Lecture 7.

John and the Acts.

The Gospel of John stands alone. It stands by itself as a gospel that is unique in its character, unique in the very narratives that it gives us, and above all, in the unfolding of the character of Christ which it presents, in a way singularly striking and attractive.

We have seen that the first three gospels stand together as one division, and that would make the gospel of John a second division. As a second, it presents to us the Son of God in all His wondrous character; and when we have the Son presented to us, we have the Saviour. These I need not tell you are characteristic of the second place which this Gospel occupies. But more than that, the number suggests as well rejection; for two is the number of rejection by man, and of enmity, and that is what is dwelt upon throughout the whole Gospel. It is a stranger with whom we are dealing, when we come to John's Gospel, a heavenly Stranger; One who had no place here. No need to say there was no room for such an One in the inn, or upon the throne of Herod. Ah! the presentation of His character tells itself that there could be no room for such an One on earth. He is a stranger all through, and in the simple words that we have at the beginning of this Gospel you have the key to this whole position. "He was in the world, the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not; He came unto His own, and His own received Him not."

The world knew not its own Creator, when He came into it. What more solemn comment could there be upon man's alienation, and ignorance of God, — a wilful ignorance and alienation, — than the fact that when his Creator came here, he had no knowledge of Him? Now that, as I said, gives us the key to the whole Gospel of John. In Matthew, for instance, you have Him presented as King at the beginning, and all through that Gospel you might say He is still presenting Himself to the people. At the very close of it you find Him driving the traders out of the temple, which takes place in John's Gospel at the very beginning, showing us that He takes His place outside, as it were, at the very introduction. He is outside all the way through. The very manner of expression seems to speak of one who is outside and a stranger. The author speaks of the feast of the Jews being nigh at hand; he explains Jewish customs, Jewish manners, Jewish feasts, — all those things, in such a way that we think of one who is outside of it all, and stranger to it all. And while this is very properly spoken of as telling us that John was written long after our Lord was upon the earth, (very probably one of the latest books of the New Testament canon) yet that is only upon the surface. The real reason is, that we have presented here the heavenly Stranger, unknown to His own people, outside the whole scene.

Taking up this Gospel we find that it is divided into three main parts, suggesting that divine fulness which the very Trinity presents to us. There is the full manifestation of the divine character of the Son of God. The first of these divisions, roughly speaking, would be the first two chapters, — properly down to the twenty-second verse of the second chapter. Then the second, or main division, is from the third chapter through the seventeenth. That is the life not merely exhibited as you have in the first section, but the life communicated to men. Then from the eighteenth chapter to the close of the book, we have life out of death in the power of resurrection, which is significantly a third section.

In this first division you have, first of all, in the first eighteen verses of the first chapter, God's witness as to what His Son is. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is God presenting to us His own testimony concerning His own Son. Then from the nineteenth verse on to the thirty-fourth, you have the testimony of man, John the Baptist, as to who this is. It is very beautiful that you get in God's testimony the divine and human character of Christ, — first of all, "The Word was with God, and the Word was God," then down in the fourteenth verse, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

There are the two great facts as to Christ's person, First, He is divine; secondly, He is human, both true, absolutely borne witness to by God Himself; and we cannot lose sight of either of them. This blessed Person whom we know is "God over all, blessed for ever." You cannot use any language too strong to express the divine dignity of the character of the Son of God. He is the Creator, He is the Almighty, He is the Upholder of all things. In Him was life, in Him was light, in Him all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. No language is too strong, I say, to set forth the divine character of our blessed Saviour. I feel like dwelling upon that in days like these. People are apt to weaken on that point; they are apt to tone down something of that divine, — absolutely, untreated divine glory that there is in the Son of God. Let us hold fast to it. He is God; He is God over all, blessed forever. Nothing less than that will do. People may call it what they please, if they give Him not His divine place, they are blasphemers against His holy name; and when we give Him His divine place, everything else that belongs to divinity goes with it.

