The Acts of the Apostles - Chapters 18-20

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This is general history of Paul's service; and we may see how cast on the Lord we are in work. Corinth was a frightful place of luxurious wickedness, and he continued there a year and six months. Then he must by all means keep the feast at Jerusalem, and he goes away, and through Galatia. I suppose at this time the Epistle to the Galatians had hardly been written. You get his first preaching in chapter 16, and now he is confirming the disciples.
Is Apollos introduced here for any special purpose?
I do not know, except that he was a very eminent laborer afterward. He went over to Achaia, so that they could say, " I am of Paul, and I of Apollos," there. Then Paul went to Ephesus, and there was an uproar. We do not know when he went to Crete, though it is supposed that it was when he was at Ephesus. Just after that uproar he wrote the Epistle to the Corinthians; then Titus came back with the answer to the first letter, and Paul wrote the second. It tells us he was three years at Ephesus.
Was this trouble in Asia, what he alludes to in 2 Corinthians?
Yes, only it must have gone further.
It says " disputing?"
Well, it was discussing the things of God; as an old term disputing was used in that way, not with bad feeling.
In chapter 19 we get very distinctly the Holy Ghost consequent upon believing-" Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" And in chapter 20 he calls the elders of Ephesus, and shows them that all would go thoroughly bad after his decease. " Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things," &c. It is the religious body that is the spring of persecution; so at last, no doubt, the beast kills people, but the blood of the saints is found at Babylon....
What are the chief points in his address to the elders?
There is, first, the gospel of the grace of God; then the kingdom of God; and then the whole counsel of God.
What is that last?
It would have special reference to what Paul had to communicate It was not that man was a moral being, and so on; it was much more objective than subjective; but the effect is to produce the subjective state, and the subjective state is always formed by an object.
It is not preaching about repentance that produces it?
No; but still you must preach that they repent; and it is repentance towards God too.
That is stated before " faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ?"
But that sentence (20:21) is abused in a violent way, putting repentance before faith; if it is faith in the full efficacy of Christ's work, of course it can, and will come after repentance; it is impossible that repentance can go before faith, because when a man goes with a testimony, if it is not believed, it produces no effect.
Is not this the first historical notice of the great deflection of the church?
I suppose so. The Epistle to the Thessalonians was written before this; and the second to the Thessalonians was written after Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
Suppose a person took the ground that this was limited to Ephesus, how would you meet it?
Why, there is nothing about Ephesus in it. Paul is speaking in a general way, "after my decease." And you get the same things in Peter. It is Paul's ministry closing-that is the point.
But is it not fatal to all apostolic succession? Yes, entirely, so called. But I get apostolic succession in scripture, and that is in the binding and loosing which is conferred on two or three gathered together in Christ's name; and that is the only thing the power is passed on to. But here, in the vulgar sense of apostolic succession, it is positively denied.
Do you think that the mystery had been fully revealed to Paul at this time?
I do, because he had written to the Romans before this, and there refers to it. You could scarcely have the whole counsel of God declared without the mystery being in it.
Could you call that view of apostolic succession uninterrupted?
Well, no, not quite, because it must come to " two or three." It is remarkable how literally this has been fulfilled It is given when they are a remnant getting out of an old system, Then the Lord tells them to count the cost, &c.
Ought an evangelist now to preach as Christ preached?
You never get the gospel from Christ at all; you get it practically stated, but His is the gospel of the kingdom.
But you get "salvation," and "go in peace?" Yes, to one individual, but that is not His preaching about the country.
But the gospel now is the gospel of God? Yes, it is God's glad tidings.
Is that practically now, " He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, bath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life?"
Did people who were quickened on earth know Christ's salvation?
No; nor the 120; at least Peter, the first of them, did not.
But "thy sins are forgiven thee," to the man?
That was no "gospel" at all; it was administration on earth. I do not understand any effort to show that the Lord could preach what is our gospel; how could He preach His own death and resurrection for salvation as an accomplished thing? You get some of the truth prophetically, in a way,
as to His death, and so on, but that is all.
But you find in Rom. 3 that the ground is now established, " to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness?"
Exactly; that is the very thing I am saying. There is no formula or rule as to preaching, but, taking all things together, here Paul characterizes the whole of his preaching by these two words, " repentance" and " faith."
Is " the word of his grace" the written word?
Well, wherever they could get it, this was partly written, but not all; it would be all of it when it came. When you get decay brought out fully in Timothy, then it is, " Continue in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them," and "the holy scriptures."
Is it " God," or " the word," that is able to build you up?
I think it is the word of His grace, but it is not without God-I am sure of that.
And no state of ruin can at all hinder the full blessing of that?
No, but on the contrary, it is the state of ruin that throws us entirely upon it. Only, as I said, in Timothy, I must know " of whom" I have learned, and "the scriptures." Cyprian says, if I get a channel choked from a spring, I go back and see if the spring has failed, or if the channel is choked. Chrysostom says of Matt. 24, that flying to the hills and mountains is flying to the scriptures. Not that I know much of the Fathers, for when I began to read them, I found them such trash, I could not go on.
How soon was church authority insisted on?
In the second and third centuries; it grew up gradually. It was rather official authorities at first than the church.
Did Paul write the last of all?
John was the last writer, not Paul; all John's writings, so far as known, were after Paul's. There has been a controversy about the date of the Revelation, but, according to the most received evidence, it was thirty years after Paul: at. least it was after Paul was killed. That is why the Lord says of John, " If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee." He was the one who watched over the church until the last. Many learned Christians have put John's gospel as the last thing written.
