Three striking events in the New Testament connect themselves with this porch. They are recorded in John 10, and Acts 3, 5. Although still named “Solomon’s,” the porch had by this time been considerably enlarged each way, but remained so far on the massive foundation laid for it by him.
The first of these events presents to us the blessed Lord now definitely rejected by the nation of Israel. At the close of this 10th chapter of John we find that, driven out, He retires to the place where John at first baptised, and there He abode. He had bidden Jerusalem and its temple farewell, so far, at least, as any testimony of grace was concerned, and had taken up His abode at John’s first point of service.
How deeply significant! Having completed, so to speak, His gracious circle of service to man, and been formally refused (“I have spent my strength for nought and in vain”), He retired to the starting-point of all. Man had refused Him every overture. All was over with the nation, and all was completed as to that form of presentation of truth to it.
In verse 24 they say to Him, “If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” He replied, “I told you, and ye believed not.” Then He appealed to His works, done in His Father’s name, as the most unmistakable witness to His personal glory, and as evidence sufficient. “But,” He said, “ye are not of my sheep.” The fault was theirs. Despite their zeal, their many and loud claims to the knowledge of God, their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened by unbelief. They rejected the very words and works which declared Him, and what now remained but His rejection of them? That rejection was mutual. Their persistent unbelief rendered it necessary on His side. But why, and wherefore, did they reject Him? What evil had He done?
“My sheep,” He said, “hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Words, the plainest and fullest, failed to find a response in those who were not His sheep, whilst His voice (and each voice has its peculiar tone) was heard by the sheep. He knew them, and they followed Him. Such was their distinguishing mark, they simply followed the Shepherd. To them He gave eternal life—a rich and glorious boon, carrying as it does the knowledge of the Father and the Son—they should never perish, nor should any one pluck them out of His hand. An earthly fold may furnish some small security—the omnipotent hand of the Son of God supplies everlasting strength and assurance. Given of the Father to Him, none should pluck them out of His hand either. What care is devoted to such worthless sheep! And then He said, “I and my Father are one.” Had they asked whether He was the Christ? He now stated, in explicit terms, His oneness with the Father Himself! He asserted highest claims, but claims that were corroborated by the works He had done in the Father’s name. His claims were true! Alas for those who so wilfully disowned them!
There He stood in Solomon’s Porch in all the lowly grace of His humiliation—He who was greater than Solomon, and greater than the temple too. (See Matthew 12.) He who was one with His Father—rejected, refused, and deemed a fit object for the stones which poor misguided man now took up to cast at Him!
What a scene! And yet what pencil could paint it? or what pen describe it with any measure of justice? Solomon’s Porch then witnessed not only the signal blessing conferred upon the sheep, and the definite condemnation of the unbelievers, but it heard also that wonderful announcement of the Lord’s oneness with the Father, whilst it was His place of departure for the original starting point of testimony. It witnessed, in no small measure, the moral glory of His person, the obduracy of His foes, and the cessation of His work amid that guilty nation.
The second event connected with Solomon’s Porch is stated in Acts 3. The apostle Peter, invested with power from his exalted Master, had healed a poor man who had been lame from his birth, and who had daily begged for alms at the “beautiful” gate of the temple. This man clung to his healer, as he and the apostle John passed on toward the temple, and entered Solomon’s Porch. Crowds were attracted by the sight, for the case of this poor man was widely known. “The people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” They had often seen him lying a helpless cripple; now they saw him leaping, and walking, and praising God. It was a miracle of mercy.
And the porch that had seen the rejection of the grace of a humbled Christ now beholds the grace of an exalted One. Ah! His place had changed and His circumstances had altered, but His heart remained the same. He had made the lame to walk when here on earth; He does the same to them when gone to heaven!
What a voice to the nation even now, and sounding too in the very place, and perhaps in the very ears of those who had but lately taken up stones to stone Him. Could they appreciate this additional exercise of grace, this “supplementary mercy,” and learn in it a hope, a long-lingering hope, for themselves? After all, Was the door, in such mercy, not closed against them? or, Had it been opened afresh in order to give one more opportunity?
Listen to what Peter—a vessel of the Holy Ghost now on earth, since Christ was on high—declares to them. “Ye . . . killed the Prince of Life, whom God has raised from the dead . . . and now I wot, brethren, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” Guilty of this awful crime, the Holy Ghost now, as the blessed Lord in His intercession on the cross, places them on the ground of ignorance. Divine charity gives them credit for not knowing the gravity of their stupendous sin! And he adds, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, and that the times of refreshing may come (R.V.) from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you.”
Would they but repent, their blessing, as a nation, would be even yet secured. Jesus Christ would yet come, and by His coming inaugurate the season of refreshing and restoration spoken of by all the prophets in their behalf, who were, indeed, the children of the prophets and of the covenant made with their fathers. In a word, He would establish the millennium with them.
But the condition for this was, and still is, their national repentance. And so we read, in 2 Corinthians 3, that when their heart shall turn to the Lord the veil shall be taken away. Further, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (see Rom. 11), and all that He has promised shall yet be made good, according to His purpose, whilst the nation shall learn that it is beholden to His grace for all. Alas! this call to repentance by the Holy Ghost, through the lips of Peter, was set aside. The priests and Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, were grieved that the people should hear of it through that of the Lord Jesus. Hands were laid on these two apostles, who were thrust into the hold till next day. Such was the reception that this further offer of mercy met with. It was proudly spurned by the leaders of the people.
