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The Power of Christ’s Resurrection
Pursuing the Privilege, Relishing the Spectacle, Surveying the Scene
In our last Chapter, there was reference to this one, in which this aspect of Paul’s great zeal and zest of Philippians 3:10, is given more specialised treatment.
Was the resurrection one event ? Of course. Did Christ die often, or rise often ? Naturally not. In what way then is the apostle speaking meaningfully of the power of CHRIST’s resurrection as something which he seeks to know, as a bibulous connoisseur might want to know wines ? though assuredly, Paul is not bibulous but biblical!
It is this. Just as ONCE and once only did Christ die, and that so that NO MAN took His life, for no man COULD take His life from Him, for He had the power to avoid it, but the heart to accomplish this redemption and so permitted it, so is there one power for each Christian once given, always operative, even in discipline, which also requires training power! (Romans 5:1-11, Ephesians 1:11-19). Just ONCE and only once did Christ rise from the dead, vacating the tomb, and challenging His disciples that He was not a spirit, saying, “Handle Me and see!” (Luke 24:39). There is that deliciously heuristic side of Christianity. It works. It can be seen, felt, touched and found, is no visionary enterprise for foxes and silly goats, but a matter of empirical display from the loving heart of the divine Creator, of the equally divine redemption; for both the making and the remaking are His! If this simple fact could but penetrate into the wayward spirits of the millions of theologically versed lost ones, the world would at once be a very different place.
But not so is the spirit of man: the cunning, the confused, the cultural, the popular prophet is a fool – witless in confusion. The spiritual man as Hosea 9:7 declares, is not of sound mind!
Disauthenticated, they yet articulate! (Micah 3:5). Renegades, they yet speak, like abandoned gramophones, still turning till their death is more apparent.
They have left their wits behind in this journey into spiritual space, which is empty, though there is plenty of diabolical magnetic field in it, to assist the vain journey from God to delusion, wrought in pretension, as if unaware that the take-off has not occurred. They airily profess this and that, all alike in but one thing, that like a flying machine in the old days, that would not work, it is only their minds that are aloft. The facts remain resolutely on the ground. Like air, they move only in the air, that of the imagination. Their confusion is intense, their logical headwinds are of typhoon variety, their record is zero and their pretension is infinite. So does it go, but in fact it never moves.
Such things on the negative side (SMR Ch. 3) and the positive when the heuristic and the rational is followed to God (SMR Ch. 5), and thence to His word, have been followed earlier, with those intellectual experiments which are so revealing (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7), and do not involve the billions of funding for finding no life on Mars, or no transitional evidence in the least and slightest degree, from major categories of life, one to the other.
Nor do the futile fantasies of pretend gods, systems nor the fires of idle, delinquent and anti-evidential desires provide for the even greater cost of finding no rest for man, as he pursues the long crashed follies of Darwin’s hideous extrapolations and fanciful inventions of inventive powers, as if to imagine them, was to have them. A god-like status is often accorded to one who is in fact perhaps the world’s most famous fallacy-portrayer in logic, in the history of science, who extrapolated from variation to creation, found no means and no generic confirmations whatever, and by a blind faith stirred the blind to follow him (cf. TMR Chs. 1, 8, SMR pp. 140ff., Ch. 2, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9 and Index).
But what would you expect for this world, when it pursues pure irrationality against all evidence, and applies it in its wars, its prides, its racial misconceptions, either for some race or other, or for the human race as is now the going thing (in theory, that is, not in practice! except in this, that ex-God, it is now well on the way out) ?
Expect ? You would expect PRECISELY what you get. Endless rebukes from reality in the form of failed endeavours, frustrated ideas, the high cost of fallen pseudo-ideals, the endless harangues as in divorce, in conscience, and from the divorced party. Alas, in this case, not only reality as it transpires, but reason is divorced (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7, SMR Chs. 1-3, 10); and of course, judgment from God. You would expect that the humanistic power craze would end in bringing terror to its makers, that the mice would play when the cat is indisposed because of eating too much of the chocolate of chaos, and this, again, is what you have. Terrors within are rapidly, for many, now become terrors without, and the long-standing terrorism against truth becomes, like a natural transition of seasons, a typhoon against mankind. Useless to complain about the meteorological system; what is designed to protect, in a figure, is thus the means of exposure. Truth is like that: a friend to its lovers, but a scourge to its haters.
What you will never have, because you CANNOT have it, is
v unreason in the throne, and order in the globe;
v unempirical pretence in the chair of philosophy, and peaceable hearts in its students;
v devilry in conception and angelic beauty in performance.
You cannot have it; you do not have it and you never will have it; yet the world goes on in its misconceptions, its willful confusions and its arbitary axioms, its prized departure from its only Saviour, deeming such deliverance unseemly, unsating to the full spirit: it goes on to the death.
LIFE IS BETTER THAN DEATH;
ETERNAL LIFE IS BETTER THAN ETERNAL DEATH A FORTIORI
The students in Christ’s day were of two kinds, and it is not far different now. You had the murderers of life, who consented to save their (national, ecclesiastical, individual) skins by removing – or hoping to remove – that of Christ. It was a simple trade, and its rationale seemed for many to be rather like this:
We cannot both be happy and safe, and since you are one and we are many, you go. It is also nicer to have one’s own way, and we can, so we will.
So very reasonable, if once one grants self-interest, survival of the fittest, the continuance of the worst, the grace of hell and the gumption of madness as necessary ingredients in life.
How pleased it would seem, would Nietzsche be for such a trade-in! How elegant might Darwin, if once he should become consistent in his thought, deem all this to be! The world meanwhile progresses in its riotous regress, following banal principles, like an intoxicated cat delving into the mouth of a lion, in playful mood, or disdainful disregard.
What then arrives ? Now we learn of the possibility of
torture as something that may be NEEDED by the
Ah sweet necessity! But not Ah Sweet Mystery of Life! for there is no mystery about this sort
of development, none at all… It is all part of survival, that inglorious
ineptitude, in which CONTINUANCE becomes the substitute for WHAT CONTINUES. It
is the very essence of abstraction. Life is for keeping it for oneself, one’s
nation, one’s world. It is not for being good or bad, worthwhile or not, noble
(did you say Victorian ? alas not our
You may argue, Why not rats ? What is so bad about a rat ? If you ‘rat’ on someone, why not, if it helps you to survive ? If you rat on God, why not, if it helps you to survive with a life you can HANDLE for yourself and SEE! If you die, you die, but at least for a while you MAY live, in some sense.
This is the
purest distillate of the foul abomination of
If this survives (and it will not of course, since the creator of the human spirit – cf. Jesus Christ: the Wisdom and the Power of God Ch. 7 – did not make it so versatile in order to bless its gloating gobbling up in maw-crammed oblivion, of whatever else He made), then what follows ? If this becomes the Spirit of the Age, then the age will not last for an age!
To be sure, there have been follies all but innumerable before, but this one is different. Children at play may play follies; but when the world has tasted Christ, and found the Bible, and has communication so that scarcely anyone need fail to know the Gospel (and where this is not yet so, it is becoming so at a great rate indeed! cf. Matthew 24:14, another of the fulfillments before our very eyes); and when it moreover has seen in two World Wars and a third Cold War in ONE century, an international glutting of man and his environment on unparalleled scale, then the guilt becomes higher than any gibbet. Is this a warning ? but of course, but it is also an alert, for it is time to open the eyes.
Further, the power to implement the guile of the guilt is now growing far greater, so that the ‘greens’ bellow that the environment should get more respect, whereas the real problem in the round, is the anti-environmentalist, man and his spiritual allies, man who is not inclined to consider his own environment of spirit, God, his own resources, God, or his own moral platform which accompanies him like a dog following his master, the word of God: yes and often man is so moved that he disregards his own spirit (many do not seem to realise that they have one, like children being taught to think they have no hands! cf. It Bubbles … Ch. 9), his own world and his own fellows.
