This is a term used by the Lord Jesus to denote the period of Gentile supremacy in the earth (Luke 21.24). It covers the whole period from the overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar until the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus for the deliverance of the people of Israel and for the establishment of Hisown millennial kingdom.
It fell to Daniel's lot to give us the particulars. His book has a unique place in the inspired volume, and is, in consequence, of a very important character. It traverses ground not pursued by any other prophet. The prophets in general pass over in silence the time of Gentile dominion. They dealt with the consciences of the people in Israel and Judah, as to their moral state at the time of their testimony, and then pass on to the coming of Christ, when all God's purposes concerning the earth, delayed by the failure of the chosen seed, will be fully and gloriously accomplished.
But Daniel's line is quite different. He had no direct word for the people as to their state and prospects, but was entrusted with revelations as to the intervening period between their setting aside and their final restoration in grace. His book is in two parts. Chapters 1 - 6 record visions granted to the heathen monarch, Nebuchadnezzar, with Daniel's interpretations of them, some connected historical events being also added. Chapters 7 - 12 give us the visions vouchsafed to the prophet himself, wherein the same ground is gone over as with Nebuchadnezzar, but in a much fuller way, and with special reference to the people of God, i.e., the nation of Israel.
Chapter 1 opens with the solemn statement that the King of Babylon besieged and took Jerusalem, taking King and people captive, and removing the vessels of the House of God to Babylon. This is very important to observe, as it gives us the ground on which the prophecies of Daniel proceed. The throne of David was the throne of Jehovah (1 Chron. 29.23), and Jerusalem was the city of God, the city of the Great King (Ps. 48.2,8).
God's intention from the first has been to administer the earth by means of the people of Israel. They are the centre of His ways as regards the earth. "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children" (Deut. 32:8). Here we learn that the division of the earth among the descendants of Noah, recorded in Gen.10.11, was no mere matter of chance, but regulated by the Most High in view of His future purpose.
Israel, as we have said, is His centre. Jerusalem is His divinely chosen seat of government, and the house of David its earthly administrators.
All this failed of old, as, alas! everything does that is entrusted to the responsibility of man. Israel forsook Jehovah their God, and proved an unfaithful witness to the surrounding nations. The house of David turned away from Him — its choicest representative, Solomon, leading the way in evil. God cannot be a party to His own dishonour. Israel having sunk to the level of those around, if not in some respects even
lower, it was impossible for God to maintain them in the high position in which He had set them, more especially as every faithful testimony by means of the many prophets raised up was of no avail. The result of all was that Jehovah overthrew the throne which He had established, banishing the house of David and the guilty nation from the good land, and granted supreme power to the Gentiles for a season. This power has been abused by its Gentile holders, even as by Israel of old, but it will remain with them till the coming of the Son of Man, whose right is the dominion and glory.
Daniel's second chapter gives us the vision vouchsafed to Nebuchadnezzar. It was at once a prophetic unfolding of the future and a testimony to him personally. He was now supreme in the earth. Every foe had been put down, and he had reached the summit of earthly glory and majesty. How would he use his power and position? The dream was sent that he might learn that his position had not been reached by mere skill or might, but that the hand of Jehovah was in it. Hence he was responsible to act as His steward on the throne of the earth.
It is not necessary to dwell on the King's agitation of mind after seeing the vision, nor on his unreasonable demand on the Chaldeans, etc., whereby the impotence of merely human wisdom was made manifest. Nor need we dwell on his tyrannical decree, or Daniel's exercise of heart before God about the affair; but will proceed directly to the vision and its interpretation. The prophet said, "Thou, O King, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (verses 31-35). "This is the dream." In this vast image composed of four metals, Gentile monarchy is viewed as a whole, with its various deteriorations. We will dwell more fully on the different powers presently; it will suffice now to name them — Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. They are all brought to an end by the crushing violence of the stone cut out without hands, which then becomes a great mountain, filling the whole earth.
Some have thought this stone to be the Gospel, but a moment's reflection will convince any thoughtful reader that this is a mistake. The Gospel of God's grace is not designed to overthrow and scatter the kingdoms of the earth, but to save individual souls in order to have part with the Son of God in heaven. The Gospel leaves earthly power where it finds it, calling those who believe out of the world to be pilgrims and strangers in it until the Lord comes. The stone is Christ, coming in kingdom, power, and glory, to put down all rule, authority, and power. God intends to place all things under His feet, and to give Him a kingdom which shall rule overall (Heb. 2.6-8; Ps.8). This will be brought in by judgment. His path to the throne will he resisted when He appears, to the discomfiture and ruin of His foes, and to the destruction of their kingdoms for ever (Ps. 45.3-5; Dan. 2.44; Rev. 19.11-12). The whole scene will then be placed under the hand of One whom God can trust, unlike Nebuchad-nezzar, or even Solomon with all his wisdom and glory.
If the Amillennialist doctrine is contrary to Scripture, as we believe it to be, we must ask the question, "How did it come about?" How did the teaching manage to gain such popularity? Thus it will be interesting to trace briefly the history of Amillennialism, and we shall see that the evangelicals who hold it today are in a very "unholy alliance" with others both from history and the present day.
We have looked previously at the scriptural evidence, and have seen that we do not find Amillennialism there. But what of those who lived shortly after the completion of Scripture, some of whom knew apostles personally? They would certainly have had a good insight into the meaning of Scripture and the beliefs of people like Peter and John. It is very interesting to see that many of the writings of the so-called "church fathers" unequivocally show that they expected literal fulfilment of the prophecies concerning Christ's return and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. They include Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Even many Amillennialist sympathisers admit that for the first 3 centuries or so of the church's history, the Pre-Millennial view was widespread. The opponents of the literal interpretation in the very early years were the well-known heretical groups such as the gnostics, Platonists, and Montanists, for all of whom non-literal interpretation went far beyond future events. This is hardly illustrious company for the present-day evangelical Amillennialists, but at least they were consistent: they took their non-literalness to its logical conclusion; present-day evangelicals prefer to pick and choose which parts of scripture they accept and which they try to explain away!
