Acts 3:1-16; Genesis 28:10-22.

P. A. H.

Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 268.

The chief thing we have here is possession. The Spirit of God comes from heaven, to make good in the hearts of believers what Christ has wrought, to give possession to us. There is a great contrast between Acts 3 and Gen. 28. God gives, in Gen. 28, an unconditional promise to the man of His choice - a gracious, unconditional promise, based on His own sovereignty. "I will," "I will," "I will." "I will not leave thee," He says to the man of His choice, "until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Now listen to Jacob. When he opens his lips, he begins with a poor miserable vow. Is it not humbling to turn from the words of God to the words of man? God opens His mouth and speaks in sovereignty, and the poor calculating heart of man replies "If." There is no "if" with God. "If" comes from man's unbelieving heart. "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." Was ever anything more miserable than that vow? Nothing, except our own hearts. Be sure of this, you will find the counterpart of it there. It is a single instance set before us, a sample of what the heart really is. There is, on God's part, an unconditional promise, founded on the certainty of His word and His will, given to a man who is the object of God's favour, who, when he opens his lips in reply, makes a vow, founded upon a doubt - a doubt whether God really meant what He said. I refer to that because the contrast is so great between Genesis 28 and what we have in Acts 3.

Here is the temple which had been built by Solomon according to God's glory, and renewed, just for a moment, that Jesus might be there. And Jesus having died upon the cross, and being risen from the dead, and now at God's right hand exalted, we find these two men going up to the temple to pray. And there is another who is brought there - a lame, helpless creature. He never had walked. He is laid there, in his helplessness, in the place of blessing, but it was powerless to help him. No blessing comes from that place. No blessing comes to the powerless man laid there, except in another way. The place is desert, though it be the beautiful temple that Solomon had built, though it be the beautiful gate of that temple, and though it be Solomon's porch where the lame man is laid, it is but a desert place now. The blessing to him must come from elsewhere. And these two men, these two vessels of power and grace, these two temples of the Holy Ghost (one likes to look at it in that way, not two unknown and ignorant men) - these two temples of the Holy Ghost, these vessels of grace, full of blessing from God Himself, come up to the temple to express dependence upon God; and the poor helpless one looks at them, hoping to receive something of them. Then Peter looks upon him, and says, I have no silver, and I have no gold; but such as I have give I thee. He does not say at first what that is, but he is in the conscious possession of it. It is possible for us also to have it. It is not merely the case of an inspired apostle, but it is the Christian's possession, the possession of a power that is outside this world - the power of the name of Jesus. It was not merely that Jesus had been here, was crucified, and now risen, but Peter had in himself the power of that name - he had possession of it; and he says, I have not silver, and I have not gold; but such as I have give I thee. He was the poorest man in the world in one way, he was the richest man in another - he had possession of the power of the name of Jesus. Have you and I that power? We are - not inspired apostles - no one ever thought we were; but have we the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth? Have we really now the power of that name? Do we know what it is, by the grace of God, to have touched that blessed One, to be linked up with that power? Now Peter says, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." It is wonderful the way the Spirit of God puts these names together. Peter does not say the glorified Christ, and he does not say the crucified Christ, but he says, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth," the despised One here, the humiliated One, the despised Man here upon the earth. Well Peter knew Him in the glory, but when he comes to meet this man in his need, where he was, he says, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" - the despised man - "rise up and walk."

There is the power of the name. You and I may sit and sing about Christ glorified, and gazing on Him, and it is a blessed reality; but the reality of gazing on Him is also the finding, here in this world, that it is Jesus Christ the despised One. We gaze upon Him there, and we sing of Him there; and what answers to that glory is the humiliation here in this world. And so Peter speaks to the lame man "in the name of Jesus Christ," not the glorified One, but "of Nazareth;" and he says, "Rise up and walk;" and the man rises up, and walks. And now look at the effect of that directly. Everyone is against him, and the whole world is roused. All the religious authorities and the powers of the world are set against this man - a poor man. What has he done? He has healed a man that never had walked in his life. He had brought into the midst of sorrow and weakness and pride, and hatred of God, the life-giving power of "the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth."

And look at the effect of that healing, how it brings glory to God. "All the people saw him walking and praising God." There was glory to God. The possession of the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth here upon earth produces glory to God, and sets the world in a flame against the poor vessel, the honoured vessel. There was no poverty there. There is poverty in the silver and the gold; but there is no poverty in the name of Jesus. There is rejoicing, blessing, light, in the possession of that name. "Such as I possess give I thee." And so we find the whole world is against Peter and what he had done. He had brought blessing to a poor lame man, but on a new ground altogether. Not the effort of man, nor anything of man, but the power and healing that comes from One who was entirely outside this world; a humility and a power the world could not gainsay or deny, but which it yet was resisting; a power that found all the world against it, and against the one that possessed it. Do you think it is a wonderful thing that, with this power, the world is against you? If you have not this power of the name of Jesus you will not find the world against you - either in animosity, or in wiles.

The effect in the healed man, of the power of this name, is glory to God; the effect in the world is enmity against God, and against him who had the power of the name. Satan always takes up what God has cast off, and he does the best he can with it, just as he will take up the professing church. The Church had been clothed in white raiment. Satan comes in and seeks to dress it up with everything that can charm the heart of man, everything that can appeal to and attract the senses. See also his action with the world. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." He gave His Son, and now the blessing flows from the One the world has rejected. The world is set aside by God. "Oh," says Satan, "that world will just do for me now. I will do my utmost with the world (for the world is ever capable of being used). I will handle the world that it shall be the very deadliest pitfall for the children of God. I will use it to keep man in bondage, to keep man independent of God in every possible way. I will use it to be a stumbling-block, a handle to draw aside the children of God, if I can." That is what Satan does with the world, in every way he knows and is master of; and he is god of this world, and he will use it against every single child of God that is not in possession of the truth which he professes. If you have not possession of the truth, you are just on the very edge, the brink, and you will soon fall over - very soon.

