For three hours, the Lord Jesus hung on the cross with the sun gradually gaining height in the sky and becoming hotter by the hour. Then from 12 noon, when the sun had reached its peak in brilliance, darkness fell suddenly over that tragic scene of agonising suffering until 3 o'clock. Whether the Lord's adversaries around the cross continued their mockery and scoffing, it is not known. But during those dreadful three hours of darkness, not a word came from the lips of the Lord Jesus until He broke that long silence by asking with a loud voice, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Turning now to the Gospels, John makes no mention of this phenomenon but the three synoptists alone record "it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour", Luke 23.44; cp. Matt. 27.45; Mark 15.33. From the sixth hour when the sun was at its brightest, there was darkness, which means that the timing was supernatural, and therefore the next three hours of darkness enveloped the earth. Some liberal commentators, who deny the element of the miraculous in the Scriptures, attribute the darkness to an eclipse of the sun. To a superficial reader, this may sound feasible, but such a possibility is decided by the date of its occurrence. Observance of the Feast of Passover was on the 14th day of the first month of the year (Lev. 23.5) which means the moon was full on that date of a lunar month when a solar eclipse is impossible. Only Luke, as a physician with an enquiring mind, follows the stated fact with the explanation that "the sun was darkened"Luke 23.45 , which may-not be-explicit but may imply the darkness was attributable to a deliberate act of God. Such intervention in cosmic laws by the interruption of the continuity of solar light for three hours could not be of man but was of God alone. Obviously, it was a miracle.
According to Matthew the darkness was "over all the land" and Mark "over the whole land", but Luke says, "over all the earth." The Greek word ge, used by the three writers, means "land" in the sense of a country as distinct from other countries, or "earth" as distinct from heaven, and so its contextual setting is usually the deciding factor for the meaning which, in this case, is not apparent. Therefore, whether the darkness was local and restricted to Israel or global, it is difficult to determine. However, as the resultant efficacy of Christ's atoning death is worldwide, for both Jews and Gentiles, so the preceding darkness may also have been worldwide.
The reason for three hours of darkness may not be explicit in the Gospel records. But during those dreadful hours, Christ was "made sin" 2 Cor. 5.21, and "made a curse" Gal. 3;13. As a holy God was unable to look with favour upon either "sin" or "a curse", heaven's response was a shroud of darkness over the Holy Sufferer and so enveloping the earth. The express purpose of His being made sin and a curse was in both instances "for us" — that should draw the deepest heart-felt thanks from every believer, so "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
As the three hours of darkness was supernatural, so was the three days of "thick darkness that could be felt" over the land of Egypt Ex. 10.21f. This ninth plague, like the others, was part of a duel between Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the multiplicity of heathen gods, behind whom was Satan and his evil forces. All Egyptians worshipped the sun-god, Amenea, who was reputed to be incarnate in Pharaoh, but this plague of impenetrable darkness defeated him. At Calvary, Christ, Who is the true God Incarnate, was engaged in an unseen and more lethal conflict with "the power of darkness" Luke 22.52f; (cp. Col. 1:13) That is the domain of darkness where Satan exercises his usurped jurisdiction. Long before Calvary, throughout the succeeding ages, Satan's target for attack latently was Christ, becoming patent during the days of His flesh and culminating with His being "hanged on a tree" Acts 5.30 . This was seemingly a victory for Satan who had the power of death but, through that shameful death on a cross, Christ defeated Satan and brought him to nought, emerging triumphantly over him (Heb. 2.14).
The Lord's experience during the three hours of darkness was unique and really beyond human comprehension. But it may be illustrated from Abram who, after dividing certain animals for making a covenant in accordance with oriental custom, fell into a "deep sleep" at sundown when "an horror of great darkness fell upon him," Gen. 15.9-12 . By this experience, Abram was to learn the implications of this covenant. In The Pocket Commentary of the Bible (Part One), Basil F.C. Atkinson comments upon the significant phrase, "an horror of great darkness" by saying, "It was certainly brought home to him, like the deep sleep which induced it, something of the meaning of Calvary. It was exactly such a horror that enveloped the Saviour, as He became our sin bearer on the cross." Then he adds, "The horror of great darkness was caused in the experience of Christ by His identification with us and our sin. He was made sin for us 2 Cor. 5.21 , and became a curse for us Gal. 3.13."
Unconsciously, man in his unsaved state lives in the darkness of sin, producing "the unfruitful works of darkness" which are listed as "fornication", "all uncleanness," and "covetousness," which, far from being practised in the Christian circle, should "not be named among you" says Paul, adding "filthiness," "foolish talking," and "jesting," all of which are unfitting for Christian minds to dwell upon and tongues to discuss. Christians before their conversion "were once darkness" not in darkness but were darkness itself, and practised or had the potential to practise such sins. "But now," they are "light in the Lord," meaning not in the light but, having received the Light, they are light. Consequently, they now "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" Eph. 5.3 f, 8 RV. 11.
"The sun was darkened," says Luke, when Christ died upon the cross. This, of course, happened so remarkably at the first advent of Christ. In the Olivet discourse concerning His second advent, the Lord Jesus said prophetically, that immediately after the tribulation "the sun shall be darkened" Matt. 24.29 . Therefore, this phenomenon at Calvary will be then repeated. The Lord was apparently quoting from Isaiah 13.10 where the prophet foretells "the sun shall be darkened in His going forth" whilst the moon, the stars and the constellations will not give their light. About a century or so earlier than Isaiah through the prophet Joel, the Lord said, "... 1 will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, ... the sun shall be turned into darkness, . . . before the great and terrible day of the Lord come (Joel 2.31).
