After thirty years in Nazareth our Lord eventually left it to make His home in Capernaum. On that memorable day when He had read Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue they had rejected Him. He had read the passage to them and had presented Himself as the Messiah of whom the prophet had written but they had refused Him. They indeed had rejected Him forcibly and would have cast Him over the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built but He had passed quietly through the crowd and made His way to Capernaum to reside there. In character with his Gospel Matthew sees here another fulfilment of prophecy. Capernaum was by the sea, in the region of the territories of Zebulon and Naphtali, and Isaiah had specifically mentioned these in relation to Messiah's ministry. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9.1-2). Capernaum began to be privileged above many, in that Messiah actually lived there. It became known as "His own city" (Matt 9.1). He walked its streets and wrought mighty works in it. Capernaum was indeed exalted to heaven but its unbelief was to bring it from the heights of privilege down to disaster and ruin. Today it is but a heap of black stone. The ruins of its synagogue stand as a gaunt monument to its unbelief.
Tell me, ye mouldering fragments, tell,
Was the Saviour's city here?
Lifted to heaven, has it sunk to hell,
With none to shed a tear?
From Capernaum Jesus began to travel through all Galilee, preaching the glad tidings, calling for repentance, and announcing the Kingdom of Heaven. The King had come.
Walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee on one of those days. He called His earliest disciples, the brothers Peter and Andrew. They were fishermen. When He called them they were casting their nets into the sea. It was doubtless a foreshadowing of the spiritual ministry which He had in mind for them. They were to become fishers of men, although Andrew would perhaps fish more often with a line, as it were. He would minister personally to individuals, so that ever afterwards when we read of him he is bringing men to Christ. Peter would fish with a net, ministering to the multitudes, preaching to the crowds, drawing in as many as three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
"Follow Me" the Saviour called, and in an immediate response they had left their nets and gone after Him. The call of those other two brothers seems to follow soon after.
James and John were mending their nets. Was this too foreshadowing of a future ministry? We need men like Peter and Andrew, to cast nets in Gospel activity, and we are grateful for so many brethren who do just this But we also need men like James and John, men who will bring a ministry of mending, a ministry that will heal differences and repair schisms, and generally maintain the testimony in a healthy and happy state.
In a scene of unbelief how refreshing it must have been to the Saviour that there were those who would respond to His call and so readily follow Him Like so many devoted servants of His ever since, these men left business and family to follow a new Master There were, of course, to be failings, lapses, shortcomings, but how much, nevertheless, He appreciated their company, their fellowship, their trust It is still so He still calls In a world that has rejected Him He still looks for those who will obey His call and follow Him in a loving service.
Matthew now uses an expression which so beautifully and aptly sums up the Saviour's ministry "Jesus went about all Galilee teaching preaching healing " It was a gracious ministry It has been said that in teaching our Lord expounded the message, in preaching He applied the message, in healing He illustrated it But soon His fame was to go far beyond Galilee It went over Israel's northern border into Syria and there were brought to Him for healing the diseased and the demon possessed, those that were mentally ill and those that were physically ill What memorable days those were The whole country was stirred They brought their sick and He healed them It was a day of visitation A divine Person was among them in mighty power The light was shining in Galilee of the Gentiles, described by some as the most oppressed, the most corrupt, and the darkest Province of those parts It was the beginning of a miraculous ministry that would subdue sickness and dispel disease, that would calm the storm and even raise the dead God was visiting them indeed Where the word of a king is, there is power Though unrecognised, the King had come.
The deep, the demons, and the dead,
Were subject to the word He said,
Revealing thus His power and might
To exercise His Godhead right
In that early ministry there was ample evidence that Jesus was Messiah, and that He was God These demonstrations of omnipotence were declarations of His deity It was not to be wondered at that multitudes should come to Him From all Galilee they came They came from Decapolis, the ten cities of that region They came from the south, from Jerusalem and from Judea They crossed Jordan too, and came to Him from Gilead and from Perea.
Alas, it was not perhaps the glory of His Person that drew them to Him It was the prospect of relief from their afflictions They came, not to worship and adore, but to ask and to receive In grace He met them and ministered healing to them Bodies, minds, and souls, all felt the tenderness of His touch and the power and comfort of His word The years of ministry had begun.
For the many months that were to follow Jesus would be the wearied, yet unwearying, Servant of Jehovah, tending to the needs of the vast crowds He ever saw them as sheep without a shepherd and was moved compassionately towards them They would make constant demands upon Him, so that the Son of Man would have nowhere to lay His head in rest. By night, when the birds settled in their nests or by day when the foxes rested in their lairs, He would have little or no opportunity to rest. And how many miles He was to travel. From village to village, from town to town, from province to province, He would walk in a tireless service for men. By the seaside and on the mountainside, on the highway and in many a humble home, He would minister graciously, tenderly, powerfully, for the good of men .and for the glory of God. He may indeed be King, but He is Jehovah's Servant too. Is it to be wondered at that Jehovah should say to us, "Behold My Servant ... in whom My soul delighteth"?
