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1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
This was the first token of the preternatural crisis that was upon them. By itself this would have been nothing as a sign to the unbelieving community of Jerusalem. What could a sound like the swaying of trees have signified, either to believers or unbelievers? So next, the rushing, however, concentrated itself over the heads of the twelve apostles...*
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
But this also, by itself, would have failed of intelligible significance. Men would simply have exclaimed, "What an extraordinary thing. Whatever can be the cause? What a state these men's blood must be in to show a fiery appearance like that." But quite another complexion was given to it by the next phenomenon.*
'.. it is evident that fire, which is also light, is in symbolic representation significative of the spirit of God...
Now, when this appearance envelopes men and things, it is called glory, or majesty. Hence, referring to the transfiguration of Jesus on the mount, the apostle says, "we were eye-witnesses of His majesty: for He received from God the Father honour and glory" (2 Pet. 1:16).
Such glory, or brightness, so beautifully represented by Ezekiel and John, will clothe the saints as well as the Lord Jesus, when they shall appear in the kingdom of God: as it is written, "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).
The apostle also speaks of the brightness of the sun, moon, and stars, as an illustration of the glory of the risen saints (1 Cor. 15:41-42); and what is symbolically represented in Ezekiel and John of the glory of the Lord, is plainly affirmed by the prophet in these words: "the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign on Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients (Isaiah 24:23).
Elpis Israel 1.5.
4 And they were all filled with the holy spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Not unknown tongues-not jabber or jargon that nobody could understand. There is much misunderstanding among the common run of people on this point. They have the idea that what happened on the day of Pentecost was on a par with the incoherent rave of modern delusionists, who think they imitate the apostles in pouring forth a stream of inarticulate and meaningless rhodomontade. This is a terrible mistake.
These fishermen spoke in the known languages of their day, which they had never learnt. One spoke in Latin, one in Greek, one in Captic, one in Persian, others in other current dialects, all in a clear grammatical style. They discoursed intelligibly in these tongues which they had never learnt, on "the wonderful works of God." *
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
The very cream of the Israelitish race, in a spiritual sense, were brought together at such a time, in the spirit of obedience to the law; a prepared accumulation of good soil for the good seed to be sown. The city would be crowded with people at holiday leisure, and in a mood to be interested in what would be said and shewn to them.
The disciples, also, when "the day of Pentecost had fully come," were "all with one accord in one place," to keep the feast in the same spirit that had brought together large numbers of devout Jews from all parts. This was a suitable moment chosen for the bestowal of the promised equipment for the apostolic enterprise.*
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
What could it mean? It was something entirely beyond human experience or capacity. It was as if a company of working men should begin all of a sudden to lecture learnedly in French or German, or Russian, on the profundities of chemistry or electrical science. No wonder that enquiring attention was fixed. This was one of the very objects aimed at. When people are curious to know, they are prepared to listen.
There were, of course, some foolish suggestions as to the meaning of it, as is the manner with a crowd. Some "mocking said, These men are full of new wine." [v13] Absurd! Drunkenness has been known to take away what sense and utterance a man has, but who ever knew of it imparting knowledge to him-whether of languages or anything else? *
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
The gospel of the kingdom was introduced to Rome by neither Peter nor Paul, but by "Roman strangers, being Jews and proselytes"-who heard the Apostles and obeyed the things they taught on Pentecost.
When these, on their return from the celebration of Pentecost, carried the doctrine of Christ to Rome, that city was Pagan, and so continued, in fact and name, until Constantine revolutionised it.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, June 1853
15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
Peter stands up with the eleven and gives the true explanation. To appreciate the force it, we must remember that the public execution of Jesus had taken place in less than two months before, and that the immense crowd assembled in the front of the house knew all about it, some from report and some from personal knowledge. *
28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
In the beginning God's way was styled "the way of the tree of life," which, in the passage where it occurs, must be taken literally, and then allegorically. In its literal sense, it was the path leading to the Tree in the midst of the garden; but allegorically, it signified the things to be believed and practised by those who desired to live for ever.
To believe and do, is to walk in "the way which leadeth unto life," because immortality will be a part of the recompense of reward for so doing.
Until the crucifixion, the way was marked out, first, by the patriarchal arrangement of things, and secondly, by the Mosaic law, all of which pointed to the Shiloh. But, when Jesus appeared, He announced, saying, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
He became the Way, by His sacrificial death and resurrection.
