The Acts of the Apostles - Chapter 1

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WE shall find that " The Acts" follows Luke's Gospel: it speaks of a " former treatise," which is the Gospel, but it follows it in its tone and character.
Is the style of the Greek the same?
Yes, there is no question with anyone that it came from Luke's pen. The only thing, and an astonishing thing too, is the thorough mastery of shipping Luke shows in chapter 27.
Had not Luke sailed more than once with Paul?
Yes; and he may have been to sea otherwise, as to that. But as to teaching, the Gospel closes with "repentance and remission of sins," to be " preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem;" and " tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." Both those you get taken up again in the Acts. And you will find Luke's commission taken up too in all the sermons in the Acts, whether by Peter or by Paul. In Acts 2:3838Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38), Peter says, " Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins," &c. In chapter 13., " Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," &c. And in chapter 13 you will find the same thing again: " through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins," &c.
Why does it say " among all nations beginning at Jerusalem," as though Jerusalem were among the nations?
Because the message comes from heaven, and therefore Jerusalem does come in as one of the nations, though as Paul says, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:11Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1)(3.)
One thing struck me a long while ago in the beginning of this chapter, and that is, that Christ acted by the Holy Ghost as a risen Man, as well as when He was a Man on earth. This shows, if you reflect on it, that we shall not lose the Holy Ghost hereafter. There is this to be remembered also, that the power of the Holy Ghost here is necessarily spent very much in making us go on, but there will be none of that above; then, all His power will be our capacity for enjoyment. I refer to the second verse.
Would the word " began" in the first verse imply that the Lord continued His ministry through the Holy Ghost?
Yes, His ministry is looked at as going on. Both before and after His resurrection?
Yes, " all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was taken up." We shall not want the power of the Spirit to keep flesh down when we are raised-" changed." That gives a great idea of the power of the enjoyment—the divine enjoyment-which we shall have; what the capacity of it is.
Then the second verse is connected with resurrection but not with ascension?
No; it is clear if you read on in verse 3, " to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Then there is the coining of Christ to the earth, and the restoring of the kingdom to Israel, and the power of the Holy Ghost meanwhile; but there is nothing about the rapture here.
This too answers to Luke's Gospel; in Luke 24:5151And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:51), " He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven," and in our verse (9), " while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight."
Does that word " until" in verse 2 exclude the idea of any private ascension before the public one?
Well, I do not know of any ground for such an ascension. " The day that he was taken up" is evidently His ascension.
Is there no ground in scripture for any intermediate ascension?
No. It has been held by some, I am aware, because of the expression in the garden to Mary, " Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father," while afterward He tells Thomas to touch Him; but that is simply a misapprehension of the Lord's meaning.
Would you explain a little the difference between His saying to Mary, " Touch me not," and the women touching His feet in Matthew?
Touching His feet was merely in a spirit of deference, a kind of worship, whereas the other has a deeper meaning. Mary thought she had got Him back again as Messiah in this world, and the Lord says, No, I am not going to be bodily present here, you must not touch me, but go to my brethren, and say unto them, " I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." And there He associates His disciples with Himself as gone up on high; while Mary was made the vessel of the communication of this heavenly character in so calling them His brethren.
" I ascend," would not that be a present thing? Yes; in the form of statement, but clearly not as saying, I am doing it now.
Is not the word " touch," handle me not, do not detain me?
The word is ἅπτομαι, used thirty-six times in the New Testament, and always rendered "touch" in the Authorized Version.
But He would receive homage as one risen? Yes. And He was putting the disciples in their place with Himself as One gone up but not yet gone-not taking the kingdom to be bodily present here yet. Then another ground has been given which I do not think anything of, though there is no heresy in it that I know of, His saying, " Peace be unto you," but He could not make peace (so it is said) until He had gone up and presented His blood to God. Now in Col. 1:2020And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20), it says, He " made peace through the blood of his cross;" and He says, " Go in peace" to the poor woman in His life, Luke 7:5050And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. (Luke 7:50), and again in Luke 8:4848And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. (Luke 8:48).
Well, perhaps so, but that is a great thing. But peace was made only by the blood of His cross.
Still the perfection of the work in Heb. 10 is connected with the Lord's having entered in by His blood, and so having perfected the work; could we say it was perfected until He had sat down?
