe on the Christ thus revealed as his Saviour; (4) he did then and there receive the remission of his sins, which remission was pictorially set forth in his baptism three days later.


Here it is well for us to define a Christian experience. I was once present when a man came to unite with the church, and the first question propounded to him was, "Please tell us in your own way why you think you are a Christian." "Well," he commenced in a sort of "sing-song" manner, "one day – ah, about five o'clock – ah, I just took a notion to walk around the work-fence – ah, and I thought maybe I'd better take my rifle along – ah, for I might see a squirrel – ah," and he went on just that way. I myself have heard, in a Negro protracted meeting on the Brazos, about eight miles below Waco, candidate after candidate tell their experiences. They commenced this way: "Well, about last Sunday night – ah," following the same "sing-song" manner, "something seemed to drop down on me like a falling star – ah, and I heard the angel Gabriel toot his horn – ah; I went down in the valley to pray – ah," and so on.


Therefore, I say that we ought to define accurately the Christian experience. This is a Christian experience: All those convictions, emotions, and determinations of the soul wrought by the Spirit of God in one's passage from death unto life. That may sound like a strange definition of a Christian experience. It has in it a conviction and certain emotions, also certain determinations, or choices, and those convictions and emotions are not excited by seeing a squirrel, not in imagining that you heard Gabriel blow his horn, for it is not Gabriel that is going to blow the horn. Michael is the horn-blower. But this conviction, this emotion and the determinations of the will, are all Spirit-wrought. And a Christian experience covers every one of those in the passage from death unto life.


There are varied uses which the New Testament makes of Paul's experience:


1. As soon as he was converted, and yet outside Damascus or at least as soon as he had entered Damascus, the Lord tells Paul's Christian experience to Ananias in order to induce that disciple to go to him. That disciple says, "Lord, I know this man. Why, he is a holy terror! He just kills us wherever he finds us." But the Lord says, "I tell you he is a chosen vessel unto me, and you go to him." So the Lord made use of Paul's experience to prepare Ananias to accept Paul, and to minister to him what ought to be ministered to him, just as God made use of the experience of Cornelius related by himself to Peter in order to prepare Peter to perceive that God was no respecter of persons.


2. The second use made is by Barnabas in Acts 9:26-28. Paul came to Jerusalem three years after his conversion, and essayed to join himself to the disciples, but they would not receive him: "You? Take you? Accept you? Why, this whole city is full of the memories of your persecutions." But Barnabas took up for him, and related how this Saul had met Jesus, and how he was a believer in this gospel, and a preacher. And the relating of Saul's experience to the Jerusalem church removed all of their objections to him, and prepared them to receive him among them, so the record says, "he went in and out among them."


It is for such objects that the Christian experience should be related to the church. God requires it as the second ceremonial act – that the man shall publicly confess the change that has taken place in him before he can be received into the church, and I will be sorry whenever, if ever, the Baptists leave that out. A man must not only be converted inside, but in order to join the church there must be a confession of that conversion.


In this particular case it was exceedingly appropriate for Barnabas to relate it, as they would not be disposed to believe Paul. The general rule should be that each candidate tell his own experience. It is better to let the candidate just get up and tell the church why he thinks he is a Christian, in his own way. Some people object to it. They say it is too embarrassing to the women. I have never found it so, but Is have seen men so "shaky" when they went to get married that they answered so low I could hardly hear them. But women are always assertive. A woman knows she loves him. She knows what she is doing, and she doesn't mind saying so.


I remember a Christian experience related to our old First Church at Waco. A Mrs. Warren gave it. I talked with her privately, saying, "When you come before the church, don't let anybody suggest to you what you are to say, and don't you say anything because somebody else has said it; you just simply say what has happened to you." When I put the question to her, she opened her Bible and put her finger on the passage from which she heard a sermon, and showed how that sermon took hold of her; told how it led her to pray; she then turned to another passage, showing that through faith she believed in Jesus Christ; and she thus turned from passage to passage. I considered her’s the most intelligent and the most impressive Christian experience I had ever heard. That kind of testimony does a world of good.


