We have before remarked upon the beauty of this second chapter of Luke's Gospel. It has many facets, like a diamond reflecting in such a variety of ways, the glory of Christ. There is an old legend which says that Luke, besides being a Physician, an Evangelist, an Historian, and an Author, was also a Painter, an Artist. Of the truth of the legend we cannot be sure, but he certainly has painted for us the most delightful pictures in words.
The scene before us just now is that of a little group of interesting persons in the Court of the Women in the temple at Jerusalem. There are two men, two women, and an Infant of almost six weeks (Lev. 12. 1-4). Simeon and Joseph and Mary are joined by the aged Anna, and the child Jesus is the central figure in the scene.
Simeon's name means "one who hears". He was a man sensitive to the voice of God, and the Spirit had indeed spoken specifically to Him. The message of the Spirit to him was about Christ. It is always so. Simeon believed, and in godly patience and piety he awaited the coming of Him who would be the consolation of Israel. By the Spirit he came into the temple just as the Infant Christ came. It was the moment for which Simeon had waited. He embraced the Child, and with Jesus in His arms, in the temple, he looked upward and blessed God. What a picture of true worship is this, for us of a late day, who stand in a greater sanctuary, embrace the same Christ, and looking upward, bless God as we speak of His Son. Here was a man in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, and all by the direction of the Spirit of God. Oh to be so controlled as Simeon was.
It has been said that of all those who have, until now, been mentioned in Luke's Gospel, Simeon had a wider outlook. He saw further than either Zacharias or Elizabeth or Mary, because He saw beyond Israel. He saw further than the angel who said, "Glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people". 'The people" in Scripture is always Israel. But Simeon's view is of salvation prepared for "all peoples". He envisages the Goyim, the Gentile nations. Notice too, his mention of Gentile blessing first, then adding, "the glory of Thy people Israel". It was a distant view he had, of a millennial day when the Messiah of Israel would be lifted up as an ensign, a gathering centre for the nations. As another has beautifully said of Jehovah, "Israel was not enough for Him"! There would indeed be glory for Israel, but there was light here for revelation of the Gentiles, and in accord with the grace of Luke's Gospel, this is mentioned first.
Having blessed God, Simeon now blesses Joseph and Mary. The man who habitually speaks well of God speaks well of God's people. Simeon had embraced the greatness, the glory, the majesty of Christ in his arms, and for such a man, with Christ in His affections, it is easy to bless God and the saints.
But alas, Simeon must speak not only of glory, but also of a sword and of sorrow. "A sword shall pierce thine own soul", he says to Mary. And is not Mary but representative of that godly remnant of the nation who were to see, and share, the rejection of the Messiah? Simeon foresaw Calvary. How clearly he saw or understood, we know not, but it is doubtless of the cross that he now prophecies, and of the sorrow that would pierce the hearts of those who loved the Crucified. Remember the sorrow of the two who walked the Emmaus Road with the sad countenances.
At this moment there enters the aged Anna. Her name means "gracious". She is of the tribe of Asher, which means, "happy". In the barrenness of Israel here was a gracious and happy woman indeed, waiting, like Simeon, for the coming of the Promised One. Notice that she is of Asher. She was of Israel, of the ten tribes, and not of Judah. Christ is for the whole nation.
For seven years Anna had lived with a husband. But the natural relationship had been severed, and for the eighty four years which followed the death of her husband, Anna had given herself to the service of the sanctuary, and to fastings and prayers. How strangely does God often work for our good, in ways which, at the time, are hard to bear and difficult to understand. Jehovah uses the sorrow of bereavement and the early loss of her husband to release Anna for another service. She who had, no doubt, devoted herself to the care of her husband and her home, now devotes herself to the service of God in the temple. Her own house, precious and legitimate as it had been, has now become a secondary thing, and she lives now for the House of God. Have her values been adjusted? Have her priorities been rectified?
Anna is fully acquainted with kindred spirits. There were others in Jerusalem who waited for the Redeemer. Anna spake of Him to them. In fulfilment of the prophecy which concerned her tribe Asher in Genesis 49, she must often have given "royal dainties" to them, about the coming Christ. Now He had come!
It is as if Simeon and Anna and Joseph and Mary surround the Holy Infant, to hear the voice of the Spirit say, "Behold the Man". Their occupation is with Him. May it be likewise true of us all, that we should await His coming as they did, and as we wait, be occupied with thoughts of Him, both in worship, and in testimony too.
Messages from Muller
These are notes of addresses given by the late George Muller
"Clothed With Humility"
An Address delivered at a Monday Evening Prayer meeting 1. Peter v. 5.
When we see one another, we have no difficulty in observing the colour of the dress each one wears. And so with the disciples of the Lord Jesus, there should be no difficulty in its being seen what we are, whether we are of a lowly, humble, meek mind, or whether we are proud and high-minded. We should be "clothed with humility." It should be manifest, apparent, that we have been in the school of Christ, that we are followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. This is the will of the Lord concerning us. We have need to pray for grace to be "clothed with humility." "For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." The due time will come. We must wait for it. In the meantime we are to cast all our care upon Him; and we have the reason, "for He careth for you." Blessed position!
How may I know whether I have cast my burden upon God? One says, By prayer! Well, right or wrong, just as you understand it. Right, if it is believing prayer, if you exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to carry the burden for you. But simply praying will not do. We know we have rolled our burden upon God, if after praying, the heart is easy, the heart is light. If this is not the case, then we are still carrying the burden ourselves instead of casting it on God, and have need to go again to Him, and in believing prayer exercise faith with regard to the power and willingness of God to carry the burden for us.
