Contents 3 Contents SPECIAL HELPSChronology of the Book of Acts 12Chronology of the Epistles of Paul 13Chronology of the General Epistles 14Bible Stories for the Family 15 – SECTION ONE – THE PREPARATION1 God’s Purpose for His Church 17 Ezekiel 34:26, 29-31; Isaiah 43:10-12; 42:6-7 Bible Study: Nearness to God 222 The Training of the Twelve 23 Mark 3:13-14; John 15:26-27; John 16:33 Bible Study: Abiding in Christ 283 The Great Commission 29 Luke 24:45-49; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:5, 8 – SECTION TWO – THE MINISTRY BEGINS4 Pentecost 36 Luke 24:53; Acts 15 The Gift of the Spirit 45 John 14:16-17; Acts 2 Bible Study: Walking with God 526 At the Temple Gate 53 Acts 3; Acts 4:1-31
4 Acts of the Apostles7 A Warning against Hypocrisy 63 Acts 4:32 - 5:11 Bible Study: Preparing for Christ’s Coming 688 Before the Sanhedrin 69 Acts 5:12-42 Bible Study: Our Heavenly Home 769 The Seven Deacons 77 Acts 6:1-7 Bible Study: God Wants to be with You 8410 The First Christian Martyr 85 Acts 6:5-15; Acts 7 Bible Study: Glorification Awaits the Faithful 8911 The Gospel in Samaria 90 Acts 8 Bible Study: Our Duty, to Glorify God 9612 From Persecutor to Disciple 97 Acts 9:1-18 Bible Study: Giving Good for Evil 10513 Days of Preparation 106 Acts 9:19-3014 A Seeker for Truth 112 Acts 9:32 - 11:18 Bible Study: Praising God 12015 Delivered from Prison 121 Acts 12:1-2316 The Gospel Message in Antioch 130 Acts 11:19-26; Acts 13:1-3 Bible Study: Divine Guidance 138 – SECTION THREE – PAUL, THE APOSTLE17 Heralds of the Gospel 139 Acts 13:4-52
Contents 518 Preaching among the Heathen 147 Acts 14:1-2619 Jew and Gentile 155 Acts 15:1-35 Bible Study: The Lord Is Our Helper 16520 Exalting the Cross 166 Acts 15:36-41; Acts 16:1-16 Bible Study: Guidance by the Holy Spirit 17321 In the Regions Beyond 174 Acts 16:7-4022 Thessalonica 181 Acts 17:1-10 Bible Study: We Are to be Holy 18823 Berea and Athens 189 Acts 17:11-3424 Corinth 198 Acts 18:1-18 Bible Study: Promises to Children 20625 The Thessalonian Letters 207 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians26 Apollos at Corinth 217 Acts 18:18-28 Bible Study: Parental Duties 22627 Ephesus 227 Acts 19:1-20 Bible Study: Honor Your God 23428 Days of Toil and Trial 235 Acts 19:21-41; Acts 20:1 Bible Study: Help from the Lord 23929 Message of Warning and Entreaty 240 Part of 1 Corinthians
6 Acts of the Apostles30 Called to Reach a Higher Standard 248 Part of 1 Corinthians Bible Study: The Blessing of Children 25831 The Message Heeded 259 2 Corinthians Bible Study: Children Should Be Obedient 26732 A Liberal Church 268 2 Corinthians 8:7-12; 2 Corinthians 9:6-1433 Laboring under Difficulties 276 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-12 Bible Study: Better to be Humble 28534 A Consecrated Ministry 286 2 Timothy 2:4; Colossians 1:25-29 Bible Study: God Leads His People 29535 Salvation to the Jews 296 Romans Bible Study: The Goodness of God 30336 Apostasy in Galatia 304 Galatians Bible Study: Your Influence Is Important 30837 Paul’s Last Journey to Jerusalem 309 Acts 20:4 - 21:16 Bible Study: A Pure Heart 31638 Paul, a Prisoner 317 Acts 21:17 - 23:35 Bible Study: He Will Give You the Words 33139 The Trial at Caesarea 332 Acts 24 Bible Study: Warnings Must Be Given 33840 Paul Appeals to Caesar 339 Acts 25:1-12 Bible Study: Found at His Feet 342
Contents 741 “Almost Thou Persuadest Me” 343 Acts 25:13-27; Acts 26 Bible Study: Decision Time 34742 The Voyage and Shipwreck 348 Acts 27; Acts 28:1-1043 In Rome 354 Acts 28:11-31; Philemon44 Caesar’s Household 364 1 Corinthians 1:26; Philippians 1:13-14; 4:22 Bible Study: He Wants All to be Saved 36945 Written from Rome 370 Colossians; Philippians Bible Study: Rejoicing in the Lord 38146 At Liberty 382 Acts 28:30-31 Bible Study: A Glorious Inheritance 38447 The Final Arrest 385 2 Timothy 4:9-1248 Paul before Nero 387 2 Timothy 4:16-17 Bible Study: He Is Interceeding for You 39149 Paul’s Last Letter 392 2 Timothy50 Condemned to Die 400 2 Timothy 1:12 Bible Study: Do Justly to Others 403 – SECTION FOUR – THE OTHER APOSTLES51 A Faithful Undershepherd 404 1 Peter Bible Study: Giving to the Lord 415
8 Acts of the Apostles52 Steadfast unto the End 416 2 Peter Bible Study: He Is Calling You to Come 42353 John, the Beloved 424 John 21:20 Bible Study: Christ, Our Source of Life 42954 A Faithful Witness 430 1 John; 2 John; 3 John Bible Study: Justification by Faith 43755 Transformed by Grace 438 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 1:8-10 Bible Study: You Are to Enlighten the World 445 – SECTION FIVE – THE REVELATION56 Patmos 446 Revelation 1:957 The Revelation 453 Revelation Bible Study: Entering into Christ’s Joy 46458 The Church Triumphant 465 Zechariah 6:12, 15; 1 Corinthians 3:10-13 Bible Study: What We Need to Know 472Appendix Historical Time Line from Pompey to Barcochba (63 B.C. - A.D. 135) 473Scripture Index 477Topical Index 483
9“And the dragon was wroth with the woman,and went to make war with the remnant of herseed, which keep the commandments of God, andhave the testimony of Jesus.” —Revelation 12:17“Here is the patience of the saints: Here are theythat keep the commandments of God, and thefaith of Jesus.” —Revelation 14:12“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled withfire: and them that had gotten the victory overthe beast, and over his image, and over his mark,and over the number of his name, stand on thesea of glass, having the harps of God.“And they sing the song of Moses the servant ofGod, and the song of the Lamb.” —Revelation 15:2-3“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward iswith me, to give every man according as hiswork shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, thebeginning and the end, the first and the last.“Blessed are they that do his commandments,that they may have right to the tree of life, andmay enter in through the gates into the city.“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And lethim that heareth say, Come. And let him that isathirst come. And whosoever will, let him takethe water of life freely.” —Revelation 22:12-14, 17
10 Acts of the Apostles SAMPLES OF WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN THIS BOOK “As the character of the Divine One was manifested tohim, John saw his own deficiencies, and was humbled by therevelation. Day by day, in contrast with his own violent spirit,he beheld the tenderness and forbearance of Jesus, and heardHis lessons of humility and patience. Day by day his heartwas drawn out to Christ, until he lost sight of self in love forhis Master. The power and tenderness, the majesty and meek-ness, the strength and patience, that he saw in the daily life ofthe Son of God, filled his soul with admiration. He yieldedhis resentful, ambitious temper to the molding power ofChrist, and divine love wrought in him a transformation ofcharacter.”—Page 438. “The nearer we come to Jesus, and the more clearly wediscern the purity of His character, the more clearly shall wesee the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the less shall we feellike exalting ourselves. There will be a continual reachingout of the soul after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreakingconfession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. Atevery advance step in our Christian experience our repen-tance will deepen. We shall know that our sufficiency is inChrist alone.”—Page 441. “There are many who, though striving to obey God’s com-mandments, have little peace or joy. This lack in their experi-ence is the result of a failure to exercise faith. They walk as itwere in a salt land, a parched wilderness. They claim little,when they might claim much; for there is no limit to the prom-ises of God. Such ones do not correctly represent the sancti-fication that comes through obedience to the truth. The Lordwould have all His sons and daughters happy, peaceful, andobedient. Through the exercise of faith the believer comesinto possession of these blessings. Through faith, every defi-ciency of character may be supplied, every defilementcleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed. “Prayer is heaven’s ordained means of success in theconflict with sin and the development of Christian charac-
11ter. The divine influences that come in answer to the prayerof faith will accomplish in the soul of the suppliant all forwhich he pleads. For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit,for a Christlike temper, for wisdom and strength to do Hiswork, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; and thepromise is, ‘Ye shall receive.’ “It was in the mount with God that Moses beheld thepattern of that wonderful building that was to be the abid-ing place of His glory. It is in the mount with God—in thesecret place of communion—that we are to contemplateHis glorious ideal for humanity.”—Pages 443. “These examples of human steadfastness bear witnessto the faithfulness of God’s promises—of His abiding pres-ence and sustaining grace. They testify to the power of faithto withstand the powers of the world. It is the work of faith torest in God in the darkest hour, to feel, however sorely triedand tempest-tossed, that our Father is at the helm. The eye offaith alone can look beyond the things of time to estimatearight the worth of the eternal riches. “Jesus does not present to His followers the hope ofattaining earthly glory and riches, of living a life free fromtrial. Instead He calls upon them to follow Him in the pathof self-denial and reproach. He who came to redeem theworld was opposed by the united forces of evil. In anunpitying confederacy, evil men and evil angels arrayedthemselves against the Prince of Peace. His every wordand act revealed divine compassion, and His unlikeness tothe world provoked the bitterest hostility. So it will be withall who will live godly in Christ Jesus. Persecution and re-proach await all who are imbued with the Spirit of Christ.”—Pages 451-452. Another inspiring passage, too lengthy to quote here,will be found on pages 471-472.
