Faith in the Last Days - J. Thomas

"THE jailor and other untaught Gentiles heard, believed, and obeyed the Gospel in the short time of an hour. Therefore, a correct understanding of the Gospel must have been obtained by them in that brief space of time. " -- ( Prophetic Expositor, P. 104. )

Luke informs us in Acts 16, that in a vision Paul had, there stood before him a man of Macedonia, who entreated him to come over to that country, and help them. This was regarded by Paul and his companions as a vision from the Lord. calling upon them to announce the glad tidings in Macedonia. They had essayed to "preach the Word" (Acts 16:6; 2 Tim. 4:2) to the idolators in the provinces of Anatolia, called Asia and Bithynia, but had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit. The cause of this interdict is not stated. The province of Asia contained the seven apocalyptic churches (ecclesias) which were, doubtless, already existing there (Acts 2:9); and Bithynia, also, was not destitute of the truth. But the time and circumstances were not yet quite appropriate for the annunciation of "The Fellowship of the Mystery" (Eph. 3:9) among them; importing "that the Gentiles (or pagans) should be fellow heirs (of the kingdom with the saints of Israel), and of the same body (that is, of the 'One Body'), and partakers of God's promise concerning the Anointed through the glad tidings". (Eph. 3:6) Having proclaimed the Christian fellowship of Jew and Gentile in the Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Perga, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Attalia, they were directed to visit the country west of Constantinople, and north of the AEgean Sea, where, it is probable, Christian-Jewish prejudices were not so strong as in Asia and Bithynia.

In the region of country indicated, and not far from the sea, stood the City of Philippi, so called after Philip, King of Macedon, and father of Alexander the Great, "the great horn of the rough goat" of Dan. 8:21. This region was Macedonia Prima, and Philippi was a Roman colony; so that the Philippians, though Macedonian born, were Roman citizens as they declared (verse 21).

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul styles his labours among them at this time, "the beginning of the Gospel" (4:15), that is, that the glad tidings of the Fellowship began to be proclaimed to the "untaught Gentiles" of Macedonia when he respond Macedonia to the prayer, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (Acts 16:9) Now, Macedonia contained many cities, among which were Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, and Berea. All these Paul visited as well as Philippi, announcing in one those same glad tidings as in all the rest . No one, we presume, will dispute this. Thus, when he visited Thessalonica, he gave them to understand that he was the bearer of an invitation to them from the living and true God of Israel, who had commanded him to invite them to His kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12). Many of the idolatrous Macedonians there accepted the invitation joyfully (1 Thess. 1:6) when they discovered that it was genuine -- that it was no fiction, but a word sent to them from heaven, and therefore styled "the Word of God" , in deed and in truth, being confirmed by the power of God (1 Thess. 1: 5). This created in them a hope which was the "one hope of the calling", (Eph. 4:4) or invitation ; so that he could, address them as he could not address their idolatrous friends, saying, "Be not as the others, who have no hope ". (See 1 Thess. 4:13)

The hope formed in them by the apostle's preaching looked forward to the coming of the day of the Lord in which Jesus should re-appear upon the earth. But so well had he instructed them that they did not expect that day to arrive until there had first been an APOSTASY FROM THE FAITH, acuminating in a power styled "the Man of Sin" , (2 Thess. 2:3) whose revelation would be preceded by the removal of the power then existing. "Remember ye not" , says he, "that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? and what witholds now for his being revealed in his appointed time, ye know." (2 Thess. 2:5,6) Yea, so conspicuous a place had these things in his preaching that an outcry was soon raised against him, accusing him, in the city of the Philippian jailor, of "teaching precepts which were not lawful for them to receive, neither to observe, being Romans"; (Acts 16:21) and in Thessalonica, of "doing contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king -- one Jesus". (Acts 17:7)

