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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

The Call of Paul and Barnabas foreshadowing the Call of a Gentile Apostleship now

The Call of Paul and Barnabas foreshadowing the Call of a Gentile Apostleship now.

Last Sunday, brethren, I told you that we believe in the restoration of apostles and prophets, and that in this manner the Lord Jesus Christ has come to the help of His baptized people in this time of their extreme necessity; that in answer to their urgent prayers for help, He hath sent them rain, in the time of the latter rain. This is the foundation of our position as a body of believers in Christ Jesus; without which foundation, indeed, we are mere schismatics, making another rent in the seamless robe of Christ. Therefore it is that I have brought this subject first before you; because it is well to begin at the foundation, and especially at the opening of this building for the worship of God, when some may be expected to come out of a natural curiosity as to the why and the wherefore of our action in this matter. Again, then, I declare to you as brethren in Christ, that except for the solemn conviction that the Lord hath restored the lost ministries of apostles and prophets to His Church, we have no standing ground whatever, or right to speak or teach in His name. But on the other hand, believing as we do that the Lord hath set His hand to revive His church by restoring that which He took not away, viz, the ministries which He gave to his Church at the beginning, believing this, I say, we are impelled to go forward whithersoever He leads us by those whom He has sent. St. Paul said, "Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel" so say we also, "Woe unto us, if we draw back our hand from the plough, or turn aside from doing that which the Lord giveth us to do.

It is not of ourselves that we come thus into public to testify for the work which God is doing in this day; it is not for gaining the praise of men, or to please ourselves; but it is in obedience to the direction of those who are over us in the Lord, who have decided that the time has arrived when we may no longer fulfil this duty under the roof of a private house, as we have been doing for many years; but in a building set apart entirely for the worship and service of God.

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To proceed, then, with the Scripture account of the call of Paul and Barnabas to be apostles to the Gentiles, as an example of God's acting in the past and to show that there is nothing impossible or improbable in His acting in the same way in this our own day. Have you ever asked yourselves the question as to the time when and how Paul was first recognised by the Church as an apostle? Your first impulse perhaps will be to point to the Lord's appearing to him, on his way to Damascus, when he was converted from an active enemy, into a faithful disciple. The words addressed to him, "Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles," may have conveyed to Paul the assurance at that same time that he was to be the Lord's apostle to the Gentiles, but that did not make him such to the Church, or to those who were apostles before him, for we find him eight years afterwards filling a subordinate office in the Church at Antioch, for Barnabas sought him out and took him from Tarsus to Antioch, and there (it is written) they assembled themselves for a whole year with the Church and taught much people. And it was from that city that Barnabas and Saul were sent by the Church to take relief to the disciples in Judea. Now apostles are rulers in the Church and are not themselves sent by any but by the Lord only: even as the Lord Himself was the Apostle sent by the Father—to use His own words,—"As thou hast sent me into the world even so have I also sent them into the world"—In Acts xiii. we find five ministers named as certain prophets and teachers in the Church at Antioch, two of the five being Barnabas and Saul. They are not called apostles, you see, but prophets and teachers. If they were already known as apostles, would they be classed as prophets, and teachers? surely not. Where, then, and when are they first called apostles? It is in the next chapter, when they are at Lystra on their first apostolic journey after being separated from the Church at Antioch; ch. xiv., 14. Apostles are ministers to the Church Catholic, and not to any one Church in particular even as Paul speaking of his trials in his old age, says, "Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the Churches." That is an apostle's burden, brethren,—"the care of all the Churches." That was Paul's experience fifteen years after his call at Antioch.

To return to chapter xiii. of Acts. As these five prophets and teachers in the Church at Antioch, were fulfilling the worship of God, with the assembled Church, a word of prophecy came forth, the voice of the Holy Ghost through one of the prophets, calling for the separation of those two ministers Barnabas and Saul, from their duty to that Church, that they might go forth for the work unto which the Lord bad called them; and what, brethren, then? Why that voice is instantly recognized and obeyed as the commandment of the Lord from heaven (Acts XIII. 1-4).

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So they being sent by the Holy Ghost, Not sent by the Church at Antioch, although it is written that when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them, "They sent them away"—So they being sent by the Holy Ghost so it is written, brethren. Such an event as this in the Church at Antioeh, so simply written, has been unknown to the Church for hundreds of years, nay, for more than a thousand years; but with the restoration of apostles and prophets, it is again found to be a fact. And why not, brethren? The same Lord liveth who acted thus, at Antioch, and what should hinder Him from acting in the same manner now in London or elsewhere for the guidance and comfort of His Church? Nothing to hinder where there is faith and obedience—yes, living faith in a living God and childlike obedience, two things very hard to find in this day of pride, self will, and selfishness. But the Lord did find both forty-five years ago, and He has been working mightily ever since. Perhaps you will say, Not much to show for forty-five years' work.—True, brethren, not much to show here,—or indeed anywhere, for men prefer their own ways, and the ways of their fathers, rather than God's way.

How has it been in times past, when God has set His hand to work for the salvation of His people? Has it been believed in, and accepted? What had John Baptist to show for his labour when from his prison he sent messengers to Jesus with the question, "Art thou he that should come or do we look for another?" Had he lost all heart and hope that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand? Or, what was there to show for the life and labour of Jesus Christ when he lay in the sepulchre, betrayed by one apostle, denied by another, and all forsook Him and fled? Where was the hope of Messiah then? Why, hope was dead in the tomb with Jesus. Or later on, what was there to show for the labour of Paul, and of Peter, and the rest? Why, very little, as far as can be known. But of the state of those churches to which apostolic epistles were written, we can see by those epistles that they were mostly very weak—falling back instead of going on to perfection. The Church at Phillipi is the only one altogether commended. And Paul at last, instead of the bright hope of presenting the Church as a chaste bride to the Lord, gives warning of a falling away—that after His departing grievous wolves shall enter in, not sparing the flock. To Timothy he writes that in the last days perilous times shall come. He knows that the time of his departure is at hand, and the history leaves him a prisoner bound with a chain to a Roman soldier; a type of the Gentile apostleship ever since.

So it was, brethren, in the New Testament times; Why expect a different result for the work of apostles in these days; why should they succeed when their Master failed? In all these instances of failure that I have named, it was a remnant only that received the truth; and with that remnant the Lord began His next work. But to resume.

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We left Paul and Barnabas, at Antioch, where it is written, "So they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost departed unto Silencia and from thence sailed to Cyprus;" and it is on this journey, when at Lystra, that they are first called apostles. Paul is now at last doing apostolic work ten years after his conversion; and we thus fix the time and place and manner of his recognition as an apostle of the Lord, viz., in the Church at Antioch, ten years after his conversion, and on the testimony of the Holy Ghost in word of prophecy. Let us now consider his recognition as such by those who were apostles before him; this occurred at Jerusalem whither he and Barnabas went up from Antioch about the question that had been raised as to the necessity of circumcision. This took place, after he had been working as an apostle for seven years, or seventeen years after his conversion; and he is now going to meet those who were apostles before him for the first time, after he himself had been labouring as an apostle and had been recognized as such among the Gentile Churches. He knows that it is a crisis in the Church at large, he sees the importance to the whole Church that he and Barnabas should be received as fellow apostles; that the apostleship should he seen to be one; and therefore he acts with the greatest prudence and caution, by seeking first to have private interviews with those having the greatest authority in the Church. Paul tells the story himself in Galatians, 1st and 2nd Chapters "I went up" he says "by revelation and communicated unto them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain." The result was that James, Peter, and John gave unto him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, when they saw the grace given unto them. Read Gal. i. 17-19 chapter II. 1-2-9.

Thus, then, I have shown by the analogy of the Lord's dealing with Paul and Barnabas, in calling them to be His apostles, how he can at any time call others also in the same manner, if only He can find men with faith in Him as the living Lord in the heavens speaking by the Holy Ghost in their midst.

I have dwelt more upon Paul individually, than upon Barnabas, because his work and position is the most striking; but there is this significance in the case of Barnabas (which accords with the call of apostles in the present day), that in his case there is no record of any miraculous appearance of our Lord to him; although we may well believe that the Lord had dealt with him personally also, by calling him as His apostle, before the open testimony to his call, by the word of prophecy in the Church at Antioch.

So Paul says, "When they perceived him to be a partaker of the same grace which they had received, they gave unto him the right hand of fellowship." They asked him not for any evidence of his apostleship; page 14 they called no council to consider his claims; they passed no vote as countersign to his credentials. They received his word; they perceived the grace given unto him; they gave him the right hand of fellowship.

It seems wonderful that they could so readily have acted thus, for men seem utterly unable to act in the same manner now. But it did not seem wonderful then, nor has the Church ever expressed wonder or a doubt of the apostleship of Paul, because of the circumstances under which he was introduced.

But what enabled the apostles so to receive Paul without dispute, without questioning? Here is the secret. They were walking in the Spirit and not after the flesh; they were abiding in Christ; they were walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost The Lord was to them still a living Person, capable of acting by the Holy Ghost. It was with them no question of necessity or probability; they saw that the Lord had acted, and they said amen. But now those who believe in Christ walk no more after the Spirit, they walk after the flesh. The Lord is no longer thought of as the living Lord, capable of acting from heaven by the Holy Ghost, as the first apostles knew him to be.