G. The power in the believer — the fullness of God 3. 14-21.
1. The strength of the Holy Spirit 3.14-16.
—For this cause: This verse takes up the thought in verse one again. (Verses 2-13 were a parenthesis). Verse one refers to the teaching in 2.11-22.
—I bow my knees: A simple figure for earnest prayer. "Profound and submissive reverence." (Calvin)
—unto: (pros) towards, facing.
—the Father: The various members of the Trinity are interwoven repeatedly throughout the last seven verses of this chapter.
—of our Lord Jesus Christ: He bows his knees to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does this, not because Christ is not God. Neither because Jesus is not as powerful as His Father, nor as important as His Father. He prays to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Source and Origin of all things. It is in the Father's relationship to God the Son that He is the originator of all things. His relationship as Father to the believer is a paternal relationship. Paul is not praying to Him in this paternal relationship at this time, but as the Fountainhead from whom all things come.
— of whom: (ex hou) Literally, "Out from whom." These words denote "the ORIGIN of the name Father; the SOURCE whence it is derived." (Expositors).
—the whole: (pasa) This word may mean "every" or "whole".
—family: (patria) "Here, the word seems to have the widest sense of class, order, nation, community as the idea of family in the proper sense of the term is inapplicable to the case of angels."
—in heaven: That is, classes or families of angelic and spirit beings (Viz., Cherubim Seraphim) as well as the various orders of human families, (the church, spirits of just men made perfect, Old Testament believers), etc.
—and upon earth: That is, Jew, Gentile, Church, and individual family units.
—is named: (a) God, as Father of All, names every family that He makes. They are named after Him. (b) Every other father is named from Him. Because of the possibility of two translations for the word pasa ("whole" or "every") there may be three interpretations.
"Every family," with the interpretation given above as the King James Version, meaning:
All beings in heaven and earth are united as one under the Eternal Father
If referring to the Church only, the family includes believers in heaven and earth, all united under one Eternal Father. Of the two, this one is more in keeping with the context.
—that: (hina) To the end that. With the goal that...
—He would grant: (didomi) "give"
—you according to: (kata) in accord with; in proportion to; as measured by. —the riches of His glory: (doxa) The sum total of all God's attributes displayed. "The whole revealed perfections of God." (Expositor's). —to be strengthened: (krataioo) to be made strong; to increase in strength.
—with might: (dunamei) Power, Usually used for God's power. See verse 7; 1.19; Romans 1.16, 20; 1 Corinthians 1.18; etc.
—by: (dia) through; by means of; it denotes the channel through which something is accomplished.
—His Spirit: His Spirit helps our weakness. Roman 8.26.
—in: (eis) "into" or "unto".
—the inner man: Paul's prayer was that the Holy Spirit would make them strong through and through: that God's power would fill them with strength from the innermost part of their being outward. This would give them true courage and power to fulfil the exhortations in chapters 4-6.
2. The surpassing love of the Son 3.17-19.
—That Christ: God's chosen and anointed one.
—may dwell: (katoikesai) "Expressing the contemplated result of the gift of strength." (Expositors) Katoikeo properly signifies, "to settle down in a dwelling; to dwell fixedly in a place... may make a home in your hearts." (W. E. Vine).
—in your hearts: (kardia) The source of every though, emotion, action, and attitude. (See Matthew 12.34, 35, 15.19) "the centre of feeling, thinking, willing." (Expositors) —If the Lord lives in our heart, and is allowed to "make it His own home," He will be the Source of all our thoughts and actions.
— by: (dia) through; by means of; denoting the channel.
—faith: (pisteos) Trustful acceptance, humble reliance on God's promises; dependence on God's power, love and care. Christ was in their hearts from conversion, but now they must grasp the fact so that they might live in the enjoyment of it. Christ guides and leads in our lives as we depend on Him rather than on ourselves.
—that: (hina) to the end that, (this word has been transposed in the King James translation. It really belongs at the beginning of the words in verse 18).
—ye being rooted: (rhizoo) The perfect tense indicates the result of strengthening and indwelling. "To be firmly planted and established." (W. E. Vine) "securely settled." (Exp.) It indicates "derived life and development." (H. C. Moule) See Colossians 2:7 (Only here in N.T.)
—and grounded: perfect participle of (themelioo) "to be deeply founded." (Exp.)
—in: (en) denoting the sphere in which this rooting and rounding take place.
—love: (agape) God's love is the soil in which we have been rooted. It is from this soil that we derive the nutrients for spiritual growth. God's love is also the rock upon which we rest. It is the foundation upon which we build anything that is of any value spiritually.
—that: (hina) to the end that. Verse 17 must be realized first.
—ye may be able: (exischuo) "To be eminently able; to have full capacity." (Exp.) To have "great strength." (Young).
—to comprehend: (katalambano) "To lay hold of (with the mind) so as to possess as one's own. To understand." (W. E. Vine).
—with: (Sun) Accompanied by.
—all the saints: This privilege is not only for a few. It is for all. No one person can grasp all there is to know about God. All saints contribute and depend on each other.
—what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: No object is mentioned. The sentence is unfinished. Paul is at a loss to express any one attribute of the infiniteness of God.
It refers to God and all that He is and does: His riches v.8, His wisdom v.10, His mystery v.3. His love v.19, His power v.20, His glory v.l 6, etc.
Trinity is implied in the dimensions. To enjoy all these dimensions, one must be at the centre.
Some refer these words to the Church which is His body. Verse 19
—and to know: (ginosko) To know by experience — What we learn conceptually in verse 18 is to be enjoyed by experience.
—the love: (agape) A sacrificial attachment based on reason, selection, and choice from seeing in that person a need for love. This person loves the unattractive in spite of, not because of. He loves regardless of what is done or not done.
—of Christ: That is, belonging to Him and coming from Him.
