SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
THE HONOUR OF
IN considering the use of the simple name in the Acts of
the Apostles, the place and purpose of that book in the sacred Canon claims
attention. And this is a matter of far-reaching importance. For no one who
understands the ground-plan of the Bible can miss what Pusey calls its "hidden
harmony." And knowledge of this will give complete immunity from the attacks of
the sham Higher Criticism.
The Bible has both an outward and a spiritual aspect. Christ is the burden of its esoteric teaching, while on its outward side it relates mainly to the covenant people. A brief preface of eleven chapters contains all that it gives us about the world's history for thousands of years before the call of Abraham; and the story of Abraham's descendants monopolises the rest of the Old Testament. For it is only in relation to Israel that Gentile Powers ever come upon the scene.
To Abraham was given the promise of earthly blessing, and to David the promise of earthly sovereignty; the Mosaic revelation being the unfolding and the complement of the Abrahamic covenant. And the New Testament opens with the birth of Christ as son of David and Son of Abraham - of Him with whom rests the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises and covenants. The Gospels tell the story of His life and death - His Ministry, and His rejection by the favoured people. And the Acts gives the records of a dispensation during which that people, notwithstanding their apostasy and guilt, received the offer of Divine pardon on the ground of grace. We are apt to misread the book if we fail to recognise the special mission and ministry to the children of Israel, which were committed to the Apostle Paul. And because of that commission it was that he gave his testimony first to the Jews, in every place he visited, not excepting Rome, although a Christian Church had already been gathered there. And this explains why it is that the Book of Acts ends abruptly by recording the rejection of the gospel by the Jews of Rome, the last two verses containing all that is told us of his two years' ministry in the Imperial city. It explains also why not a word is added about his ministry after his release from his first imprisonment. For the book is not the early history of Christianity, but the history, divinely given, of the Pentecostal dispensation, during which Israel enjoyed a priority in the proclamation of the gospel.
And when we recognise both the purpose and the historical character of Acts, we are prepared to find that here, as in the Gospels, the Lord is named in the narrative by His personal name. And yet such occurrences are limited to seven. The first is in the opening sentence of the book. The second is in verse 14, and the third is found in the concluding words of verse 16, which clearly belong to the parenthesis that ends with the 19th verse. The supposition is grotesque, that when the Apostle Peter mentioned Judas, in addressing his brethren a few days after the Crucifixion, he needed to explain that the Judas to whom he referred was the traitor of that name!
The other passages in Acts where the Lord is narratively named as "Jesus" will be found in chapters vii. 55; viii. 35; xviii. 18; and xxviii. 23. Chapter ix. 27 should perhaps be included in the list. And if we follow the Revisers, we shall.add the 20th verse of that chapter, and also chapter xviii. 25. It is noteworthy that the Lord was thus named by the heavenly messengers who appeared to the disciples after the Ascension (i. 11). Far more noteworthy is it, that in every instance where the record contains words spoken by unbelievers, the Lord is only "Jesus."
The narrative of Stephen's martyrdom has a unique interest. "Being full of the Holy Ghost, he looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." Here only is the title "Son of Man" used of the Lord by human lips. "And why here?" Dean Alford asks; and the following is the answer he gives: "Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, and speaking not of himself at all, but entirely by the utterance of the Spirit, repeats the very words in which (the Lord) Jesus Himself, before this same Council, had foretold His glorification" (Matt. xxvi. 64). Christians are apt to treat this phrase as merely an orientalism for "man." But, as the Book of Daniel teaches us, it was a Divine title. And that the Jews so regarded it is clear; for the Lord's assumption of it when before the Council led - them all to exclaim, "Art thou then the Son of God?" (Luke xxii. 69, 70). It is never used in Scripture in connection with the Incarnation. As man He was born in Bethlehem; but as Son of Man He "descended out of heaven."
One word more: that Stephen saw "Jesus" at the right hand of God, the divine narrative records. But "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" was his dying prayer. "0 Jesus" would presumably be the language of not a few of our hymn writers.
In considering the use of "the simple name" in the passages in Acts where the Apostles Peter and Paul are reported to have used it, admits of the same explanation as its use in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Their purpose was to emphasise the Lord's humiliation and rejection. Very clearly does this appear in chapter xiii. 33 - the only occasion when the Lord was thus named by the Apostle Paul. The intelligent reader can see that if, in addressing Jews, he had used any other name or title, his words would have lost all their special force. And this is equally clear in Peter's use of it, as recorded in chapter ii. 32, 36, and v. 30. Following the R.V. reading, we exclude four texts which in the A.V. seem to fall within the same category, namely, chapters iii. 13, 26; and iv. 27, 30. For the holy Servant of Jehovah is one of the Lord's Old Testament titles, connoting Deity. And it is a striking fact that this aspect of the ministry of Christ characterises the Gospel of Mark, with which the Apostle Peter is believed to have been in a special way associated.
