Brothers, children of Abraham, and you Gentiles who fear God, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.
2. His conciliatory introductions: he always strives first to be sure of a common platform with his audience.
3. His skill in dealing with the early histories; which served his purposes in two ways -
(1) by securing the attention of his Jewish audiences, which are to this day always pleased with reviews of the national history; and
(2) by bringing out the preparatory character of the earlier dispensation, and fitting his gospel message to it as a completion.
4. His firm handling of the facts connected with the mission of Jesus of Nazareth: his innocence; his death as a victim of ecclesiastical enmity; his resurrection.
5. His simple offer of pardon and life in the name of the glorified, living Savior. It is not conceivable that the gospel, in its very essence, can be more succinctly expressed than it has been by the Apostle Paul, in his missionary speeches (see especially here vers. 26, 32, 38, 39).
6. His force of passionate pleading and application of the truth to individuals, as shown in vers. 40, 41. It is to be noted that St. Paul always makes his appeal to both the intelligence and the heart, and the verses now before us for consideration show how he offered proofs of his statements which were well within the comprehension of his audience. A sentiment prevailed generally among the Jewish race concerning John the Baptist. St. Paul takes advantage of it, and shows how John gave his indirect and direct witness to the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. It may be true that John's testimony to Jesus was of more value to a Jewish than to a Christian audience, but we question whether sufficient has ever yet been made of it as one of our best evidences to the truth of Christianity. Three things require careful study and efficient illustration.
I. JOHN'S PROPHET-CHARACTER. In fixing attention on John the Baptizer, men have lost sight of his more important relations as John the Prophet. "All men counted John as a prophet," the last of the line of men whom God was pleased to raise up, for a time, as the expounders to men of his will - the voices that spoke to men his message. It was the very essence of the prophet that he had a message from God to deliver, and a right to arrest men and compel them to listen to it. John's message was his mission, and his baptizing rite was but an accident or mode of expressing and sealing his message. We should ask - What did John say to men in the Name of God? not, What rite did John perform?
II. JOHN'S PREPARATORY WORK. This St. Paul dwells on. John never assumed that he had a message complete in itself, or that what he demanded was all, or even, the greatest thing, men needed. He was a herald, but his heralding assumed the close approach of the King. He was a mender of ways, but only to get ready for the royal progress. He demanded repentance, but only that men might be ready to receive the forgiveness and life which the King was coming to bestow. To stop with John is on the face of it absurd. There is no going on from John save to Christ.
III. JOHN'S DIRECT TESTIMONY. There should have been no need for this. And yet it forms a most valuable link, especially to Jews. John witnessed plainly that he had prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Lamb of God to take away sins, and that God had given to him visible and audible testimony that Jesus was the expected Messiah and Savior. Accept John as prophet, we must accept Jesus as Messiah. - R.T.
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.I. WHAT IS THE WORD OF THIS SALVATION?
1. It is the testimony that Jesus is the promised Saviour (ver. 23).
2. The word which promises forgiveness to all who exhibit repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus (ver. 38, 39).
3. In a word, it is the proclamation of perfect salvation, through the risen Saviour (ver. 32, 33).(1) It is comparable to a word for conciseness and simplicity.(2) It is a word, as being spoken by God, and as being His present utterance even at this moment.(3) It is a word; for it reveals Him who is truly "the Word."(4) It is a word of salvation; for it declares, describes, presents and presses home salvation.(5) It is a word sent, for the gospel dispensation is a mission of mercy from God, the gospel is a message, Jesus is the Messiah, and the Holy Ghost Himself is sent to work salvation among men.
II. IN WHAT MANNER IS THE GOSPEL SENT TO YOU?
1. In the general commission, which ordains that it be preached to every creature.
2. In the fact that the gospel is preached in our land, the Bible is in every house, and the word is proclaimed in our streets.
3. In the providence which has brought you this day to hear the word. Very specially may you be sent to the preacher, the preacher sent to you, and the special message be sent through the preacher to you.
4. In the peculiar adaptation of it to your case, character, and necessity, h medicine which suits your disease is evidently meant for you.
5. In the power which has attended it, while you have been hearing it, though you may have resisted that power. It would be a sad thing if we had to single out even one, and say, "This word is not only sent to you"; but we are under no such painful necessity.
III. IN WHAT POSITION DOES IT PLACE YOU? In a position —
1. Of singular favour. Prophets and kings died without hearing what you hear (Matthew 13:16).
2. Of notable indebtedness to martyrs and men of God, in past ages, and in these days; for these have lived and died to bring you the gospel.