Referring to "the beginning of the Gospel", (Phil. 4:15) the apostle says to the Thessalonians, "God hath from the beginning chosen you for deliverance by a separation of spirit and belief of truth; for which he called you through our glad tidings for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:13,14). In this he tells them that by a separation of spirit and faith, that is, by a holy disposition created in them through the truth believed, they had been chosen of God for deliverance from the wrath to come upon those who know not God, and hearken not to the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and for sharing with him in the things covered by the phrase, "his kingdom and glory". (1 Thess. 2:12) They were separated or sanctified by faith, and "called", or invited, to their high destiny through the glad tidings they believed. The sanctification of spirit, or heart- purification, referred to by Paul, was "righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit", (Rom. 14:17) resulting from belief of the glad tidings of the kingdom; wherefore he saith that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink", (Rom. 14:17) that is, the doctrine concerning it does not teach believers to concern themselves about distinctions of meats and drinks, saying, "touch not, taste not, handle not"; (Col. 2:21) but it inculcates and develops in them who embrace it with honest and good hearts, righteousness and peace, and joy in a holy spirit. This fruit of faith is the "Divine Nature" , (2 Pet. 1:4) and essentially diverse from the nature common to pagans and all others ignorant of the truth. It is only produceable by "the exceeding great and precious promises believed". (2 Pet. 1:4) Belief that Jesus is the Son of God, in the modern Gentile sense, neither hath nor will produce it. The fruit of this believed is not righteousness, peace, and joy in a holy spirit; but, on the contrary, resistance to the righteousness of God, doubts and fears, and despondency in a faithless, perverse, and sordid spirit. "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt. 7:20)

Having indoctrinated the Macedonians in Thessalonica with the glad tidings he announced to them, in writing to them he informs the reader that they "received the word with joy of a holy spirit"; (1 Thess. 1:6,9,10) and that in consequence they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, even Jesus delivering us from the wrath to come". (1 Thess. 1:6,9,10) Before Paul went over to help them, they knew nothing about the God, and the Son of the God, whom Paul preached; they knew not that there was any wrath to come upon the world, nor of any deliverance from it through a resurrected man, coming from the heavens; nor did they know that those delivered from it would share in the glory and dominion of the Deliverer. Will any reasonable man, then, pretend to impose upon us the notion that all that was submitted to these "untaught Gentiles", to turn them from their vanities, was that a certain Jew, who had been crucified as a malefactor about 1,100 miles off, was the son of the God of the Jews, and raised from the dead by His power? What moral power is there in such a statement as this to cause a Macedonian idolater to cast his idols to the moles and the bats? None. It had no more power to produce this result than it now has to cause papists to turn from their image worship, and the adoration of dead men's bones; or sectarian devotees to renounce the systems of foolishness and impiety they profess. It is evident from the nature of the case that the first thing Paul essayed to do was to reason the Macedonians out of their idolatry, as he did the Athenians; then to acquaint them with the living and true God; after that to announce to them the purpose of God, or "secret of his will which he had purposed in himself according to his own good pleasure"; (Eph. 1:9) then, that "one Jesus" was he by whom he intended to execute that purpose, whereof he had given assurance in raising him from the dead; that he was to return from the heavens to perform the work assigned to him; and lastly, that whosoever believed these things, and became obedient, should receive repentance and forgiveness of sins, a right to eternal glory in the kingdom, "through his name" . (Acts 10:43) To instruct them in these things was for Paul to fulfil his mission, which was "to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them (of Judah) who are sanctified by faith that leads into Jesus". (Acts 26:18) The Macedonians were in darkness, and in Satan's power, and unable to help themselves. They were "Gentiles in the flesh", (Eph. 2:11) whose moral destitution is well described by the apostle who went over to help them. "At that time", says he, "ye were without Christ, being aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and atheists ( atheoi ) in the world"; "walking in the vanity of your mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in you, because of the blindness of your heart". (Eph. 2:12; 4:17,18) But from this state they were happily delivered by Paul's preaching; so that he could say to them, "Ye who were formerly afar off are now in the anointed Jesus, made nigh by the blood of the anointed one". (Eph. 2:13) They were " made nigh by the blood of the anointed one that is, instead of being aliens from Israel's commonwealth, and strangers from the covenants of the promise", they had become "fellow-citizens of the saints (of Israel) and of the household of God"; (Eph. 2:19) instead of "having no hope" (Eph. 2:12,13) they hoped in the kingdom and glory of God, of which they were invited to become "HEIRS" by the preaching of Paul; and instead of being "without Christ", (Eph. 2:12,13) and "atheists", they were "IN the anointed Jesus", (Eph. 2:12,13) and worshippers of his Father, the God of the Jews, for the return of whose Son from the heavens they were patiently waiting. (2 Thess. 3:5). These originally "untaught", but now instructed, "Gentiles" had become "light in the Lord"; (Eph. 5:8) "the sons of God without rebuke, shining as lights in the world"; (Phil. 2:15) "children of light and of the day", and "not of the night, nor of darkness" (1 Thess. 5:5); invested with "the armour of light"; (Rom. 13:12) so that, "the eyes of their understanding being enlightened", (Eph. 1:18) the apostle could now say to them, "Ye are all the sons of God in the anointed Jesus through the faith; because as many as are baptized into the Anointed have put on the Anointed; and if ye be the Anointed's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise". (Gal. 3:26,27,29)