12 Acts of the Apostles New Testament Chronologies CHRONOLOGY OF THE BOOK OF ACTS The following is a tentative time line. EVENT DATE The Crucifixion, Ascension, and Pentecost 31 Stephen is stoned; the church is persecuted; and the gospel is carried to Samaria 34 Paul is converted 35 Paul goes to Damascus and into Arabia 35-38 Paul escapes from Damascus during the reign of Aretas; visits Jerusalem “after three years” (Gal. 1:18); and goes to Tarsus 38 James, the brother of John, is martyred; Peter is imprisoned at Passover time; Agrippa I dies 44 Barnabas brings Paul to Antioch; Paul remains there “a whole year” (Acts 11:26) 44-45 Barnabas and Paul take famine relief money to Jerusalem 45 Paul’s goes on his First Missionary Journey; on his return, he remains at Antioch “long time” (Acts 14:28) 45-47 The Jerusalem Council is held “14 years after” (Gal. 2:1) 49 Paul begins his Second Missionary Journey; preaches in Phrygia, Galatia, and enters Europe 49
New Testament Chronologies 13 Paul arrives at Corinth, and remains there one and one-half years 51 The Second Missionary Journey ends, Paul spent “some time” at Antioch (Acts 18:23) and at Ephesius, travels through Macedonia, and stays three months at Corinth 53-58 Paul imprisoned at Caesarea “two years” (Acts 24:27); leaves in autumn 58-60 Paul’s journey to Rome, arriving in spring 60-61 Paul was a prisoner in Rome for “two whole years” (Acts 28:30) 61-63 Paul travels in Crete, Asia Minor, Macedonia 63-66 Death of Paul and Peter 67 See the time line at the back of this book for a morecomplete listing of events. CHRONOLOGY OF THE EPISTLES OF PAUL The following is a tentative timeline. BOOK DATE 1 Thessalonians - apparently written shortly after Paul’s arrival in Corinth 51 2 Thessalonians - written not long after the first letter Winter 51-52 1 Corinthians - written from Ephesus during his Third Missionary Journey Spring 57 2 Corinthians - written in Macedonia 57 Galatians, written from Corinth c.58
14 Acts of the Apostles Romans, written from Corinth c.58 First three Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon), written from Rome c.62 Last Prison Epistle (Philippians), written from Rome c.63 Hebrews, written from Rome 63 Titus, written between imprisonments to Titus on Crete c.65 1 Timothy, written from Rome c.66 2 Timothy, written during final Roman imprisonment, shortly before his death 67 CHRONOLOGY OF THE GENERAL EPISTLES The following is a tentative time line. BOOK DATE James, possibly written from Palestine ? 1 Peter, probably written from Rome ? 2 Peter ? 1 John early 90s 2 John early 90s 3 John early 90s Jude before 67 or between 70 and 85 Revelation, from Patmos c.96 CHRIST, THE LIVING BREAD “The Bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, andgiveth life unto the world.” John 6:33. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, andhe that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35. “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread thatI will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John6:51.
16 Acts of the ApostlesRunning the Christian Race . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248-258A Warning Is Accepted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259-267Giving to Support the Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268-275The Call to Deeper Sacrifice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 276-285The Importance of Renewed Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286-295Trying to Reach His own People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 296-303Apostasy Enters Some of the Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304-308Last Trip to Jerusalem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 309-316A Prisoner because of His Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317-331On Trial before the Governor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332-338The Decision to Go to Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339-342Final Appeal to Agrippa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343-347Storm at Sea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 348-353Arrival in Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 354-363Conversions in the Palace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364-369Letters to Old Friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 370-381Final Months of Freedom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382-384On Trial before the Emperor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 385-391Paul’s Last Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 392-399The Death of a Man of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400-403Peter’s First Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404-415Peter’s Second Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 416-423John Enters a Deeper Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424-429When God’s People Become Selfish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430-437The Work of Sanctification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438-445The Hardships John Underwent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446-452A Very Important Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453-464Building on Christ, the Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 465-472 FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any;that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your tres-passes.” Mark 11:25. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one an-other, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians4:32. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. If any man havea quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”Colossians 3:13.
God’s Purpose for His Church [9-10] 17 Chapter OneGod’s Purposefor His Church “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salva-tion of men. It was organized for service, and its missionis to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning ithas been God’s plan that through His church shall be re-flected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. Themembers of the church, those whom He has called out ofdarkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth Hisglory. The church is the repository of the riches of thegrace of Christ; and through the church will eventually bemade manifest, even to “the principalities and powers inheavenly places,” the final and full display of the love ofGod. Ephesians 3:10. Many and wonderful are the promises recorded in theScriptures regarding the church. “Mine house shall becalled an house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:7. “Iwill make them and the places round about My hill a bless-ing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his sea-son; there shall be showers of blessing.” “And I will raiseup for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no moreconsumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shameof the heathen any more. Thus shall they know that I theLord their God am with them, and that they, even the houseof Israel, are My people, saith the Lord God. And ye Myflock, the flock of My pasture, are men, and I am yourGod, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel 34:26, 29-31. “Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servantwhom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe Me,and understand that I am He: before Me there was no God ——————————— Based on Ezekiel 34:26, 29-31; Isaiah 43:10-12.