It is very widely accepted that the first advocate of Amillennialism to lay down a formal theory of interpretation was Origen (185-254 AD). He refused to accept Scripture references to the Millennium literally, instead propounding the allegorical method of interpretation. He and others at the "Alexandrian School" used his method of interpretation to explain away not only the doctrine of the Millennium, but also many other teachings of Scripture. Instead of bringing out the sense of Scripture, he introduced all sorts of fanciful ideas. He would, had he been alive today, not be regarded as a "sound" evangelical by any stretch of the imagination, and would be denounced as a heretic by many who accept his view of the Millennium, yet the growth of Amillennialism in those days perhaps owed more to him than to any other person. (Again rather unillustrious company for today's evangelical Amillennialists!). His work was carried on by men such as Dionysius and Augustine, and his allegorical methods of interpretation gradually gained the upper hand.
It is not difficult to see why it gained in popularity in those days. Up until then the church had been a persecuted minority, and the hope of the Lord's coming thus ever burned brightly. It was clear that the church was distinct from all the systems of the world. But with the unification of so-called church and state by Constantine, the distinction became blurred. Increasingly the Church of Rome saw itself as the fulfilment of the promises of the earthly kingdom, and so the hope of a future literal kingdom at Christ's return was in a great measure lost. To teach that the present kingdom of Rome would be replaced by a future coming King, would not exactly please the Roman rulers! Thus the Amillennial doctrine, (which did away with the teaching of a future earthly kingdom) flourished. The rise of Amillennialism is thus indissolubly associated with the rise of ecclesiasticism and the papal system (again, not very good company for our evangelical Amillennialists of today!)
Amillennialism was the accepted doctrine of the Church of Rome throughout the Dark Ages, and remains so to this day. With the Reformation much Scriptural truth was "rediscovered", but most of the reformers continued to hold Amillennial doctrine. This was not necessarily because they had studied prophecy in great detail and came to the Amillennial conclusion, but rather because their major studies were not in the field of future events. It has thus been true that in Protestantism in general the Amillennial view has continued to be held, not so much because it has been extensively studied, but by default, from Rome.
Through the ages the pre-Millennial truth has never been completely lost, but it did burn dimly for many years. It was not least brethren gathered to the Lord's Name, who brought its truths to light in the last century and to the present day it is those similarly gathered who have been most faithful and consistent in teaching it.
Thus Amillennialism is variously held, but for very different reasons:–
For Roman Catholics, because their system views itself as the fulfilment of the kingdom prophecies, and will not countenance the thought that it could be superseded or done away with.
For Protestant Denominations, by default from Rome. The bulk of Protestantism has never seriously questioned Roman teaching on future events.
For Reformed teachers, because "it's what the early Reformers believed". Constantly, reformed teachers will state that in holding their views, they are "standing foursquare with those who defended the faith in the days of the Reformation". They claim that Amillennialism is the historical view of the church, and this is in a measure true, in that for about 1700 years so it has been, in the so-called church at least. But what matters is not, "What is the historical view of the church?", but rather, "What is the teaching of scripture?" Their axiom is more "What did the reformers believe? That's what we believe", rather than "What saith the scripture? That's what we believe, no matter what other great men thought". It is highly ironic that those who regard themselves as most opposed to Rome obtain their eschatology from Rome.
For Liberals and Modernists, because they simply do not accept the full verbal inspiration of scripture. They spiritualise all sorts of truths, or else flatly deny them, and so they have no compunction at denying the literal fulfilment of prophecy.
For Charismatics, because they come from all areas above, and have taken their own systems' teaching on future events along with them. Moreover, the charismatic's tendency to substitute supposed experience and fanciful interpretation of Scripture for sound exposition finds a ready ally in the allegorical view of future events.
It is an unholy alliance indeed: Roman Catholic, Protestant churchman, Reformed teacher, Modernist, and Charismatic, all united by very little, other than their allegiance to Amillennialism. May the Lord preserve us from such a group.
We have already established the importance of the assembly prayer meeting. It is vital to the spiritual well-being of the assembly, and is placed first in the "charge" committed to Timothy (1 Tim. 1.18). As we noticed in our previous study, the "charge" commences with 1.18, and extends to the end of the epistle. The subject of the "charge" is summed up in 3.14-15, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God."
It will be helpful if we continue to have our Bibles open at 1 Timothy 2. Thus far, we have noticed:
1) WHAT WE ARE TO PRAY FOR, v.1-2
First of all, generally: "for all men", v.1. Then, secondly, particularly:"for kings, and for all that are in authority", v.2.
2) WHY WE ARE TO PRAY LIKE THIS, v.3-7
We have considered the first of three reasons given in these verses, but refer again to this for the sake of continuity:
A) Because it is God's will for all men to be saved, v.3-4
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
B) Because God has made it possible for all men to be saved, v.5-6A
"For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all." This explains why and how God has made it possible for His will to be accomplished.
i) Why it is possible for all men to be saved
Because "there is one God." Therefore, there is one divine purpose for all humanity. He is not a local tribal or national God. He is not one of many such gods.