—which passeth: (huperballo) 'To throw above and beyond." W.E. Vine. To exceed or excel something as in II Corinthians 3:10. Used in Ephesians 1.19; 2.7.
—knowledge: (gnosis) A seeking to know, inquiry, investigation. Literally, To know the surpassing (excelling or exceeding) knowledge love of Christ."
—that: (hina) in order that.
—ye might be filled: (pleroo) To fill up; to fill to capacity. —with: (eis) unto or into. It denotes motion towards a goal. —all the: (pan to) or "the whole".
—fullness: (pleroma) that with which a thing is filled. Here it refers to, "the sum of the Divine perfections. (Exp.).
—of God: This genitive tense may be: (a) the genitive of possession= "possessed by God." or (b) the genitive of original cause = "bestowed by God."
The fullness of God is our goal. As the believer's appreciation of God is increased, his capacity to be like God expands. As his capacity grows, he is filled with more of God's fullness. This growth process will last forever because God is infinite.
There are four "that's in the prayer. These may indicate four distinct things that Paul desires for the believers. It may also indicate a succession of one main point which culminates in the last one; each request being built on the former one.
3. The supreme ability of the Father 3. 20-21.
—now: (de) or "But".
—unto Him that is able: (dunamai) "To be able," 'To have power to accomplish."
—to do: (poeioo) (a) A creative performance; A productive action pointing to an actual result. (Zodiates) (b) 'To express by act, the thoughts and feelings." (W. E. Vine) The English word poem is derived for this word. The word includes in it, not only the idea of performing some action, but also using ones one creativity while doing it. While God accomplishes many similar things for all believers, He never does any two things exactly alike.
—exceedingly: (huper panta) Literally, "Above all things," hence, "in a measure exceeding all things, beyond all things." (Wuest)
—abundantly above: (huper-ek-perissou) This is a compound word made up of three parts: Huper = above; ek is used to add force, intensifying the existing idea in the verb, and adding the idea of "Exhaustless; perissou = exceeding some number or measure; over and above what is necessary.
God exceeds what is necessary, providing benefits for us from an exhaustless supply, and adds more above that. God is just, therefore He supplies us with what we need, (the bare necessities). He is good, therefore He provides us with more than we need. However, because He is also a gracious God, He supplies us with exceedingly far more than we need, and gives us more on top of that!!
—all that we ask: (arteo) in the Middle Voice means, "to ask for one's self.
—or think: (noes) To perceive with the mind, to understand. The Father's answer to our requests is beyond our asking, thinking or understanding ability.
—according to: (kata) or, "in accord with,"
—the power: (dunamis) inherent ability; power residing within a person by virtue of his nature. (Thayer) In this case, the power resides within God, (as verse 7; 1.19; Romans 1.16, etc) and takes effect through the Holy Spirit.
—that worketh: (energeo) To be at work, putting forth power.
—in us: As requested in verse 16, the Holy Spirit is the One whose power works within us. He helps our weaknesses, praying for us because we do not know what to pray for as we ought. See Romans 8.26.
Note, that Paul has just made a request. Can we fully understand this request ourselves? He is confident that God will answer this request far above his understanding or ability to ask.
—Unto Him: The One that is capable of using such power for the benefit of others.
—be: Paul is stating a desire or blessing for God which will also be accomplished. Blessing God (Psalm 34.1) is wishing good things for Him.
—the glory: (he doxa) "The article with doxa defines it as the glory that is due Him or that befits Him." (Expositor) Glory is an outshining; brightness or splendour; The onward manifestation of God's attributes.
—in the church: This describes the domain or the sphere in which the glory will shine and the praise will be given.
—by: (en) Literally, "in."
—Christ Jesus: Some manuscripts say, "and in Christ Jesus." (a) This would mean, God's glory will not only be seen in the church which is the body, but also in Christ Jesus who is the head, (b) If the manuscripts from which the KJV were translated are used, it means that God's glory will be seen in the Church as the Church resides or rests In Christ.
—throughout: (eis) unto or into.
—all ages, world without end: Literally, "unto all the generations of the age of the ages. (Newberry). Also translated, "unto all generations for ever and ever." (Expositor's, American Standard Version) or, "for all generations, age after age." (Twentieth Century New Testament).
Lessons from the Life of David
By J. Burnett, (Dunfermline, Scotland)
4 — DAVID IN A DAY OF FULLNESS
Scripture References: 2 SAM. 23.13-17.
This is one of the most delightful stories recorded in the word of God and brings before us David in a day of fullness. The famine conditions of chapter 21 have been replaced by the harvest; poverty has given way to plenty. The emptiness of those three long weary desolate years has passed and the heart of David is cheered by the exercise of his three mighty men.
Could we pause and apply this in a moral and spiritual way? It is very easy to move from poverty to plenty and by the same token from fullness to emptiness. It is verily possible to enjoy the good things of God today and tomorrow walk afar off.
Gideon appreciated this truth in the closing verses of Judges chapter 6. The dew would ever speak of the rich refreshing ministry of the Spirit of God. The ground would represent the nation and the fleece would answer to Gideon himself. If we accept such an interpretation the message is most telling.
When Gideon awoke the first morning he found the fleece was wet and the ground was dry. This was a word of encouragement to Gideon giving him to understand that while the nation was in poverty it was possible for him to occupy a place of nearness to God. The second morning Gideon awoke to discover things had dramatically changed. No longer was the ground dry but it was wet with the dew and the fleece was dry. This was now a message of warning impressing upon the man how quickly and easily things can change. Alas while other were being blessed he had lost power with God and life had become barren. Let none of us dare detach himself from such a possibility for if we were to forsake the fount of every blessing there is no knowing what self inflicted sorrow could await us.
