Features of the early church
Act 4:23 a.o.
… I suppose we begin with chapter 5 of the Gospels, commencing with verse 17. The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20 and verse 17. And from Midas, Paul, sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church. And when they were coming to him, he said unto them, Ye know from the first days I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many fears and temptations which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews, and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shown you and have taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the midst unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things which shall before be there, saying that the Holy Ghost which is in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me, but knowing things move me, neither can I my life here unto myself, so that I might build my court with joy and ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my faith no more. Wherefore, I take you to record the day that I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all things have fell on God. Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseer, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wounds enter in among you, not tearing the flock. Also, of your own self shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, watch, and remember, that by the space of three years, I have ceased not to warn every one night and day with fear. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the work of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance above all that which the family buys. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or heralds. Yes, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessity, and are ever with me. I have shown you all things, how that so neighborly ye ought to support the weak. And to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is God's blessing to give, that to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed to the Lord. And they all went and saw, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all with the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more, and they accompanied him unto the ship. Now, in my mind, what I have read has a very distinct connection with that which we have had before us on the two preceding eves. Two nights ago, I was endeavoring from chapter four to point out the very delightful features that marked the early church. I think I called it the primitive church in Jerusalem. We noted how, at that time, in the energy of the Spirit, when as yet little had come in any way to breathe the Spirit, and in which we saw what did come in, in connection with Ammonites and Babara, was very definitely dealt with violently. Well, we saw a very delightful picture of the simplicity of that which was established, and the box, I think one might really put it, of the church in its primitive simplicity. But, last evening, I pointed out, as most of you will remember, that one great feature that marked this church, this sensation, was nothing in the form of act. Because, as I pointed out, the feature, one might almost say, at the moment, it is this, that God has created something entirely new. It isn't an improved form of the Jew's religion, though. It is something entirely new. As he puts it in the Second Religion, to which I think I refer, last evening, God has created one new man, breaking down the middle wall of partition between those gathered out of Jewish circles on the one hand, and those gathered out of Gentile circles on the other, breaking down the middle wall of partition, and making that which is essentially new. What we haven't got in act form, of course, is the Gentile call as yet into the church. So, as you will remember, last evening we travelled on to chapter 11, where we see the beginning of this remarkable work at Antioch. It began in a very simple way by very humble individuals whose names are not on the record. While many who were scattered abroad, owing to the persecution that sprang up after the martyrdom of Stephen, many went about still preaching the word to the Jews only, as if this was something that only concerned that favored people. But amongst them were men of thankfulness, as I would say, who went to these preachers of goodness, preaching the Lord Jesus, preaching him as Lord. And as Peter told Cornelius, it's recorded in chapter 10, he is Lord of all, of Gentile, of, and yet as well as of Jew. Instantly we come to the gospel. We step outside Jewish circumstances, and I think I might also say Jewish exclusivity, and we contemplate God gathering out of the nations, he had that word in chapter 15, a people for his dead. I think I did a little job last evening. It's a remarkable fact. In fact, it was a lot to record in chapter 15. During that, when every person who speaks of Daniel, while we get the record of the conversion of Cornelius, in chapter 10 we get it told as Peter told it, somewhat later, in chapter 11, and we get it referred to, in fact, it was the decisive argument in the minds of the apostles and elders gathered in Jerusalem when this question arose. Now, if Gentiles are gathered out of the nations and brought into this which God is building, must they not be inaugurated in Judaism? They were surely circumcised, and they sought to keep the law of Moses. Let us make them into a new species of first-rate convert to Judaism. Well, it was considered, and they saw very clearly, it was decided by Jesus, when Cornelius was converted. What happened? Well, Peter preached the word, and, look at this, when he reached the climax of his address, possibly here then, if you were to ask me here where I live, in my own life, I'd hardly believe you. I reached the climax, that to him, we've all come to witness, that whosoever, look, you're leaping right out of my Jewish circle there, whosoever believes in this shall receive remission of sin. There were a lot of poor Gentiles, every day, their hearts brought on by the Holy Ghost, ready for the Word. And, as I said last night, I wonder if ever since any preacher has had the privilege of talking to a group of people when the conversions were on, hundred-percently, every hour. I never heard that statement. On that basis, but it was so. The Holy Ghost fell on all men. You say, well, that's right. No, they weren't. The Holy Ghost, you see, the message that they know yet, there'll be a lot of arguing about that time. So we'll settle it. They shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost just as he did. Elected the apostle for 120, and others possibly, were baptized by the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. But in that case, as you very well remember, when the chalice was given Peter said to them, now look, save yourselves from this untoward generally death. They had to receive this Word by that time. And then the essence of which was, then they disputed. They cut from it. In that outward, visible way, they professed, our link to the future, madame. We've died out of that circle. And then the essence of which was, the Holy Ghost settled this question by baptizing them with the Holy Ghost. He baptized them before ever they were baptized in water. They had to be baptized in water because, obviously, it was settled. But the Holy Ghost had baptized them. And that settled the question. Clearly, as we saw in Acts 15, they could say, it seemed good to the Holy Ghost. In the case of Cornelius, and to us, a certain fear in Jerusalem, to put upon you Gentiles, no other, the even certain necessary thing, not so much connected with the law, and with God's rights in creation. Now, that's rather a long preliminary, isn't it? Now tonight, I want to say, yes, now we are listening to the man who, in those days of God, in gathering us in those days of the nations, of people that they made, and we are instructed as to, well, how to do it. Isaiah 315 marked the ministry of the Apostle Paul. He was a court who was tremendously antagonized by the Jews. If he wrote, as Isaiah already has done, it's generally held, the epistle to the Hebrews, did you know, instead of incorporating Gentile converts into Jewish services, he had to end his epistle by saying, in effect, now you who are Christians from among the Hebrews, you instead of your services, go forth to the rejected Savior without the pen. Well, what did he do? What was it that God used in the early days in the accomplishment of this wonderful purpose? There are so many things here that I can only attempt to speak perhaps of a few. But I know this, the Apostle speaks of his ministry, of the manner of it, the method, and then of the things that he did. Now, you might say to me, dear, you're a Christian man, you've got to pay attention to the manner in which the Apostle Paul exercised his ministry. I have a book. If you say that to me, you are quite right. Every one of us who in our small way today seeks grace to preach or minister to the Word of God, let the guidance by speaking of the Apostle, the Jew that we have behind me, be consistent with it. He says, I will win you at all sins. It wasn't the case of his being very hot today and very cold tomorrow, like two Asians. No, faith, constant ministry, in humility, in trial, difficulty, these temptations or testings that he had by the divine way to do. And then he tells us not only did he declare things by word of mouth, but he showed them. Christ, he said that. You note, I dare say, in the verses I read, I've shown you. I've shown you. In other words, he exemplified, in practice, the things that he preached. So many people say, now what did he mean by that? There is a way to see. Look what he did. Look how he carried himself. Look at the spirit that marked him. He has displayed, he has showed us, in practical terms, what he declared in words. But what did he declare? Now that is my first point. But look, he says in the end of verse 24, the ministry I received of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of the grace of God. Of course, that is where all began and where everything begins today. It's no use of jumping further until that is established. The foundation is laid in the gospel. Here, not the gospel of the kingdom, which we read about, for instance, in the Gospels, because there was that time for the Jew that last year was a Jew. Here was the expected thing. So alas, they didn't recognize him. Still, the good news, God had revealed his prediction through the prophets and healed of the world, who was Israel, rightful, alas, that