See 1 Cor. 8.4-6, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him." The fact that "there is one God" means that He is in a position to bless all humanity. Hence Rom. 3.29-30, "Is He that God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." This is the God to Whom we pray in the assembly prayer meeting.
ii) How it is possible for all men to be saved
Because there is one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all." We should notice:
The uniqueness of the Mediator. The word means, literally, `a go-between', but W. E. Vine (Expository Dictionary) observes that in this verse, `more than mere mediatorship is in view, for the salvation of men necessitated that the Mediator should Himself possess the nature and attributes of Him towards Whom He acts, and should likewise participate in the nature of those for whom He acts (sin apart).' The name, "Christ Jesus", stresses both His deity and His humanity. He is the answer to Job's cry, "Neither is there any daysman (`umpire', JND) betwixt us, that might lay His hand upon us both", Job 9.33.
The uniqueness of his death."Who gave Himself a ransom for all." His death was unique in that He "gave Himself." We speak about men who `gave their lives for their country', but, without the slightest disrespect for brave, and often heroic, men and women, the sad fact remains that when death came, they could neither resist it nor avoid it. They were subject to power beyond their control. The Lord Jesus was absolute Master in all circumstances, including His own death." I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again", John 10.17-18.
His death was unique in that He "gave Himself a ransom for all." The word "ransom" (Greek 'antilutron') means the price paid by another to obtain the release of a slave. The scope of Christ's work: it was "for all."None are excluded from His work at Calvary. He gave Himself on behalf of all men. Compare Matthew 20.28 and Mark 10.45. "For even the Son of man came not to he ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." This indicates the effectof His work. The difference between "for all" and "for many" is most important, but falls outside the scope of this study. However, all Gospel preachers are welladvised to pay attention to this subject. After all, only those who believe are entitled to say, `He bore my sins on the cross.'
This is the Saviour in Whose Name we pray in the assembly prayer meeting. So, we are to pray for all men, because God desires the salvation of all men, and has made provision for all men. This brings us to the third reason why we are to pray for all men.
C) Because this is the time for all men to be saved, v.6B-7
"Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." The New Translation reads, `the testimony to be rendered in its own times.' The Lord Jesus "gave Himself a ransom for all", and His death has introduced the Gospel age. We now live in the "time" for Gospel preaching, and men and women must be told of God's provision for them. We can say, "Behold, nowisthe accepted time (the same word, 'kairos'); behold, nowisthe day of salvation", 2 Cor. 6.2. This means that we should pray with urgency in the assembly prayer meeting.
3) WHO IS TO LEAD THE PRAYERS, v.8-15
The remaining part of 1 Tim. 2 deals with the place and deportment of men and women in the assembly. We shall see that Paul refers to the public leadership of the men, and to the godliness with which they are to carry out that leadership. See v8. He then deals with the godliness of sisters, and their own God-given position in the assembly. See v.9-15.
This passage emphasises the position of men in the assembly with particular reference to the prayer meeting. New Testament teaching in connection with the honoured place given to sisters in the assembly will be considered later in this series, God willing. We will notice, for the present, that they are not in any way inferior to brothers.
In the prayer meeting, the whole assembly prays — brothers and sisters together. So it is not a case of `Who prays?', but `Who leads the prayers?' Paul writes, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." In our next study we will consider the details of this statement, and notice
that the men are to lead the prayers;
that only the men are to lead the prayers;
where the men are to lead the prayers;
how the men are to lead the prayers.
In the meantime, ensure by your presence and participation that the assembly really does lift up its "voice to God with one accord", Acts 4.24. Make sure that you follow in the footsteps of those early believers who "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers", Acts 2.42.
Joseph has now been warned in a dream of the evil intent of Herod and there follows what has been called "The flight into Egypt". In obedience to the heavenly directive Joseph rises in the night hours and takes the young Child and His mother to the south and to safety. The little family will sojourn in Egypt until the death of Herod and it may well be that the gifts of the wise men were Jehovah's provision for the sustenance of the family during this period of their exile.
Matthew, in keeping with the tenor of his Gospel, will remind us that this time spent in Egypt was yet another fulfilment of prophecy. It is an instance of the versatility and infinity of the inspired Word, for the prophecy of which Matthew speaks was in fact an historical reference to the nation. As it had been with Israel, so would it be with Jesus. "Out of Egypt I called my Son" (Hosea 11.1). Matthew, by inspiration, takes that which was written concerning the nation and interprets it with reference to Christ.
Meantime, Herod realises that the magi are not returning to him, and he is enraged. Somewhere, the true Infant King is lying serene and at peace while Herod and all Jerusalem with him are disturbed and troubled. He issues the awful edict, so reminiscent of the decree of Pharaoh centuries earlier in Exodus 1.15-22. All the infant boys, from two years old and under, in Bethlehem and in all its borders, were to be slain. According to the time which he had accurately assessed from the wise men Herod estimated that the Infant King could not be more than two years old. The star had appeared when the Child was born. He must take into account the travelling time from the East to Jerusalem and he reasons that if all the male children under two years in the environs of Bethlehem were slain, then the Infant in question would be slain among them. It was a heartless cruel edict indeed. Herod the Great they called him! Was this greatness? To take the innocents from the breasts of their mothers and slay them, just to allay his own fears, is Herod the Great remembered for this? Afraid? Of a little one?
There follows the awful massacre of the little boys and yet again Matthew appeals to Holy Scripture. A voice is heard in Bethlehem, as in Rama in Jeremiah 31.15. There is weeping and great lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children. Rachel, that revered mother of old, that fitting type of Jewish motherhood, weeping inconsolably for her children.
The land is in deep mourning. Childish voices are silent. Childish laughter is stilled, and the mothers of Bethlehem, cruelly bereft of their children, refuse to be comforted. But in the purpose of God, as it had been with the deliverance of Moses in the days of Pharaoh, the Infant Christ whose death Herod had planned, is safely on His way out of Judea, south from Bethlehem, towards Egypt and sanctuary.