Ah! I could not say that. By His " one offering he bath perfected forever them that are sanctified." You get not merely the clearing of what I am, as walking down here, but perfected forever so as to go up there, as well as having no more conscience of sins; and all by His one offering. That is just what the so-called evangelical church does not get at all, when it is talking of forgiving past sins, and getting into perplexity about sins to be committed afterward; and, some, like the boasted primitive church, even wondering, whether they can be forgiven at all. And then come in absolution and the sacraments, and that is the way they get forgiveness. But Heb. 10 puts the believer absolutely perfect before God, so that he has no more conscience of sins, but is brought into the holiest into the presence of God.
But is the work perfected before His ascension?
The work was perfected before, that was perfected on the cross; the resurrection puts God's seal upon it, and then for us to enter into the holiest, He has gone up to heaven.
But until the Lord had sat down, the work had not come to an end?
Had it not? The point the apostle insists on is, that the Lord is not standing, because the work had been finished.
When Stephen went in it was finished, but the Lord was standing then. After all, you see, "standing" is a formal thing-, I believe, to express that till the Jews had rejected the testimony to a glorified Christ the door of repentance was open. (See chapter 3.) He was not sat down till then. The work was finished on the cross, and God puts His seal upon it by resurrection, and then the full result follows.
And that carries us a great deal further than forgiveness and cleansing, looked at as regards this world. Here am I, a responsible being on earth, of course I want cleansing and justifying, and I get it; but I really get a great deal more. I have often said when speaking of the gospel, a man may have all his debts paid, and not have a penny himself to buy a morsel of bread with; paying his debts is a very different thing from starting him afresh with capital, and so on, after the debts are paid. We too are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places.
Take the Jews in the millennium, they will be forgiven through the work of Christ, but they will not be in the heavenly places. You must not confound the effect and application of the work, as regards the forgiveness of sins, with its full efficacy. We do get the forgiveness, of course, or we could not stand before God at all; we are cleansed and we are justified.
Could the disciples enter the holiest before the ascension?
I do not think they knew anything about it; the title to enter was fully there, but it was not brought out yet.
In the Hebrews Christ is said to be the fore- runner, and so there was no such thing as worship until He had entered?
No; but the veil was rent from top to bottom the moment He died, and now we are talking of the application of that. The whole thing, in short, was done upon the cross, even the resurrection was the effect of that (though of course Christ could not be holden by death), God in it putting His seal upon the work.
And on that ground peace could be proclaimed fully?
Yes, and the Lord could tell it beforehand. Peace was made by the blood of His cross, but I hardly see anybody that gives full value to the death of Christ. I do not mean as to the forgiveness of sins, but as to the whole question of good and evil, which has all been brought to an issue, in every respect, in the cross. I know I come by my sins, and ought to come, and cannot come in any other way in truth, but when the soul has got peace and can contemplate it, then it can see the whole power of good and evil brought to a point and culminating in the cross. There I see man in absolute enmity against God, and that when God is displayed in goodness; and I see a. Man, perfect in His love to God, and perfect in His obedience to God, on that same cross. I get all the power of Satan, with all the malice of man, and all the righteousness of God against sin, and all the love of God to the sinner, all united in the cross; and therefore I find there the foundation of the new heavens and of the new earth-of God's glory, in short; and all the consequences of blessing flow out. But then the application is varied so that everything in heaven and earth will be reconciled by it ultimately. I get the forgiveness of all my sins as a sinner, I am reconciled to God, and I get glory like Christ. The Jews will be restored in the millennium by virtue of it; but these are all effects.
Is the peace that the Lord spoke of in John 14 one of them?
Yes, prospectively, and He does not say " Peace be unto you" until after His resurrection. The two cases we mentioned in Luke 7; 8 have a special character. Neither did He call them brethren before; but then that was the fulfillment of Psa. 22, " I will declare thy name unto my brethren."
What ought to be the measure of the effect and application of the cross to us now?
Why, full. We are called and predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
With regard to our chapter once more, you were mentioning the Holy Ghost, could the writer have said that second verse before the Lord had risen?
No. That is when He has risen, and that is what I was noting; I get that a risen man has the Holy Ghost; it is not only he has a kind of help down here in the place of our infirmity, but after he has risen he has the Holy Ghost.
What is the difference between this and the outpouring in Acts 2?