In our last study, we noticed that responsibility for the care of local assemblies lies with people called 'overseers' and 'elders', and that their work is described (1) as shepherding and (2) as stewarding. We must now look at their work in more detail.
1) As to the Assembly, the overseer/elder acts
AS A SHEPHERD
Whilst the word 'shepherd' is not actually used in the following references, the work described is certainly shepherd-care:
i) Acts 20.28. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which ('in the which', JND) the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God." But it is really more than "feed"; that is, more than giving food. It is really 'shepherd' or 'tend' the church of God. It includes giving food, but covers more than that. We shall see shortly what this involves.
ii) 1 Peter 5.2 "The elders which are among you I exhort . . . Feed the flock of God which is among you." Once again, "feed" is 'shepherd' or 'tend.'
Whilst the ministry of Peter was wider than the local assembly, we should notice that in John 21, the Lord Jesus used two words to describe his work. "He saith unto him, feed (give food) My lambs (v15) . . . feed ('shepherd' as in Acts 20.28 and 1 Peter 5.2) My sheep (v16) . . . feed (give food) My sheep (v17)."
The Bible makes it very clear indeed that God loves a shepherd. Just think about people like Abel, Moses and David. When Moses asked God for someone to replace him, he described the necessary qualifications as follows: "A man . . . which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd" Num. 27.15-17. The man who ultimately undertook that work was Joshua.
We note also that Jehovah Himself is described as a shepherd. See Isaiah 40: "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young," v11. Don't forget Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd." Quite obviously, shepherd work is invested with the highest importance, and final proof lies in the threefold reference to the Lord Jesus. He is "the Good Shepherd," John 10.11. This refers particularly to His death. He is the "Great Shepherd," Heb. 13.20. This refers particularly to His resurrection, and we can see the "Great Shepherd" gathering His sheep in His post-resurrection appearances. He is the "Chief Shepherd," 1 Peter 5.4. This refers particularly to His second coming. In fact, the Lord Jesus is
The Pattern Shepherd
Since the Lord Jesus is the "Good Shepherd," the "Great Shepherd," and the "Chief Shepherd," we can expect a correspondence between His work, and the work of His 'under-shepherds.' The Lord Jesus describes shepherd work in John 10, and therefore assembly shepherds have all the guidance they need in taking "take care of the church of God." Notice the following:
"He that entereth in by the door is (the) shepherd of the sheep," v2. There is nothing surreptitious about a true shepherd. His ministry is open and above board. He is no shadowy, uncertain figure.
"The sheep hear his voice . . . they know his voice . . . they shall hear My voice," v3,4,16. Hebrews 13 speaks of past leaders who "have spoken unto you the word of God." The assembly ought to hear the voice of its shepherds. John 10 refers to the confidence of the sheep. They trust the shepherd, and "know not the voice of strangers." They will respond to men who they know have their interests at heart.
"He calleth his own sheep by name," v3. "I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine," v14. "My sheep hear my voice, and / know them," v27. The shepherd must be acquainted with the flock. He must know where they live, and be aware of the problems and difficulties facing them.
He is recognised by the sheep: "I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine," v14. Hence 1 Thess. 5.12, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you." This does not mean, of course, to 'know what they look like!' W. E. Vine explains that to "know them" means 'to recognise and acknowledge, to appreciate and value them.' But you will notice that the shepherd has earned the right to be recognised. Hence, "I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine."
He "leadeth them out," v3. He doesn't drive them out. He is expected to lead: "He goeth before them." See, again, Hebrews 13, where the expression, "have the rule over you" (v7,17,24) means, 'guide you.' See also 1 Peter 5.3, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage ('lording it over your possessions,' RV), but being ensamples to the flock."
The sheep "find pasture," v9. The shepherd ensures that there is provision for the flock. In the beautiful language of the Shepherd Psalm: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." A sheep only lies down after it has fed. But look at the type of pasture! There is nothing dry and unpalatable here!
"He giveth his life for the sheep," v11. The hireling "seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." The true shepherd can spot the wolf coming equally well, but does not leave the sheep. The fact of the shepherd is bound up with the well-being of the flock. Paul referred to this in Acts 20: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and remember," v29-31. He gives us an example in Titus 1: "Holding fast the faithful word as he (the overseer) hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, v9-10.
But there is more: the Lord Jesus said, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself," v17-18. He gave Himself willingly.' This is also to characterise the under-shepherd. See 1 Peter 5.2, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly."