Eventually the `great' Herod himself is dead. His son Archelaus reigns in Judea in his stead. Joseph is apparently still fearful of the Herodian dynasty and afraid to return, until, in a further dream, he is divinely instructed to go to Galilee and to Nazareth.
It is beautiful to read, twice in these verses, of "The land of Israel". The land which had become but a despised province of Rome; the land which was now ruled by Gentiles; the land which in large part was inhabited by a mongrel race of Samaritans; the land whose Galilee had become known as Galilee of the nations, was, nevertheless, the land of Israel. Jehovah would still see it as such. It was, in purpose at least, Immanuel's land, and would be spoken of with this title of dignity.
There is now a problem. They came and dwelt in a town called Nazareth that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Our Lord was to live the greater part of His life here, the most of thirty years. But where in prophecy is it recorded of the Messiah that "He shall be called a Nazarene"? Since Nazareth is never once mentioned in our Old Testament this presents a difficulty. Several explanations are offered.
Some will emphasise the word "spoken", and suggest that Matthew is not referring to any "written" prophecy, but is citing some verbal prediction which had been handed down orally from prophet to prophet and so to the nation through the generations.
Others, perhaps a majority, will see a play upon words here. The Hebrew word for "Branch" is "Netzer", (See e.g. Isaiah 11.1). This is, of course, a title of the Messiah. It is thought by many expositors that there is a correspondence between "Netzer" and "Nazareth", and that those scriptures which refer to our Lord as "The Branch" are indicating that He would indeed be known as "The Nazarene".
There is however, yet another explanation. Notice that the word "prophets" is in the plural. Matthew is not therefore quoting any one specific prophet or prophecy. Now what the prophets all predicted was that Messiah would be, in the words of Isaiah, "despised and rejected". This was the common theme of so many of the Messianic prophecies, and so that this would be fulfilled our Lord chose to live in Nazareth and to be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2.23 may refer to a prophetic theme rather than to a specific prediction.
Nazareth! A town of ill repute in lower Galilee. It is never mentioned in the Old Testament, not even in the Apocrypha, or in the Talmud, or in Josephus. Both theologically and geographically it was outside the mainstream of Jewish life. Well do we speak of our Lord's early years as the years of obscurity. Nazareth was, however, a frontier town on the borders of Zebulon and close to several of the main trade routes. It was a stopping place for the night for merchants and traders from the north and from Gilead. This sadly contributed to the corruption of the town. They made it a nest of immorality and vice. The Saviour was to live here, in a defiled and defiling society, but Himself pure and untouched by the moral contagion which was all around. Nazareth where He was brought up (Luke 4.16). "Can there
any good thing come out of Nazareth?", asked one who knew it well (John 1.46). Nathanael lived at Cana, only but a few miles from Nazareth. He had reason to ask what he did. He knew Nazareth. In reply to his honest question we are glad to say, "Come and see". What blessedness indeed has come to us from Nazareth.
Twenty times afterwards in our New Testament the Saviour is called "Jesus of Nazareth" or "Jesus the Nazarene". His early disciples became known in Judaism as "The sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24.5). It was a term of reproach, but He bore it with honour, and when Saul of Tarsus, blinded by the glory on the Damascus Road, asked, "Who art Thou Lord?", the answer was, "I am Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 22.8). So He carried the title with Him even into glory, and still His people delight to sing—
In the first two papers we have already pondered the questions:
What was the gift of tongues?
What was the purpose of the gift of tongues?
Has the gift of tongues ceased?
Now we come to a fourth:
What about tongues experiences today?
Despite the fact that Scripture teaches the cessation of tongues, many claim to have the gift of tongues today or to have witnessed speaking in tongues.
On close examination, such experiences invariably are at odds with the Word of God.
The following should be carefully noted:–
What is claimed to be tongues-speaking today often bears no resemblance to the true gift of tongues which functioned in apostolic times.
As we have already noted, the true gift of tongues was the ability to speak in a language unfamiliar to, and unlearned by, the speaker. It was always a structured language which was capable of being understood by others. Acts ch.2 shows this clearly.
Often today a person will break out in an ecstatic utterance which bears no resemblance to any human language. Often it is no more than a repetition of similar sounds, with no grammatical or logical order. Such `gibberish' is plainly something completely different from the true gift.
In recent discussions with a group of `charismatic' believers, all had to confess that they were not aware of one single missionary who had gone to a foreign country and had not needed to learn the language because he had the `gift of tongues.'
Most of those who claim to speak in tongues, readily admit that they themselves do not understand what they are saying. As we have noted, this is contrary to the use of the true gift, when the speaker clearly understood and was able to control what he was saying.
Often modern 'tongues-speaking' is the climax of an emotional experience. The speaker will become very excited — aided by the repetition of certain phrases or rhythmic clapping/singing — until he suddenly breaks out in `tongues.' All this is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture on the subject and would have been more commonly seen in the heathen temples of Bible days.
Many of those who `speak in tongues' in public gatherings are women. The Scriptures clearly teach that in the church, the women ought to keep silence.
`Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.' (1 Corinthians 14.34-35).
`Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.' (1 Timothy 2.11-13).
Today, women who `speak in tongues' say they are compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak out. We can be sure that the Holy Spirit would not urge a child of God to do something which the Holy Spirit had forbidden in Scripture. The `urge to speak' cannot come from the Holy Spirit.
It is widely taught that speaking in tongues is an evidence of having been filled with the Holy Spirit and is a great step forward in a believer's spiritual life.