Now let these delightful little creations called man, secular or pseudo-spiritual, push en bloc over the heads of their protesting fellows, their degraded principles, let them who in multitudes despise God if not in word, then in deed, kill and lie and torture and defend themselves by what they abhor, and ruin the globe, if it were possible (a new world is coming, just as the first one did – same source, but it will not be in man’s rule again*2 ) and so burn down the house and char themselves, first starting with brother Bill, then sister Jean and so on, each gloriously obliviously of anything but survival. What then ?
Then they will not, just as they should not, survive anyway. Christ made it quite clear, and now history is echoing with choruses and refrains, dancing songs and funereal orations and music prolifically, that THIS WORLD will come to the end of its tether, its time and its ability to continue because EVIL will abound, sin will be on the loose and man will foul his life to the point it will face collapse.
This being so, and known to be coming, He announced that He would Himself intervene by coming for those WITHIN the world who are not OF THE WORLD, but His children, and selectively remove them. This is not at all astonishing. What father would not do the same in some mad school where other people’s children might continue to choose such folly, but as to HIS CHILDREN, THEY are coming out and now!
You find this in Matthew 24:21-29:
v “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.
v “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
v “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
(Usually on this site, scriptural
quotation is in blue colour,
but this time, an exception is made because of the topic…
the blue however is retained for the symbol.)
A famous play of Sheridan, School for Scandal, might be adapted in title for this world as it comes to the close of its ‘term’: School for Unspirituality! Except that there would need to be a subtle adjunct, School for Pseudo-Spirituality.(cf. News 121, 122).
And where more aptly than in South Australia might this be done, in this State which has made a fine art form for SEVERAL governments of both kinds, of defining religion in irrational terms, presumptuous, arrogant and amiss, excluding creation from school instruction in science, and elsewhere in terms of anything factual, and talking with such woeful bureaucratic palaver in the doing of it, as must make angels tremble.
Small wonder it has lost some 3 billion dollars in the oversight of one government through a banking calamity, apparently of misplaced inter-State financial ambition, and perhaps now another 140 million in a virtually unbelievable fiasco in electricity disposal to foreign powers! If however it is losing its children, and of course it is, as it feeds them this didactic arsenic laced with irrational tonic, this is far the greater loss. It is as if a wealthy financier, having lost a few thousand million, then divorces his wife and alienates his children. In one sense, you are not surprised; but looking on him as a man, you are more inclined to weep for his obliquity to all wisdom, his defiance of all understanding and his recklessness.
If this State is to do better, who more delighted than this writer ? May it do so ? One continues to hope that it will awake, as from a deep sleep in such things, or many more within, rather than continuing in this laceration of children (cf. TMR Ch. 8). It is neither necessary nor right, good educational policy, conformable to scientific method nor less than obeisance to the god of this world. For such a State, who would not tremble!
people do it differently. Thus the news of multiplied schools in Pakistan,
reportedly supported from Oil Wealth
from the Gulf not least, schools which train, in effect, not scholars but
warriors, using a combination of Koran and jihad thrusts to impel them to
whatever it takes for an Allah domination, is paralleled by another report (The
Australian, Jan. 13, 2001, Worldwide p. 13). This time it is of a
“school for terror” in the Causcasus, to which some conceive, al Qaeda moved
for more training after … difficulties in
‘students’ this time are not poor Pakistanis, perhaps willing to be taught whatever, in return for Gulf- bought
food, but rather older youth, on extended licence to poison, and trails to
England and France are being followed. The
As to that life which endures, however, and seeks to endue not with blood but by it, already shed, let us return to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who
v knowing all things, and
v verifiably foretelling the scope and pattern of things to come,
v the living word of God who endorsed that written which in turn foretold His own death date many centuries before He came (Highway of Holiness Ch. 4),
v occupied Himself with doing good
with sabres and the subduing of cities (such as
v but with healings of body and mind and spirit, and subduing only in love by mercy and pardon with peace.
He did not suggest that killing was the way to paradise, but rather the dying to that gross sinful self (Matthew 16:24-27, 18:1-4,) or its subordinates or lieutenants or occupiers (cf. Matthew 12:43-45), that dynamo of unrighteousness, to the deceptive devil (John 14:30, Matthew 4), as to the glamour of this fallen world (cf. John 7:7, Galatians 6:14), and instead living in Him, and for Him who came to bring life in its fullness (John 10-10). Judgment will come surely enough; but in the hands of machinating man, it is as likely to turn into more of the spiritual squalor that DESERVES JUDGMENT. Small wonder Christ declaimed,
“Do not judge, that you be not judged. For with what judgment
you will be judged …!”
That ? It is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1). This HE judged however, that without salvation there is no way to God, and with works, it is a vain show that pleases the spirit of the mountain climbers who exalt themselves, but this is but vain, for their highest mountains do not even qualify as mole-hills (cf. Matthew 7:21ff., Romans 10). Such judgment is as natural as it is necessary, from God. It is HIS word, without demur or indifference, which will judge (John 5:42-47 cf. Jeremiah 23:23-29).
THE TENACITY OF THE POWER OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
CITING IT BEFORE SITING IT
The power of Christ’s resurrection is not merely that shown in His being raised; nor is it only an extreme illustration of His healing power, in which He raised the dead on several occasions, and could heal all comers. This He did, even though the dereliction of hopelessness, as in birth defect and chronic failure in health, were specialties in those seeking (cf. Matthew 4:24, 12:15, Luke 6:19, John 11), yes even when they came in great multitudes, as could be understood, when you consider those currently seeking this or that doctor, specialist or Centre for healing of the resolute diseases which course through very many of our race.
Neither numbers nor cases could weary Him, nor was He ever embarrassed by failing to meet faith with action, numbers with proportionate power or appeal with help. Had He been, just once, His ministry would have ended; for when you claim to be God on earth (John ), failure is not an option. This is one of the self-authenticating features of such a crusade as His was!
It is the same power source as gave Him unanswerable retorts and counter-exposures to those who sought to overthrow Him with learning, knowledge and argumentation (Luke 11:53-54, Matthew 22:46), and as enabled Him to call fishermen to follow Him, so that they did, and stayed and went on to become foundation parts of the Christian Church, write Gospels and exhibit in their own lives and work, the same ability of God, not in their own name, but in His, not in any divine name, but in the NAME of Jesus Christ. It is to this aspect that we are specially drawn today, for it needs to be realised*3.
We have briefly, above, traced some of the PRELIMINARIES to His own resurrection. It is interesting to consider this. When you play tennis, you are new, and you learn, and some things may seem very hard; but when a player has long smashed this way and that, been in net crises of this and that sort, experienced this and that strategic assault, often the thing is no more so amazing. A clever retort at the tennis net, though delightful, has the groove of preceding personal history before it…
When Christ healed many destined for early death with anguish, and gave them instead prolonged life without it, and when He healed the dead, and answered the living dead with the words of life, when every contingency was met with wisdom, then there was not only a monolithic majesty; there was an eternal fellowship in operation. Thus we read:
v “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I do always those things which please Him” – John ;
v “ Before Abraham was, I am” – John .
Out therefore of the eternal pre-creation Godhead, issuing like a stream of supernatural strength, He who is the Saviour for man comes; but eternal, He does not leave affinity for or affiliation with His source, merely issuing like a finger from it (cf. Luke 11:20, John 1:1). Many people seem to have some difficulty in realising this, that there is ONLY ONE GOD, and that of gods there are NONE except pretentious, spiritual mad-persons, whose end is destruction (Psalm 82), inheritors of the scorn and irony of God! (cf. Ezekiel 28:9). There is NONE LIKE HIM in heaven! (Psalm 89:6), and it is because Christ Himself before becoming man, had no trouble in being equal with God, that He is shown equal in His completion at the consummation (Revelation 21-22), being Himself the Light and the Temple.