18 Acts of the Apostlesformed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am theLord; and beside Me there is no Saviour. I have declared,and have saved, and I have showed, when there was nostrange god among you: therefore ye are My witnesses.”“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will holdthine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a cov-enant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open theblind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, andthem that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah43:10-12; 42:6, 7. “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a dayof salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee,and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish theearth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thoumayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are indarkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways,and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shallnot hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smitethem: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them,even by the springs of water shall He guide them. And Iwill make all My mountains a way, and My highways shallbe exalted. . . . “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and breakforth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath com-forted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lordhath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child,that she should not have compassion on the son of herwomb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands;thy walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:8-16. The church is God’s fortress. His city of refuge, whichHe holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church istreachery to Him who has bought mankind with the bloodof His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithfulsouls have constituted the church on earth. In every agethe Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithfultestimony to the generation in which they lived. These sen-
God’s Purpose for His Church [10-12] 19tinels gave the message of warning; and when they werecalled to lay off their armor, others took up the work. Godbrought these witnesses into covenant relation with Him-self, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven.He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, andthe gates of hell have not been able to prevail against Hispeople. Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and dark-ness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud hasfallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one oppos-ing force has risen to counterwork His work, that He hasnot foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He hasnot left His church forsaken, but has traced in propheticdeclarations what would occur, and that which His Spiritinspired the prophets to foretell has been brought about.All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked withHis throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth isinspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over allopposition. During ages of spiritual darkness the church of Godhas been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, throughsuccessive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven havebeen unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defec-tive as it may appear, the church is the one object uponwhich God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard.It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to re-veal His power to transform hearts. “Whereunto,” asked Christ, “shall we liken the king-dom of God? or with what comparison shall we compareit?” Mark 4:30. He could not employ the kingdoms of theworld as a similitude. In society He found nothing withwhich to compare it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascen-dancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom ev-ery carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is ban-ished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity.God’s church is the court of Holy life, filled with variedgifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members areto find their happiness in the happiness of those whom
20 Acts of the Apostlesthey help and bless. Wonderful is the work which the Lord designs to ac-complish through His church, that His name may be glori-fied. A picture of this work is given in Ezekiel’s vision ofthe river of healing: “These waters issue out toward theeast country, and go down into the desert, and go into thesea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shallbe healed. And it shall come to pass, that everything thatliveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come,shall live . . . and by the river upon the bank thereof, onthis side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat,whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof beconsumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to hismonths, because their waters they issued out of the sanc-tuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leafthereof for medicine.” Ezekiel 47:8-12. From the beginning God has wrought through Hispeople to bring blessing to the world. To the ancient Egyp-tian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. Throughthe integrity of Joseph the life of that whole people waspreserved. Through Daniel God saved the life of all thewise men of Babylon. And these deliverances are as ob-ject lessons; they illustrate the spiritual blessings offeredto the world through connection with the God whom Jo-seph and Daniel worshiped. Everyone in whose heart Christabides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world,is a worker together with God for the blessing of human-ity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart toothers, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiri-tual life. God chose Israel to reveal His character to men. Hedesired them to be as wells of salvation in the world. Tothem were committed the oracles of heaven, the revela-tion of God’s will. In the early days of Israel the nations ofthe world, through corrupt practices, had lost the knowl-edge of God. They had once known Him; but because “theyglorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but be-came vain in their imaginations . . . their foolish heart was
God’s Purpose for His Church [14-15] 21darkened.” Romans 1:21. Yet in His mercy God did notblot them out of existence. He purposed to give them anopportunity of again becoming acquainted with Himthrough His chosen people. Through the teachings of thesacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted before all na-tions, and all who would look to Him should live. Christwas the foundation of the Jewish economy. The wholesystem of types and symbols was a compacted prophecyof the gospel, a presentation in which were bound up thepromises of redemption. But the people of Israel lost sight of their high privi-leges as God’s representatives. They forgot God and failedto fulfill their holy mission. The blessings they receivedbrought no blessing to the world. All their advantages theyappropriated for their own glorification. They shut them-selves away from the world in order to escape temptation.The restrictions that God had placed upon their associa-tion with idolaters as a means of preventing them fromconforming to the practices of the heathen, they used tobuild up a wall of separation between themselves and allother nations. They robbed God of the service He requiredof them, and they robbed their fellow men of religiousguidance and a holy example. Priests and rulers became fixed in a rut of ceremonial-ism. They were satisfied with a legal religion, and it wasimpossible for them to give to others the living truths ofheaven. They thought their own righteousness all-suffi-cient, and did not desire that a new element should bebrought into their religion. The good will of God to menthey did not accept as something apart from themselves,but connected it with their own merit because of their goodworks. The faith that works by love and purifies the soulcould find no place for union with the religion of the Phari-sees, made up of ceremonies and the injunctions of men. Of Israel God declared: “I had planted thee a noblevine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into thedegenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?” Jeremiah2:21. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto
22 Acts of the Apostleshimself.” Hosea 10:1. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusa-lem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me andMy vineyard. What could have been done more to Myvineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when Ilooked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forthwild grapes? “And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to Myvineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shallbe eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shallbe trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not bepruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers andthorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain norain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is thehouse of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant:and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; forrighteousness, but behold a cry.” Isaiah 5:3-7. “The dis-eased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healedthat which was sick, neither have ye bound up that whichwas broken, neither have ye brought again that which wasdriven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost;but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.” Ezekiel34:4. The Jewish leaders thought themselves too wise to needinstruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly hon-ored to need the honor that comes from Christ. The Sav-iour turned from them to entrust to others the privilegesthey had abused and the work they had slighted. God’sglory must be revealed, His Word established. Christ’skingdom must be set up in the world. The salvation ofGod must be made known in the cities of the wilderness;and the disciples were called to do the work that the Jew-ish leaders had failed to do. NEARNESS TO GOD “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and savethsuch as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that callupon Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18.
The Training of the Twelve [15-18] 23 Chapter TwoThe Trainingof the Twelve For the carrying on of His work, Christ did not choosethe learning or eloquence of the Jewish Sanhedrin or thepower of Rome. Passing by the self-righteous Jewish teach-ers, the Master Worker chose humble, unlearned men toproclaim the truths that were to move the world. Thesemen He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of Hischurch. They in turn were to educate others and send themout with the gospel message. That they might have suc-cess in their work they were to be given the power of theHoly Spirit. Not by human might or human wisdom wasthe gospel to be proclaimed, but by the power of God. For three years and a half the disciples were under theinstruction of the greatest Teacher the world has everknown. By personal contact and association, Christ trainedthem for His service. Day by day they walked and talkedwith Him, hearing His words of cheer to the weary andheavy-laden, and seeing the manifestation of His power inbehalf of the sick and the afflicted. Sometimes He taughtthem, sitting among them on the mountainside; sometimesbeside the sea or walking by the way, He revealed the mys-teries of the kingdom of God. Wherever hearts were opento receive the divine message, He unfolded the truths ofthe way of salvation. He did not command the disciples todo this or that, but said, “Follow Me.” On His journeysthrough country and cities, He took them with Him, thatthey might see how He taught the people. They traveledwith Him from place to place. They shared His frugal fare,and like Him were sometimes hungry and often weary. ——————————— Based on Mark 3:13-14; John 15:26-27; John 16:33.