Paul's letter to the Corinthians shows clearly that even when the true gift did operate, this was not the case. Many of those who spoke in tongues were described by Paul as `carnal' believers. Corinth had many `miraculous' gifts from the Holy Spirit — yet they were possibly the most carnal church mentioned in the New Testament. They tolerated gross immorality. They were split by division and sectarianism. They were taking each other to court. They had corrupted the Lord's Supper. Paul's first letter was written in order to correct all the error at Corinth. Far from being super-spiritual believers, they were quite the reverse (1 Corinthians 3.1).
Even when the true gift of tongues was in operation, it did not signify any special holiness or spirituality in the person who had the gift.
It is important to note that experiences of so-called 'tongues-speaking' are not restricted to evangelical Christians. The Newsweek magazine recently carried a
report of 'tongues-speaking' during a Roman Catholic service in Paris. The `spirit' came upon the people as they were singing the Roman Catholic hymn, `Hail, Mary, Mother of God.' Speaking in `unknown' tongues is a well-known feature of many primitive religions.
If Christians are not receiving this `gift' from the Holy Spirit, where is it coming from?
Today's 'tongues-speaking' originates from one of two sources:
It can be caused by fleshly excitement.
Unfortunately we have to say that Satan can take advantage of believers who leave themselves open to receive 'power.' In many cases, the behaviour and actions of those supposedly `in the spirit' leave no doubt as to the origin of the power being experienced. It appears that this occurred even in the early days when the true gift was in operation — `Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God called Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost'. (1 Corinthians 12.2-3).
One vital principle must be remembered—
We interpret our experiences by the Word of God; we do not interpret the Word of God by our experiences.
In the four Gospels, we have the history of Christ.
In the Acts of Apostles, we have the history of the Church. It is the continuation of the work of Man the world rejected and put on a cross. It will take a Crucified Church to represent a Crucified Christ.
In Acts 1, we have the going up of Christ.
In Acts 2, the coming down of the Spirit.
Attention is drawn to:
a Place — Where is it?
a People — Who are they?
their Principles — What do they believe?
their Practices — What do they do?
The Light of the early Acts, is never rescinded, but augmented, by further Light in the Acts and more in the Epistles.
Luke in his Gospel gives us the Physical development of the Manhood of our Lord. The Babe born, the Boy growing, the Man mature.
He also gives us in the Acts the Spiritual growth of the Church. Birth. Progress. Maturity.
In John's Gospel we have an Unfinished Subject.
— The Person of our Lord.
In the Acts we have an Unfinished Book.
— The History of the Church.
In Hebrews 11 we have an Unfinished Chapter.
— The Honours List of God.
So in this History, we have:–
Places and Pictures; Persons and Principles
MANY PLACES What was "the world" in Mark 16.15 is localised in Acts 1, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.
OTHER PLACES Become important as Christianity makes advancement, Sinners are Saved, Saints are Gathered, Assemblies are Formed. Outstandingly we have Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Uttermost Parts. This answers to `whosoever' and is seen in the four horns of the altar.
Acts in the beginning would answer to Psalm 133.
Ch.1 Brethren dwelling together in Unity, its Goodness — The Ointment.
Ch.2 There God commands the blessing, its Pleasantness — The Dew of Heaven.
The Purpose of His Death — John 11.52;
The Exercise of His Prayer — John 17;
The Formation of the Spirit — Eph. 4.
The Object of Apostolic Ministry, Paul the Body, Peter the Brotherhood, John the Family.
The Sheet. The Vision of the Sheet given to Peter in Acts 10,11 reveals the Church as to Divine Purpose.
Out of Heaven v 11, — Origination;
Knit at the four corners — Universality;
Down to Earth — God's Ways;
This was done thrice — Confirmation;
Received up again to Heaven — Divine Destiny.
(Connect all these with Ephesians.)
The Ship. The story of the ship in Acts 27 reveals the Church as to Divine Testimony.
The Church sets sail in Acts 2 on the sea of time in the pleasant waters of Pentecostal Blessing.
We have not long to wait until we see clouds gathering and storms breaking.
The voice of intimidation
(The Roaring Lion) and subtle waves of deception.
(The Angel of Light) — from Without and Within.
So we turn to Acts 27 and from it would gather some help for present day guidance, since as v9 states "sailing has now become dangerous". These are five words with the understanding, the spiritual mariner would consider his compass and steer the vessel accordingly. Paul now speaks and in v10, gives a message of warning and advice in the light of the danger.
Has he not spoken in like manner to us? Acts 20.31, 1 Tim. 4.1, 2 Tim. 3.1.
Paul not only warned Sinners, he warned Saints.
This results in a difference of opinion.
The word of Paul or the word of the master.
Divine or Human.
Let us consider the master - who is he? Mr. Vine gives this word to be the same as in Rev. 18.17 — "Shipmaster" and 1 Cor. 12.28 — "Governments" Its meaning is pilot or steersman, a guide or governor a steering pilotage (plural). So Mr. Vine connects this with 1 Cor. 12.28, Governments to mean Guides in a Local Church.
Here is a disagreement that is sad. It is more, it is serious, when they that lead differ from Paul.
Think now of v12, the more part advised, they now resort to majority rule.
Minority seems to be a safer guide than majority.
Take, for example, the spies (10-2); Jereboam (10-2); Ahab's hirelings and Micaiah.
Our position in the world is untenable if the majority principle is right.
What does 1 Cor. 10.5 mean?
The greater part came under His government, would the lesser part be Joshua and Caleb?
Let the Scriptures speak. Let God be true.
So the voyage is taken in the face of Apostolic warning (Tragedy).
The soft wind begets supposition v13.
The east wind brings upon them reality v14. We learn that first impressions are not always right.
The end of a matter is better than the beginning v15.
We let her drive, i.e. control is lost v17.
Helps used, means adopted and fears begotten v18.
Ship lightened, — truths discarded v38,40.
Neither sun nor stars, — guidance gone. All hope of being saved gone, — hope abandoned.