Let us be assured of that; there is no such thing as an inferior, subordinate place, when we come to speak of the divine character of the Son of God. When I think of Him humbled there in the manger, taking the lowly place, veiling His wondrous glory from view, taking the place of humiliation in order that He, as servant for man's need, might work out salvation, — as I think of that, and that men because of His humiliation have dared to deny His divine glory, oh! I feel what an awful double dishonor it is! Let us hold fast, let us be witness as to this great fundamental fact of all, that the blessed Christ of God is divine, none other than divine, none other than the Son of the true God Himself, — God over all, blessed forever. I do not want to modify that a particle. I am not careful to use accurate theological language, as people say, when it comes to speaking about this blessed One. No, the simple child of God who says, "My Jesus is God, my Jesus is the Creator, my Jesus is the upholder of all things by the word of His power," — I would far rather hear than one dare by implication to suggest that He is anything short of being absolutely divine.

That being clear, the second fact is that He is human; and when you have gotten clear that He is God, then you can be equally clear that He is perfectly man. No need of being afraid now to say that His manhood was exactly manhood; surely not fallen manhood, but the perfect Adam, the Lord out of heaven; the Second Man — Man without sin, or taint of sin in Him, without any tendency to sin, without any corruption, without any of the infirmities which connect themselves with man as fallen. He was absolutely here the perfect One: "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;" that is the divine testimony, God's testimony to His Son. He is divine; He is human; both blended in one person.

Now look at John's testimony, from the nineteenth verse on. There are two parts to John's testimony; first, he preaches repentance; man must judge himself, he must take his place as a guilty, lost sinner, and then he is ready to hear the next part of John's testimony, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." How blessed that is. It is not that God, as it were, testifies to that part; no, He entrusts that message to a man who needs salvation himself. It comes from human lips; it comes from God's heart, but through human lips; and John the Baptist, who first of all smites the people and calls them a generation of vipers, and warns them to flee from the wrath to come, can then add to it, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." Ah! that is the human testimony which is called the Gospel, and here at the beginning God gives it to us.

Let me dwell for a moment, if one soul be here tonight not clear in the gospel. Just put these few testimonies together. First of all, the blessed Saviour is divine. Because He is divine He is able to do every thing, able to save, able to cleanse, able to keep, able to present you faultless before His presence with joy in heaven. Then He is Man, — Man so that He could die for us, so that He could lay down that perfect life upon the cross as a sin-offering for us. You and I deserve to be judged for our sins. Christ could be judged in our place because He is Man, and as man die and make atonement for sin. You have a divine Saviour, almighty; you have a human Saviour who died for us. Next, John testifies of repentance. What have I to do? to work for my salvation? to turn over a new leaf? to reform? to give up my bad habits? — is that what God asks? Nay; dear friends; Repent! is the command; and repentance is owning that I am a sinner, taking my place as a guilty, helpless, worthless sinner, not able to do a single thing for salvation, not able to work my way into heaven, but just owning that I am helpless, guilty, vile, and undone. What then? Look away from self, look away from what you are, — your sins, though they be like scarlet, look off there at the Lamb of God, and what do you see? One who takes away the sin of the world, who removes the guilt, takes off that awful load that was on your conscience, sweeps forever from view that black cloud of your sins that was between you and God. Look at the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world! What a blessed Gospel! what a testimony! — a divine and human Saviour, repentance, and faith in Christ who died for us!

But that brings us to the third part of this first division, the attractiveness of the gospel. The disciples hear John bear this witness and they follow Jesus. Ah! blessed is the gospel that turns man from following his fellow man, no matter if it be John the Baptist himself, and points him to Christ, and he follows Christ. When the Lord sees them following Him, He says, "Whom seek ye?" "Master, where dwellest thou?" There we have the next great thought, that when the gospel is believed, when Jesus is followed, you have your place in association with Him. Where does He dwell? You have heard the gospel, we have been speaking it tonight. Does your heart go out after Christ? Do you say, "Oh! that I knew where I could find Him?" Here is the answer, "Come and see." That means simply that when we have believed upon Christ, His abiding place is our abiding place. And where is that? "In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where Jam, there ye may be also." That is the place. Is that not simple? God's witness, man's witness, and association with Christ in glory. There is the gospel, as it were, in a nutshell, beginning with me a poor lost sinner, ending with me in company with Christ in His heavenly dwelling-place. Ah! dear friends, we need not be afraid of death, we need not be afraid of any uncertainty that may befall us in this world, if we have our place with Him.