Hence, "the sun shall be darkened," probably lasting for only a few hours as at Calvary, after the tribulation and at the coming again of Messiah in visible glory. The darkening of the sun and other manifestations of divine power will be a solemn warning to men of impending judgment but a remnant, who will call upon the name of the Lord, will be saved (Joel 2.32).
The Psalmist is certainly looking for audible, even loud, praise, "Sing aloud unto God our strength," but it is much more than sheer volume that is expected. He wants an expression of joy in the singing, "make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob." There is ample reason why this should be so, for the long is to be, "unto God our strength," God in His omnipotence, and "unto the God of Jacob," God in relation to the whole of His people, and an undeserving people at that (see e.g. Isa. 41.14).
The melody raised is to be diverse in its forms, "the timbrel — the pleasant harp — the psaltery," and our praise can be expressed in a number of ways but still "with the spirit and — with the understanding" (1 Cor. 14.15). These two aspects are both important. If we are not praising "with the spirit", then it will be just noise. Real praise can only occur under the governing of our spirits by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12.3) Without our understanding and appreciating of the reasons we have to praise, we will find ourselves engaged in "vain repetitions" and they are essentially worthless (see Matt. 6.7).
That is not to say, especially when we are praising collectively in the assembly, that our individual diversity is to be such that it denigrates into disorder (see 1 Cor. 14.40). Asaph reminds his readers, as he introduces yet another form, "blow up the trumpet," of "the time appointed on our solemn feast day." He also introduces the concept of "a statute for Israel and a law of the God of Jacob — ordained in Joseph for a testimony." As we do not read of any arrangements of this sort in Joseph's day, it seems that it was something relating to the children of Israel whilst they were still in Egypt, probably very close to the time of their deliverance. The "He" of v.5 is referring to God (see Ex. 11.4) whilst the "I heard" and "I understand not," more understandably translated as, "we heard — we did not understand" links up with the state of the Israelites themselves (see Psalm 114.1). It was a time for them when they understood very little of what was happening around them, and it is at such times, paradoxically, when faith is most necessary but hardest to exercise. It is very easy to assure others in their times of difficulty when they can see no end to their problems that "we walk by faith not by sight" (2 Cor. 5.7), but to follow our own advice in similar circumstances we find rather more difficult.
v6-7 God's actions in response to their call
There was certainly no evidence of power in the ranks of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. What might have looked like the beginning of an upsurge of revolt when Moses first intervened (see Ex. 2.11-15), quickly subsided when their potential liberator disappeared for some forty years (see Acts 7.30). So it was God alone who could say regarding his people, "I removed his shoulder from the burden" and it was through Him that "his hands were delivered from the pots (baskets)," the utensils for carrying bricks and straw. The people did at least recognise their own incompetence in the matter, though the scripture does not go so far as to say that they actually turned to God for help, just that they "sighed by reason of their bondage and they cried" (Ex. 2.23). The same neutral view comes across here "Thou callest in trouble," says God, in the same way as a consciously drowning man calls for help from someone, but such was His grace that "I delivered thee."
Whilst we should be certain, and must hold firm to the truth, that the salvation of God can never and will never be reversed, it is in one sense an ongoing deliverance and will continue to total fulfilment when we are safe in heaven (see e.g. Rom. 13.11).1 That was the situation for the Israelites too. God having said of their redemption from Egypt, "I delivered thee," an unalterable accomplishment, something which Pharaoh failed to appreciate to his cost (see Ex. 14.23-31), He goes on to talk of His continued dealings with them during their wilderness journeys. "I answered thee in the secret place of thunder", perhaps a reference to Sinai. "I proved (tested) you at the waters of Meribah", when in spite of their grumblings, He supplied them with water from a totally unpromising source, "the rock in Horeb" (Ex. 17.6). We used to sing a chorus which included the words "what He's done for others He'll do for you." "Selah", think about that.
v8-10 Entreaty, instruction and promise
The entreaty comes across with the sense that just as the early Israelites had proved obdurate, so were those to whom the Psalm was first addressed. "Hear O My people and I will testify unto thee. 0 Israel, if (only) thou wilt harken unto Me." That reminds us very much of the words of the Lord Jesus to the nation in His day, "How often would I — but ye would not" (Matt. 23.37).
The instruction is in the form of both a warning against and the directing of attention to. "There shall no strange god be in thee — I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt." You can turn to your self made golden calf or to the more sophisticated imagery of Moloch and Remphan (see Acts 7.41-43) but rather than be of help they will bring about a national disaster.
