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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 13 - Acts 4:33 - The Risen Christ and the Power of the Gospel Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


It was not one shower that fell in those Pentecostal days, but many. The Holy Ghost did not come once for all, as some say, so that we ought not to pray for His coming, or His being shed down. Several times in this book we read of His "coming," his "falling," His being "shed down" (2:2-4, 33, 4:31; 8:15, 17; 10:44; 11:15; 19:6). It is right and scriptural that we should pray for the Holy Spirit. He came first at Pentecost in great power, but He is always "coming," always "falling," always being "shed down." Every conversion is a coming of the Spirit, every revival is a coming of the Spirit. He is not done with coming; He is not wearied with coming. He came in many ways at first, with miracles, signs, and wonders; He has come in other ways since; He comes still to sinners and to saints. He comes as the glorifier of Christ; as the enemy of Satan; as the ingatherer of the lost, as the up builder of the church of God.

Here we have (1) the resurrection; (2) the testimony; (3) the power (4) the grace, or free love of God.

I. The resurrection. It is not so much with death as with resurrection that the apostles had to do, at least in Jerusalem and Judea. The death was a believed fact there, not needing witnesses. It was resurrection that was the point in question. The Jews knew that He had died; but did He rise again? This was the question. Resurrection, then, was the special subject of apostolic preaching. He is risen, was the message. Tidings of a risen Christ they proclaimed everywhere. Besides the question of the fact, there was also the question of who this risen one was. The Jews believed in the death of Jesus of Nazareth, but they knew not who this Jesus was. And as to resurrection, they knew not the fact itself, and they knew not who the risen one really was. The risen one, said these apostles, is the Lord Jesus; Jesus, who died and rose, is Lord and God. His resurrection has proved Him to be such. God suffered the Jews to slay Him, but He would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. He raised Him: and by doing so, affirmed Him to be His Son,—the Messiah promised to the fathers,—Lord and King. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus! How much was contained in this! It is a simple fact,—a fragment of history, but it contains much. In its fullness is wrappped up all life and blessing.

II. The testimony. It was the testimony of apostles; and yet it was not as apostles, or with official authority, that they testified, but as men of integrity and good sense, who saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears. The witnesses were unexceptionable; their testimony was thoroughly trustworthy. They spake what they had seen, and testified what they had heard. And this not once nor twice, but continually, wherever they went. They might be in the temple;—they stood up to testify; they might be in the synagogue;—they stood up to testify. Among Jews and Gentiles they testified, coming forward and bearing witness to the resurrection, as a truth, a fact, a reality. That testimony of apostles is also the testimony of the Holy Ghost. It is not as inspired men that, first of all, they speak; yet they are such; and their testimony is the testimony of the Holy Ghost. Yes, it comes to this at last. We have the testimony of God himself. And if we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater. Let us listen, then, to the divine testimony, and believe the resurrection on the testimony of God himself. In the belief of that testimony is life.

III. The power. "With great power gave the apostles witness." The word which they spoke was in itself a word of power. Being the word concerning the resurrection, it was in itself "power"; for that event was the special display and embodiment of the mighty power of God. But apart from this, the "great power" here spoken of was exhibited, (1.) In the accompanying miracles, by which God identified Himself with the apostolic testimony, declaring that their testimony was His truth; for of this the miracles were the seal. (2.) In the accompanying power exercised over, and in, men's souls. God wrought in men's hearts through means of this resurrection truth. God used the apostle's testimony concerning the resurrection of His Son, for awakening and converting souls. As divine power accompanied the stretching out of Moses' rod over the Red Sea; as divine power accompanied Joshua's words to sun and moon; so was it here. Divine power accompanied the testimony. The truth itself was fitted to penetrate and convince; but when urged home by divine power it was irresistible. It smote like a two-edged sword, and yet it healed, and blessed, and comforted, and pacified. God made bare His arm, He unsheathed His sword; He smote, and shook the hearts of thousands, It is this power, this divine power, that we need. Nothing less than this will pierce human hearts, or break down human wills. Divine power! This is what is so often lacking in the ministry. It can only be obtained by men in communion with the God of power. It is nearness to Him that receives this. Then God identifies Himself with us and with our words.

IV. The grace. It is "great grace"; free love in no ordinary measure. Grace means generally the free love itself; sometimes it denotes the effects or operations of free love, subduing, sanctifying, and renewing. It means both here,—love and its effects, the free love of Him who loved the world, manifesting itself in connection with a declared testimony. The fountainhead of blessing is the free love of God; and this love or grace uses the channel of resurrection and resurrection truth for getting vent to itself upon the sons of men. Never had love been outpoured so plenteously, or with such amazing results. This "great grace" was all subduing, irresistible. It carried all before it. When love arises clothed in omnipotence, who or what can withstand it? And it was all in connection with a risen Christ.

It was thus that the work began, and still goes on! This is our testimony still,—a testimony concerning the risen Christ. This is the very core and kernel of our preaching. Our glad tidings are, "The Lord is risen." It is a risen Lord that we follow. It is to a risen Lord that we are conformed,—a risen Prophet,—a risen Priest—a risen King!

Christ is risen! Then we know that the whole work is done; that the channel is clear and free; recognized as such by the Father. The expiation was finished on the cross; resurrection was not its completion, but the divine recognition of its having been already finished and accepted.

Yes; Christ is risen! Why then be cast down and disquieted? If this be a true testimony which we have heard, why should we not go upon our way rejoicing? This risen Christ is all we need. In this risen Christ we take refuge, and find all fullness in His empty tomb. He rose! Is not that the best of tidings for a dead world? He rose! And all that are His shall arise when He comes again.