The last part of the first chapter, which is a fourth portion, comes back to earth again. And you find here Philip and Nathaniel and the ladder set upon earth, reaching to heaven. That sets before us the blessing of Israel upon earth. Just as you have the heavenly company formed by association with Christ where He dwells, so here you have the calling out of the elect remnant of Israel. Nathaniel, the godly remnant, is called out from under the fig-tree, the place of lowly humiliation, which the remnant occupies; called to recognize Christ as the Son of God, King of Israel. Then it is that the Lord says, heaven will be opened, the ladder will be there, the angels ascending and descending in their ministry upon the Son of Man. That is how blessing is coming to this earth, when Israel the remnant are taking the place of Nathaniel, and owning Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel. Then will the earth get blessing, but not before.

Now that is a fourth portion, and in the next chapter we have a fifth, which goes into this matter, as God does go into it, in a thorough governmental way, in a way that deals with man's responsibility. There is a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Galilee is what Israel is in her unrepentant condition. It is Galilee of the Gentiles, and that is the reason why you find all through the gospels that the Lord's ministry is largely there. Israel is in the condition of Galilee, if I may use the expression, in a sort of Gentile condition.

Now there is to be a marriage upon earth, but it must be according to God. The Song of Solomon tells us of that. There is to be a time, when the land of Israel will be called Beulah, or married, when "Thy Maker is Thy husband" will be true of Israel as a nation but how is that marriage to be effected? Is it to be effected naturally? If so, then there will be just what you have here. The guests are together, the ceremony goes on, and in the very midst of the feast the wine fails, the joy fails. Instead of the joy of the marriage there is disappointment; and that is what has ever characterized all Israel's partial repentances. There has been no true recovery to God, and therefore no true joy of the marriage feast. Those empty water-pots tell the tale. They speak of the manner of the purifying of the Jews, but they are empty, mere forms and ceremonies. That is just the condition in which the Jews were; they had plenty of forms; they would not eat with unwashed hands; they would not do anything ceremonially wrong; they would strain out a gnat; they would pour out all their water through a sifting cloth, for fear they might drink some kind of a living creature, and then they would swallow a camel, as the Lord says: they had the form without the reality. They were empty water-pots.

Now the Lord says, Take those forms and fill them with water; fill those water-pots with water to the very brim. Let the word of God come in in its activity, and bring home to your soul the fact that if there is to be true purifying, it must be by repentance, the true acknowledgment of sin. When they do that, they will find the wine of the marriage-feast. So in the day that is coining, when Israel will take her place in true repentance, owning all that she is and has done, she will find that the valley of Achor is a door of hope; the valley of repentance, the valley of humiliation is the key of hope and blessing, of marriage joy for her. Then it is that the last part of this portion comes in. The Lord appears and with a scourge of small cords He purifies the temple by His power.

We see in that way, in this first portion of John's gospel, how beautifully it gives us the history of the Lord's ways How beautifully it unfolds to us just the dispensational steps of His ways in connection with man. But we must look much more rapidly at the rest of the gospel.

The main part of it is from the third chapter through the seventeenth; and that is now not the history of Christ primarily, but the history of the life as communicated by Him and enjoyed by His people. Here again you have the chapters grouped together, I have no question. We have, for instance, the third and fourth chapters together, — Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria. Strange company that, but I assure you it is divine company after all, and God's order. Then you have the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters together; that is the opposition on the part of the world to this divine life in its manifestation. From the eighth through the twelfth chapter, you have the resurrection side of things, the presence of the Lord rather than the opposition of man, and the resurrection as you have it in Lazarus. Then from the thirteenth to the seventeenth chapter you have the divine provision for our walk through this world here. Let us look at them briefly in detail. You are all familiar with Nicodemus' interview, and the woman of Samaria. In the first you have the work of the Holy Spirit, regeneration; in the woman of Samaria you have, as it were, the Lord's refreshment in revealing Himself to a sinner. With the one it is an internal work, with the other rather external, if I may use such language.