It is the possession of the truth God has given us that enables the soul to stand for God and for Christ; and if there is not possession, that very truth will become a stumbling-block. The truth we have believed, and not possessed, becomes occasion of stumbling. "Such as I have." Have we got what God has given us? He "has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Do you think you have the least idea what that means, to be "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ"? Yet when death comes, to take us out of this world where He was crucified, to be with Him, how often is it said, "Oh, let us use every endeavour, every remedy we can think of, to ward off the moment!" We do not want to go from this earth. You have possession of that which God has given you in heaven, yet you want to remain here. Where is the power of the truth - the possession of the truth? where is the clinging to this place here, if you have possession of that heavenly place there? I only take one thing that shows how it comes in. I refer to the spirit we find in Jacob (it was before the Holy Ghost had been sent down). There is the man in all his powerlessness, making a vow, with God's unqualified promise unheeded by him. I do not believe people make vows when they have possession of the truth. Vows always come with a kind of doubt. I will promise this if God fulfils that. Here there is nothing of the kind. Peter speaks of possession. He does not talk much about the possession of it. No great display of words, but there is the display of power. He imparts what he has to give. The world - all the authorities of the world - are against him directly.

Now look at the twelfth verse. There is the great point of it all, where people stick fast so often. They all crowd round Peter, and they look at him. Here is a wonderful man. There was a poor man laid at the gate of the temple, lame, always a powerless one, and this man has pronounced some words over him, not incantation, as with the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19) - nothing of that kind. Here we find the reality of the power, and the people come crowding around Peter as if he were a wonderful man. This is the moment of danger for Peter; but how does he meet it? how does it find him? It finds him dependent, it finds him self-emptied. So he says, "What are you looking at us for? Do you think it is our power or our holiness which has made this man to walk? Do you think the manifestation of the power of the name of Jesus depends upon us? Why do you look upon us so earnestly?" There is where we so often fail. It is not our own power, it is not something to do with our holiness, nothing of the kind. It has just to do with us in this way, that we are vessels in His hand, sufficiently empty of self for Him to be making use of us - vessels in His hand, willing to be nothing, to be, as it were, like a spade, an instrument in the hand of Him who uses it.

"There must be intelligence," people say, "and a state of soul." All very good in their place; but Peter says it is not that, it is the absorbingness of that Person over me, the absorbingness of the power of that name. "Here is Jesus of Nazareth, whom you denied, God has raised Him from the dead, and His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." God has fulfilled His Word, and God hath given His Son, and Peter says, "Do not look at us, as if it were anything to do with our power or holiness." It is a blessed thing to find a man actually in the presence of God in such days as these. Here is a man in the presence of God, and directly God used him for blessing, he says, "Don't look at me. Look there above. Look at Him, the glorified One there, the despised One here. I am only the vessel through which it came." John the Baptist, when they came out to him, and asked him who and what he was, says, "I am a voice. Just a voice, and no more; and if you ask me what I say, it is, 'He that cometh after me is preferred before me; He is One the latchet of whose shoes I am not fit to stoop down and unloose.'" There is a man with such a consciousness, such a sense of the One before whom he stands, that he cannot speak of himself at all. It is the conscious sense of who this One is, the power of whose name he is in possession of, that gives Peter this power. "Do not look at me," he says, "look at the man that is cured there, he is praising God, look at Him whom you crucified, whom you spat upon, and look at that poor man praising Him there." Deny it if you can. He takes the place of being set aside. It is not that he is set aside by a power outside himself, but he takes the place of being set aside, and the glory of God flows out, and God is glorified. The blessing flows out, and the name of Jesus is glorified. I want you to look at the contrast in Gen. 28. For the most part, even the children of God are more really in the state of Jacob. They say, "Well, if it is so." If what is so? If God has done it? But He has done it. If God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ?" If God has given me all these things? You cannot take that ground really, if you have the power, the reality of it, if it is true of you in your own soul, you cannot take that ground. It is because it is not really true of you in your own soul.

Jacob's was a good, very good, vow. But it was founded on what? On a doubt whether God has spoken the truth. Now here there is nothing of the kind. Peter could not say, "If God has glorified His Son Jesus," and "if there is any power in His name, let this man stand up and let blessing come." The man would have remained there to the end of his days, and I believe something more would have happened. I believe the devil would have broken forth upon them, because there would have been a doubt thrown on what God had done. It would have been like, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth."

It is a very solemn thing to have to do with the truth. The sons of Sceva would never have pronounced the name of Jesus, if they had had the suspicion what a terrible thing it is to be on that ground without possession, just to provoke Satan to break forth upon them. God honours those who honour Him. There is the reality of having to do with God, and there is the same blessed power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if the Lord's table is the place of blessing surely it is also the place of judgment. If you read 1 Cor. 11 you will find it is so. The place of blessing is the place of judgment. It depends upon the soul's real apprehension of the truth God gives us, and a small bit of truth possessed in the soul is worth ten thousand times more than an immense quantity of truth that is not possessed. It is not the amount, it is the truth we have really got hold of in our souls. We do not go and talk about it, and say, "I have got this, I have got that;" but we live in the blessed present possession of it. And if we do not, it is because we have not got it in possession. P. A. H.