Thus the power is not merely over matter, though it is emphatically that; it is not only over mind, though this was continually attested; nor alone is it over physiological configurations in life, though this was a specialised field: it is the power of GOD, so that no barrier, no blight and no resistance can overcome what God decides to do, and hence what in the NAME of Christ Jesus the Lord, can be wrought.
What is NOT wrought is fellowship without suffering, for He suffered, and love must suffer when sin is concerned. Thus for His work, He to attain redemption, and those who are His followers need to expose it and relay it, and live through it in the power of God. This is not a popular contemporary message, since as Christ and indeed, the apostles Paul and Peter predicted, there are to be MANY FALSE prophets; but when it comes to the ACTUALITY of God, there will be an enormous ennui, a lack of desire, a flurry of failure, and men will NOT BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF GOD, being merely formal. That is to be the statistical trend (cf. II Timothy 3, I Timothy 4, Matthew 24, II Peter 2-3).
It is now also the historical fact; and it is one of the signals of Christ’s near return, when seen in the array of signals made to be simultaneous in order to be readable: these attested two millennia ago, yes and more, from the earlier prophets who, though not the Son of God, yet spoke in the Spirit of Christ (I Peter 1:11-12, Psalm 2, 16, 22, 40, 72, 110, Isaiah 40-42, 49, 50-55, 61, Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel 34 and so on).
That, this plethora of false christs and false prophets, is just one of the many verifications; and the total assemblage like that of a vast armada of ships is not only a WITNESS that His coming is near (Luke 21), but of the accuracy of the word of God, which after all in MAKING these things in unison a signal, also PREDICTED that they would HAPPEN and happen TOGETHER.
They have done so, do so and continue to show incremental marvels of the design, in that book called history, which only seems to lack originality because the One who is called the First and the Last, who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10, as an author may, before he writes a book), has already given it a profound overview these millennia in advance, with emphasis on the end syndrome.
SITING THAT POWER IN THE APOSTOLIC AGE
Now one would be glad if you could imagine you are one of the earliest disciples. Christ has raised the dead, which made you realise that you were in the presence of one of the very greatest of all the prophets; He has answered effectually all His traducers, tripped the trippers and exposed the jibers whose desire for Him was the gibbet, and disgrace, but who achieved only the former, as divinely planned and written in advance, but never the latter, as also indicated in advance would be the case (cf. Isaiah 11).
These things you have seen. At Caesarea Philippi you have heard the exchange with Peter, and seen two more features: Christ is to die, says so, will rise in 3 days and is to be understood to be the Son of the Living God, in other words, that incarnation of the eternal God (Micah 5:1-3) which was predicted. These things amazed you. You awaited developments, breathless in hope, and perhaps having believed by now. Then He is raised, and you actually respond to His invitation to handle Him and see as in Luke 24, because you had a certain secret sympathy with Thomas and wanted just to put things on an empirical plane, as well as a spiritual, believing that if God could create the world, He could without too much difficulty RE-create the body of His Son and identify the Saviour to the uttermost.
After all, even Abraham believed God could, if He chose, do that with his son Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-19). It is indeed, when you KNOW GOD, not too amazing to find yourself able to believe in your own life that He can heal this or that disease (if it be needful for His plan in the matter, as it often is), or bring you liberty when chains seem sure, or energy and understanding when your own seem grossly inadequate for your task (as in Isaiah 40:26ff.).
How often has this present author found the inconceivable made easy, the impossible brought to rein and implemented, the wearisome made entrancing, weakness turned to strength and sallow pits become bowers of beauty! It is His WAY! That, it is what He is like (Isaiah 64:5).
Returning to our imaginary disciple, then reader, which you are endeavouring to be, you may find yourself now NOT finding it hard to believe in various works to be done, even if WITHOUT GOD’s presence and power, they would not even be considered. It is in this milieu, though naturally further amazement will occur, yet not in isolation from faith, but in augmentation of it, that we find the early chapters of Acts. Borne along by multitudes of verifications, entranced with the pure authenticity of power and suffering, truth and integrity, knowledge and claim, performance and peace, fearlessness infinitely divorced from fecklessness, you begin to see the land that is very far off, now at your front door, and only your eyes needed, that they be opened.
SIGHTING THE POWER IN THE EARLY CHAPTERS OF ACTS AND SEEING IT
AS THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
FIRST PHASE: PENTECOST AFTER DUE
(objectively, wholly diverse from Pentecostalism)
At once, much of a startling character arises, and this in direct harmony with the power of the Lord, the anointing of Pentecost, the fulfilment THEREBY of the prediction of the Lord Himself (Luke 24:46-49 as likewise of the prophet Joel, cited by Peter as in Acts 2), which in turn was made the easier to grasp, in that He who made it had just finished fulfilling masses of Old Testament predictions made by the prophets who went before, and had said so. Indeed, having acted in deed, Christ then proceeded in word, showing His disciples these things in some detail these things from the word of God (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25).
Now He has returned home, but in His wake, the whole universe is opening up like a book; everything fits. The Holy Spirit does indeed come in a way not merely sensational (not sensationalistic), with both the noise and the wind, the flames and the individualisation of each of them, for the disciples, but a thrust, like the outhrusting on rock when the earth moves, surges in their hearts, and with this, miraculous attestation is yet more abundant (Acts 2). Those who were in Jerusalem at the time were from many nations, there being a feast, so that the NEED for people to be told in many languages was met by the miraculous gift, not so amazing in the light of all the rest, of courage and comprehension which allowed Peter to address all, and many disciples to address those in many language groups SO THAT THEY UNDERSTOOD the CONTENT, the objective content of the Gospel! Indeed, a translation, if you will, or the Greek version if you won’t, of the message is supplied. It is reasoned, accurate and developed to meet personal need. So God acted.
Not only so, but Peter is allowed to realise in time for his speech that this is the very thing of which Joel spoke, and he cites that prophets, and releases the plan of things to the astonished Jerusalemites, who had already seen enough that was astonishing in Christ! In His life, in His death, in His evacuation of His body; and now they see more in His disciples, obviously possessed by the power which raised Christ, and in which His miracles were performed. There was no stopping it.
It would help the imaginative idea suggested, that the reader is one of these disciples, if we hear Peter, and watch the environment in which he works, citing Acts 2.
§ “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
§ “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
o Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—
§ we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’
§ “So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’ Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine.’
§ “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them,
‘And it shall come to
pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
“And on My menservants
and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
“I will show wonders in
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
“And it shall come to
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.’
§ “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
§ “For David says concerning Him:
o ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
o For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
o Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
o Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
o For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
o Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
o You have made known to me the ways of life;
o You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
§ “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
§ “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
o ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
o “Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’
§ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
§ “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them,
§ ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’
§ “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ ”
§ This power is rational, reasonable, articulating, comprehensible, commanding, exhorting and the opposite entirely of the Corinthian tongues case (I Cor. 14). No two things could well be more different.
§ This brings understanding where it lacked by means of words; that removed understanding where it could have been presented, by means of the absence of intelligible words.
This meets a practical situation of need in the arena of
knowledge, and uses a miracle WITH WORDS rendering them technically parallel to
the work of a translator, to meet that internationally oriented opportunity at
the birthday of the church as a New Testament functioning unity. That brought
in what was originally predicted as a means of rebuke (cf.
A Question of Gifts Section I), by means of what in some ways resembled the idle talk of children, as far as words are concerned, though meaning it held, buried in the depths.
This then is the ending of the beginning: the miracle of the resurrection, of the body intact and able to eat and be handled, of the teaching from the One decreed dead, of the victim swallowing up death in victory (as in Isaiah 25:8), is thus followed after His departure, by the miracle of the explanation of these things, in the very heart of the city of His murderers, with such international facility of speech as made of it an occasion of memorable and amazing kind: JUST LIKE THOSE TRANSCENDENT PARALLELS IN WHICH CHRIST HEALED, HIMSELF PERSONALLY AT WORK! It reminds us at once of John 14:12!