The real cause of inability to discern the hand and work of God, is that Christian men are not abiding in Christ; all their efforts are directed to getting to Christ. "To get to Christ," appears the sole object of their religion; "to bring men to Christ," the sole object of every sermon; all which efforts and expressions show that they are not abiding in Christ, or at least that they do not believe that they are in Him.

The case of Paul was a note of warning to the Church; it reminded her that she had a Head in the heavens, who had reserved to Himself the right of calling and setting in the office of apostle whom He would and whenever He pleased; that the Lord chooses whom He will and for what work He pleases. This is the fact which the Church in her present schismatic and divided condition finds it so hard to believe.

Paul was received upon his own testimony and the grace that was perceived to be in him: upon the same grounds must apostles he received now.

In a somewhat similar way to the separation of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, twelve men were separated from the several Chinches to which they belonged, to the work unto which the Lord had called them. This happened at a meeting of the seven Churches in London, on the 14th July, 1835.

They were then enjoined to set the Church an example of self-sacrifice, to go and reside together in the village of Albury for a year; and in company with those who had the gift of prophecy, to dedicate the year to the reading of the Holy Scripture from beginning to end, page 15 with continual prayer; and their reading of the Holy Scripture was accompanied with the continual light of the word of prophecy.

The next year, viz., 1836, they composed a testimony to Christendom, setting forth the schismatic and sinful state of the whole Church the sin of the land and of its rulers in Church and State; and also that the Lord had come to the help of His people by the restoration of apostles. This was delivered personally to William IV. and the chief officers of the Government, and to the bishops and clergy. The year after they delivered a fuller testimony to Cardinal Acton for the Roman Pontiff, to the crowned heads in Europe, and to the bishops and other Church authorities. This was also delivered personally, being written in the language of each country, and took two years to complete—no light or easy task—and from this statement you may see that from the beginning, this work has not been hidden in a corner; it has been a message to the whole Church—Greek, Roman, and Protestant. And with regard to this land, a copy of that testimony, being a pamphlet of about fifty pages, was sent by Mr. Wilson, in the year 1863, to all the clergy of the province of Wellington.

The apostles did their work zealously, building up those who received their testimony into congregations in every Christian country to which they bad access. And now their work is done, and they have all been taken to their rest except one. As I said before, their work according to man's judgment is a failure, for the baptized nations have rejected them, even as the Jews rejected the Lord and his first apostles.

But the Lord's ways are not as man's ways; the purpose of God in His twelve is not frustrated; He will yet justify them and their work in the face of this generation. But, you will say, Is it not a lame and impotent conclusion, to set before us this work of apostles, which you say is done, and which you confess is a failure in the judgment of men? Yes, brethren, if that were all. But it is not all.

The apostles have taught us that the promise to the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia shall be fulfilled in those they have gathered and sealed unto the day of redemption; that promise is in Rev. iii., 10, "Because," &c. That is to say that those who have walked in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles faithfully shall find safety as in an ark of refuge from the hour of temptation; that time now coining, of which the Lord spoke, "For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." This promise must be fulfilled, or they and we shall be found false witnesses before God; deceivers and deceived.

This promise to Philadelphia, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation," opens page 16 up the doctrine of the ripening and gathering a special sheaf before the general harvest, after the analogy of the sheaf of firstfruits under the Mosaic law, and of that sheaf receiving the great honour of being taken into the presence of the Lord and waved before Him.

I purpose on next Sunday to bring forward the evidence of Holy Scripture for the doctrine of a firstfruits as distinct from the harvest, viz., that the sheaf of firstfruits is to be taken unto the Lord before the harvest is gathered, being that election unto which Paul longed to attain when he said, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead."

The distinction between the firstfruits and the harvest is to be found in the vii. and xiv. Rev., viz., the first is a known number, 144,000; the second is a great multitude which no man can number. The first are sealed with the seal of the living God; the second come out of great tribulation. It is apostolic doctrine that the latter work, viz., the gathering of the harvest, will be the work of the two witnesses of Rev. xi., the counterpart of the seventy who were to go "two and two into every city and place whither" the Lord would come; and further, that we are now in the interval between these two phases of the Lord's work for the salvation of His people.

So, brethren, if this be so, then this message which we bring to you is of the gravest import, and that even if the apostles have done their work yet the two witnesses have not done theirs. These are solemn things; and this is a momentous time. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. The way to the first prize is still open to all; the Lord waits to be gracious. Verily, He is the God of patience, for He hath borne with us in our weakness and our shortcomings for these 45 years. Isaiah prophesied of the Lord's work in chap, xxviii. thus: "The word of the Lord was with them, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little; for with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people, To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; yet they would not. hear." Do not you, brethren, be of those who will not hear, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. For it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stonger than men.