3. The third use of it Paul himself makes in his letter to the Galatians. He says, "God, who separated me even from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me." Thus he goes on to make use of his Christian experience. He says, "Therefore, now first I was converted, and then called as an independent apostle. That is why I do not go to Jerusalem to submit my experience to Peter or John, having derived this direct authority from God, from Christ, who alone can call an apostle. That is why I did not submit to the instruction of man."


4. The next use he makes of it is what is told in Romans 7, and he there tells his experience in order to show the use of the law in the conversion of a man – that the law does not convert the man; that it discovers sin to him: "I had not known sin except the law said, Thou shall and shalt not do this or that. I was not even conscious that I was a sinner until the law showed me I was a sinner. Apart from the law I felt all right, about as good as anybody, but when the law came, sin revived and I died." And then he goes on to show that this mere sight of sin through the law cannot put one at peace with God, neither can it deliver one; it does not enable one to follow the right that he sees in order to evade the wrong that he would not; that it leads one to cry out, "Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" But when he says, "I thank God through Christ Jesus our Lord," he then shows how his conversion, through faith in Jesus Christ was led up to by the law: the law was a schoolmaster to lead him to Christ.


5. In the letter to the Corinthians he makes another use of it. He explains that he is so different from what he was, saying, "By the grace of God I am what I am." In other words, "You need not come to me and say, ‘Why, Paul, when did you commence to do better, to work out your own righteousness? You are so different from what you were when I first heard of you; you then were breathing out threatenings,' for I say to you, By the grace of God I am what I am."


6. We see another when he stands on the stairway in Jerusalem, giving an explanation as to why he quit one crowd and then went to another crowd. They were howling against him for going over to the Christians after being so zealous as a Jew, and he asked the brethren to hear him. He admits all that they said as to what he had been, and to justify his occupying the position he now occupies, he says, "I will tell you my Christian experience," and he proceeds to do it. If a leader of wild young men, up to all sorts of mischief and devilment, should go off for a few days, and come back changed, and the boys say, "Come down to the saloon tonight, and let us have a good time," and he would then say, "No," they would wonder what had come to him and would ask, "What has come over you lately? Come and let us have a game of cards." But, "No," he says, "boys, I will tell you why I cannot do that." Then he explains why, and he leaves that crowd because he can't stay with it any more. So Paul explained why he left the persecuting crowd, and could not go with them any more. He had had a Christian experience.


7. In Acts 26 there is another instance recorded in which he made use of it. He was at Caesarea, arraigned on trial for his life, before Festus and King Agrippa. He is asked to speak in his own defense. In defending himself against the accusations of his enemies he relates his Christian experience.


8. In the letter to the Philippians he relates his Christian experience in order to show the impossibility of any man's becoming righteous through his own righteousness, and to show that Christ laid hold of him. He uses his own experience now to show that his righteousness can never save him, and that though regenerate, he cannot claim to be perfectly holy and sinless.


9. In 1 Timothy 1:12-16 he relates his Christian experience in order to explain two poles of those who are salvable: (a) "God forgave me because I did it through ignorance," and (b) to show that any man who has not committed the unpardonable sin, may be saved, since he, the chief of sinners, was saved.


10. Then, in the last letter to Timothy, and just before he died, he recites his Christian experience. He says, "I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day," is. e., "I committed my soul to him on that day when he came to me and met me; I knew him before I committed it to him, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep it." He made that use of his Christian experience because he was under the sentence of death, expecting in a few hours to be executed. This is his farewell to earth and to time, so he closes his letter with the statement that the time of his exodus is at hand; that he is ready to be poured out as a libation; that he has fought a good fight, has kept the faith, and that he feels sure that there is laid up for him a crown which God the righteous Judge will give to him at his appearing, is. e., the appearing of Jesus. The relating of that experience came from the lips of a dying man, showing that the ground of his assurance gives calmness – the calmness of God's peace.