Though the use of the name by the Lord Himself has no bearing on the subject here in view, we must not pass it by unnoticed. The name of "Jesus the Crucified" it was that fired the hate of Paul the persecutor, and that was the name he heard from the blinding glory of the heavenly vision by which he was arrested on his evil mission to Damascus: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." And from that hour the truth was burned into his soul that they had "crucified the Lord of Glory!
IN the thirteen Epistles which are acknowledged to be the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, there are but eight passages in which "the simple name" occurs; and eight times he uses it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This branch of our inquiry is of exceptional interest, for the Apostle Paul's use of the name is pregnant with doctrinal teaching. Hebrews is written in the language of Old Testament typology; and to appreciate the significance of "the simple name" in that Epistle we need to understand this.
But to introduce a treatise on that great subject here would be impracticable ' and the following sentence from the passage already quoted from Ellicott's Commentary must suffice: "In the Epistle to the Hebrews, where, in accordance with one main purpose of the Epistle, this usage is least rare (see chaps. ii. 9; vi. 20; vii. 22; xii. 2, 24; xiii. 12), it will be found that in all cases either special stress is laid on the lowly and suffering humanity of the Lord, or the historic facts of His Ministry on earth are referred to." What has been already said of the use of the name in the First Epistle of John1 applies equally to such passages as Romans iii. 26. And in chapter viii. 11, the only other passage in Romans where "the simple name" occurs, its significance is equally plain. "If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up (the) Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." To quote Ellicott's Commentary again, "the 'raising up of Jesus is the historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: the 'raising up of the Christ' points to the mysterious effect of that resurrection on those for whom He is the Mediator."
A similar explanation suggests itself in regard to the use of the name in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians. The intelligent reader will not fail to mark the emphatic contrast between "Jesus" and "the Lord Jesus" in the passage. "The life of Jesus" would mean the life which the Lord lived on earth, whereas the vital principle which He shares with His people would, in Scriptural language, be "the life of Christ."
The Revisers' reading of Galatians vi. 17 exemplifies the interest and importance of the present inquiry. Their devotion to the three oldest MSS. - the layman's usual blunder of giving undue weight to "direct" evidence - has led them to destroy the meaning of the text. "The stigmata of Jesus" would mean that (as in the case of the fabled miracle of St. Francis of Assisi) the Apostle's body was marked by wound-prints identical with those which the Lord bore after His crucifixion. Is it credible that the Apostle could have made such a statement? The meaning of the words he actually used is not doubtful. It was a practice with slave-owners to brand their slaves, and the scars of his wounds received in his ministry for Christ were to him "the stigmata of the Lord Jesus "-the brandmarks by which his divine Master claimed him as His devoted slave. In the Apostle Paul's six later Epistles, written during his Roman imprisonments, the name occurs but twice; and apart altogether from our present purpose the passages are full of interest. I refer to Ephesians iv. 21 and Philippians ii. 10.
To the Ephesians he wrote, "Ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard Him and were taught in Him, even as truth is in Jesus." "The truth as it is in Jesus" is a popular but unscriptural synonym for "Evangelical truth." In Scriptural language that would be called "the truth of Christ." But the exhortation here relates not to doctrine but to practice. It is that the Christian life should be the reflex of the truth as manifested by the life of our divine Lord in the days of His humiliation. Hence the words "as truth is in Jesus." Some would tell us that in Phiippians ii. 10, "Jesus" is the name of the Lord's exaltation. And in proof of this they appeal to the Angel's words in announcing it as the divinely chosen name of His humiliation. But this is quite untenable, and it destroys not only the force, but the meaning, of the passage. "Jesus" was His birth name; for even in His humilation He was the Saviour. But here we have the name which was given to Him in His glory, and because of His death upon the Cross. And it is not in relation to His work as the Saviour of sinners that the Cross is mentioned here; but, incidentally as the crowning display of the world's contemptuous rejection of Him, and chiefly and emphatically as the climax of His humiliation. And it is because of His self-surrender, His self-abasement, if we may venture to use the word, that God has highly exalted Him and given Him "the name that is above every name."
And what can that name be but "the awful name" Jehovah.' But it is in the name of Jesus that every knee shall bow. It is a matter of course that all shall fall prostrate in the presence of that glory before which even the beloved disciple fell as dead. But, as this passage tells us, their homage shall be rendered with the realisation that the God whom they are worshipping is the "Jesus" whose deity the unbeliever now denies, or acknowledges only with feigned words in the recital of a creed. It is not, as the Christianised rationalists profanely teach, that He has supplanted Israel's "cruel Jehovah," but that He is the manifestation of the God of the Old Testament. And being "the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance," He is the only God the world shall ever know.