Christ received the Holy Ghost a second time for the second of Acts. He was sealed and anointed in His own person, the Holy Ghost came down in a bodily shape like a dove and rested upon Him, but He came a second time for us.
But He gave commandments through the Holy Ghost when on earth?
Yes, but what I get here is, it is still so when He is risen. He acted through life by the Holy Ghost; He says, " If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils;" He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and again He says, " the Father that dwelleth in me He doeth the works." The moment Christ takes His place as a man, the whole Trinity is revealed; He publicly- takes His place with the godly remnant at His baptism; the Holy Ghost comes down, the Son was there, and the Father owns Him; and that is when Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are revealed together. Then it is written of Him, " and him hath God the Father sealed;" and John says specifically, " upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." And now He was going to baptize with the Holy Ghost, founded upon His own blood-shedding, because we could not receive the Holy Ghost until redemption was finished.
But could Peter understand Psa. 109 as he uses it in verse 20, before he had received the Holy Ghost?
Ah, there you get the value of " he opened their understanding to understand the scriptures." That is what enabled him; and that is one of the points we have to notice, the difference between intelligence and power; there was power when the Holy Ghost came down, but they received intelligence before they got power. In Luke 24:4444And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44), it says, "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them [this is after the resurrection], Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you." Now He had opened their understanding, and Peter could explain Psa. 109, but they had not got power, and therefore they go on in their old way, casting lots.
But could He say He gave commandments by the Holy Spirit while He was down here?
I do not know why He should not; He worked miracles by the Holy Ghost.
But could they receive them?
That is another thing; their capacity. The capacity to give, and the capacity to receive, are very different. The Lord attributes to them the capacity to receive, He says to them, "he that hath seen me bath seen the Father," He attributed to them what belonged to them in the position they were in, though they had never found it out. There is all the difference between His speaking to them in the Spirit, and their capacity to receive what He said. He gave commandments by the Spirit, but they had not the Holy Ghost. He comes down in chapter 2.
In our second verse it does not seem to be at all a question of the state of the disciples, but the great truth of the Lord Himself risen and acting by the Holy Ghost?
Just so.
Then do you believe that they had seen the Father?
They had seen the Father in Christ. God Himself dwells in " light, which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, or can see."
Would that passage " he now liveth by the power of God" be connected with His giving commandments?
That is His resurrection, but He raised Himself from the dead too. Divine power was always in Him.
A risen state is a new thing, more new in one sense than ascension; a risen man is a totally new thing. Having passed death, and passed judgment, and passed Satan's power, and passed sin, and everything, when you get the man raised, then is the grand change; resurrection is the grand new thing. It is not ascension that we are justified by, you will never find that, but He is "raised again for our justification."
The point in the state of the disciples here is that they had not power, but had understanding, though that did not take them out of Jewish apprehensions; they had no guidance by the Holy Ghost, but they go and draw lots. Probably the Lord directed them in that, I do not doubt it, and Matthias was numbered with the twelve.
Then they had intelligence?
Yes. They had capacity to understand but not to display power.
I suppose their referring to the Lord in the matter of the lot was definite in that way?
Yes. I know people call Paul the twelfth, that thought is old enough, but I think lie was a totally distinct thing.
It is said of all of them that He opened their understandings; in Luke, is it not?
Yes, quite so, it was when He was eating the fish with them.
Matthias, would he be there, because it says, he continued with them?
" I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now, howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth;" what is that?
That is fresh revelations, not the understanding of the scriptures, but things the Lord could not tell them then.
There is the breathing on them?
Breathing on them would imply the communication of the Spirit as to intelligence.
Would it be too the communication of risen life?
Yes, I suppose so, as God breathed into Adam at first the breath of life. It is connected also with "whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained." (John 20:2323Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23).)
" Ordained" in verse 22, is not altogether warranted, I suppose?
Is "bishoprick?"
Well, "bishoprick" is all very well, but " ordained" is all wrong, it is not even a wrong translation, but it is added, and put in; it is simply cc must one become a witness?"
What is the connection between " Receive ye the Holy Ghost," and " whose soever sins ye remit," &c.?
They were then spiritually competent. You see administration on earth is a most important thing. It is a fact that whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is forgiven all his sins forever and ever; you cannot be too clear about that, but the administration in this world is very important too.