Now who would think of putting such a person as Nicodemus with all his righteousness in company with a sinner, an outcast like the woman of Samaria? And yet the two go together. When the Lord would show the need of new birth, what kind of a person does He take? He does not take a gross sinner, as we term it. He does not take one whose outward life is so full of blemishes that even we can see that he needed to be born again. We would not have been surprised if He had said the woman of Samaria needed to be born again; but to Nicodemus, the righteous ruler of the Jews, He says this, and to the woman of Samaria, full of sin, her very life showing her alienation from God — to her He reveals Himself as the Christ. What blessed inconsistencies, what wonderful surprises we find here. Have we not here divine instruction as to the way we should deal with souls? Do you see a man morally upright, correct in all his ways? what he needs to have pressed upon him is that his heart is corrupt, that he needs to be born of God. Do you see a poor wretched sinner, with his sins all out, knowing and realizing them? what he needs to have presented to him, is Christ, the One through whom blessing, cleansing, and salvation come. Thus in this first portion, you have life communicated in the work done in us by the Spirit, and for us by Christ.

When you come to the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters, you have opposition. I wish I could dwell upon it more. It is opposition all the way through. The Lord heals a man, an impotent man. It was surely a mercy to do it. What is the effect of it? He heals him on a Sabbath day; He breaks man's sabbath* in order to cure man's sin. Poor man would rather have his sin and his sabbath undisturbed. Therefore there is opposition to the blessed Lord. But you find growing out of that opposition, the wondrous discourse in the fifth chapter, where the two prominent thoughts are first, judgment, — judgment for sin — and secondly, deliverance for the believer. It can be gathered up in one verse, "He that heareth My word and believeth on Him who hath sent Me, shall not come into judgment," — the judgment He has been telling them of, — "but is passed out of death into life."

{*I add a word to guard against the thought that our Lord broke God's law. Surely He did not do this. Man had added his provisions to God's word. It was these that our Lord ignored. He ever perfectly obeyed the law of God.}

In the sixth chapter, you have quite a similar thing, though it goes still more deeply into it. The Lord has fed the five thousand, He has given them bread. When He speaks of the True Bread, they begin to murmur, as Israel in the wilderness, and the self-righteous Pharisees inquire, "How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?" In connection with the opposition, you have usually brought out divine truth that would sweep away all opposition, if there were only a heart for it. The Lord presents Himself as food for the soul of poor hungry starving man, "I am the bread of life, he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, he that believeth on Me shall never thirst."

We come next to the seventh chapter, — still opposition. Here is poor Israel with its wretched little feast of tabernacles. What a wretched thing it is without the living reality! The Lord does not even go up to the feast, but in the midst of it He goes up as you might say as a private individual, and He begins to teach. Then comes out the opposition, which is the keynote of this whole portion. Then it is that the Lord reveals Himself as the giver of the true feast of tabernacles, as the One in whom, if they believed, that prophecy would be fulfilled: "With joy shall they draw water out of the wells of salvation." "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive."

Now take the three thoughts of these three chapters, the three verses that I have quoted; what an emancipating gospel you have. What a gospel to sweep away all opposition of unbelief. First in chapter 5:24, you have the deliverance from judgment. Then in the sixth chapter, you have Christ as the food for the soul; and in the seventh chapter, you have Christ by the Spirit flowing out in the life, to be a refreshing and blessing to others. What an unfolding, what a word of grace to meet opposition! Why is it that man opposes such grace as that? that the blessed Son of God, witnessing as He did in this way, still finds all the opposition of man's unbelieving heart?

We have now come to the third part of this division, from the eighth through the twelfth chapter. It is the third; you are in the sanctuary; you are going to have a revelation of the very presence of God; you are going to have brought before you what it is to be in the holy place. Who are the characters that figure in it? In that eighth chapter you have two characters — a Man in His lowly place of humiliation, and a poor wretched adulteress, — these are the characters. What! are you going to bring that defiled sinner into the sanctuary? Are you going to bring that wretch that deserves nothing but to be stoned to death, into the holy place? Yes, that is the unfolding of the holy place, and you see her brought in there into the presence of the Son of God. There are her accusers, railing upon her calling, out for her blood. There is the righteous Judge; He will judge righteously, surely. He will judge so righteously that He says to her accusers first of all, "Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone at her." There she is, a poor convicted soul in that holy presence, all alone with Christ. And what does He say to that broken-hearted creature of shame? "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." That is the holy place, and I can follow that poor woman into such a place as that. If she could go in there, I can go in too. If she is not driven out, if she meets a welcome there, oh, the worst sinner that ever lived can come into that holy presence, and find the same welcome and the same treatment. That is the sanctuary, a sinner uncovered as to her sin in the presence of perfect holiness and perfect grace, Have you been there? has everyone of us been in that blessed presence, a confessed sinner before absolute holiness and infinite grace, finding our heaven at His feet, — pardon and life? That is the kind of company you get there. All self-righteousness, covering sin from view, has its place outside of that holy presence. It is only sinners, with their sins uncovered, but blessedly covered by God Himself, that can stand there. That is the key to that section of the book.