was not perceived, saved by other Jews. But now there goes out, consequent upon the death and resurrection and glory of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, the gospel of the grace of God. This is the epoch which is paradigm, thy grace. Let's never forget that. I never forgot, nearly a year ago, I'm talking to the children, whom I, what many years ago, I was walking down the road, shedding them, those children's meetings on the beach, and he was telling them about grace. And he had all the youngsters with him. You see, I remember, even if the youngsters hadn't, I hadn't attended, he was there, and they all said after him, Grace is, God giving something to somebody who doesn't deserve it. Which I said to myself, well, that's a very primitive kind of theological statement, but it's true, just about it, the man upon the head, the little child, God giving something to somebody who doesn't deserve it. It's grace. In other words, grace is, in contrast with anything like merit. Merit means I deserve something. I have merit. No. No, we have once before had to say, I have shown mercy, not merit, but mercy. And it is the gospel of the grace of God. And look, you might, especially in this day, notice what that meant practically when he came to what I might call our side of this matter. He said, I've been testifying, those of you who've come earlier, I've been testifying to the Jews and also to the Greeks, what? Why? Repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. When our souls come under the mighty power and influence of the glad-tidings of grace, the grace of God, it instantly reveals us to ourselves and their repentance before God and their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I don't know whether I'm right, though I think I see other people who have said in present, possibly we, modern preachers of the gospel, haven't made quite clear enough. Repentance towards God. It's then that there is depth, the deeper the conviction in my soul, and your soul, and the soul of any convert, the deeper the conviction of sin and demon. God, so that we are brought down in repentance, well, the more stable and satisfactory the conversion to prognosis. So often repentance is shallow, and then the sense of grace is not deep. And Christian life afterwards is rather shallow. The apostles are in very pain that when the gospel of grace is faithfully declared, that's what is really about are in the hearts and minds of those who receive the gospel, repentance towards God, repentance towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The problem is not there. Now the second thing that he, so ably did it, sir, he mentioned, as I'm in the next verse, I think, he speaks of the gospel of the grace of God. And then he said, Now, behold, I know that ye, or let me emphasize that little word, he, you, all of you, among whom I have gone, Christians, the kingdom of God, shall see my face, shall know me, for all men preach the kingdom of God among the saints. You, all, you will be brought up wherever I go, sir, and yet, I say to the saints, Look, grace has reached you in the gospel, but it's brought you under the eye of authority. You've been consolated, I'm going to quote the Colossians, you've been consolated from the authority of darkness. You've been brought into the kingdom, the kingdom of God, dear son. God's kingdom is established in the hearts of his people, and they are brought into happy subjection to Jesus, who has become their Lord, their Lord. Whenever Paul went, he brought the truth of God to bear upon the consciences, the hearts, the lives, of those who received the gospel. If anybody said, is there truth in that? There is indeed, if you look at the Apostle. The Apostle never contented himself with merely expounding truth. Having expounded it, of course, that's the beginning. You will have to begin in your new life with doctrine, the unholy of God's truth. But he never stopped there. Take the epistle of the Romans, wonderful unfolding of the gospel, particularly in chapters, chapters one, two, and a half. Yes, it's bringing all men down into repentance towards God, to take our place of duty there as women in the presence of God. Then the grace of God in its fullness doth give away him, reckons his nations. In Christ Jesus, the Spirit is eternal, ever living, the whole effect of sin comes abounding, and more in the gospel. Then the three chapters, of course, that several questions that will rise in some people's minds as to whether this is in any way set aside what God had previously promised to Israel and Assyria in the past. But when you come to chapter 12, you get it. I will speak to you there. I will speak to my brethren, he says, in the light of the proof that I have opened up before you. Look, my, we present our model, my model is that which, in my unconverted days, was the vehicle in which I pressed my door, my desire, my dream, my joy of my happiness. It was all of a sudden. When a Christian is going to present his or her body, a big sacrifice, a sacrifice exactly is devoted to God and his purpose. We do it in a living way. There we are, our very bodies are to be under divine control. We are to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect good of God. And only that is yet divine, what I was trying to tell you. The apostle didn't stop and expound the whole bundle of chapters 5, 6, and then again 8, particularly he says, just now, in the light of the good, what it means. He applied it to the concept of self. Presently he says, are you to fear the kingdom of God, you are brought to do it. It isn't a matter of meat and drink. It's righteousness, it's peace, it's God in the Holy Church. Well, you see, that was the gospel of Israel. But anyway, the religion of Israel, which is especially unholy, proves, I'm sorry, the church. What God is doing today, calling to his own gracious counsel and court, if there is an exposition of death and grace in that gospel, he doesn't stop there. He turns about the middle of chapter 4 and you find he suddenly says, in effect, look, you're not going to be a thief, you're not going to do any damage to your own life. If these beliefs are true, and they are, look what it means in the practical Christian way. Again, the apostle says, in effect, you're going to put on the new man, the old man, this process. You're brought under him, the Lord under him. Though the word kingdom may not be mentioned there, what is in her, is in him. We are brought under the design of our lives, that our lives, the desires of our hearts, the words of our lips, the actions of our minds, may be controlled by the Lord. Now, everywhere Paul went, he made that note. He wasn't a mere kind of theological professor, profound in all kinds of wonderful, wonderful ideas, and there he left it. Nobody would at all exercise as to any light which these ideas shed upon their practical behavior. So, if truth is revealed, and it is revealed in order to exert its control upon our lives, as brought under divine dominance. That's what it is. Whenever Paul went, he preached among, among you, the kingdom of God. But there was another thing. He goes on to say, I'm, I'm love yours in the blood of all men, for I have not shunned you, nor have I viewed you for the price of God. Well, that course is very poor, I'm telling you, in the epistle to the Ephesians. Beyond that, which meets our needs, is that which God has denied according to his own thought. If you really give to the Ephesians, because there are always a pencil mark underneath every time that kind of expression occurs, according to, he has left us according to the original Hebrew. According to the purpose, the key purpose of his thought. You'll find it in 109. We are brought into the presence of this, that God has left us not merely according to our needs, of course he has left us, he's left our canaries, he's left more land for us to grow, he's left us according to his own thoughts and purposes and countries which he formed even before the foundation of the world. Now, Paul made that manifest. Do you know this? Do you know this? He said, I have not shouted at my father or at my mother. At first sight you might say, I'm bored, I've got no idea at all. Why should you? Why? Why do you? I should go and be delighted, I could wonder who could, that I could expound to you or compel my father to be delighted. Why should you shout? Well, obviously, because it was exactly that that brought upon him the raw of the Orthodox Jews. Why was he aware that this could step dark in every place? Why was he treated as he was, he recalled, because he did not churn to declare the whole counsel of God, which lifts the Christian into heavenly into heavenly blessings beyond anything made known in connection with the Jew and the blessings which the Jew will have according to God's thought in the coming age. No, it was just that that brought upon his head the persecution. Continually gone his footsteps from the Jews that he made. He made it clear what God is doing according to his counsel. I always say, you of course, let us, my dear brethren, remember these three things. Don't get lopsided. Don't say, I'll have all gospel and no counsel or I'll have all kingdom and no gospel. No, have all three. We need also the gospel of grace, the kingdom of authority, the counsel of the purpose of God. And that was what wrought in the Apostle's ministry. Now, I'm only going to say this, I think, that he then tells them, maybe, there are two great dangers ahead. The one is a more obvious movement of the adversary. He calls them grievous wounds, getting it among you, not sparing the flock. Yes, that is marked the whole course of the Christian procession. Men rising up with hot steams, I think we may say, spoken of as they are with wings, they're no true Christians at all. But they gain an entrance in the Christian circles and what they promulgate is destructive of the truth. That has happened again and again. But he indicated a second danger, which I think, perhaps, for us, to provide, is coercion. And that he said, yes, but besides this, besides this, also, first, in addition to that, of your own sin, he was talking to the elders, remember. It isn't merely of you Christians, in this case. No, it's of the elders. Of you who are responsible because, he noted, the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, or elders, exercising a measure of spiritual oversight. The Lord Father said, he said, why is your own sin? Men will arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. The new translation, in