This has been taken in two ways. "Open thy mouth and I will fill it" is sometimes quoted in relation to our speaking for God, either privately or publicly (see Luke 12.11-12). We need to be very careful though when it is understood this way that we do not use it to cushion ourselves against being prepared in heart and mind before engaging in such activity (see 1 Pet. 3.15). A more prosaic approach is to see it as a promise to meet our needs of food and drink. This may have some relevance to the thoughts intended but we need again to remember that, in general terms, we are expected to work for our daily bread (see e.g. 2 Thess. 3.10-12). We should make sure that we are on firm spiritual ground before believing that we, as individuals, are excluded from this instruction (see e.g. 1 Tim. 5.16 : 2 Thess. 3.7-9).
v11-12 Practical result of a rejection of God's words
In spite of God's goodness to them, a goodness which, as discussed above, was ongoing and which persisted in the face of intense provocation, "My people would not harken to My voice and Israel would none of Me." That stark situation seems hardly possible to us but the scriptural record bears it out. What was God's reaction, His response, to such calculated ingratitude? It was not, in general terms, a crushing judgement from heaven, it was just to let them have what they wanted, to leave to their own devices. "So I gave them up unto their own hearts lust." That was in reality a much more damning condemnation but it was one which they blithely accepted, "and they walked in their own counsels." There was no attempt to remedy the situation, no consciousness of the state into which they had got themselves.
This is precisely how Paul describes the position of immoral irreligious man. Having detailed their wilfulness and corrupted way of thinking and acting he continues. "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness — for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections — God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Rom. 1.24-28). Yet we find that in spite of such a seemingly hopeless situation, a solution has been found, indeed it has been purchased. The crosswork of the Lord Jesus is such "that He (God) might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3.16). It is sobering to think that a believer can get himself in a position where God leaves him to his own devices as far as this world is concerned, but remember that "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6.7). That is not God's will for you, my brother, my sister. His entreaty still today is, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse", i.e. give God His rightful due, His rightful place in your life, "and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mai. 3.10).
v13-16 What could have been, if their response had been right
The poignancy of the situation is expressed as God sighs over His people. "Oh that My people had harkened unto Me and Israel had walked in My ways. Here again, 'to harken' doesn't mean just to hear mechanically but to pay attention, to take note of. If we do that first then the 'walking in His ways' will follow. What difference would it have made for them? What difference will it make in our own lives and experience? "I should soon have subdued their enemies and turned My hand against their adversaries." Those battles in which we find ourselves so bitterly engaged would be brought to a successful conclusion, not because we have acquired some hitherto unknown skill in spiritual warfare or a magic formula but because He is doing the fighting for us. The victory would be very evidently His because it would be to Him that the enemy would submit. "The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him." By His grace the benefits of that victory are shared with us, but it is only by His grace and always given in and through the Lord Jesus. "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15.7).
For His people too there is a submission, but as a willing and grateful response to His grace. There comes then a catalogue of the blessings which might be missed but which He longs to dispense. "He should have fed them with the finest of the wheat," not just good, but the finest, the very best, "and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee". It is one thing to be fed, another to be fed with the best, but to be satisfied, ah, there is nothing that can surpass that. Such satisfaction will be complete when we are in heaven with Him (see Psalm 17.15), but it is a condition, a privilege, that He would have His people to enjoy here.
—Lessons from Joshua by R. Reynolds (Bleary, N. Ireland)
In the previous papers we have traced the first five references to stones in the book of Joshua, from Jordan in chapter 4 to the altar in chapter 8.
6. Stones from Heaven
In ch. 10.11, "the Lord cast down great stones from heaven" upon the fleeing Amorites, those descendants of Ham and the inveterate enemies of God's people. Israel was never allowed to believe that their strength or their military superiority gained them the victory — here and elsewhere they were reminded very potently that "the Lord fought for Israel." In a moment, the Lord, by this amazing intervention, slew more that the children of Israel slew with the sword. How encouraging to know that when our strength fails and our resources are exhausted and we are unable to complete the task, that the Lord in His infinite power can finish what we have begun and cause us to conquer.
"What though in the conflict for right Your enemies almost prevail! God's armies just hid from your sight Are more than the foes which assail."
His intervention, as always, was most timely, coming just when it was most needed. May we not limit the Holy One of Israel, but increasingly learn to trust Him whose wisdom is unquestionable, whose love is ineffable, whose care is indubitable and whose power is unassailable.
7. Stones at Makkedah
In vs. 18 and 27 of this chapter great stones are rolled upon the mouth of the cave at Makkedah. In the former verse they incarcerate the five kings of the Amorites, yet alive and in the latter reference they seal their tomb. Sometimes we encounter problems for which we can find a temporary solution but God will expect us ultimately to put our feet upon the neck of our enemies and be assured of total victory. We must not be complacent while those enemies live. Bring them out and let them face the awful judgment they merit.
In Gen. 15.16 "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" but in Deut. 20.17 the Lord commanded Israel to utterly destroy them. We must not dilute the commandments of our God, "the flesh with the affection and lusts" must be crucified (Gal. 5.24) and our "members which are upon the earth" must be mortified (put to death) Col. 3.5.
8. Stones at Shechem
The last reference to stones is found in ch. 24. 26,27. Just as Paul called for the Ephesian elders to meet with him at Miletus (Acts 20.17), so the aged Joshua called for the elders of Israel to meet with him in Shechem. Josh. 24.1. There was wisdom in choosing Shechem — we have already considered the altar built there in ch. 8 and the law written on those stones was still visible and served as a potent reminder to Israel of their obligation to Him to whom they owed everything. At the end of v2 Joshua reminds them of the idolatry marking the nation before Abraham was called. There was an inherent tendency to idolatry and they are being encouraged to look back to the hole of the pit whence they were digged and to remember that they were not one whit better than the nations around them; only the grace of God made them to differ.