The story of the three mighty men is simply told and is full of much practical teaching. There are two thoughts from the narrative which we shall highlight:
i) The Desire of David;
ii) The Devotion of the Men.
i) The Desire of David
In Daniel 10.11 the prophet is described as a man greatly beloved or as the margin renders it "a man of desires." All great men have fostered noble longings and David was no exception. In our story David longed and said, "Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem...". This was neither a command from the lips of David, nor was it a request. Had it been the men would have obliged willingly. It would seem David, in a moment of reflection, was thinking of former days when in similar circumstances his thirst had been quenched from the well of Bethlehem. Oblivious to the presence of others he breathed out, almost in a whisper, all that he desired.
The lesson to be learned is of paramount importance. Only those occupying a place of nearness would have known what he wanted. This may be the reason why some miss the Lord's will for their lives — they live afar off!
In John's gospel chapter 13 we have a moment of crisis. "One of you shall betray me," said the Lord. It was a delicate moment demanding a steady and spiritual hand to handle the matter. Peter beckoned to John that he should ask who it would be. Peter understood John was occupying the intimate place of nearness to Christ, not only physically but spiritually and was best suited and equipped to enquire. It is good, yea vital, in days of drift and departure to have such men in our midst.
ii) The Devotion of the Men
Another great lesson is afforded us as we consider these men. It seems to the author that David was unaware of the movements of these devoted men. Their going for the water was without any outward show or fuss.
They went quietly and in a dignified manner. Not seeking the glare of publicity or praise from men, they were happy in the knowledge that they were moving in a path of devotion to the person they loved.
This was true of God's perfect Servant for we read in Isaiah 42.2 "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street." Another has said, "it is the way the Master went — shall not the servant tread it still?"
Let us think of a little dwelling in Blantyre, Scotland. It is a bleak November morning and the family is awake at 5 a.m. The mother prepares a simple breakfast while father makes ready to accompany his son to Glasgow. After breakfast the son reads a Psalm of David and following the prayers comes the anguish of the last farewell. In the grey misty light of that cold winter's morning father and son travel to Glasgow. They arrive, embrace and the father turns for home. While the world slept David Livingstone turned his face to darkest Africa to bury himself in the work of God.
In closing observe the courage of these men. To obtain the water meant breaking through the ranks of the enemy. This was not an easy task, but it was made slightly easier because they had the element of surprise on their part. Not for one moment did the enemy expect such bravery. However there was the return journey and the enemy was waiting. How they managed to break through and get back we shall never know, but back they came.
Little wonder when David saw the fruit of this great exploit he would not drink of the water but poured it out as a drink offering unto the Lord. David saw in the water the blood of those men who hazarded their lives for his sake. When true love reigns supreme in the heart there is no mountain too high to climb, no river too deep to cross or no enemy too great to face because love endures all things.
It is the prayer of the author of these simple articles, that the time spent looking at these precious lessons may be sanctified to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with a pure heart.
Aspects of The Holy Spirit and The Believer
No. 2. — HIS ACTIVITY IN SALVATION
The Holy Spirit had an important role in the life of the Lord Jesus. He is seen in relation to His birth, baptism, temptation, anointing to preach, the miracles He wrought, His death and resurrection etc. However in these articles we wish to pursue the activity of the Holy Spirit in relation to the believer.
Likely the first time each of us be became personally aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit was in relation to our salvation. Our experience then was subsequently explained as we learned from the Word of God what had taken place. Paul and Peter both teach us that the Holy Spirit was operative in our experiences before we were saved. 2 Thess. 2. 13 and 1 Peter 1.
2. correspond in referring to pre-conversion sanctification wrought by the Spirit. This is the divine and sovereign side of salvation. The Holy Spirit set us apart, convicted of sin, righteousness and judgement to come (Acts 24.25) and led us into saving contact with the Lord Jesus. Incongruous as it may appear to the human intellect, such divine workings do not annul the responsibility of man to accept the Saviour. It was the stubbornness of man's rebellious heart that caused the Lord to weep over Jerusalem and also led to the martyrdom of Stephen. However we must acknowledge the wonder of the Sovereign and Eternal God moving on His creatures to bring them into union with Himself. This is also called being "born of the Spirit" John 3.6,8. At that very same moment, we were washed, sanctified and justified by the (power of the) Spirit of our God" 1 Cor. 6. 11. Washed from the filth of sin, sanctified (set apart) unto God and justified from the guilt of sin.
Also coincidentally with exercising faith in Christ we were sealed with the Holy Spirit and we received the earnest of the Spirit.
This is referred to in 2 Cor. 1. 22; Eph. 1. 13 and 4. 30 The AV of Eph. 1. 13 seems to imply a time lapse between our believing and being sealed. However the RV more correctly translates the aorist tense, ". . . having also believed, ye were sealed .. ." Thus the clear teaching is that the believing and the sealing synchronised. What does it mean to be sealed?
Firstly note that the Corinthian believers were a "seal of mine apostleship" says the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 9.2. This means that they were an irrefutable proof of a work of God. Thus the fact of us having been sealed with the Holy Spirit is proof positive that God has done a work in each believing soul in the matter of salvation. It is important to note from 2 Cor. 1.22 that it is God who hath sealed us. What a wonder! Each saint has been sealed by God Himself, and that at salvation. This has nothing to do with spiritual growth or development or practical sanctification but is a birthmark of every believer. Obviously if God has sealed us there is no power in all the universe that can break the seal.
Secondly the seal is inward. From Rom. 4.11 we learn that Abraham received the outward seal of circumcision but in our day the sealing of the Spirit is inward. It is not in the signing of a card, not the enrolment on a church register, nor in the wearing of a badge, nor in any other external ceremony — it is an internal seal given by God Himself.
