A Study of Acts 2:47
“…And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”
It is very important to you and I, who have never dying souls, (and that is all of us) to know whether the work of the Lord Jesus Christ was satisfying to His heavenly Father, and to all that the law required of Him. If, in any particular, that was not so, then we would have no gospel to preach, and there would be no prospect of heaven, whatsoever.
How may we know that the work of our Lord Jesus Christ was indeed, and is indeed, satisfactory?
When I use that word ‘satisfactory’, I do not mean something mediocre. I mean something satisfying – completely satisfying to almighty God. We have many proofs of it. One proof, of course, is that when the dear Saviour died, His soul immediately went into the presence of His heavenly Father. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” Had His work not been finished, or done satisfactorily, then His holy, human soul would not have found a resting place in the peaceful bosom of His heavenly Father.
Again, at the same time as His holy soul fled into that peaceful repose, we read: “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” In other words, a door was opened that had been shut through all the Old Testament generations; a way into the holiest of all was made manifest by the blood of Jesus.
Again; the tomb is no longer filled. His holy body did lay there, but it did not see corruption, as we read in this very chapter. On the third day, as He had said, He rose again. Had the law not been satisfied with what had been done, then the grave would have retained Him. But it could not retain Him; it could not contain Him any longer. He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” His raising again is the vindication that God is well-pleased – satisfied – and the law completely satisfied with what was done in the life, the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ.
Another witness, of course, is that, when He ascended on high “He was received up into heaven.” And though we cannot, nor could the disciples, (though they were gazing up into heaven), penetrate what took place when the Man Christ Jesus was received into heaven, we know, from the Word of God, that those words in Psalm 24 were fulfilled: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”
What a day that must have been in heaven when angels, seraphims, cherubims and all the spirits of just men made perfect who had gone before; when that vast, innumerable congregation must have welcomed the triumphant Saviour as He came to take His throne!
Oh, what a day it must have been!
But now, in our chapter this evening, we have another evidence that the work that Jesus did was so satisfying to His heavenly Father. There was now to be that word fulfilled:
“He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.”
The event that our text proceeds from is what is called “the day of Pentecost.” The day of Pentecost was the day when the Holy Ghost was given in an abundant measure. We must be careful; we do not suggest that the Holy Ghost had not been present in the Old Testament – He certainly had. He was present in Genesis 1; we read, “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” So He was present then.
Wasn’t He present in David’s heart, in Psalm 51?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
David knew the Holy Spirit.
And is there not that beautiful promise in the prophets?
“My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.”
So, yes, He was present in the Old Testament Church, but not to the degree, or to the extent that now was to be manifest. As the Holy Ghost came as that mighty wind, and as those cloven tongues of fire descended upon each of those apostles, so they were filled with new powers, new energy, new light, new love and new life. They spake with other tongues and with other languages. And that was for the quick proclamation of the gospel in other lands to which they were going to be sent.
It was a wonderful evidence that Jesus Christ had indeed suffered, bled and died, and done all that was required of Him in that holy work to which He was called and ordained, and which He willingly undertook.
How thankful we should be for this!
For, if it were not so, there would be no gospel to preach, and there would be no salvation to proclaim.
But, we must come one step further. What I have said to you is out of God’s Holy Word, it is recorded there. These things are among the infallible proofs of which the Word of God speaks.
But, dear friends, have you got an infallible proof that Jesus has suffered, bled and died, and is risen again and ascended on high?
“Awake, sweet gratitude, and sing
The ascended Saviour‟s love;
Sing how He lives to carry on
His people’s cause above.”
If He is carrying on your cause above, then He is carrying on your cause here below, as well.
Now, how many here tonight can say that?
How many can say: “Yes, I now have my own witness to it that what our Lord did was indeed satisfying.”?
In other words, it comes to that question we sing in one of our hymns:
“Am I quickened by His Spirit;
Live a life of faith and prayer?
Trusting wholly to His merit;
Casting on Him all my care?