Notice how often the pronoun "I" occurs in this last chapter. Israel could take no credit for anything they possessed, they owed everything to the Lord.
Joshua, having ended his speech, the people responded, "God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods." vl6 Joshua doubted the sincerity of their affirmations and further reminded them of the holiness and jealousy of God vl9. The people then replied "Nay; but we will serve the Lord." (v21) and again, "The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will be obey." v24. As a witness to their resolve, Joshua set up a great stone "under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord" v26. "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." (Ex. 19.8) had been their unanimous cry at Sinai and here they speak similar words in Canaan. Alas, mere resolve is not sufficient to empower us to live for God and serve Him only, as confirmed by the sad history related in the book of the Judges. Let us be slow to boast of what we will accomplish for God. The arm of the flesh is weak at the best and only by His help will we prevail. Paul had learned his own weakness and acknowledged in Acts 26.22 "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day." As we look upon this last stone in the book of Joshua may we learn that in all things, at all times we are completely dependant upon God and learn the folly and futility of empty boasts.
"I'm weaker than a bruised reed,
I cannot do without Thee;
I want Thee in each hour of need,
I'll want Thee when in glory"
What lessons these stones would teach us; they cry out and leave us in no doubt of their solemn significance as with the Lord's much needed help we aspire to the conquest of Canaan.
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME I
Paper 5(a)—The Coming Great Tribulation
It is commonly understood by those who bear the Name of the Lord Jesus that the Scriptures speak of a period of unparalleled trial for the saints of God before the termination of the present age. Many are not a little exercised as to the matter, not being at all clear in their minds as to who will suffer at that time. Some assert that the Church of God will be in the scene of conflict then, and that therefore the heavenly saints will be the sufferers during that terrible period; others affirm that the Church of God will be removed to glory ere that day begins, and that its trials will fall upon a different order of witnesses altogether. The question is manifestly far too grave, and fraught with results much too serious, to be allowed to remain a mere matter of speculation or opinion. It cannot be treated as a point of indifference. Time hastens, and the darkness deepens around us; every thoughtful Christian believes that we are drawing near to the fulfilment of all that the prophets have spoken. Hence the importance of knowing certainly the mind of the Lord. If the Church of God is indeed to pass through the terrible ordeal, it is of moment to know it, that we may prepare ourselves for it and not be taken unawares; while, on the other hand, if the Scriptures which speak of the great tribulation really contemplate an entirely different company of saints, it is well to be assured of it, that our hearts may be at rest about the matter.
All this we now propose to enquire into. The only standard of authority is the Word of God. What a mighty contrast there is between the ever-varying opinions of men and the inspired Word of our God! On the one hand there is no certainty, but frequently distress and doubt; on the other hand, there is solid ground for the feet to stand upon, and faith finds perfect rest. All doubts are there removed, all mists are dispelled; divine certainty is known and enjoyed in the soul.
We will first examine Matt. 24. This is admitted to be the most important passage dealing with the coming great tribulation. To have right thoughts as to this chapter is to get real help as to many other portions of Scripture. The general character of the Gospel of Matthew must he borne in mind. It is not in vain that the Spirit of God has given us four different accounts of the Lord Jesus in His walk and ways below. Each evangelist presents the Lord in a different aspect, as must be evident to every reader. In what character does Matthew present Him to our hearts? Unquestionably as the Messiah of Israel. Chapter 1 shows Him to be Abraham's true Seed, and David's Heir. The Gospel as a whole is the trial of the question whether or not Israel was prepared to receive Him. The result of the test we know. He was despised and rejected by men, and abhorred of His own nation. Consequently, in chapter 16.18, the Lord speaks of the Church—"Upon this rock I will build My Church"—a new work of grace to be performed consequent upon the final rejection of Himself by Israel. Warnings abound in Matthew's Gospel. Israel was not left in ignorance as to what would happen if the Messiah was not received. One of the Lord's most solemn statements concerning them is to be found in chapter 23.37-39, which immediately precedes the chapter now under consideration. Mark the sorrow of His blessed heart expressing itself: "0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For 1 say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." All this the disciples heard and pondered. Their minds were filled with the promised kingdom; they firmly believed that their Master was the long-expected Deliverer, and they looked that He would soon set up the kingdom in power and glory. The following, among other passages, show what was in their thoughts: Matt. 20.20-23; Luke 19.11; 24.21; Acts 1.6.
They did not as yet understand the cross, though the Lord frequently spoke to them of it. Deliverance from the Romans and all other oppressors, followed by glory in the land, was alone before their minds. But they might have gathered at least two things from the Lord's lamentation over Jerusalem: first, that there must be a period of desolation for Israel and the temple, because of their unbelief; and secondly, that there will be a future coming of the Blessed One, when He will be gladly welcomed by the very nation that once disowned and rejected Him.
However, in passing hence, they drew the Lord's attention to the beautiful buildings of the temple, and got in reply: "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24.2). This was too plain to be misinterpreted. Accordingly they asked the Lord the three questions found in verse 3. "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" Just a few words on the expression "The coming." Let it be distinctly understood that they in no way referred to the heavenly hope of the Church of God, the coming of the Lord Jesus into the air to gather together His own. Of this they had absolutely no knowledge whatever. It was not yet revealed; indeed, they knew nothing at all about the Church itself beyond the brief word already referred to in Matt. 16. Could we have spoken to them on that day of accomplished redemption, and a rent veil, of Sonship to the Father, of the Holy Ghost's indwelling, of union with a glorified Man in heaven, or of translation to heaven to spend eternity with the First-begotten in the father's house, they would not have understood a word. All these are privileges now known and enjoyed, being the inalienable portion of all who in this period believe in the Lord Jesus. But these things were not known by the disciples when with the Lord on the Mount of Olives. It will greatly help to the elucidation of Matt 24 if all thoughts of the Church of God are promptly dismissed from the mind. The questions raised by the disciples were not asked from the standpoint of the Church at all. They were merely Jewish believers who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and who were desirous of information concerning His earthly kingdom.* They are thus representatives of a similar company of saints who will be found in the land at a later day.
* I am anxious that the above remarks should not be misunderstood. Though the eleven formed no part of the Church of God at the time of which we speak, they most assuredly did afterwards; indeed, they were its first members. But this was not true until the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended from heaven to form the body.
At this juncture it may be well to compare Luke's account of the Lord's remarkable prophecy. He was led of the Spirit of God to dwell on the first of the three questions, with the Lord's answer. Hence we get there full information concerning the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Romans, with but few remarks concerning the crisis at the end of the age. Matthew, on the other hand, while naming all the questions, was guided to dwell on the answers to the second and third only. Through not noticing this, many interpreters have imagined that Matt. 24 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, because the parallel passage in Luke does! But this is a great mistake, and due to want of attention to the Spirit's use of the two writers. We may here observe the importance of inspiration. Merely human arrangements cannot account for such differences; but when we bear in mind that the Holy Ghost had different objects before His mind in taking up his chosen vessels, all is simple and plain.
In our introduction, we said that the church is made up of people united to Christ, and united to each other by the Holy Spirit, which means that the church is not 'an organisation', but 'an organism.' This is why the Bible uses the word "body" to describe the church, see Eph. 1.22-23, Col 1.24, etc. Let's just say that in the context of this study, the word "church" is used in its universal sense. In future studies, we will be thinking more about the church in its local sense.
Bearing in mind the New Testament usage of the word "body" to describe the church, it follows that its commencement could only take place once the features of a body existed.
Firstly, a body requires a head, and God, having raised Christ "from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places', has "put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all", Eph. 1. 20-23.
Secondly, a body requires life, and 1 Cor. 12.12-13, describes the unity and life of the body in most wonderful terms. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." The life of the body subsists in the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit.
The church therefore commenced when this became true, that is, on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were united to Christ, and to one another, by the Holy Spirit. It could not have existed before. At Caesarea Philippi, the Lord Jesus spoke of the church in the future tense, "I will build My church", Matt. 16.18, and Paul makes it clear that the union of Jew and Gentile in one body, something totally impossible before Pentecost, was a "mystery, which from the beginning of theworld hath been hid in God." Ephes. 3.9. We are told that it was, "the mystery ... which' in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit . . .", v.3-5.
The same passage reveals that the church demonstrates the "manifold wisdom of God", and does so "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord", v.ll. It is quite staggering to discover that we are part of God's "eternal purpose", and this should bring us to God in thankfulness and praise.
Let's notice two things that the Lord Jesus said about the coming of the Holy Spirit to form the church by uniting the individual disciples to Him in heaven:
John 20.21-22. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost". Whilst some feel that the disciples actually received the Holy Spirit then, 'others see the words as a precursor and promise of that which would take place at Pentecost.' (J.Heading, 'What the Bible Teaches— John') The Lord Jesus is simply explaining what He was going to do (see John 7.39), and His teaching is beautifully conveyed by the fact that "He breathed on them." In Genesis 2, God "breathed into his (Adam's) nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." On the day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples, and they became a living church. On both occasions, life was imparted: a living body was created.
Acts 1.5. "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." The word, "baptized", is most significant. When a person is baptized, they express the fact that they died to something old, and have been raised to something new. That's exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost. Something old came to an end, and something new commenced. 1 Cor.12. 13 explains: "For by one spirit are ('were' - it's really in the past tense) we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free . . ." The things that divide people came to an end for believers, whether nationality (Jew/Gentile), or social distinction (bond/free). These divisions were replaced by "one body!" The baptism in the Spirit only look place once, and that was on the day of Pentecost. It meant the end of human divisions, and the commencement of union in Christ, and with Christ. When we were saved, we entered into the good of all that took place once on the day of Pentecost, in exactly the same way as we entered into the good of all that took place once at Calvary. Never let anyone persuade you otherwise, especially if they say that 'the baptism in the Spirit' is something that comes after salvation. That teaching is totally erroneous.
We must now think about the actual day of Pentecost. The word simply means 'the fiftieth', and is explained in Lev. 23. 15-16. "The day of Pentecost", which therefore took place fifty days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, marked the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, Acts 2.1-3. Peter explained to the crowd what had happened as follows: "This Jesus hath God raised up . . . therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear", Acts 2.32-33. Compare this with John 7.39 and 15. 26. So the coming of the Holy Spirit was witness of Christ's ascension and glory in heaven, and secured the union of the body on earth with the Head in heaven.