Thousands are convicted, convinced and come.
thus, as we are seeing, a CONTINUITY of the power Christ was given*4.
Thus the resurrection, while itself the crescendo of the healings and raisings from the dead, is in this, that when one is dead, one simply rises, quite a unique situation; for when without human intervention, directly or instrumentally, one is raised it is as startling as predicted, as demanding as determined; and in the milieu of fulfillments already, in a battery of beliefs always fulfilled in history, it is more than prototype. Rather, it is penetration, and that not INTO the celestial sphere, but from it.
This was that. No prophet raised Him. He rose Himself. He rose as He said repeatedly that He would, and WHEN He said He would, on the third day (cf. SMR Ch. 6). As His words were with power to restore the sick and rebut the crafty, so now they were able to fulfil His predictions and attest His authenticity, for His Father and He were unanswerable in performance as in purity, just as God is incapable of being brought into disrepair by man!
Death could not hold Him, said Peter (Acts 2:24); and obviously this would have to be the case, since death is GOD’s penalty on MAN’s sin, and when that sin is paid for, GOD HIMSELF is not in debt to anyone, and simply rises in the human form which He had adopted. It was moreover as it had to be as seen in Psalm 16, Isaiah 52-53, Psalm 40. In the great congregation He would indeed address His people, having been killed. Concerning the resurrection, as Peter put it, of the Christ (not some other, but the One in view who had died), “This Jesus God has raised up…” (Acts ). It is not some substitute, not some invention, not some clone: it is THIS JESUS. If your mother dies, and is raised, it is futile to talk of her being so, unless it is indeed the very one who left, who departed, not someone else, of whom it would be said, Why now do I have instead, one like her!
We know what THIS JESUS, or this Mary or this John, means, so let us not twiddle with words, as some do. The Christian faith deals with ONE JESUS, ONE LORD, ONCE KILLED, ONCE RAISED, THIS JESUS. Any other is a subterfuge, a flight from history, as much as the word of God, a meaningless masquerade, a senseless charade, a gross plagiarism and pretence.
Pentecost does not deal with incomprehensible words, but eminently comprehensible ones; not with some other Jesus (condemned in principle in II Cor. 11), but THIS ONE; and the Gospel is not a matter of gabble or feelings, either one or the other or both, but of ONE objective Christ, who ONCE objectively was raised so that thousands, hearing and believing, formed the Christian Church days after it had happened, in Jerusalem.
The facts were not disputable. The miracles had amazed the nation, appalled the priests, astounded the savants, annoyed the Pharisees (when done on the Sabbath), and the death which was deemed necessary lest EVERYONE should follow Him (John -48), was the response, now exposed, and thus leading to the mass conversions. That “this man works many signs” was the trouble; the empirical was the difficulty, as with Darwin and many a repose of rebellion, in which is no rest, for the facts always war with it.
The long line of miraculous dealings was thus not a matter of atoms, but of molecules, and highly complex ones at that. It is all part of a fabric. If you buy velvet (should you happen to like it), you do not marvel at every inch and every touch: for once the fabric is in your possession, you KNOW what it is like and come to expect a certain continuity of its feel, and richness. If you had never seen it, this would be different. Having lived with it, it is no more an object of marveling or if it is, then not of surprised marveling. You have grown used to it; this is that way that thing is.
It can of course be torn…
SECOND PHASE: MORE DYNAMIC, then DISCIPLINE IN TWO FORMATS
Soon there was to be a famous healing in the temple grounds (Acts 3) in which the precise specification of Isaiah 35 were fulfilled, the healed man LEAPING! though formerly unable to walk.
The exuberance of this work is thus closely continuing, along the lines of the Lord’s dealings when on earth personally, in the flesh: nothing seems too hard, and what happens, does so in the aura of the divine, for through the Holy Spirit, this is present.
Peter in that honest way which all Christians should seek to emulate, addressed the people telling that it was CHRIST’s power which did the healing, that it was CHRIST who had been murdered, that this was as it had to be for the Messiah from the prophets, and that they should repent. He made it easier for them by saying the killing was done in ignorance, for probably many did not realise the enormity of what they did; but if it WAS in ignorance, then NOW was the time, the knowledge supplied, for the repentance to come.
Heaven would receive Christ as was the schema for so long, and it was He of whom Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 18, by prophecy, as the One who would come after him, whom all must heed. It is to YOU FIRST, he said, there is blessing God having raised up Jesus. Thus spoke Peter in his second recorded major public speech in Acts.
This second address was not at all well received by some whose murderous action was not apparently so ignorant! When the outraged leaders arrested the apostles, they showed of what they were made.
Since the apostles were PREACHING through the name of Jesus the resurrection of the body from the dead (Acts 4:1), this annoyed many of the paramount principals of this devious deed, in the temple, the Sadducees, and they had the apostles arrested, and tried, but were in a dilemma.
Let us see it graphically in the present. If they hurt them, then the people who are not without all thought, may consider:
So here we are. These men who preach, they have been with the Christ whose works have been the work of the century, of all time indeed; and they do what He did, freely raise the sick in a way unheard of before, and what happens ? Our so religious, so scheming, so corrupt priesthood, involved for years in their own profits and power play, corrupt, meddlesome in politics, spiritual managers, traditional experts, cultural plaques, are so far from the path of peace that they have to HURT those who HELP, just as they MURDERED the One in whose name this is done!
This would be an impossible political situation for the craft of priesthood, and it was not done. Rather they asked, BY WHAT POWER and in WHAT NAME have you done these things ? (Acts 4:7). This was fully in parallel with asking Christ whether He was the Son of the blessed (Matthew 26:63ff., Mark 14:62).
This led to a careful exposure, exposition and denunciation by Peter, covering what Christ was, Who He was and What He did, together with this addition, what THESE VERY ONES, now arresting the apostles, had done to this same Christ.
The apostles were threatened and told (as by the doctrinal dogmatists, where heresy had run wild and occupied the seat of power) NOT to preach, through this name of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead. It was not a doctrine merely, but the presentation of a fact. It was like a scientific research nowadays. One major facet of its impact, where light shone like a laser, was this: that it had happened. The appalling horror of all murderers, that their victim arise, was fulfilled in their eyes. They would not have another chance to exhibit their animus, their intellectual antinomies to faith, their direct rejection of what the nation had, in the very nursery where they had charge, been expecting to be born for so long. Having rejected the Christ, they would now but see His power, His people and their testimony. Unless they would now believe they would be as shipwrecked as any who did likewise in any other century!
What could these guilty men then do ? They could do no more. If they did, then they would be exposed as hostile to goodness, contrary to healing, garrulous contra-reality religionists. Yet they went as far as intimidatory tactics could then take them: they urged the apostles NOT to preach in this name. They feared that the murder would be pinned upon themselves; but alas, it is a fact that it has been a pitfall for Israel ever since; for it is not the guilt at His death - “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” Luke 23:34) - but the FAILURE to repent which is the point!
Thus, if you do not repent for a sin, how are you then not intertwined with it, concordant with it, and in spirit ready to do it again, married to it, congenial with it, as a father with a family! Excuses will not profit. If it was wrong, it must be repented of; if it is not repented of, then it is in the orbit of your travels, as aspect of your very life. How then are you not responsible, or is your guilt to be removed ?
Indeed, the case is far worse; for if the pardon is free, procured at great cost, expressive not only of moderation but of divine love, and it is STILL refused, this veritable intractability is like a voluntary cancer of the spirit, carrying its own death by an internal decree, not of flesh but of spirit.
