Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Dean Alford's version of the words is, "The Lord added to their number day by day them that were in the way of salvation." Dr. Samuel Davidson's version we think better: "The Lord was adding to the Church daily those who were being saved." The authors of the New Testament Revised Version have adopted Dr. Samuel Davidson's translation, and read, "the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved." Not those that had been saved, or those who would be saved, but those who were being saved. The words in their connection teach two great facts in relation to man's salvation.
I. IT IS GRADUAL IN ITS PROCESS. The popular impression is that this great event is instantaneous. But the nature of the work and the testimony of the Scriptures give no sanction to such an impression. Consider —
1. The nature of the work. Salvation may be said to involve a twofold change.
(1) A change in condition. The soul is represented as lost, it has lost its normal condition and its original character. We say that a thing is lost when it has failed to realise the object for which it was produced. Thus a chronometer is lost when it becomes incapable of keeping time; a vessel is lost when it is unfit any more to plough the ocean; a family portrait is lost when all the lineaments are so discoloured or defaced as to be incapable of giving any faithful idea of the subject. In this sense the soul is lost; it does not answer the end of its existence. It involves —
(2) A change in character. We often say of a man when his character is gone that he is lost. Whether you consider salvation as consisting in the restoration of a lost condition, or a lost character, graduality is implied. The chronometer cannot be restored at once, nor can the unseaworthy vessel be repaired at once. Skilful and persistent effort in all cases of restoration is required. It is so with the soul. The rebellious does not become obedient at once, the malign benevolent at once, the selfish generous at once. The same in relation to character. Character is not something formed at once. Character is made up of habits, and habits are made up of numerously repeated actions. Consider —
2. The testimony of the Scriptures. "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation." "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." "Kept through faith unto salvation." "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." "He that shall endure to the end shall be saved." The various figures employed to represent the Christian life indicate the same graduality. It is a building, a planting, a race, a fight, etc.
II. IT IS EFFECTED BY GOD THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF PREACHING. It is said, "The Lord added." He did it, but how? Everywhere in nature He works by means. This is the means by which God effects human salvation. Christ is the Gospel, and the gospel preached is Christ exhibited. Conclusion:
1. Infer not from this that salvation does not imply a crisis. There is a point when everything begins. There is a point when the dead seed receives the first touch of life. The heavy clouds charged with electricity reach a point when they flash into flame and break into thunder. There is a point in disease when it either becomes incurable or yields to a restorative touch, and we say the disease has taken a turn. It is so with the salvation of the soul. Conversion is a turn. But the mere turn is not salvation; the starting point is not the goal; incipient germination is not fruitage. The mariner may turn his barque from the direction of a northern port to a southern port, and yet the southern port he may never reach.
2. Infer not from this that other elements apart from the gospel may not contribute to human salvation. Wholesome literature, philosophic truths, scientific facts, and rational speculations we disparage not these, they may render important service, but they cannot do the work of the gospel, they cannot save souls. Put the best seed into the best soil, let the choicest showers come down upon it, and the most genial airs breathe about it. It will never spring to life without something else, they are useless without the sun. Add to them the sun, and the work is done. Add to all the elements of nature the sun, and it will start majestic forests on the barren hills. So with the gospel. Add to all other truths, natural and moral, the gospel, and they will render service, but not otherwise.
(D. Thomas, 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.