Noted biblical writers on dispensational lines - mostly of the persuasion known to the world as "Plymouth Brethren"




TEN days were running out since the Lord had ascended. As yet the promised Comforter had not come; and cheered though they had been by the angelic messengers announcing the personal return of Christ in the future, they had no fixed time made known, when the promise of the Father would be received. To prayer they betook themselves, and in that exercise they continued.

Pentecost. - "Not many days hence" was all that the Lord had said. Their waiting, therefore, would not be long. Yet why there was any delay, and when exactly it would terminate, were questions which very probably none of them could then have answered. But we know, and surely they must afterwards have understood, that the date in the ecclesiastical calendar had been fixed for well-nigh fifteen centuries, and fixed as definitely as that of the Lord's crucifixion. He, the true Paschal Lamb, suffered at the Passover on the 14th of Nisan. Then, as the antitype to the wave sheaf, the first-fruits of the harvest, His resurrection had taken place on the morrow after the Passover Sabbath. And now the full meaning of the introduction at the feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, of the two wave loaves baked with leaven, that new meat offering unto the Lord, was to receive antitypical elucidation, by the presentation to God, through the Gospel about to go forth, of believers from Jews, and also from Gentiles, as first-fruits unto Him (James i. 18). This was to be accomplished through the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and not otherwise.

So till the day of Pentecost that work, with which we are now made familiar, could not in accordance with the mind of God have its beginning. Yet it could not be delayed for one single day, for that feast lasted just the one day. For seven days they kept the feast of unleavened bread. For eight days they celebrated that of Tabernacles. One day only was appointed for the feast of Pentecost. And as on one day in the year, and one only, the Lord could die - viz., the 14th of Nisan - so on one day in the year, and on one only, as we learn, could the Holy Ghost have come as the promise of the Father. That day was the feast of Pentecost.

The day had come, and "they were all together," as perhaps we should read, "in one place." No one on this occasion was absent from the company. Nor were they at this time in the court of the Temple, or elsewhere in any place of public resort, intermingling with devout Jews, who had come to keep the feast. All together they were, quite apart from others, gathered there surely by the leading of the Spirit. "Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues [or, tongues parting asunder] like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance " (Acts ii. 2-4). Such is the brief yet distinct account of the coming of the Holy Ghost. The attitude of the company is stated. They were sitting, not engaged in prayer, or they would have been standing. Suddenly the fulfilment of the Lord's words took place. A sound was heard; a sight was seen; an effect was manifested. The sound was that of a rushing mighty wind ; the sight was the tongues cloven, and like fire, which sat upon each of them ; the effect was that they all began to speak with tongues. The tongues the disciples saw, but the multitude which quickly assembled apparently did not. For they do not speak of them. The sound they did hear; for this we believe is the historian's meaning, and is so translated by the Revised Version.* The sound, and not any report about it, is that to which St. Luke draws our attention. That sound had collected a great multitude together of the devout Jews then assembled at Jerusalem from every country under heaven. The Temple court must have been thinned that day of its accustomed crowds, for the centre of attraction was the house in which the disciples were assembled.
* It is questioned what the multitude heard - the sound of the rushing mighty wind, or the report of the wonder taking place in the disciples speaking with tongues. Certainly the former supposition is quite in character with the manner of the Spirit's coming. Meyer, followed by Alford, so takes it.

Cloven Tongues. - Of the cloven tongues on the head of each of the disciples the multitude, as we have remarked, make no mention. Had they seen them, would they not have spoken of them, as well as of the utterances they heard in their several tongues? What did these tongues thus seen portend? Cloven (or, parted), like as of fire, - such is the description. Seen on that occasion, we never read of them being seen again. Cloven (or, divided), they seem to indicate that the recipients of the Spirit would be empowered to speak in more languages than one. And "like as of fire" may foreshadow the effect of the Word of God. The Word discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. iv. 12). And those who persistently refuse obedience to it will find that it will judge them in the last day (John xii. 48). The fire is an emblem of judgment. Of the power of the \Vord to act on consciences the three thousand bore testimony ere night closed on that eventful day, as, pricked in their hearts, they cried out in agony of soul, "Brethren, what shall we do? " The Word, reaching
the conscience now, does act judicially within. Light shines in, and shows the person what he has never seen and judged before. Self-judgment it works now bringing blessing. Later it will judge the ungodly, rising up as a witness against them.