Thirdly it is a seal of divine ownership, meaning that those who believe are marked by God as belonging to Him. In 2 Tim. 2. 19 we read ". . . the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, the Lord knows those that are His . . ." (JND). The Lord can therefore say "I have redeemed thee, thou art mine". This is an ownership that shall never be given up. It is irreversible. Thus Eph. 4. 30 teaches the sealing is, "unto (for) the day of redemption." This fully negates any thought of a falling away doctrine. To be sealed by God with His Spirit means we cannot be lost, we are saved eternally.
Finally the seal is a pledge that the genuine believer shall endure to the end. Thus the saints of the future great tribulation shall endure right through to the end because they have been sealed Rev. 7. 3-8. The poet caught something of this truth when he penned,
Yes I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given,
More happy but not more secure,
When glorified with Him in heaven.
(iii) The Earnest
Another has beautifully stated that the difference between the seal and the earnest is, "the seal means we are property and the earnest that we have property," (A. Leckie). The meaning of the earnest is that it is a pledge or down payment of a future full and final payment. Thus in the earnest God has given to us a divine guarantee that we shall enter into the fulness of the glorious inheritance which yet awaits us. This is why it is connected with the "Holy Spirit of promise" Eph. 1.13. The meaning of this title is not that the Spirit Himself was the subject of God's promise (although that was true Acts 1.4) but that He brings to us and allows us to presently enjoy in our souls, the wonder of the inheritance that awaits us. This was the ministry of the unnamed servant in Gen. 24. He brought the gold, garments and goods of his master to give the bride a foretaste of what lay ahead.
Therefore in relation to salvation the Holy Spirit has a ministry
prior to salvation
at salvation but with a view to the future
We can sing heartily,
"Our Father and our God!
We bless Thy sacred name;
The promise to us fulfilled,
Thy faithfulness proclaim;
Through Jesus glorified,
The Holy Ghost hath come,
To swell within Thy children's breast,
The earnest of their home."
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by The Late W. W. Fereday
(written in 1897/98) VOLUME I
Paper 1(b)—The Church's Heavenly Hope (continued)
The Lord Jesus, before His departure from this scene, spoke of the hope to His beloved disciples. (Read John 14. 1—4). Their hearts were filled with sorrow at the thought of His leaving them. He was everything to their hearts. They had left their nets at His call, they had followed Him in His patient service throughout the land; and now to be told that He was going away! But how did He comfort them? He promised to return and fetch them to be for ever with Himself in the Father's house. If they seemed to be losing the glory of the Messianic kingdom by His going away they should have a better portion, yea, a heavenly one. Henceforth they must believe in Him as unseen. This was hard for a Jew, with the Old Testament prophecies of a glorious kingdom before him. "Let not you heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me." Those who believe while He is hidden have the better portion (John 20.29; 1 Peter 1.8). But He went on to add, "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." He had not made them His companions on earth to cast them aside now that He was returning to the Father. This would have been unlike Jesus. They should be His companions for ever; therefore He assures them that there was not only a place on high for Himself, the first Begotten, but for His beloved ones also, in the riches of His grace.
But how were they to enter that glory? "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14. 3). The Lord added no more as to His coming; it was not a fitting moment; their hearts were surcharged with sorrow. For all details they must wait until the coming of the Comforter, Who would instruct their souls as they were able to bear it.
Strange that any should think that the Lord meant their death when he spoke thus! Yet it has been the general thought of the pious for centuries. If John 21.22, 23 be pondered it will be seen that, however the disciples blundered in some things, they never imagined death and the coming of the Lord equivalent terms. If death (or sleep, as the Holy Spirit prefers to call it) meets the Christian he departs to be with Christ. This is quite a different thing from Christ coming for him. The saints who have gone to the Lord are in a disembodied state (Though consciously enjoying His blessed presence), and are waiting as truly as we are, though in a different waiting-room as it were, for the moment of the Lord's coming. They will be glorified at the same instant as those who are alive and remain. It is hymn, not Scripture, that speaks of "glorified spirits in heaven."
Now for the details of this blessed event. They are furnished in 1 Thess. 4. The Thessalonians were but young believers — a few months old in the faith at most — when the epistles of Paul were addressed to them. A grave rebuke surely for those who say that such matters as the Lord's coming should not be brought before young or simple souls. In many respects the youthful Thessalonians set us all an example. They were characterised form the first by considerable fervour towards the Lord, by earnest service for Him, and above all by ardent expectation of His return. They are described thus: "Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1. 9, 10). The Lord prizes more than everything this affectionate waiting for Himself. It is very precious in His sight, however lightly esteemed among men.
But the Thessalonians soon fell into a difficulty. They were but partially instructed souls, the faithful Apostles having been hunted out of their town by the malicious Jews (Acts 17. 1-10). Presently some of their number fell asleep. This was a great surprise and Satan's opportunity. The adversary is always ready to disturb the peace and joy of the saints of God. What had become of the sleepers? Would they not lose considerably by not being here to welcome the Lord? Such were the questions which agitated their minds.
The Spirit of God soon made all plain by means of the Apostle. "I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." Do not mis understand these words. Saints are not forbidden to sorrow. By no means. God would not have His children stoical. He would have us feel the circumstances of the way, but would not have swallowed up by them, as others. "The Hope" comes into the Christian's sorrow. It sweetens the most bitter cup and brightens the darkest hour. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep through Jesus will God bring with Him." This is wonderful! The sleeping saint, instead of being a loser, is only the more like his Lord. And what God did for Christ He will do for all who are His. He raised Him out of the cold tomb and placed Him in glory; He will do the very same at the appointed hour for all His beloved sleeping ones. "Through Jesus" is more correct in 1 Thess. 4. 14. "In Jesus" has no real meaning, not being a Scriptural phrase at all. "In Christ" expresses our standing before God in Him risen, as Rom. 8 shows; "in Jesus" is nowhere found that I am aware of. "Through Jesus" is very sweet here, and stills every rising murmur. When a loved one is called hence it is no mere accident or circumstance; it is the act of Jesus. "He doeth all things well."
The Apostle says, "them which sleep through Jesus will God bring with Him." This must be carefully noted. The Thessalonians had only heard in a general way of the Lord's coming. They knew He was coming back to reign, and they were assured of being associated with Him in His glory; but they knew not yet the distinction between His coming for and with His saints.
Their perplexity gave the Spirit of God an opportunity of bringing this forward clearly. Obviously, if the saints are to come with Christ when He comes to set up His kingdom they must have been previously caught up to Him where He is. This is fully explained in 1 Thess. 4 15-18, which verses are better read as a parenthesis.
The Apostle's statement has the authority of Divine revelation. Let our souls ever have the fullest confidence that all that is contained in the Scriptures has come to us from God. "For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (go before) them which are asleep." This was the word that was so sorely needed. They feared the sleepers would be inferior in some way or another. Notice the order. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." What can be simpler or more blessed! "The Lord Himself shall descend." It is the Heavenly Bridegroom coming for His blood purchased Bride. He will pot send mere messengers, however glorious, but will come Himself.
"He comes—for, oh! His yearning heart
No more can bear delay—
To scenes of full unmingled joy
To call His bride away."
It is the moment when the Divine Eliezer delivers up the true Rebekah to be the everlasting and beloved companion of the Son (Gen. 24). It has often been remarked that the word rendered "shout" in this place implies a call, not of a promiscuous character, but to persons in relationship. His shout concerns not the world—at any rate, not just then; it is for His own. "The sheep hear His voice." "They know His Voice." (John 10.3,4).
The sleeping saints will hear His call and come forth in in-corruption and glory. All other dead persons will be left in their graves, as will be shown, if God permit, on another occasion. The living, wherever found, whether in England or China, Greenland or Cape Horn, will respond also, and will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and go up to meet the Lord. Mighty display of Divine power! It is the fruit of Divine love, the crown of His grace, the necessary result of Divine righteousness. Supreme moment! How one's heart longs for it as the words flow from the pen!
It will be observed that the Spirit of God speaks of two classes of saints—two only. "The dead in Christ"—"we which are alive and remain." All who come under these heads will be removed to glory. It is of moment to notice this, because of the notion, now painfully prevalent, that many of the Lord's own will be left behind at the rapture to pass through the great tribulation because of their faulty walk. Scripture lends no countenance to such an idea. Hebrews 9. 27, 28 is generally pressed into service for this, but if the verses be read with care it will be seen that the contrast is not between watchful and unwatchful believers, but between believers and the ungodly world. The prospect before the latter is death and judgement; before the former the coming of Christ apart from sin unto salvation. The idea springs from the principle of legalism, so deeply rooted in most minds, that our blessings depend upon our walk and behaviour. This is undoubtedly true as to rewards, but our removal to glory is not reward but the consummation of God's grace. Our title to share in it is not a becoming walk, but the precious blood of Christ. I have known some of the most devoted of God's saints completely under a cloud, and filled with uncertainty, through having imbibed such teaching.
Here another question may arise in some minds. "Scripture," it is said, "Seems to speak of many things to be accomplished before the coming of the Lord." True, but not before His removal of His heavenly saints. Instead of a multitude of prophecies having to be fulfilled before the Church of God goes, no prophecy can be fulfilled until it has gone. Prophecy is connected with the earth and the people of Israel; our heavenly hope does not come into the scheme of prophecy at all. The whole Church period is a kind of parenthesis in the ways of God. While He is gathering out the heavenly people, Israel is scattered, and prophecy stands still; when His present purpose is completed, and the Church is all gathered home, Israel will again come into view, and prophecy will flow on from the point where it was broken off by the rejection of Christ. Many things must be accomplished ere Christ will be revealed from heaven to take to Himself His great power and reign; but the Spirit of God has placed nothing between us and His descent into the air to call us up.
—(to be continued D.V.)
by D. M. CLARK, Stoney Creek
God's purpose in creating man was that He might have fellowship with him, even as there was fellowship among the trinity in the Godhead. How quickly the fellowship with man was destroyed because of sin. Adam sinned and hid from God. ". .. they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God Amongst the trees of the garden," Gen. 3.8. "Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." Gen. 3.23.
Adam's sin had cut off spiritual communion with God, and by being sent from the Garden he was also denied the personal on-going enjoyment of God's presence.
Ever since that time God has been working to undo the effect of Adam's sin and to bring us back into His presence.
It is true that God is Omnipresent, meaning that He is everywhere, so we cannot escape from Him; as the Psalmist declared in Ps. 139. "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" Being sinners, we fear His presence.
Abel realized that in order to approach God he must have a blood sacrifice so "he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering," Gen. 4.4. The sacrifice speaks of the substitutionary death of another so that God can be propitiated for sin.
This same means is used by God, throughout man's history, to bring man back into His presence and fellowship. Until the final sacrifice of Christ on the cross the way was not fully opened into God's presence.
During the period of the Law, the High Priest, once a year, entered into the Holy of Holies to present the blood of atonement, but for the rest of the nation access to God's presence was barred by the veil. "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing," Heb. 9.7-8.
However, as the author of Hebrews argues, these types were all done away in Christ. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance and faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Heb. 10.19-22. Now we have access to the very presence of God in all His holiness, because Christ has cleansed us from our sins and fitted us to be there without blame, in love, Eph. 1.4.
Having reviewed the purpose of God to have fellowship with his creatures, which was lost by sin, and how He then restored it through blood sacrifices and finally by the supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, We now consider how He was present with His people Israel and in what way He is now present in His church.
His Presence with Israel
When the Shekinah Glory filled the tabernacle, upon its completion, the Israelites knew that God, Jehovah, had come to dwell amongst His people. Ex. 40.34, "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle." The nation, however, still lacked direct access to Him.
God did make His presence known in other ways, e.g. Deut. 20.1 "When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Joshua also had the same assurance before entering into the Promised Land, Joshua 1.9 "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good
courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
In all of these instances the Lord's presence was based on the continued obedience of Israel as they were warned in Deut. 28.15, "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statues which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee____"
Isaiah speaks of the "Angel of His Presence" who was with Israel as they journeyed into the land of Promise. "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them: and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Is. 63.9. The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is Jehovah, who is revealed to us in the New Testament as "Emmanuel," that is, God with us, the name given to Jesus, Matt. 1.23.
Ezekiel's prophecy speaks of a time when the children of Israel will once again be gathered into the Promised Land. Then the name JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, which means "the LORD is there", will be said of the revived city of Jerusalem, Ezekiel 48.35. Before that takes place the people will have declared that though they despised and esteemed Him not — failing to recognize their Messiah when He came as the Man of Sorrows —their eyes will be opened to see that He is indeed their Messiah and that His sacrifice was for them, and will say "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Is. 53.5. That time is yet future.
Note, that for Israel, God was with His people but He did not indwell them. Jesus said to His disciples before His death, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." John 14.16,17. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit would take up His abode in the believers, and so form the body of Christ.
His Presence in the Church
In Matt. 18.20 the Lord Jesus promised: ". . . .where two or three are gathered together in (or unto) my name, there am I in the midst of them." This does not mean that where any group of Christians gather together that He is in their midst. For He stated that they were to be gathered together unto His name. The implication is that they have been "gathered together", as a corporate body, by the Holy Spirit, unto all for which the name of the Lord Jesus stands. If there are spiritual or moral matters that are contrary to the holiness that becomes those associated with the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they bring dishonour "on that worthy name by which ye are called." Jas. 2.7. When the Holy Spirit is thereby grieved then the liberty to fulfill our role as priests to our God in inhibited. We also lose the sense of the presence of the Lord often resulting in our inability to fulfill the injunction of: Hebrews 13.15, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
During the centuries, since the believers first gathered to the name of the Lord, there have been many who could claim the Lord's presence. At the beginning of the 18th century there sprang up, independently, groups of believers who were acting on that principle. Such may indeed be the case today.
When we gather as a corporate body, on the basis of Matt.18.20, we should be conscious of the fact that the Lord Jesus is present with us in a very special way. It is not the Father but the Son who said He would be there. How appropriate that we have Him present when we are remembering Him and shown forth His death. The presence of Jesus is assured for it is there that He has placed His name, as He had done for Israel in the days of the Temple, "But unto the place which the LORD you God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come," Deut. 12.5.
We have the symbols of His death to remind us that our salvation could only be obtained through His sacrifice. We also have Himself in our midst and can therefore render our thanksgiving and praise to Him directly and through Him to the Father who gave the Son to be our Saviour. We worship Him because of who He is and praise Him for what He has done.
What a marked effect it would have upon our attitude and words if we were in the presence of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. How much more so when we are in the presence of the Lord. This should have a truly profound impact on all that is said and done during the remembrance service. The flesh would not be allowed to act if that reality was borne in our hearts. A sense of His presence displaces all thoughts of self.
True worship occurs when we present Christ in all His fullness and worthiness to the Father. We may also render our worship, praise and thanksgiving to Himself directly for we know Him to be in our midst.
This does not abrogate in any way the truth, that as individuals, we can enjoy the Lord's presence and should do so at all times, ". . . .for He hath said: I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Heb. 13.5 The word "never" is a double negative, meaning I will never, never leave you. Therefore we need never ask the Lord to be with us, for he has given us the assurance that He will always be with us. Our request should be that we may be constantly aware of His presence.
In the days prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit, John could say in his gospel, that "the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified," John 7.39. At Pentecost the Holy Ghost was given and now each believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, Eph. 1.13.
The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, Rom. 8.9, which enables us to say that the triune God is in us. If you can say that you are in Christ then you can also say that Christ is in you.
We know the continued presence of the Lord with us, in contrast with Israel. This should have a profound effect upon our conduct for we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit guides us at all. He will do it according to the Scriptures, and never contrary to them. (G. Muller)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (22)
by J. Glenville (England)
The object of this exercise is to acknowledge the unsearchable and inscrutable ways of our God and Father, exalting our precious Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ with a view to stirring the hearts of younger saints in consideration regarding their priorities in life.
Although one's conversion has already been detailed in an earlier series, it could be mentioned that my father was a staunch Anglican and founder member of the Actor's Church Union, whilst my mother was brought up in a convent, her sister being a nun in Buenos Aires.
Having been reared in the Anglican community I was apprenticed into a City of London textile company, where coming under the influence of a godly manager Mr. K. S. Ling, I was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this time the war was on the verge of breaking out. Shortly after its declaration, the air raid shelter which on that particular night was to accommodate my parents and me, received a direct hit during a heavy air raid. Reporting to work the following morning I was told by Mr. Ling that we must secure a taxi to enable my parents to be evacuated. According to the good hand of our God upon us (see Ezra 7.6; Neh. 2.8, 18) in the midst of raging fires, roads, strewn with tangled concrete pillars, steel girders and hoses, a taxi was found, directed to the suburb for my parents and household effects. The four of us arrived safely in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, hard by Mr. Ling's abode.
This brother was a fine, all round sportsman and a member of a free church nearby. I was received into the assembly at Chesham, where in later years, Mr. Ling, having been weaned from former associations, became the corresponding brother.
The war years brought many changes, with the consequence that I married, commencing a retail clothing business in Devonshire. During which time one's heart was greatly burdened for the work of the Gospel.
During the early 1950's, leaving my wife to manage the business, much time was spent in the London Docks and the Royal Albert Docks armed with a police permit from the Port of London Authority, for boarding ships. Also opportunities were grasped for contacting down and outs in the Metropolis.
However, in 1953, still endeavouring to be self-supporting with the sterling aid of my wife, I extended my field to Southern Ireland, travelling by boat to Cork. Preaching in the open air, I was manhandled by the Garda into the local police station. Upon release, wending my way westward, sleeping under a haystack, Skibbereen was eventually reached, thus commencing a most happy and enduring relationship with the dear saints. As time went on over the years, we would negotiate with farmers over a wide area, in order to rent a field in which to erect a particularly heavy portable hall for series of Gospel Meetings. How happy we were to have our primitive lighting arrangements improved ultimately by the introduction of Tilley-lamps.
It was in those years that a friendship was formed with our late Editor, the esteemed Mr. William Bunting, and the end of that decade saw my association with the committee of Assembly Testimony.
Fresh desires for the Lord's work, led to visitation work, in the earlier years of the 1960s in Czechoslovakia. This embraced ministry of the Word, linked with material ministration to the saints. Magnanimous support for this came from assemblies in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and, of course, Skibbereen. These expeditions were always fought with jeopardy owing to constant surveillance by the authorities, i.e. the secret police. In addition each assembly harboured a police infomer.
Strangely enough, in confiding one's exercise for full-time service to a visiting evangelist be strongly advised against this, recommending the retention of the business, which was still nobly carried on by my dear wife throughout my continual absence.
Nevertheless, commended by both the assembly in Colyton, Devonshire, and that in Skibbereen, I was enabled to launch out fully.
Looking back over those years one has seen the guidance of our giving God.
The London Dock work was introduced to and taken over by brother Ron Smith ere the Dock complex in London virtually closed. Southern Ireland has witnessed greater freedom in Gospel preaching. As to Czechoslovakia, this work brought to the notice of and taken over, and subsequently enlarged by brother Roger Brind. Both these brethren were young men. Today Eastern Europe has seen a wide opening up everywhere. Succeeding years keeps one involved in ministry of the good Word of God. Viewing the general difficulties encountered in so many ways, it is desired most fervently that a true and real spirit of HUMILITY, allied with transparent and wholehearted HONESTY, might characterize the beloved saints of God, promoting inevitably HARMONY in the assemblies. "Humble yourselves" cries Peter (1 Pet. 5. 6) who had to learn regarding other men's labours, the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me," (John 21.22).
The badger's skin was all that some could see
In that sweet life of beauty lived for Thee,
We look beyond the lowly Nazarene
And bless Thee we the Lord have seen.
We thank Thee for His course of servitude
Devoted to Thyself, misunderstood
By men, yet by the eye of faith we see
Those days lived in obscurity.
A consecrated sacrificial path
Was His who bared His bosom to Thy wrath.
Prefigured in the skins of ram's dyed red
—His body giv'n and blood was shed.
How comely were His feet upon the hills,
Like the scapegoat who took Thy people's ills
Out of their sight. We see our Saviour fair
In those fine curtains of goat's hair.
Beyond them all and nearest to Thy heart—
Curtains embroidered by a craftsman's art
With cherubim, purple, scarlet and blue,
Fine linen twined in radiant hue.
The blue speaks of His heavenly origin,
The scarlet shows the price He paid for sin,
The purple of His kingly majesty,
Linen, perfect humanity.
Thus as we view these holy coverings
Thy Holy Spirit to our memory brings
Thoughts of Thy Son in all His lovely ways.
Remembering, we sing His praise.
—by Matthew J. Cordiner, Kilwinning
THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST Galatians 6.14
Crucifixion was an ignominious death. The cross was connected with shame. To be crucified unto the world means to be made hateful, and to be a derision to the world. To have the world crucified to me implies that the world becomes an object of hatred and derision to me. The world is crucified to me when I can no longer see attractions in it. The thing I used to love I no longer love. The pleasures I used to follow have lost their charm. The treasures I used to seek to amass have been resigned for the treasure that is laid up in heaven. New tastes have been developed so that the old dainties now are sickening to me, and the things I once revolted from are my meat and drink.
So the world has been put on the cross and nailed there and I look on it and deride it and take it and abhor it, and I wonder that it ever had any charms for me.
Then I am crucified to the world when the world cannot find in me the charm it once found nor the attraction it once found, nor the sympathy, nor the service it once found. I do not now yield myself to the world and the world hates me because I am not of the world. If I am no longer the world's it has nailed me to the cross as a malefactor, and it passes by and hangs its head in hateful and malicious derision.
Seek not to vindicate thyself, nor plead
In thine own cause, for thou wilt surely en-
Best leave it to thy God, He faileth not,
Let Deity, my soul, thy suit prepare.
Art thou misunderstood, thy ways misjudged?
Doth slander say thy motives are impure?
In silent patience wait, in this rejoice,
God's vindication tarries, but 'tis sure. '
It may not be this side the golden shore,
So meekly bear the sorrows of the way,
For all thy sorrows soon shall be eclipsed
In splendour in the coming, crowning day.
—Jim Fianigan, Belfast
1 Corinthians 12.15-20
If two angels were sent from heaven to execute a divine command, one to conduct an empire and the other to sweep a street in it, they would feel no inclination to change employments.