Paul speaks again v21. He draws attention to his former message, thus bringing their guilt to bear upon them, (connect Judges 6.7-11) this is a word for the Conscience;
whereas v22 is a word for the Heart, "Be of good cheer" see John 14.1, 1 Thess. 4, 1 Cor. 15, Rev. 22, Promise and Response.
Rev. 22-20 The Lord says "Surely I come quickly".
John responds "Even so come Lord Jesus"
v27 The Night has to be endured
v29 The Day is longed for
v33 The Day is dawning
v39 The Day has come
"Oh twill be a glorious morrow
To a dark and stormy day
When we smile upon our sorrow
And the storms have passed away."
Paul speaks again v31. Except these (shipmen) abide, ye cannot be saved, they are displaying the features of the hireling, they enjoy the summer but are not prepared to endure the winter. These are the responsible element, and would answer to the oversight. Thus Paul speaks three times, a threefold ministry, to Guide, to Encourage, to Warn. (Connect this with Corinthians)
1. — The Portrayal of the Tribe — Considered Historically
In the first paper we noted that Naphtali and his blessing in Gen. 49 can be considered in three ways:
The Portrayal of the Tribe — Considered Historically.
The Picture of the Saviour — Contemplated Doctrinally.
The Pattern for the Saint — Conveyed Practically.
We commenced a consideration of the first of these, which is now continued.
Naphtali is one of the seven tribes who finished the wilderness journey numerically smaller than when they started, Num. 2 and 26. Yet whilst there is no recorded rebellion against the tribe Naphtali individually, it is quite probable that the loss of numbers was in relation to their faithfulness to God. Moses however looks beyond the past and present and says of Naphtali in Deut. 33.23. "O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of The LORD: possess thou the west and the south." Here an inward appreciation is realised. Outward prosperity would result from an inner possession.
Despite that future promise, the tribe of Naphtali were among the last to have territory allotted to them. Josh. 19.32-39. They had the area around Galilee, and like the others were unable to drive out the Canaanites; they subdued but did not expel them all, Jud. 1.33. They were more successful than some of the others, like Dan., but there was still coexistence and compromise.
Naphtali does fill an important place in the providence of God. Kedesh in Mount Naphtali is one of the six cities of Refuge for the manslayer, Josh. 20.7. It was also one of three cities in Naphtali given to the Levites for a possession. Here it was for the Gershonites. Naphtali was able to give some of its own for the good of others. God will always grant the privilege of service to a faithful people.
It is with Barak and the war with Sisera in Jud. 4. that we see a fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy. Here is the hind let loose, "Naphtali and Zebulon were a people that jeoparded their lives unto death". The great tribes are noticeably absent but Naphtali was prepared to give his best and his all, and God never forgot, and treasured it up in a great paean of Praise, Jud. 5.
There is an interesting point about Barak. He is timid and needs the reassurance of a woman. Thus relinquishing his position of headship, he forfeits the privilege of honour. The final glory is that of Jael, Jug. 4.8,9. His origin is worthy of consideration. He is from Kedesh. Is he a descendent of Naphtali? Is he a Gershonite of the family of Levi, whose service was with the Tabernacle curtains
and coverings and therefore a Levite dwelling in the place allocated to his tribe? Is he one who, or whose ancestors had, fled to Kedesh because of the avenger of blood: safe as long as the high priest lived? Num. 35. We shall never know, but there are lovely pictures of service and grace inherent in such contemplation.
Naphtali again rallies to the cause of God when summoned by Gideon, Jud. 6.36. and 7.23. Let us thank God for valiant men who will answer the call to battle and also complete the work.
The faithfulness of Naphtali is also seen when a thousand captains led thirty seven thousand armed men to join David in exile, 1 Chron. 12.24. It is good when the shepherds lead the sheep to the presence of the greater than David, to be active for Him. Naphtali was the only tribe where captaincy was specifically mentioned.
There is another man of Naphtali in the historical hooks. In Judges it is with his tribe, here it is in glad service to his God, giving to God unstintingly that which God had given him. The false cult of Freemasonry makes Hiram a Mason, a builder. Scripture says no such thing, it calls him a metal worker, what a contrast in his work to Tubal Cain, Gen. 4.22. Hiram, like Barak, is a picture of service. Hiram, only a widow's son from a mixed marriage, dwelling in Tyre, yet endued by God with wisdom and understanding. 1 Kings 7.14. The same words occur in Ex. 26.1 with Bezaleel, Aholiab and every wise man working in the service of the sanctuary. Solomon too was given wisdom and understanding, 1 Kings 4.29. The Spirit of the Lord resting upon One who was "the rod from the stem of Jesse; the branch from his roots" has the same attributes, (Isa. 11.2), although a different Hebrew word for "understanding" is used. The words in Isaiah are identical to those concerning Daniel and his three friends, Dan. 1.20. How this illuminates the work of the Spirit of God giving gifts severally as He will: Solomon and the four young Hebrews, for leadership; the Tabernacle workers and Hiram for service.
Perhaps one problem today is that we want clones: all identical, and very often colourless, frightened to be natural for fear of men, and anxious to say all the right things at the right time and in the right place. Spiritual ability, wisdom and understanding, in what ever sphere God has given, is not from books, certainly not from a school or college. It is not hereditary, neither is it gained after attendance at a suitable number of approved meetings and conferences. Although some of these advantages can be helpful, a believer with a particular gift is not better than one who has not got it. We may be different and more suited in a certain field perhaps, but not overall better.
At the same time, while the gifts must be discovered and exercised, there is a danger of forced or voluntary entry into a particular sphere of service not intended of God for a particular person. An important point to be emphasised is this, worship and prayer are not gifts, they are spiritual exercises of love.
Hiram's work was not spectacular, it was not even to make the gold vessels pertaining to the House of the Lord, I Kings 8.48. Yet it was essential, and being of brass it told of Judgement. It spoke of established testimony — the two Pillars. It illustrated the idea of preparation — the ten lavers for washing the burnt offerings. It highlighted the need for priestly cleansing from daily defilement: the Sea of Brass. When the time comes for the Brasen Altar to be mentioned, and its construction is recorded only in the book of Chronicles, (2 Chron. 4.10), Hiram's name is not given. God will have no human name associated with His Son's Sacrificial work when judgement is in view. It is a Brasen altar, there was no wood underlying as in the Tabernacle Ex. 38.1.
Hiram, the descendent of Naphtali was no orator, but his very actions spoke "Goodly words". His history as being only half an Israelite and being allowed to work for God, surely speaks of Grace, "Not of the will of man." Timothy was another of mixed parentage.
Although Naphtali was one of the tribes forming the rebellious and idolatrous Kingdom of Israel which fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC, it did benefit from the reform of Josiah of Judah around 628 BC. It is obvious that the godly zeal of this young king (he was twenty years old) reached beyond his own boundaries. His attack on idolatry extended to the area granted to Naphtali, 2 Chron. 34.4-7. Despite the glorious future predicted by Jacob and Moses, Naphtali had fallen away from its God. Regrettably none from Naphtali repented to participate in Hezekiah's passover and call to repentance about a hundred years before, 2 Chron. 30.5-11.
Slackness will often bring the chastening hand of God upon a people and Naphtali, being on Israel's Northern borders, was often subject to the enemy attacks. Its store cities were captured by Benhadad of Syria in 2 Chron. 16.4.
In Isa. 9.2. the depredations of the Assyrians are seen as afflicting Zebulon and Naphtali first lightly, then grievously. It is however to Matt. 4.15. that one turns for glorious fulfilment when the Light of the world, the very One promised in Isaiah's prophecy, came to dwell in that land of darkness. He who abolished death through His own death, lived in a land on which death's shadow had fallen. It had passed from the blessing of God to be a Gentile land but God's own Son had come unto His own. Sadly it was that very area which rejected His teachings and brought such condemnation, Matt. 11.20-24. The greater the rejection of privilege the more sore the penalty.
But God in mercy looks on to the future and sees the Rejected One as the Returning and Reigning One. Ps. 68 is a great Messianic and Millennial Psalm. It is the Triumph of the Victorious and Vanquishing King. It is the people's appreciative answer to Psalms 24 and 110. It can be compared, among others, with The Song of Deborah in Judges 5. Now a greater than Sisera has been defeated by a greater than Barak and there are the Princes of Naphtali rejoicing in the presence of the King.
In the restored land during the millennial reign, Naphtali too will have his part. A portion in the land, Ezek. 48.3. and a gate in the new city. Ezek. 48.34. Thus will the blessings of the aged patriarch and prophet be fulfilled but perhaps the greatest fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy whilst it definitely refers to the future (the latter days) is not so much in the Old Testament but in the New.
The following narrative appeared as `an extract' in:
"THE EVANGELIST" — A Monthly Magazine – Vol. 7 – Year 1873.
Whilst driving out near an encampment of gipsies, I went in amongst them. After buying some of the skewers they were making, I learned that one of their number was ill. I begged to be allowed to see him. The father asked—
"Did you want to talk about religion to him?"
"Oh! then you may go: only if you talk religion I'll set the dog on you."
In the caravan I found a lad alone, and in bed evidently at the far end of the last stage of consumption. His eyes were closed, and he looked like one already dead. Very slowly in his ear I repeated the Scripture, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I repeated it five times without any apparent response; he did not seem to hear even with the outward ear. On hearing it the sixth time, he opened his eyes, and smiled. To my surprise he whispered—
"And I never thanked Him; but nobody ever told me! I `turn Him many thanks — only a poor gipsy chap! I see! I see! I thank Him kindly!"
He closed his eyes with an expression of intense satisfaction. As I knelt beside him, I thanked God. The lips moved again. I caught "That's it." There were more words but I could not hear them.
On going the next day, I found the dear lad had died (or rather, had fallen asleep in Jesus) eleven hours after I left. His father said he had been very "peaceable," and had a "tidy death." There was no Bible or Testament in the encampment. I left them one of each.
The poor man wished me "good luck," and gave me a little bundle of skewers the dear, "boy Jemmy" had made.
Dear reader, it was apparently the first time this dear boy ever heard of God's salvation, and with unquestioning faith he took God at His word, and with his dying lips thanked Him that He had so loved the world as to give His Son for him, a "poor gipsy chap." God is satisfied with the finished work of Christ. This poor lad was also satisfied, and this mutual satisfaction was instant and everlasting salvation. In eleven short hours he exchanged that wretched bed in a rickety, forlorn caravan for the Paradise of God, where he is tasting that God is as good as His word.—An Extract.
This was the story that inspired the poet, Mary B. C. Slade, to pen the following lines:
"Who is like unto Thee O Lord . . . . doing wonders", Ex.15.11
I was born on 27th February, 1912, at Deborah near Oamaru in the South island of New Zealand, the second youngest of a family of eight. My parents belonged to the Salvation Army and knew the Lord as their Saviour.
My mother was very constant in prayer and would take us with her to the Salvation Army meetings, walking us the six miles round trip. Many times in my youth I was preserved from sudden death and through these experiences the Lord spoke to me.