24 Acts of the ApostlesOn the crowded streets, by the lakeside, in the lonely desert,they were with Him. They saw Him in every phase of life. It was at the ordination of the Twelve that the firststep was taken in the organization of the church that afterChrist’s departure was to carry on His work on the earth.Of this ordination the record says, “He goeth up into amountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and theycame unto Him. And He ordained twelve, that they shouldbe with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach.”Mark 3:13, 14. Look upon the touching scene. Behold the Majesty ofheaven surrounded by the Twelve whom He has chosen.He is about to set them apart for their work. By these feebleagencies, through His Word and Spirit, He designs to placesalvation within the reach of all. With gladness and rejoicing, God and the angels be-held this scene. The Father knew that from these men thelight of heaven would shine forth; that the words spokenby them as they witnessed for His Son, would echo fromgeneration to generation till the close of time. The disciples were to go forth as Christ’s witnesses,to declare to the world what they had seen and heard ofHim. Their office was the most important to which humanbeings had ever been called, second only to that of ChristHimself. They were to be workers together with God forthe saving of men. As in the Old Testament the twelvepatriarchs stood as representatives of Israel, so the twelveapostles stand as representatives of the gospel church. During His earthly ministry Christ began to break downthe partition wall between Jew and Gentile, and to preachsalvation to all mankind. Though He was a Jew, He mingledfreely with the Samaritans, setting at nought the Pharisaiccustoms of the Jews with regard to this despised people.He slept under their roofs, ate at their tables, and taught intheir streets. The Saviour longed to unfold to His disciples the truthregarding the breaking down of the “middle wall of parti-tion” between Israel and the other nations—the truth that
The Training of the Twelve [19-20] 25“the Gentiles should be fellow heirs” with the Jews and“partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”Ephesians 2:14; 3:6. This truth was revealed in part at thetime when He rewarded the faith of the centurion atCapernaum, and also when He preached the gospel to theinhabitants of Sychar. Still more plainly was it revealedon the occasion of His visit to Phoenicia, when He healedthe daughter of the Canaanite woman. These experienceshelped the disciples to understand that among those whommany regarded as unworthy of salvation, there were soulshungering for the light of truth. Thus Christ sought to teach the disciples the truth thatin God’s kingdom there are no territorial lines, no caste,no aristocracy; that they must go to all nations, bearing tothem the message of a Saviour’s love. But not until laterdid they realize in all its fullness that God “hath made ofone blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face ofthe earth, and hath determined the times before appointed,and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seekthe Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him,though He be not far from every one of us.” Acts 17:26,27. In these first disciples was presented marked diver-sity. They were to be the world’s teachers, and they repre-sented widely varied types of character. In order success-fully to carry forward the work to which they had beencalled, these men, differing in natural characteristics andin habits of life, needed to come into unity of feeling,thought, and action. This unity it was Christ’s object tosecure. To this end He sought to bring them into unitywith Himself. The burden of His labor for them is expressedin His prayer to His Father, “That they all may be one; asThou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also maybe one in Us”; “that the world may know that Thou hassent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.”John 17:21, 23. His constant prayer for them was that theymight be sanctified through the truth; and He prayed withassurance, knowing that an Almighty decree had been given
26 Acts of the Apostlesbefore the world was made. He knew that the gospel of thekingdom would be preached to all nations for a witness;He knew that truth armed with the omnipotence of the HolySpirit, would conquer in the battle with evil, and that thebloodstained banner would one day wave triumphantlyover His followers. As Christ’s earthly ministry drew to a close, and Herealized that He must soon leave His disciples to carry onthe work without His personal supervision, He sought toencourage them and to prepare them for the future. He didnot deceive them with false hopes. As an open book Heread what was to be. He knew He was about to be sepa-rated from them, to leave them as sheep among wolves.He knew that they would suffer persecution, that theywould be cast out of the synagogues, and would be throwninto prison. He knew that for witnessing to Him as theMessiah, some of them would suffer death. And some-thing of this He told them. In speaking of their future, Hewas plain and definite, that in their coming trial they mightremember His words and be strengthened to believe inHim as the Redeemer. He spoke to them also words of hope and courage.“Let not your heart be troubled,” He said; “ye believe inGod, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are manymansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go toprepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place foryou, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; thatwhere I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go yeknow, and the way ye know.” John 14:1-4. For your sakeI came into the world; for you I have been working. WhenI go away I shall still work earnestly for you. I came to theworld to reveal Myself to you, that you might believe. I goto My Father and yours to co-operate with Him in yourbehalf. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth onMe, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater worksthan these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” John14:12. By this, Christ did not mean that the disciples would
The Training of the Twelve [22-23] 27make more exalted exertions than He had made, but thattheir work would have greater magnitude. He did not refermerely to miracle working, but to all that would take placeunder the agency of the Holy Spirit. “When the Comforteris come,” He said, “whom I will send unto you from theFather, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from theFather, He shall testify of Me: and ye also shall bear wit-ness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.”John 15:26, 27. Wonderfully were these words fulfilled. After the de-scent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were so filled withlove for Him and for those for whom He died, that heartswere melted by the words they spoke and the prayers theyoffered. They spoke in the power of the Spirit; and underthe influence of that power, thousands were converted. As Christ’s representatives the apostles were to makea decided impression on the world. The fact that they werehumble men would not diminish their influence, but in-crease it; for the minds of their hearers would be carriedfrom them to the Saviour, who, though unseen, was stillworking with them. The wonderful teaching of the apostles,their words of courage and trust, would assure all that itwas not in their own power that they worked, but in thepower of Christ. Humbling themselves, they would de-clare that He whom the Jews had crucified was the Princeof life, the Son of the living God, and that in His namethey did the works that He had done. In His parting conversation with His disciples on thenight before the crucifixion the Saviour made no refer-ence to the suffering that He had endured and must yetendure. He did not speak of the humiliation that was be-fore Him, but sought to bring to their minds that whichwould strengthen their faith, leading them to look forwardto the joys that await the overcomer. He rejoiced in theconsciousness that He could and would do more for Hisfollowers than He had promised; that from Him wouldflow forth love and compassion, cleansing the soul temple,and making men like Him in character; that His truth,
28 Acts of the Apostlesarmed with the power of the Spirit, would go forth con-quering and to conquer. “These things I have spoken unto you,” He said, “thatin Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall havetribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome theworld.” John 16:33. Christ did not fail, neither was Hediscouraged; and the disciples were to show a faith of thesame enduring nature. They were to work as He hadworked, depending on Him for strength. Though their waywould be obstructed by apparent impossibilities, yet byHis grace they were to go forward, despairing of nothingand hoping for everything. Christ had finished the work that was given Him todo. He had gathered out those who were to continue Hiswork among men. And He said: “I am glorified in them.And now I am no more in the world, but these are in theworld, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thineown name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they maybe one, as We are.” “Neither pray I for these alone, but forthem also which shall believe on Me through their word;that they all may be one . . . I in them and Thou in Me, thatthey may be made perfect in one; and that the world mayknow that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thouhast loved Me.” John 17:10, 11, 20-23. ABIDING IN CHRIST “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I inhim, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do noth-ing.” John 15:5. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, evenas He walked.” 1 John 2:6. “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear,we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His com-ing.” 1 John 2:28. “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hathnot seen Him, neither known Him.” 1 John 3:6. “He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Fatherand the Son.” 2 John 9.
The Great Commission [25-26] 29 Chapter ThreeThe GreatCommission After the death of Christ the disciples were well-nighovercome by discouragement. Their Master had been re-jected, condemned, and crucified. The priests and rulershad declared scornfully, “He saved others; Himself He can-not save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now comedown from the cross, and we will believe Him.” Matthew27:42. The sun of the disciples’ hope had set, and nightsettled down upon their hearts. Often they repeated thewords, “We trusted that it had been He which should haveredeemed Israel.” Luke 24:21. Lonely and sick at heart,they remembered His words, “If they do these things in agreen tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23:31. Jesus had several times attempted to open the futureto His disciples, but they had not cared to think about whatHe said. Because of this His death had come to them as asurprise; and afterward, as they reviewed the past and sawthe result of their unbelief, they were filled with sorrow.When Christ was crucified, they did not believe that Hewould rise. He had stated plainly that He was to rise on thethird day, but they were perplexed to know what He meant.This lack of comprehension left them at the time of Hisdeath in utter hopelessness. They were bitterly disap-pointed. Their faith did not penetrate beyond the shadowthat Satan had cast athwart their horizon. All seemed vagueand mysterious to them. If they had believed the Saviour’swords, how much sorrow they might have been spared! Crushed by despondency, grief, and despair, the dis-ciples met together in the upper chamber, and closed and ——————————— Based on Luke 24:45-49; Matthew 28:19-20.