Filled with the Holy Ghost, each disciple began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. Intercourse between people of different races and of different countries is much impeded by differences in language In the beginning it was not so, nor for some time after the Flood was there any language but one. For all sprang from a common ancestry. All spake the language of the original parent. That this was the case, the inspired record in Genesis affirms. "The whole earth was of one language, and of one speech" (Gen. xi. 1). Combination therefore for some settled purpose would be facilitated by that state of things, and men were taking advantage of it to build a city, and a tower whose top should reach unto heaven, adding, "Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Possessed with the thought of their wisdom and their power, they began to build, forgetful that they were creatures wholly dependent on the will of the Creator. How far they had carried out their plans and to what height they had raised their tower are facts not recorded. Whatever commencement was made, the tower was never finished. The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded. He confounded their language.* Their work stopped. It was an act of government on God's part, and that act He has never reversed.
* Canon Kawlinson writes {Ancient Monarchies, vol. i., p. 55) ; " The subjects of the early Kings [of Chaldea] are continually designated on the inscriptions by the title of kiprat-arbat, The four nations," or Arba-lisun, The four tongues. In Abraham's time, again, the league of four kings seems correspondent to a fourfold ethnic division - Cushite, Turanian, Semitic, and Arian, the chief authority and ethnic preponderance being with the Cushites. ... So that it is at least probable that the ' four tongues' intended were not mere local dialects, but distinct languages, the representatives respectively of the four great families of human speech."

But though God has never reversed it, He can, and in the early days of Christianity He did, override it, empowering servants to speak languages which they had not previously studied. Such was the gift of tongues, now for the first time bestowed.

To saints alone was it given. None else could share in it, for it was an effect of receiving the Holy Ghost. He who confounded human speech at Babel, could and did empower some at Jerusalem to speak with tongues they had not previously learnt. Some, we say, because, even in apostolic days, all Christians did not share in this manifestation of the Spirit. In the Acts there are but three occasions on which this power is recorded as having been bestowed - at Pentecost (ii), at Caesarea (x), and at Ephesus (xix); and on each of these occasions every member of the company who received the Holy Ghost participated in that manifestation of the Spirit. At Corinth, where some shared in that power, all, it would seem, did not (1 Cor. xii. 10, 30, xiv. 5). At Philippi, at Rome, at Thessalonica, and in Galatia we read not of its being bestowed on any of the converts. Paul himself spoke with tongues more than any of the Corinthians. He needed it for his work, and he tells us the purpose of it was to impress and to attract unbelievers (1 Cor. xiv. 22). And as each manifestation of the Spirit had for its object the profit of others, wonderful as was the power of speaking with tongues it was not bestowed on any for mere display or self-glory.

So far we find recounted in Acts ii. 1-4 the time, manner, and effect of the coming of the Holy Ghost. St. Luke, who alone has told us what took place on the night of the Lord's birth, is also the one who has put on record what happened on the morning of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. His contributions to Scripture history are most interesting and most valuable. At the Lord's birth angelic voices were heard. At the Holy Spirit's coming men's mouths were opened in a new and wondrous manner. The shepherds heard the angelic choir break forth in praise to God. Devout men at Jerusalem gave unsolicited testimony to the nature of the communications that came from the lips of the different disciples.