A startling fact confronts us in these many uses of his experience. We do not find many uses of Peter's experience, or John's, or Matthew's, or Mark's, or Luke's. Paul is the only man in the New Testament whose experience is held up before us in ten distinct passages of scripture. To account for the fact, let us expound the two reasons for this particular man's conversion (1 Tim. 1:13-16), in which he says, "Howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief . . . howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as the chief [of sinners] might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample, . . ." the conclusion of which is this: All these uses are made of Paul's experience because as Abraham had the model faith, which is the pattern for all generations, so Paul is a model in Christian experience – he is the pattern. If you preach on the faith of Abraham you have the model faith of the world; if you preach on the experience of Saul of Tarsus you have the model experience of the world.


The principal lesson to us is that as it was in the particular case of Paul, so it is in our case, that the most stupendous fact in our history is not when we were born according to the flesh, but when we were born according to the Spirit. That is our real birthday. It is the most significant and the most far-reaching fact of anybody's lifetime and an abundant use may be made of it.


For instance, John Jasper, the Negro preacher, with his Christian experience could always reply to any atheist – even to President Eliot, of Harvard, about a new religion. He would say to President Eliot, "When you say there is no such thing as the religion that has been preached, you ought to say, 'Not as you knows of.' I have it, and since I have got it and you haven't, I am higher authority on that than you."


In Edward Eggleston's Circuit Rider is the story of a fighting preacher, who was going to his appointment, and certain rough men stopped him on the way and told him that he must turn round and go home, and not fill that appointment. "No," he said, "I am going to fill it; I'm not going home." "Well, then, we will take you down from your horse and give you such a beating that you will not feel like preaching." "Well, you ought not to do that," he said. "You get down," they said. He got down and whipped both of them outrageously, but in the fight he got his jaw badly bruised and marred, and when he got to where he was to preach he could not preach. There was a big crowd, and no preacher who could preach. So he looked around and took a poor, thin, long-haired, black-eyed young fellow who had been very wild, but who had just been converted – just a boy. The preacher said, "Ralph, get up here and preach." "Why," he says, "I am no preacher; I have not been a Christian long; I have not been licensed, nor ordained." "But," said the preacher, "get up here and preach." "Why," said the boy, "I do not know any sermons." "Well, if you try to make a sermon and fail, then throw your sermon down, and tell your Christian experience before this crowd." So that boy got up and made a failure of trying to preach a sermon like preachers preach. Then, weeping, he said, "Brethren, I can tell you how God for Christ's sake forgave my sins," and he became more eloquent in telling his experience than Demosthenes or Cicero, and that whole crowd was weeping under the power of the boy's simple recounting of the salvation of his soul. He could not possibly have done any better than just what he did that day.


There is a myth that when Jupiter made a man he put a pair of saddlebags on his shoulders. In one of the saddlebags was the man's own sins and in the other were the sins of his neighbors, and when the man threw the saddlebags on his shoulder the sins of his neighbors were in front of him and the other saddlebag with his own sins was behind him so that he could not see them, but his eyes were always on the sins of his neighbors. But when conversion comes God reverses the saddlebags, and putting the man's own sins in front, he places the sins of his neighbors behind him, so that he never thinks about what a sinner A, B or C is, but, "Oh," he says, "what a sinner I am!" That is the way of it in the Christian experience. Some think that it was the thought underlying this myth which caused Paul to call himself the chief of sinners, is. e., that it was because he saw his own sins, but not the sins of other people. My belief is that all of us feel that way the first time we quit looking at our neighbors' sins and begin looking at our own sins, but it is not the explanation of Paul's statement, because that does not make a pattern of the case. He says, "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his long-suffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life." Note that his case was a pattern to them that should thereafter believe. That was the reason, and not simply that of looking at his own sins instead of his neighbors.