30 Acts of the Apostlesfastened the doors, fearing that the fate of their belovedTeacher might be theirs. It was here that the Saviour, afterHis resurrection, appeared to them. For forty days Christ remained on the earth, preparingthe disciples for the work before them and explaining thatwhich heretofore they had been unable to comprehend.He spoke of the prophecies concerning His advent, Hisrejection by the Jews, and His death, showing that everyspecification of these prophecies had been fulfilled. Hetold them that they were to regard this fulfillment of proph-ecy as an assurance of the power that would attend themin their future labors. “Then opened He their understand-ing,” we read, “that they might understand the Scriptures,and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoovedChrist to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:and that repentance and remission of sins should bepreached in His name among all nations, beginning atJerusalem.” And He added, “Ye are witnesses of thesethings.” Luke 24:45-48. During these days that Christ spent with His disciples,they gained a new experience. As they heard their belovedMaster explaining the Scriptures in the light of all that hadhappened, their faith in Him was fully established. Theyreached the place where they could say, “I know whom Ihave believed.” 2 Timothy 1:12. They began to realize thenature and extent of their work, to see that they were toproclaim to the world the truths entrusted to them. Theevents of Christ’s life, His death and resurrection, theprophecies pointing to these events, the mysteries of theplan of salvation, the power of Jesus for the remission ofsins—to all these things they had been witnesses, and theywere to make them known to the world. They were to pro-claim the gospel of peace and salvation through repen-tance and the power of the Saviour. Before ascending to heaven, Christ gave His disciplestheir commission. He told them that they were to be theexecutors of the will in which He bequeathed to the worldthe treasures of eternal life. You have been witnesses of
The Great Commission [26-29] 31My life of sacrifice in behalf of the world, He said to them.You have seen My labors for Israel. And although Mypeople would not come to Me that they might have life,although priests and rulers have done unto Me as theylisted, although they have rejected Me, they shall have stillanother opportunity of accepting the Son of God. You haveseen that all who come to Me confessing their sins, I freelyreceive. Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.To you, My disciples, I commit this message of mercy. Itis to be given to both Jews and Gentiles—to Israel, first,and then to all nations, tongues, and peoples. All who be-lieve are to be gathered into one church. The gospel commission is the great missionary char-ter of Christ’s kingdom. The disciples were to work ear-nestly for souls, giving to all the invitation of mercy. Theywere not to wait for the people to come to them; they wereto go to the people with their message. The disciples were to carry their work forward inChrist’s name. Their every word and act was to fasten at-tention on His name, as possessing that vital power bywhich sinners may be saved. Their faith was to center inHim who is the source of mercy and power. In His namethey were to present their petitions to the Father, and theywould receive answer. They were to baptize in the nameof the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ’s namewas to be their watchword, their badge of distinction, theirbond of union, the authority for their course of action, andthe source of their success. Nothing was to be recognizedin His kingdom that did not bear His name and superscrip-tion. When Christ said to the disciples, Go forth in My nameto gather into the church all who believe, He plainly setbefore them the necessity of maintaining simplicity. Theless ostentation and show, the greater would be their in-fluence for good. The disciples were to speak with the samesimplicity with which Christ had spoken. They were toimpress upon their hearers the lessons He had taught them. Christ did not tell His disciples that their work would
32 Acts of the Apostlesbe easy. He showed them the vast confederacy of evil ar-rayed against them. They would have to fight “against prin-cipalities, against powers, against the rulers of the dark-ness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in highplaces.” Ephesians 6:12. But they would not be left to fightalone. He assured them that He would be with them; andthat if they would go forth in faith, they should move un-der the shield of Omnipotence. He bade them be braveand strong; for One mightier than angels would be in theirranks—the General of the armies of heaven. He made fullprovision for the prosecution of their work and took uponHimself the responsibility of its success. So long as theyobeyed His word, and worked in connection with Him,they could not fail. Go to all nations, He bade them. Go tothe farthest part of the habitable globe and be assured thatMy presence will be with you even there. Labor in faithand confidence; for the time will never come when I willforsake you. I will be with you always, helping you toperform your duty, guiding, comforting, sanctifying, sus-taining you, giving you success in speaking words thatshall draw the attention of others to heaven. Christ’s sacrifice in behalf of man was full and com-plete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled.The work for which He had come to this world had beenaccomplished. He had won the kingdom. He had wrestedit from Satan and had become heir of all things. He was onHis way to the throne of God, to be honored by the heav-enly host. Clothed with boundless authority, He gave Hisdisciples their commission, “Go ye therefore, and teachall nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, andof the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to ob-serve all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.” Matthew28:19, 20. Just before leaving His disciples, Christ once moreplainly stated the nature of His kingdom. He recalled totheir remembrance things He had previously told them re-garding it. He declared that it was not His purpose to es-
The Great Commission [30-31] 33tablish in this world a temporal kingdom. He was not ap-pointed to reign as an earthly monarch on David’s throne.When the disciples asked Him, “Lord, wilt Thou at thistime restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He answered,“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, whichthe Father hath put in His own power.” Acts 1:6, 7. It wasnot necessary for them to see farther into the future thanthe revelations He had made enabled them to see. Theirwork was to proclaim the gospel message. Christ’s visible presence was about to be withdrawnfrom the disciples, but a new endowment of power was tobe theirs. The Holy Spirit was to be given them in its full-ness, sealing them for their work. “Behold,” the Savioursaid, “I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarryye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with powerfrom on high.” Luke 24:49. “For John truly baptized withwater; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost notmany days hence.” “Ye shall receive power, after that theHoly Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnessesunto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria,and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:5, 8. The Saviour knew that no argument, however logical,would melt hard hearts or break through the crust of world-liness and selfishness. He knew that His disciples mustreceive the heavenly endowment; that the gospel wouldbe effective only as it was proclaimed by hearts made warmand lips made eloquent by a living knowledge of Him whois the way, the truth, and the life. The work committed tothe disciples would require great efficiency; for the tide ofevil ran deep and strong against them. A vigilant, deter-mined leader was in command of the forces of darkness,and the followers of Christ could battle for the right onlythrough the help that God, by His Spirit, would give them. Christ told His disciples that they were to begin theirwork at Jerusalem. That city had been the scene of Hisamazing sacrifice for the human race. There, clad in thegarb of humanity, He had walked and talked with men,and few had discerned how near heaven came to earth.
34 Acts of the ApostlesThere He had been condemned and crucified. In Jerusa-lem were many who secretly believed Jesus of Nazarethto be the Messiah, and many who had been deceived bypriests and rulers. To these the gospel must be proclaimed.They were to be called to repentance. The wonderful truththat through Christ alone could remission of sins be ob-tained, was to be made plain. And it was while all Jerusa-lem was stirred by the thrilling events of the past few weeks,that the preaching of the disciples would make the deepestimpression. During His ministry, Jesus had kept constantly beforethe disciples the fact that they were to be one with Him inHis work for the recovery of the world from the slavery ofsin. When He sent forth the Twelve and afterward the Sev-enty, to proclaim the kingdom of God, He was teachingthem their duty to impart to others what He had madeknown to them. In all His work He was training them forindividual labor, to be extended as their numbers increased,and eventually to reach to the uttermost parts of the earth.The last lesson He gave His followers was that they heldin trust for the world the glad tidings of salvation. When the time came for Christ to ascend to His Fa-ther, He led the disciples out as far as Bethany. Here Hepaused, and they gathered about Him. With hands out-stretched in blessing, as if in assurance of His protectingcare, He slowly ascended from among them. “It came topass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them,and carried up into heaven.” Luke 24:51. While the disciples were gazing upward to catch thelast glimpse of their ascending Lord, He was received intothe rejoicing ranks of heavenly angels. As these angelsescorted Him to the courts above, they sang in triumph,“Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praisesunto the Lord, to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heav-ens. . . . Ascribe ye strength unto God: His excellency isover Israel, and His strength is in the heavens.” Psalm68:32-34, margin. The disciples were still looking earnestly toward
The Great Commission [31-34] 35heaven when, “behold, two men stood by them in whiteapparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand yegazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken upfrom you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as yehave seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10, 11. The promise of Christ’s second coming was ever tobe kept fresh in the minds of His disciples. The same Jesuswhom they had seen ascending into heaven, would comeagain, to take to Himself those who here below give them-selves to His service. The same voice that had said to them,“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end,” would bidthem welcome to His presence in the heavenly kingdom. As in the typical service the high priest laid aside hispontifical robes and officiated in the white linen dress ofan ordinary priest; so Christ laid aside His royal robes andgarbed Himself with humanity and offered sacrifice, Him-self the priest, Himself the victim. As the high priest, afterperforming his service in the holy of holies, came forth tothe waiting congregation in his pontifical robes; so Christwill come the second time, clothed in garments of whitestwhite, “so as no fuller on earth can white them.” Mark9:3. He will come in His own glory, and in the glory ofHis Father, and all the angelic host will escort Him on Hisway. Thus will be fulfilled Christ’s promise to His disciples,“I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” John14:3. Those who have loved Him and waited for Him, Hewill crown with glory and honor and immortality. The righ-teous dead will come forth from their graves, and thosewho are alive will be caught up with them to meet theLord in the air. They will hear the voice of Jesus, sweeterthan any music that ever fell on mortal ear, saying to them,Your warfare is accomplished. “Come, ye blessed of MyFather, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foun-dation of the world.” Matthew 25:34. Well might the disciples rejoice in the hope of theirLord’s return.