3. Of great hopefulness; for we trust you will accept it and live.
4. Of serious responsibility; for if you neglect it, how will you escape? (Hebrews 2:3). It puts it out of your power to remain unaffected by the gospel. It must either save you, or increase your condemnation.
IV. IN WHAT MANNER WILL YOU TREAT THIS WORD?
1. Will you decidedly and honestly refuse it? This would be a terrible determination; but the very idea of so doing might startle you into a better mind?
2. Will you basely and foolishly delay your reply? This is a very dangerous course, and many perish in it.
3. Will you play the hypocrite, and pretend to receive it, while in your heart you reject it?
4. Will you act the part of the temporary convert?
5. Will you not rather accept the word of salvation with delight? Suppose the gospel should be taken from you by your removal to a place where it is not preached, or by the death of the minister whom you so greatly esteem. It would be just. It may happen. It has happened to others. Refuse the heavenly message no longer, lest your day of grace should end in an eternity of woe.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)that, and I do not think I should try it if I were younger: but I wish I could, somehow or another, come to each one of you, and press home these glad tidings of great joy. You, my dear old friend, it means you! You, young woman, over there to the right, it means you! You, dear child, sitting with your grand-mother, it means you! "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL. The gospel is "the word of this salvation" —
1. As being the sole authority on which we ascertain the possibility of that salvation. Without it we should be inextricably bewildered on the question whether or not our salvation could be made consistent with the character of God.(1) We may learn much respecting the Divine character without the aid of written revelation. The "heavens above, the earth beneath, the waters under the earth," startle us with the conviction that He who made them and still preserves them must necessarily be a God of wisdom and knowledge. We gaze on the stupendous structure and mechanism of the universe, and we perceive inscribed on every part of it the signs of an almighty hand. We look upon the creatures of various kinds that people this world of ours, and we remark indications equally expressive of the goodness of Him "by whom all things consist." And in addition there is, in the law He has promulgated, a revelation of His perfect purity and justice.(2) But whence are we to ascertain His mercy? Or by what means may we discover that "God may be just and yet the justifier" of those who have broken His commandment? From other quarters we look for information in vain. Or, if an answer come, it is to assure us that God "will by no means clear the guilty."(3) It is the gospel only, which satisfies us in this great inquiry, Here and here alone we learn that in the restoration of our nature, mercy and truth may meet together, and righteousness and peace embrace each other.
2. As it reveals to us the plan and means of our "salvation." It opens to us the very principle and motive in which the plan originated, by assuring us that "God so loved the world," and that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He hath saved us." Do we inquire in what manner the purpose of this grace and mercy was carried into practical effect? We are informed it was by the gift of His well-beloved and only-begotten Son. Are we desirous of knowing in what respect this Son was given? We learn that though, "being in the form of God," yet He "humbled Himself" and "took upon Himself the form of a servant," and finally was put to death. Do we inquire, what was the immediate issue of the amazing series of sufferings through which He passed? We are assured that on the third day He "rose again from the dead," and that therefore "God hath highly exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins." Are we concerned to know by what means we are to receive the benefit of all this love and condescension? Directions clear and numerous are set before us, so that we need not miss our providential way.
3. As being the instrument by which it is effected. It is not merely the wisdom of God, or the grace of God, it is also "the power of God unto salvation." The gospel is indebted for its former and its present triumphs, not to the zeal or eloquence of its ministers, but to that Divine power which was breathed into it on its original promulgation, and which still continues to make it effectual. "Not by power, nor by might, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."
4. The character of the gospel as a "word of salvation," becomes still more strikingly apparent, when it is compared with preceding revelations.(1) Let it be compared, for instance, with the law of Moses. That law was eminently —(a) A word of terror. How different were the circumstances under which "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ to those under which the law came." Instead of being terrified and driven back with "thunderings and lightnings," we are encouraged to "come with boldness to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy," etc.(b) A word of condemnation. How different are the accents in which the gospel speaks to us. For, whilst it fully secures the glory of the Divine holiness, it assures us at the same time "that through this Man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins."(2) And the gospel is distinguished from all preceding revelations, as in comparison they were at best but words of promise. In their clearest discoveries they were but as the dimness of the twilight which precedes the glory of the risen day.(3) And in contrast with false systems of religion, which, as regards their effects on the habits of civil life and of domestic society, are systems of destruction and cruelty, the gospel is a "word of salvation"; since it instructs us to "do ourselves no harm," and directs us to love our neighbour as ourselves. And if it be contrasted with such systems, with regard to their effect upon man's spiritual and eternal interests, they appear not only systems of cruelty to the body, but also systems of awful destruction to the soul.