In describing what happened audibly and visibly on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.2-3 says:
"There came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." It was the imparting of divine power: see Acts 1.8, "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you . . ." Power to witness.
"And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." Fire, in the Bible, is an emblem of God's presence and purity, see Gen. 15.17 and Ex. 3.2 for example. Read Heb.12.18 & 29.
"It sat upon each of them", shewing that the coming of the Holy Spirit was personal: at the same time, it united the disciples. This is made clear from the translation, 'tongues as of fire, parting and sitting upon each of«them.' (Scofield margin)
So, to sum up, the day of Pentecost marked the commencement of the church, and the coming of the Holy Spirit secured (1), The power of God for the church ("wind"): (2), The presence of God for the church ("fire"): (3) The personal indwelling of each disciple ("upon each of them").
II. THE BEHAVIOUR OF GOD'S MASTERPIECE 4.1-6.23 E. Walking in wisdom 5.15-6.9
2. Submissive life 5.21-6.9 b. Children and parents 6.1-4
Children: (teknon) It refers to offspring. It views the child from the aspect of origin. (TDNT)
obey: (hupakouo) Literally, "To hear under." It means to listen attentively and obey what is heard. It implies a readiness to hear with careful, responsive attention. The present imperative tense is used here which calls for a long term way of doing something. It is a command to start doing something and to keep on doing it as one's general habit or life style. He is saying, "Start listening attentively, obeying what you hear and make this the1 habit of your life." There are two types of obedience. There is obedience from the heart that obeys the WILL of another person (Ephesians 6.6). There is also obedience from NECESSITY in which a person only does what is said. This may not be the actual desire of the other person, but is what is allowed. The Lord Jesus always obeyed His Father's WILL. (John 5.30, Hebrews 10.12).
your parents: Both equally
in: (en) denoting either the sphere in which true obedience occurs, or else the means by which true obedience is accomplished.
the Lord: (kurios — the case is either Instrumental of means or Locative of sphere). There is no article in the Greek manuscripts. It is the character and quality of the Lord that is being emphasized. True obedience is impossible for the natural man. It is a quality of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person's only means of accomplishing it is through the character of the Lord operating in one's life. The only sphere where this type of obedience is carried out is within the sphere of the Lordship of Christ. That is, where His authority is acknowledged and a person is dependent on and subject to Him.
for: (gar) giving the reason for the command.
this is right: (dikaion) Just, righteous. It is in keeping within the will and commandments of God.
Honour: (timao) To estimate in respect of worth. To treat with respect, honour, and reverence. To manifest consideration towards. (Wigram). The present tense in the imperative mood indicates that this is a command that is to have continuous and repeated practical use. It is to be the habit of a person's life.
thy father and thy mother: Equal emphasis is placed on both parents. The Greek article is placed before each one pointing each out as an object for our reverence. This command to honour is not limited to a specific age group. In Leviticus, God asks the whole congregation of Israel to reverence their parents. Leviticus 19.1-3, "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 'Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.'" The word translated "man" in Leviticus indicates a man of high degree.
which is: These words have either (1) an explanatory sense, "the which is," "for such is." or (2) a qualitative force, "seeing it is."
the first commandment: this commandment is being quoted from Exodus 20.12, Deuteronomy 5.16.
with: (en) in, may express
the sphere of the commandment and so convey the idea of "being surrounded by." (Locative of Sphere).
the sense of association, and so convey the idea of "being accompanied by," or "being associated with." (Instrumental of association). (See Manual of Greek Grammar by Dana and Mantey).
The sense of relation, and convey the meaning of "in regard of," "in point of." (Expositors).
promise: (epangellia) To proclaim, announce, or hold out verbally a message, summons, or a promise.
that: (hina) "In order that." He is beginning to state the promise.
it may be: (genetai — aorist subjunctive of ginomai). The aorist tense views the action as an anticipated fact or reality. The subjunctive mood indicates that this promise is conditional on obedience to the commandment mentioned above.
well: (eu) Well, good, happily, prosperous.
and thou mayest: (ese, future tense of eimi) a verb of existence. "And, in the future, thou mayest exist . . ."
live long: (makrochronios — A compound word, "makros" = of long duration; and "chronos" = time). Literally, "of long duration of time."
on: (epi) upon
the earth: The person who has the habit of respecting and honouring his father and his mother throughout his life is given the promise of being on the earth for a long time. A person is considered to have lived a long life if he has lived on earth for more than seventy years. Moses said, (Psalms 90.10) "The length of life is seventy years; perhaps eighty, given good health. Even so, their vigor is but travail and trouble; they pass quickly, and we disappear." (Psalms for Today).
