Written by, A. M. Hodgkin.
Taken from, Christ in All the Scriptures.
Acts — The Risen Christ
In the Acts, we see the risen, ascended, glorified Christ, still living and working on by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Church on earth.
The Epistles, likewise, are the continuation of His teaching through the Holy Spirit, according to His promise (John 16:12-14). There is no fundamental truth revealed in the Epistles which is not contained in germ in the Gospels. For instance, the Epistle to the Hebrews is one long commentary upon our Lord’s words: ”This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
The teaching of the Epistles is one.
The great theme is salvation through Christ.
Like the Gospels, they have the advantage of giving us different aspects of our Lord’s work, by different writers. There is, moreover, a certain correspondence between the Gospels and the Epistles.
- James reminds us of Matthew, especially the Sermon on the Mount.
- The teaching of Peter is grounded mainly on the example of Christ, and reminds us of Mark’s Gospel.
- There is an affinity between Paul and his companion Luke, whose Gospel is emphatically the Gospel for the sinner.
- John, in his Gospel, tells us how the Divine life is exhibited in the person of Christ. In his Epistle, he shows how it is imparted, and how it manifests itself” (Moorehead).
This book might be called ”The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” or ”The Acts of the Risen Savior.”
Luke, in his Gospel, told us what Jesus ”began,” and here [in Acts] what He continued both to do and to teach by the Holy Ghost, through the disciples. [cp. v.1]
Our Lord told His disciples that He would send the Spirit, ”And He shall bear witness of Me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26, 27). Our Lord fulfilled His promise on the day of Pentecost, and poured forth the Holy Spirit upon His disciples (Acts 2:16,17,33), and from that moment, as they bore witness to the Savior, the Holy Spirit bore witness at the same time in the hearts of the hearers, and multitudes were converted to the Lord.
”We are His witnesses of these things,” said Peter, ”and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (5:32). Throughout the book of Acts, we see the mighty working of the ascended Savior through this twofold witness. It was He who shed forth the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (2:33). It was He who chose the workers and selected their various fields of service. His last words to His Church before He ascended were, ”Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). The infant Church was slow to recognize the breadth of this commission and to lay aside its Jewish prejudices. They confined their preaching to Jerusalem till persecution was allowed to scatter them. The blood of the first martyr, Stephen, proved indeed [to be] the seed of the Church. It was one of the means used in preparing the great Apostle of the Gentiles [8:1-4].
Those that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word. Philip preached Christ in Samaria, with the result of a great ingathering. Caesarea (8:40), Phenice, Cyprus, Anitioch (11:19), Damascus (9:2), heard the Word. The direct intervention of the risen Savior is seen in the admission of the Gentiles into His Church. He used Peter to open the door of the Gospel to the Jews at Pentecost [Ch. 2], and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius [Ch. 10], and so fulfilled His promise concerning the keys (Mat 16:18, 19).
The risen Savior appeared to Saul of Tarsus [Ch. 9], to make him ”a minister and a witness” (26:16), to send him ”far hence unto the Gentiles” (22:21); and at every step of his three great missionary journeys, he made known His will with unmistakable clearness. The record of the book of Acts mainly clusters around these two Apostles: Peter, the Apostle to the dispersed of Israel; Paul, to the Gentiles. It deals chiefly with the devoted labors of the Apostle Paul, the last called, but most honored of the Apostles, and shows us that it is his name, and not that of Matthias [1:15-26], that we must look for among ”the twelve Apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). The book opens with the preaching of the Gospel in Jerusalem, the great center of the Jewish nation. It closes with its preaching in Rome, the great center of the world-power.
The book of Acts is the best guide-book to missionary enterprise.
It tells us the true motive, the best plans, and the source of power. Guided by their risen Lord, the Early Church pursued a definite program in its extension, always selecting some great radiating center of population for its operation, whence the influence might spread to the surrounding district– Jerusalem, Samaria, Antioch, Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome. Their methods were simple, straightforward, and successful. They went forth in dependence on the living God, with unquenchable zeal and undaunted courage. Their one aim was to bring men to a saving knowledge of Christ. He was their one theme, and the Word of God their efficient weapon. Christ was always and everywhere the center of their testimony, and the Holy Spirit their power for service. (Moorehead)
Romans — The Gospel of Christ This Epistle, which Luther called ”The perfect Gospel,”
…and Coleridge ”The most profound work in existence,’‘ stands first of all the Epistles as setting forth the great truths of man’s fallen state, and of justification by faith in the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
By birth a Hebrew, by citizenship a Roman, by culture a Greek, Paul was well fitted naturally to write it; but it was in the grace and apostleship received direct from Jesus Christ (1:5) that he trusted alone for his qualification. ”Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace,” may be taken as the Gospel germ of the Epistle to the Romans.
The clue to the Epistle is to be found in 1:16: ”I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” He was not ashamed of the Gospel, for he had proved its power.
The Epistle naturally divides itself into three parts:
- Application of the foregoing to daily life.
Each of [these divisions] are associated with one of the great Apostle’s irresistible ”Therefores.”
Justification by faith for access. Rom 5:1: ”Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Throughout the Epistle, we hear the challenge, ”Where shall righteousness be found?” It is found alone in Christ. It was while we were yet ”without strength,” ”ungodly,” ”sinners,” ”enemies,” that God commended His love toward us and Christ died for us (5:6, 8, 10). We are justified ”by grace,” ”by His blood,” ”by faith.” The results of justification are peace, access, joy in God.
Sanctification by faith in Christ, through the power of the indwelling Spirit (8:1-2, RV): ”There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Chapter 6 shows us our position as having been crucified and raised with Christ, that we should henceforth walk in newness of life. Chapter 7 shows us the religious “self” seeking deliverance from the power of indwelling sin. The personal pronoun ”I” which abounded in chapter 7 disappears in chapter 8, and the word ”Spirit” takes its place, showing Him as the active agent of God, in revealing Christ for our sanctification, making us ”more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
Application. The dedication of heart and life to God’s service (12:1): ”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
In this practical and personal appeal, and in his clear words in chapter 6:1, 2, he forever refutes the charge that the doctrine of “justification by faith” countenances laxity in life; and it is a remarkable fact that the Epistle of Faith begins and ends with obedience (1:5; 16:26). See also the frequent repetition of the word ”obedience” throughout the Epistle.