His own coming again.
Not the destruction of Jerusalem?
The destruction of Jerusalem had nothing to do with Christ's coming; that was the judicial action of setting aside the people on earth. Morally it was done before; so that there was nothing left after that but his return. And the Lord says, Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. I think it is most important to notice that passage in 2 Tim. 3: " In the last days perilous times shall come: men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away." And then he refers Timothy, as we have said, to the things he has learned; and from a child Timothy had known the holy scriptures. John says, " He that knoweth God heareth us, he that is not of God heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
Then it is by means of the scriptures we are to know the truth?
I do not know how else. You cannot hear them (the writers) so you must read them. The principle of church authority is gone in "the seven churches;" there I am not called to hear what the church says, but I am to listen to what the Spirit judges about the church.
That is the assembly in discipline, not about doctrine at all, or anything of that kind. It is not for teaching-the church does not teach, the church is taught. Teachers teach, apostles teach, and the gifts the Lord has given. Take away this horrid word " church," and say assembly; then how can the assembly teach? I do not know a more mischievous word than that word " church." If the church were teaching, you would have a hundred people talking together.
They say " a teaching body?"
Ah, the teaching body of the church, says the Romanist, and that comes to the clergy.
The " pillar and ground of the truth?"
The church confesses the truth, and so is the pillar and ground of the truth, but it does not teach. Suppose I were to say here to Mr. O., " Now I cannot believe you, 0.' until Mr. B. guarantees what you say." What would that prove? Just this, that I do not believe Mr. O. at all; I should be believing B., not 0. And if I do not believe what is in the word until the church says it is right, I do not believe the word at all, but the church I am sure I am very thankful to have been brought up to confide in the word; but if you come to real power, then you never believe in the word, but by its power over your own conscience. I remember a priest saying to me, " How do you know that it is the word of God?" And I asked him, suppose I give you a deep gash in your arm, how do you know what I have got in my hand is a knife? The trouble is, such things silence people at the moment, but they do not bow; it shows mere infidelity. How did the woman in John 4 know that Christ was a prophet, and not merely own that what He said was true? What He said was true, but because it was true, and came to her conscience, she knew that He was a prophet I quite admit there is external testimony to the word, but I do not believe that gives faith. You get the power of the word in your conscience, and you have the testimony of it there. As for the Apocrypha, in the preface of the Maccabees, the writer says, " I have abridged five books because they were too long." W hat authority can that carry? And there are numerous "gospels," so called, with horrid stories about Christ's power as a child, so that one says they were obliged to shut Him up, lest He should kill everybody. But you do not find people quarreling with the Koran as they do with the Bible; it is because it is the word of God that they will not let it alone. They do not quarrel with Homer, or books that have no power of conscience.
Does the word ever act on the affections before it acts on conscience?
Oh yes, I quite admit it may.
And the different books of the Bible?
The word is like a dissected map, I do not want proof that it is all there; there it is, and all the parts fit in. The only book, as to external evidence, that you can cast any doubt upon is the Second Epistle of Peter; rather, there is less for that than for any other-not that I have the least doubt about it at all.
Could you give us an idea how the canon of scripture got welded together?
The canon of scripture is nothing to me, and the putting it into canon nothing either. You have the whole thing adapted and fitted in together. There may be more apparent difficulty about the Old Testament than about the New; but if you accept the history at all, then the Lord Jesus and the apostles distinctly recognize the Old Testament.
Are all quoted in the New Testament, as a whole, as well as separately?
Well, if I believe Christ is the Son of God, then I get Him taking a book which, on infidel showing, is not genuine, and opening their understandings to understand from it things about Himself. You get all in the law, the prophets, and the psalms; they are the three divisions. Then there are a great many moral proofs. Infidels will tell you there is nothing like the life of Christ, and yet they say it is an imposture-a man who set up to be the Son of God, and He was not.
But they deny that He said He was the Son of God?
Well, that is not true. Besides, when a man comes and tells me, God ought this, and God ought that, what is that?
People say He was not called Son of God in the synoptical gospels?
He is commonly called Jesus, and Jesus is Jehovah-Savior; you must get the facts first.
It is said that they read Clement in the churches of old, and Hermas too?
But then I do not admit that the church has authority in that. As for Hermas, what is the account you get there? It is that God took counsel with His Son, and with the holy angels, to put a pure spirit into a body, and then sent His servant-Christ-to set up stakes, and stake out a vineyard, &c., that is, apostles, and so on, in the church; but he did a great deal more than he was told, for he set to work to pull up the weeds, that is, take away their sins; and then God takes counsel with His Son, the Holy Ghost, His angels, what shall we do to Him for this, and they agree to make Him a joint-heir with the Son. Now, if the church authenticated that then I get the epistle is authenticated, but the church itself unauthenticated. Origen said that that thing of Hermas I have quoted was inspired; but that does not make it inspired. Irenmus too.
What about the Book of Jasher?
The Book of Jasher was not inspired; but the king says to Ammon, " Go and look at that record, and see if this country is not ours."....
I suppose there is no doubt that it was Saturday night when the disciples came together to break bread?
... Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
In Acts 2 they broke bread from house to house?
Not from one house to another, but at home. Is that the Lord's supper?
Yes. Then we get general facts as to Paul going up to Jerusalem.
In chapter 20:11, is that the love feast?
I do not know; but they used to have it generally.
Was it breaking of bread on board the ship? No, not on board the ship.