What particular act, or series of acts, or state of mind constituted him the chief of sinners, is e., was it because he was a persecutor, blasphemer, or injurious? No. I have showed in a previous chapter that Louis XIV and Alva in the lowlands persecuted worse than all. Others have gone before him in blaspheming, and there have been more injurious men than he. The answer is this: He was a "Pharisee of the Pharisees," that is, he was an extremist, going to the fine points of Pharisaism, the acme, the pinnacle, the apex of Pharisaism, which is self-righteousness, and Paul was the most self-righteous man in the world. What is the sin of self-righteousness? It says, "I am not depraved by nature; I do not need the new birth, the re-birth of the Holy Spirit; I need no atonement; I am the 'pink of perfection.' " That is the greatest sin that man ever committed, because it rejects the Father's love. It rejects the Saviour's expiatory death, and his priesthood. It rejects the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. Hence it is the culmination of sin. While other people are self-righteous, Paul was the outside man, which means that if all the sinners from Adam to the end of the world were put in a row and graded according to their heinousness, this one a sinner) this one more a sinner, that one even more, and to the outside man, the worst, the one next to hell, that man was Saul of Tarsus. That is what is meant by being the outside man as a pattern. He topped them all, to be held up before other sinners, so as to say, "If the outside man was saved, you need not despair." The value of this man's conversion to the church and to the world is very great. It marked the turning point in the direction of the labors of the church in a worldwide way, and it established forever the foundations of the new covenant as against the old covenant.


His apostolic call and independent gospel knocks the foundation out from under the Romanist claim that Peter was the first Pope, because it shows that he did not derive from Peter his apostolic authority; that he did not even go to see Peter before he commenced exercising his call; that he did not get from Peter one syllable of his gospel; and whenever an issue came up between him and Peter the latter went down and not Paul. That one fact destroys the entire claim of the papacy that Peter was the first Pope.


There are some things in this connection that need explanation. First, the falling of the scales from his eyes. Literally, there was no falling of the scales from his eyes, but the glory of Christ blinded him. His physical eyes could not see. It was not his soul that was blinded, but his physical eyes; and "the scales" that fell from his eyes was this temporary suspension of sight caused by this glory of the Lord. If you hold your eye open a little and let me put a red hot iron, not against your eye, but close to it, it will make you as blind as a bat, but if you shut your eye it won't do it, because the tears in your eyes will break the conduction of the heat. Paul's case is just as when you are standing out of doors on a dark night and there comes an intense flash of lightning. When it is gone you cannot see for a moment. That is the scales.


Second, Paul was unable to eat and drink for three days. The experience that had come to him was turning the world upside down. He had meat to eat that the ordinary man knows not of. The disciples were astonished that Jesus, sitting at the well of Sychar, was not hungry. He says, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." Hundreds of times I have been in that condition, after a great illumination in God's work, and some powerful demonstration in a meeting, that I could not eat anything. The things of heaven tasted so much better than the things of earth. No man eats for a while in the shock of such tremendous experience as that Paul passed through.


Third, the Lord said to Ananias, "Behold, he prayeth." The question arises, What was he praying for? What do you pray for? You are converted. The Lord said to Ananias, "Paul prayeth." It was used as a proof that he was converted, and, "therefore Ananias, you may go to him." Ananias was afraid to go. So the Lord said, "Why, you need not be afraid to go; he is not persecuting now, he is praying; there has a change come over him." I do more praying and quicker praying after an extraordinary visitation of God's grace than at any other time.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What address commended for study in connection with this chapter, and have you read it?


2. What the scriptures bearing on the theme, and what the corresponding date of each?


3 Prove that Paul was under conviction before his conversion?


4. Through whose ministry was Paul convicted?


5. At what point in the story was he converted – when he met Jesus outside Damascus, at the end of three days in Damascus, or at his baptism?


6. What the proof that his vision of Jesus was real, and not a mere mental state?


7. What was the necessity for his actually seeing the Lord?


8. Cite other passages also bearing on his apostolic call.


9. Distinguish clearly between his conversion and his apostolic call, and show what part of this joint experience may not be expected in conversions today, and was not a part of his Christian experience.


10. Define a Christian experience.


11. What varied uses does the New Testament make of Paul's experience?


12. What startling fact confronts us in these many uses of his experience?


13. To account for the fact expound the two reasons for this particular man's conversion (I Tim. 1:13-16) in which be says, "Howbeit Is obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; . . . howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as the chief of sinners] might Jesus Christ show forth all his long-suffering, for an ensample, etc."


14. What the lessons to us of the use to be made of our experience, and what illustration of it?


15. Cite the myth of Jupiter concerning the man and the saddlebags.


16. Was it the thought underlying this myth which caused Paul to call himself the chief of sinners, is. e., was it because he saw his own sins, but not the sins of other people? Explain fully.


17. What particular act, or series of acts, or state of mind constituted him the chief of sinners, i.e., was it because he was a. persecutor, blasphemer, or injurious?


18. What the value of this man's conversion to the church and the world?


19. What the bearing of his apostolic call and his independent gospel on the Romanist claim that Peter was the first Pope?


20. Explain the falling of the scales from his eyes.


21. Explain his not eating and drinking for three days.


22. The Lord said to Ananias, "Behold, he prayeth." What was he waiting for?

 

 

XVIII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

SAUL – FROM HIS CONVERSION TO HIS ORDINATION

See list of references below.

 

The theme of this section is the history of Saul from his conversion and call to the apostleship, up to his ordination as an apostle to the Gentiles; that is, it extends from Acts 9 over certain parts of Acts up to chapter 13, but not all of the intervening chapters of Acts. The scriptures are Acts 9:17-30; 11:25-30; 22:17-21; Galatians 1:5-24; Acts 15:2341; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 32-33; 12:1-4; Acts 26:20, which you have to study very carefully in order to understand this section. The time covered by this period is at least nine years, probably ten years, of which we have very scanty history. We have to get a great part of our history from indirect references, and therefore it takes a vast deal of study to make a connected history of this period.


Two scriptures must here be reconciled, Acts 9:19-26 and Galatians 1:15-18. The particular points conflicting are that Luke in Acts 9 seems to say that immediately, or straightway, after his conversion Saul commenced to preach at Damascus, and the Galatian passage says that straightway after his conversion he went into Arabia and remained there a long time before he returned to Damascus. The precise question involved in the account is, Did Paul commence to preach "straightway" after his conversion, as Luke seems to represent it, or did he wait nearly three years after his conversion before he began to preach? Luke's account in Acts 9 seems on its face to be a continuous story from Damascus back to Jerusalem, without a note of time, except two expressions: "And he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus," and then a little lower down he uses the expression, "when many days were fulfilled." Luke's account says nothing about Saul's leaving Damascus, his long absence and return there. In a very few words only he tells the story of three years. With his account only before us, we would naturally infer that Saul began to preach in Damascus "straightway" after his conversion, but we would also infer that this preaching was continuous there after he commenced, until he escaped for his life to go to Jerusalem. But the Galatian account shows that he left Damascus straightway after his conversion, went into Arabia, returned to Damascus, and then took up his ministry there, and, after three years, went to Jerusalem. This account places the whole of his Damascus ministry after his return there.


The issue, however, is not merely between Luke's "straightway" and the Galatian "straightway," though this is sharp, but so to insert the Galatian account in the Acts account as not to mar either one of the accounts, and yet to intelligently combine the two into one harmonious story. In Hackett on Acts, "American Commentary," we find the argument and the arrangement supporting the view that Paul commenced to preach in Damascus before he went into Arabia, and in chapter II of Farrar's Life of Paul we find the unanswerable argument showing that Paul did not commence to preach until after his return from Arabia, and that his whole ministry at Damascus was after that time, and then was continued until he escaped and went to Jerusalem.


The Hackett view, though the argument is strong and plausible in some directions, breaks down in adjustment of the accounts, marring both of them, and failing utterly in the combination to make one intelligent, harmonious story. The author, therefore, dissents strongly from the Hackett view and supports strongly that of Farrar. In other words, we put in several verses of the letter to the Galatians right after Acts 9:19.


Let us take Acts 9, commencing with verse 17: "And Ananias departed, and entered into the house; and laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. And he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus." And Galatians 1:15 reading right along: "But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus." All of that must follow Acts 9:19. Then we go back and read, beginning at Acts 9:20: "And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God," that is, straightway after he returned from Arabia. Then read to Acts 9:25, and turn back to Galatians 1:18: "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas." Then go with Acts 9:26: "And when he was come to Jerusalem, he essayed to join himself to the disciples." The following is a harmony of these scriptures:


It is intensely important that you have this harmony of all these scriptures. You divide all of this into four parts just like the Broadus method in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I have in four parallel columns made the harmony complete in the passages mentioned, showing how far to read, and then taking up the one that supplies, so that one can read the entire story without a break. In column I of this harmony read Acts 9:17-19; in column 2, Galatians 1:15-17; returning to column I read Acts 9:20-25 and 2 Corinthians 11:32-33; then in column 2, Galatians 1:18 (except the last clause); then back to column I and read Acts 9:26-27; in column 2, Galatians 1: 18 (last clause) and 19-20; then back to column I, read Acts 9:28-29 (except last clause); then in column 3 read Acts 22:17-21; in column I, Acts 9:29 (last clause) to verse 31; in column 2, Galatians 1:21-24; in column 4, Acts 11:25-30; 12:25. This is the harmonious story of Paul. Then read for purposes of investigation, Acts 15:23-41 in order to get the information about his Cilician work, also read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 to find out what part of the sufferings there enumerated took place in Cicilia. Then read 2 Corinthians 12: 1-4, as this pertains to Cilicia. Then read Acts 26:20 and ask the question, When did he do this preaching in Judea, and was it during his Cilician tour? This gives all the scriptures. Carefully read it over in the order in which the scriptures are given. It makes the most perfect story that I have ever read. It does not mar any one of the four separate cases. It does combine into one harmonious story and gives us an excellent harmony of these scriptures.


The value of this harmony is very evident. This arrangement mars no one of the several accounts of the story, but does combine them into one harmonious story, and provides an explanation for Luke's "certain days," "many days," the Galatian "three years," Luke's "straightway," and the Galatian "straightway."


With this harmony before us, we can see why Luke is so very brief on the account of Paul in Acts 9. His plan is to tell the story of the Jerusalem church up to the end of chapter 12. All matters apart from that are briefly noted, and only as they connect with Jerusalem, the center. But from chapter 13 he makes Antioch the center, and we are told of his arrest, and later on he shifts back to Jerusalem, and then back to Rome, and thus winds up the history. Remember the centers: First center, Jerusalem; second center, Antioch; third center, Jerusalem, and fourth center, Rome.


Saul did not commence preaching at Damascus immediately after his conversion because he had nothing to preach. He had not yet received the gospel. A man cannot by sudden wrench turn from propagating the Pharisee persecution to propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ. He must have the gospel first, and must receive it direct from the Lord. After you take up the New Testament passages showing how he received the gospel, you will see that he did not receive it while at Damascus. Indeed, we have the most positive proof that he did not receive it there.


But why did he go into Arabia, where in Arabia, and how long there? Being willing to accept Christ as his Saviour, he needs time for adjustment. He needs retirement. He needs, like every preacher needs after conversion, his preparation to preach and to know what to preach. He went into Arabia for this purpose, and, of course, Arabia here means the Sinaitic Peninsula, or Mount Sinai. Up to his conversion he had been preaching Moses and the law given on Mount Sinai. Now he goes into Arabia to Mount Sinai, the very place where God gave the law to Moses, to study the law and the gospel, and comes back to us, having received of the Lord the gospel as explained in Galatians.


There are some analogous cases. The other apostles had to have three years of preparation, and under the same teacher, Jesus. They would have done very poor preaching if they had started immediately after their conversion. Jesus kept them right there, and trained them for three years. Now Paul commences with the three years' training, and he goes to Arabia and receives the three years' preparation under the same teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He not only knows the facts of the gospel as we know them from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but as one that was there right at the time, and he gets it firsthand from the Lord Jesus Christ himself telling him all the important facts bearing upon the remaining of the incarnation of Jesus, where he came from in coming to the earth, how much he stooped, what the coming signified, of his death, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension. We get the harmony of the gospel by studying the books, but he did not get it as we do, but by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ. He introduces a statement concerning the revelation that he received, and he is careful to tell the Corinthian church how that Christ died, was buried, and rose again in three days. It took three years and a half in the analogous cases of other apostles.


Elijah went into Arabia and into this very mountain when he was perplexed; and there came an earthquake, and God was not in the earthquake; and there came a fire, and God was not in the fire, but there came a still, small voice showing Elijah what he must do. Take the case of Moses when the revelation was made to him that he was to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians. God told him the methods and the means and sent him into the same Sinaitic Peninsula. He stayed there forty years in study and preparation, and then delivered Israel.


John the Baptist remained in the wilderness thirty years in order to preach six months. Neither did Jesus open his mouth to preach a sermon until after his baptism, and was led into the wilderness and tempted of the devil, and then came back and immediately commenced to preach. More hurtful mistakes are made by unprepared people taking hold of the Scriptures than in any other way. A certain colonel, when asked by a zealous young preacher, "Well, colonel, what do you think of my sermon," answered, "Zealous, but weak."


We have only to read Galatians 4 to see the significance of Sinai and Jerusalem, which shows the revolutions which took place in his mind while he was in Arabia. If the apostle Paul had not gone into Arabia, but had been sent to Judea under the old covenant, which is Jerusalem, as Jerusalem now is, the Christian world would have been a Jewish sect. You have only to read to see how certain of the apostles clung to the forms and customs of the Jewish law and claimed that one could not be a Christian without becoming a Jew and being circumcised. What would have been the effect if God had not selected this great life and revealed to him the ministry of the gospel that had been rejected by the Jews and given to the Gentiles, so that foreigners and aliens might become citizens and saints? For a more elaborate discussion of this subject see the author's sermon on the Arabian visit.


Just before the ministry at Damascus he went into Arabia and returned. He was in Arabia over two, perhaps three years. As he stayed about three years before he went back to Jerusalem, his ministry was not very long in Damascus. The record says, "straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus," etc. What kind of sermons did they have? The Jews over at Damascus that were still holding to the Mosaic law could not yet understand .this revolutionary preaching, and right there at Damascus, he received one of the five Jewish scourgings that are mentioned in 2 Corinthians, which gives a list of the number of times he received the forty stripes save one, and the number of times beaten with the Roman rods, and the number of times scourged with the Jewish scourge. Finding the scourging was not sufficient, they laid a plot against him. They conspired and set a watch at every gate all around the city to kill him. The walls at Damascus have houses built on them, as you can see to this day. They put him in a basket and from a window in the upper story they letrbim down by the wall. Aretas was king of Damascus at this time) and he stationed soldiers at every gate to keep watch, and while they were watching the gates, Paul escaped from the window in an upper story, as given in the thrilling account of 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. Also Luke gives the account, saying that the brethren let him down in a basket by the wall. Now he being let down, started to Jerusalem. Three years have elapsed since he left there, a persecutor, and he returns now a preacher of the Lord Jesus Christ. That presents this connected account.


But why did he want to go to Jerusalem to see Peter? Commentaries say he wanted to get information from Peter; Catholics say that Peter was Pope. Whatever he wanted to get, I think he derived nothing from Peter. When he came there they expressed distrust of him. If he had commenced to preach at Damascus "straightway" after his conversion, in three years' time some notice would have gotten to Jerusalem, and there would not have been this distrust when he got there. Only one had heard of this change and his beginning to preach, and that was Barnabas, of the Jewish church. When Barnabas related Paul's experience, they received him and he went in and out among them. But he was there only two weeks.


He commenced immediately to preach to the Grecians, and it stirred up the people as it did at Damascus, and they were so intensely stirred that they laid a plan to kill him. So he left, and there are two reasons for his leaving. When the brethren saw the Jews were about to kill him, they sent him to Caesarea and over to Tarsus. That is one of the reasons for his leaving. Paul gives an entirely different reason. He says, "And it came to pass when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the Temple, I was in a trance, and Jesus came unto me saying, Make haste and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. Get thee far hence and preach to the Gentiles," and he, therefore, went.