In His likeness to appear?”
That one verse describes one in whom the Holy Ghost is at work. That is the religion the Holy Ghost creates and works in the heart. And those who have that witness have their own certificate, as it were; their own testimony that Jesus Christ lives in heaven above, and that the Holy Ghost is living within them, while here below.
What a testimony!
Friends, do not rest short of it. Your testimony must not just be: ‟I am a Strict Baptist,” or ‟I attend chapel regularly,” or ‟I have got godly parents,” or ‟I have been to Sabbath School.”
All those things are good in their place. But you need the unerring, infallible witness of God the Holy Ghost. Never was the Holy Ghost more needed than in our generation. We read in this chapter of an “untoward generation.” And they were. But God had a people among them. And that is what is needed in our generation.
Oh, to be among them!
But now, we read in our text, “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”
It comes at the end of this wonderful day of Pentecost when three thousand souls were wrought upon by the Holy Ghost. Three thousand souls were brought to repentance and forgiveness of sins; brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ for themselves. Three thousand souls underwent the ordinance of Believers Baptism, and three thousand souls were enrolled in the Church on that memorable day. And I want, with God’s help, to trace out this matter. For we have a very precious statement here; something that is still going on. “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”
What was the means the Lord used?
First and foremost, the Holy Ghost, and, secondly, the ministry of the Word. They are the two great means that God has ordained.
First of all, His blessed Holy Spirit, without whom there could be no life, no power and no authority in the ministry. And then: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
You will notice the character of the preaching of Peter and the apostles. First of all, they relied much on Scripture. Several Old Testament Scriptures are quoted here, in this chapter. That is the foundation of all gospel preaching. “Preach the Word.” Not “preach opinions.” Not “preach other men’s opinions.” Not borrow out of commentaries or good books (although they are right in their place.) We are to “preach the Word.”
May Old Baptist Chapel ever be the place where the Word is preached.
It is a sign of decline in any Church, when the Word ceases to have the pre-eminence in worship. Ever since I have been the pastor here, I have tried, in my little way, to emphasize that all that takes place within these walls must have that as its foundation. And so it must. We have no authority for any other, than to “preach the Word.”
Secondly, you will notice that they testified, without any hesitation, of the Godhead, the holy humanity, the suffering and the rising again of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In one sense, it was a very simple message they were sent to give. It was a blessed unfolding, relating and retelling of the glad tidings of the coming Saviour. And the Lord blessed that preaching. It was personal preaching.
You say: “What do you mean by personal preaching?”
I mean, friends, they laid it home to the souls, in a personal way.
They said, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ: “Ye have crucified Him.”
You say: “But we haven’t crucified Him.”
Well, in one sense, no. It was not our nation that took the nails and nailed Him to the tree – that is quite true. But, in another sense, we did. Our sins – they nailed Him to the tree – be sure of it. We all had a part in that crucifixion. Whether it be a saving part, eventually, or a part to our solemn condemnation – that we leave in God’s sovereign hand. God alone knows. But we are as culpable, and as guilty as the sinners in Jerusalem who literally nailed the Saviour to the tree. Let us not think that the Jews are worse sinners than we are. We are as guilty, if not more so.
Also, the apostles did not neglect to proclaim a precious Christ, preaching of repentance – which is so vital – believing in the name of our Lord Jesus, and that, also, there should be an order in the Church, of which I want to speak in a moment.
“And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”
We will just take this verse, this evening, and I will draw, with God’s help, some principles from it. The first thing I want to say is this. It does not say that Peter, or any of the other apostles, added to the Church. Friends, no apostle, no minister can really do that. If we make our own converts, then they will soon prove to be not the Lord’s.
There was a godly man who laboured, I believe in Haslingden, many, many years ago, in one of the poorer areas of the town. As he was going along the street one Saturday evening, he saw one of his members rolling drunk in the ditch. A passer-by said: “Ah! there is one of your converts.”
