The Lordship of the Holy Spirit Essential to Progress
The point is this: the fullness of Divine purpose demands that the Holy Spirit be continually in charge, that He be allowed to be completely in the place of government, and that we do not put anything in His place - nothing whatsoever, not a 'church', not a fixed order - so that at any point or in any way we could say, 'That is not what we teach, that is not what we have been brought up to believe, that is not what our church believes and teaches.' To do that is to put something in the way of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must be in charge and must be free. It was on those very points that the Apostles themselves had firstly their battles and then their enlargements. We shall see that as we go on. The full Divine purpose is going to take shape when the Holy Spirit is in charge with us.
And then there is something infinitely greater than times and seasons. Be careful about times and seasons; they have a wonderful and pernicious way of bringing you into limitations. Many people are dwelling in times and seasons. But they have done that all the way through the centuries. Let us watch, observe, take note; but be careful. Things have been happening, for example, in Palestine. We were told that the times of the Gentiles ended when General Allenby entered Jerusalem; that a new Caesar had arrived to reconstitute the Roman Empire when Mussolini set up his great empire in Rome! That sort of thing has been going on for centuries, and it is all based upon times and seasons.
The point is this - not that there are no times and seasons, not that there are not movements in the plan of God which have their particular characteristics and can be noted, but that there is something infinitely greater than that. It is the heavenly and not the earthly aspect that is in view in the Book of Acts. That is why I stayed at that point - "When He had said these things ... He was taken up". From that point it became a heavenly matter. Later the Apostle Paul will use a phrase like this: "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10). "The Spirit searcheth ... the deep things of God"; that is something transcendentally greater than times and seasons; and if the Holy Spirit really is in charge, there is no fathoming what God has to reveal. "Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man." It is out there, into that vast realm, that the Holy Spirit would bring us, and we must be very careful that we do not clamp down on the Holy Spirit with man-made, man-constituted institutions. We must keep out in the open with the Spirit, and it is there that our surprises will begin - yes, and our very real discipline.
The Prophets' Ultimate Meaning Spiritual and Heavenly
Those referred to in Acts 13:27, or those of whom they were typical, had a kind of apprehension of the Scriptures. There was no doubt at all about their devotion to the Word of God. They were fundamentalists of a rabid kind, as far as the inspiration of the Scriptures was concerned. They stickled for the Scriptures; they dotted all the 'i's and crossed all the 't's. Many among them were particular about the smallest detail in the realm of outward observances, even to the point of fussy fastidiousness. Because the law ordained that a tithe of all the fruit of the land was the Lord's, they tithed meticulously even their mint and other herbs - but at the same time overlooked the things that were inward and which mattered much more to the Lord, such as judgment, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). That was their apprehension, their mentality, their position. They saw everything on the horizontal. It was a matter of the exact technique of Scripture.
What was the result? Well, they were perpetuating an earthly system with the Word of God! Their 'church' was the 'church of Israel', the 'Israelitish church' - and you can put in the place of Israel any other denominational title that you like. That church had its own particular forms, its vestments, its ritual, its liturgy, and all according to the Scriptures. It had its reading of the prophets every Sabbath. It had the whole system; but it was right down here on this earth and as dead as anything could be. It was purely formal; it was not getting through to God's end at all. Scriptural, in a sense, though it was, it was failing to realize the eternal counsels of God. When the Holy Spirit came, He did not sweep away the prophets, the Old Testament. He took them up and showed that there was something more - something more than all that earthly, perfect technique of the Word of God, with all its accompaniments - without which all that other would have to be set aside. And it is going to be set aside. it fails to reach God's end, therefore it passes out; and that is the issue of the Book of the Acts - the great transition. There is a Divine meaning back of all that, and when you have the Divine meaning, you can dispense with the other - it can go. If you have the thing in the really spiritual sense and realm, in the living and heavenly way, it does not matte about the other; that just drops out and falls away.
That is what happened in the Book of the Acts. You can hardly see the point at which it happened, but there is such a point. The Apostles did go on attending the temple and the synagogues for a little while, and then they ceased to do so. They were continuing for a time, but then it was as though they were steadily, quietly, moving out, and eventually they were out. Something had happened. They had come into the real thing and the initial thing had gone. The one led to the other, but it had served its purpose. They came into the heavenly good and meaning of it all; it was not a matter of technique now.
(continued with # 2)