What then ? These religious mentors had NO desire for people to find this life, eternal, undimmed, dynamic, unarrestable. They would rather they died than lived for ever. To be sure, this may not have been their conscious thought, but then, in the matter of motives, this is not crucial. What was their conscious thought was this: that their unvalidated doctrines in deviation from the Messiah should prevail against what had a self-attestation now not only in Christ Himself, but in His disciples; and in the prophets. For that any inference would be sustainable: they WANTED it! So do people often, gripped by great passion, throw not merely discretion but instruction to the winds. Alas for man, for in a physically visible drama, these spiritually departed before their time, seemed to find their spirits aflame already, combustible and concluded (cf. Luke )*5.
Such is often the case, just as in the theory of evolution, though it has failed on all sides, and has no vestigial relationship, even, to scientific method, it is held even if the truth has to die for it to live. Those responsible for this ceaseless DARWIN BASHING (in the Bible bashing parallel) and EVOLUTION BASHING in any of the multitudes of evolutionary also-rans, needful since Darwin fell (cf. TMR Ch. 1, Spiritual Refreshings 6, 13, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9, Wake up World! …Ch. 5 et al.), do not necessarily mean to kill the truth; it is just that desiring what they do desire, and settled as they are settled, that is the result when their non-presentation is the only thing going. Poison as the only food is the spread of hypocrisy in many a nation, and they marvel at their youth, fed such palpable pap, as if it were steak and not long softened rottenness.
This is so unless another miracle occur, and truth shines in like the sun from behind clouds, as it often does, since God is very gracious and does not malign the human race as it often does itself, nor watch unmoved, as children are brought up with the image of asps (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 8).
Meanwhile, as seen in Acts 4, at the source and foundation of these matters, with the vitality of truth, they all prayed with one heart and mind, being set on the deity of Christ, God the Creator as man, the dealings of His redemption, the reality of His resurrection, the presence of His power, the duty of His testimony; and their prayer is seen in Acts 4:24-30. In a way reminiscent of the Pentecostal surging on the first day, the place was shaken (another such case was noted in a revival episode in more recent centuries). Notice that as they prayed, they REHEARSED THE FACTS, and on that, asked for the POWER to perform what was needed.
§ “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said:
o “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
§ ‘Why did the nations rage,
§ And the people plot vain things?
§ The kings of the earth took their stand,
§ And the rulers were gathered together
§ Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
§ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
§ “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
As time went on, a case of less than accurate accounting (Acts 5), with Sapphira and Ananias, in which their words did not correspond with their deeds, led to an equally dynamic and dramatic end, when each died in the midst of the exposure. Purity was required in the presence of this power!
Now the miracles of healing proliferated, reminding one of the cases noted above, when “all were healed” in Christ’s time on earth. The priestly party, true to its tainted colours, had apostles arrested and put in the common prison. The Communism movement seems to have learned something from these things, for they seem to dote on humiliating religious workers by allowing all sorts of inferences to be drawn as they harry, harass and seek to render many ignominious, by physical assault, verbal assault, false condemnations, false accusations, they truth-girt prey.
However, the miracles continued. Yet it might be helpful if the reader were rather to see this as the continuation of the STREAM OF SPIRITUAL EVENTS, like a boat in the grip of a current and moved along, just as the scriptural writers were statedly moved along by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:19-21), the word used signifying a force as might be used of the work of a storm (and in fact IS used of the storm which drove Paul’s ship in its path, on his way to Rome).
The milieu of the Messiah continued like a long sunset, to fire and work, performing things beyond man, but through man. Yet the colour persisted and persists, when the conditions are kept. God is not bound to perform any sort of miracle unless it seems to Him good or even necessary for the fulfilment of His promises; but the Christian must realise that IF you are doing His will, and IF you are intent on following His conditions, and IF you DO believe His promises, and have His word at your heart, then God may indeed work miracles. He can and He frequently does. The empirical is always available where faith is found. Twin errors are to be found, either failing to believe that He can, or will at His own discretion, or that He must, at ours!
Ø This is not to remove suffering, since suffering in and for Christ may often be necessary to show the integrity of the faith, the power of God in humiliation and to stir the conscience of the hardened; it is however to make the work and true witness proceed in His love and His grace that He acts, and to care for His servants as seems to Him best; and to this end, to limit God is as foolish as to demand a miracle. Whether or not the miracle is to arrive, the point is simple: the work must be done, the promises will be and are ALWAYS kept, and by life or by death, in patience or in deliverance with drama, they will be fulfilled.
this case, the apostles showed BOTH features summarily. They were imprisoned,
but a miracle brought them out, in that an angel instructed them to GO ON
PREACHING the words of this life. This they did, instead of escaping on the
SURVIVAL RAFT of self-interest. That combination of fidelity, fearlessness and
faith was staggering to many, and part of the innate testimony of the church
through the life of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit within His people (Romans 8:9).
This is one of the testimonies of an empirical kind which helped
Brought back to the priests, discreetly lest there be a riot or worse, the apostles were harried: Weren’t you TOLD not to so preach ? you are trying to bring this man’s blood on us. “We ought to obey God rather than men,” they retorted. Then, outlining the false action taken against the truly attested Messiah by these men, they declared (Acts -32):
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by
hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and
Saviour to give repentance in
Gamaliel counseled caution, but the inflamed priestly rulers were intent on their prey, had them beaten, and instructed them NOT to speak in this name.
The apostles concerned however were profoundly thankful to be able to SUFFER in fellowship with Jesus, for His name, and the disciples continued without cease in their preaching and praying. So was there discipline both within the church, and upon it, the former for moral reasons, the latter in the interests of integrity, and not slithering spiritually downhill, to accommodate the world, as is now more and more the normal serpentine slackness.
As with machinery, it needs precision and oiling; and so with the Church, it must objectively present that on which faith is laid, CHRIST, and all His works, His power and His free redemption, resurrection and promises, and this in the Spirit which gives the power and the boldness needed, for it is He who is sent from Christ for just such a purpose. It is in this milieu, and not for the benefit of interested bystanders (like frustrated Herod – Luke 23:6ff.), that the action is seen. At times it spills over, like an overfull weir, and its crashing cascades amaze the ungodly, as at Pentecost, as with Elijah and Elisha so often, as with Naaman (II Kings 5), as in the feeding of the 5000 (for some sought the food after this, more than the meaning!); and where in any case all could see; at times it was given where reception made this more meaningful (Matthew 13:11ff., with 13:13ff.).
It is no good ploughing with a scalpel. For everything, there is its place, or arena of functionality.
Thus too, and equally,
Ø the efforts to make the strength weakness and the purity pollution, by disobeying the command on the Spirit, who is from Christ and for Christ and testifies of Him, and not of Himself (John 14-16),
Ø rebelling whether through multiplied tongues talk in simultaneity (cf. A Question of Gifts and I Cor. 14 with 1:1), improper tongue concentration (I Cor. , 28ff.), confusion of ‘tongues’ with the directly opposite phenomena of Pentecost,
Ø daring to declare new doctrine as if Christ did not matter, and the mind of man could foment new things (contrary to Revelation 22 and Ephesians 2:19ff., cf. SMR Appendix D)
Ø or combining with moral and spiritual wickedness which brings out its own ideas instead:
these should be avoided with more zeal than any plague.
They merely confuse what is clear, and make a scrabble out of comprehensible terms.
A plague is what they are, and if you seek health, meaning and action in the Lord, reality and its application, then avoid the milieu where such things as those just listed, happen; or else have them be corrected by the Bible. If this is not done however, you must not be there, for it is like lingering where bad food is; for the Lord can discipline, and misuse of His name is not desirable in truth or in spirit! (cf. Romans 16:17).