The Multitude; - We have spoken of that which took place in the house. The historian next relates the effect on the multitude which found their attraction centred on that house and on the company within. The sound drew them to the spot, where they heard the voices of the disciples speaking in tones and accents peculiar to each one. Far from their home as many of them were, in a country where Aramaic was the language of the common people, whilst Greek was pretty well understood as the language of commerce of that day, they heard voices which addressed them in their own mother tongue and spoke of the mighty works of God. For that miraculous gift of speech was to be used in the service and for the glory of God. Devout Jews from every nation under heaven heard, and attested, that utterances came forth from the Galilean company in the language in which they were severally born. Galileans, they said. Yet surely their speech, whatever it was in which each expressed himself, was grammatically as correct, and in meaning as clear, as those devout Jews could themselves have uttered. It was no unmeaning jargon, no babbling, no gibberish, but intelligent language, which some of that multitude could affirm to others was their own vernacular. From the far north some had come - Parthia, Media, Persia, Mesopotamia, had furnished contingents. From the south, Egypt, Libya, and Gyrene were represented. From the northwest had come representatives from the provinces of Asia Minor. The capital of the empire, too, had helped to swell the crowd; whilst from the islands of the Mediterranean, as Crete, from the south-east, as Arabia, there were those who heard, and rejoiced to hear, in their own language the wonderful works of God.

God was now speaking to them by human instrumentality, through vessels guided of the Holy Ghost. When God speaks, He desires souls should hear and understand. He who can speak direct to the conscience and hold intelligent intercourse with His creatures, whether the untutored savage or the most cultivated of mankind - He showed His desire that men should hear from Him, in the language with which they were severally familiar, what would conduce to their everlasting welfare. By an exercise of His power He had rendered intercourse between nations a matter, in some measure, of difficulty. By power in connection with grace He made provision, that without let or hindrance different nationalities and those speaking diverse tongues should hear in their own language about His Son, and about salvation. Confounded, amazed, and in doubt (or, perplexed), thus does Luke describe the crowd. Confounded, when they heard each man his own language. Amazed, as they remembered that those who addressed them were Galileans. Perplexed, since they could not understand what it meant. Something new, something strange, had undoubtedly happened. What did it portend ? Such was the impression produced on many who were present. But others, very probably native-born Jews, who did not understand the different languages, mocked, saying, "These men [rather, they] are filled with new wine." None disputed the fact that something unusual had happened. Yet no one could satisfactorily account for it.

Peter's Sermon. - And no wonder. God, however, would not leave them in doubt; so the Apostles stood up (we last read of them sitting), and Peter lifted up his voice. He spoke aloud, and to an audience such as he doubtless had never anticipated. " Ye men of Judsea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words" (Acts ii. 14). The first Christian sermon was now to begin, and Peter, who had thrice denied his Master, was permitted to preach it. For, as we can understand, no other person upon earth could have done it, seeing that to him, and to him only, were committed by the Lord Jesus Christ the keys of the kingdom of the heavens (Matt. xvi. 19). The keys, therefore, entrusted by Christ to him, he used that day for the first time. To the marvellous power given to the disciples, we have seen, people were not indifferent. Mocking on the part of some, earnest inquiry on the part of others, testified to the impressions produced. Neither the mockers, however, nor the devout Jews could offer any reasonable explanation. The Apostles then stood up. All were now to hear what they had to say. And Peter as their mouthpiece expressed himself, addressing especially the home-born Jews. What that movement was not, he first took up. " Full of new wine," the mockers had said, - an easy solution, as they thought, of that strange and startling spectacle which they witnessed. But the charge was readily refuted, and the folly of it demonstrated. The time of day should have made the accusers keep silence - it was but the third hour. Men were not wont to be overcome with wine by nine o'clock in the morning. The disciples were not drunk with wine. They were filled with the Spirit. God then was working, and in power ; and in explanation of what the marvel was, he proceeded to cite Old Testament Scripture.