Satan was again at work. He had urged on the Pharisees, whose doctrines were orthodox, to oppose the Lord when He announced the new truths, as seen in the former case. Now he uses the Sadducees, who were the religious infidels of that day, to oppose the two apostles, as they ministered the grace of a glorified Christ to a people so wilfully blind. But Satan never lacks a ready instrument. He always finds material to his evil hand. Opposition to Christ personally, or by man as a tool, and consequent misery on man himself, is his one life-long aim. Again, then, Solomon’s Porch witnesses another rejection; not now the living and lowly Jesus, but the offer of mercy sent by Him from the glory into which He had entered. It was, alas! the deliberate refusal of the grace of God in each case.
Now we come to the last event recorded in connection with Solomon’s Porch. It is found in Acts 5.
The “Church” had been commenced; the Lord had added thousands of believers. These had continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. They had saved themselves from the nation that was now branded as “untoward”; had formed their “own company,” and in love and fellowship had cared for each other in the midst of distressing circumstances. They sold their goods, disposing of houses and lands for the sake of the poor in their midst. They shared that happy “communism” which, unlike its modern political counterfeit that would say “Yours is mine,” said the rather, in beautiful self-denial, “Mine is yours;” so much so that there was none among them that lacked. Happy company! Beautiful family! All too fair, however, to last in a world that had Satan for its prince. That unwearied enemy could not allow such bliss to continue undisturbed in his domain. He had destroyed the felicity of Eden; he would now endeavour to break the fellowship of the Church. He had marred God’s rest in creation; he would now try to prevent Christ’s pleasure in the saints. Oh, what a triumph has Satan gained since he has succeeded in dividing, and disintegrating, and spoiling the blissful harmony of the Church of God! There is nothing on earth sweeter, dearer, or more to be desired than fellowship in the truth and Spirit of God; and the neutralization of this fellowship, this heaven on earth, has been the devil’s object ever since his effort in Acts 5. Then the “unity of the Spirit” was first touched—a blessed unity which, whatever be our responsibility to keep it now, will never be known in all its precious and living fullness until the Church shall be with her Glorified Head on high. Thank God, then it shall be!
Ananias and Sapphira acted the part of deceivers, lied unto the Holy Ghost, and died under the judgment of the Lord. Sin was punished forthwith. The fire of God’s presence burned with sin-withering power. The Lord maintained the holiness of His house. Fear fell on all, and by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people. What mighty proofs of the presence of the Lord in the midst of His assembly in holiness and grace!
And now we read that “they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” This was therefore a notable and frequent arena of apostolic testimony. It was public and large, close to the temple, and chosen therefore by them for making widely known the truth which so filled their own hearts. But of the rest, we read, “durst no man join himself to them.” They were marked by holy separation from evil, and such consecration to God, as made their company to be unsolicited by mere nature. For it, these servants of Christ had no attraction. The cross of their Lord was to them a living reality, and what did not savour of it, and of the holy and heavenly ways of the Master, had no place in their affections or habits.
These were days of power, days of that kingdom which is not in word, but in power. The Church and the world were then dissociated the one from the other. There was nothing in common between them. An ecclesiastical, or political, or commercial relation was unknown and unsought. Each moved in its own orbit, and possessed its own sphere. That is the normal and true position of each. Alas! eighteen hundred years have produced an amazing change. An amalgamation has been effected whereby the two are blended to the loss of any distinctive character. The world may have gained, but the Church has lost immensely.
Such power rested on the apostles that diseases were miraculously healed and evil spirits cast out. God was there in grace; but a testimony so bold could not be endured by the infidel leaders, who, filled with indignation, laid hands on them, and cast them into the common prison. Thence they were delivered by God’s providential means and angelic ministry; so that, thus divinely encouraged, they again taught in the temple “all the words of this life.” For so doing they were brought before the council, and charged with disobedience to the command not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus. In reply Peter asserted that “we ought to obey God rather than men.”
God had commanded them to speak; but these men, these blinded leaders, had forbidden them. In such a clash of authority the higher must be followed; but in this case, what must have now been the condition of the men who thus contravened the command of God? Finally, Peter states that God had raised up Jesus, whom they had hanged on a tree, and had exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Lovely statement of grace—forgiveness of sins! Not the judgment of the sinner. That is involved truly; but the sweet accents of saving grace flow forth in the ears of these deluded men. And the result? A divided council followed. Anyhow God was refused; His servants beaten, and then charged not to speak in the name of Jesus. They left the council full of the joy of a true confession of their despised and outcast Master.
A triple rejection was thus enacted in Solomon’s Porch; first, that of the Lord Himself when here in lowly grace; secondly, that of “supplementary mercy to Israel”; and lastly, that of the pardoning grace of an exalted and glorified Saviour. Such is Israel, and such is man! Yet, spite of all, deeper counsels prevailed; fuller grace appears; heavenly glory unfolds; the Church is called, formed, and established as the body of Christ; and the worldwide love of God was proved in the gift of His Son, “that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”