"And when they had taken security of Jason and the other, they let them go." Acts 17: 9.
THESE were early days for Paul with the gospel in Europe. His first witness in our continent was at Philippi, where he experienced both blessing and opposition. With Silas he moved on to Thessalonica, an important city with a great opportunity. As usual, he sought a testimony in the synagogue, his subject being "this Jesus " as the Christ. Paul would be bewildered today by the variety of subjects taken into the pulpit by the avowedly Christian ministry. He had but one subject, one theme that gripped his heart, the exaltation of Jesus as Living Lord, the Christ, the Anointed of God. Many were persuaded, including a great multitude of devout Greeks. The unbelieving Jews, however, were moved to envy and, gathering together the rabble of the city, uproar ensued in which they designed to apprehend Paul and Silas.
The two leaders could not be found, but Jason, who was Paul's host, and some of the brethren, were dragged through. the streets to the magistrates and charged with disturbing the public peace. The justices were anxious concerning the maintenance of order and to ensure it they insisted upon Jason entering into recognisances for the future. The terms of the bond are not disclosed, but it is not without significance that " immediately " the brethren sent away Paul and Silas to Berea. Some time later Paul sent a letter to the church at Thessalonica, in the second chapter of which he tells them how much he would have liked to have come to them. There was a difficulty, however, for " Satan hindered." He created, as the original suggests, " an impassable chasm." What was this chasm? It was not personal fear; for Paul unflinchingly faced the mob whenever loyalty to the Lord required it. At Lystra he had been picked up for dead, after suffering at the hands of the populace, so that we may be sure that he would not have hesitated to have returned to Thessalonica.
It was a situation, however, which Paul recognised as peculiarly of Satan. Would to God we knew how to discern as Paul did! In chapter 16 Luke tells us that they "were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia," and that when they attempted to go into Bithynia " the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not." On those occasions there were hindrances, even as at Thessalonica, but Paul discerned those to be of the Spirit, and this at Thessalonica to be of Satan. No man can claim to be led of the Holy Spirit unless he is able to discern the difference in his own spirit between the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the deceiving pressure of Satan. It is almost certain that a man who is blind to the awful fact of Satanic deception cannot be awake to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The situation in Bithynia was different from that in Thessalonica. In the former the Holy Spirit was leading through to Macedonia, but in the latter Paul and Silas were taken away from a great work for God. They had been described as " these that have turned the world up-sidedown," and by the preaching of Jesus as the Anointed One, they had stirred the depths of hell. What a lesson for us today! And now, in a few short hours, Paul and Silas are outside the city, the work has been nipped in the bud, the revival stifled at its birth. "Satan hindered us." There can be little doubt that the explanation is to be found in Jason's bond to the magistrates. As a result of that bond, Paul and Silas had to leave and could not return. No doubt Jason's intentions were good, but a great soul-saving work was arrested through the folly of an inexperienced Christian.
The word " revival " is suspect. Many associate with it a picture of months of special propaganda, endless committees and lavish poster display, followed by thrilling meetings charged with mighty enthusiasm and the signing of decision cards. Then when the missioner has departed the reaction is intense. The following Sunday the poor minister, who has not had the opportunity of delivering the same address forty and fifty times until it is perfected worthy of Demosthenes, returns to the dull prosaic task and the enthusiasm departs. Within a month converts are falling away and in a year a heavier pall settles upon the Church than ever before. Let us, however, first recover the true meaning of the word " revival " that it may be clear to us all. Revival obtains when the Holy Spirit is at liberty in the body of Christ, His redeemed and regenerated people, so that His will is absolute and sovereign in the individual life. In revival there is always a deepening of the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer in obedience, a close and reverent meditation of the Word of God as being the Sword of the Spirit, and out of these two factors, with all their implications, emerges a Calvary passion. The Holy Spirit Who suffered in our Lord at Calvary moves and actuates the Lord's believing people even as He moved and actuated our Lord Himself. Men and women are born from above by the Holy Spirit and added to the Body of Christ eternally. That is New Testament revival. For this we pray, knowing assuredly that the Holy Spirit will do His work in every child of God who is obedient.
But we must not fall to notice that when the Holy Spirit takes a deeper possession of any fellowship Satan intensifies his opposition. Church in revival is the greatest menace in the universe to Satan. A church working in the power of the flesh, for ends of the flesh like so many amateur statesmen passing resolutions telling the spiritually blind politicians what wonderful progress they are making suits Satan splendidly. From the point of view of hell it is the finest thing out, but a fellowship concerned for the Body of Christ, the one living organism in a world of death and reaching out in Holy Ghost power to rescue men and women from the fast-approaching judgment for sin, this draws the intense and bitter antagonism of Satan. Hence, revival in a church means the concentration of the Holy Ghost and also of the powers of darkness. It is their concentration, about which so few Christians think, that causes the extravagances in genuine revivals and sometimes, moral collapses, which injure the cause.
Amongst the wheat the tares are found. " An enemy hath done this." So it was that in Thessalonica from within the church, the revival blessing was arrested. Jason gave a bond, which created an impassable chasm. We all have need to exercise much prayer and meditation upon the Word of God lest in anything we give Satan an advantage and from within the fellowship the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is stayed. It may be, of course, that Jason's bond was not the hindrance to which Paul refers. Whether that be so or not, there are three considerations suggested by the incident which, in my belief are vital and absolutely essential to any true revival in our churches. Will you allow me to indicate these considerations which may have been in Jason's mind constraining him to this unfortunate bond.
1) A CIVIC CONSCIOUSNESS
Considering the nature of the charge made against him, the magistrates dealt very lightly with Jason. He was accused of being associated with one who was preaching another king, one Jesus. Paul preached Jesus the King. He was not preaching about Jesus the Carpenter and the man of Galilee, but Jesus, with a Throne, and as Paul preached the Lord on the Throne, the Holy Spirit opened Jason's eyes and he recognised the One King. But all that in the severe atmosphere of the magistrates' court with its implications against the rule of Caesar, looked suspicious. Christians are law abiding. We are not commanded in the Word of God to make laws for the world which loves its sin, we are not instructed to seek to prevent the world from having its cinemas on Sundays if it wishes. Our commission is to warn them of sin and righteousness and judgment to come. But we are to obey the law and to pay our taxes, providing such obedience does not interfere with our loyalty to the Living Lord.
I notice that after the recent Congress of the Romanists in Dublin, the Pope's representative came to London and at a luncheon, Englishmen, some of them members of the House of Lords, participated in a toast of " The Pope and the King." How an Englishman can thus proclaim his loyalty first to an Italian passes my comprehension. But Christians are loyal and they desire to obey the law. Jason, therefore, was greatly troubled by the turn of events and by the deep anxiety of the magistrates. At Philippi the magistrates were enraged by Paul and Silas, but at Thessalonica they were very worried. So it was that Jason, eager to do all he could to put matters right concerning Caesar's throne, forgot his duty to the throne of the Lord and he gave his word. No church in the world can ever know revival until preacher and people have had their eyes opened to the Living Lord, the God-Man on the Throne, Victor over Satan by Calvary, Anointed of God to bestow the Holy Spirit on every member of the Body on earth. Pentecost came that way. Satan is deeply concerned to blind Christians to this fact. Concerning the Lord on the throne, our pulpits are silent. Yet He is there, in His eternal incarnation, the Firstborn of that New Creation of God and Man, into Whose glorious image every child of God is to be transformed. His is the Throne that matters, all other thrones shall perish, and unless He be honoured on the Throne, there can be no revival of the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. There may be a resuscitation of organised Christianity by Satan, but the Lord's enlightened people, trained to discern, will know how to try the spirits which are pressing down on the Body of Christ at this hour.
2) A MOB CONSCIOUSNESS
Jason had a desperate experience, being dragged through the streets by the mob who were the real disturbers of the peace. A mob is peculiarly susceptible to Satan's influence. We need to be extremely careful of great processions and large demonstrations. That was one of the reasons why our Lord withdrew from crowds. He knew that when you preach the deep truth of God, the crowd, clamouring for social and physical ends only, will melt away. He was the great preacher who preached such a sermon that the congregation disappeared while He preached. We applaud the sermon that grips the worldly mind and the fleshly appetite. If it holds the audience to the end in a deep fascination we praise the masterly utterance. And all the time we may be ministering to the fleshly heart dead in sin, offering it what it wants instead of declaring in the Holy Spirit what it needs. But Jason found the crowd in a rage. Democracy, as always, was tyrannical. Christians appear today to be more concerned about vindicating the integrity of democracy than the integrity of the Word of God, but democracy differs from autocracy in this only that it is selfishness multiplied. The French Revolution taught the last century that truth, and Russia is teaching us, but Christians will not hear.
Public opinion asserted its pressure upon Jason, however, and under the pressure of society, he lost his sense and perception of that more important society, the Body of Christ. He was so anxious to placate society that he gave a pledge that paralysed the Body of Christ. Satan is eager for that. He knows that the saints shall rule the world and therefore he blinds the saints, if he can, to the truth of the Body, called out from the world by redemption, in living union with the Lord on the Throne by the Holy Spirit and destined to be called up for eternal fellowship with the Lord in the heavens. He is concentrating the minds of Christians to-day on denominations and the amalgamation of manmade concerns. He is making us concerned as to how we can get man and man together instead of keeping us in the Holy Spirit loyal to truth. Only by the Holy Spirit leading believers into truth through the Word of God can we have fellowship together. The Spirit is One, all differences between believers in their understanding of the Word of God are indications of the flesh and are to be mutually confessed, but any attempt to get together, except by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, is the handiwork of Satan.
Jason's eyes were taken off the Living Body of Christ redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ and born from above by the Holy Spirit. He yielded to the pressure of the society about him perishing in death, and in that moment Satan had an advantage. There can be no revival in any church unless members of the fellowship are truly enlightened concerning the Body of Christ, the one living organism in a world of death, outside of which there is no life whatsoever. The Body of Christ called out, matured by the Holy Spirit and waiting for the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
3) A SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS
It will not be difficult to imagine that Jason was in a state of considerable excitement when he reached the magistrates court. The fear of man may have been aroused, and if it were, Satan would immediately press it down upon him. The glorious truths of which Paul had been speaking would lose their glamour. Spiritual assertiveness would be rebuked. It would seem that Jason was most anxious to accommodate the magistrates without ever dreaming that by so doing he would injure Paul. In that willingness to accommodate, Satan stepped in. Another once stood in a Judgment Hall, yet after He had been scourged He exercised every patience and consideration, yielding nothing concerning His position as Anointed of God. He brought His body to the intensity of travail. The Holy Spirit within Him was being pressed through His body by Satan without Him, but He suffered the conflict. By that endurance He was irrevocably committed to Calvary, and out of Calvary came Pentecost.
In the hour of trial, Jason, a new convert, surrendered to the spirit in democracy and so repressed the indwelling Spirit in his mortal body. By that means he escaped suffering and by that means Satan stepped in and arrested revival. My own conclusion is that very few Christians know of the truth of the Indwelling Spirit according to Galatians 4: 6. He is received not direct out of heaven as our Lord received Him, for none is perfect as He was, but he is received as the gift of the Lord on the Throne Who, through Calvary, has been exalted to bestow the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer without exception. And the Holy Spirit must be honoured as indwelling, indwelling as the fruit of Calvary, in the blessing of which the believer has shared by repentance and faith.
There can be no revival in our churches until the Holy Spirit is taught from our pulpits and believed in our pews as the Indwelling Spirit of the Son, through the Blood. Every child of God must be delivered from all weakness through confidence in the Holy Spirit: "Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world." Such must be our confidence that, trusting the Indwelling Spirit, we shall know what it means to fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in our flesh for His Body's sake, which is the Church. The moment we ignore the Indwelling Spirit, or repress Him, Satan steps in. There can be no revival in our churches until self is brought to Calvary that the Holy Spirit may live and reign in our hearts, exercising His sovereignty through our spirits, souls and bodies. Thus keeping us yielded vessels, co-operating in our wills with His purpose, and witnessing in the world always as Indwelt Anointed children of God. No more serious question can the child of God ask to-day. It must be asked, and we must wait on the Holy Spirit to teach us through the Word wherein it is true. Am I giving ground to Satan in my life in any way, to any degree, that, unintentionally and yet blindly, Satan, through me, is hindering revival in the church to which I belong? The end of that enquiry will be a revelation of the awful subtlety of the enemy of our souls, a baptism of the Holy Spirit as we prostrate ourselves in deep humiliation, faith and new obedience, and from that will emerge REVIVAL!
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