Whosoever would attain to life must believe the truth concerning Jesus, and the kingdom, which is the most holy place. Hence, it is written, "we have boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a New and Living Way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the Veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. 10:19-20).
Elpis Israel 1.5.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
If then, he "is dead," and not "gone to heaven," as the phrase is, he is alive in no sense; and consequently the covenant promises are not fulfilled. David must be alive when they are accomplished. Christ, his divine son, has been manifested and glorified; and God has recognized him as his son; but in no other particular has the covenant been fulfilled: for he has inherited neither the land of Canaan, nor the kingdom and throne of David once upon it.
But where are the kingdom and throne of David? "In heaven, beyond the skies, where Christ is at the right hand of God; and where precious souls go to when they die." Such is the answer given by gentile theology! Need we wonder at Jews having such a contempt for what is called "christianity," when they hear its professors gravely affirm such absurd nonsense as this?
Have Canaan, Jerusalem, and the twelve tribes, been translated beyond the skies? 0 no, say they, these things remain, but then they are types of things which exist where Jesus is! Alas, what sorry stuff, what shilly-shally twaddle is this, to come out of the mouths of "great and good and pious men."
It is admitted that David and Solomon's reigns were typical, or representative, of Christ's reign; not beyond the skies, however; but upon their throne and in their kingdom upon the veritable land promised to Abraham. But, inquires one, if not beyond the skies, where are the kingdom and throne of David? In answer to this question, reader mark it well -- at present they exist no where. They once existed, and while they had a being they were the kingdom and throne of God among men.
He has kingdoms and thrones in other orbs; but we have nothing to do with them; and have no more right, had we the power, to go and take possession of them either as "souls," or bodies, than the angels have to come and seize upon all the thrones and kingdoms of earth, which belong to Christ and his brethren by inheritance. But let us leave to the owls and bats the idols of the schools, the worshipful phantasmata of the apostasy, and let us turn to the enlightening testimony of God....
...There has been no son of David reigning upon his throne since the dethronement of Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar five hundred and ninety-five years before the birth of Christ. But it is not a question of uninterrupled succession; but of the everlasting occupation of
the throne according to the covenant. When the time comes for this to be fulfilled, noted by David's resurrection, from thenceforth shall his son fill the throne of Israel's kingdom for ever. But what saith the scripture?
Just before the fall of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, the sins of Judah and its king had attained the full. Zedekiah was then on the throne wearing the crown of David. Ezekiel was commanded to say to him, "Thou profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God, 'Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this (Zedekiah) shall not be the same (son of David spoken of in the covenant): exalt him that is low (even Jesus), and abase him that is high,' " -- that is, dethrone Zedekiah.
But, then, what is to become of the kingdom of David? Hear the Lord by his prophet -- "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more UNTIL he (Shiloh) shall come whose right it is: and I will give it him" (Ezek. 21:25-27).
According to this word so it has been to the letter. The king's eyes were put out; Zion was ploughed as a field; and not a tribe remained in the land. After seventy years captivity, there was a restoration under Ezra, Zerubbabel, Joshua, and Nehemiah. But until B.C. 165, the Israelites in Canaan were not even a kingdom; but a subject province of the Persian monarchy, and afterwards of the Macedonian. About the year named they became a kingdom again; but not David's. The throne was that of the Asmoneans, who were of the tribe of Levi. Their dynasty was superseded by the Roman senate, which set up Herod's family instead. He was an Idumean, and reigned till after the birth of Jesus, whom he sought to put to death.
He was succeeded by Archelaus, who was deposed by the Romans, and Judea reduced into the form of a province under a procurator; thus verifying, as is supposed, that the sceptre should depart from Judah when Shiloh came: and so it came to be when God called his son Jesus out of Egypt. From that time to this, there has been no kingdom, or throne of Israel, in Canaan. The Hebrew commonwealth was broken up by the Romans about thirty years, or so, after the crucifixion; and it has been, and will be, no more, until the Lord Jesus come, who is the King of the Jews, and whose sole right it is to reign.
Elpis Israel 2.4.
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
It is not possible to conceive a more convincing testimony to the resurrection of Christ. The conjunction between the personal witness of the apostles and the evidence of divine co-operation with them was overpowering. No wonder that the crowd was stirred to the very heart, and anxiously enquired what they were to do.