Joel. - Now of the outpouring of the Spirit, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel had all written. Isaiah (xxxii. 15, xliv. 3) and Ezekiel (xxxix. 29) predict it, but in connection with the last days, and as a blessing to be bestowed on Israel. Their prophetic horizon in this matter was bounded by the limits of the nation. Joel is different. His range of vision takes in all flesh, and the blessing in store for such he was empowered to foretell. Now Peter, it will be observed, makes no reference to either Isaiah or Ezekiel, though his audience were admittedly only of Jewish descent; but turns them all to Joel in explanation of the phenomenon then witnessed. Why was this? We can answer, as we plainly see, that no passage in the whole of the Old Testament save Joel (ii. 28-32) could have fitly been quoted that day. God was about to go beyond the narrow bounds of Judaism and to minister blessing to Gentiles. By some of all flesh then, and not only by some of Israel's race, was saving grace to be known. Hence Peter, divinely guided, knew where to turn in the inspired volume for a quotation applicable to the occasion. Divinely guided whence to quote, he was also divinely taught where to stop. He stopped in the middle of a verse, omitting to add that which will be fulfilled in a future day. It should also be observed, that he was careful in the way he introduced the quotation. "This is that," he said ; not, "Then was fulfilled." Joel, like his fellow-prophets, predicts the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days. His prophecy therefore, in common with the others, awaits its fulfilment. But as the son of Pethuel writes of the pouring out on all flesh, Peter quotes him. And as he describes the effect to be produced on those on whom the Holy Ghost should be poured in a way the other two do not, Joel's prediction therefore, and his alone, could be fitly brought forward to explain what was then witnessed by the multitude, as well as to announce the character of the new dispensation that had just commenced. For again, we remark, " on all flesh " are the words of Joel, for not on Israel only was the Spirit to be outpoured. So Peter quotes that prophet, and passes by the other two.

Pleading what he gives us, we see that he was quoting exactly from neither the original Hebrew nor from the Greek translation called the Septuagint. For he transposes the clauses about the " old men " and the " young men," and adds, in ver. 18, "and they shall prophesy," substituting, too, the word "notable" for "terrible." Further, as we have already stated, he stopped in the middle of a verse. "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Joel assigns a reason for that, adding, "for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (Joel ii. 32). Peter stops at the general statement of salvation, true for all dispensations, but carefully forbears quoting to the end, which is applicable only to the futiire, when the Lord returns to reign at Jerusalem. Divinely guided indeed was the Apostle. For who on earth at that moment, save the Holy Ghost, knew exactly what was to take place, or the character of the work that must precede the advent of Israel's blessing ? Who of the Apostles had then understood the complete abeyance of the nation's pre-eminence and blessing, to let Christian times run their course ? Naturally he might have finished the verse, for God was at that moment working in Jerusalem ; but, filled with the Holy Ghost, he stopped short of that.

Testimony to Christ. - From Scripture explanation, thus furnished, of that which had perplexed the multitude, we are led on to hear why that manifestation had been vouchsafed. To make this plain, it was needful to announce the exaltation to glory at God's right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Jews had but a few weeks before crucified. For the first time was this truth of tremendous import to Israel openly and fearlessly proclaimed. Peter does it, the rest of the Apostles standing up and concurring. Jesus of Nazareth (or, the Nazarean) had been among them working in power, His mighty works attesting His approval by God. Delivered up in accordance with Divine and predetermined counsel, they by the hands of lawless men, as we should there read, had crucified and slain Him. How bold now, and uncompromising, is Peter, who had once quailed before a woman !

All before him he charged with the death of Him of whom God in His life had openly approved. Further, God had raised Him from the dead, "Having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" Of whom else who had walked upon earth had that ever been affirmed? Yet Scripture ten centuries previously had predicted it.

To Psalm xvi. 8-11 the Apostle referred, and quoted the passage at length. To whom did it refer ? Tho Psalmist speaks throughout in the first person.I, me, my, are, one or other, introduced in every verse. Was David writing of himself ? Impossible. He had died and was buried, and his sepulchre was with them, still tenanted by his dust. Evidently his tomb was then well known. And all were perfectly agreed that he, the first of his dynasty, had not risen from the dead. Yet he wrote of One who would die, and would shortly afterwards be raised; for God would not leave that One's soul in Hades (the place of the unclothed spirits), nor would He suffer His body to see corruption. For centuries that Psalm had been read. Probably every one of the audience was acquainted with it. But to that day none of them could point to any one who had died and say, "Behold the man." Now, David was a prophet, and wrote of One of his house who would succeed him on the throne. And Peter unfolds the application of the passage. The crucified and risen Nazarean was the man - Jesus was the Christ. All knew that He had died. Peter and those with him knew that He was risen, and he openly declared it. He had seen Him. So, with the eleven Apostles who stood up with him. he was a witness of the resurrection of Christ. But more, he knew, and proclaims it, that the risen One had ascended ; and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, had shed forth that which they then saw and heard.