2) As to the Lord, the overseer/elder acts
AS A STEWARD
"For a bishop (overseer) must be blameless, as the steward of God," Titus 1.7. Let us notice now a different emphasis in verses already cited.
1 Peter 5.1-2, The elders which are among you I exhort . . . Feed the flock of God which is among you."
Acts 20.28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock . . . to feed the church of God."
John 21.15-17, "He saith unto him, Feed My lambs . . . feed My sheep . . . feed My sheep."
The overseer/elder is responsible for the flock, but he is not responsible to the flock. He is responsible to the Lord. Moreover, he will only be able to discharge his stewardship if he loves the Lord. Simon Peter was not asked, 'Lovest thou the sheep?' or 'Lovest thou the work?' He was asked, "Lovest thou Me?" It is all very well to love the flock and to love the work, when the flock is behaving impeccably and the work is encouraging. But what happens when the black sheep arrives, and the work gets tough? The man who will persevere with the flock then, and continue with the work then, is the man who loves the Lord.
But the Lord is not unmindful of His under-shepherds. He has a special reward for them, and this indicates the importance of the work: "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away," 1 Peter 5.4. But there is one general question to be settled:
Where do these men come from?
See again, Acts 20.28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which ('in the which') the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers." So they are raised up and equipped by the Holy Spirit. But weren't they chosen by the apostles? See, for example, Acts 14. Paul and Barnabas were travelling home after completing the outward leg of the first missionary journey. "And when they had preached the gospel to that city (Derbe), and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples . . . and when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed," v21-23. The word "ordained" simply means 'chosen', literally, 'to stretch out the hand.' But how did they know who to choose? The fact that 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 list the necessary qualifications make the answer clear. Paul and Barnabas were able to discern fitness for eldership. They were not voted into office, or chosen by some democratic process. Their own lives and ability bore witness to their calling.
This is very important. It is not a case of choosing a brother 'to fill the gap.' Or choosing a brother 'who would make a good elder.' Or choosing a brother who, because of professional qualifications, would be an asset on the oversight.' It is a case of recognising a brother because he is already doing the work, he is already displaying a shepherd heart, and he is already marked by the necessary spiritual and moral qualities. All too often, a brother is asked to 'join the oversight,' and is then expected to commence the work of overseership. The correct order is the exact reverse: a brother is already acting as an overseer, and is therefore recognised by the assembly for what he is already doing.
Then we observe a chasm in the prophecy, which is not an unusual thing in the prophetic Scriptures. "And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week" (verse 29). Who is meant? Clearly, "the prince that shall come"; and he is a Roman head, this very passage being witness. The whole period from the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 until the time of the end is ignored in this place. The sixty-nine weeks expired when Christ was present in Israel; there remains but the seventieth, i.e., seven years, to be accomplished. Its events are here briefly set before the prophet. "And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and because of the overspreading of abominations there shall be a desolator, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." This passage is admittedly a difficult one, and translations vary, but I have given that which furnishes us with the sense most simply. We have no space here to discuss the verse, on which very much might be written; briefly the following is its meaning. The future Roman head (the little horn of Dan. 7.8) will form a treaty with the mass of the returned Jews, confirming them in their possessions and worship. In the midst of the term (seven years) he will break his word, and in league with the false Christ in the land, will suppress their worship. The mass will accept his substitution of the worship of "the abomination of desolation," and because of this, God will permit the desolator —the king of the North—to chastise them, the Jewish people continuing thus to suffer, in the government of God, until they have received the measure of punishment divinely meted out to them. Jerusalem is here called "the desolate." Compare Isa. 62.4.
Now let us carry back to chap. 7 the light thus furnished in chap. 9. We have seen the blasphemy and cruelty of the last Gentile head ; next we see his overthrow and judgment. Daniel beheld a session in verses 9-12; the thrones set up and the Ancient of days sitting in judgment. The result is, that dominion is taken out of Gentile hands and given over vto the Son of Man. "I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that shall not be destroyed" (verses 13, 14).
How refreshing after all that has passed before us! God has One in store whom He can entrust with universal dominion, and who will rule and act for His glory. The house of David has failed, the Gentiles have failed: but this blessed One can never fail. He sits now at God's right hand, and faith beholds Him there crowned with glory and honour; soon He will have all things placed beneath His feet (Heb. 2.6-9). When He comes forth in power and glory, the last head of the Gentiles will be consigned to the lake of fire, in company with the man of sin (Dan. 7.11; Rev. 19.20). Well may the Apostle say, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God"! (Heb. 10.31).
