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

Chapter 34 - Acts 18:9-11 - Safety and Success in our Work for God Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The work done in these apostolic days by the preaching of the gospel was very decided. The religion which it produced was of no diluted nor ambiguous kind. The Christians then made were men about whom there could be no mistake; uncompromising, unworldly, out-spoken men, who were not ashamed of their faith, or of their Lord, or of His badge, the cross. They came out and were separate, and touched not the unclean thing. It was in this way that "the masses" of Corinth, and Ephesus, and other Gentile cities were "evangelized" and "elevated"; not by concerts, and clubs, and amusements either for eye or ear. Morality, culture, refinement were not despised; but 'the regeneration of individual men by the power of the Holy Ghost came first as the root of all blessing to the community. "Temples of the Holy Ghost," not "whited sepulchres," were what the primitive preachers sought to erect. Lights of the world, not lamps without oil, were what they sought to produce every where in the dark cities and villages of heathendom. Nothing less than this is our work now; nothing below this must be the church's standard in every age. Out and out Christianity, unmistakable religion; not varnished worldliness or baptized paganism. "Ye must be born again"; "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified": these are the keynotes of the church's testimony. Let us not lower this for a moment.

Let us see in these verses the position and work of an apostolic preacher; he with God, and God with him; he doing God's work, and God doing his work. Tile words are those of the Lord Jesus Himself to Paul in a dream or vision. In many ways, with or without a vision, does the Lord thus cheer and counsel his servants. His exhortations and encouragements are as follow:—

I. Bold speaking. "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace." "Fear not" are frequent words of God to His own; here they are uttered on a special occasion, as in Isaiah (51:12), "Who art thou that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die?" Fear not are Christ's words to His ministers in all ages. Whatever be the power, or the rage, or the number of enemies, fear not! Speak out, too, and be not dumb. Speak out fearlessly, nobly, confidently, the words of truth, the message of God, the gospel of His grace. Let not the fear of man bring a snare. Shrink not. Preach no diluted half and half gospel. Let not your trumpet give an uncertain sound. Speak so that no man shall mistake your meaning or your message. Do not blunt or muffle your words as if afraid of creating too great an alarm, or rousing men too rudely, or cutting too deeply. Speak aloud, and speak clearly; not mistily, or circuitously, or with the enticing words of man's wisdom. Speak with authority; and like "Wisdom" cry aloud, that the church, as well as the world, shall hear, whether they like the sound or not. Lift up your voice, utter your testimony, obey your Lord, and deliver your soul.

II. Complete security. His safeguard was the Lord Himself; "I am with thee," the Lord says, as if repeating the words spoken in the days of His flesh, "Lo, I am with thee alway." Christ's presence is our true security. Not armed guards, nor bulwarks, nor forts, but Christ Himself. He is our rock, our strong tower, our shield and buckler. No weapon can reach the man thus sheltered; no foe can injure us who have been "found in Him"; the security is perfect and divine; greater than that of the everlasting hills; for as "the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about them that fear Him." Much there may be of seeming, nothing of real danger. All is safety. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. No enemy shall prevail. No man shall set upon us to hurt us, for greater is He that is with us than all that are against us. Come what will, we are safe. Let faith realize this heavenly presence in all difficulty or peril. A present Christ. That is our security. It is complete and divine. We are immortal till our work is done.

III. Certain success. The safety was one thing, the success another. Here is both. The success is thus promised and announced:—

(1.) The master's presence. "I am with thee." The same words that declare safety, announce success. If He goes with us to our work we cannot fail. His presence ensures success. Nothing else can. Nothing more is needed. Not eloquence, nor learning, nor intellect, nor breadth of thought, nor high position, nor sympathy with the progress of the age, but the presence of the Lord.

(2.) The divine purpose. "I have much people in this city." In the purpose of God there was a people there already His, though still in idolatry and sin. Here is the Son of God, with His eye on those whom the Father has given Him, looking down on the ungodly multitudes, pointing with His finger to them, laying His hand on them. I have a treasure hid in this field, a flock scattered through this wilderness. Ah, here is election clearly and simply announced,—the eternal purpose and predestination of God. Those ungathered ones are already Christ's. He has them. He reckons them His own; as truly His, and as completely safe, as if they were already in the kingdom.

(3.) The human labour. Paul "sat down there," as the expression is, for eighteen months, teaching the word of God among them. The divine purpose operates through human agency. God purposes; Paul works; and elect souls are gathered in. Such is the process. God and man, heaven and earth, are all concerned in its completion. God works in us, with us, through us. As He works through His own word, so He works through His own creatures. His eternal purpose, and His present cooperation, secure the success. Thus He honours us by carrying on His work through means of us, and fulfilling His eternal purpose by human agency. It is that purpose that gives all the power and efficacy to the human workman. Without it man beats the air or ploughs the sea.

Therefore we work, and therefore we teach, because we know that we are backed by supernatural power, which is mightier than the evil, and ignorance, and unbelief that we are assailing. Let us work in faith, and teach in faith; for both the work and the power are God's.