Would any cavil at the thought of a man in heaven? Another Psalm, also ascribed to David by Peter, and in the Book of Psalms as well, had foretold this : "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." David's Lord was to sit at Jehovah's right hand. David's Lord had done that. The proof of it was forthcoming in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, which had that day taken place. The Lord had told the disciples (John xvi. 7): " If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." He had gone, and in consequence sent the Spirit. Peter thus told them all of facts, unquestionable facts. Was that all? No. What conclusions were to be drawn from them? If what he said, and gave Scripture for it, was true of the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus the Nazarean, God had made that same One whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ. Who with an open mind, and with those Psalms opened up to him, could resist the conclusion thus unequivocally stated ? To this the historian leads on.

The multitude, astounded by what they had witnessed, were now pricked in their hearts by the discourse they had heard ; and unable to restrain themselves, said, addressing the twelve Apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do? "Apparently, as far as we have gone, we have the text of Peter's address, and not simply some notes of it. What interest it excited - and well it might - as the people heard the Scriptures of the prophets expounded in this way! Often they may have read those Psalms, and have been told by the scribes that they were prophetic announcements about the Messiah; but never before had they heard, or could they have heard, that in the past few weeks they had received their fulfilment. It was Christian ministry to which they now listened - ministry so different from any with which the scribes could feed them. It was the opening up of the Divine Word, and the application of those two Psalms to the crucified One. "He shall take [or rather, taketh] of Mine, and shall show it unto you," the Lord had said (John xvi. 15), with reference to the coming and the teaching of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit had now come, and was showing that day by Peter things concerning the Lord Jesus.

On the day of the Resurrection the Lord had opened the understanding of the disciples to understand the Scriptures (Luke xxiv. 45), and so ministered both to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and also to the company in the upper room, that the faith of each and all might rest on the written Word. We find Peter on this the first occasion which presented itself to him doing the same thing. And whilst pointing them to Joel to explain the effect of the outpouring of the Spirit, he reminded his hearers of those two Psalms, the 16th and 110th, which in the Hebrew, and in the ancient versions the LXX., the Syriac, and the Vulgate, are ascribed to David.

Are we quite in the dark when we write thus ? Modern critics may insist on the post-exilic authorship of the latter. Those versed in Jewish learning in Peter's day apparently had no such thought. The way in which the Apostle quotes them leaves no doubt in the mind that the Jews had received them as from the pen of the sweet Psalmist of Israel. And if we believe that the son of Simon was speaking as filled with the Holy Ghost, which surely with Acts ii. 4 before us it would be hazardous to contest, his words are a witness of the testimony of the Spirit to the Davidic authorship of them both, as the words of the Lord in Mark xii. 36, 37, are decisive of that of the latter of these two. Further, the way of their introduction by Peter, and the use of them by Paul (Acts xiii. 35 ; Heb. i. 13, x. 13), are assertions, too plain to be ignored, of the Messianic application of them both. Thus the faith of Peter's audience, if his statements were received, would be established on the written Word. The one Psalm predicted the resurrection of Christ; the other had foretold His ascension. Both as to these events had received their fulfilment, Peter and those with him being eye-witnesses of the fulfilment of the former, and that which had just taken place being proof of the fulfilment of the latter.

Exercised Souls. - Had God really espoused the cause of the One they had crucified ? Of His resurrection there was no doubt. The stupid story the soldiers were to tell could deceive no one, and doubtless was credited by no one. And during all the time that the Apostles were bearing testimony in Jerusalem to the resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ, we never read of any one who contradicted it, though the ecclesiastical power had the greatest inducement to discredit it. And some of the influential members of the Sanhedrin had special reasons for controverting it. Yet no one did. No one could. The Lord risen then, raised by the glory of the Father, and at Jehovah's right hand on high, it needed no skilful advocate to point out the irresistible conclusion. God was for Him. Who then could prevail against Him? And though He had died, put to death by lawless men, His enemies would in a coming day have to own His supremacy, and be subject to Him, being made the footstool for His feet. Such was Peter's testimony, drawn from the Divine Word. All this dawning on the multitude for the first time, affected them deeply, and their question showed it: "Brethren, what shall we do?"