good time, has not got exactly that word perverse. If my memory is correct, it assumes it's the word perverted. Perverted. That is a thing which is not exactly like you, but gives you a twist. It's perverted. There is evidence of truth in it, but, via an extra twist, it's made visible. That again and again has taken place in the history of the Church. Men who may be amongst true there, even of the elders, if self-counseling, in the desire of preeminence, something like biographies of whom John speaks of his third apostle, if that creeps in, even to the heart of an elder, there is a tendency for him to do something very novel with a little twist. He goes, oh, I say, isn't that wonderful? You've never heard that before, did you? No, we never did. No, and presently, he becomes the leader of a kind of party in the Church of God, an exalted somebody who is supposed to be, well, a little bit about the average servant of God and worthy to be. A leader gathering the saints round himself. Yes, that happens increasingly when you look, because you know again and again enough. In the Church of God that has happened. Let us remember, think of the warnings issued so that we may be kept very clear of that kind of thing ourselves. And finally, there are many other things that might be said about it, but the United Nations recognizes this, and in the light of this, which has been fulfilled, I might pause a moment and say, if you turn to Deuteronomy, you'll find Moses, who had a very special place at the Lordgiver, he spoke in a similar way. He said, I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt, and so on and so forth. But if you look at the view of the future, the Apostle Paul, the Apostles of the Gentiles, the ones who whose, the mystery, the thing that's been hidden in the Old Testament but now comes to life, the full counsel of God, and they made man again. He has issued his warnings, I hope again, that are going to be two sources of peace. And in the light of that, I want to show you two sources of preservation. And guess what? Preservation says, I commend you. Now, of course, he couldn't say, I commend you to the elders. Why, he was talking to the elders. So elders, you see, are no safeguards themselves. It was some among the elders who might become the propagators of the twisted ideas which made them the centres of the procoteries or saints in the church of God. But he does say, I commend you to God. Well, then, do you mean that we each are putting it up to God and are to keep it up to God? I think we are possibly waiting for the answer. That's it. God and the Word of His Grace. Now, I'm telling you, certainly, I don't think I've ever said any of you would wish to disagree with me if I said, I commend you to God. It will be my having to do with God. God will be the Lord. I shall live in a life where there will be an element of prayer and dependence in my life. Because, you see, it's God. It's God who will lead me. Now, if we're looking about, the very best servant, Emmanuel, I shall be put, you will be put, into touch with God. He said, now I commend you to God. It's God who has blessed you. It's God who has been revealed to you in Christ. It is God with whom you will have to do what you have to do with God and prayerfully keep in touch with Him. And everything else, yes, one thing decides. God and the Word of His Grace. Not the Word of His law. Very important in its place. Nothing more effective in producing conviction of sin. The law enters a person's life. Not only a matter of fact, but in its potency and the conscience of those who have gone under the law. Yet again and again, a person may be doing things utterly wrong. They don't realize the wrongness until somebody brings them face to face with legislation on them. When will I be great with the law? I'm convicted against the bounds in my life. The law has proved me guilty before God. Yes, but now we have the Word of His Grace. If you ask me, it lays great stress on the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Word of His law. If you allow me to speak in a broad and gentle way, the New Testament gives us the Word of His grace. The Old Testament does give us, and let God pour in, shadows of the good news to come. That, as the epistle to the Hebrews tells us, not the very image of the good news. Well, I think I'd like the very image of the good news available. Not merely a shadow. Why, instead of being this natural lit wall, I'm standing outside where the sun was shining. Out in the country, perhaps, there's a barn, there's a tree. I'm standing here. I look there, oh, there's a shadow. I said, well, it's a house or a barn. It's a building. And that's true. But it's no good asking me to tell you where the door is in the barn, because I don't know. The shadow doesn't reveal these smaller details. It gives me the outline. I can't tell you how many branches that tree has, but there's a shadow. It's a tree, right enough. I can deduce certain things from it. It doesn't give me the very image of the good news. No, it gives me the shadowy outline. Again and again, these mighty, cunning events connected with the advent of Christ, you know, the same cunning events cast their shadow. The advent of the Messiah, even in humiliation, cast a shadow that stretched over 4,000 years to the Garden of Eden when animals were slain to provide coats of skin to clothe the guilty. Things shadowy. But I think we can see the tip of the shadow. But now we have the plain revelation of the things. And let us, my dear brethren, remember what a preservation we have in the Word of God. I'm afraid we don't, we. There are so many other things distracting us and occupying our time. Let's depend upon it. And I see it here. Bring it down very simply that in the other days my husband said, I'm going to have to do with God in this time. And I'm going to have to do with the Word of grace. It certainly means the careful prayerful reading of the New Testament and the oath in the light of the New Testament. Though we can't get the details there, we have when the substance is revealed. It is the Word of grace. And so it has been. Through the centuries, when God was wanting to enliven power, it has been through the Word of grace. Did anybody say, look strange, isn't it, how centuries passed and then came what we speak of as the Reformation. Blimey, blimey. What half a century or so before, printing was invented and the Bible began to be let loose. In that way, they had a Bible chain in the churches and the cathedrals. I see pictures representing it. Artists have drawn lots. Did somebody read the Bible? Wow. No wonder something began to happen. Wow. Oh, the Word of God, grace, began to be multiplied. Instead of being locked up in monasteries and smothered by the priests, it was let loose. Blessing began. And so it has been all along the line. It's when our souls are brought under the mighty gracious influence of His Word. It's when our souls are preserved. Now brethren, I commend you. God and the Word of His Grace. We're carrying outside man, even the rest of men, the most gifted servants of God. We're carrying the man in which we may speak to God on the one hand and on the other hand He speaks to us in His Word. Therefore, preservation and blessing is to be had. Now I think we might close our meeting by just reading a hymn which is number 337. 337. O God of grace, our Father, all praise. We give to thee, we give to thy sovereign favor, all the blessings which we seek. Notice the third and concluding verse is thy Word, thy self-reflecting, the abstinence of thy truth, still leading on thy true ways, prepared for ever. 337. O God of grace, our Father, all praise. We give to thee, we give to thy sovereign favor, all the blessings which we seek. Therefore, we give to thy sovereign favor, all the blessings which we seek. Therefore, we give to thy sovereign favor, all the blessings which we seek. Therefore, we give to thy sovereign favor, all the blessings which we seek. …
… In chapter 15, but first of all, chapter 11. I begin reading with verse 19. Now they which were scattered abroad, upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Penaecea, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus, and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the law of Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number fled, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ear of the church, which was in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch, who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose and heart they would plead unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith, and much of evil was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch, and they came to pass that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people, and the disciples were called Christians first, in Antioch. Now I turn over this page, do you have the Bible? There's a page or two in yours, and I come to chapter 15. Where I read, it's still Antioch, you see. And certain men which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, except ye be circumcised after the man of the Moses, ye cannot say. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas should, and certain others of them, should go up to Jerusalem, unto the apostles' elders, about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Philae and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. And they brought great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there stood up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, Brethren, ye know how that it would not go, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us, and put no distance between us and them, purify their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why can't He God put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall descend even as they. Now I'm turning over my Bible another page, just to read a verse or two, in the latter part of the chapter. When the decision is reached in this solemn assembly in Jerusalem, they send a letter to Antioch. And the gist of it is this, in verse 28 and 29. It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from least offer to idols, and from love, and from being strangled, and from fornication, from which, if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well, fare ye well. It occurs to me that possibly, in several of your minds, there may have been the thought, when I was speaking here last evening, somewhat to this effect. Well, yes, that is a very remarkable, very inspiring picture of the priestly church in Jerusalem. You were drawing our attention to it, and certainly it is profitable to conclude on this, but one very prominent detail connected with God's present work is calling out the church for nothing. It isn't there. What is that? Well, I'm talking to those, of course, I'm very glad I am, who know their Bibles. You have read the Epistles of Revelation, Adonai, Ephesians. You have read in Chapter 2, I have no doubt. And you know that what God is doing today is forming, in fact, I am told, you can verify this if you've turned up what we often speak of as the Gnostic translation, in Chapter 2, twice, the word create is used. You remember it says, we Christians are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, yes? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5, if any man be in Christ, it's new creation. It agrees with what he said to these dear folk at Ephesus. He said, now we are his workmanship, and we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. But further down in the chapter, he reminds that the great mass of those at Ephesus were of Gentile origin. Ephesus, you remember, was the great city where Diana was worshipped. There were Jews there, but in the assembly, evidently there was a majority of Gentile converts. And he reminds them that they who had been in the distance, without Christ and without God in the world, and draw into this place of favour. And he says, look, God has abolished by death, the flesh of our Lord Jesus, he's been up in death, the breach that there was between Jew on the one hand and Gentile on the other, because at the present time, God is, in our version, making, to make. But actually the word there is create, to create in himself, again in Christ Jesus, one new man. Those Jew and Gentile brought on equal terms, and they live in the same way, into a new position which God creates. And which that God, of course, is as valid today, near the end of the Church's history, as it was when Paul wrote those words very near the beginning of the Church's history. One of the great features of the present moment is this. God is creating something in which this age-long partition, this war of partition, is broken down. And the Gentile, or rather an election from the Gentiles, is brought into this new position equally and exactly on the same footing as an election which God is making from the Jews. Now that, of course, was absent in the fourth chapter of Acts. God began the work in the midst of Israel. The masses who were gathered on the day of Pentecost were, of course, Jews, perhaps a sprinkling of proselytes, as they would have been called, Gentile originally acknowledging that they had attached themselves to the Jews' synagogue or elsewhere. And the Gospel was preached, and three thousand souls were converted. And then God began working, and then the apostles were apprehended, and then these troubles came to pass, and then we are given this lovely little picture of an assembly. But I suppose if we had been there, we could have examined the thousands who were found in what we read as their own company, we should have found them practically to a man or a woman, of Jewish extraction. So Acts gives us what we sometimes call the transition period, when God doesn't do things in a hurry, no, quietly, the divine thought was worked out. Now that's why I read these verses about the work of Antioch, because it was at Antioch that strikingly God began this remarkable work in a very obvious way of gathering out from the Gentiles a people for his name. We read, I began reading at that point, how there were many who went forth scattered abroad because of the persecution that arose after Stephen was martyred, and that many of them still had the Jew only in their thoughts. They preached the Messiah, who was crucified, risen from the dead, and they preached him to Jews only. But there were some who went beyond that. These men of Cyprus and Cyrene who spoke to the Grecians or Greeks, Gentiles, pretty clearly, looked, preaching the Lord Jesus. You would notice, in fact you did notice, as I read down those verses, how each time the apostle emphasizes the lordship of Christ. If you didn't notice it, notice it now. Preaching the Lord Jesus, verse 21, and the hand of the Lord with wisdom. And a great number believed that, turn to the Lord. And Barnabas exhorts them in verse 23 that they would cleave unto the Lord. And in verse 24, much to prove an act unto the Lord. You may remember we had that phrase in the scripture we were considering last night. When, owing to the drastic case of discipline, discipline finds its place, as we saw, in the assembly circle. Because it is the house of God, and it is to be a place of holiness and truth. The first disciplinary action was purely the action of the Holy Ghost. In Corinthians you find the apostle saying, in effect, now brethren, you have to exercise this. And that's a very shocking case. The immorality of your midst worsened much more. Now, the college was a brilliant place, you know. They tell us in that book, hey, you're to put away from yourselves that wicked person. He may not, he did not die, but he was removed from actual practical heraldry amongst the saints of God. Their discipline. And we noticed how it had a salutary effect. In this way, it put a stop to what might easily have happened. People say, oh, isn't it lovely? These people, you know, jolly good things, they get joined up with them, look at it, they're all putting out their money, and everybody's having enough to eat and enough to wear. It would be a good thing to get in amongst those people, wouldn't it? Yes. But on the road, yes, no man joined himself. They uprooted, they waited. Yes, it stopped an inrush of being promptly unconverted people into the bosom of the Church. But it didn't stop the genuine work of God. You'll remember, we noticed this, I'm only reminding you, because he goes on to say that much people was not added to the Church, added to the Lord. Lovely days. Those men and women, no doubt, they were added to the Church. But the important thing was, they were added to the Lord. To get a person added to the Church who isn't added to the Lord, well, it's a disaster. Those were the first to be added to the Church. The first thing is, added to the Lord, and that's exactly what happened here. I think we've got that very expression, haven't we? Yes, at the end of verse 24, the last of the cases I cite in is, again, much people was added unto the Lord. Now, there was then a very powerful work among Gentiles at Antioch, and the Lordship of Christ was very much evidently pressed and made plain. You remember elsewhere, you have the Apostle flowing into the Sacred of Assyria. I think it's when Peter was talking to Cornelius, he said, Peace by Jesus Christ, he is Lord of all. Oh, really? Yes. Not of the Jews only. His Lordship. Yes, his Messiahship. Certainly, more particularly, applied to the Jews who had got the holy writings, prophetic announcements of the coming of the Messiah. But when we consider him, not from that point of view so much as his Lordship. Now then, all other distinctions. Yes, he's Lord of the Jews, but he's equally Lord of the Gentiles. Because as Peter said, he's Lord of all. And evidently, he was preached in his Lordship amongst these people. With what effect? Well, they preached the Lord Jesus and people turned to the Lord. You can't turn to the Lord on any other terms but that of subjection. If I turn to the Lord, well, I shall at once admit myself to be under his authority. Likewise is subjection beneath his mighty Word. There was therefore a very remarkable work among the Gentiles in Antioch, almost parallel to that which had taken place amongst the Jews on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. When Barnabas came down, he saw the grace of God and he was glad. Somebody said, he must have been a good man. You say, why? Well, because it takes something you know to come down and see something done, some wonderful work of God, in which personally you had no share. It didn't cost any credit upon Barnabas. Barnabas hadn't been there. But he came down and saw how greatly God had blessed the labours of somebody else. And he was glad. Why was he glad? Because he saw the Lord was being exalted. And he said to them, all these converts, look if I may have a couple of words to say to you, I haven't been used to your conversion. I've come down here and I'm so delighted to see what God has done through other servants of his than me. But if I've got any word to say to you, it's this. They preach to you the law. You turn to the law. Now, don't be diverted. Cling to the law. Stick. That would be a very ordinary word to use. Stick to him. My dear brethren, you know we couldn't have much better advice than that, could we? Let there be a living link between my soul and the Lord, and your soul and the Lord. And don't let anything come in to divert you from the Lord. Cling, said this good man Barnabas, cling unto the law. He came as a pastor amongst them. And that was his message. And, of course, it gave a further impetus to the conversion work. Because the next verse, verse 24 says, when he said he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith, and much people was added unto him. It furthered, even yet, this remarkable work of God. And what happened? Well, I think it's very significant that, thrown in here, he goes away, of course, and he finds Saul, who becomes the Apostle Paul. He brings him to Antioch. Oh, here they are, ministering and teaching. And the disciples are called Christians. First, in Antioch. What were they called, do you think, in Jewish circles? Well, I think we find an answer to that in chapter 24 of the Acts of the Apostles. I'd better perhaps just turn it up, let my memory lead me to this quote. But when they were accusing the Apostle Paul, yes, here comes this Tertullus, and he's going to accuse Paul in the presence of the Roman power. And what does he say? He says of Paul, we are told, that man had a pestilent health, and a woman of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a free leader of the sect of the Nazarenes. That was the way these early folk were viewed in Jewish circles. We've got a new sect in our religion. We've had these Pharisees, and we've had these Sadducees. The Pharisees were terrific sticklers for the Lord, and full of themselves. And the Sadducees were very, very scientific and critical, and don't believe this, and don't believe that. Very learned people. The Pharisees, and we've had