Acts 1: 6-11; 2: 22-24, 30-36
2 Corinthians 11: 1-4
In these two passages in the book of the Acts I desire to link together the distinct references to “this Jesus”, and that we might, each of us - and I include myself - consider how we are in relation to “this Jesus”; this blessed One so spoken of. It is not that there is any other, but it is evidently One known, spoken about, indeed, in a certain way, but someone known. Do you know Him, Jesus the Nazaræan? I wonder if there might be anyone here who might say ‘I thought He had died’? He did die but He is not dead now, He is living! He is alive from the dead. This Jesus.
I want to speak first of chapter 2. There are things that are spoken of there that are quite within the range of all here but I will speak first of all of the name of Jesus; that is His name. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus”, it was said before He was born; “for he shall save his people from their sins”, Matt 1: 21. The name Jesus means ‘Jah the Saviour’; that is, the eternal One, come into manhood to be our Saviour. I do not apologise in a company like this for asking, does everyone here know Him, each for themselves, as Saviour? Do you? He is living, He is a Saviour now; it was not only about 2,000 years ago when He offered Himself without spot to God. The work was done then certainly. He gave Himself even to death to deal with the sins of those who trust in Him, to remove sin from God’s universe as He will finally do, and to put an end to man according to Adam’s race, sinful and hateful towards God as you and I have been. So do you know Jesus, the One who came this way? He is available to you, dear friend, and when I say that you can speak to Him where you are, it is just as the prophet said of old, “call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah”, Isa 55: 6, 7. If you are going to call on the name of Jesus you will realise immediately that you must acknowledge that you have sinned against God, but whoever comes through Christ can find salvation for now and for eternity. This Jesus - He came into the world for you, dear friend, to save sinners, as the apostle Paul could say (and truly, I believe) “of whom I am the first”, 1 Tim 1: 15. Who of us would have put ourselves first in that list? Then “this Jesus” I think refers to verse 22 - “Jesus the Nazaræan”. Oh, you say that when you speak about Jesus nobody wants to hear, nobody wants to listen. You are in a company now who want to listen to what is said about Jesus. There is blessing in that in itself, but He was rejected by the world. He would always speak the truth; He could do nothing else, the Holy One of God. But Jesus the Nazaræan was here, and as it says in that verse, He went about in a way which brought in the proof that God was with Him; because people who had been ill for a long time got cured by the touch or by the word of Jesus. Have you seen power like that in any other man? I call your attention to “this Jesus”, so that you might know Him for yourself. Your father may read the Bible in the morning, and he sometimes reads about Jesus; listen to all you can hear, dear friend, and listen especially about Jesus and what He has done for God. He was borne witness to, that is to say that there was proof present by things that happened that it was Jesus come from God as a Saviour, and these works of power were to bring the conviction, the testimony, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their offences”, 2 Cor 5: 19. You may admit that you have some offences, that you have been a sinner: you perhaps would not like to tell others about your course. Well, dear friend, you can tell God about it. If you speak to Jesus you do not need to speak aloud, if you say something to Him in your heart. He will hear you immediately and I think He will answer. You might not have the answer immediately but I am sure He will answer.
Now Jesus the Nazaræan was “a man borne witness to by God ... by works of power and wonders and signs”. Why did people not believe on Him? He was so different. He certainly was different but He was always obedient to the commandment of His Father. Have you a child in your household like that, never turning aside from the word of its father? Jesus was perfect in that. That is the reason why He was the only One who could offer Himself to God for our sins, to bear the judgment, to set us free and to cause that God should be righteous in doing it. There was one spotless Man, perfect and sinless, who could be offered to God, and He offered Himself when He died on the cross - suffered and died - and the work He has accomplished then in going into death and rising again is a complete work by which we who repent can draw near to God.
And so Peter the apostle, in preaching, speaks of these “works of power and wonders and signs, which God wrought by him in your midst, as yourselves know”. Well, dear friend, you may say that you were not there. Well, if you are in any doubt, I point you to the witnesses that are present here who have known that the power of faith in Jesus where He now is has set us free from the power of sin, has caused us to know that God receives us through Christ and every charge is removed. How wonderful to know that! I wonder if you are among those who can say that you stand clear in the presence of God through faith in the finished work and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe that “this Jesus” includes what is said in the next verse that He was “given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” and “ye, by the hand of lawless men, have crucified and slain.” Oh, dear friend, that is the reason why my outlook on this world is different to what it was, because “this Jesus” whom I know and love, and whom I know is in the presence of God for me, has been crucified and slain here in this world. And with it was the mocking and scourging and insults and the ridicule of the Saviour. “He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb is dumb in presence of him that shears him, thus he opens not his mouth”, Acts 8: 32. Dear friend, if you are not saved yet, I present Jesus to you. He opened not His mouth, but hid not His face from shame and spitting (Isa 50: 6), and went the whole way in suffering not only from men but from God when He bore the awful judgment of God in darkness on the cross. And He exhausted it and said, “It is finished”, John 19: 30. Now I know He said ‘It is finished’ before the end of His period on the cross, but the judgment was borne already while of course it was necessary that His blood should be shed and that He should be buried, having died when He delivered up His spirit.