Then who administers the forgiveness?
The church of God does. " To whom ye forgive anything, I also."
Is there any sense in which the assembly forgives in receiving to the table?
Not exactly, it merely recognizes; but it might happen so, if a person is only then brought to the Lord it may take of that character.
What is the connection of resurrection life with the forgiveness of sins?
There was no forgiveness of sins before it, in this way, for there was no assembly.
How would you regard Psa. 32, " and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin"?
I will tell you how that came about: David sinned, and a prophet went and told him of it, which now, I do not want. Nathan went to him and told him-that is just what I do not need. It required a prophet then to get it, and it does not require a prophet now.
The Lord could say to the woman, " Thy sins be forgiven thee"?
And that was administrative too on earth. " But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins."
In James, "if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him," is that administrative then?
To be sure, that is just what it is.
Is the breathing on them a collective thing? Well, they were all there, that is all that is stated.
In John 8 He tells the woman to go and sin no more?
Well, there was no forgiveness in that.
What do you mean by the church of God administering forgiveness?
It is all administered. They were not to go and preach without people getting it. " Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins," that was what Peter declared to them.
Was not that exhortation?
But as people acted on it; that was what they got.
Where is the difference between that and priestly absolution?
The one is the priest and the other is the church. Paul says, " to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also."
Do you mean sins against other Christians, or sins against God?
All sins.
Do you mean they receive the remission from the church and not from God?
Well, read 2 Cor. 2:1010To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (2 Corinthians 2:10). " To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also, for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes' forgave I it, in the person of Christ." That is administrative forgiveness.
Is that anything but concurrent?
It may be concurrent, but it is administrative forgiveness.
Is it governmental?
Well, governmental if you like, I called it administrative.
If, in the case of James' Epistle, the man was under the chastisement of God, is it administrative then?
Yes, it is. As the Lord says, " whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted."
People have lost the idea of the present reception of forgiveness as a fact down here.
Is it not exceptional?
Every heathen received, and every Jew received, by the apostles, each and all were forgiven their sins.
It is the not making a difference between "perfected forever," and the recognition of such an one on earth by the administration of the assembly that causes the difficulty.
" Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins," what is that?
Paul did so, and they were all put away. I see in scripture the believer come into a new place in Christ, where there is no possibility of condemnation: he is accepted in the Beloved, he is perfected forever, and no sin imputed to him. In the Acts they came in, and when they were baptized, they got the forgiveness of their sins, and had no idea of difficulty as to administration.
Persons now put belief instead of baptism, and then say he is forgiven. A Roman Catholic will tell you it is when he is baptized, and, after that, by the sacrament of penance; and a Church of England person will say it is when he takes the sacrament; while in the primitive church, so-called, you will find discussions whether he could ever be again forgiven for sins after baptism. But all Of them have totally lost sight of " perfected forever."
How does administrative forgiveness come in?
The sin is bound upon the person, for example, when he is excommunicated, and it is forgiven him when he is let in again.
But " whose soever sins ye remit," was said when there was no church?
There is no difficulty about that. The difficulty between the original forgiveness on admission, and forgiveness afterward, is because " perfected forever" is not known.
Could the Holy Ghost say now by a man as• Paul said to the Corinthians, ' I forgive also"?
No; Paul had a power to speak as we could. not, not being apostles.
But could the Holy Ghost say that?
The Holy Ghost could do it, of course, because if the church does it, the Holy Ghost does, that is, if the church is acting rightly.
What would "in the person of Christ" be? That is because Christ was there.
Then administration has three aspects, it is declarative in the gospel; in admission; and in restoration?
In John it begins with remission, but in Matthew with binding, so- that they are not analogous, in John it is more flowing out; " peace be unto you," &c., precedes it.
" As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" is a mission in John, and the apostles are never named in John?
In the original testimony of the Gospel in Acts, when people were forgiven, it was administrative because a man was forgiven, then and there, of course, supposing that he received the testimony.
May I ask further, Would you say the administration of forgiveness is now only in the case of church discipline?
No, I should not. Suppose I was going to preach to the heathen, then the moment one be-
came a Christian, he would receive the forgiveness of his sins at that time. Past sins then it would be of course.
But then he received it from God?
Weil, if he did not receive that too, the other would not be worth much.
