A Faithful God and Faithful Witness
(Helpful to Sunday School Lesson of February 15, 1920, Acts 10:30–48)
“Behold, a man stood.” Cornelius did not know the Holy Ghost as yet, and it was necessary for God to use an angel. God speaks through the saints by the Holy Spirit. How important it is that we should thoroughly recognize this. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Again, the Scripture says, “As many as are led by the spirit of God they are the sons of God.” How many sad hearts are calling themselves Christians today, who must be led about by bit and bridle. There are sad lives which God must judge by hard circumstances in order to bring them into His ordained way. If we judge ourselves we will not be judged, God says.
It is the privilege of the Christian to live and walk in the Spirit and not to have to be under the judgment and chastisement of God. O, that Christians might know the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the privilege far above that of having an angel stand near them—of having the Holy Ghost stand up within them declaring the counsel of God! Would you feel nearer to God if a man in white apparel stood before you than if the Holy Spirit spoke within you? Weigh carefully these values. The Holy Spirit is far above angels, He is the blessed third person of the Trinity. Give great value to His voice, take time to listen. He will reveal far more to you than the man in white apparel was able to reveal to Cornelius.
“Thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” This could be spoken to Cornelius as his merit before God, but after he had accepted the Christ of God slain on Calvary his standing before the throne of God would be in the merits of Jesus and not in his alms.
The world would love to take us aback to the merits of alms today, to the merits of social service and the merits of humanitarian work done for others to give us standing before God. These things are good, they are splendid, they are very necessary; but, O, they come a million worlds from giving salvation.
“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
“To hear the things that are commanded thee of God.” This is the attitude which God expects us to take when He is speaking. The human heart has no natural reverence. It knows how to kowtow and salaam that which is mightier and bigger, but real reverence comes from humility, from a spiritual sense of real unworthiness in the presence of the majesty of God. The dull dark fear of heathenism knows nothing of reverence. Reverence is more like the feeling of the sublime that comes to a man in a mountain pass who suddenly comes to a full view of the great stretching canyon below where tons of water belch and roar thousands of feet beneath his path, and looking up to great forests of pine, he catches a full view of the high snow-covered mountain peak. Thoughts sweep through his brain, emotions surge through his heart at the bigness and grandeur of it all. Until the Holy Spirit comes within the heart the spirit never feels these things about God, though the natural heart may feel them concerning the works, mighty works of God’s hand.
O, for such a vision to fall on the spirits of men, coming from a deep sense of the reality, the vastness of God and His attributes. Then they would hear what He would say. Then they could “be still and know” that He is God, and that great glorious KNOW would mark them out and color their lives and light up their beings, showing men that they had met and walked and talked with God.
“I perceive.” Poor Peter, blinded as we are blinded, by race prejudice, finally gets out these words, “I perceive.” God had to bring a vision to him through a special sleep to get these two words to come from his lips, “I perceive.” The heathen are out there in the dark—millions who have never heard the name of Jesus; but, O, the thousands and thousands of Christians who could not truly say, “I perceive.” Would that they might perceive that Jesus died for every man, that ours is the task of letting every man know the world around.
“And shewed him openly.” Listen to Peter tell the story of this Man of Nazareth who was God of heaven, hanging on a tree where He put away sin, raised again from the dead with life-giving power for those who receive Him. Peter and others were chosen witnesses to see this manifestation of Jesus after He was dead. Peter says, “Who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.”
Since He is the conqueror of death; since He is the One who put away sin; since He is both man and God; since He is the new creation, the last Adam, the head of the Church, He is to be the One who is to judge the quick and the dead. Peter so preaches Him to Cornelius and his company.
He was shown openly, was this glorious Lord, to men specially chosen as witnesses that others might believe. For this specific purpose was He shown openly, that men might believe through the mouth of these witnesses. The earth has refused to accept the testimony of these witnesses, and the next time He is shown it will be openly in judgment of the nations at the brightness of His coming. The antichrist will die, the devil will be chained. He is coming “with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all,” to stop the mouths of blasphemers, to stop the tongues of contradictors, of wranglers, of murmurers against His plans and His purposes. Those who have denied His return to this earth and have scoffed at it, and have denied Him as Lord and Saviour will cry for the rocks and the hills to fall on them and hide them from His presence. He will not always be “God away yonder” to this old world; but He is to be here shown openly on the throne of power. “Every eye shall see Him.”
“As well as we.” Paul declares later that there is no difference in this Body of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free. When men believe this story of redeeming love, of the shed blood of this risen Lord, they are baptized into one Body by the Holy Ghost, they are made partakers with Jesus Christ, joint-heirs, members one of another, a new creation entirely, the old Adam creation put away on the cross, the new creation of Christ, created anew in Him. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation”—yes Jew and Gentile alike, “as well as we.”