The minister said: “Yes. It is evidently so, for if he were the Lord’s, he wouldn’t be rolling there, drunk, in the ditch, after having made such a profession of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dear friends, although God’s dear people prove daily they need to be kept, how we do need to be the Lord’s converts, and not man’s!
Oh, that it might be the Lord who adds to this Church!
Not the pastor; not the deacons; not members; not anyone else.
If the Lord adds, it will be rightly done. If man adds, it will be what Ezekiel calls: “untempered mortar.” “Untempered mortar” is that that falls away when it dries out. It does not stay, it does not stick, it does not adhere. There is plenty of “untempered mortar” around in our day. May we be kept from it. So it was not Paul, nor Peter, nor anyone else; it was the Lord that added to the Church. It was the Lord’s work.
Secondly, what are we to understand by the word “Church”?
If you were to be asked what it means, would you know the answer?
Of course, the name “church” has now grown to mean a building. We speak of St Andrew’s Church, for example, down the road, or St Paul’s, in the other direction. And some would even call this building a church. Friends, in the New Testament language, that is not so. The Church, in God’s account, is the spiritual building. So it is, wherever God gathers together a group of believers, made so by the Holy Ghost. There you see a part of the Church of God.
A Church of God may have a building to meet in, or it may not. Indeed, you realise, in this very chapter, that they had no building, as such. They were not welcome in the synagogue, nor in the temple, so they met from house to house. That is how it began. The word “Church” is a spiritual word. It is to do with the members of Christ’s mystical body – another name for the Church. They are those that are being built up in a spiritual building, “Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone.” Stone by stone, He makes His building grow. And He is still making it grow, blessed be His holy name, although, in our generation, it seems to be growing much more slowly than in other generations.
Sometimes we wonder whether it is growing at all, but it is still growing. The Lord is still adding, although we do not see so much of it here, or in our nation, as we did in generations past.
But oh! may He not cease to add to us here.
It is my desire, and it is a concern to me, as your pastor, that, in the outward sense, we have not seen any adding to our little Church for some while. It raises many questions about our ministry.
Is it faithful enough?
Are we burdened enough?
Are we exercised enough, that the Lord should add to His Church here?
For if He doesn’t add, it will die.
We need the Lord to add, don’t we?
“The Lord added to the Church daily.”
The word “Church” has two meanings, here.
First of all, it is the body of Christ, and secondly, it is the outward gathering of God’s dear people.
So, as I look upon this congregation here tonight, (and I bless God it is not for me to draw the distinction, because I’d be sure to make a mistake, either way), the Lord knows, this evening hour, who are members of His Church. I am not talking about those that have been baptized, at the moment; I am speaking about those who are born again of the Spirit; those who have been quickened into divine life; those who have been wrought upon by the same blessed Spirit as we read of in this chapter.
“The Lord knoweth them that are His,” He knows them that are in His living Church and He loves them. He has loved them with an everlasting love, He has bought them with His precious blood, He has sanctified them by His Spirit. They are His eternally – a favoured people.
Would to God it were all of us here tonight!
It would be a wonderful mercy if, in that great day, when God calls to His right hand His Church, all the congregation of Old Baptist Chapel were called to His right hand. Not because we were members of the Old Baptist Chapel congregation. No. But because we have been loved with an everlasting love, and born again by the quickening power of His spirit, and washed in His precious blood. That would be the reason, if it was so, and no other. But may it be so – if it could please almighty God – may it be so.
We sometimes sing:
“But can I bear the piercing thought:
What if my name should be left out,
When Thou for them shalt call?”
(Lady Huntingdon’s Collection, 1774)
Friends, sometimes the pastor has a piercing thought: that one or another to whom he has been preaching, perhaps for many years, might at last be left out.
Think of it!
It is a solemn responsibility to proclaim the truth before you. It would be a solemn thing to have preached to those who will be lost eternally.
Oh! Do lay this matter to heart, dear friend.