What soul-stirring tidings must they have been which constituted the subject matter of Paul's preaching, and that could have effected so wonderful a change on the understandings, affections, and conduct of the idolaters of Macedonia Prima, and of "untaught Gentiles" in sundry other places! In what did the power of his preaching consist? In the teaching of God, called "the truth in Jesus" -" the light of the glad tidings of the glory of the Anointed , who is the image of God". (2 Cor. 4:4) "Of his own will", says James, "the Father of lights begat us by the word oftruth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures", (James 1:18) of whom "it is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father", says Jesus, "cometh unto me". (John 6:45) Paul, as God's messenger, taught the word of God, which he did not handle deceitfully; "but by manifestation of the truth, commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2-4). This was the secret of his power -- his doctrine was God's teaching, confirmed by God's power, through the mighty deeds with which he astonished the world. Who need wonder at the results with such an instrumentality? "We", said Paul, "are ambassadors in the Anointed's stead, as if God did invite you by us"; (2 Cor. 5:20) which invitation was expressed in the glad tidings of the kingdom and glory he preached. The joyous character of the tidings miraculously confirmed, commended them to the hearts of the people, and kindled a joyousness in them, that. energized them to accept the divine invitation in the face of ruin, imprisonment, torture, and death; so that, in writing to the Macedonians, he says, "Ye became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of a holy spirit". (1 Thess. 1:6)

But in opening the eyes of Macedonian Jews his method was somewhat different, He had not to turn them from idols, nor to bring them to wait for the Son of Israel's God: nor yet to instruct them in the purpose of God to rule the habitable in righteousness by him, for they were not idolaters; and they were waiting for the appearing of the Son promised them in Isa. 9:6,7; and were fully in the belief of his sitting upon the throne of his father David, and reigning over Israel and the nations for ever. All that was necessary in their case was to convince them that Jesus was that Son of David and of God, Jehovah (Yahweh) had covenanted to resurrect for them in the house of David (1 Chron. 17:11-14; Acts 2:30; 1 Cor. 3:4,5) Thus, in his preaching to "the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews"; in other words, "to them that are under the law, he became as under the law, that he might gain them that are under the law". (1 Cor. 9:20) If he had gone to the Macedonian idolaters "as a Jew", he would not have gained them; he therefore went to them as a Roman, which is evident from his reply to the magistrates at Philippi, saying, "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay, verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out". (Acts 16:17) Now, Romans were not under the Law of Moses; so that in relation to that law they were "without law"; therefore in approaching the Romans as a Roman citizen, he says that "to them without law, he became as without law, that he might gain them that are without law". (1 Cor. 9:21) He addressed the Greeks, Romans and barbarians, as an ambassador, sent to them direct from a God whom they knew not, but who had made the universe, and continued to uphold all things by His power. It was not necessary for such a person to do more before such an audience, ignorant of all things pertaining to the God, prophets, and hope of the Jews, than to state the truth confirmed by divine power, and to persuade them to receive it. Thus, as he says, "My word and my preaching was by indubitable proof of Spirit and power, that your faith might not stand in men's wisdom, but in God's power". (1 Cor. 2:4,5) And again, "Our glad tidings came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in holy spirit, and in much, assurance". (1 Thess. 1:5) This course, however, would not answer with believers in the prophets. He could not approach Jews as a Gentile citizen of Rome, and expect them to believe on authority without appeal to the prophets. Idolaters might be built upon apostles, but a Jew required to be built upon the prophets; for they would receive no testimony of apostles, though confirmed by miracle, unless it could be shown to be in accordance with the Oracles of God, read in their synagogues every sabbath day. When, therefore, idolaters built upon the apostles, testifying the same things as the prophets, and Jews built upon the prophets illustrated by the apostles, came together into the "one body", (Eph. 4:4-6) Paul could say to them, "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus the Anointed himself being the chief corner stone". (Eph. 2:20) They were all, both Jews and Gentiles, brought to acquiesce joyously in the "One Faith"; (Eph. 4:4-6) the method only of bringing them to that acquiescence so as to prepare them for the "One Baptism", differed .....