There was a godly sister in the Oamaru Assembly who worked in the same place as my eldest sister and she invited her to attend the Bible Class on Lord's days. My parents gave their approval and not long after she was saved, baptised and received into fellowship there. Two other of my sisters began to attend and they also were saved. They took another sister and myself to the Sunday School and we both passed from death unto life. I as a boy of 10 years being convicted of my sinnership
I threw myself on the grass at the side of the road and asked the Lord to save me. A great change took place; I was born again. Neighbours and even the school teacher, asked my mother what had happened to make such a change.
Ten days before my fifteenth birthday I obeyed the Lord by being baptised by immersion and on the Lord's day morning of my 15th birthday I was received into the fellowship of the Oamaru Assembly, gathered to Name of the Lord. A short time later I was found helping in open air preaching and then the brethren invited me to preach indoors. When I was twenty two I was much exercised before the Lord and He seemed to direct me to go to Palmerston, about 30 miles away, to preach the gospel. I made my exercise known to the brethren and one of them made a car available for me to travel. We talked it over and he said "You will find the car outside the Gospel Hall all ready for you, when the morning meeting is finished". Soon a number of brethren joined in this exercise, when we remembered the Lord in Oamaru and drove to Palmerston to preach in a rented building. The assembly at Oamaru paid for the petrol, supplied the tracts and gave every support and encouragement. We went every second Lord's day and the brethren from the Mornington Assembly, Dunedin, went the others. Souls were saved and eventually an assembly was planted there.
In 1936 Mr. Gordon Turner on furlough from Bolivia, had a meeting in Oamaru. I felt greatly moved as he told of the need for missionaries there. The more I prayed about the matter the more forcibly John 15.16 came before me "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you." It seemed everything I read and heard was challenging me to go to South America. Finally one evening after returning from a prayer meeting, I put my bicycle away and went up into the hills and wrestled there until about 2 a.m. when I yielded all to Him. A short time afterwards I went to a conference in Timaru. It was an open conference and the first brother to speak was Harry Russell who said, "I have a message of two words — GOD FIRST." What he said confirmed in a real way my exercise. Then brother Harry Bishop spoke on "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught." He said, "You are too far in; you need to go further out." I went home from that conference tremendously exercised about going to South America. A short time later I was away a distance preaching with a brother and on the way home he suddenly said, "Do you ever think of being a missionary?" I was so surprised I said "Oh! there it is again." He said, "What?" I told him how the Lord was speaking to me and he said "well, brother, you will need to do something about it — you are getting on in years." I was 25 years old at the time.
I began preaching with brother Will Howland using the Otago Bible Van and was encouraged by him to take this as an ongoing responsibility. I did not accept, telling him I was going to South America. Very soon afterwards I asked the brethren for a letter of recommendation to the work of the Lord in Bolivia. When they called me to receive it they said, "We are not recommending you to Bolivia, but to South America and whatever country you go to we will be in fellowship with you."
My parents were sad, yet pleased and in no way sought to interrupt my exercise which was confirmed to me a few days later when I read Acts 22.21, "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
On 1st January 1938, at the Dunedin conference, I was introduced twice to Miss Peggy Smith who had served the Lord for seven years in South America. As I was being introduced the second time something said to me, "This lady will one day be your wife!" This became a reality on 31st August, 1938. Her assembly asked for all its members to be invited to the wedding and as many as we wished from Oamaru. The Pleasant Point Assembly gladly paid all expenses.
Our letter of recommendation was renewed and in fellowship with the assemblies in Oamaru, Timaru and Pleasant Point, we left New Zealand for Montevideo on 6th October 1938. We travelled on board the ship "Port Melbourne" and arrived there on 27th October when we were warmly welcomed by the brethren, including Mr. Thomas Ward and Mr. Percy Aish.
Still wondering about Bolivia we got a letter from a friend of my wife, Dr. Hamilton. He knew her well and wrote to tell us it would be better to serve the Lord in Uruguay, because her heart would not resist the strain of the high altitudes of Bolivia. Another invitation came our way from Mr. Graham of Northern Ireland. He and his wife were returning home on furlough and offered us the use of their home in Rocha some 210 kilometres from Montevideo. That got us based in Uruguay and now almost 60 years have passed and we know what it is to prove His faithfulness in many varied situations. He has never failed and the work continues with His blessing.
Although they heard His words, sublime yet simple,
He from their righteousness remained outside.
And so as years went on their hatred mounted,
Until in the garden of Gethsemane,
While outside Judas thirty pieces counted,
The Lord prayed in the garden with the three.
Then outside of that little inner circle,
The Lord of Glory now is found alone,
And prostrate on the ground His hands created,
The Saviour of the world was heard to groan.
Inside with Pilate, Jesus is cross questioned,
Outside the angry mob are passing by,
"Behold your King," is Pilate's wry suggestion,
"Away," they cry, "this Man deserves to die."
Outside the city gates they lead the Saviour,
Outside where thieves and unclean ought to be,
Outside where they can vent their base behaviour,
The "bulls of Bashan" gather round the tree.
The vail will rend, the sky begins to darken,
Outside man's favour, outside God's as well,
"My God, My God, Oh why hast Thou forsaken,
Thou Holy One who dost in Israel dwell."
Lo, now inside the vail He sits in glory,
Where human eye nor hand can penetrate,
Whilst we on earth tell out the old, old story,
Of Him who suffered once outside the gate.
-E. Stewart (Eire)
SERMONS WITH NO HARPOONS
A sailor on shore between two whaling expeditions was taken by a friend to hear an eloquent preacher. Afterwards the friend said, "Well, what did you think of that for a sermon! Wasn't it fine?"
"Yes," said the sailor, "It was ship-shape; the masts just high enough; the sails and the rigging all right, but I did not see any harpoons. When a vessel goes on a whaling voyage, the great thing is to get whales, but they do not come because you have a fine ship: you must go after them and harpoon them."
Souls are won in the same diligent and effective way.