So this world is different to me now because “this Jesus” has been by the hand of lawless men crucified and slain. If I had been there I would have had part in it but thank God through His mercy He has given light into my soul - and yours, dear friend, if you receive it now. The work is finished; it is whether you will keep your sins or not, whether you prefer them. You will not prefer them at the judgment seat of God but now is the opportunity - we cannot promise you tomorrow. The apostle goes on in verse 32 to say, “This Jesus has God raised up, whereof all we are witnesses.” Who was that? Well, it was the twelve apostles at least. You may wonder at the suggestion or authority behind what I am saying. I trust you realise it, but it is not from me: it is from God’s word. The fact is that these twelve men saw Jesus living, alive from among the dead. I believe God’s testimony, as it is written down in the word of God, and the apostle Paul, in another place (1 Cor 15: 6), says that he was seen by above five hundred brethren at one time - is that enough witness for you, dear friend? I present the testimony of God concerning the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. “This Jesus has God raised up, whereof all we are witnesses. Having therefore been exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which ye behold and hear”, v 32, 33. The consequence of the Lord Jesus having been raised up and glorified is that the Holy Spirit has come. He is not seen; Jesus was seen. The apostle John says of the manhood of Jesus, “that which we contemplated, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life; (and the life has been manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us:) that which we have seen and heard we report to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us”, 1 John 1: 1-3. What testimony there is; undeniable testimony to the raising and glorifying of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the marvellous happening of the Holy Spirit coming, in the presence of a gathered company, and sitting upon each one of them, Acts 2: 3. Wonderful thing! And that has made a difference to men and women and young people ever since. But the apostle goes on referring to the difference between “this Jesus” and David (to whom he has referred as the patriarch and a prophet): David had not ascended into the heavens but he himself says “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I have put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet”. Jesus is there in the presence of God at the right hand of power; and it is but a short time, I believe, until what is said in this verse will be fulfilled, that God will put His enemies to be the footstool of His feet. What a prospect for believers that the One whom we love, the One whom we desire to honour, the One we desire to serve, though He is despised here in the world, will very soon be honoured universally. May we really treasure in our hearts that wonderful day!
In chapter 1 of the Acts, I wanted to refer to the reality of what is written concerning the actual ascension of the Lord Jesus to glory. The two men in white clothing stood by the apostles and spoke to them and said “this Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him going into heaven”. These were not prominent men in this world. These men of Galilee were a despised people. They had taken their place alongside of Jesus in reproach, they accepted that prominence in the world was not for them, but that they would identify with a despised Jesus. But this blessed One spoken of, who is taken up, the Lord Jesus, spoke to them. Just think about this, dear friends. Here is a Man who had been known, “this Jesus” had been known to the apostles; they had gathered with Him in Jerusalem, they had gathered with Him in Galilee. They had been there when crowds had been present, they had been there when He healed people, some of them were there when He raised one and another from being dead to living. It is recorded for the faith of your soul, the fact that Jesus raised from the dead a man who had been four days in that condition, John 11: 39-44. Jesus stood with the eleven apostles and it says He spoke to them. He was saying, “ye will receive power, the Holy Spirit having come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. And having said these things he was taken up”. Have you thought about it? The true Jesus, the real Man, this Jesus, was carried up into heaven - “He was taken up, they beholding him, and a cloud received him out of their sight”. God has given to us the testimony of His word and the witness of those who were present, and it is irrefutable that Jesus is now living in the presence of God, received up in glory. The two men who stand by in white clothing say, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him going into heaven.”
Now, the Lord Jesus in certainly going to come, and He is going to come to this very earth. I think I am right in saying that this passage is not exactly referring to the time when He comes to take the whole assembly to be with Himself. That will be a wonderful time, but He will not then come to the earth, but later when He comes to reign - when He comes in glory with all who believe from the present dispensation, the assembly, the church of the first-born ones registered in heaven,. Will not our hearts be satisfied then? Will not the joy be full for believers? If there are any here who are uncertain or undecided or hesitant about reproach or how their life will turn out if they do this or that, commit it to God and have faith in God. Jesus is risen and ascended and is coming again, I cannot say how soon it may be. “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him going into heaven.” What about the present time?