In the ninth chapter you have another case. He is a blind man, and is in the Lord's presence too. He had his eyes opened, and these poor wretched men who would never learn their lesson, put him out of the synagogue. But where do they put him? At the feet of Jesus, into the holiest, into the presence of the Son of God. What an exchange! Form, ceremonies, self righteousness, — everything that speaks of man away from God, that is the synagogue; and at the feet of Jesus, worshiping the Son of God, that is the exchange. There is the holiest again.

Now it is inverted in the tenth chapter. In the ninth chapter we see the blind man put out of the synagogue into the presence of the Lord. In the tenth chapter the Lord is the good Shepherd, and He goes into the synagogue and leads them out. "He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out, and when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice." He goes into the synagogue and calls His own, and leads them outside man's into His own holy presence — leads them out of Judaism into the sanctuary, and points on to the time when He shall gather all, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd — the Lord Himself. Thus in these three chapters you have three thoughts as to the sanctuary, just as you had opposition in the other part.

Then the eleventh chapter simply gives us the power in which all this is made good to us; it is resurrection power. I see Lazarus in the grave, utterly corrupt. As Martha says, it is not fit to bring him out to the light of day; better keep him covered up out of sight. That is just what the natural man is. But the One who brings us into His holy presence is the One who speaks the life-giving word. When He says, "Lazarus, come forth," he leaves his corruption in the tomb, and comes forth instinct with the new life, resurrection-life, and all he needs is to have the grave-clothes unwound, that he may be set free.

That brings us to the twelfth, the last portion of this third part, where we have another holy scene. You remember we had the sanctuary, the Lord's presence, and resurrection the power in which we are there. Here you have the worship which accompanies that. They make Him a feast, and Lazarus sits at the table, Martha serves, and Mary pours her wealth of ointment upon the Lord's feet; there is worship, feasting, and joy. What a sad contrast to it at the close of the twelfth chapter, where for the last time you hear the murmuring of unbelief on the part of the Jews. The Lord turns His back upon them, and will have no more to do with them. Most appropriately we have the sanctuary light from the sixth of Isaiah under similar circumstances, given us here at the close of the third section.

From the thirteenth to the seventeenth chapters we have divine provision for the way. First, you have seen life communicated; second, you have the opposition to that life; thirdly, you have the sanctuary as the place of that life, and resurrection as its power; then provision by which we can walk down here as we should in the power of that life. In the thirteenth chapter you get the feet washing; in the fourteenth the hope set right, our expectation to be with the Lord when He comes; in the fifteenth, fruitfulness; in the sixteenth, meeting all the opposition and enmity of the world. In the seventeenth, we kneel and listen to our Lord pouring out His heart in the fulness of His love for us. Was there ever such a prayer as that, which lifts us up and sets us, as it were, in the presence of our God, and thus gives us power to walk down here for Him? How well equipped for the way we are! — our feet washed, the hope set right, fruitfulness by abiding in Him, all opposition faced and conquered in His name, and the power of His prayer carrying us on. Thus we have the life in its full fruition as to our pathway here.