You see when a person was received from the heathen, or when a Jew was received, he then got the forgiveness of his sins, his relationship to God was changed. In the thoughts and counsels of God all his sins were forgiven forever and ever, and there never will be any question of them in judgment; but supposing he became a Christian, he then got the forgiveness of his sins on earth, and stood in a different relationship to God, he was reconciled to God, and not before.
What is the difference between administrative forgiveness by the church, and the actual forgiveness of God? Say I preach the gospel, and a man receives the text of scripture, in which is the forgiveness of his sins?
There must be the direct agency of the Holy Ghost upon his soul; but there is a vast difference between the absolute efficacy of Christ's work for the whole acceptance of the man before God, and the change which takes place in his state from being an unreconciled to a reconciled man acknowledged on, earth.
Would you not say that Simon Magus had received administrative forgiveness but was not actually forgiven?
I speak of administered as being governmentally a present act, in contrast with an everlasting acceptance which a man has in God's sight; he receives as well the forgiveness of his sins here which he had not before.
If a person is converted by reading the scripture alone, what would that be?
Well, it would only be by Paul's preaching, or something of that sort. People do not seem to have got hold of the idea of the thing. Paul had washed away his sins when he had been baptized, but not before.
It might help if we took the case of a person who was converted but refused to be baptized?
Well, there was just such a case of a Jew who said he believed Jesus was the Christ, but he would not be baptized; I said I could not own him as a Christian.
We must guard against reasoning from a state of confusion, to what was the case when there was no confusion. Until you get clear of the confusion, you will not understand either the administrative forgiveness or the other. Put the case that Paul was preaching at Lystra; and that people were convinced what he said was true after all, but still said, " We will not become Christians," would their sins be forgiven them? As a fact, then, would they stand before God as forgiven people, if they refused to be Christians?
" Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Now, say I hear that text, and I believe it, am I not a Christian?
I cannot tell yet, I want to know if you take your place with the Christians; if you will not, then I say, you cannot be reckoned one.
But am I not forgiven by God?
Well, God will tell you about that, but I say you are not now forgiven here.
But I believe on Christ?
God will settle with you about that.
But I shall go to heaven?
Well, that may be, but you are not forgiven on earth.
Take the case of a Quaker?
I must leave him to God; he has not taken his place in a scriptural way, that is all I know. There is a certain standing-place on the earth where certain blessings are, and God has set this place up; the administration of it gives these blessings then. There is administration in the word of God according to which things were administered down here; " but that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." There it is. It is not reasoning about the acceptance of that soul for eternity; it does not' say there that that paralytic man was saved for eternity, but that he had the forgiveness of sins on earth.
What would be the course then to be taken by us?
Go and preach the gospel to every creature, and get them to see clearly the details afterward.
Is administration the same as bestowal?
Well, administration is equivalent to bestowal, in a sense, at once.
" Thy sins are forgiven thee," would not imply that all his future sins would be forgiven?
Of course not.
If a person believes and goes among Dissenters, would he get the forgiveness administered?
Now you come back to the confusion, and I do not know anything about it. I do not know how such an one receives the administration of forgiveness in the present confusion.
Did you not say the administration comes through baptism?
Well, yes, with heathens and those outside it does.
" He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," is that administrative?
No. That is the moral thing, and it is God, not the church. This question in the present state of confusion is in many cases only theory.
But we know in places how busy Puseyite clergymen are, saying that they have power to forgive sins?
But that is the clergyman personally, and in another sense of forgiveness. They do not talk of administrative forgiveness at all, but of putting away the sin. I deny the whole thing there, and I say, Who are you? The clergyman. Who made you so? The bishop. Who is the bishop? And the whole authority falls.
In verse 3, " the things pertaining to the kingdom of God"-in what sense is the kingdom of God set before us there?
It is just going to be set up as the kingdom of heaven, as it would be in Matt. 13
This would go on to the glory, would it not? Yes. The appearing of Christ is brought out. Is it the kingdom of God Paul preaches?
Yes; he says so.
Do you connect Romans with Luke and Acts, as it says, " to the Jew first"?
Yes, of course, even more so than the Gospel and Acts.
Should the preaching now be the kingdom of God?
Not that alone.
At Thessalonica the offense was his preaching another king?
Yes; but in his ministry of the gospel Paul brought in much else about the Lord's coining and the Antichrist.