the Sadducees, and we've got the Chorobians, who don't bother their heads so much about all these things. They're practical folk, who know that if they go along with the ruling power, it will be profitable for them in worldly matters. And now we've got the Nazarenes. The father of this remarkable person is Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Christian. Yes, but another thing now arises. And here, in this spot of Gentile work, and where these people, where I lay my limbs, in my own mind, I think you must too, on tackling the Lord's message. They turned to the Lord. They pleaded to the Lord. Others were added to the Lord, and the Lord dominated their hearts and minds. He put the stamp of Christ on them. And folks looking at these people say, look here, you've got to, we can't talk about these people with long rigmaroles of explanations. We should have to have something short and crisp and to the point. Well, they're Christ's ones. They're Christians. The stamp of Christ was upon them. It's often been pointed out, that word only occurs three times in the New Testament. And Gripper, it was, who knew it, because it had travelled into high circles. It was a gripper who said to Paul, not you persuade me to be a Nazarene. No, he said, you persuade me to be a Christian. And it is endorsed by the Spirit of God. Because in the epistle of Peter, you have the Spirit of God saying, now if any of you suffer as a Christian, you needn't be ashamed, you can glorify God. As has been said, the Spirit of God, so to speak, accepts this, has a very good designation of those who are swept into this new and mighty work of the Spirit of God. So that here we see, God working among the Gentiles and gathering out of them a people named men. Now of course, the adversary gets busy. And there were these, we sometimes speak of them as Judaizing teachers, men who wished to make all men, especially the Gentiles, conform to a certain Jewish pattern. And they came down to Antioch. That's why I turned on the chapter 15 and read you that incident. They came down to Antioch, did not appear except to a circumcised, which of course was a kind of ceremony that attached to Judaism. And up to the level of Moses, according to the law, by whom you can't be saved, they sought to bring this in so as to Judaize, to bring in the middle wall of partition that God had, I think the Ephesians 2, of course, that God had shut out. He'd broken down that in the church. There's no such partition exists. No, we're on a new basis. We who belong to the church, whether Jew or Gentile, we are one new man. We are brought together. And the answer, of course, is act to mar the work of God. And so these men came down and said, in fact, no, you have to make these people kind of second-rate Jews. You have to incorporate them in our legal system or you'll never succeed. Salvation is a privilege. But it isn't. It was an effort of the adversary to mar the work of God. Now, if you read that chapter carefully, you will notice that after a good deal of disputation, I think it may be random discussion, it doesn't mean they were all flying into each other's throats and arguing in a very noisy way, but the whole matter was being crashed out in discussion. Peter was out. And if I may put very simply, because I understand Peter's central category here, you know, God made choice among us that I should be the person who first carries the gospel into Gentile circles. When was that? When he went to the house of Cornelius. God dealt with him, you remember? Three times he gave him a special vision to deliver him from preconceived notions that would have hindered him. And at last Peter went. You read about it in that magnificent chapter, the tenth chapter of Acts. I wonder if it ever struck you, you said, well, why did he not read it? Not only do we have in chapter 10 the account, if I may so say, of course by inspiration, but the account of Luke, the historian of what happened on that great occasion, but in the next chapter, before where I was reading in chapter 11, you find that Peter is challenged about it when he comes back to Jerusalem. And he tells the story. So it's all very repeated, but from a somewhat different angle. You've got the story of Cornelius again from the lips of Peter, recorded, of course, by Luke, by inspiration of the Spirit of God. And as of the third chapter, Cornelius is dragged into the question. It was an epoch-making event. And Peter said, my dear brethren, now look what happened. When God made choice among us, and I went among the Gentiles, what happened? Why, the Holy Ghost decided that their hearts, you said, they are unclean Gentiles. Forgetting perhaps they were unclean Jews, but he said they were purified. Not in their bodies. Oh, the paddocks were very great on that, you know, the washrooms, and all these things that God alluded to, and all they had, cups and pots and vessels, and those sails. Oh, they were tremendously big enough. But they didn't know much about their hearts. He said God has purified their hearts by faith. And he knew their hearts. The God who knows the human heart did it. And he gave them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us. Now when you read that chapter, you would be struck perhaps by the fact that no word was said as to their baptism until they had received the Holy Ghost. In the second of Acts, you remember, where Paul is speaking to the Jews, when they are remembering, what shall we do? And he said, go and be baptized with the name of Jesus, and you will have the gift of baptism. Yes, baptism, of course, had a very special place in connection with you. If I were asked to give you one word of great significance, I could give you one word. Disconnection. In view of a new association, cutting links. They were part of the, I think of Acts 2, of the nation that had rejected the Messiah. And he said, now, if you want that, cut your links with the nation that had killed their Messiah. Stand out from it. Save yourself, and you will do well. He was unto all generations. And they were baptized. They cut their links. There was a disconnection from the apostate nation of that time. Yes, but when you read Acts 10, you find that while Peter was speaking the word and pointing them to the risen Christ, in whom there is forgiveness of sins by him all that believe, there justified, this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. What happened? Why, he said, the Holy Ghost fell on all men that heard the word. I have often said to myself, or perhaps said it in a meeting, has there ever been again an occasion like that where you start with all their types, many of them God-fearing, but not down-to-earth, completely converted in the same way. And 100% they are converted. I would not admit it. I was once in a meeting. There was a couple who was preaching. It was a very powerful time. I believed. I thought we were going to get home that night. Wish we had some more like it. I think there were about how many people was there? I say, oh, but there were about a hundred and something in all. Very memorable. But here, every little people, every little person, the Holy Ghost fell on all men, colonies, soldiers, friends, families, at any time. Until we perhaps say, well, how can we refuse to baptize these people? Let them cut their links with the old life and come amongst us as Christians. God has said to them. That's why they say, later in the chapter, I gave it to you, it seemed good unto the Holy Ghost and to us. Of course, it seemed good to us. If it seems good to the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost decided the question of the reception of the dead passion. By calling upon them, just as they were, as the light of the gospel dawned in their souls. And Peter had to turn to the other brethren and say, well, what can we do? How can we refuse to baptize these? And thus bring them into the circle of the Church of God. If the Holy Ghost has done in regard to them exactly what he did, on a larger scale, it is true. On the day of Pentecost, on the day of Pentecost, there may have been 3,000. Here, there may have been 30, I don't know. A roomful. But, the Holy Ghost fell on the law and they were all, I'm going to use the language of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 12. They were all baptized by one spirit into the one body. Yes. Can you see things taking shape according to what is doctrinally unfolded in the episode to the Ephesians? God's present work calling out of the nations a people for his name and what he started to do in that very remarkable way in the case of Cornelius and his apostle and continued to do in Antioch by the labors of these humble people. You see, they were not great preachers. They were just men of sight to St. Timothy what their names were we shall never know until I hope we shall be permitted to know in the coming day when the Lord assesses all his servants and rewards them for what they did. But these competitively humble unknown individuals who were driven abroad by the persecution and had to go perhaps for their lives they began talking to these Gentiles and it was the purpose of God to go out of the Gentiles and make a great claim at the outset of the apostles. Of course, the hand of the Lord was with them. A great number believed in the covenant of the Lord and were brought into the church of God. So that here we begin to see God's present work. Now, I have a few more moments. I might just say to you that if you read right on perhaps if the Lord permits I may read another chapter later in Acts if I'm permitted as I'm ready to come and speak once more here tomorrow evening. But when you get right to the end of the Acts of the Apostles you have the Apostle in Rome a prisoner. He gathers the Jews together. They're bringing reasons. They had mighty discussions among themselves. It looks as if perhaps some few believed but a lot apparently the great mass did not. They argued and all the rest of it and Paul expounded the Scriptures to them. And finally he had to say a very solemn word to these poor Jews who in the name were rejecting the Gospel Testament. He had to say well now be it known unto you and for the third time we get be it known a lime announcement in the Acts be it known unto you that the Gospel of God is sent to the Gentiles and that they will hear it. Hence there's no doubt I think through this long age in which our Lord is cast while Acts be to God still he works and gathers out of Jewish servants. The main work has been the outgathering from the Gentiles and hence