And every tongue shall then confess that He is Lord, a confession by which the disciple declared himself in the days of His humiliation, and which ought to characterise the Christian in this time of His absence. Hence we read in the tenth chapter of Romans that, in contrast with "the righteousness of the law," which consisted in doing, "the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise. . . . that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
And this again reminds us of yet another striking passage of similar import. In 1 Corinthians xii. 3 the Apostle "gives us to understand "-how few there are who do understand it !-" that no one can say 'Lord Jesus' save by the Holy Spirit." Any one, of course, can pronounce the words-a parrot could be taught to do so-but do we ever hear them from the lips of the unconverted? With them He is "Jesus" or "the Saviour" or "Jesus Christ" (for that is too often used as merely "a double name") but never "the Lord Jesus," or "the Lord Jesus Christ."
The fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians claims special notice in this connection. "Words are the index of thoughts," Dean Alford writes, "and where an unusual construction is found, it points to some special reason in the mind of the writer for using it." But in the closing verses of this chapter our translators give us what they suppose the Apostle meant, and not what he actually wrote. And thus they make the words of verse 14, translated "those which sleep in Jesus," to be merely a poetical equivalent for "the dead in Christ" of the 16th verse. The phrase "sleeping in Jesus" is so enshrined in Christian thought that to call it unscriptural seems almost to savour of sacrilege. And yet it robs us of the deep and important teaching of this wonderful passage. A strictly accurate rendering of the Apostle's words would be, "those who have been put to sleep by (or through) Jesus will God bring with Him." And the explanation of this seemingly strange statement is to be found in the circumstances which led the Apostle to write this letter. Who are these sleeping ones? And what was it that caused their death? In the answer to these questions will be found the explanation of the passage; and that answer may be gleaned from the middle chapters of the Epistle.
We learn from Acts xvii. that very shortly after the Apostle reached Berea from Thessalonica, the persecuting Jews drove him out, and he fled to Athens. His stay in Athens was still more brief than in Berea; and yet before leaving for Corinth he received tidings which raised fears lest his labour in Thessalonica had been in vain (ch. iii. 5). Thereupon be commissioned Timothy to return at once to Thessalonica, and Timothy's report, which reached him in Corinth, led him to write the present Epistle. That in the few months since the Apostle had been with them, there should have been a number of deaths in such a small community as the Thessalonian converts, would have been strange; but it is incredible that any deaths from natural causes should have shaken the faith of Christians of the type described in chapter i. It is clear that what tried their faith was not the fact of these deaths, but the manner of them, and the circumstances in which they occurred.
And the Epistle plainly indicates that they were the result of a storm of persecution that had burst upon them. In a word, some of their leaders had been martyred. But had they not been told that the Lord had "all power in heaven and on earth," and would never forsake His people? How was it then that they were left a prey to their enemies? Either the teaching was erroneous, or else their lost ones had fallen under divine displeasure. And so they were sorrowing "even as others that have no hope." Accordingly they are reminded that the Lord Jesus had Himself been killed by their common enemy (ch. ii. 15), and that the Apostle, when with them, had warned them to expect tribulations such as they were then suffering (ch. iii. 4). And finally he gives them a definite message of hope, received directly from the Lord for their comfort. This, he declares, "we are saying to you in the word of the Lord." It is one of those specially definite revelations (like 1 Cor. xi. 23 and xv. 3) which the Apostle received in some peculiarly distinctive manner.
"The dead in Christ" of the 16th verse are the holy dead in general; but "the sleeping ones" of verses 13 and 14 are the particular individuals whose death they were mourning. And as it was for His name's sake that they had suffered, the Lord speaks of them as having been put to sleep by Himself. It is as though He said, "True, I was the cause of their death, but yet I have not failed them. Was not I Myself put to death? And as surely as I died and rose again they too shall rise, and God will bring them with Me at My Coming." And the infinite tenderness and grace of this are intensified by the fact that the message of comfort and hope is given in the name of His humiliation - the name under which He Himself was crucified and slain! It is His first recorded message to His suffering saints on earth, after His Ascension. And in that same name He gave His final message - we have it on the closing page of Holy Scripture:-" I JESUS am the bright and morning star. . . . Surely I am coming quickly." And let us make the response which the Divine Spirit puts into our lips, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." He addresses His people in the name of His humiliation, but He expects them to respond by according Him the name of His glory.
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