Here was the Cilician ministry, its sufferings and its revelations. He was over there five years, and some of the sufferings enumerated in 1 Corinthians II are bound to have occurred in that period; some of the shipwrecks, some of the scourges, some of these stonings. In 2 Corinthians 12 he says, "I knew a man in Christ, fourteen years ago," so if you drop back fourteen years you find yourself there with Paul in Cilicia. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 we find the revelations that occurred there. One of the revelations there was that marvelous revelation that he received (2 Corinthians 12:4): "How that he was caught up into Paradise." Here the question arises, Was it in this tour that he preached on the coasts of Judea? In Acts he seems to say that he preached at Damascus first and then at Jerusalem, and in Cilicia, and on the coasts of Judea. We have no history of his preaching on the Judean coasts beyond his statement, and if he did not preach on the coasts of Judea at that time, when do we find a period in his life before that where he could have preached on the Judean coasts? On his way to the Jerusalem conference. Therefore, he says, "While I was in Cilicia, and the five years I was at Tarsus, and just a little way from Tarsus on the Judean coasts."


Let us consider the Antioch ministry. The record says Barnabas had gone to Tarsus in order to find Saul and bring him back with him, and that Barnabas and Saul preached a year at Antioch. A great many were brought into the church. It was the first time in the world where Jew and Gentile were in the same church together, socially, eating and drinking with each other. But Paul now makes his second visit to Jerusalem. The last of chapter II tells us that Agabus, one of the prophets, foretold a drought in Judea, and Paul and Barnabas took a collection over to them. Later, when Paul is making his last visit to Jerusalem, Agabus meets him and gives that remarkable prophecy which we find in Acts 21, about what would happen to Paul if he went to Jerusalem, he having received the revelation from the Holy Spirit. But the condition of Jerusalem when he arrived was awful. Herod, as we find in Acts 12, was persecuting the church, and had killed James and imprisoned Peter. Paul comes just at that time. On his return to Antioch he finds a new companion, Mark.


The Romanists place here Peter's first visit to Rome. They take two passages of scripture, one Acts II, where Peter visits all parts, and they say when he left Jerusalem this time he went to Rome, and got back to Jerusalem in time for that big council in Acts 15. So far as Bible history goes, there is not a bit of testimony that Peter ever saw Rome. I think he did, but we do not get it from the Bible.


Here arises another question, Did the shock of our Lord's appearance to Saul on the way to Damascus, likely injure him physically in a permanent way, and permanently affect his sensibilities? My opinion is that it did. He was never a strong man after that. His eyes always gave him trouble. Though the scales fell from his eyes, and he was not entirely blind, his eyes were weak, and he had to grope his way in walking. There are two pictures of Paul which greatly contrast his physical appearance. Raphael gives us a famous cartoon of Paul at Athens, and one of the most famous pictures of the great apostle. We find a copy of it in most Bible illustrations, certainly in any Roman Catholic Bible. Another picture is by the artist, Albrecht Durer. It is called a medallion, a carved picture, and it presents a little, ugly, weak, bald-headed, blear-eyed Jew. Durer's picture is the one that fits Paul's account of himself, and not Raphael's.


I here commend, in addition to Conybeare and Howson's Life of Paul and Farrar's History, Lightfoot on Galatians.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What the theme of this section?


2. What the scriptures?


3. What the time covered by this period?


4. What two scriptures must here be reconciled?


5. What the problem here?


6. What the Hackett view of it?


7. What the real solution of it?


8. Show how the scriptures are made to fit this scheme.


9. How may we show the harmony of these scriptures?


10. What the value of this harmony?


11. Why did not Saul commence preaching at Damascus immediately after his conversion?


12.Why did he go into Arabia, where in Arabia, & how long there?


13. What the analogous cases cited?


14.What was the added value of this preparation to Saul?


15.What sermon commended in this connection & have you read it?


16. Describe the ministry at Damascus.


17. Why did he want to go to Jerusalem to see Peter?


18. Explain the distrust there & its bearing on preceding question.


19. How long was he there?


20. What of his ministry while there?


21. What two reasons for his leaving?


22. How long was the Cilician ministry, and what its sufferings and its revelations?


23. Was it in this tour that be preached on the coasts of Judea?


24. Describe the Antioch ministry, and how long was it?


25. What carried Paul on his second visit to Jerusalem, and when does Agabus again appear in this history?


26. What was the condition of Jerusalem when he arrived?


27. Where do the Romanists place Peter's first visit to Rome?


28. On Paul's return to Antioch, what new companion had he?