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ACTS 4:23-32

It is a matter of consoling satisfaction to contemplate the eternal purpose which Jehovah purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, and at this moment the immutability of his counsel, declared in the crucifixion of the incarnate Son of God, occupies my thoughts. Christ Jesus, the dear Lamb of God, by whose precious blood we are redeemed, was verily foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). He bare our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23). “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30). Come, contemplate with me the language of the Holy Ghost in the mouths of that company of believers who “were of one heart and one soul.” My very heart goes out to them, I feel they are my “company,” my companions. There was at that time “a multitude of them that believed.” What did these believers believe? Let us read what is recorded of them. Peter and John being let go, “went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:23-32). They were of “one accord.” Are we? Are you in accord with them? Or are you out of tune, singing a tune of your own composition? I confess, I would ever have my soul tuned by the Holy Ghost, in harmony, in strict, and sweet, and God-glorifying accord with this company of believers. Let us examine ourselves whether we are in the selfsame faith as these believers. This is embraced in what they spake, being filled with the Holy Ghost, “Of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Will you muse with me upon this word, “determined before”? It is in the Greek “proorizo,” written in five other places in the Scriptures of truth. In Romans 8:29-30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [proorizo] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate [proorizo], them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” In Ephesians 1:5, 11: “Having predestinated [proorizo] us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated [proorizo] according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” In 1 Cor. 2:7-8: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before [proorizo] the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” So, we may read Acts 4:27-28: They “were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel predestinated [proorizo], determined before, ordained before, marked out beforehand] to be done.” Why, this “company” (Acts 4:23), “the multitude of them that believed [who] were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32), were Predestinarians! They, “filled with the Holy Ghost,” proclaimed themselves unto their God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, to be believers that in the counsel of his own will he predestinated whatsoever pertained unto the crucifixion of Christ, the dear Lamb of God; embracing therein the most wicked acts that the human race has ever been or ever could be guilty of: the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; he was without blemish and without spot; he had not transgressed the law of God, Roman law, or Jewish law, he was the just One; they murdered the holy child Jesus. These wicked ones with wicked hands took Jesus, crucified and slew him. They transgressed Roman law, Jewish law and the law of God, but they thus fulfilled the eternal, immutable counsel of Jehovah’s will wherein lie predestinated that thus Jesus, the Word made flesh, should suffer and die. This was fully foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures, “For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Psalm 22:10-18; John 19:23-24, 37; Zech. 12:10). And the manner of his death was foretold by Jesus himself (Matt. 20:19; John 12:32-33; Matt. 27:34-35). That God should will things to be is to decree them. Our wishes, our purposes can be disappointed, frustrated, broken (Job 17:11), but the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart unto all generations (Psalm 33:11). God decrees all things harmoniously, but to us poor creatures, in our finite understanding, we fail at times to see the harmony of the purposes of the Lord. It needs the teaching, the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, to see that all things work together, for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. All the bitter trials and afflictions of Job worked together for his good. We have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:11). The God-given thorn in the flesh, “the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure,” that the apostle Paul speaks of in 2 Cor. 12:7-10, was all for his good. Our God is infinitely, eternally, immutably happy. If all things are immutably determined by God, some would say, What Is the use of praying and striving, of our hungerings and thirstings? Why, perplexed one, all such things are included in the all things, thus the harmony. So, in the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, God declares the sure unconditional mercies of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, and then saith, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” How blessedly the Lord our God speaks in this covenant, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezek. 36:26-27). That God decrees all things harmoniously is most sacredly declared in the crucifixion of Christ, as we have already traced. The criminality of the murderers of Jesus is presented to be altogether in harmony with Jehovah’s eternal and immutable decree to deliver him into the hands of men to be crucified. Pilate boasted that he had power to crucify Christ Jesus, the dear Lamb of God, or to release him, but Jesus answered, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (John 19:10-11). God did not deliver Jesus into innocent, harmless hands. Were there such men, having such hands how could they have crucified and slain the Holy Child Jesus, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth? Christ was not a transgressor. The dying thief was made to know and to say to his fellow malefactor, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43). Crucifixion was the decreed death of the incarnate Son of God. All these transactions that we have been considering very clearly declare the all-embracing, unfrustrable and eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus, who declared “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11). All our salvation and all our desire is found in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, and it was all ordained before the world unto glory. Am I, a poor, vile, lost sinner, embraced among those who are predestinated to be glorified together with our Lord Jesus Christ? What is Christ and him crucified unto me? I have, I trust, been taught by the Holy Spirit to look unto Jesus, and innumerable times my heart has said,

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Black, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die,”

Was it for crimes that I have done, he groaned upon the tree? Did not the beloved Savior say, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32-33). Yes, I have been drawn to the crucified Lamb of God.

“I cling to his cross, here I see my salvation,
‘Tis finished, complete, I’m redeemed from all woe;
I read, and rejoice there is no condemnation
To those in Christ Jesus, ah never, oh no!”

Is it thus with you? Do you believe in him that was led as a Lamb to the slaughter? with all thine heart? (Acts 8:37). “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48).

FREDERICK W. KEENE
Raleigh , North Carolina

SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 96, No. 1
January 1928,