They had been convicted of being the murderers of the Son of God; and the pain of the conviction would not be much assuaged by the apostolic assurance that the crucifixion was a matter of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and that David had spoken concerning the matter. What hope could there be for the perpetrators of such a crime? *
The result of the apostle's reasoning was their conviction that Jesus was indeed the King of Israel, even the Shiloh that had been promised them for so many ages. They acknowledged Him to be the "Son whose NAME should be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Founder of the Future Age, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
This belief, however, also convinced them that, being this great Personage, they had committed an enormous crime, and had "killed the Prince of Life." Their consciences smote them; "they had denied the Holy and just One, and desired a murderer before Him," and had imprecated His blood upon themselves and their posterity.
Of what use was their faith to them in this extremity? They believed in the kingdom, they believed in Jesus, they were penetrated with remorse, but still they were conscious only of guilt, and of judgment well-deserved. It was yet a hidden mystery to them what should be done for pardon of this great transgression.
What was "the righteousness of God" which He required of them? Should they go to the high priest, and offer a whole burnt offering, and confess their sin? This would have been impracticable. Caiaphas would have offered sacrifice for them upon the altar upon no such confession as this, for in confessing themselves sinners for killing Jesus they would have charged the high priest as a principal in the crime.
To what, or to whom, were they to look for a solution of "the mystery?" Who could unlock it and open to them the door of liberty and loose them from their sins? Is not the, reader prepared to answer, "the Holy Spirit alone could reveal to them of righteousness, because Jesus, had gone to the Father?" This is true, and the time had arrived to do it. But how, or through what channel, was the Spirit to do this? Was it to be by words thundered from heaven, by a still small voice whispering in their ears, by a feeling that they were forgiven, by words of inspiration spoken by the tongues of angels, or by the mouth of man?
After what has been said, the reader will be prepared to say, "the keys of knowledge, or the power to reveal the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, were committed to Peter; therefore the new doctrine concerning righteousness, or justification to life, was to be revealed through him." This is also true; but the "devout Jews" were ignorant of this arrangement; therefore instead of addressing Peter alone, they inquired of all the apostles, saying "men, and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?"
Mark, reader, though the question was put to all, only one of them, and that one, Peter, replied to the inquiry. He was the spokesman of the twelve, by whose mouth God had chosen that Israel should hear the word of the gospel, and believe, or, as Paul writes, "the gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter, in whom God wrought effectually for the purpose" (Gal. 2:8).
The answer given by Peter announced for the first time what believers of the gospel of the kingdom and in the things concerning Jesus must do, in order to become joint-heirs with Him of the promise made to the fathers. To these devout Jews, who now believed what both the prophets and apostles had spoken, who were now humbled in disposition as little children, swift to hear, and anxious to do, whatever the Spirit should dictate, the holder of the keys to unlock the mystery of the gospel, said, " REPENT and BE BAPTIZED every one of you IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS" (Acts 2:38).
Such an annunciation as this had never been made before. In this way "repentance and the remission of sins" were "preached in the name of Jesus." This is God's way of righteousness, and, besides this, there is no other way of salvation; "for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). God's salvation is placed in the name of Jesus; and this name is accessible to mankind only upon the condition of believing "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus," and being baptized by His name -- "he that believes the gospel and is baptized shall be saved" -- is the unrevoked fiat of the Son of God.
The words of the Spirit by the mouth of Peter went home to the hearts of these devout Jews. They that gladly received his word were baptized... These disciples were "a kind of firstfruits of God's creatures, begotten of His own will by the word of truth" (James 1:18), which "lives and abides for ever."
Elpis Israel 2.1.
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in [by] the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the holy spirit.
Here is a command which meets a man as a dividing line between the State of Sin and the State of Righteousness. The obedience of faith finds expression in the name of Jesus as "the Mercy Seat through faith in His blood."
Hence, the apostle says to the disciples in Corinth, "know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, idolators, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, sanctified, and made righteous by the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit (en tw pneumati) of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Thus, the spirit, which is put for the gospel of the kingdom and name, renewed these profligates; the divine law and testimony attested by the spirit with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts (Heb. 3-4), and believed with a full assurance of conviction that worked in them by love to will and to do -- caused them to be "washed by the name," to be "sanctified by the name," and to be "made righteous by the name of Jesus Christ."
I say by the name, for it is the same Greek particle, namely, "en ," which precedes the words "the spirit "' and is translated "by" in the common version, that goes before "the name." I have rendered them the same in both places; and upon the authority of the phrase "washed by the name," I have translated, ... be ye baptized by the name.