36 Acts of the Apostles Chapter Four FourPentecost As the disciples returned from Olivet to Jerusalem,the people looked on them, expecting to see on their facesexpressions of sorrow, confusion, and defeat; but they sawthere gladness and triumph. The disciples did not nowmourn over disappointed hopes. They had seen the risenSaviour, and the words of His parting promise echoed con-stantly in their ears. In obedience to Christ’s command, they waited inJerusalem for the promise of the Father—the outpouringof the Spirit. They did not wait in idleness. The recordsays that they were “continually in the temple, praisingand blessing God.” Luke 24:53. They also met together topresent their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus.They knew that they had a Representative in heaven, anAdvocate at the throne of God. In solemn awe they bowedin prayer, repeating the assurance, “Whatsoever ye shallask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hithertohave ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall re-ceive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23, 24. Higherand still higher they extended the hand of faith, with themighty argument, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that isrisen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who alsomaketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34. As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the prom-ise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and con-fessed their unbelief. As they called to remembrance thewords that Christ had spoken to them before His deaththey understood more fully their meaning. Truths whichhad passed from their memory were again brought to theirminds, and these they repeated to one another. They re- ——————————— This chapter is based on Luke 24:53; Acts 1.
Pentecost [36-37] 37proached themselves for their misapprehension of the Sav-iour. Like a procession, scene after scene of His wonder-ful life passed before them. As they meditated upon Hispure, holy life they felt that no toil would be too hard, nosacrifice too great, if only they could bear witness in theirlives to the loveliness of Christ’s character. Oh, if theycould but have the past three years to live over, theythought, how differently they would act! If they could onlysee the Master again, how earnestly they would strive toshow Him how deeply they loved Him, and how sincerelythey sorrowed for having ever grieved Him by a word oran act of unbelief! But they were comforted by the thoughtthat they were forgiven. And they determined that, so faras possible, they would atone for their unbelief by bravelyconfessing Him before the world. The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fit-ness to meet men and in their daily intercourse to speakwords that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away alldifferences, all desire for the supremacy, they came closetogether in Christian fellowship. They drew nearer andnearer to God, and as they did this they realized what aprivilege had been theirs in being permitted to associateso closely with Christ. Sadness filled their hearts as theythought of how many times they had grieved Him by theirslowness of comprehension, their failure to understand thelessons that, for their good, He was trying to teach them. These days of preparation were days of deep heartsearching. The disciples felt their spiritual need and criedto the Lord for the holy unction that was to fit them for thework of soul saving. They did not ask for a blessing forthemselves merely. They were weighted with the burdenof the salvation of souls. They realized that the gospel wasto be carried to the world, and they claimed the power thatChrist had promised. During the patriarchal age the influence of the HolySpirit had often been revealed in a marked manner, butnever in its fullness. Now, in obedience to the word of theSaviour, the disciples offered their supplications for this
38 Acts of the Apostlesgift, and in heaven Christ added His intercession. Heclaimed the gift of the Spirit, that He might pour it uponHis people. “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, theywere all with one accord in one place. And suddenly therecame a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind,and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” The Spirit came upon the waiting, praying discipleswith a fullness that reached every heart. The Infinite Onerevealed Himself in power to His church. It was as if forages this influence had been held in restraint, and nowHeaven rejoiced in being able to pour out upon the churchthe riches of the Spirit’s grace. And under the influence ofthe Spirit, words of penitence and confession mingled withsongs of praise for sins forgiven. Words of thanksgivingand of prophecy were heard. All heaven bent low to be-hold and to adore the wisdom of matchless, incomprehen-sible love. Lost in wonder, the apostles exclaimed, “Hereinis love.” They grasped the imparted gift. And what fol-lowed? The sword of the Spirit, newly edged with powerand bathed in the lightnings of heaven, cut its way throughunbelief. Thousands were converted in a day. “It is expedient for you that I go away,” Christ hadsaid to His disciples; “for If I go not away, the Comforterwill not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Himunto you.” “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He willguide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself;but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and Hewill show you things to come.” John 16:7, 13. Christ’s ascension to heaven was the signal that Hisfollowers were to receive the promised blessing. For thisthey were to wait before they entered upon their work.When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He wasenthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon asthis ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descendedupon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeedglorified, even with the glory which He had with the Fa-ther from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heav-
Pentecost [39-40] 39en’s communication that the Redeemer’s inauguration wasaccomplished. According to His promise He had sent theHoly Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token thatHe had, as priest and king, received all authority in heavenand on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like asof fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were allfilled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with othertongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The HolySpirit, assuming the form of tongues of fire, rested uponthose assembled. This was an emblem of the gift then be-stowed on the disciples, which enabled them to speak withfluency languages with which they had heretofore beenunacquainted. The appearance of fire signified the ferventzeal with which the apostles would labor and the powerthat would attend their work. “There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men,out of every nation under heaven.” During the dispersionthe Jews had been scattered to almost every part of theinhabited world, and in their exile they had learned to speakvarious languages. Many of these Jews were on this occa-sion in Jerusalem, attending the religious festivals then inprogress. Every known tongue was represented by thoseassembled. This diversity of languages would have been agreat hindrance to the proclamation of the gospel; Godtherefore in a miraculous manner supplied the deficiencyof the apostles. The Holy Spirit did for them that whichthey could not have accomplished for themselves in a life-time. They could now proclaim the truths of the gospelabroad, speaking with accuracy the languages of those forwhom they were laboring. This miraculous gift was a strongevidence to the world that their commission bore the sig-net of Heaven. From this time forth the language of thedisciples was pure, simple, and accurate, whether theyspoke in their native tongue or in a foreign language. “Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude cametogether, and were confounded, because that every manheard them speak in his own language. And they were all
40 Acts of the Apostlesamazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, arenot all these which speak Galileans? and how hear we ev-ery man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” The priests and rulers were greatly enraged at thiswonderful manifestation, but they dared not give way totheir malice, for fear of exposing themselves to the vio-lence of the people. They had put the Nazarene to death;but here were His servants, unlettered men of Galilee, tell-ing in all the languages then spoken, the story of His lifeand ministry. The priests, determined to account for themiraculous power of the disciples in some natural way,declared that they were drunken from partaking largely ofthe new wine prepared for the feast. Some of the mostignorant of the people present seized upon this suggestionas the truth, but the more intelligent knew it to be false;and those who understood the different languages testi-fied to the accuracy with which these languages were usedby the disciples. In answer to the accusation of the priests Peter showedthat this demonstration was in direct fulfillment of theprophecy of Joel, wherein he foretold that such powerwould come upon men to fit them for a special work. “Yemen of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem,” he said,“be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: forthese are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but thethird hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken bythe prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days,saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: andyour sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and youryoung men shall see visions, and your old men shall dreamdreams: and on My servants and on My handmaidens Iwill pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shallprophesy.” With clearness and power Peter bore witness of thedeath