The Release of the Lord # 1
Read: Isaiah 61:1-3; Lev. 25:10; Luke 12:49, 50; 4:18, 19; Acts 2:1
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."
"And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family."
"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."
The book which is known to us as "The Acts of the Apostles," and sometimes "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," might truly be named - The Release of Jesus Christ.
Luke introduces it with the observation that he had earlier written the beginnings of the acts and teaching of Jesus; implying that continuation is now his object and purpose. But what a change! The former activities were bounded and limited by time and space,and, at best, covered but a few square miles of Syrian soil. For the most part Omnipresence was in chains, except for a few breakings through of power at a distance. The activities and teaching were almost entirely limited to a people of one nation and tongue. Then, by outward urge, persuasion, and encouragement, He caused His wishes to be carried out; and to the dull minds of the spiritually unquickened He gave His spiritual treasures; explanations and reasons being necessary to confidence. Then, the necessity was laid upon Him of a very slow disillusionment and unfolding as to what form the end of the phase would take, because of the controlling personal interests, even in the inner circle. Pride, ambition, doubt, malice, self-assertiveness, self-confidence, self-realization, self-defense, like barber wires, circled around and wounded Him whenever He sought to move forward. Ever conscious from the beginning that world-dominion was His as "Heir of all things," yet He had not a place to lay His head, and to be "crucified through weakness" was to be His portion.
What a change! NOW He has shaken off all His chains. Time and space no longer have any power over Him. Geography, the material things, satan, demons, men, nations, thrones, all have been fully stripped off by Him. NOW, by an inward dynamic, in spite of every threat and peril, men and women are moving out in every direction with a passion for the glory of His Name. NOW, not as an historic figure, known after the flesh, but, by an inward revelation of transcendent magnitude, He is known after the Spirit. NOW, the once dreaded, unacceptable, offending Cross is all their glory. NOW, suffering reproach has supplanted pride; selfless, disinterested sacrifice takes the place of ambition; a mighty energizing faith - not their own - has destroyed doubt; they lay down their own lives gladly and suffer the loss of all things for that Name!
In one strategic stroke He begins with a multitude representing "every nation under heaven." See how this fire spreads without artificial and forced agencies.
In the year 33 A.D., a few Galilean fishermen were seeking liberty of speech in Jerusalem, and were severely handled as men poor and ignorant.
In the year that Paul died, how did the matter stand? There were churches in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, in Antioch and all Syria, in Galatia, in Ephesus, Sardis, Laodicea and throughout the west coast of lesser Asia, in Phillippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Rome, Alexandria, in the chief cities of the islands and the mainland of Greece, and the western Roman colonies.
A Sad Comparison
There are some significant omissions from this record of conquests. We never read of the organizing of a missionary campaign.
Such things as deputations, lecturers and lectures, exhibitions, appeals, advertisements, and so on, with all their cost and expenditure of time, money, energy, all to try to get Christians interested in the souls of the unsaved, are never hinted at. Any reporting of what God had done in the regions beyond was never by way of propaganda or advocacy. Statistics as mental stimulants; pathetic, tragic, sensational stories as emotional stimulants; urge and drive as volitional stimulants had no place here, so far as we can discern. The thing was firstly of the Spirit, not of the soul. The endeavor to reverse this order is undoubtedly the reason for a tremendous amount of the weakness and breakdown of today.
Speaking generally, this whole matter of the world-mission of the Church is on pre-resurrection ground today. The Lord is not straitened in Himself, but He is straitened in His people.
On the one hand, there is a need of workers, for almost half the human race is without the knowledge of Christ; and on the other hand workers are often ready to go forth, yet there are no means to send them. A third condition, almost more tragic, abounds, that of the spiritual breakdown of many who do go, so that 'converts' are not really and genuinely born from above with the Spirit of Sonship becoming truly resident within. Demon powers persist in dominion and challenge. A policy of slow absorption of 'Christianity', through education, familiarization, and so on, as a compromise between failure to work upon the basis of genuine regeneration and an honest acknowledgement of the same with its practical implications, has been adopted. Finally there are the many who return home with lost assurance.
Surely all this stands in direct contrast to the spirit and experience of the New Testament. It is not difficult to go on at great length making distinctions between the two standards, that of the New Testament and that which has largely been since, but the more important things is to display the secrets of that former glory.
We are convinced that He Who is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever," desires to have, and can have, His work on the same plane to the end of the age, and that in some parts of the world it is happening in a way very similar to the early days.
Here then begins an inquiry into the nature of the work of the risen Lord in "the Church, which is His body."
We ask, first of all, is there any phrase which embodies the conception, the motive, and the dynamic of this spontaneous world-conquest at its beginning?
(continued with # 2)