It must be clear to any man, unspoiled by a vain and deceitful philosophy, that to be washed by a name is impossible, unless the individual have faith in the name, and be subjected to the use of a fluid in some way.
Now, when a man is "washed by the name of Jesus Christ" there are three witnesses to the fact, by whose testimony every thing is established. These are the spirit, the water, and the blood, and they all agree in one statement. Jesus Christ was made manifest by water at His baptism (John 1:31); and by blood in His death; and by the spirit in His resurrection: therefore, the spirit who is the truth and the water, and the blood, or the truth concerning the Messiahship, sacrificial character, and resurrection of Jesus, are constituted the witnesses who bear testimony to a man's being the subject of "the righteousness of God" (Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22, 25, 26) set forth in the gospel of His kingdom.
The testimony of these witnesses is termed "the witness of God," which every believer of the kingdom and name hath as "the witness in himself" (1 John 5:6-10) .
Water, then, is the medium in which the washing occurs. But, although water is so accessible in all parts of the world where the gospel has been preached, it is one of the most difficult things under heaven to use it so as to wash a man by the name of Jesus Christ. What! says one, is it difficult to get a man to be dipped in water as a religious action? No; it is very easy. Thousands in society go into the water on very slender grounds. But going into the water, and having certain words pronounced over the subject, is not washing by the name.
The difficulty lies, not in getting men to be dipped, but in first getting them to believe "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12); or "the exceeding great and precious promises," by the faith of which they can alone become the "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Without faith in these things there is no true washing, no sanctification, or purification, from moral defilement, and no constitution of righteousness by the name of Jesus, for the sons of men; for, says the Scripture, "without faith it is impossible to please God."
Elpis Israel 1.4.
'... he promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples, "whom the world cannot receive," that is, as long as all people continue opposed to me, they cannot receive the comforter, the Holy Spirit. But, "he shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, of sin, because they believe not on me," &c. It is here stated first by the Saviour, that the comforter shall come to his disciples, but the world cannot receive him; he has, however, something to do with the world, and that is, to convince them of sin.
Will he who convinces of sin be considered a comforter? not unless he brings the news of pardon, but the Holy Spirit did not do this; the Apostles carried the message of salvation to the nations; the Holy Spirit enabled them to do it in foreign languages. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit convinced the three thousand of sin, for crucifying the Lord of life and glory, not by entering within them; not by giving them the divine principle of which you speak, but by surrounding them with wonderful proofs of the power of God.
Peter told the reason why all this took place, and being pricked in their hearts, they cried "men and brethren what shall we do." I want your attention here, for although they are pricked to the heart, they have not the Holy Spirit. This is proved by Peter's answer, "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 Spirit."
Again, truth is always consistent with itself. Peter again, when addressing the Senate of the Jews, says, "we are his witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God gives to all them that obey him. Thus the Holy Spirit is a witness for Jesus, as Jesus said, "he shall take of mine and show them unto you." Philip preached in Samaria, and "when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women."
When the Apostles at Jerusalem had heard the good news, they sent Peter and John, who prayed for them, and conferred the Holy Spirit, "for as yet, he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Paul asked the twelve disciples he met at Ephesus, if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed, by which question we learn, that he did not expect they had received it before.
The Apostolic Advocate, Sept 1834 -
Dialogue on Sectarianism Between Disciplus and a sectarian Doctor
Peter told them what to do (verse 38) and they did it, "and the same day, there were added unto them about 3,000 souls."
Thus was a beginning made to the work of planting the name and the faith of Christ in that position of world - wide acceptance and honour which they occupy in our own day.
Thus was the foundation of Christendom laid and though Christendom is a poor counterfeit, having but little in common with the faith of Christ as originally promulgated by the apostles, yet its existence is of great value to us as an evidence of powerful means having been employed to establish it in the first case.
The nature of the means is manifest. It is nothing short of an absolute demonstration of Christ's resurrection. Nothing else could have caused thousands to embrace the faith of it at a time when to do so was to sacrifice everything dear to men. Having been so established, the fact remains unchanged and unchangeable to the present day, however much men may forget the fact or be weary of it.
Christ has not died since he rose, nor can he die any more. It is a glorious fact in itself; but how much more when coupled with the other fact that he is coming again and that the world, in a short time, will know him as it has never known him in times past as a powerful, personal, actual ingredient in the current, visible, practical life of men in all countries.