Are you among the people of God?
What evidences have you that you have been joined to them by God?
The Word of God speaks of it as being “grafted in.” When a graft takes place there is a bud taken from another tree. It is grafted in; it is placed under the bark of that tree to which it is being grafted. An incision is made, and it is placed in that incision; it is bound up until the sap begins to work and rise up and join the two together. It is a living joint – not tied on with string. There are many professors tied to the living Church of God with strings of profession.
That is solemn, isn’t it?
Friends, are you livingly united to the Church of God?
Has God added you to it?
None of us are in the Church of God by nature – not one of us. We were born without God, without hope, without Christ, and without the Spirit. No living sap was rising up in our heart. There was no union with God, nor with His people.
We knew it, and we didn’t want it, did we?
But oh! what a mercy – that some of us humbly hope we are not deceived in – that God made a difference!
That blessed day came when we wanted to be united to Almighty God. We wanted to be united to His dear people. It was our chief desire to be found among them.
We wanted to be found in that blessed Word: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”
Can you trace out such a work in your heart?
Like Ruth, you said: “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
“That is what I want. Nothing less will do.”
“The Lord added to the Church;” added you to the Church.
Of course, in the secret purposes of God, the Lord has numbered His Church, even ere time began. But, in the experience of the Church, they are added, and will be so, until the last one of those elect vessels of mercy is added. Then the number will be complete. Time will end and be no more. Then, that vast congregation of the Church will be gathered at the right hand of God the Father, and the dear Son of God.
What a day that will be!
That day to be –
“…where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end,”
– that day when the Church of God, will be seen in all her glory (a reflected glory, of course).
There will be no divisions there; no misunderstandings about Church order there; no misunderstandings or grievances between the members there, or among any of that vast congregation. Perfect unity, perfect love and the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in His fulness.
What a gathering that will be!
But, while we are here below, it is the Lord’s order that, first, He should add His people to the Church, in the mystical sense. But, it is also the Lord’s revealed will that those who have been added to the Church, mystically, should be added to the Church, outwardly.
One must precede the other, in God’s order. That is the Lord’s revealed will. Those three thousand who were added to the Church, mystically, in this chapter, were then added to the Church, outwardly, professedly, and were not ashamed of that which God had wrought within them. That is the gospel order; that is why we contend for it.
“And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”
My next point is the character of those whom the Lord adds to His Church. “Such as should be saved.” This may seem a strange expression, at first. “Should be saved.”
Does that mean that they are worthy to be saved?
Does that mean they ought to be saved, because they are so good and so upright?
Have they lived such blameless lives that they have (as it were) a demand on God for salvation?
None of that, whatsoever.
Then, how is it they should be saved?
Let me give you three reasons why they should be saved.
First of all, because God has ordained this number.
We read in verse 39: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
“As many.” You read, in John 17, the same expression. “That He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.” In Romans 8 you read the same description. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Go into the book of the Revelation, and you read the same expression again. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” This “many” – we cannot number them, bless God we can’t. We are not meant to number them, only God can number them. But, what is certain, come they will. Added to the mystical Church they must be, because God has decreed it shall be so. Oh! that beautiful word in John 6: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Secondly. Why should they be saved?
Because, dear friends, these are a people wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost does a sure work. When He begins, He carries on.
“The work begun is carried on,
Nor hell can it deface;
The whole elect with Christ are one
And must be saved by grace.”
Wherever the Holy Ghost has begun that blessed work, it is assuredly true that one is being joined and added to the living Church of God.
Oh, blessed work, this!
Oh that we might see more of it in our day within Old Baptist Chapel’s walls!
“Added to the Church” – joined to the Church by the work of the Holy Ghost. He takes them in their raw state.
What is their raw state?
Unbelieving, impenitent, worldly, carnal, lustful, ignorant, foolish, helpless, hopeless, dead spiritually, in love with the world, hating those things that God loves, and loving those things that God hates – abominable wretches. That is what we are, without the blessed Spirit.