it seems to me we get a Scripture that I was mentioning to say something about elsewhere quite recently when in the Ephesians epistle chapter 2 the foreword that I was trying to quote later down in chapter 2 you get the word in the ages to come God is going to show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus and you know that word exceeding they tell us might with equal propriety be translated surpassing that somehow might be so used to me somehow that word has a little more meaning than exceeding surpassing something that surpasses everything else the grace of God that is working today and gathering out of the nations the people for his name bringing them into this wonderful position of nearness and favour and ultimately of glory in association with Christ oh it's a very marvellous thing, it is a surpassing display of the grace of God you know holy angels are definitely here they must have looked down on the garden of Eden they must have seen the tragedy in fact they didn't know as God knew what the effects were going to be they saw the entrance of sin they saw the time of murder they saw the awful evil of the antediluvian world they saw the failure of the chosen race the law giving Israel a wicked state now I'm quite sure that when God does as I believe he will bring back Israel nationally into blessing and fulfill his promises in a bright millennial age of like and favour here on earth I'm sure the holy angels do wonderful grace that our God who was clouded too through the ages by the Jewish people who continuously was faced by breakdown and failure and idolatry and finally the crucifixion of the Messiah that he should bless with that wonderful grace but I think they have looked at the church and they have said well this beast will not get the Lord's wonderful display of grace I've been telling from memory I hope I didn't tell you in the early days of that congre work I think somebody somebody showed up he watered the fellow he was a black savage fear in his face, his hair all stuck into it he's got a bit of a rag round his nose, a spear in his hand water the man he said look I'd like to hang another look at that and I saw a very pleasant looking black fellow, very black, fuzzy hair thinner, older of course than the other, but still pleasant looking chap yes he's got a little white kind of jacket on and knickers you know, you'll read much about that I think he had a bible in his hand in fact he was up in his arm, I forget but I said oh I suppose that's a Christian and my friend said it is but I want to tell you that's the same man I said what? the same man that's the same man well our brethren have seen things like that, the angels have seen such things animals, savages poor Israel was never there blessed on earth these there are thousands and I don't know where you or whether we have anxiety to go back to the time of the Druids and the savages and Stonehenge and all the rest of it, perhaps but anyhow I don't know and God is gathering out of the nations and the South Sea Islands and the Congo and the Amazonian Crests they tell me that those poor outer Indians who killed the five men are nearly all inconvertible I'll do all that I can I'll do it one eagle one eagle and the only angels who say that these are prophecies and riches of the grace of God let us always remember and let us pray very lightly that God's present work of grace until Jesus comes may be prospered in spite of all the errors of the earth now we'll just close in a welcome prayer 132 the person of the Christ in holy and grace once slain but now alive again in heaven in all our grace 132 the person of the Christ in holy and grace once slain but now alive again in heaven in all our grace 133 and that we all be with thee be with thee …
… I'm going to ask you to turn to the Acts of the Apostles for our meeting tonight, and I want to read at the end the latter part of chapter 4, and into a few verses at least of chapter 5. Now I will begin reading with verse 23 of chapter 4, where it says of the Apostles, particularly Peter and John, who had been called up before the religious authorities, it says of being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God, with one word, and said, Lord, thou art God, which has made heaven and earth, and the city of all that is in them is, who by the mouth of thy servant David hath said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagined they were kings? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a group against thy holy child, or servant, we are told of the letter rendering, thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now the world be opposed as reckonings, and grant unto thy servant that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal you, and that signs and wonders may be done, in the name of thy holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken, where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness, and the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, and that they had all things common, and with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that knew, 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 down at the apostles' feet, and distribution was made unto every man according as he had mean. And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, which is being interpreted the son of Constellation, a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet, thus. Now what do we have of that, don't we, my friends? These are things of God, thus. A certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold the possession and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and was a certain man and laid it at the apostles' feet. And Peter said, Ananias, why hast thou taken till thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou thus conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost. And great fear came on all them that heard. These things, and the young man arose, wound him up, and padded him up, and buried him. Now I skip the rest of that sad story, just to read the verse which we have in verse 11, 12, 13, and 14, where again it says, And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as herded the sheep, and by the hand of the apostles, where many signs and wonders wrought among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch, and of the rest doth no man join himself to them. But the people maddened by them, and believers were the more added to the Lord. Not a few, those are men and women. Pray to the Lord for guidance what to read and speak about tonight. This scripture came rather forcibly before me, and I had to say to myself, well, it may be good for all of us, myself included, to have another look at what we may call the primitive church, as it was at the outskirts. Most of us, young or old, are all too familiar with the state of things that marks the professional church today. And indeed, I think I've got to go further than that. I think I've got to go further than that. Things have not even given you insight who are indeed of the true church today. Although history, we find, and what God has instituted, is in its time and way more or less corrupted in the hands of men, it has marked, you know, my friends, all the gracious revival that God has brought. In the history of things, even more recent history, shall we say from the Reformation, as we call it, onward, why, dearly, dearly, again and again, I will read a mighty work of the Spirit of God, that always, in the course of the years, failure has come in. Now, here, then, is a picture of the church in Jerusalem as it was at the outset. And I remember when I read this years and years ago, I pondered over it, and I said to myself, well, now there are some very interesting and striking features marking these early saints. Good for us to look at, because it shows us, I think, what was God's mind when, for the moment, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God was very powerful. Now, the first point I would like you to notice is this. I began reading at the point, that being let go, they had been having a rough time, they had been hauled up before the authorities, they had been beaten, all kinds of things had happened. But they were let go. As we're told in the earlier verses of that chapter, they found nothing how they might punish them. They found that what had happened was really beyond their criticism, and reluctantly, wishing, of course, to have done very much more evil things, having given them a beating, they had to let them go. And being let go, they went to their own country. The Church of God is a company distinct from the world. That hits me in the eye, wouldn't it be? Indeed, you see, I read that only there were to be found in Jerusalem at that time a number of people who formed a company, so that the apostles, released by the antagonistic authorities, they knew where to go. They said, yes, there's our own company. I pray that has been forgotten, you know. Through the years, the art of the adversary has been to mingle the Church of the world, to, if possible, swap what is of God in worldly circumstances, and all too often and largely, he has succeeded in that kind of thing. But let us, looking at what God did at the beginning, and what was found before failure, very manifestly came in, although indeed a failure, after that gut that I call attention to at the beginning of the next chapter, before there was any very widespread failure, we see there was a distinct line drawn between the Church and the world. It depends upon if that line still exists. You and I have got to recognize the Church is not a part of the religious system or the world system. No, there was their own system, and of that they went. So that I say to myself as I read this simple passage here, very well, it is obviously that the Church is a called-out company. That is what the word, you know, which is again and again translated, Church, we sometimes, in the Derby Version, you get the word assembly. The Greek word, as we know, has been brought into our language at all events in an adjective form. You might go to London and find the office of the ecclesiastical commission, people who have to do with church affairs. Yes, ecclesia, that is the Greek word. And it means, I did just have a little snack in the Greek when I was a youngster, I've forgotten it, but I do remember that. Ec means out of, and ecclesia comes from the word kalio, to call. It simply means the called-out people. That's always been God's way. He called out his own. And we go to this right at the beginning