Then all that remains is that what He has made possible, He should make good. Suppose the gospel of John had stopped at the seventeenth chapter. Suppose that wonderful vision of beauty had been unfolded to us, and there had been no record of anything further done. Suppose all that life, all that grace had been manifested, and then the Lord — dare I use the expression? — had changed His mind, and gone up to heaven. What a disappointment! what eternal disappointment to have had the cup of blessing put to our lips, and then dashed forever from them. Had Christ not died, had He not borne sin, all this wondrous unfolding, which you have in the first part of John would have been but tantalizing, and worse than that, it would have aggravated eternally our despair. But blessed be His name, never a word fell from His lips that He made not good. Did He ever reveal to u` s grace, did He ever open to us the fulness of the heart of God that He did not make it good? Thus, if we have listened to Him in the seventeenth chapter pouring out His heart to the Father, as He is going to Him, we may rest assured that heaven and earth will pass away before He will have turned from that cross by which it was all to be made over to us.

How perfect all is in this closing portion! How beautifully in keeping with the theme of the Gospel! We see the Son of God, and His enemies powerless in His presence, for they went and fell backwards to the ground. Yet He yields Himself up to them, allows Himself to be taken, goes into Pilate's presence, there witnesses a good confession, goes on to the cross, there to yield up His life, in order that every word of grace that has been spoken before might be sealed by His precious blood.

And so we find in this third section that which is the power of the life of which we have been speaking. In the eighteenth chapter we see the Lord presenting Himself as the burnt-offering; in the nineteenth chapter He is actually offered; in the twentieth chapter we see Him raised again from the dead, and in the twenty-first chapter He is gathering, as the risen Shepherd, His poor scattered sheep, never more to be driven from Him. That is the gospel of John. Very feebly and imperfectly put, but the general theme of that wondrous gospel.

We now pass on to the book of Acts. It is the second part of the New Testament. All this that we have been speaking of, — the three gospels and the one, — are the Genesis, they are the life of Christ Himself personally. Then comes in Exodus, the history of the Church. The Lord, raised from the dead, brought out from the grave, is about to ascend, but before He ascends He gives His disciples again the promise of the Holy Ghost. They are to tarry at Jerusalem until they receive power from on high. And then in the first chapter of Acts, He goes up to heaven. In the second chapter the Holy Ghost comes down from heaven.

Now in these two chapters you have what is characteristic of Christianity. First Christ, after His death and resurrection, that is, after His work had been accomplished, rose and went on high. How much that means. I can follow Him wherever He goes. Is He on high? My place is there too. Is He there at the right hand of God? is He there in the Father's house? He is there to prepare a place for me, and the position of Christ, a heavenly Man in heaven, itself tells us what our position is. No need for the Christian to be arguing about this and that questionable habit or association. No need for him to wonder whether it is right to settle down in the world. There is one great fact that will settle nearly every question for the Christian, and that is that Christ is absent from the world. My place is with Him on high, in heart associated with a glorified Christ. That is the first great fact in Christianity. In the second chapter the Holy Ghost comes down to make the Lord's presence on high a reality, and that is the second great fact of Christianity — the Holy Ghost here on earth. Christians usually reverse that, a very strange thing. They speak of the Lord Jesus in some way or other as if He were present here. They speak of Christ according to the flesh, as though He had never died. They merely use His name, and do not seem to realize the real fact of the cross and the resurrection. A man says, I am a Christian; I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, and in all the teachings of Jesus and the example He set us. If that were all, the Lord would still be on earth, the truths of Christianity would not be a fact. And then, as to the Holy Spirit: Christians will meet together and pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out, as though Pentecost had not taken place. They actually pray for God to send down the Holy Ghost though He was sent down at Pentecost after the Lord had been fifty days out of His tomb.