Our present interest however, is rather this: that this is how it went in integrity and truth, with POWER and SUFFERING in blessed and impactive duet, as with the Pearl Fishers’ song, blended and not amended. Marked prayer not for deliverance from suffering per se, not from duty but for boldness in its performance (cf. Philippians ), this was the order of the day, with strong mutual collaboration. That, it is not a repetition. How is this so ? In this way it is to be found: some may collaborate, but without empathy and sympathy, similar morals or motives, and the edges jar; but this is MUTUAL collaboration, in which the mutuality is as clear as the combination, the combination as the jointness of intent and this as the spirit in which it is done!
SUMMARY and DEVELOPMENT
SUMMARY WITH EXTENSION:
Consider now in sequence, as we proceed to our next phase in Acts 10-12 (omitting for the moment the interpolation of Paul’s conversion, though this too was an illustration of it, even to the removal of the scales on his eyes, which in magnificent symbolism had come when the light of Christ struck him down on the Damascus road), the cumulative, sheer thrust of this power. It is like the Rockies not only in the sense of airy magnificence, vastness and fearless soaring into the celestial terrain, but in the sheer continuity of these ranges as you cross them, on the Canadian Pacific rail link.
Extravagant in immensity, ceaseless in presentation, lofted in summitry, they do not rest in their rest, in one thing. This ? they are always there, always successive, always showing sheer disregard of the paltry and puny, arising now in this way, now in that, unarraigned, on display, soaring, significant and signifying nobility, sending the spirit with them aloft; but requiring this one thing, that you travel into them.
Thus in Acts we see something not of geological majesty, but of the celestial majesty itself, above matter, above colour and picturesque sequence, moving into the captaincy and ultimate power in life, over life and for life. Peter and others, they are at Pentecost, they are aflame with divine fire, they are articulate with divine linguistic counsel, they are presenting the Gospel, they challenge the murderers, they are forgiving to the people, they attest the Messiah, they answer the questions, the people come in thousands, they continue next to heal; they preach again, they are arrested, they speak with superb boldness, simplicity and clear, tolling chimes of charge to the perpetrators; they attest the necessity to be true, they disdain mere conformity to the powers that be.
“Whether it be right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge!”
or in our idiom,
“Work it out for yourselves!”
They appeal to facts (Acts 4:20) as Christ did (John 3), things seen and heard, the actual testimony of their senses, and this is exacerbated for their persecutors who cannot duplicate the works of Christ, or of the apostles, and as to the latter, their continuity, their growth is awesome; and it is these facts which they cannot repeal, nor will the apostles cease to attest them, from the resurrection onward! Nor do the apostles rest in their names, but in His who sent them (John 20:21-23), so they pray, all pray, their hearts in a surge of unison and content in the presence of the Lord; and the power of God moves the people (4:23ff.).
Meanwhile impurity in the church is purged (Acts 5). It is done without physical punishment. The apostles multiply miracles of healing, the priests cannot stand the imputation of guilt, the expression of power, the joining of these two things in the presence of their own guilt, for Christ was slain out of envy and in fear, lest Rome intervene. It is all so like what Christ had done; but now it is in a team, and the King absent in the flesh, is yet present in Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which can work in Christ’s name in His absence, just as He said (John 16:14-15, Luke 24:49). If the Church is not pure, then it is purified; Christ was always pure, but it is in HIM and in HIS name that the power surges, the work is wrought, the salvation in Him is exposed. It is not a mere academic display, though it passes all academic tests as nothing else; it is a presentation in practice, a work in wisdom, an action of Almighty God.
But the priests are not purified (though one contingent was – Acts 6:7). Refusing wiring, they have no such power. SO the persecution continues (Acts 5:17ff.), but it cannot quench the fires which burn in the grates of faith. The testimony rebuts the call of the guilty priesthood, the recapitulation of the facts of the case is thrust before their eyes, like the drops of blood seen on the hand, the little hand of Lady Macbeth.
Guilt uses force as so often. Thus there is prison, reprimand, rebuke, orders are given. Authorities conspire, then as now so often. However, Peter is brought out, a live body, through express divine intervention so gross and outrageous in its display, that Peter even preaches in the very precincts from which he has just escaped. Not fear but function rules; not selfish prudence but divinely lit love has victory. Whipped, they are not intimidated, treated as criminal, they are courageous in testimony, burning with truth, overwriting the guilt of man with the glory of God.
In Acts 6-7, amidst organisation, we see the deacon Stephen, ablaze with faith, meeting the churning misrepresentation of the ignorant with the celestially fired testimony of truth: chapter and verse, fact and history, all are arraigned before the people who finding the charge he gives, and challenge insupportable and unbearable, as with the prophets of old, so many of whom were killed. Incensed as were the authorities with Christ, the rebellious stone the saint to death, and his forgiving words echo those of Christ (Acts 7:59-60). Though his words may reach the ears of some who are devils, his face shines like that of an angel.
Ø Thus the symphony, the combined symphony of divinely donated power and humanly experienced suffering continues.
In Acts 8, while the stage is prepared for the conversion of arch persecutor Saul, to be Paul, the way is actually taken to that site of hostility to the Jew, Samaria; and Philip brings a blazing testimony (cf. Psalm 104:4) that melts many.
Then, when Peter comes down, a key player, the power of the Holy Spirit comes, and the people looking to Christ direct, find Him indeed, amidst Peter’s rebuke to a certain sorcerer who seemingly thought it good to pay for the power of God, and to use it in some mechanistic or automated way of his own. “Your money perish with you because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20), something most sadly many have neglected to ponder. What purchases SPIRITUAL things is NOT money, nor is there to be trade in it in any holy matter (cf. I Peter 1:18ff.). Who ignores this, is not wise; nor does power come where such money seeks to control or qualify it. The sorcerer’s agonised plea is far better than the way of many, who seek no repentance from such perversion of truth, mischievous malingering about power and desire for what comes at the cost of the death of the Son of God! So the Church maintains its spiritual stance, posture and procedure, in nothing yielded as is the way of some, to “cultural” environment as an excuse for “success”. Of this sort it both needs and takes nothing.
Meanwhile Stephen goes further to find, by precise divine direction (Acts 8:26), more sure than any global positioning device, the Ethiopian Treasurer, actually reading Isaiah and wanting understanding. This done, in this instance, and the Gospel explained via the prophet who forecast it so precisely, we see the simplicity of baptism for the believer from outside the nation (just as the believer coming into Israel before would be circumcised, not having been circumcised at the first, because of unbelief of his family*6 , and realise the directness of the faith requirement.
What did he have to do ? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as THERE EXPOSED and EXPOUNDED, from Isaiah in this case, and do so with ALL HIS HEART (Acts , cf. Romans 10:9).
On all sides, power, wisdom, courage, consistency, persistence, answers of the lips (cf. Luke 21:14ff.), retorts unanswerable, response most reasonable, enabled from above, with healing, help, compassion, initiative, leading: there is seen the power of the resurrection leading the people of God, just as this same power exercised in an earlier configuration for the people of the Lord, led Israel in the Exodus, Joshua in the coming into the Promised Land. For each it was the same Gospel (I Corinthians 10, Romans 4:22ff.), in one in the bud, in the other in the bloom, in the one, with the Messiah awaited (as in Psalm 22), in the other with the payment of redemption now made, that one everlasting Gospel of grace through faith, according to covenant. For each the might of God worked according to His own word and discretion.
This power is wrought from the Creator, the Redeemer, in the name of the Saviour, and God Himself is the ONLY SAVIOUR (cf. Isaiah 43:10-11, Acts 4:11-12); but it is now available to the Church, not in terms of the temple and priesthood, but in the name of Christ. This was always the name, since Messiah = Christ, a mere matter of linguistic translation, and it was to be He for a millennium, yes and more (Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, TMR Ch. 3) before He came, just as it has been now for two since He came, and will be forever (Ephesians 1:10), for in Him the Father has seen fit to provide the Light, in Him who as man knows man through personal experience from within!