I shall close with a reference to 2 Corinthians 11. We have here the rather unusual and remarkable expression “another Jesus”. There is no other person just like Jesus. He is unique. What is meant, I think, is another person who claims to represent Him. I believe that is the thought. Believers on the Lord Jesus are left here (we do not know for how long, as I have said) but they have a purpose and one of their principle occupations, one of their regular customs, is to gather together. Of course they also pray, of course they read the Bible, they value every word of God. The Lord Jesus told us to assemble and He set it on Himself by assembling His own round Him when He was here and teaching. He spoke about the time when He would no longer be here when those who loved Him were exhorted to gather together to His Name. He said, “For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them”, Matt 18: 20. So believers in the present time (I cannot say all) gather together and look for the Lord Jesus to be in the midst. It is the characteristic way of life for believers in Jesus glorified. We do not expect to see Him in a body of flesh and blood. He is no longer in it, He was sinless in it, but He is not in it now, He is in a glorified condition. But He comes, I may say He comes in Spirit, but He comes really and He speaks. I have known what it is. God has set believers together all over the world. I could not say in every country, because I do not know, but all over the world in companies like this place Corinth. This was a company where believers had been allowing all sorts of wrong things amongst them. The apostle Paul had authority from the Lord Jesus directly to speak about it and he spoke with that authority.
Now it so happened, evidently from this chapter, that there were others coming who did not have the same authority. They were preaching and presenting Jesus in another way from Paul. Paul says, if that was so, if indeed he that comes, (that is, the rival to Christ in Corinth) preaches another Jesus, whom Paul had not preached, or they got a different Spirit which they had not got, or a different glad tidings which they had not received; if it was true they might well bear with it, but it was not. It was not the true Jesus that was being presented by these other preachers. The reference in verse 3 of this chapter suggests that human thoughts had corrupted, or were being used to attempt to corrupt, the saints of God in Corinth. “I fear” says Paul “lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craft, so your thoughts should be corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ”.
Now my message from these verses is this. Satan is out to destroy what the Lord Jesus has here on the earth at the present time, but he may not do it by using straight-forward external attack. He may not use a man to say, ‘I have no time for this’, or to say, ‘I do not believe this’. Everybody would realise how wrong it was; but what had happened was that a different kind of man had been presented through the preachers in Corinth. Now the preaching of Paul called attention to one Man, that is what he said, “I have espoused you unto one man, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ.” Dear fellow-believer, do you realise the objective of the Lord Jesus in giving such a mission to the apostle Paul (his writings are included in the inspired holy Scriptures) with such a character that he could say, “For I am jealous as to you with a jealousy which is of God; for I have espoused you unto one man, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ”? I think simply what it meant was that there were preachers in Corinth who were calling attention to themselves, whether it was how well they could preach or how much they knew, or that there was ‘this fresh point that I have had light about and which others will come round to a bit later’. I almost hesitate to speak of it like that, but that is how it suggests itself to me. Paul was jealous for the believers in the assembly, with a jealousy which was from God because he had espoused them to one Man to present them a chaste virgin to Christ.
So there is not another Jesus, there is one Man. He is in the glory, He loves His assembly. You may ask me, ’what is the assembly?’ I will put it this way, a company of separated believers on the Lord Jesus, who have no part in this world because they accept His rejection, and are built together through affection for that blessed Man in the glory. Paul had espoused these saints in Corinth to that one Man. Now, I think because this passage does not refer in its figure to a marriage but to an espousal, what it means is that there should be now a strengthening of a bond of affection in the heart of every believer with Christ in the glory. That is how Paul had espoused the Corinthian saints to one Man. Do you have that bond with Jesus? Do you know that He is yours and you are His? It will keep you from many things if you do. It will keep you from the mind of man, keep you beside the lowly Jesus, the despised Jesus - not that He is despised in the circle of His own, but still despised publicly. So I leave this word with you, that I believe Paul was working so that there should be an unbreakable bond, strengthened and established in the souls of all the believers in Corinth that they should realise that they were committed exclusively to Christ in glory. No other had any prior claim. The marriage day is coming, the marriage day will be public but the espousal is in your heart and mine now, through divine service, through the inspired word, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. May our hearts be strengthened in bonds of attachment to the Man in the glory so that human minds bringing in foreign things that the word of God does not support, are rejected, so that our thoughts are not, by craft, corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ.
Let us therefore freshly commit ourselves to this. We need divine help, we can call upon the Holy Spirit for help and guidance, and upon our Saviour and Lord Himself in heaven; He is available. The Lord said when He was about to ascend, “All power has been given me in heaven and upon earth”, Matt 28: 18. There is power to answer your prayer, dear fellow believer, if you desire that your thoughts should not be corrupted from simplicity as to the Christ. I think that this is very much linked with what the apostle Paul, and the apostle John also in his epistle, both of them speak of as to clinging to that which was from the beginning so that anything that is rival, whether through deceit or otherwise, should not corrupt our thoughts from simplicity as to the Christ.
Well it is for us each, I believe, beloved brethren, to attend diligently to seeking out the strengthening of our links of affection, bonds which are ours with Him for eternity, strengthening them through faith, through speaking to Him, through reading the word, so that we might for ourselves be guarded against anything that is rival in these last days. May we freshly, if never before, take ground publicly in the world as standing apart from the course of things here which has rejected our Lord Jesus Christ and commit ourselves with affection and energy in practical ways to the support and sharing of precious eternal things with other believers with whom we can walk together in fellowship in the places where we are set; for the Lord’s sake.
13th October 2007