When He comes He finds nothing (as it were) to entice Him to come in us; nothing to attract Him to our poor, dark, wretched heart. He comes because He will come. He comes because He is determined to come. He comes because, dear friends, it is the fruit of the suffering Saviour. That is why the Church should be saved. The precious price of the blood of Christ has been shed for them, and, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.”
Thirdly. Why should they be saved?
Because God has given a wonderful promise in this very chapter: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Why shall it come to pass?
God will bring it to pass.
What shall He bring to pass?
They shall “call on the name of the Lord.”
And what will be the effect of their calling upon the name of the Lord?
“They shall be saved.” This is the work of salvation. This is the work of the ministry, and every God-sent minister desires to see these “addings.”
“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
So we come to that word “saved.”
What does it mean?
What are we saved from?
And, what are we saved to?
Let’s begin where we ought to begin. First of all, we are saved from our wretched hearts.
Do you want to be saved from your wretched heart?
Is it a grief to you that it is of an unbelieving, impenitent, worldly, carnal, lustful, corrupt nature?
Do you ever pray: “Lord, save me from it?”
Well, that is why the Holy Ghost quickens a sinner; to save him from himself. I know this is not popular psychology, and if a worldly psychologist were in the pew tonight, he would have something to say to me. He would say: “You should not say that to people; you should let people be what they are; they are made like that; they cannot help it. Let them go in the channels of their natural man.; let them do what is natural to them. You cannot say it is wrong. Every man must do that which is right in his own sight. You have no right to put these restrictions upon them, or even suggest they need to be saved from themselves.”
Well, that is the doctrine of the pit; it is the doctrine of hell; it is the doctrine of devils.
Friend, be sure of this: you and I need to be saved from ourselves. If you do not know that, dear friend, you have not yet begun, by God’s grace, in the way of salvation. It is one of the first lessons that has to be taught. It is like the ABC we begin within.
Wretched self! We need to be saved from it. And the more we go on, the more we need to be saved from it. If we are not saved from it, it will drag us into eternal misery. Let us be very clear about that.
Secondly, we need to be saved from the tempter. The tempter, who knew very well how he could gain an entrance into Adam and Eve’s hearts, (and he very successfully did), knows how to gain entrance in your heart, and mine. He knows the weak spot. In Goliath’s armour, there was one weak spot. There was a gap in his helmet. Through the sovereign mercy of God, of course, the stone that David slung, went through that gap. Well, dear friends, there is a very different context. The devil also knows the weak spot in your armour. And if you are a child of God, you will know that he knows it. That is why Paul says in Hebrews 12 about “besetting sins.”
Why are they besetting sins?
They are the sins that the devil knows are most powerful in your heart; that you love the most and are most reluctant to give up; which he can work most quickly on. He knows how to set a conflagration going in your thoughts, words and ways, unless God intervene and prevent him. We need to be saved from the devil, whether he be a roaring lion; or even more dangerous, an angel of light, pretending to be something different from what he really is, hiding his cloven fist.
Again; we need to be saved from this dying world. That is why, dear friends – I say this kindly, but I must be faithful to you as your pastor – for the good of your never dying souls, have as little to do with this world as possible. That does not mean you have got to be a hermit or a nun, or a monk. God forbid you should be one of those. God never intended that. We are to be in the world, but we are not to be of it. Paul speaks about using this world, but “not abusing it.” And that needs a lot of grace. Especially as man’s knowledge increases, and technology goes further and further on into fields we never expected it to go, and it will yet go further, no doubt. Friends, we need much wisdom to use and not abuse this world that we are living in. If you abuse this world, it will abuse you. It will be your downfall.
What does the hymnwriter say?
“Save me from this bewitching world,
That has to death ten thousand hurled;”
And that is why, although in this modern age there are many things in technology which have become necessary as tools – oh, the dangers in them!