and resurrection of Christ: “Ye men of Israel, hearthese words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of Godamong you by miracles and wonders and signs, which Goddid by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Pentecost [41-42] 41Him . . . ye have taken, and by wicked hands have cruci-fied and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosedthe pains of death: because it was not possible that Heshould be holden of it.” Peter did not refer to the teachings of Christ to provehis position, because he knew that the prejudice of his hear-ers was so great that his words on this subject would be ofno effect. Instead, he spoke to them of David, who wasregarded by the Jews as one of the patriarchs of their na-tion. “David speaketh concerning Him,” he declared: “Iforesaw the Lord always before My face, for He is on Myright hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did Myheart rejoice, and My tongue was glad; moreover also Myflesh shall rest in hope: because Thou wilt not leave Mysoul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One tosee corruption. . . . “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you ofthe patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, andhis sepulcher is with us unto this day.” “He . . . spake ofthe resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell,neither His flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath Godraised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The scene is one full of interest. Behold the peoplecoming from all directions to hear the disciples witness tothe truth as it is in Jesus. They press in, crowding thetemple. Priests and rulers are there, the dark scowl of ma-lignity still on their faces, their hearts still filled with abid-ing hatred against Christ, their hands uncleansed from theblood shed when they crucified the world’s Redeemer.They had thought to find the apostles cowed with fear un-der the strong hand of oppression and murder, but theyfind them lifted above all fear and filled with the Spirit,proclaiming with power the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.They hear them declaring with boldness that the One sorecently humiliated, derided, smitten by cruel hands, andcrucified, is the Prince of life, now exalted to the righthand of God. Some of those who listened to the apostles had taken
42 Acts of the Apostlesan active part in the condemnation and death of Christ.Their voices had mingled with the rabble in calling forHis crucifixion. When Jesus and Barabbas stood beforethem in the judgment hall and Pilate asked, “Whom willye that I release unto you?” they had shouted, “Not thisMan, but Barabbas!” Matthew 27:17; John 18:40. WhenPilate delivered Christ to them, saying, “Take ye Him, andcrucify Him: for I find no fault in Him”; “I am innocent ofthe blood of this just Person,” they had cried, “His bloodbe on us, and on our children.” John 19:6; Matthew 27:24,25. Now they heard the disciples declaring that it was theSon of God who had been crucified. Priests and rulerstrembled. Conviction and anguish seized the people. “Theywere pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to therest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”Among those who listened to the disciples were devoutJews, who were sincere in their belief. The power that ac-companied the words of the speaker convinced them thatJesus was indeed the Messiah. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptizedevery one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remis-sion of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and toall that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our Godshall call.” Peter urged home upon the convicted people the factthat they had rejected Christ because they had been de-ceived by priests and rulers; and that if they continued tolook to these men for counsel, and waited for them to ac-knowledge Christ before they dared to do so, they wouldnever accept Him. These powerful men, though making aprofession of godliness, were ambitious for earthly richesand glory. They were not willing to come to Christ to re-ceive light. Under the influence of this heavenly illumination theScriptures that Christ had explained to the disciples stoodout before them with the luster of perfect truth. The veil
Pentecost [44-45] 43that had prevented them from seeing to the end of thatwhich had been abolished, was now removed, and theycomprehended with perfect clearness the object of Christ’smission and the nature of His kingdom. They could speakwith power of the Saviour; and as they unfolded to theirhearers the plan of salvation, many were convicted andconvinced. The traditions and superstitions inculcated bythe priests were swept away from their minds, and theteachings of the Saviour were accepted. “Then they that gladly received his word were bap-tized: and the same day there were added unto them aboutthree thousand souls.” The Jewish leaders had supposed that the work ofChrist would end with His death; but, instead of this, theywitnessed the marvelous scenes of the Day of Pentecost.They heard the disciples, endowed with a power and en-ergy hitherto unknown, preaching Christ, their words con-firmed by signs and wonders. In Jerusalem, the strong-hold of Judaism, thousands openly declared their faith inJesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. The disciples were astonished and overjoyed at thegreatness of the harvest of souls. They did not regard thiswonderful ingathering as the result of their own efforts;they realized that they were entering into other men’s la-bors. Ever since the fall of Adam, Christ had been com-mitting to chosen servants the seed of His Word, to besown in human hearts. During His life on this earth Hehad sown the seed of truth and had watered it with Hisblood. The conversions that took place on the Day of Pen-tecost were the result of this sowing, the harvest of Christ’swork, revealing the power of His teaching. The arguments of the apostles alone, though clear andconvincing, would not have removed the prejudice thathad withstood so much evidence. But the Holy Spirit sentthe arguments home to hearts with divine power. The wordsof the apostles were as sharp arrows of the Almighty, con-victing men of their terrible guilt in rejecting and crucify-ing the Lord of glory.
44 Acts of the Apostles Under the training of Christ the disciples had been ledto feel their need of the Spirit. Under the Spirit’s teachingthey received the final qualification, and went forth to theirlifework. No longer were they ignorant and uncultured. Nolonger were they a collection of independent units or dis-cordant, conflicting elements. No longer were their hopesset on worldly greatness. They were of “one accord,” “ofone heart and of one soul.” Acts 2:46; 4:32. Christ filledtheir thoughts; the advancement of His kingdom was theiraim. In mind and character they had become like their Mas-ter, and men “took knowledge of them, that they had beenwith Jesus.” Acts 4:13. Pentecost brought them the heavenly illumination. Thetruths they could not understand while Christ was with themwere now unfolded. With a faith and assurance that theyhad never before known, they accepted the teachings of theSacred Word. No longer was it a matter of faith with themthat Christ was the Son of God. They knew that, althoughclothed with humanity, He was indeed the Messiah, andthey told their experience to the world with a confidencewhich carried with it the conviction that God was with them. They could speak the name of Jesus with assurance;for was He not their Friend and Elder Brother? Broughtinto close communion with Christ, they sat with Him inheavenly places. With what burning language they clothedtheir ideas as they bore witness for Him! Their hearts weresurcharged with a benevolence so full, so deep, so far-reach-ing, that it impelled them to go to the ends of the earth,testifying to the power of Christ. They were filled with anintense longing to carry forward the work He had begun.They realized the greatness of their debt to heaven and theresponsibility of their work. Strengthened by the endow-ment of the Holy Spirit, they went forth filled with zeal toextend the triumphs of the cross. The Spirit animated themand spoke through them. The peace of Christ shone fromtheir faces. They had consecrated their lives to Him for ser-vice, and their very features bore evidence to the surrenderthey had made.
The Gift of Spirit [47-48] 45 Chapter Five FiveThe Giftof the Spirit When Christ gave His disciples the promise of theSpirit, He was nearing the close of His earthly ministry.He was standing in the shadow of the cross, with a fullrealization of the load of guilt that was to rest upon Him asthe Sin Bearer. Before offering Himself as the sacrificialvictim, He instructed His disciples regarding a most es-sential and complete gift which He was to bestow uponHis followers—the gift that would bring within their reachthe boundless resources of His grace. “I will pray the Fa-ther,” He said, “and He shall give you another Comforter,that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit oftruth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Himnot, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for Hedwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:16, 17.The Saviour was pointing forward to the time when theHoly Spirit should come to do a mighty work as His repre-sentative. The evil that had been accumulating for centu-ries was to be resisted by the divine power of the HolySpirit. What was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit onthe Day of Pentecost? The glad tidings of a risen Saviourwere carried to the uttermost parts of the inhabited world.As the disciples proclaimed the message of redeeminggrace, hearts yielded to the power of this message. Thechurch beheld converts flocking to her from all directions.Backsliders were reconverted. Sinners united with believ-ers in seeking the pearl of great price. Some who had beenthe bitterest opponents of the gospel became its champi- ——————————— This chapter is based on John 14:16-17; Acts 2.