II. THE PRACTICAL DUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM ITS COMMUNICATION. It has not indeed been sent to you as it was sent originally to the Jews, by special revelation from heaven, or by the personal ministry of Christ. Still it has been sent. And the practical duties are —
1. To receive implicitly the "form of doctrine" which that word inculcates. In matters which depend on human authority we have a right to doubt, and if we please, to contradict and to deny. But the "word of the gospel" is not" the word of men"; it is "in truth the word of God." As such, it is clothed with an authority which precludes at once all right on our part to question any doctrine it proposes. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker."
2. To gratefully accept the benefits it offers.
3. To expect that salvation which constitutes the subject of it. The very reason why, notwithstanding your repeated rejection of this word, it has continued to be sent to you, has been that God willeth not the death of a sinner, but would rather that all men should repent and live.
4. To send it to others. For every benefit bestowed upon us involves an obligation to be "merciful even as our leather who is in heaven is merciful."
(Jonathan Crowther.)I. NEEDED. "What must I do to be saved?" the question of questions.
1. Men are lost, and need saving from the consequences of their wandering.
2. Men are under condemnation, and need saving from the threatenings of the broken law.
3. Men are sundered from God, the Fountain of life and blessedness, and need saving from the death that never dies.
4. Men are in bondage to sin and evil habits, and need saving from that dire captivity. And where is the saving word? Nature is dumb on the subject of salvation; conscience emphasises the existence of the evil, but is silent as to the remedy; philosophy has grappled with the problem, but has left it where it was; educational and reformatory measures have removed a few symptoms, but left the root of the disease untouched. History is the arena on which many saving experiments have been tried; let the student say which has succeeded.
1. From whom?(1) Not from man. The patient is unequal to effect his own cure. The declaration of the text is a disclaimer of originality to an age sick of original efforts to cure an inveterate disease — a disease, too, beyond the power of original physicians even to understand. The office of the gospel preacher is simply to tell what he has been told in the clearest way.(2) From God who knows the evil thoroughly; who pities and loves the sinner; who desires above all things his salvation, and has made abundant provision for it in Christ.
2. To whom. "You," whoever you may be.(1) Jews ineffectually striving to work out their salvation by the works of the law.(2) God-fearing Gentiles endeavouring to construct a salvation out of the elements of their morality.(3) Sinners of every degree.
1. Heard. Hence the need of Scripture study, and attendance on the ministry of reconciliation. Ignorance is inexcusable in a land of Bibles and churches.
2. Believed in. A sick man who has no faith in his doctor or his prescriptions will hardly be persuaded to take his prescriptions. So there must be an assent to the verity and divinity of the gospel message.
3. Embraced. knot simply with the intellect, but with the heart. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." When may the word of salvation be accepted? Now. For it is needed now; it is sent now. The need for it will not grow less by lapse of time; nor will time make it more acceptable.
(J. W. Burn.)I. TO WHOM SENT. To all sinners, for all sinners need it, and it is suited to the case of all.
II. FOR WHAT PURPOSE SENT. As a word of —
1. Pardon to the condemned sinner.
2. Peace to the rebellious sinner.
3. Life to the dead sinner.
4. Liberty to the captive sinner.
5. Healing to the diseased sinner.
6. Cleansing to the polluted sinner.
7. Direction to the bewildered sinner.
8. Refreshment to the weary sinner.
9. Comfort to the disconsolate sinner.
(R. Erskine.)I. THE TRUE CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL WHICH WE PREACH. It —
1. Reveals salvation clearly.
2. Offers it freely.
3. Confers it actually on all who will receive it.
II. THE COMMISSION WHICH WE HEAR IN RELATION TO THE GOSPEL. We must address —
1. Those who on account of their attachment to the law suppose themselves not to need it.
2. Those who through their alienation from God and His law suppose themselves beyond its reach.
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
(W. Arnot.)he was rejoicing! And now his lips were open to tell them what he had never told before. The leaf out of the Bible had brought to him first the sense of sin and then the knowledge of a Saviour. He sought for a whole Bible, and ever since it had been his constant companion, and now, though called almost suddenly away from life with all its happiness, he knew whom he had believed, and he was ready. He had an anchor, sure and steadfast, for the Lamb that was slain to take away sin had taken away his sin. And without a doubt or a fear he entered into rest.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
(A. Barnes, D. D.)
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