Be careful; be cautious; pray much against them; have no more to do with them than is absolutely necessary, and pray God that that prayer may be fulfilled with you, as one good man prayed: “When the temptation is there, let not the opportunity be there; if the opportunity is there, let not the temptation be there.”
And if you can honestly go on your knees and pray: “Lead us not into temptation” that means, friends, you will avoid temptation. You will not deliberately walk in it and say: “Lord, do not lead me into it.”
You will not play with the devils toys. If you do, you will get your fingers burnt.
You will get your soul burnt, unless God intervenes.
I say this kindly. We need to be saved “from this bewitching world, that has to death ten thousand hurled.” Its company; its pleasures; its pursuits; its spirit; its anti-Christian dogma; its false religion – we need to be saved from it all. The Word of God says: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
That is what God’s Word says.
It is not just your pastor being narrow minded and bigoted; it is what the Word of God says.
“If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
That is a solemn thing to say, isn’t it?
We need to be saved from this dying world.
Then, we need to be saved from the curse of the law. God’s law, in your natural state, has a just complaint against you. It is a very solemn thing for God to have a controversy with you. And unless that controversy is settled before your dying moment, it will be an eternal controversy, and never be settled.
That is a solemn thing, isn’t it?
Does God have a controversy with you?
Is that matter between you and a broken law not settled?
Are you under its curse?
Are you still striving for salvation through your own works; trying to obey the law in your own strength?
We need to be saved from this law, that is, from its curse; we need to be saved from its condemnation.
How can that be?
Dear friend, look to Calvary. There you see the accursed One. Not accursed because of His own sin. No, loved with everlasting love by His dear Father, precious Jesus! But cursed for His people’s sins: “Made a curse for us,” says the Word of God; bearing the curse that His people might be free from it; that they might be saved from the curse of the law.
How can it be?
“Endless blessings on the Lamb!
Broken hearts, repeat the same;
His dear heart was broken too,
When He bore the curse for you.”
It is to get a glimpse of the Saviour bearing the curse for you. That is salvation.
“Behold a scene of matchless grace,
‟Tis Jesus in the sinner‟s place;
Heaven‟s brightest Glory sunk in shame,
That rebels might adore His name.”
Dear friend, we need to be saved from the curse of the law. We want to know that, when that satisfying Jesus satisfied the law and satisfied His Father, that, yes, He has satisfied it for us.
“Should be saved.” And from that precious blood of the One who was made a curse for His Church, flows all the power and all the authority that delivers in every other sense. It is from the blood of Jesus flows salvation from our wretched heart, from this dying world, from a tempting devil, as well as from the curse of the law. “Should be saved.”
Well, dear friends, are you longing to be saved?
Are you saved?
“The Lord added to the Church daily” these characters who are made solemnly aware of their need of salvation. He added them to the Church, not just in the mystical sense, but outwardly, too. It would be wrong to close my sermon without reminding you that there is an order in the Church of God, and that the living Church of God is created by the blessed Spirit – and bless God for that. But, He has laid on His people, who are added to His Church inwardly, that command: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” The apostle commanded these to be baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had been added to the Church mystically. That must come first.
But, wherever there is raised up in your heart a reason of a good hope through grace, if it is so, then the Word of God is very clear to such. He sets before such, the way of obedience. “And the Lord added.” It is a wonderful thing when the Lord lays this command upon such souls, and He constrains them by love; removes all the obstacles and hindrances the devil and the world and the flesh have put in the way, and they have to say, as another said: “Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way.”
Oh! may we see some more of this adding among us. But vitally, may you and I be added to the mystical Church of God. For, if we are left out of that mystical body, there can be no hope whatsoever.
It is so vital! Lay it to your heart tonight.
May the Holy Ghost lay it there and put this question out of question – settle it in your heart and mine – that you may know you are His, and He is yours. And may you not settle down until God settles the matter. And, if He settles it, it will be settled well.
By Gerald D. Buss