People Cut to the Heart Part 4 of 5
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Ghost was that Spirit of adoption, that converting, guiding, sanctifying grace, which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father, which they all received on the day of Pentecost, and from which no true believer has ever been shut out.
Repentance and the remission of sins are still preached to the chief of sinners, in the Redeemer's name; the Holy Spirit still seals the blessing on the believer's heart; the encouraging promises of God’s Word are still for us and our children; and the blessings are still offered to all that are afar off. It was by being baptized in the name of Christ that men took upon themselves the bonds of Christianity; and it was in consequence of this that the disciples of Christ were called CHRISTIANS.
"You, dear reader, shall “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” the same as we have; because He has designed it for a general blessing: each of you, if you are sincere in your faith and repentance, shall receive his internal graces and comforts, and will be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.’’ Note, all that receive the remission of sins “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” All that are justified are sanctified, but the world cannot receive any of these.
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.
For the promise is unto you,
The promise he refers to is not only the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2.28 which he had cited earlier, but the one found in Isaiah 44.3, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring;” and in Isaiah 59.21, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” When God made a covenant with Abraham, He said, “I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed” (Gen. 17:7); and, after that, every Israelite had his son circumcised when they were eight days old. Now it is appropriate for an Israelite, when he is brought by baptism into a new dispensation of this covenant, to ask, "What must be done with my children? Must they stay on the outside, or taken in with me?’’ "Taken in’’ (says Peter) "of course; because the promise, that great promise of God being your God, is as much for you and to your children now as ever it was.’’ The promise then, is the particular thing he has been speaking to them about—the influences of the Holy Ghost. This is the promise he had mentioned in the beginning of his sermon “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17; KJV)., and he now applies it to them, even though they had killed their Messiah. In the same way that the Spirit was promised to descend on Jews and their sons and daughters, it was applicable to them in the circumstances in which they were on the Day of Pentecost. The only hope lost sinners have is in the promises of God; and the only thing that can give comfort to a soul that is convicted of sin, is the hope that God will pardon and save them.
and to your children,
In Joel 2.28, the promise is made to their sons and daughters (that they shall prophesy), who should, nevertheless, be old enough to talk. Similar promises occur in Isaiah 44:3, "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring," and Isaiah 59:21. In these and similar places, their descendants or posterity are indicated. It does not refer to children as children, and should not be used to establish the truth and acceptability of infant baptism, or as sanctioning infant membership in the Church of Christ. That this is the true assessment of the apostle's meaning is demonstrated by the fact that the promise in question is based upon the conditions of repentance and immersion, with which infants could not possibly comply. But it is a promise made to parents that the blessings of salvation shall not be confined to them, but shall be extended also to their posterity. Under this promise parents may be encouraged to raise their children for God and to devote them to His service; believing that it is the gracious purpose of God to perpetuate the blessings of salvation from age to age.
"Your children shall still have, as they have always had, an interest in the covenant, and a title to the eternal seal of it. Come to Christ, to receive those incalculable benefits; because the promise of the remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, is for you and your children.”
and to all that are afar off,
Two thousand years ago you and I were “afar off.” He is talking about us here.
“To all” means to the entire race of men; it is not limited to Jews, but does include them. The promise is made to the Jews wherever they have been scattered, and to all the Gentile nations. At this point St. Peter did not possess a formal knowledge of the calling of the Gentiles, and yet, the Spirit of God, who so greatly influenced what he said, undoubtedly had this in view; and therefore he adds “and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” that is, all to whom, in the course of his providence and grace, he shall send the preaching of Christ crucified.
The promise had belonged to the Israelites for a long time [‘Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4). Peter itemizes some of the glories of the Jewish race. Jacob, their ancestor, had been called Israel by the angel (Ge 32:28). This means a Prince with God, and this proud title was borne by his descendants. Six high privileges of the chosen people are named in here. The adoption. They were adopted as the chosen people (De 7:6). The glory. The presence of the ark of God and the glory of the Divine Presence (1Sa 4:21). The covenants. The covenants made with Abraham (Ge 17:7) and at Sinai (Ex 19:5). The giving of the law. The Law of Moses given to the children of Israel (Ex 24:12). The service of God. The worship of the tabernacle and temple (Ex 30:16 Ezr 6:18 Heb 9:6). And the promises. Especially the blessed promise of Christ. (Ac 2:38,39).]; but now it is sent to those that are afar off, the farthest nations of the Gentiles, and every one of them too, all that are afar off. The only limiting factor is the next clause, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” that is, as many individuals in each nation, as the Lord our God shall call into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Note, none will come except those whom He calls.
It is very likely that Peter refers here to the Jews who were scattered into many nations; because, as I mentioned before, he does not at this point in time seem to understand that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles (See Acts 10). Yet the promise was just as applicable to the Gentiles as it was to the Jews; and a short time after this apostles were brought to understand that the Gospel was to be universally applied (See Acts 10; Romans 10:12,14-20; Romans 11). As a matter of fact, the Gentiles are sometimes clearly designated by the expression "afar off,"—“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ… And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:13,17)—and they are represented as having been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. The phrase is equally applicable to those who have been far off from God because their sins and their evil cravings have not been confessed and forgiven. To them also the promise is extended if they will return to God and serve him.
The extension of this promise “to all who are afar off,” is not to be limited to all the Jews who were afar off; but it is correctly qualified by the additional words, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”