What a question to ask of Peter, and of the rest of the Apostles ! But when men are in earnest about their souls, they turn to those that they believe can really help them. The high priest, the Pharisees, the scribes, none of them could minister to these anxious ones. To the Apostles they turned, willing to sit at the feet of His disciples whom they called the Nazarean. Galileans they were. But that did not matter. Jewish prejudice against Galilee disappeared like foam on the water before the urgency of that need, which the Holy Ghost had by the words of Peter created in their souls

The Answer. - Simple and full was the answer: "Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your * sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts ii. 38, 39). Repentance was called for. The death of Christ was no light matter. Judgment therefore of themselves, and of their ways, and a turning from them, was imperative. The Lord on the day that He rose commissioned His disciples to preach repentance. Peter here does it.
* " Your sins " we should read. It was a personal matter with each one.

But more, Peter insisted on their being baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, for (or, unto) the remission of sins.

Conscience-work and a public profession of Christ were required, if they would enjoy the blessings he held out to them; and on their receiving the Spirit, they would share in all that believers now possessed. Their children also could share in the same, and Gentiles as well, those afar off; for by this were such designated in opposition to the Jews, who as such were dispensationally nigh (Eph. ii. 17). The prophecy of Joel, and the reference here to those afar off, both intimated, what for a time even afterwards was evidently not really understood, that some from the Gentiles would be called to partake of the richest blessing that could be enjoyed upon earth, and in common with an election from Israel. Then solemnly and earnestly Peter exhorted them to save themselves from that untoward (or, crooked) generation. But here the historian has not reported all that was said. Many other words of a hortatory character uttered by Peter have found no place in inspired Scripture.

Christian Baptism. - On baptism the Apostle laid stress - that baptism with water instituted by the Lord after His death and resurrection. Here for the first time is it mentioned as incumbent on disciples. What it expresses St. Paul has taught us - viz., burial with Christ unto death (Rom. vi. 4; Col. ii. 12); hence it had no place, and could have had none, before the cross. It is the avowal of, and the way of entering on the path of, discipleship - the open declaration that, as baptised, people are in the company of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter writes of it as saving those who carry out their Christian profession, as those in the ark were saved through the waters of the flood. It saves, he tells us (not by the external washing, the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer - or, demand * - of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter iii. 21). Both Apostles agree that it could have had no meaning before the cross. And both teach us that it was incumbent on all who desired to be enrolled as disciples after the cross. So Paul was baptised (Acts ix. 18). And writing years after, he classes himself amongst such (Rom. vi. 4). "We are buried," He said, "with Him by baptism unto death." Peter, who had no need of it, having been a disciple, and openly known as such before the cross, could write as he really did, "Saves you," not "us" (1 Peter iii. 21), distinguishing himself from those who had submitted to it. Now the difference between those who wert; disciples before the cross and those acknowledged as such after it is quite borne out by the Lord's command to the former to baptise others (Matt, xxviii. 19), without one hint being dropped of the need of their being baptised. There was no need at all for it in their case. There was no one who could have done it.
* The word here used by Peter, eperotema seems to mean the question asked ; hence in the A.V. the answer.

Ingathering. - An inward work, then, repentance, and a public profession by baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, were both insisted on, as needful in their case, ere grace in its fulness and the gift of the Holy Ghost would be bestowed on them. For as part of the nation which had crucified the Lord, and many of them certainly dwellers at Jerusalem, they must openly stand forth as disciples of Christ. A test this was indeed - disciples of the crucified One! Which of them, and how many, would respond to it? About three thousand heard and obeyed, and that same day submitted to the first Christian baptism that had ever taken place. Thus the company of believers began to increase, and now could be called Christians, because they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and so had the Spirit of Christ (Rom. viii. 9). Not, however, that they had as yet received that name. It was reserved for the population of Antioch to bestow it. But as partakers of the Spirit of Christ, they belonged to Christ, and so were really Christians. What an ingathering had been brought about! "Greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My [or, the] Father," the Lord had said (John xiv. 12). These words had that day commenced to be fulfilled.