These are the two great facts of Christianity: Christ on high, the Holy Ghost down here; and the third grows out of them, the Lord's coming as the proper hope of His people. Now that gives us the key to the book of Acts. Here are the Lord's beloved people on the earth, in Judaism. Just as we have seen in the Gospel of John, how the Good Shepherd puts His sheep out and leads them forth from the fold of Judaism, in this book He is going to do it. There is a peculiar charm in the book of Acts which does not lie upon the surface, and that is its infinite tenderness. Look at the bulwark of Judaism; — it has withstood the blessed Lord all through His life and ministry here, and yet what does He tell His disciples to do? Does He say to them, You can bear witness that I have plead with the Jews and dealt with them patiently, and now I want you to have nothing to do with them; go to the Gentiles; go as far off as possible? Ah no! Repentance and remission of sins is to be preached among all nations beginning, however, at Jerusalem. They are to begin not even in dear Galilee but at Jerusalem, where He had been crucified. Old John Bunyan wrote a treatise which He called "the Jerusalem sinner saved," and in that treatise he told how the Jerusalem sinner had rejected Christ, how he had given his voice that Christ should be crucified after he had seen all His works and heard all His wondrous words; and yet the Jerusalem sinner, the one who had enjoyed the greatest privileges, is the one who has the gospel preached to him first. That is grace. It is only divine grace that would do a thing like that. We were Jerusalem sinners; everyone that had godly parents, everyone that heard the gospel from his childhood, everyone who has come under the sound of God's word is a Jerusalem sinner, and He deserves nothing but eternal punishment. Yet what does he get? He gets the first message of salvation; and if there is any sinner who is to praise the grace of God more than another, it is that wretched Jerusalem sinner who has trampled upon and despised all the offers of mercy and still has the gospel presented to him. I might add that if hell is hotter for one than for another, would it not be for that Jerusalem sinner who continues to reject such grace as that?

Now what you have in the book of Acts, I say, is the Jerusalem sinner first, the gospel preached where Christ was crucified. There is divine wisdom in that. He is going to lead His dear people out of Judaism, to break the link. Judaism is nothing but a corpse, an empty tomb. When the Lord of glory left the sepulchre and rose from the dead, He left Judaism. He left the sepulchre of Judaism as well, and now He is going to lead His dear people out. First of all, the Holy Ghost comes down, fills the disciples, and they bear witness to those sinners of the Jews who had rejected, denied and crucified Christ, that if they repent and take the name of Jesus as their Saviour, they shall receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost. A mighty work of grace begins at once at Jerusalem and goes on with divine power. What joy it must have brought to the Lord's heart, when after so long bearing witness and holding out His hand in invitation to a guilty people, who refused it all, to see them break down under the preaching of Peter.

In the third chapter, Peter and John go into the temple, and there is a lame man there, just like poor, lame Israel, sitting and begging by the beautiful gate of the temple. A picture of what Judaism was with its beautiful temple: but a poor, lame beggar. The name of Jesus sets him free; he leaps, he walks, he praises God.

When a miracle like that is done the people have either got to accept it or reject it. So you find that when the power of the name of Jesus is manifested in that way, the Sadducees, and the rest of the Jews for that matter, reject the gospel.

Opposition sets in at once, and so through the third and fourth chapters you find verified our Lord's words" If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they have kept My sayings, they will keep yours also." They treat the disciples exactly as they treated the Lord. This portion also contains the awful judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira — corruption within, as well as persecution without.

Stephen closes that part of the book. In the seventh chapter he presents their whole history — and they stone him to death. Stephen stoned, Christ in the glory; Stephen stoned and passing, as to his spirit, into the Lord's presence there — that is the end of the offer to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has again rejected Christ, and the Spirit's testimony by Stephen.

Then we come to the second part, from the eighth chapter to the twelfth. There you find the gospel going out. There is a saying that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. So out from the blood of Stephen comes the seed that grows and bears fruit amongst the Gentiles as well. After that persecution you have the gospel going down to Samaria, first of all; Samaria was outside of Judaism. Then there was the Ethiopian eunuch. He had been up to Jerusalem and got nothing for his soul there. He has come all the way from Ethiopia, a poor hungry man, to get something at Jerusalem where the knowledge of the true God was taught, and yet going back with an empty heart. Would the Lord let that be? Would He let a man who is seeking Him in that way, go back empty? He takes Philip from the midst of the revival at Samaria and sends him into the desert, and there He brings Philip and the eunuch together, with the Bible open at the very place where He wants him to preach from, in the eunuch's hands. Out of the fifty-third of Isaiah, Philip preaches Jesus to him. Did you ever think of it? There is one lonely man coming from Jerusalem, another lonely man coming from Samaria; the Lord had led them, and they meet out there in a desert place, with the Bible open at the very message that man needs for his soul. That is the blessed Lord we serve, who again and again brings just such things to pass.

