Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The principal alterations in the Revised Version are the omission of "the Church," and the substitution of "were being saved." The former suggests that at this period the name of "the Church" had not yet been definitely attached to the infant community, and that the word afterwards crept into the text at a time when ecclesiasticism had become a great deal stronger than it was at the date of the writing of the Acts. The second suggests that salvation is a process going on all through the course of a Christian man's life. Notice —
I. THE PROFOUND CONCEPTION WHICH THE WRITER HAD OF THE PRESENT ACTION OF THE ASCENDED CHRIST. "The Lord added," etc.
1. Then the living, ascended Christ was present in, and working with, that little community of believing souls. And the thought of a present Saviour, the life-blood of the Church, and the spring of all its action, runs through the whole of this book. The keynote of it is struck in ver. 1, which implies that the Acts is the second treatise, which tells all that Jesus continued to do and teach. It is He, e.g., that sends down the Spirit; whom the dying martyr sees ready to help; who appears to the persecutor on the road to Damascus; who sends Paul to preach in Europe; who stands by the apostle in a vision, and bids him be of good cheer, and go forth upon his work. Thus, at every crisis it is the Lord who is revealed as the ascended but yet ever-present Guide, Protector, anti Rewarder of them that put their trust in Him. So here it is He that adds to the Church.
2. Modern Christianity has far too much lost the vivid impression of this present Christ. We cannot think too much of that Cross by which He has laid the foundation for the salvation of the world; but we may easily so fix our thoughts upon that work which He completed when he said, "It is finished!" as to forget the continual work which will never be finished until Hie Church is perfected, and the world is redeemed.
3. Notice, the specific action which is here ascribed to Him. He adds to the Church, not we, not our preaching, our fervour, our efforts; these may be the weapons in His hands, bat the hand that wields the weapon gives it all its power.
4. It is His will, His ideal of a Christian Church, that continuously it should be gathering into its fellowship those that are being saved. Does our reality correspond to Christ's ideal? If it is not, wherefore?
II. Let us see if we can find an answer. Notice how emphatically there is brought out here THE ATTRACTIVE POWER OF AN EARNEST AND PURE CHURCH.
1. My text is the end of a sentence. What is the beginning? "All that believed were together," etc. Suppose this Church bore stamped upon it, plain and deep as the broad arrow of the king, those characteristics — fraternal unity, unselfish unworldliness, unbroken devotion, gladness, and transparent simplicity of life and heart — do you not think that the Lord would add to you daily such as should be saved? Wherever men are held together by a living Christ, and manifest in their lives the features of that Christ, there will be drawn to them — by the gravitation which is natural in the supernatural realm — souls that have been touched by the grace of the Lord, and souls to whom that grace has been brought the nearer by looking upon them. Wheresoever there is inward vigour of life there will be outward growth. Historically, it has always been the case that in God's Church seasons of expansion have followed upon seasons of deepened spiritual life on the part of His people.
2. And just in like manner as such a community will draw to it men who are like-minded, so it will repel from it all formalists. And I come to you with this appeal: Do you see to it that this community be such as that half-dead Christians will never think of coming near us, and those whose religion is tepid will be repelled from us, but they who love the Lord Jesus Christ with earnest devotion shall recognise in us men like-minded, and from whom they may draw help.
3. Now, if all this be true, it is possible for worldly and stagnant communities to thwart Christ's purpose. It is a solemn thing to feel that we may clog Christ's chariot-wheels, that there maybe so little spiritual life in us, that He dare not entrust us with the responsibility of guarding and keeping the young converts whom He loves and tends. Depend upon it that, far more than my preaching, your lives will determine the expansion of this Church. And if my preaching is pulling one way and your lives the other, and I have half an hour a week for talk and you have seven days for contradictory life, which of the two do you think is likely to win in the tug? And remember that just as a bit of sealing-wax, if you rub it on your sleeve and so warm it, develops an attractive power, the Church which is warmed will draw many to itself.
III. THE DEFINITION GIVEN HERE OF THE CLASS OF PERSONS GATHERED INTO THE COMMUNITY.
1. In the New Testament salvation is represented —
(1) As past, in so far as the first exercise of faith in Jesus Christ the whole subsequent development is involved, and the process of salvation has its beginning then, when a man turns to God.
(2) As present, in so far as the joy of deliverance from evil and possession of good, which is God, is realised day by day.
(3) As future, in so far as all the imperfect possession of salvation prophesies its perfecting in heaven. But all these three points of view may be merged into this one of my text, which speaks of every saint on earth, from the infantile to the most mature, as standing in the same row, though at different points; walking on the same road, though advanced different distances; all participant of the same process of "being saved."
2. The Christian salvation, then, is a process begun at conversion, carried on progressively through the life, and reaching its climax in another state. Day by day, through the spring and the early summer, the sun is longer in the sky, and rises higher in the heavens. And the path of the Christian is as the shining light. Last year's greenwood is this year's hardwood; and the Christian, in like manner, has to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour. So these progressively and, therefore, as yet imperfectly saved people, were gathered into the Church.
3. Now if that be the description of the kind of folk that come into a Christian Church, the duties of that Church are very plainly marked —
(1) To see that the community help the growth of its members. There are Christian Churches into which, if a young plant is brought, it is pretty sure to be killed. The temperature is so low that the tender shoots are burned as with frost, and die. I have seen people coming all full of fervour and of faith, into Christian congregations, and finding that the average round about them was so much lower than their own, they have cooled down after a bit to the fashionable temperature, and grown indifferent like their brethren.
(2) And if any hold aloof from Christian fellowship for more or less sufficient reasons, let me press upon them, that if they are conscious of however imperfect a possession of that incipient salvation, their place is thereby determined, and they are doing wrong if they do not connect themselves with some Christian communion, and stand forth as members of Christ's Church. Conclusion: Salvation is a process. The opposite thing is a process too. "The preaching of the Cross is to them who are in the act of perishing, foolishness; unto us who are being saved, it is the power of God." These two processes start, as it were, from the same point, one by slow degrees and almost imperceptible motion, rising higher and higher, the other by slow degrees and almost unconscious descent, sliding steadily and fatally downward ever further and further. And in each of us one or other of these processes is going on. Either you are slowly rising or you are slipping down. No man becomes a devil all at once, and no man becomes an angel all at once. Trust yourself to Christ, and He will lift you to Himself; turn your back upon Him, and you will settle down, down, down, until you are lost for ever.
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
Parallel VersesKJV: Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.