A Study Of Acts 17:6

“These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”
(Acts 17:6)

These words were spoken of Paul and Silas after having preached three sabbath days in the synagogue at Thessalonica. Paul’s preaching was exceeding troublesome. Acts 16:20. The doctrine of Christ when proclaimed by his chosen ministers is always offensive to the world and its different sects of carnal worshipers. It turns Arminianism upside down. As long as a man’s preaching leaves the world right side up, we know that he has not preached the gospel of Christ. A gospel without a stumbling-block is a gospel without Christ. Those whose preaching does not turn the world upside down, have never been turned upside down themselves; and those who have not been turned upside down, have never been called by grace; for a call by grace always turns a man upside down. It had this effect on Paul.

The religion of Jesus Christ is contrary to nature. Christ was put to death on a cross. Arminianism teaches that God is the Father of all mankind, and as such deals with all men as his children. They even came face to face with the Lord Jesus with this pernicious doctrine, saying, “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” John 8:41. But the Saviour silenced their presumptuous blasphemy with the cutting rebuke, “If God were your father, ye would love me.” “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” John 8:44.

This same generation of Satan are in the world today, under a cloak of carnal religion, denying that they are born of fornication, and claiming one father, even God. And nothing is more tormenting to them than to point to their true parentage, as did the Saviour. These same teachers of the world hold forth a Saviour who has left the shining courts of his Father’s glory, and came to this low ground of sin and sorrow, suffered and died the ignominious death of the cross, to do men’s wills; for they say he will save them if they will. But the word of eternal truth turns this upside down, and hurls it back into the bottomless pit of human lies, and declares that he came down from heaven, not even to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him. John 6:38. Our Saviour was no Arminian; for he came not to do his own will. Neither are his brethren Arminians. For in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren.

These same soothsayers teach that Christ, as an offering for sin, is made to man, and man is moved and coaxed by the Spirit and bride to accept him. They call themselves the bride, and exhort their hearers not to resist the Spirit, for fear it may take its everlasting flight. But the inspired record turns this upside down, and discovers Satan under it, the father of lies, and lets us know that Jesus through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, and by that one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Offerings for sin are made to God, and to God alone. Christ as an offering for sin is not made to us. They also teach that Christ is held forth in what they call “the general tender of the gospel,” and that we must believe in him in order to be saved, and that we believe according to our own free will. But the inspired Scripture, that fatal touchstone of the world’s religion, meets this doctrine of infidelity, and turns it upside down; declaring that we “believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” Eph.1:19,20.

When men came to Christ wanting to work the works of God, he told them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28,29. They say, We believe according to our own free will. Christ says, We believe according to the workings of the mighty power of God. They say, It is man’s work to believe. Christ says, It is the work of God. Which is right? These same “towerbuilders” teach that all men can come to Christ; but the Saviour said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” John 7:44. Here they give the Saviour the lie, and yet pretend to love and obey him. They further teach that it is God’s will to have all men come to Christ and be saved, and that it is God’s purpose and pleasure to save them if they will but come; “If they will only fall in with the overtures of mercy, and be saved upon the easy and equitable terms of the gospel, before it is finally and everlastingly too late.” But the Saviour turns this upside down, and reveals their refuge of lies, and tells us that all that the Father giveth him shall come to him. Never can one that God has given to Christ stay away. God will make them come. Christ says, “Ye will not come unto me;” and, “No man can come.” Men will not come, cannot come. And “will not” and “cannot” is a double not, which nothing but the finger of God can untie. With men these things are impossible; but with God all things are possible.

These same “waymakers” teach a broad and easy way which all men can find, because they claim to clearly point it out; and that all men can and may walk therein. They would like to prove that our Saviour lied when he said, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” I do not dispute their claim to the “broad way,” but only deny that it leads to life. For, “broad is the way that leads to death, and many there be that go in thereat.” These same “encompassers” of sea and land must have a universal religion. Their prayer is that the world may be converted to Christ. They are of the world, and pray for the world. But the Saviour was not of the world, and declared that he prayed not for the world. John 17:9. Their prayers are not modeled after Christ’s, but after “vain repetitions of the heathen,” which Christ commands his disciples not to use. How long have their joint petitions gone up for “every house to become a house of prayer, and every heart a fit temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?” Has this prayer ever been answered? If it should be, could the Scriptures be fulfilled? The fact that this is not answered is evidence that it was never promised, and the asking is proved to be amiss.

Again, these learned Rabbis of modern theology teach that “men are not the sheep of Christ because they believe not.” But Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, whose own the sheep are, turns this upside down, and exposes their learned ignorance of the true God and his grace, and says, “Ye believe not because ye are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:26. Men believe because they are the sheep of Christ; not to make them sheep. In the same way which they call “proclaiming life and salvation,” they teach that as many as believe, are ordained to eternal life. But the eternal record destroys this refuge of lies, and reveals the glorious truth of God’s predestinating grace, and says, “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Acts 13:48. If you wish to arrive at the truth, always reverse Arminianism. Again, these will-worshiping idolaters claim that by their teaching, accompanied by the persuasive influence of the Spirit, men are brought to a knowledge of the truth, and then can be saved by laying hold of offered mercy. But the Scriptures turn this upside down, and tell us that God will have men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. I Tim.2:4. The Scriptures teach, first, saved, and then a knowledge of the truth. Men teach, first, a knowledge of the truth, and then a probable salvation. They have Sunday Schools, Tract Societies, money systems, and a hundred other inventions unauthorized by the word of God, to forward this work of teaching what they call the religion of Jesus Christ. But the Scriptures turn this upside down, and show it to be the commandments and traditions of men. “They shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Heb.8:11. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.” John 6:45. This is the teaching that brings men to Christ. It brings all who are taught. Christ says, “Every one that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.” There is no failure here. When a poor sinner is taught of the Lord; when Christ, the true light, is revealed in him, he denies himself, and learns to touch not, taste not, handle not, the commandments and traditions of men, because with him they all perish with the using.

Again, these “Doctors of Divinity” teach that all men are called by the gospel and the Spirit, and can be saved if they will only yield to the influence of the Spirit, and obey what they call the gospel, and keep the commandments. But our Saviour has stopped their mouths again; for he declares that the world cannot receive the Spirit, which he sends to comfort his children. John 14:17. The apostle says, “Who hath saved us, and called us.” II Tim.1:9. Hence we are saved before we are called. If not, why does the word say so? “Sanctified by God the Father, preserved {or saved} in Jesus Christ, and called.” Jude 1. But the salvation that men preach is after the call. Then it is plain that their call and salvation are not the call and salvation of our God. Their call is not only before their salvation, but it is immensely broader; for they say that all men are called, and but few saved. But the call of our God is not so. The promise is to all that are called. “For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off; even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:39. This promise is to “as many,” not to all. Again, “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” I Cor.1:26. Somebody is left out of this call. But why do we reason? For hath not the apostle said, “Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate;” “and whom he did predestinate, them he also called?” Rom.7:29,30. Here we see that the call of our God is limited by his predestination, coupled with his eternal foreknowledge.

Thus we see that their doctrine of infidelity is turned upside down by God’s own words, and the foundation thereof discovered to be human ingenuity and craftiness, speculation being the chief corner-stone. These same atheistic teachers preach that God begins the work in all men, but carries it on in but few, and that thousands who are awakened and moved by the Spirit, die in their sins, and sink into the torment of an ever burning hell. This is mighty poor grace, and a very unsuccessful and sadly disappointed Spirit; but we feel sure that it is neither the grace nor the Spirit of our God; for we are assured in his word that his grace “reigns through righteousness unto everlasting life.” Rom.5:21. It reigns through righteousness; does not fail through weakness. And when our God begins a good work in a creature, he “performs it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil.1:6. And what our God doeth shall stand forever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it. Eccl.3:14. Thus, through the inspired Scriptures every phase of the doctrines of men is turned upside down, and their falsehoods brought to light.

These same master builders of the high places of Molech preach a faith that is the fruit of the creature, and man must exercise it. But Paul preached a faith that God is the author and finisher of; a faith that exercises the creature; that works by love and purifies the heart; a faith that is the gift of God; a faith that moved Noah to prepare an ark; a faith that threw down the walls of Jericho; a faith which translated Enoch; a faith which subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, works righteousness, and overcomes the world. This is not a faith that is the fruit of the creature, and exercised by man; but it is that faith by which we understand the world was framed; the faith of the Son of God.

These same evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, {II Tim.3:13,} and preach a birth of a spirit which can be produced or prevented by man; a birth without a begetting, without a travail, and brings forth something that can be annihilated, or cease to exist, by the disobedience of the creature, and regain the condition occupied before birth. They call this “being born of God.” Now, this is not only contradicted by the word of truth, but there is not a syllable of common sense or reason in it. There are laws of birth, and without these a birth is impossible. First, the existence of life or seed in the parent; second, a begetting; and third, travail, or bringing to light and manifestation the being whose life had its existence in the parent. And this being can never pass back into that state again. The Scriptures inform us that we are born of God. How can this be, except our life was in God, and of the same nature as God? Before this birth of the Spirit, there must be a begetting; and James informs us that God of his own will begat us. James 1:18. And if begotten of the Spirit, we are bound to be born. For God says, “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?” Isa.66:9.

These same gainsayers of Korah preach that in infancy we are all the children of God; but when we cross the line of accountability, if we do good God will still love us; and if we disobey, he will hate us, and we will cease to be his children, and become the children of the wicked one. This line of accountability, of which they preach so much, I can never understand, as there is no such thing intimated in the Scriptures of divine truth. But the word of God turns this upside down, and discloses ignorance, superstition and human imagination, as its foundation. These words of eternal truth forever settle the question with all lovers of the truth. “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Rom.9:11-13. If this Scripture read in this way, The children being both born, and having crossed the line of accountability, one did good and another evil, that salvation by works might stand, it was said unto her, Jacob I love, but Esau I hate; then the Scriptures would not have to be revised to meet the demands of the present age; neither would the Arminian clergy have to dodge the word, as they do. But our God does not have to wait for the birth of the creature, to fix his choice; but his sovereign, electing love fixes on the object before its birth, before it does good or evil, even before it is in a capacity for doing good or evil. The eternal choice of our God was made not only before the birth of the objects embraced therein, but was made in Christ before the foundation of the world, and sealed by his immutable decree of predestination; and the foundation thereof standeth sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

Dear kindred in Christ, it is in much weakness that I have tried to notice a few of the most prominent points in which the doctrine of our Saviour turns the world upside down. If all the points of difference were noticed and compared, I suppose the world itself would not contain the books that should be written. I am young and ignorant, but I hope that the grace which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto me, and through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus my Saviour, I hope to stand accepted in the Beloved, with all the redeemed family.


From Signs of the Times – Jan 15, 1884

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