And ye fathers: (pateres) Literally, "And the fathers." The word father has the basic meaning of "nourishers, protectors, upholders."
provoke not: (parorgizo me) This word is composed of two words. One which means to "irritate or provoke to anger" and one which means by "the side of." The word means to exasperate. To irritate to the point of anger and frustration. The present imperative tense negated means, "Stop doing this!" "Do not allow this to continue any longer!" This indicates that what he is saying is to correct a problem current at that time.
your children: (ta tekna) Literally, "the children." As verse one. This verse refers to offspring. It views the child from the aspect of origin. (TDNT)
to wrath, but: (alia) This word is used to show a contrast.
bring them up: (ektrepho) "To nourish up to maturity. To support, feed, raise." The present linear tense indicates that this is to be their continuous habitual behaviour.
in: (en) This denotes the "sphere or element in which the children are to be raised." (Expositors; A. T. Robertson).
the nurture: (paideia) In Biblical usage, this word means to instruct by correction or chastening. It is training by action. (Besides this passage, the word is used in two other passages. In II Timothy 3.16 it is translated "instruction." In Hebrews 12.5,7,8,11 it is translated "chastening and chastisement.") Among Greeks, this word was used to indicate the general education and culture of the child. (A. T. Robertson).
and admonition: (nouthesia — From two words, "nous" = mind; and "tithemi" = to put") Literally means, "to put in mind." This is training by word, of the Lord: As stated above, the word "in" indicates that this is referring to the sphere in which a child is to be raised. This environment is a place where the children are taught and treated as the Lord teaches and treats the parents. If we so treat our children, with personal interest in each one, they will never be provoked to wrath.
It was the devil's last suggestion, his most subtle attempt. His supreme effort to deflect the Lord Jesus Christ from the path of absolute obedience to The Father's will is summed up in the words "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matt.4.9).
On offer were the crown and kingdoms of this world, their glory and power. But it entailed a classic compromise: take what God intends in sovereign purpose but in such a way as to short circuit the timescale and side-step the suffering. The devil's proposal, for Christ to take the crown, but avoid the cross, have the glory without the suffering, crumbled before the words of the One who could not sin. "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt.4.10) resulted in the devil leaving the One titled "Son of David" (Matt.1.1).
It was David, the youngest son of Jesse, who was called from the keeping of the sheep to be anointed king. He entered the circle comprising his seven brothers, his father and Samuel to receive, as the eighth man, the keen scrutiny of the prophet. Although the confirmatory word from the Lord, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (I Sam.16.12), was communicated privately to Samuel, the import thereof was demonstrated publicly. The outpouring of the horn of oil upon David's person was eloquent testimony to the choice of God. It being performed in the midst of his brethren was indicative of the nature and extent of his kingdom; to shepherd, consolidate and lead the Lord's people. The "Spirit of the Lord" coming upon David from that day forward (I Sam.16.13) evidenced the enabling power for such a task.
No doubt the communication of divine purpose would occasion, on the part of David, a personal exercise "and prayerful interest. Until this point all the activity was directed by God. Neither the coming of Samuel to Bethlehem, his specific visit to Jesse's home, the calling of David from the flock, nor the anointing and impartation of power were as a direct consequence of activity by David. Now he should have an intelligent expectation that what God has promised He shall make good. However what has not been disclosed to David are the circumstances under which, and the timescale within which, God will bring His purpose to fruition.
While it is undoubtedly true that in the outworking of divine purpose there can be no failure on the part of God, there may often be a great lack of discernment, or energy, on the part of the vessel chosen in the furtherance of that design. Perhaps there is no area in which failure is more marked than in that of timing. The tendency on the part of many servants is either to pre-empt the divine timing or, alternatively, delay. This is exemplified by Moses acting ahead of time by slaying the Egyptian (Exodus 2) and when the appointed time of deliverance had come, he delayed by making excuses (Exodus 4) which culminated in Aaron being delegated to act as spokesman.
On four occasions David was tempted to act ahead of the divine timescale by the placing either upon him or into his hand royal garments or insignia. Had he at those moments given undue acknowledgment to either the apparently fortuitous alignment of circumstances or the encouraging words of friends, disaster may have ensued,
a) The armour
The first such occasion finds David in the centre of divine purpose at the valley of Elah (I Sam.17). Goliath has to be faced and the rewards of victory have been announced: enrichment by Saul, freedom from taxation and Saul's daughter to wife. To the prospect of acceptance into the then royal family was the arraying of David in royal garments: Saul's armour, his helmet of brass, the king's coat of mail, and a sword at his side. To those who observed this scene David looked every inch a king and as impressive as Saul.
While appearance may have deceived many and although it was Saul himself who had armed David, we read that "David put them off him" for he had not proved them (v.39). He will not bow to the pressure of others in the path to the fulfilment of divine purpose in his life. He will rely on the proven and trusted means for the defence of sheep: his pastoral staff, his sling and his shepherd's bag with five smooth stones from the lowest point in the valley, the bed of the brook. He learns that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (II Cor.10.4), and if royal garments are to be worn (I Sam.18.1-4), the right to wear them must be won in the valley.
The place of leadership among the Lord's people is not determined by family relationships, marriage ties, or personal favour.
b) The robe
Circumstances soon changed and Saul's benevolent disposition towards David was replaced by antagonism. Again opportunity to gain advantage comes David's way when Saul and his three thousand chosen men rest by the sheepcotes at En-gedi (I Sam. 24.1-4), with Saul entering the very cave where David and his men were hiding. Pressed by his faithful companions David consents to draw near to the sleeping king in the cave. Refusing to slay him, nevertheless, he "cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily" (I Sam. 24.4). The narrative records that "David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt" (I Sam. 24.5) and we soon hear him calling out his confession to Saul who was totally unaware that a piece of material had been cut from his royal robe.
The place of leadership among the Lord's people is not secured by that which is a feature in the political and commercial world, namely identifying rivals and seeking opportunity to belittle them. Pastoral responsibility is more appropriate to sheepcotes.
c) The spear and cruse
A similar set of circumstances are brought before us in I Sam. 26.1-12. Again Saul lies down to sleep, this time in the wilderness of Ziph. He is in the very centre of the overnight camp protected within a barricade of baggage and outside of which are his three thousand men. Accompanied by Abishai, David descends to the camp at dead of night. On this occasion it is David who actively seeks the encounter. It is he who places himself in the dangerous situation, not only because of what could have happened to him but more particularly because of what he, in an unguarded moment, could have done. To many, favourable circumstances are seen as a credible guide. Here David had an instrument of < death in the spear stuck in the ground beside Saul's bolster and in Abishai, a ready volunteer to commit the murder of the king should David have personal scruples. But there was no word from the Lord and David is content to leave the outworking of divine purpose with God. However, he again takes possession of articles which belong to Saul, namely his spear and cruse of water, and again he gives them back. Protection of the Lord's people will not be effected by using the weapons of natural men, nor will saints be refreshed by supplies from such a cruse. The place of leadership among the Lord's people requires ability to defend and to refresh, but not by carnal means nor from common sources.
d) The crown
The last occasion where we find David with items at his hand which belong to Saul is in II Sam.-l.l7lO. They are the royal crown and the bracelets worn by Saul when slain on Mount Gilboa and brought by the young Amalekite who had administered the coup de grace to Israel's King. What a temptation: Saul dead and the crown now to hand. Surely many would have concluded that this was of the Lord and the consummation of God's will for David. However, David ordered the death of the young man. He will not accept the crown nor the bracelet from Amalekite hands.
We learn that those who lead the Lord's people must make no provision for the flesh. Advancement and adornment through natural routes can have no place whatever.
How will David know when the time is right to receive the place of divine appointment? Only when there is a word from the Lord in answer to private exercise and prayer (II Sam.2:1). And when the time is right the Lord's people will be able to recognise it too (II Sam. 2.4). Nothing is lost by waiting on God. May the Lord grant the necessary grace and.patience.
Being born and brought up in a God-fearing home, in a family, of eight, where the scriptures were read daily, together with plenty of hard work required of us, laid a good foundation for many of the problems encountered in years to follow. However, like many born in a Christian home, I had an early profession of salvation that continued for several years, yet brought no peace until at last a confession was made. Following this, several years passed with a longing for salvation and assurance, yet fearing another profession. This continued until under the preaching of Mr. Wm. Bunting in his first visit to Canada in the year 1927, I came to the end of self. Feeling that all hope had gone and while sitting in my bedroom reading my Bible, the words of Romans 5.6 were pondered. No longer was I occupied with believing and feelings, but the place of the ungodly was taken, and the work that satisfied a Holy God in the death of His son, was accepted. Before rising to inform the household what had happened, another look within me caused me to remain in terrible misery. If saved, where was the joy that people spoke about? I almost said I was saved yet I felt no different. How long this lasted I do not know, but once again reading the blessed words, I said, "If I am the ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, then I can rest there." There has never been an occasion to doubt the fact that the matter is settled both before God and self. I believe this taught me the value of presenting Christ as the object needed to meet the sinner's gaze, once the sin question is honestly acknowledged. How Satan will use anything else to keep the troubled soul from finding peace in believing in His finished work.
From conversion's day, interest in others seemed to occupy us. This was encouraged by another brother requesting that we accompany him in tract work. This was first started in visiting ' the hospitals and other institutions as permission was granted.
Then we started going over the city where we lived, leaving tracts at each home, which was continued for several years. Later we started visiting the small towns around and also the countryside with tracts. This occupied our Lord's day afternoons. I do agree that this did deprive us of Bible readings that could have been profitable. Nevertheless it taught us the value of personal contact with souls. The result was that several efforts in the gospel were conducted with blessing. We were also able in the slack times to be free to spend some weeks going further afield with the gospel. This was a winter-time exercise, so covered mostly the towns. Plenty of events could be told, but we believe that eternity will reveal what is unknown to us on this side, and those who have been blessed with salvation.
On two occasions we were approached by some of our good brethren as to exercise in spending our whole time in His work. One of these remarked "I have heard you pray a good number of times that the Lord would raise up from among us godly, exercised young believers to carry the gospel to the needy around, did you ever feel it might be yourself?" I assured him I had thought about it, but that perhaps I should help further those engaged in such work. However, he assured me that he believed I should be prepared if the Lord should so lead me to take that step.
At a later date, on placing the matter before the brethren, I found them most willing to encourage in every way possible and a letter of commendation was signed by seven brethren, who have long since gone home to heaven, was given.
After the most of fifty years, I can in a little measure say like Paul of old, "I continue this day witnessing both to small and great." It has not been without times of discouragement. However, we have had no occasion to doubt it was of the Lord and can say midst times of testing, the Lord has been more than faithful even amidst our unfaithfulness.
Perhaps a word to exercised young people, as well as to those commending such. There must be some proof of God having called and fitted them, otherwise, what have we to commend, if no souls have been won, or saints helped? There will be times of discouragement and specially so with those who like Paul himself seek not to build on another man's foundation. Yet, if in simple dependence on Himself, He has promised not to fail the trusting soul. May indeed "The Love of Christ constrain us," then whether outward signs are seen or not, that day will declare that God was in it.