It is not possible that God could have contrived a more convincing testimony to the resurrection of His Son. We have only to imagine such circumstances in connection with the case of any public men in our day being publicly executed, as Ravachol or Valliant was recently executed-to see the force of them in carrying conviction. Some say, "Yes, very forcible, but you see such circumstances do not happen in our day." Friends, if they would be forcible in our day, they were forcible 1,800 years ago, and their force cannot be spent by the lapse of time.
Men fail to feel their force merely because they lose sight of them through engrossing attention to other things. Lift the veil of time, by means of the undeniable record of them, and there they stand in all their naked glory. It is the part of wisdom to be influenced by facts, however much our immediate surroundings may seem to shut them off. It is our part therefore to open the mind and heart without reserve to this fact of facts that Jesus rose from the dead, and was proclaimed to the nations of the earth as the ground of hope for man through reconciliation with God.
The same "some" say the case would have been more satisfactory if the resurrected Christ had been shown "to all the people," and not "to witnesses chosen before of God who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." This is both an unreasonable and a presumptuous criticism. It is unreasonable because the divine object in the case required the belief of accredited testimony, as the means to be employed in working the work of salvation among men with which the restoration of Christ to familiar intercourse with men would have been incompatible.
It is presumptuous, because it is the part of created intelligence to bow in the presence of an attested work of God. True reason tells a man that whatever God appoints or enjoins must be wise and of binding force, and that a man must be a barbarian to raise the least demur. The only question in any case is-Has he appointed? To this there is but one answer in the case of the resurrection of Christ: it is the demonstrated work of God for the salvation of men who believe and obey his word in the case.
Be it ours to have the wondrous appointment always before us, and the heart in that docile and loving attitude on which Christ lays so much stress when he says:
"Except a man receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no case enter therein."
EDITOR. (Bro Roberts) - Exhort 254
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about 3 000 souls.
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
In His letter to the Hebrew Christians He exhorts them "not to forsake the assembling of themselves together" (Heb. 10:25). Such an exhortation as this implies a stated time and place of assembly. On what day, then, did the ecclesias of the saints meet to exhort one another so as to provoke to love and to good works? Certainly, not on the seventh day, for then the apostles were in the synagogues. What day then more appropriate than the Lord's day, or first day of the week?
Now it cannot be affirmed that the saints were commanded to meet on this day, because there is no testimony to that effect in the New Testament. But, it is beyond dispute, that they did assemble themselves together on the first day of the week, and the most reasonable inference is that they did so in obedience to the instruction of the apostles from whose teaching they derived all their faith and practice, which constituted them the disciples of Jesus.
To keep the first day of the week to the Lord is possible only for the saints. There is no law, except the emperor Constantine's, that commands sinners to keep holy the first, or eighth day, or Sunday as the Gentiles term it. For a sinner to keep this day unto the Lord he must become one of the Lord's people. He must believe the gospel of the kingdom and name of Christ, and become obedient to it, before any religious service he can offer will be accepted.
He must come under law to Christ by putting on Christ before he can keep the Lord's day. Having become a Christian, if he would keep the day to the Lord, he must assemble with a congregation of New Testament saints, and assist in edifying and provoking them to love and good works, in showing forth the death of Jesus, in giving thanks to the Father, in celebrating the resurrection of Christ, and in praising and blessing God.
Under the gospel, or " law of liberty," he is subjected to no "yoke of bondage " concerning a sabbath day. It is His delight when an opportunity presents, to celebrate in this way the day of the resurrection. He requires no penal statutes to compel him to a formal and disagreeable self-denial, or "duty;" for it is his meat and drink to do the will of his Father who is in heaven.
Elpis Israel 1.2.
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the ecclesia daily such as should be saved.
An ecclesia is a society constituted upon principles divinely revealed. It is a company of believers organized for the worship of God, the support of the truth, and their mutual benefit. Union is strength; but there must be union in fact, or association is incorporate weakness. It is not good for Christians to be alone; therefore it is a privilege and a blessing for those who are partakers of the divine nature to be together in society. They afford the truth a local standing; they give it utterance, minister to its necessities, encourage one another, and assist the poor.
Baptism organizes believers of the gospel of the kingdom into the One Body of the Lord. In the beginning, this consisted of 120 persons, with the twelve apostles as their eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet; their eldership, in short, which comprehended all their office-bearers, who attended to the ministry of the Word, and to the serving of tables. When the 3,000 were added to this ecclesia, they continued under the apostles' sole administration of things spiritual and temporal, until the seven assistants were added to the twelve, to relieve them of the secular concerns.