Then you have Cornelius, a Gentile — the gospel is going out wider and wider. Then the arch-persecuter, Saul of Tarsus, has a revelation of Jesus from the glory of God, and he is turned into a servant of Christ to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, and that closes the second part of Acts, the twelfth chapter.

Beginning at the thirteenth chapter, you have the gospel connected with the ministry of Paul, which is the mystery. It is the Church proper. Before this there had been Judaism first, and then a modified sort of Judaism: First Jerusalem, then Samaria, then the eunuch, and Cornelius. It was Peter's ministry. Now it is Paul's, and Antioch has become the centre instead of Jerusalem. I might say, that in the first section of Acts, Jerusalem is the characteristic city in the second it is Samaria in the third, Antioch. God begins with His own beloved Israel. They reject Christ, and He leads out His own, as it were, and takes up Samaria, occupying a place between the Gentile and the Jew. Then He passes from Samaria to Antioch the Gentile centre, and it is there from Antioch, and not from the apostles but from the servants of Christ, unofficially you might say, that the Holy Ghost sends them forth on the mission which is the unfolding of the mystery of Christ amongst the Gentiles.

It is Paul's ministry, and you can insert in that third portion nearly all of Paul's epistles, — those wondrous unfoldings of the mystery of Christ. They have their moral link with that third section of the book of Acts, from the thirteenth chapter down to the twentieth chapter.

First, you have the ministry at Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and other cities of Asia. Then the call goes out to Europe, — Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth. Then coming back again to Ephesus then going back to Macedonia, down to Corinth, coming back on his way alas! where to? to Jerusalem and that is just what marks the fourth section of this book. It is the failure, if I may use such an expression, where the apostle turns again to Jerusalem. It had been rejected because of its unbelief, yet he turns again to it, goes back there, and what is the result? He gets into captivity, is put in prison, bound with chains and carried down to Caesarea, and handed over to Gentile powers goes to Rome in chains and imprisonment to the last.

Now I think we have in that way got in this book of Acts, the history of God's work.

He would have gently led His beloved servants, first from Jerusalem to Samaria, and then to Antioch; led them out into liberty and power not only to Corinth and Athens and Philippi, the Grecian cities, but on to Rome and the far west. The gospel gets there, Paul gets there too, but why does he get there in chains? why does he get there by way of Jerusalem instead of going directly on his ministry?

I believe that a careful study of that portion of Acts will show us that the beloved apostle Paul, that faithful, honored servant of Christ, allowed his love — a love scarcely ever equalled in man's heart — for his beloved brethren according to the flesh, to take him back to Jerusalem. He goes back in love to them. The Holy Ghost bore witness that bonds and imprisonment awaited him there. Brethren who were prophets spoke to him by the Holy Ghost that he should not go back to Jerusalem. But he went, his love was mighty, he had offerings in his hands for them from the Gentile Christians, and he thought he could win his brethren in that way. What is the result? His own countrymen arrested him, persecuted him, and would have put him to death except that he is rescued by the Gentiles themselves.

But still you notice the marvelous purpose of God goes on. You begin Acts at Jerusalem, but at the close you find Paul at Rome. He may be bound — but the word of God is not bound. He sends for the Jews once more. There is a final message given to them, and then he says, "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles and that they will hear it." The Jews go and have "great reasoning among themselves." They are not done with that reasoning yet. But Paul has gone on too. He has been preaching the precious gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles; and the emancipation from Judaism has gone on, the Church of Christ has been gathered out from amongst the Gentile nations with sinners of the Jews as well, all together forming a heavenly Church — a heavenly body, the receptacle of that revelation which we find brought out so perfectly in Paul's epistles.

Thus you see how the book of Acts gives us in a most important way the connecting link between the gospels where you have the life of Christ, and Paul's epistles where you have the results of His work.

We live, I may say, and move and have our being in the epistles of Paul. That is what marks us as Christians. A man does not know what true Christianity is unless he knows what the epistles of Paul are. But how were they to get from the blessed Person of the Son of God into the full place into which His grace has brought us? The book of Acts is the bridge; it leads us out of the bondage of Judaism into the liberty of Christianity. It is thus the Exodus of the New Testament, where the Spirit of God leads His people out where they can enter into the fulness of Christ.

And that brings us to the book of Leviticus which we have in the epistles of Paul.