46 Acts of the Apostlesons. The prophecy was fulfilled, “He that is feeble . . .shall be as David; and the house of David . . . as the angelof the Lord.” Zechariah 12:8. Every Christian saw in hisbrother a revelation of divine love and benevolence. Oneinterest prevailed; one subject of emulation swallowed upall others. The ambition of the believers was to reveal thelikeness of Christ’s character and to labor for the enlarge-ment of His kingdom. “With great power gave the apostles witness of theresurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was uponthem all.” Acts 4:33. Under their labors were added to thechurch chosen men, who, receiving the word of truth, con-secrated their lives to the work of giving to others the hopethat filled their hearts with peace and joy. They could notbe restrained or intimidated by threatenings. The Lordspoke through them, and as they went from place to place,the poor had the gospel preached to them, and miracles ofdivine grace were wrought. So mightily can God work when men give themselvesup to the control of His Spirit. The promise of the Holy Spirit is not limited to anyage or to any race. Christ declared that the divine influ-ence of His Spirit was to be with His followers unto theend. From the Day of Pentecost to the present time, theComforter has been sent to all who have yielded them-selves fully to the Lord and to His service. To all whohave accepted Christ as a personal Saviour, the Holy Spirithas come as a counselor, sanctifier, guide, and witness.The more closely believers have walked with God, the moreclearly and powerfully have they testified of theirRedeemer’s love and of His saving grace. The men andwomen who through the long centuries of persecution andtrial enjoyed a large measure of the presence of the Spiritin their lives, have stood as signs and wonders in the world.Before angels and men they have revealed the transform-ing power of redeeming love. Those who at Pentecost were endued with power fromon high, were not thereby freed from further temptation
The Gift of Spirit [49-50] 47and trial. As they witnessed for truth and righteousnessthey were repeatedly assailed by the enemy of all truth,who sought to rob them of their Christian experience. Theywere compelled to strive with all their God-given powersto reach the measure of the stature of men and women inChrist Jesus. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace,that they might reach higher and still higher toward per-fection. Under the Holy Spirit’s working even the weak-est, by exercising faith in God, learned to improve theirentrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, andennobled. As in humility they submitted to the moldinginfluence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullnessof the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of thedivine. The lapse of time has wrought no change in Christ’sparting promise to send the Holy Spirit as His representa-tive. It is not because of any restriction on the part of Godthat the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men.If the fulfillment of the promise is not seen as it might be,it is because the promise is not appreciated as it should be.If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit. Wher-ever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thoughtof, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiri-tual declension and death. Whenever minor matters oc-cupy the attention, the divine power which is necessaryfor the growth and prosperity of the church, and whichwould bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking,though offered in infinite plenitude. Since this is the means by which we are to receivepower, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of theSpirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preachconcerning it? The Lord is more willing to give the HolySpirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give goodgifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Spiritevery worker should offer his petition to God. Companiesof Christian workers should gather to ask for special help,for heavenly wisdom, that they may know how to planand execute wisely. Especially should they pray that God
48 Acts of the Apostleswill baptize His chosen ambassadors in mission fields witha rich measure of His Spirit. The presence of the Spiritwith God’s workers will give the proclamation of truth apower that not all the honor or glory of the world couldgive. With the consecrated worker for God, in whateverplace he may be, the Holy Spirit abides. The words spo-ken to the disciples are spoken also to us. The Comforteris ours as well as theirs. The Spirit furnishes the strengththat sustains striving, wrestling souls in every emergency,amidst the hatred of the world, and the realization of theirown failures and mistakes. In sorrow and affliction, whenthe outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and wefeel helpless and alone,—these are the times when, in an-swer to the prayer of faith, the Holy Spirit brings comfortto the heart. It is not a conclusive evidence that a man is a Chris-tian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraor-dinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an en-tire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every wordthat proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the willof our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in dark-ness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not bysight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence,and resting in His love. It is not essential for us to be able to define just whatthe Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Spirit is the Com-forter, “the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Fa-ther.” It is plainly declared regarding the Holy Spirit that,in His work of guiding men into all truth, “He shall notspeak of Himself.” John 15:26; 16:13. The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men can-not explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them.Men having fanciful views may bring together passagesof Scripture and put a human construction on them, butthe acceptance of these views will not strengthen thechurch. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep forhuman understanding, silence is golden.
The Gift of Spirit [52-53] 49 The office of the Holy Spirit is distinctly specified inthe words of Christ: “When He is come, He will reprovethe world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”John 16:8. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin. If thesinner responds to the quickening influence of the Spirit,he will be brought to repentance and aroused to the impor-tance of obeying the divine requirements. To the repentant sinner, hungering and thirsting forrighteousness, the Holy Spirit reveals the Lamb of Godthat taketh away the sin of the world. “He shall receive ofMine, and shall show it unto you,” Christ said. “He shallteach you all things, and bring all things to your remem-brance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 16:14;14:26. The Spirit is given as a regenerating agency, to makeeffectual the salvation wrought by the death of our Re-deemer. The Spirit is constantly seeking to draw the atten-tion of men to the great offering that was made on thecross of Calvary, to unfold to the world the love of God,and to open to the convicted soul the precious things ofthe Scriptures. Having brought conviction of sin, and presented be-fore the mind the standard of righteousness, the Holy Spiritwithdraws the affections from the things of this earth andfills the soul with a desire for holiness. “He will guide youinto all truth” (John 16:13), the Saviour declared. If menare willing to be molded, there will be brought about asanctification of the whole being. The Spirit will take thethings of God and stamp them on the soul. By His powerthe way of life will be made so plain that none need errtherein. From the beginning, God has been working by HisHoly Spirit through human instrumentalities for the ac-complishment of His purpose in behalf of the fallen race.This was manifest in the lives of the patriarchs. To thechurch in the wilderness also, in the time of Moses, Godgave His “good Spirit to instruct them.” Nehemiah 9:20.And in the days of the apostles He wrought mightily for
50 Acts of the ApostlesHis church through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The samepower that sustained the patriarchs, that gave Caleb andJoshua faith and courage, and that made the work of theapostolic church effective, has upheld God’s faithful chil-dren in every succeeding age. It was through the power ofthe Holy Spirit that during the Dark Ages the WaldensianChristians helped to prepare the way for the Reformation.It was the same power that made successful the efforts ofthe noble men and women who pioneered the way for theestablishment of modern missions and for the translationof the Bible into the languages and dialects of all nationsand peoples. And today God is still using His church to make knownHis purpose in the earth. Today the heralds of the crossare going from city to city, and from land to land, prepar-ing the way for the second advent of Christ. The standardof God’s law is being exalted. The Spirit of the Almightyis moving upon men’s hearts, and those who respond to itsinfluence become witnesses for God and His truth. In manyplaces consecrated men and women may be seen commu-nicating to others the light that has made plain to them theway of salvation through Christ. And as they continue tolet their light shine, as did those who were baptized withthe Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, they receive more andstill more of the Spirit’s power. Thus the earth is to belightened with the glory of God. On the other hand, there are some who, instead ofwisely improving present opportunities, are idly waitingfor some special season of spiritual refreshing by whichtheir ability to enlighten others will be greatly increased.They neglect present duties and privileges, and allow theirlight to burn dim, while they look forward to a time when,without any effort on their part, they will be made the re-cipients of special blessing, by which they will be trans-formed and fitted for service. It is true that in the time of the end, when God’s workin the earth is closing, the earnest efforts put forth by con-secrated believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit