THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN PALESTINE OR ITS PROGRESS FROM JERUSALEM TO ANTIOCH.—THE ACTS OF PETER
INTRODUCTORY—PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
1. The Two Treatises; or, the connection between the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke (Act ).
2. The Forty Days; or, the Interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ (Act ).
3. The Taking Up of Jesus; or, the Exaltation of the Church's Head (Act ).
4. The Ten Days before Pentecost; or, Waiting for the Promise (Act ).
5. Completing the Apostleship; or, the Election of Matthias (Act ).
Act . The former treatise have I made.—Better, the first ( πρῶτος for πρότερος, as in Joh 1:15-30, unless πρῶτος was intended to point to a τρίτος: Ramsay) treatise ( λόγος in ancient written speech meaning the separate book rolls in a connected work—Holtzmann) I made. That the first treatise was the Gospel of Luke the name of its recipient (Luk 1:3) declares.
Act . Through the Holy Ghost.—Should be connected with "given commandments"—see Joh 20:22 (Meyer, Weiss, Overbeck, Spitta, and others), rather than with either "chosen" (De Wette, Wendt, Holtzmann, Zöckler, and others)—though see Act 20:28—or "taken up," the Ascension never being in Scripture ascribed to the Spirit, but commonly represented as the work of the Father (Act 2:33; Eph 1:20; Php 2:9). though sometimes depicted as the free act of Christ Himself (Joh 20:17; Eph 4:10; Heb 1:3).
The Two Treatises; or, The Connection between the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke
I. Their names.—
1. Of the former treatise, the Gospel of Luke. Recognised by being addressed like the Acts to Theophilus.
2. Of the latter, the Acts of the Apostles. In some MSS. "Acts of all the Apostles, "Acts of the Holy Apostles," or some other such variation. Neither title originated with the author of the writing, but was afterwards appended when the writing found a place in the Canon.
II. Their contents.—
1. Of the former, the earthly, or pre-ascension ministry of Christ. Not everything Christ said and did (see Joh ), but as many of His deeds and words as were needful to furnish an adequate picture of Him as a teacher and worker.
2. Of the latter, the post-ascension or heavenly ministry of Jesus. The word "began" suggests that Christ's activity did not terminate with His taking up, but continued after. Hence the Acts, which records that activity, is neither a full series of apostolical biographies, the actions and utterances of Peter and Paul only being narrated at any length, while of the other apostles, the sons of Zebedee alone are incidentally mentioned; nor a complete Church history, since it leaves untold much that happened, and carries the story of the Church no further than the time when Paul reaches Rome; but an account of Christ's doing and teaching since His Ascension through the instrumentality of the two above-named Apostles, their colleagues, and assistants (Stephen, Philip, James the Brother of the Lord, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, and others), first, in founding and developing the Church at Jerusalem and within the Holy Land, and, secondly, in extending and establishing it among the Gentiles in Asia Minor and in Europe.
III. Their author.—The writer of the "we" passages in the Acts (Act , Act 20:5-6).
1. Not Timothy, whom the writer of the Acts distinguishes from himself (Act ).
2. Still less Silas, an opinion having no better support than the resemblance ingeniously detected between Silvanus (from silva, a wood) and Lucanus (from lucus, a grove).
3. But Luke, a physician by profession (Col ), who joined Paul as a companion in travel at Troas (Act 16:10), and was with him as a fellow-worker at Rome (2Ti 4:11; Phil. 24). See Introduction.
IV. Their recipient.—Theophilus. Possibly his baptismal name (Ramsay). Most likely a Gentile Christian, probably a member of the Roman Church; manifestly a patron of learning and an inquirer after truth. That his social rank was high may be inferred from the epithet "most excellent" given him by Luke (Act )—a title of honour used by Paul in addressing Felix (Act 23:26) and Festus (Act 26:25).
1. The inter-connection of the various books of Scripture.
2. The purely natural way in which the existing Scriptures arose.
3. The value of Scripture independent of a knowledge of the authorship of its several parts.
4. The excellence of grace in persons of high station.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Act . The Earthly Ministry of Christ; or, the work and wisdom (the doing and doctrine) of Jesus.
I. The Work of Jesus.—
1. Personal.—He fulfilled all righteousness (Mat ).
2. Philanthropical.—He healed all manner of sickness and disease among the people (Mat ; Act 10:38).
3. Legal.—He made atonement for the sins of men (Joh ).
4. Social.—He founded a kingdom of heaven upon earth (Mat ; Joh 18:36).
II. The Wisdom of Jesus.—
1. He revealed the nature (the Trinity) and character (love) of God (Joh ).
2. He taught the necessity and nature of the New Birth for man (Joh ).
3. He promulgated the way of salvation—through faith in His name (Joh ).
4. He disclosed the certainty of a future life of blessedness for believers (Joh ).
5. He announced the terms of citizenship in the kingdom of God (Mat ).
Conclusion.—Christ's pre-eminence in both departments. The noblest worker and the loftiest teacher the world has ever seen.
The Heavenly Worker.
I. His name.—Jesus, signifying Saviour, of whom Luke had already written in the Gospel (Act ).
II. His sphere.—On earth and among men, as distinguished from His pre-existent and post-resurrection theatres of activity.
III. His character.—As a worker.
IV. His continuance.—
1. Until the day of His Ascension.
2. Until now (Joh ).
The Incomparable Teacher.
I. His person.—Jesus, who spoke of Himself as the Truth (Joh ), and whom men recognised as a Teacher (Joh 3:2; Joh 11:28).
II. His doctrine.—
1. What it concerned.—
(1) God, whom He revealed (Joh ).
(2) Man, whom He unveiled as to His nature, character, responsibility, destiny (Luk ; Joh 2:24; Joh 5:42; Joh 16:30).
(3) Salvation, as to its essence and conditions (Joh ).
(4) The future life, as to its rarity, and the means of attaining thereunto (Joh ).
2. Whence it came.—Not of Himself or from men, but from above (Joh ; Joh 7:16).
III. His method.—
1. Simple (Mar ).
2. Gracious (Luk ).
3. Authoritative (Mat ).
4. Original (Joh ).
The Name of Jesus.
I. A historic name.—Borne by Joshua, the successor of Moses (Act ; Heb 4:8).
II. A personal name.—As distinguished from that of Christ (Luk ), or Messiah, an official name.
III. A symbolic name.—Signifying Saviour and foreshadowing its possessor's work (Mat ).
IV. An exalted name.—Glorified above every other name in heaven or on earth (Php ).
V. A powerful name.—
1. The ground of salvation (Act ).
2. The plea of prayer (Joh ).
3. The potent instrument of working miracles (Mar ).
A Momentous Beginning—that of the ministry of Jesus. In relation to—
I. Jesus Himself.—In respect of—
1. His ability to finish what He had begun (Luk ). And
2. The consequences it would entail upon Himself if carried out and finished (Joh ).
II. The Old Testament Dispensation.—Of which the work of Jesus was—
1. The fulfilment (Mat ), and
2. The setting aside (Heb ; Heb 8:13).
III. The World.—Of this, it was destined to be either—
1. The salvation, or
2. The condemnation, according as it was accepted by the world or rejected.
The Christ of God and Christian History.—The expression, "all that Jesus began to do and teach," is a peculiar one, and seems to imply two things: first, that the Gospel was to be a record of the doings and sayings of Jesus from the very beginning, which it pre-eminently is, recording the previous prophecy, the angelic annunciation, the conception and birth of Jesus. Of the human side of Jesus, the Christ of God, Luke especially records the beginning. And all, from the very first, is grace and truth. But the expression "began" means, secondly, that this record is the beginning or fountain head of all subsequent Christian history; that out of these doings and teachings have flowed all things connected with the Church of God down to the last. It is a fontal record; a root; a well-spring; the source of a river which is still flowing amongst us, and refreshing the sons of men.
I. We connect all subsequent testimony with Christ's doings and sayings.—All the testimony delivered by Christian witnesses goes back to Christ's life; and is, as it were, a prolongation of His own voice, a continuation of His own doings. It is of His life and death that the witnesses speak; and it is that life and death that contain the power which their testimony embodies. The power of our testimony lies in the directness of its communication with the manger and the cross; as well as with all between. It is Jesus Himself that is working His miracles before our very eyes, and speaking to us still.
II. We connect each individual conversion with Christ's sayings and doings.—The soul, in the moment of its mighty change, is brought into direct communication with these; it is transported back over eighteen centuries, and feels itself in the very presence of Jesus of Nazareth—speaking, working, loving, blessing, saving, pardoning, comforting. Virtue goes out from these sayings and doings of this personal Christ to lay hold on the sinner. And this is the beginning of his eternal history!
III. We connect each planting of a church with what Jesus did and taught.—We see this very clearly in Luke's story of the planting of Christianity. Trace up the history of a church—at Jerusalem, or Samaria, or Antioch, or Thessalonica—to its true source, and you are landed at once among the scenes of Christ's life on earth. There is no church where there is no direct link of this kind. Other foundation can no man lay; other soil can no church root itself in; round no other centre can any church revolve. For what is the temple if the shekinah be not there? What is a church or congregation if the Holy Ghost, revealing Christ in His grace and glory, be not the indwelling and inworking energy?
IV. We connect each true revival of religion with what Jesus did and preached.—No quickening can be genuine save that which goes back to this, and takes its rise from this. Excitement, earnestness, impression, there may be; but only that is authentic, and divine, and abiding, which springs directly out of that which Jesus began to do and to teach.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Act . Being seen of them, or showing Himself to them, not in a subjective vision, but objectively and really, during ( διά with gen. as in Act 5:19; Act 16:9) forty days—i.e., not continuously, but at intervals. Compare the forty days of Moses on Mount Sinai (Exo 24:18), of Elias's journey (1Ki 19:8), and of Christ's fasting in the wilderness (Mat 4:2; Mar 1:13; Luk 4:2). Holtzmann regards the forty days, for which the Valentinians, according to Irenæus, had eighteen months, as a kind of propylæon or "porch" for the following historical narration; while Weizsäcker consigns them to the domain of legend on the ground that they indicate "a desire" on the part of the narrator "to gain time for a more advanced instruction of the apostles in the life of Jesus, and consequently for their preparation to receive the spirit."
Act . Being assembled, or eating together with them (compare Act 10:41; Luk 24:30; Luk 24:41-43), not assembling them, though the verb, which occurs only here in N.T., has this meaning in Josephus (Wars, III. ix. 4).
Act . With water, ὕδατι, the element by which the outward rite of baptism was performed. With, rather in ( ἐν) the Holy Ghost, the element in which the spiritual baptism should take place.
The Forty Days; or, Fellowship with the Risen Christ
I. The termini of this interval.—
1. The terminus a quo. The resurrection. Demonstrated to be a reality by many "proofs" or "infallible signs."
(1) To the eye, manifestations. "Being seen of," or appearing unto His disciples, forty days—not continuously, but from time to time, and not always in the same place but in different localities. Of these manifestations of the risen Christ Scripture records eleven or twelve, of which at least three are narrated by Luke (see below).
(2) To the ear, words: "Speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." Of this examples are furnished by Luke in the conversations Christ had with the Emmaus travellers, and the eleven in the upper room (Luke 24).
(3) To the touch, an invitation to satisfy themselves, by handling, that He was no bodiless apparition, but a veritable human person, clothed with "flesh and bones." Though not mentioned in the Acts, this is stated in the Gospel (Luk ). Whether the disciples accepted the invitation is not recorded. Most likely, as Thomas afterwards (Joh 20:28), they felt this to be unnecessary, and prostrated themselves before Him in adoring worship, if they did not audibly exclaim—"My Lord! and my God!" (See "Hints on Act 1:3.")
2. The terminus ad quem. The ascension. Spoken of in the passive voice, this was none the less a free act of Christ Himself (Joh ; Joh 14:2; Joh 16:5; Joh 20:17; Eph 4:10; Heb 4:14). Though referring principally to a change of condition, an exaltation from the form of terrestrial existence in which Christ had accomplished His redeeming work to that of celestial glory which He had with the Father before the world was (Joh 17:5), there is no room for doubting that it likewise pointed to a visible departure from the earth and passage through the opened heavens (Joh 6:62; Heb 4:14). (See on Act 1:9-11).
II. The transactions of this interval.—
1. The occupation of Christ.
(1) Appearing, manifesting Himself to His disciples. This was needful for the confirmation of their faith in His resurrection, and by consequence in His Messiahship and Divinity. The forty days constituted an important link in the chain of evidence which bound together the superstructure of the Christian religion.
(2) Teaching. Enlightening the minds of His disciples. "Speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." These were chiefly "things concerning Himself" as the Founder and Head of the kingdom. About the significance of His earthly career of humiliation, which culminated in the decease accomplished at Jerusalem (Luk ); about the import of His resurrection, as attesting at once the divinity of His Person, and the atoning work of His sufferings; about the meaning of His exaltation for Himself, for them, and for the world (see next "Homily"); and about the terms of His gospel message of which they were henceforth to be the bearers.
(3) Commanding. Laying injunctions on the hearts of His disciples. In particular, enjoining them "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father"—a command reasonable on the part of Christ, who was henceforth more than ever to be their Lord and Master, since to Him alone belonged the prerogative of prescribing their duty, while the injunction laid upon them related to the reception of a gift He alone could bestow; suitable to the condition of the disciples, inas much as it was fitted to discipline them in greatly needed virtues, such as patience, caution, expectation, submission, courage; and necessary for the proper execution of their work, which could only be injured by overhasty action and insufficiently qualified zeal.
(4) Promising. Holding out to His disciples a prospect of blessing, "Ye shall be baptised with (or in) the Holy Ghost, not many days hence." A great promise—the entering into them of the Holy Ghost; practically the implantation in them of the life of the Risen Christ, the exaltation of them to spiritual fellowship with Him, and the endowment of them with a power proceeding from Him. A certain promise—the words first uttered by the Baptist (Luk ; Joh 1:33), and again by Christ before His death (Joh 14:16; Joh 15:26; Joh 16:7), being a third time repeated after His resurrection, when on the eve of departing to secure their fulfilment. A near promise—"not many days hence," intimating the decisive moment when this baptism should come upon them to be at hand.
2. The business of the disciples. This corresponded to Christ's occupation, and consisted of four things:
(1) Beholding. Contemplating, not with the spirit's eye merely, but with the body's eye also, Christ's manifestations of Himself. The former a main part of the duty of believers still (Joh ). The latter will be possible for believers only in the day of Christ's glorious appearing (Tit 2:13; 1Pe 1:7; 1Jn 3:2).
(2) Listening. The more attentively because His "comings" were intermittent, and everything connected with them betokened their speedy cessation—last words are always precious—because the theme on which they talked was one in which they were profoundly interested—the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, though as yet their conceptions both of the kingdom and of the manner of its restoration were somewhat carnal. To hear Christ's words with faith and love, an abiding mark of discipleship (Joh ).
(3) Obeying. Whatever commandments Christ laid upon them, it may be assumed, they promptly honoured. Obedience is always required of Christ's followers (Joh ).
"Theirs not to reason why;
Theirs but to do or die."—Tennyson.
(4) Waiting. This also formed part of the business of the apostles during the forty days. The context tells us they waited for the promise as directed. Waiting one of the hardest tasks of the Christian life, demanding strong faith, resolute self-control, and eager hope. Thousands can act who cannot wait. Yet is waiting not less needful than acting for the proper development of the individual life, and the successful conduct of Christian work (1Co ; 2Th 3:5); while it certainly is highly beneficial to all who practise it in patient humility (Isa 40:31).
1. The value of God's intervals in providence and in grace.
2. The main business of a Christian, which is to study, hear, obey, and wait for his Lord.
3. The mistake of undue haste in working for Christ.
4. The certainty that all God's promises will be fulfilled.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Act . "Alive after His passion"; or, Did Jesus Christ actually rise from the dead?
I. This is undoubtedly the teaching of New Testament Scripture.—
1. Of Paul, not only in his preachings in the Acts (Act ; Act 26:23), but also in his Epistles (Rom 1:4; Rom 4:24; Rom 6:4; Rom 8:11; Rom 10:9; 1Co 6:14; 1Co 15:4; 1Co 15:20; Eph 1:20; Col 1:18; Col 2:12; 2Ti 2:8). It is impossible to doubt that Paul both taught and believed in an actual bodily resurrection of Christ.
2. Of Peter, in his sermons (Act ; Act 3:15; Act 4:10; Act 10:40) and letters (1Pe 1:3; 1Pe 1:21; 1Pe 3:18; 1Pe 3:21). Just as clearly was Christ's resurrection an article in Peter's creed and teaching.
3. Of the Gospel writers, who report that not only was Christ's tomb seen to be empty by those who visited it (Mat ; Mar 16:6; Luk 24:3; Luk 24:6; Joh 20:2; Joh 20:6-7), but that He was subsequently beheld by His disciples (Mat 28:9; Mat 28:17; Mar 16:9; Mar 16:12; Mar 16:14; Luk 24:15; Luk 24:36; Joh 20:14; Joh 20:19; Joh 20:26; Joh 21:1). Unless, therefore, these New Testament writings are all unhistorical—a conclusion which criticism has not only not established, but successfully disproved—a presumption in favour of Christ's resurrection is created by their conjoint testimony.
II. The hypotheses which have been started to account for this unanimous belief in the resurrestion, without admitting its truth, are all unsatisfactory.—These hypotheses may be reduced to five:
1. The theft theory, propagated originally by the Jews (Mat ), and resuscitated by rationalist theologians like Reimarus—a theory "with which," says Professor Bruce, "men of all schools in modern times would be ashamed to identify themselves" (Apologetics, p. 385).
2. The swoon theory, proposed by Paulus, that Jesus never really died, but simply lost consciousness on the cross, and regained it in the cool cavern in which His seemingly lifeless body was deposited—a theory on which both Strauss and Keim turn their backs as totally inadequate, if not absurd, Strauss (New Life of Jesus, i., 412) saying "it is impossible that a being who had stolen half dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry," and Keim, after mentioning other difficulties, echoing his predecessor's sentiments: "Then there is the most impossible thing of all, the poor, weak, sick Jesus, with difficulty holding Himself erect, in hiding, disguised, and finally dying—this Jesus an object of faith, of exalted emotion, of the triumph of His adherents, a risen conqueror and Son of God! Here, in fact, the theory begins to grow paltry, absurd, worthy only of rejection, since it makes the apostles either miserable victims of deceit, or with Jesus themselves deceivers" (Jesus von Nazara, vol. vi., p. 330, E. T.).
3. The vision theory, espoused by Celsus, Strauss, Renan, and others, that first Mary Magdalene, and after her others of the disciples, had visions, which were the result of nervous excitement, and in which they fancied they beheld Christ alive after His passion, and resuscitated from the tomb, against which also lie a number of insurmountable objections which have been skilfully urged by various critics—as, e.g.,
(1) That the interval between the resurrection and the commencement of these visions—viz., three days—was too short for their origination by the excited feelings of the disciples;
(2) That so far from being in a state of expectancy with regard to Christ's resurrection during these days the disciples were in an exceedingly depressed state of mind, and had no hope whatever of His resurection (Luk ; Luk 24:21; Luk 24:37; Joh 20:25);
(3) That if widespread excitement was at this time characteristic of the disciples, it is not easy to understand why the visions were so few in number—limited at most to ten instances—and why they ceased altogether after forty days, and why the apostles so soon after returned to a grave and sober condition of mind such as they exhibit in the Acts;
(4) that if all the Christophanies were purely subjective visions it is surprising either that they should have differed from each other, as they did—Mary having first thought that the person on whom she looked was not her Lord, but the gardener (Joh ), and the Emmaus travellers that the companion who joined them was not Christ but a stranger (Luk 24:16)—or, if differences were to be expected, that they (the visions) did not differ from each other more than they did; and
(5) that the facts just adverted to concerning Mary and the Emmaus travellers that they did not at first recognise Jesus but mistook Him for another, afford strong proof that Christ's appearances were not subjective visions, but objective manifestations (compare Kstlin's Der Glaube und seine Bedeutung fr Erkenntniss, etc., pp. 38, 39).
4. The telegram theory, suggested by Keim, that Jesus signalled to His disciples from heaven that He was still alive, by causing an objective image or likeness of His body as they had known it to appear before their eyes, and that out of this grew their faith in His resurrection. But against this hypothesis it has been forcibly urged that the production of such an image of Christ's body was no less a miracle than the rising of the actual body would have been, and that on this theory, equally with the proceeding, the faith of the disciples would be made to rest on a halluciation (Bruce, Apologetics, pp. 392, 393).
5. The legendary theory, favoured by Weizsäcker and Martineau, that Christ not only never rose, but that there were no appearances to explain, the doctrine of Christ's resurrection being only a later legend manufactured for the purpose of expressing the Church's strong conviction that Jesus still lived—a theory which does not harmonise with the experiences of the first disciples, whose visions of Christ (Paul's included) were not purely spiritual, as this class of critics so dogmatically assert, and which does not account satisfactorily for the legend of a physical resurrection, saying as it does that "faith in the continued existence of Jesus produced the later tradition of optical visions, not such visions the faith" (Bruce, p. 397).
III. The results that flow from a denial of Christ's resurrection are absolutely incompatible with an acceptance of the Christian religion.—These results may be thus summarised: If Christ never rose from the dead, then—
1. Christ was a false prophet and a deceiver, since He distinctly claimed that He would rise (Mat ; Mat 20:19; Mat 26:32; Mar 9:9; Joh 2:19), and a false prophet could neither have been sinless nor divine, neither a Messiah for Israel nor a Saviour for the world.
2. Christ's disciples and first followers were all victims of hallucination, and hence were far from being trustworthy teachers of religion for after ages. If they were wrong in teaching that Christ rose, what guarantee exists that they are right in teaching He will come again?
3. The whole magnificent structure of Christianity rests upon a lie, which is barely conceivable, even though Mohammedanism and Buddhism originated with founders whose claims to divine inspiration cannot be conceded.
4. Christians must be of all men most miserable, since there can be no atonement and no salvation, no resurrection and no eternal life, if so be that Christ never rose (1Co ). See "Hints" on Act 25:19.
The Appearances of the Risen Christ.
I. Their time.—
1. After His passion. This clause implies that Christ had really died, and excludes the idea that He had merely swooned.
2. After His resurrection. That His resurrection was not merely spiritual, but physical, is involved in the term "alive," which points not to a disembodied existence like that of the "spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb ), but to a corporeal form of being like that which Christ possessed before He died.
II. Their continuance.—During forty days. This precludes the notion that they were mere subjective illusions, since it is hardly supposable that illusions would repeat themselves always in the same form to different persons and at different times throughout so lengthened a period.
III. Their number.—Ten. To—
1. Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre (Joh ).
2. The women, returning to Jerusalem (Mat ).
3. Peter, on the resurrection morning, hour and place unknown (Luk ).
4. The Emmaus travellers, the afternoon of the same day (Luk ).
5. The ten, the evening of the same day, in the upper room (Luk ; Joh 20:19).
7. The seven in Galilee, beside the lake (Joh ). 8 The five hundred brethren at once, time and place unknown (1Co 15:6).
9. James, the Lord's brother, time and place also unknown (1Co ).
10. The eleven at Bethany (1Co ; Luk 24:50).
IV. Their certainty.—Proved by many infallible signs; such as—
1. Their number and continuance, as above explained.
2. Christ's eating and drinking in presence of His apostles (Act ; Act 10:41). This is fatal to the hypothesis that Christ's manifestations were purely spiritual and subjective.
3. His request that the disciples should handle Him and see (Luk ; Joh 20:27). Christ would never have subjected Himself to such a test had He not been corporeally present with His disciples.
V. Their object.—Probably threefold.
1. To attest the reality of His resurrection, which, as the central fact in Christianity, was to form the theme of apostolic preaching.
2. To confirm the faith of His disciples at once in His Messiahship and His divinity.
3. To instruct them concerning the kingdom He was setting up, and whose heralds the apostles were soon to be.
The Words of the Forty Days.
I. Words spoken to the whole body, or to the majority of the apostles.—
1. A benediction. "Peace be unto you" (Luk ; Joh 20:19; Joh 20:21).
2. A commission. "As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you" (Joh ).
3. An instruction. "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mat ; Mar 16:15).
4. A dotation. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (Joh ).
5. An exposition. "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and rise again from the dead" (Luk ).
6. A prediction. "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Act ).
7. A caution. "It is not for you to know the times and seasons" (Act ). N.B.—These seven words express the indispensable conditions of all apostleship or ministerial service in the Christian Church.
II. Words spoken to individual disciples.—
1. To Mary at the sepulchre. "Woman! why weepest thou?" A question for Christian mourners.
2. To the women on the way. "All hail!" (Mat .) A salutation to anxious seekers.
3. To Thomas in the upper room. "Reach hither thy finger!" (Joh .) An invitation to doubters. Also "Because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed," etc. (Joh 20:29.) A commendation of faith without sight.
4. To Peter at the lake side.
(1) "Lovest thou Me?" (Joh .) A question for self-examination.
(2) "Feed My lambs." "Tend My sheep" (Joh ; Joh 21:17). A promotion for the penitent.
(3) "Verily, verily, I say unto thee," etc. (Joh .) A trial for faith.
(4) "If I will that he tarry till I come," etc. (Joh .) An admonition for the forward.
III. Words spoken to apostles and disciples combined.
1. To the seven on the sea. "Children, have ye any meat?" (Joh .) An inquiry of love and solicitude.
2. "Cast ye on the right side of the ship," etc. (Joh .) A direction for desponding workers, always to obey Christ's orders.
3. "Bring of the fish ye have now taken" (Joh ). An encouragement for all faithful servants.
Things concerning the Kingdom.
I. Concerning the founding of the kingdom, which accomplished itself in His (Christ's) person after He, through His death and resurrection, had completed His work.
II. Concerning the collection of the kingdom, which was to be effected through the instrumentality of the apostles, and by the ministry of the word.
III. Concerning the perfecting of the kingdom, which should be carried forward by the power of the Holy Ghost whom He was to send from the Father, and who should sanctify all who believed on His (Christ's) name.
IV. Concerning the revelation of the kingdom which should take place at the end of time when He came again from heaven in the glory of His Father.—Besser.
The Kingdom of God.
I. The underlying conception.—"The kingdom of God is that perfect arrangement of all things, in which God Himself is the Ruler and His will alone is active and decisive. The conception includes three elements or ingredients:
1. A people.
2. A constitution.
3. A land, a sure dwelling-place and possession. Only where these three things are united can we speak of a kingdom" (Bornemann's Unterricht im Christenthum, p. 30).
II. The threefold realisation.—
1. The Israelitish, or the past.
(1) The people were the children of Abraham after the flesh.
(2) The constitution was the law, moral and ceremonial, promulgated by Motes at Sinai.
(3) The land was Canaan, into which the people were conducted by Joshua 2. The Christian, or the present.
(1) The people are professed believers on the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) The constitution may be said to consist of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) The land is the earth which has been given over to the Church for subjugation and occupation.
3. The heavenly, or, the future.
(1) The people will be those who are truly born again and united to Christ by the spirit.
(2) The constitution will be the possession of perfect holiness, or absolute submission to Christ.
(3) The land will be the heavenly Canaan, or an eternal life of uninterrupted and intimate fellowship with Christ.
Act . The Command of the Ascending Lord.
I. Depart not from Jerusalem.—
1. Neither in fear for your safety. It would not have been surprising had the apostles, in alarm for their persons, withdrawn from the holy city when Christ ceased appearing to them. Human nature is not naturally courageous, but essentially weak; and though the apostles were by this time renewed in the spirit of their minds, being Christians, yet were they not entirely delivered from the power of their constitutional infirmities, while the unusual circumstances in which they would be placed by Christ's ascension would tend to excite these into more than ordinary activity. Still they were not to retire from the metropolis till they got the signal from their Lord. Premature flight would
(1) reveal a lack of fortitude on their part, showing them to be afraid of what man might do unto them, in which case they would not prove efficient preachers of the gospel;
(2) display a feebleness of faith, as if they could not trust an unseen equally with a seen master to protect them, which would likewise prove fatal to their success; and
(3) indicate a dulness of understanding which failed to perceive that in retiring from Jerusalem they would be practically acknowledging defeat, and surrendering the cause of their Master.
2. Nor from exuberance of zeal. The world might appear to them to be perishing for lack of knowledge, and they might be eager to spread abroad the tidings of salvation, they might even be desirous of proving on the instant their devotion to their Master, and their willingness to champion His cause, yea, the time before their Master's return might seem too short to admit of being wasted in delay. Yet nothing would be gained by precipitate haste. It was not for them to give the signal to advance. Their duty was to follow, not to lead, not to order, but to obey.
II. Wait for the promise of the Father.—
1. Without this only failure would attend their efforts. In spiritual matters nothing can be successfully accomplished without divine help (Zec ; Joh 15:5). In the kingdom of heaven upon earth the prime actor is the Holy Spirit. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are subordinate instruments.
2. With this success would be certain. The Holy Ghost would clothe them with power—power to understand and expound the truth (Joh ), power to convince gainsayers (Luk 11:15; Act 6:10), power to touch the conscience (2Co 4:2)—which nothing and no one would be able to resist,
3. Waiting for this would be an admirable test of their faith.—Only in the strength supplied by a living faith could they hope to successfully discharge their commission.
4. Waiting for this would evoke the best and strongest qualities in their characters. The Lord is always good to them that wait for Him, and only great men can wait. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," and "they also serve that only stand and wait."
1. "There are seasons in our lives when God appears to call us simply to wait"; and
2. True progress is often better secured by waiting than by working.
Act . The Two Baptisms.
I. John's baptism.—
1. Material. A water baptism.
2. External. Affecting the body.
3. Symbolic. Representing moral cleansing.
4. Preparatory.—In anticipation of Christ's coming.
5. Temporary. Intended only for a season.
II. The baptism of Jesus.—
1. Spiritual. A baptism in the Holy Ghost.
2. Internal. Descending on the heart.
3. Essential. Imparting spiritual renovation.
4. Complementary. Realising what had been symbolised by John's rite.