A Picture. - Now follows in a few verses a picture of that time (Acts ii. 42-47). As for the converts, "they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Earnest desire was manifested for apostolic teaching. And the whole company kept together in fellowship, united by the Spirit, however little as yet they may have been doctrinally instructed about it. We write thus guardedly, because, as will be seen, the picture is more of that which must have been seen from without, than an account of what was understood by those in the assembly. All might observe how they kept together, joining in religious exercises, at their meala remembering the Lord's death, and at other times engaging in prayer. Nor were outsiders unconcerned. Fear came upon all of them, and many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles, doubtless keeping up the awe which the miraculous powers of speech displayed at Pentecost had first excited. But what the wonders and signs were the historian has not related. Evidently the demonstrations of the Spirit were many and marked.

Now of the whole company we read. They were not afraid. They kept together; and conscious of their oneness, and perhaps, as has been suggested, expecting the near approach of the Lord's return, they had all things in common, those having possessions and goods disposing of them, to distribute to every one as he had need. Day by day they continued steadfastly with one accord in the Temple. The feast of Pentecost was over, but they were like people keeping high festival still. Daily and steadfastly "in the Temple, and breaking bread at home, they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people." What had God wrought?" And the Lord added together those that were being saved" - i.e., a class of people so characterised, sharers in salvation. A question had been asked of the Lord in His life about that class, as the inquirer said, " Lord, are there few that be saved?" (Luke xiii. 23). Day by day it was now being seen how that class was increasing in numbers.

Praising God, - in this they were engaged. Joy filled their hearts. It was not, however, the joy of those just emancipated from slavery. Their fathers at the Red Sea had known what that was. Nor was it the joy of those who were tasting the fruits of victory. In the days of Joshua the people had experienced that. It was joy of another kind, and springing from another cause. It was the joy of souls now sharing in the love of God, partakers of Divine grace, brought into relationship with God as their Father, indwelt by the Holy Ghost, and so in happy spiritual fellowship with one another. A joy this was that none of them had ever known before.

A word now, ere closing this chapter, on that which had taken place.

What had taken place? - One had come whom the world could not see, and come to dwell in person on earth, and who had never dwelt here before. The Holy Ghost had come, and has remained on earth ever since. God in the person of the Spirit was really on earth. And He dwelt in a habitation wholly new - the House of God, the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. iii. 15). Of old there had been, and still was, the assembly of the Lord, formed of a nation called out by God to be a witness for Him. In the midst of that nation He dwelt, from Sinai to the Babylonish captivity, and in a sanctuary erected in accordance with Divine revelation. Now afresh God dwelt on earth, but by the Spirit in the midst of a new assembly, called the assembly of the living God, and also the assembly or Church of Christ (Matt. xvi. 16-18). By the Spirit, we say, not meaning thereby merely a spiritual presence. God in the person of the Holy Ghost was and is really dwelling on earth. The Church or assembly is actually His House. It is also His Temple. And in relation to Christ it is not only His Church or assembly, but also His Body and His Bride. Of all this the world was ignorant, and probably at first believers knew very little about it. Subsequent apostolic revelation has, however, taught us of these things, and given us to understand what an epoch it really was, when the Holy Ghost, for the first time since man was upon earth, formed for Himself a habitation down here, composed of all who professedly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. What, then, must true Christians be to God ? For now began to bo formed that holy Temple, which still grows, composed of living stones, even of all true Christians. We can but just touch on all this here, and only further remark, ere passing on, that, whilst much of what we have just noticed was outside Old Testament revelation, we have the distinction therein between the congregation of the Lord, or, as Stephen called it, the assembly or Church in the wilderness, and the assembly of the living God - we have the distinction, we say, plainly marked for us in Psalm xxii. 22 by the Holy Spirit's comment on that verse in Heb. ii. 12. We learn from this latter that the assembly in that verse of the Psalm is the Christian Church or assembly, distinguished from that mentioned in ver. 25 of that same Psalm. The congregation in the former verse is the Church. The great congregation in the latter verse is the congregation of Israel - i.e., the nation (1 Kings viii. 65 ; 2 Chron. vii. 8).
Go To Chapter Three

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