Deacons, therefore, were not essential to primitive ecclesia organization, seeing that they were only added to meet the exigences of the case which arose some time after the day of Pentecost. The apostolic eldership was infallible, having been imbued with the Spirit from on high, which guided them into all truth, and made them what they were. Their administration was, therefore, the "ministration of the Spirit," by which each of them was endowed with the "word of wisdom," "the word of knowledge," "faith," "the gifts of healing," "the working of miracles," "prophecy," "discerning of spirits," "kinds of tongues," and "the interpretations of tongues." This was the Model ecclesia, which was of one heart and one soul, and great grace was upon them all.
The ecclesias among the Gentiles were formed after this model; that is, with an eldership or presbytery embodying the spiritual gifts. These gifts were not common to all the baptized, but to those only which constituted the eldership; and, perhaps, the deacons, who may be indicated as the "helps." Those who had the spiritual gifts were the spiritual men, or "members" of the body "in particular." The elderships of the ecclesias, however, differed from the Jerusalem ecclesia, in that each particular elder did not possess all the nine gifts, as did each apostle; but only some of them.
The gifts were distributed among several for the profit of the whole body. These supernaturally endowed persons, by the particular gifts they had received, were constituted "apostles" of ecclesias, "prophets," "evangelists," "pastors," and "teachers." They were all elders, but of different orders. Apostles ranked first; the prophets next; then the teachers; and after them, the helps and governors; so that the ruling elders occupied the lowest rank in the eldership, and acting, therefore, under the direction of the ministers of the word; yet, though these diversities obtained, they were exhorted to have the same care one for another.
It was the function of these elderships to edify the body of Christ. In other words, the body edified itself through these "members in particular," who constituted in each society the branched candlestick of the ecclesia. The unction of the Spirit burned in them, shining as lights, holding forth the "word of truth." All these gifts worked that one and the self-same Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as He willed."
The gift most to be desired was that of "prophecy," or the faculty of speaking by inspiration to the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the hearers. The eldership had a plurality of prophets, who might all prophesy in the meeting, provided they did so without confusion. The Corinthians were desirous of "spirits," that is, of spiritual gifts, by which they might be distinguished. They appeared to have desired the gift of tongues above all others; but the Apostle exhorts them to desire that of prophecy: and whatever they acquired, to seek the acquisition of it, that they might excel to the edifying of the ecclesia.
From this brief outline, it is evident that democracy had no place in the apostolic ecclesias of the saints. The Holy Spirit constituted certain of the saints overseers, that they might feed the flock of God, and minister to all its necessities, as the pillar and support of the truth. As the prophets and teachers were ministering in the ecclesia at Antioch, the Holy Spirit said to them:
"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
In this way the rulers and instructors of the body were appointed by the Spirit, and not by the brethren at large. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the eldership, and the brethren in general, were the elements of God's society in apostolic times. The Father and the Son, by the Holy Spirit, through the eldership, was the authority established in the ecclesia. Democratic republicanism would have been subversive of this; and, if tolerated, would have produced confusion and every evil work.
The authority of the people and the authority of God cannot coëxist. All things of God, and as little as possible of man, is a principle characteristic of the social state originating from heaven, in Eden, in Israel, and in the ecclesia. Decency and order can only be maintained by the authority divinely appointed and sustained by the wise and good. This coöperation suppressed turbulence, and put to silence the foolish talking of the wise in their own conceits, who thought more highly of themselves than they were entitled to.
The respect and consideration that was due to the elders is clearly set forth in the Epistles. "We beseech you, brethren," says Paul, "that ye know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and that ye esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." Again: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God. Obey them, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Salute them all."
On the other hand, the elders are exhorted to "feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; nor for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over the heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
After the manner of these exhortations were decency and order maintained in the ecclesias of the saints; yet even with this divinely constituted authority, the heady and highminded could scarcely be restrained. It was the ministration of the Spirit, not in word only, but in power; yet evil found admission, and became "the Mystery of Iniquity, secretly working." The power could punish, and did punish, even unto the infliction of disease and death, and could also pardon and heal the penitent. It was evidently, however, not exercised to the full, but with considerable long-suffering and forbearance; though, in many instances, it was pushed to extremities, as a terror to the evilly disposed.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jan 1854