of the Bible. If you read in those early chapters of Genesis, where you get your chapter 10, isn't it, where you get the account after the flood, when the men of that age, I dare say, a century ago perhaps, they were beginning to multiply once more on the face of the earth, and they knew what had happened in the previous, what we call the anti-Danubian age, an age of awful individuality, and lawlessness, and violence, and corruption within the earth. They said, look, Ansel, we can't achieve what we want as individuals, we must achieve it together. We must have something collective, and not merely individual. And so the word is go-to. Go-to, in our version, you can turn to it and read for yourself. In the Derby version, rather more homely and striking, you find it rather come-on. It's exactly what people say. Oh, come-on. Let's all get together and do something. So in chapter 10 it's come-on, come-on. The very next verse I'm not sure I'm going to have to know unless you have to, my memory isn't too good for these things. In the next chapter, which I hardly expect to claim, the Lord said to Abraham, get out. Oh, that's the irony, isn't it? The world was saying, come-on. Let's all come together. Come-on. You Christians, join in. Don't you know you can accomplish a lot more good things if you come and join our show. Give your kind of Christian push to what we're doing. Come-on. Well, that's what they were saying when they started to build the Tower of Babel and one man couldn't do it, but a whole lot could, and they started to do it. Come-on. But the Lord said to Abraham, it had been a bit later, of course, but he brought in next, and we may have stopped by it in the Scripture, the Lord said, get out. Get out. Well, that's all. Out. Calling out. Has not God worked? He called Israel out to make them a distinct nation amongst the nations. It was again, I hear, that's why the term assembly, or ecclesia, is once. You remember the ecclesia, the called-out, in our version, church, in the wilderness. Yes, they were the called-out people, our believers. We belong to the ecclesia, the church, the called-out country. And immediately after Pentecost, well, it was visible in Jerusalem, they went to their own country. Now, what marked that country? The first thing I notice is, it was familiar with the Word of God, and their thoughts were governed by the Word of God. In this emergency, brought face-to-face with the opposition of the powerful religious leaders, they found light and direction in the Word of God. All they said, you see, they hadn't got, of course, our New Testament scripture, not a line-off, but they had the Old Testament scripture, and they went back to what David had written. And they reminded themselves how David, in the second psalm, of course, had spoken of the heathen raging, and the people gathering together to accomplish their own design. And they said, and they said, yes, Lord. Now, here's a remarkable case of how scripture often has a double fulfillment. That is, a preliminary fulfillment, not the complete thing, before the complete thing comes. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, you may remember, he said, this is that which is spoken of by the prophet Joel. If you read the prophet Joel, you'll see he's clearly predicting what will happen on a great scale at the opening of the Millennial Age. What Peter said, yes, this is a kind of sample, this is the thing of which Joel is speaking, the outpouring of the Spirit and the speaking with tongues on the day of Pentecost. So here, yes, when the climax of this poor age is reached, and the heathen rage, and people imagining things, and the anti-Christian powers, all apparently at the top of their form, God will intervene. And he will set his anointing on this holy day of Zion. They only quote this, they were gathered together to praise God. They say, yes, exactly what I predicted then has happened now. And you Gentiles have, what have they done? Well, they've crucified the Messiah, yes, but they've only done what thy hand and thy purpose, thy counsel determined before to be done. They've only succeeded, they didn't know it, in accomplishing what had been predicted concerning the sufferings of the world. But what caught their eye, the early Church, was the knowledge, and counsel, and direction of the Word of God. And that's equally true for us who belong to the Church of God today. The Word of God is the governing factor. But, also, of course, there was prayer. The Word of God and prayer, they were in touch with God. They didn't say, sent for the police, if there were police, you know what they were in those days, I know. They didn't appeal to the ruling powers, they didn't try and cultivate things with men of the world. No, they simply cast themselves on God. There's no doubt. But when saints do that, there is sure to be a gracious answer. They turned to God. It's remarkable, isn't it, when they heard that and it really comes back before the world. They lifted up their voice to God and cried out. And what did they ask? Now, they didn't say, oh Lord, we're having such a very rough time, and the rulers are so terribly antagonistic, will you please, well, you might have asked God to judge them or asked God to stop them. No, that was not their request. They knew things from the, what I may call, the divine strength. They said, now Lord, we're all over their place. And what? Stop it? No. No, grant to thy servants that with all boldness they may speak unto you. They asked God to stretch forth his hand and make his power felt, so that they might be able to do what they know, they knew they were commissioned to do. They were to speak forth the word of God with boldness. You remember the Lord's instructions to them where they were to go forth outermostly to all the nations but beginning at Jerusalem. That, I think, is the record, if my memory is right, in the last chapter of Luke's Gospel. Repentance or remission of sins to be preached among all nations, but beginning at Jerusalem. But yet the Lord said, now you're going to begin at the most difficult spot of all, the very worst spot, the spot where sin has with it climaxed. For there never was a sin before and never could be one again like the rejection and death of the greatest Messiah, the supreme sin of humanity. And it was at Jerusalem. Jerusalem that had slain the prophet. Do you remember how the Lord went over the city? And we are told that when he went over, or rather at the graveside of Lazarus with the sisters, the word that's used, they had two words in the Greek, means silence. But when he went over Jerusalem, the word that's used means loud madness. Saw what lay before the city. And yet, at the worst spot, the gospel was first to be preached. It was to prove its mighty power and efficacy in the worst city on the face of the earth. And so they said, knowing how they're being commissioned, and here they are in Jerusalem at the beginning, they said, for the moment, not thinking of our distant nations, but thinking of where they were, run to thy servants with all openness. They may speak thy word, which, of course, is exactly what they did. As we are told, with great power, they were probably witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That is to say, consequent upon prayer, there was the action and working of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Now, that's one of the great marks of the primitive church. The Holy Ghost had come. He is the power. Now, let us never forget that. Whatever we may do, the real power, the power, of course, that formed the church, though that isn't the point here. It is the same power that operates in the church. And if, through service of God, the word is to go forth, it is the power of the Spirit that accomplishes really the work of God. Now, we are living in an age when man is very great. And man's thoughts and man's doings are matters on all sides. And it's very often here Christian people may forget that power does not lie in human abilities. It lies in the Holy Spirit of God. The Church of God, and we see it here in this primitive condition, is the sphere of the operation of the Spirit of God. Of course, that may very well stay in a doctrinal way in Paul's letter in the first Corinthians. It's the Spirit of God, the power, the operations in the assembly of God. It's the Spirit of God. You know, sometimes people in fact say of such a mass, say, oh, I think you brethren, me too, it seems to be a kind of democratic institution. You think at the end of all we get up and talk? I pray we should say no more than that, except under the power and direction of the Spirit of God. You say it's very difficult, it can't be difficult. Now, let's make no mistake about it. I feel it often when I sit in an audience, should I be writing that writing that I give to you? It's the answer to people, to brethren. We have to be exercised. I know it myself. Others may make mistakes, but it's better to do the right thing even imperfectly than the wrong thing in the first class way. Think of that. It's better to do the right thing even imperfectly than the wrong thing in the first class. And after last, Christendom has largely drifted away from the simplicity of the privileged church, which is marked by the power of the Spirit and consequently by great wonders of God. Do we see that today? Alas, we don't. We were of one heart and one soul. One, because at that moment the power of the Spirit was very much in our dailies. And the hearts of the saints were controlled. And the result was this great wonders of heart. Well, where is that now? Differences of thought. Unaware. Diversity. Yes, well, alas, it tells us how little we have known of the controlling power of the Spirit of God. It's just as well we have read it as it is. Look at the things of privileged church. And I do, of course, I begin to feel ashamed of myself or at least of the church as it is today in its present condition. It's well to be reminded of what marked the church in its earliest days, just after the Holy Ghost had been given and the power of the Spirit was very prominently felt. There was great wonders of heart amongst the saints and there was great and powerful testimony to the world which are not recorded again. It's so often lacking in our days. The wonders inside and the testimony flowing to the outside. Those two things are more intimately connected, I venture to think, than sometimes we can imagine. And in a way, it meant, of course, care for the saints. Now, of course, people have often spoken about