It is the power of GOD transmitted in covenant, focussed in Christ, resplendent in service, available on call through faith! In the resurrection, it is epochally expressed, for God RAISED the chief agent, the incarnation of His eternal word, WHEN HE WAS DEAD, so that He declares, “I am He who lives, was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:18).
is thus for the asking.
Ø Its conditions are
§ not to rise from the dead, for that is done already;
§ not to be incarnated in some far off scene, for ours is the far off scene, and Christ is incarnated already;
to pile up works to impress God, for He is not impressed already with any of
man’s contrivings, arrivings and protestations, but demands perfection and not
competition as if man could arrive in the purity of heaven with his own exhaust
so pollutant (Titus 2-3).
Ø These His conditions are rather that the ONE WHO has come, Jesus Christ, be RECEIVED as He is, for what, being God, He has shown, in redemption He has done, in resurrection of His body He has portrayed, is to be so regarded with this result, that His word rules in the heart, not for commerce and duplicity for survival, arrival or ascent, but out of a love for God, without which there can be no relationship at all (I Timothy 1:5-6, Galatians 5:6, I Corinthians 13, Galatians 6:14, Romans 10:9). With God, it is all or nothing (Luke 14:27ff.).
Let us then revert to the report of Acts.
Now following Paul’s conversion (Acts 9), comes his testimony, his escape from Damascus, and his addition to the Jerusalem testimony, with preparation for later work, by return to Tarsus, his birth place (Acts 9:30). In the fear of the Lord and the comfort, the strengthening, the enabling, the encouraging of the Holy Spirit, the churches multiplied: so that this pastoral work of Christ, in the power of God, it also continued (cf. John 13:1). His light in His followers is thus seen splitting up like the spectrum, into the various features, He with all, now in His body, the church, aspects provided for use by redeemed sinners, who walk in His way.
Now is seen Peter’s WORK FOLLOWING DELIVERANCE. He did not die, so that he could live; and living, he, like Stephen, is directed to a household where he heals a man invalided for eight years, in the same name of Christ, and it is important to see what he said: “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise…” It is not in the name of Peter, at Rome or elsewhere, of some pope, or religious cartel, Presbytery or Synod. It is in the name of JESUS ONLY. At once he does so. It is as Acts 1:1 indicates, the CONTINUATION of the work of Christ, not in redemption, for this is done, but in APPLICATION and TESTIMONY in word and in deed.
At Joppa, a dead person is raised from the dead (Acts 9:36).
By this time, we see that it is the same death defying, or better, death denying power of God which is working: it stops at nothing, it works in the principles and Person of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father by Christ (John 15:26). Thus are His promises honoured (cf. John 14:13-14, with 20:21-23 – and notice in the latter, that it is AS His Father sent Him, that He sends – and Christ, He spoke what He was commanded as in John 12:48-50, and did nothing of Himself, having come to do the will of Him who sent Him).
This power from God saves Peter from death in prison (felt in the comprehensiveness of the testimony, nevertheless by James – Acts 12:2), from the stopping of the work of testimony by prison, and enabled the resistance by the apostles as the devil worked by lashings, by authorities, by powers of the Age. It moves where knowledge ceases, by the free provision of divine insight; it brings conjunction of this and that person. It breeds prayer, it lifts hearts, it heals bodies as God directs. This is the power of the resurrection of CHRIST, and in that it is HIS, it is the working which HE continued to do!
Healing of course as Job shows, is neither demandable from God, nor irrelevant to God, for the prayer of faith will heal the sick (James 5:14), and God gives such faith where He will, not merely abstractly, but to meet the ultimate need in His grace, knowledge and understanding. Thus Epaphroditus nearly died over a period (Philippians 2:25ff., cf. Trophimus - II Timothy 4:20), and Paul COULD not be rid of one of his afflictions which had a specific spiritual purpose (cf. II Corinthians 12:8ff.), while Job we remember (God does not change and His principles are the same) had to endure long vigorous sickness, in order that his love of God be validated, his testimony be written in rock, his vision exhibited, the word of redemption to come (famously given in Job 19 and often sung in Handel’s Messiah) and the foul play of him who hates God, exposed (cf. SMR pp. 95, 358, 372).
In other words, God does not donate a key set to force Him, but a gracious transmitter to reach Him, and neither are miracles on demand, nor to be regarded as obsolete; but as He finds the need, so He will meet it whether with or without miracle. In the end, it is comparatively indifferent, as in the case where one decides whether to use a tea spoon or a desert spoon for eating a grape-fruit. What is not inconsequential is this: that the Christian realise, as Acts shows, that if miracle is needed, it will be done; if not, it may not be done; and it is GOD who determines the actual need. He may provide it when one thinks it unnecessary, not provide when one is again of a contrary opinion, but in the end, He who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and the meaning and meat of the middle, uses His own discretion. IF however, as with Sarah (Genesis -14), a miracle IS needed, then there is no question, it will be done.
THIS is what we learn from Acts and see in life, if only the Lord be trusted, His word followed, if only one is doing the will of God from the heart, not with mixed motives, as if God were an agent for one’s self, its honour or whatever, but with pure motive, in pursuing the works and words of God out of love. God is love, and that is how He is to be met; God is invisible, and it is by faith that this love is to be met. God is powerful, and in faith, this power it to be found. Reason requires that it be true (SMR, TMR); but faith alone receiving it as such, is operative (Hebrews 11:1,6).
In Acts 10, we move to the second great divine global positioning guidance, when Peter at one time is told during a vision which was to teach a principle, of the coming of people with whom he should go; while a Roman, Cornelius, was earlier told to send to Peter.
Finding men ready for him to come, Peter goes and preaches, so that the household is converted. Peter is shown that those who love God are not only to be found among Jews, for here is a Roman, a centurion, a just man, with good reputation among the Jews. To this man, the gospel comes, and it goes to any who seek the Lord with all the heart, though its absence should not for that reason be confused with its presence, nor should it be assumed that the Roman was not already a believer in the revealed God of Jacob.
At all events, seeking is finding, though it must be done with all the heart in the mercy and grace of God (Jeremiah 29:13), for God is neither gullible nor mocked, nor a means to anyone’s end; for everyone who seeks finds, and this man, no mere blade of grass in some psychological whirlwind, but one following in the presence of the Jews the things that are right, was given the Gospel key, just as any Jew could be given it. No prejudice could prevent it, and in the vision accorded Peter, all inhibition which allowed limitation of the Gospel, was removed (cf. Acts 10:9ff.). The background is there, and if the foreground arrives, then so be it. The Gospel is the test of what is there, and if the heart is prepared by God, then the word will penetrate (cf. Ch. 1 above).
Barriers thus are broken: it is not for any one nation, it is not for any one people, Roman, Ethiopian, enemies or friends. Peter explained the testimony given, the power of God shown when he spoke to the household of Cornelius, and God having used this as attestation, the response came apparently with full intelligibility, for they found that they spoke with tongues and magnified God, presumably just as they had done at Pentecost (Acts 11:15-17). This helped convince the brethren to whom Peter recounted these events. There is now UNITY IN THE SPIRIT as they accept this testimony, and LOVE in the Spirit as Barnabus goes now to find Saul, turned into Paul, in love desiring and facilitating those great things to come through Paul.
We come now to the life-and-death reality of this resurrection power, which raised Christ. Just as Christ was killed by express divine appointment, so was James, though apparently, that the suffering and loss should show the devotion of his spirit, the commitment of his life, the foulness of the oppressors, the fact that the miracles are not a substitute for pain, or an anodyne for suffering as if to avoid it, but a path for service, an expression of God in action, and a work of the God who made all, never to let any be tested beyond what he/she can stand (cf. I Corinthians 10:13). Death is not the end; and James covered with beauty the testimony of his lips, by that of his willing body.
