The New Cruse (continued)
The Lord Jesus Himself (continued)
It is the same in the matter of service. In the Acts service is never something appended to salvation as a further consideration. One of the striking omissions in this record is that of exhortations and urgings to propagate the Gospel. Service here is never that result of organization or special pleading and appeals. It is free, spontaneous, eager, "natural". It is not of constraint from without. It is not by an appeal to a sense of duty or obligation. It was not something which was special in its connection and time. It was at all times, in every place, under all circumstances: irrepressible testimony, proclamation, in direct, public manner and in ordinary conversation. "There arose ... a great persecution ... and they were all scattered abroad ... They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching ..." (Acts 8:1); "traveled ... speaking the word ... preaching the Lord Jesus" (11:19-20).
What was it that created and produced this? It was the Holy Spirit's glorifying of the Lord Jesus in their hearts! He - the glorified One - was so real to them, and the wonder of Who He - "Jesus of Nazareth", the Crucified One - really was, as now revealed and manifested to them and in them, was so great, that even these "new bottles" were finding that unless they let it out this new wine would burst them.
And what was true in the matters of salvation and service, was also the secret of their ability to suffer. There is no doubt that it cost dearly in those days to take sides with"The Nazarene" - this as among men; but to take sides with "The Son of God" was something which provoked hell. Put together, there is not a little in the record which indicates this suffering; but it was accepted in a spirit of "rejoicing" (Acts 5:41). It all seemed in the spirit of Hebrews 10:34: "Took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions", or: "Received the word in much affliction, with joy" (1 Thess. 1:6). This cannot be attributed to optimism, sanguineness, or merely human good temper. It was not a "make-the-best-of-it" resolve. It was the reality of the Lord Jesus as Sovereign and reigning.
As it was in these matters which came so directly home to the individual, and which were always individual tests, so it was in the matters which were more of a corporate nature. A "Baptismal Service" in the Acts was a wonderful time, always accompanied by great rejoicing and a living witness of the Holy Spirit. There was nothing formal about it. It was not just a bit of "Church" order or teaching. It was not just a command obeyed, or something just for personal blessing. It certainly was not a matter of compulsion, persuasion, or argument. It took place as in full view of the Lord Jesus, as the One Who died in the stead of all; Whose death was the death of all; and in Whose resurrection "they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him Who for their sakes died and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15).
It was Unto Him. It was a testimony to a living reality, and a mighty spiritual fact, namely, that the one supreme object of life and all living was the Lord Jesus. All other objects, interests, concerns and visions had gone in their union with Him in His death, and all and only that which was of Him had come for them in union with His resurrection. This matter was lifted out of the realm of ordinances and into the realm of testimonies. Jewish ordinances were looking on to something to come, and they never made anything complete (Hebrews 7:19; 9:9: 10:1). These testimonies looked back to something consummated, into which there was experimental entry.
Just the same atmosphere of glory surrounded the "Lord's Table" - the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42, 46). There was nothing of "Church" duty or rule or regulation in this. This was not something apart and separate from the other life of the Church. This was not a "service", as something by itself. At the beginning it suffered nothing by frequency - though, alas, it all too soon dropped from this plane. It was the center and spring of all else. Worship, praise, prayer, the ministry of the Word spontaneously sprang out of this. It was living, and fraught with "great joy" (Acts 8:8, 15:3). It was to those who thus gathered and worshiped that "the Lord added ... day by day those that were being saved" (Acts 2:47).
What again was the secret? It was the appreciation of the Lord Jesus. That table gathered all other testimonies into itself and became an all-inclusive testimony. There was the Offering wholly given to God without a reservation, and the will of God utterly done. There was union with that offered One in His death, burial, and resurrection. There was the One Life shared by all, as represented in the Blood. There was the one loaf, which is the one Body, the corporate oneness of all believers. There was the "one hope" (Ephesians 4:4), "that blessed hope" (Titus 2:13), His coming again - 'till He come'. So, then, ought not there to be a wonderful attestation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all? Yes, it was a time of great glorying in the Lord - the Lord was there!
(continued with # 7 - (The Lord's Present Need)