this remarkable outburst of generosity. When here was Barnabas, he was of Elijah, well, he was of the country of Cyprus, of the old land, and so on. He was one of many. Brought the running to the apostles' feet and there was a wave of this remarkable generosity and care for the saints of God exhibited amongst the saints. We must remember, of course, they were in a rather rejected, they were rather an outcast people. They were outsiders in the gospel. In the time of our Lord, the blind man of John 9, they cast him out. It was the way they had in those days. Cast them out as a symbol. There they are, outside all the ordinary things of Judaism that surrounded them. But there was a great outflow of divine love and compassion seen amongst the saints. Care was exercised. Some people said, oh well, but of course, isn't that kind of something imperative we all ought to have done? No, it wasn't something that was laid upon them as an imperative demand. Somebody said, how do you know that? I know it from when I read you the lecture. Peter said to Ananias, while that land or thing remains, you'll search for what is not thine own. Here, here you are. And after it was sold, what is not thine own power? Oh yes, he was under no compulsion. He might have sold it, kept the money. Not pretended anything. He came to see it active on earth. For Sapphira told one. Ananias, active. When everybody would bring it, he brought it under the assumption he was bringing all that he had received for the sale of the land when all the time he was putting on his own body. He might have received, but there was this mighty action of the Holy Ghost and you know, it's often the way, the way of the seeker, that kind of thing. You see, Larry, comes into the circle of the saints. At the outset, you see a pretty drastic exhibition of holy history. Now, my brethren, the church is a place of visiting. It was shown right at the primitive moment when the first outbreak came of self-wishness which led to this pretension, this unreality, this, as Peter put it, lying to the Holy Ghost that the spirit of God didn't know. The spirit of God was so powerfully active in the church. He manifested his power. He illumined the mind of Peter that Peter could speak through this way. And Peter has to say, Ananias, you've done this thing and you're going to receive that where you might have received all of them. It hadn't been that the Holy Ghost was there. He said, Peter, you've been well in line with the Holy Ghost. You've been doing this thing as though you could receive the spirit of God, thank you, God. And the spirit of God acted in very drastic discipline. And he does. Some of you will at once remember, of course, the case of the ape when they entered into the lab. Often it appears at the beginning of an epoch. God does give a very drastic exhibition of power and of disciplinary judgment. But I do think we've got to know this, that the church of God in its primitive state is not only accompanied, you see, from the words of Mark my prayer and the word of God and the power of the Spirit and great wonders of the heart and bold testaments of the Word and cloud of faith and bold testaments of the Word and cloud of faith that it's a place of holy discipline. It is the house of God. God was dwelling there by His Spirit. But some of us were relieved in knowledge yesterday that the church is the house of God. God dwells therein by His Spirit. And we, each one of us, are thus brought into the house. We are part of the house. And at the beginning, God was pleased, as He did with apes when they were entering the lab, to give a very drastic proof of His holy judgment. Because many a person did the kind of things that apes did afterwards, and as the world would say, they got away with it. They weren't. They didn't. They were not all thrown to death and had this terrible business. Many a person may have done things this evening or attempted to deceive the Spirit of God, and they still live. But at the opening of the dispensation, a striking exhibition was given to show the holiness of God's house. It was something that no ordinary person could have detected about the Holy Ghost in you. And the Spirit of God proved the reality of His indwelling of the church, the house of God, by acting in this way. Peter merely uttered a word, the Spirit of God made Him scream, and took a beating on the beating heart of Ananias, and they both died with all in awe. You say, what about their souls? Well, if you ask me, my friend, they're in heaven, because God does not deal with the world in this way. He does deal with His saints. The fact that He dealt with them shows they were His saints. That's the great thing in Psalm 33. Psalm 73. The poor psalmist said, why my feet almost slipped out of the world like that. What's the matter with you psalmists? Why I'm in trouble, there's these people in the world doing all these things and they're getting away with it, and they're having a jolly good time, here tonight, played every morning, and disciplined, and, oh, yes. Well, the psalm goes, the psalm is going to the sanctuary of God, and have a look at things in God's name. It's the end of the story. The man of the world gets away with it in this life, and plunges into a lost eternity. The child of God doesn't get away with it. I think, I do. Well, I've seen that. Again and again, the child of God has done something that isn't right, and God permits it to be found out. Why, you see, that didn't need to be done by a lot of the fellows in that place. Again and again, and they got away with it. This fellow who's a cripple doesn't lose court. Why? Because God deals with you. The man of the world slips off, he knows it. He doesn't get into trouble. No, but if the saint is not of the Lord, he is poor. Now, that's what happens here. And people would say, well, you know, if discipline like that comes in, you know, it would have a very restrictive effect upon things, don't you think? The answer is, of course, this. We are told quite plainly that it has. Now, I've been dwelling upon, I've been dwelling against seven things in this. I've come to be distant from the world in the light of the word of God, in touch with heaven by prayer, great oneness of spirit, great power of the spirit, and great oneness of heart in the sense, great testimony to the world, great power of the saints, and very solemn discipline upon what was sinful enough according to God. And the effect of that was this. Great fear came upon all the time. In the first place, the church, they all said, oh, I see. We are committed to a life of holiness. It isn't for us to do the kind of thing that the world does. I hope we've all had a little of that fear in our hearts. Needless to say, any real earnest Christian's will, you know, I so easily might slip into the ways of the world and do this happy hour. No, as a saint of God, I'm committed to a life of another straight order that isn't ruled by the ways of the world. Let us remember, the eye of our Lord is upon us, and we are committed to another order of life, and that which marks the men and women of the world. But then there was something else. It came upon as many as her, it seems. There was still the power of the apostle, verse 12 of chapter 5, and one thought, but of the rest. Does no man join himself to them? You see, look at that. I suppose they lost a lot of new life. My friends, they lost a number of folk who would have come in who were no true members of Christ. Again and again, you know, it's again when there is such a sense of things that the inrush of what would prove only sources of trouble and weakness is stopped. Now the contrast is, it's often come to my own heart, I hope it will come to yours, the vagueness of the rest, of all the messes of the people. Oh my, I thought I'd join this new movement. You know, it's wonderful. They do all kinds of things. Look at the money they've got. Look how they fork it out, and it all goes round, and everybody's got what they want. Oh, I'll join this. It's a lovely idea. Yes, but the folk who were like that, they said, I don't think I will. If that kind of thing happens, no, I'm not going to poke my nose in that. Yes, it hindered the inrush of people who would have been mere outward professors who saw how nice it was to have people selling houses and lands and all that kind of thing, and supplying money that you never earned yourself. But did it stop the real work of God? No, it didn't. No man dared join himself of the rest of the masses of the people. But, on the other hand, first of all, he believed where the law added to the law. Now, the contrast clearly lies there between added to the church and added to the law. My dear friends, how many have been added to the church? What masses of people there are in what we have to, they claim to be, church services? Added to the church. But the fact of the thing is, added to the law. You see, it did not stop. For a moment, it really furthered the genuine work of God in spite of this drastic action, in spite of the fact that it was demonstrated that the church of God is a house of holiness. It put its hand upon the false thing. And people said, oh no, no, no, I'm not going, I thought I'd go in there, it's such an advantageous thing, I don't think I will. There were not added to the church these people who would have been owed an encumbrance if they hadn't added. But it didn't stop the mighty work of God. Believers, yes, now you've got the genuine thing, they were the law. The law increased, believers were the law, added to the law, multitudes of men and women. That indeed is what I'm sure we ought to perceive. Believers added to the law. Brought under the lordship of Christ. Oh yes, many things will happen if, by the mercy of God, we saw more folk believing. And they are, as he puts it, added to the law. That is, I understand it, brought under his lordship and dominion so that they confess with their mouth Jesus as Lord. And of course, believing in their hearts that God would raise them from the dead, they are saved. And they become, such become, a source of real health and joy if presently you find them adding to the church. Well, if that's the picture of the principle church that we do well to look at, because we know the sad spectacle of the outward professing church as it is today. Now I think we might just join in singing a hymn of hope and expectation, which is number 305. Hope of our heart, O Lord, art thou the glorious star of day. Thou wilt arise, thou wilt shine forth and chase the night with all our fears away. 305. …