The Gospel in Macedonia (con't)


The reader, then, will readily perceive that the apostolic preaching was very much simplified in regard to the Jews. All that was necessary was to show them what their prophets taught, and then to prove that to a certain extent their predictions were accomplished in Jesus, as an earnest that what remained would be fulfilled in and by him likewise. This was the course pursued by Paul in Thessalonica. He went into their synagogue, and reasoned with them out of the Scriptures of the prophets, opening and alleging, firstly , that the Messiah they were looking for must needs have suffered, and secondly , that he must needs stand up from among the dead. These were among the first things ( en protois , 1 Cor. 15:3) he delivered to the Jews; how that their Messiah was to die for their sins, according to the prophets; be buried, or "make his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death", (Isa. 53:9) and arise on the third day, according to the scriptures. If he could convince them of these things, their minds were then prepared for his third proposition, which was, "that this is the Messiah, even Jesus, whom I announce to you". (See Acts 17:3)

They err greatly who imagine that one method of preaching "the glad tidings of the glory of Christ" (See 2 Cor. 4:4) would have been suitable for idol -- worshippers, and the members of the synagogue. The proposition that "Jesus is the Anointed, the Son of the living God", (Matt. 16:16; John 6:69) would have been meaningless and unintelligible to idolaters. To have comprehended it they must have been made previously acquainted with the existence of that living God, and with the doctrine concerning the Anointed One. And this the apostle set himself to do in laying before them the glad tidings of the kingdom, as exhibited in the revelation of His will, which God had purposed to Himself. When they came to understand this part of the subject, they would very naturally desire to know, Who should be the King by whom the world should be ruled in righteousness, when the appointed time for the manifestation of the divine purpose should arrive? Paul told them that it was a certain Jew, named Jesus, who was dead, but came to life again, and is alive for evermore, who is to be king of the whole earth. This answer to the question very naturally prompted another, namely, "If the Jesus he proclaimed were to be king of all nations, what would become of Caesar's throne?" Nor did Paul hesitate to answer this inquiry, as we have seen in the second epistle to the Macedonians of Thessalonica. "He shall be taken out of the way", (2 Thess. 2:7) and then a power, embodying the Mystery of Iniquity already working, shall take his place, which shall also be utterly abolished by the manifestation of the Lord's presence from the heavens. Such questions and answers as these created a great stir among the multitude, many of whom renounced their idols, and declared themselves, not only willing, but earnestly desirous to become heirs of that kingdom and glory, that they might reign with Jesus when he should receive the dominion, glory, and kingdom at his return from the right hand of power. But the Jews who rejected the claims of Jesus to the Davidian throne of universal empire on earth were moved with envy at this revolution in the pagan mind, and determined to put a stop to it, if possible. They excited the lowest of the people against Paul and his friends, both in Thessalonica and Berea. As Paul was preaching politics, which had been forbidden by the emperor, they assailed him as a transgressor of the imperial decrees, saying, that there is another king than Caesar, one Jesus . The same outcry was raised in Philippi with the same result -- proclaiming principles unlawful for loyal Romans to receive and do, and thereby exceedingly troubling the cities of Macedonia Prima.

Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, etc., were thrown into an uproar by Paul's preaching the glad tidings of the glory and kingdom of God . Let not this fact be overlooked. Was it done by a sixty minutes' discourse, the burden of which was that Jesus, whom perhaps no Macedonian pagan had ever heard of before, was the Son of the unknown God of the despised Jews, and sacrificed for sin? What would they have thought of the doctrine that the blood of a murdered Jew, in some mysterious way, was to save them from wrath to come, of which they knew nothing? Instead of such preaching as this (of which the world has a surfeiting in these superficial times) exceedingly troubling cities, and turning the community upside down, the apostles would not have obtained a second hearing. No; they might have preached the divine sonship of Jesus in the modern Gentile sense of it, not for an hour only, but until this day, and have never made a Christian, or agitated a single family, That Jesus is the Son of the God of Israel, and not the Son of Mary's husband, is most true, and a very important truth in its proper place; it is a genealogical truth upon which all his claims are founded; but in the Gentile sense of it, there is no good in it. His blood cleansed from all sin; true, but what then? If that be all it leaves without hope, and the future is a blank. Such a Gospel never came from heaven to Jew, Macedonian, or Italian, or to any other Gentile family of man.

Paul's preaching was the same in all the cities of Macedonia . It planted the same hope in the hearts of the people at Philippi, as at Thessalonica. Here, it taught them to turn from idols to serve the God of Israel, and to wait for His Son from the heavens, when they should receive the kingdom of God, for which they suffered persecution; there, it taught them to be like-minded with the apostle in pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God by the anointed Jesus (2 Thess. 1:5). This "mark" (Phil. 3:14) was the resurrection that Paul desired by any means to attain to, because the prize could not be obtained until that mark were reached. The prize was the subject of the glad tidings he preached to them. It was for the obtaining of this prize that they entered the lists by being baptized, that they might from that time start in the race, and press onward to the goal. Did they begin to run without knowing what they were running for? No indeed. When men, as in Paul's day, entered upon a race which exposed to torment, imprisonment, and death, they were very careful to know what they were to gain by the risks they encountered. "I so run, not as uncertainly", (1 Cor. 9:26,24) saith the apostle; "so run, that ye may obtain" (1 Cor. 9:26,24) obtain what? That which God sent Jesus to invite men to in the glad tidings of the kingdom which he preached, and therefore styled "the high calling of God by the anointed Jesus". (Phil. 3:14)

An everlasting kingdom is the prize set before us as "untaught Gentiles", connected with which are glory, honour, riches, and life eternal. Hence, James says to them who are taught of God, "he has chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, as heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him"; (James 2:5) and Jesus saith, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom", (Luke 12:32) and when they that love him stand in his presence after rising from the dead, he saith to them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". (Matt. 25:34) Were these blessed ones baptized in ignorance of the kingdom and glory they were called to? In darkness plunged into water, not dreaming that the God of Israel purposed to set up a glorious kingdom in Palestine for Jesus and his brethren, which was to rule over all? Was their faith so meagre, so death stricken in its birth, that it could only faintly whisper an assent to a leading question about the genealogy of Jesus, before they descended into water? Were their eyes so blind that they could see nothing in the future? No, no; before they were baptized they took care to know what they were baptized for. They were baptized that they might become Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise, which they understood and believed with joyous and faithful hearts . Hence, the apostle could write to the Roman citizens of Philippi, who believed, and the jailer and his house among their number, saying, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them who walk, so as ye have Paul and Timotheus, servants of Jesus Christ, for an example, for our citizenship begins in the heavens; out of which also we earnestly expect the Saviour, the anointed Lord Jesus; who shall transform the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, through the power whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself". (Phil. 3:17-21) And afterwards he adds, "Those things which ye have both, learned, and received, and heard, and seen with me, do". (Phil. 4:9) This covered the whole ground of his teaching, which was effective to their illumination as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.