After the death of James (Acts 12), we find Peter in prison; for the sociologically or politically sycophantic Herod had seized him, seeking to grab popularity by hurting the church and Peter in particular. Like other tyrants, he is not above hurting, or beyond helping, but the centre is rotten. However, again God acts, just as HE ACTED TO RESURRECT CHRIST. In prison, as in Acts 5, Peter is simply led out with the inability of any restraint to arrest his going. Now with some 16 soldiers to keep him in, and two, one on each side, with chains, he is simply removed with the thoroughness and facility with which Christ was raised and evacuated from the tomb. This therefore is further expression of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of God, the wit and mind of the Creator, the action of the Sovereign who “acts, and who will restrain” Him.
This is found in Isaiah 14:24-27, and this with the like verse in 43:11-13 are shown below, for the sake of accuracy in following this whole testimony of God, in word and deed.
v “The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying,
‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass,
And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:
That I will break the Assyrian in My land,
And on My mountains tread him underfoot.
Then his yoke shall be removed from them,
And his burden removed from their shoulders.’
v This is the purpose that is purposed against the whole earth,
v And this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.
v For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
v And who will annul it?
v His hand is stretched out,
v And who will turn it back?”
(Bold here added for emphasis, for our point in view.)
v “ ‘I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no savior.
I have declared and saved,
I have proclaimed,
And there was no foreign god among you;
Therefore you are My witnesses,’
Says the Lord, ‘that I am God.
Indeed before the day was, I am He;
And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand;
I work, and who will reverse it?’ ”
These two Biblical sites are given with their historical background intact, so there IS ALWAYS in our human race to this point, historical background, whether of the creation or the fall, of the flood or the prophets, of the incarnation or the redemption, of the resurrection or the sending of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant, of the breaking away of many large churches, the great falling away (II Thessalonians 2), or in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then as in Acts or now. God meets him who rejoices and remembers His ways (Isaiah 64:5) and ACTS for him. God is not the servant of lust, but the helper of His servants: it is necessary to get the order right! The word ‘Lord’ is not an invention for ceremonial use; but a testimony of a practical kind. God is intensely practical; He practically MADE THE WORLD.
This is not to reduce the wonder of His praise or His wisdom; but to remind ourselves after generations of abstruse follies in the place of the simple faith, that if it is a practical matter, or a physiological, or domestic, or political, or social, or ecclesiastical, God can not merely ‘handle’, but provide the initiative, the love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5) and LEAD, as a Shepherd is wont to do!
Peter, then, was removed from prison in this case, according to the wisdom of God, who desires neither than man so expect miracle that they do not ponder, nor fail to expect that it may be given and will be if needed, that they lack faith. Mountains are there for the moving, or for rest (Mark 11:23ff.), and the mountain on which one rests, is Christ (cf. Daniel 2:25), the Rock who is God alone (Psalm 62, II Samuel 22:33, Deuteronomy 32). Out from the shackles, from the guards, from the iron gates he was led, things merely showing no more power to resist the Maker of matter than you would expect.
It is NEVER that God lacks power, nor that He does not fulfil a promise; it is that the conditions must be right, and that the faith must be present, and that the purpose must be pure and the Lord will act as He declares, and often indeed is it miraculous, but not always, for as Peter declares it, in II Peter 1,
“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith virtue,
to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control,
to self-control perseverance,
to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness, and
to brotherly kindness love.
“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted…”
(Colour and emphasis added.)
Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ 11,
… Immovable Faith
Stepping Out for Christ
Things Old and New
Light of Dawn Ch. 3;
This is the prototype for those whom He owns, having bought them, who are His, typified as His body, glorified in Him with His capacity to overcome, alike due to His entire innocency from all sin, and His deity which being Creator of all in its power, is more than ample for any and for all who come to receive such gifts. It is also effectual because He was SENT from His secure fastness of heaven to the vulnerable exposures of this earth, both the butt of sinners and the source of their blessings, the former as exposed to all, the latter as effectual for RECIPIENTS ONLY.
You see this power which had raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:41ff.), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11), as well as Lazarus (John 11), and in concert with His Father and the Holy Spirit, had raised Christ from the dead like a rocket blasting its way through rock, that of the tomb into a life which seized the apostles and astounded the world (Luke 24). Thus Acts 1:1 tells us that in Luke we were told what Christ had BEGUN to do; now in this APPLICATION of His risen power, we find what He continued to do.
In Acts 2, PENTECOST and the rousing realisation of the royal resurrection of the King, with the beginning of the challenge and charge of an ineffectual but bloody murder (Acts -24). Thousands are won as the prophecies are unveiled, that thus it should be.
In Acts 3, the power of Christ continues to operate, as a miraculous healing comes on one a cripple from birth, leaping as predicted in Isaiah 35.
In Acts 4 you see it
as Peter directly addresses the guilty rulers of
In the power of that resurrection, Peter and John retorted: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you work it out for yourselves!” (to use our idiom).
You can see that this would lead to suffering, and it did, but also to deliverance, drama and decisive advance for the kingdom of God, Note their prayer (Acts 4:23ff.) with one heart, not deciding whether Christ was worth it or not, since they truthfully spoke what they had heard and seen (Acts 4:20). Thus when in the midst of massive healings and preachings, they were arrested again (Acts 5), an angel sent to deliver Peter also told him to preach the words of this life near where he was, the prison. From prison to temple he went, and there he was found speaking the next morning! When the authorities found the guards present and the prisoners absent, they sent for them, challenged them, but received the same reply, this time taking the chance to scourge them! The apostles thought that an honour since they suffered for and as servants, with Christ.
Stephen’s wonderful testimony we must keep for another day, but in Acts 12 we see Peter once more in prison. The church had suffered, for a people-pleasing King Herod had killed James. Peter was next, 16 soldiers were involved to ensure that the apostle could not AGAIN escape. Two soldiers were bound to him, to ensure nothing could possibly happen. Again the angel came, the soldiers sleeping, the bonds loosed, the gates opened, Peter was out. The move was staggering in its ease. Hilarious is the result in this, that the praying people, on hearing from the maid that Peter was at the door, felt she must be out of her mind. However it was indeed the apostle, and so the power of the resurrection had opened the doors of salvation at Pentecost, of many hearts in Stephen, of prison twice with Peter, of sickness to heal many, and many priests became Christians (Acts 6:7).
As Christ emerged alive from the tomb, so Peter from prison, and so Christ continued His work, though back where He came from till His return, by His Holy Spirit in His Church, sending far.
What then do we find ? See above as in the main text.
Luke 11:43-54, which needs to be seen as one whole to discern the spirit and scope of it, is as follows.
Once again, though blue is the norm here for scriptural quotation, the nature of this suggests a deep red, with blue symbols as signalisation.
v “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”
v Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said,
v “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
v “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
v And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.”
How like the wisdom of God in Jeremiah 7:13,25, 26:5, 29:19, 32:33, 35:15, II Chronicles 36:15 and Proverbs 1, is this indictment; but it carries an essence, presents an ultimatum, not merely for time but for eternity: for now they are about to murder the Son of God, to seek to press the delete button not on the word through the prophets, but on the Word who sent them, whose Spirit wrought in them (II Peter 1)!
From such delinquency nothing but repentance, from such guilt nothing but the blood which was brought out of the body by guile, can save; for the life of entire purity and undimmed divine power capacious and capable (Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 1, 3, 5), alone will atone for the life without it, and this not alone for those who seek in flesh to kill the Christ, but in spirit to ignore Him.
Reformulation of Christ is not the need (the contemporary equivalent of murder), but reformation; nor is it reformation of Christ, but of the sinner; nor this alone, but pardon with the power of God, which given in the slain Lamb, brings His flock to Himself, purged, penitent and accepted. Titus 3 expresses it with a delightful succinctness:
v “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Cf. Deuteronomy 29:10-11, Exodus 4:24ff., cf. Colossians -12, Questions and Answers 13.