Christ's kingdom will fill the whole earth. Nebuchadnezzar saw it under the figure aLa stone cut out without hands becoming a great mountain, and filling the whole earth, after crushing all adverse powers (Dan. 2.35). In this rule the saints are associated, and in His judgment also. "Judgment was given to the saints of the Most High (or high places), and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Dan. 7.22). What a privilege and dignity for us who believe in His name ! Yet how ready we are to forget it, and to sink to a merely human level! The Corinthians are painful proof of this. In forgetfulness of the mighty fact that the saints are to reign with Christ by-and-by, they accepted ease and honour in the present world; and overlooking that the saints are to be the world's judges in the coming day, they are taking their complaints against one another into the world's courts to be tried by the unjust! (1 Cor. 4.8 ; 6.1-3). It is a solemn warning for our souls, we may be assured.
In view of the approaching kingdom, and our place in it in association with the Lord Jesus, our God would have us follow humbly in the footsteps of His beloved Son, accepting the cross, and letting the world go by for His sake. Christ's pathway to the throne was the cross; God has set no other way before His saints.
The next phase of the fourfold view is God's husbandry" (tilled land or cultivated field, 1 Cor. 3.9). A true assembly is a fruit bearing portion for God. The planting and the watering (verses 6, 7,8) are in connection with this. Paul planted, through Gospel labour, the company at Corinth; Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. By the way, let us individually inquire, "Am I a true planting of the Lord?" (Isaiah 61.3). We dare not forget the solemn declaration, "Every plant which My Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15.13).
Precious fellowship existed between Paul the planter and Apollos the waterer. Neither one is "anything, but God that giveth the increase." What self-effacing, God-honouring attitude and condition! Surely these beloved men present a precious example for every planter and waterer now! And we are pointed to the Judgment Seat of Christ in verse 8, where each planter and waterer then, and now, shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
As we thus consider the assembly as God's "tilled land," let us remember the striking simile used in Genesis 27.27, and let us earnestly pray that the assembly with which we individually are connected (and all others also) may have "the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed."
In verse 9 of 1 Cor. 3 two figures are named together, "God's husbandry" and "God's building." The first, as we have seen, relates to the planting and watering of the previous verses—the other—"God's building" (the third phase of the picture) is opened up in the following verses (10-15). These speak of the responsibility of the builders. Who are the builders? It is often said that every believer is a builder, in view of the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is quite true—all are building daily, and the great testing Day is coming. But this passage primarily deals directly with the responsibility of builders in a Scripturally gathered assembly. Paul, as a wise master builder, had laid the foundation of the Corinthian Assembly. His Gospel preaching had led many unsaved in Corinth to Christ, and he had instructed them to gather together as owning the precious Name alone, and as bowing to the authority of that blessed One, individually and collectively. Let us ask, is this Divine One our foundation and our only foundation in our Church fellowship? Are we allowing any other name to usurp, or in any degree rank with His? If so, we are not building upon the true foundation of a Scriptural Assembly.—1 Cor. 3.11.
"Let names, and sects, and parties fall,
And Jesus Christ be all in all."
Paul in this case was a wise master builder—but the builders—who are they? In Acts 4.8-11 Peter said, "Ye rulers of the people and elders of Israel . . . this is the stone which was set at nought of you builders." Leaders amongst saints now are builders—those who feed and care for and guide the people of God in assemblies— and included also, we have no doubt, are those who go from place to place ministering the Word of the Lord. It has been truly said that the builders are responsible, concerning the doctrines taught in the assembly, the persons who are brought in, and the practices individually and unitedly of that redeemed company. A real leader (or builder) is one into whose heart "God hath put the same earnest care for the saints" (2 Cor. 8.16). Some get a place amongst believers because of social position, or of wealth, while perhaps having no real heart for God's sheep and lambs, but desiring merely the honour of being higher than others. Let such remember the solemn words—"For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (Luke 14.11). We have often heard it remarked: "An assembly is what its leaders make it."
Spiritual leaders will make a Spiritual assembly. "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." "The fire" (the searching holiness of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire" (Rev. 1.14; 2.18-23) "shall try every man's work of what sort it is." "Wood, hay, stubble" are great in quantity compared with "gold, silver, precious stones," but at the searching Judgment Seat mere quantity will not count. Only that which is of proper quality (according to the Scriptures) will survive the test. What a tremendous amount of building quantity in Christendom to-day will only be ready fuel for the fire! Let us beware, brethren, in our service for Him, lest we also build up a pile which will end in ashes. This passage, 1 Cor. 3.10-15 is deeply solemn. May it be ours to "hear counsel and receive instruction that we may be wise (and not fools) in our latter end" (Prov. 19.20).
We usually think of Jerusalem as having twelve gates. Most certainly, "New Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven" Rev. 3.12, is spoken of as having that number and this is in accord with Ezekiel's prophecy, Ezek.48.30-35. In Nehemiah ch.3 however, only ten gates are mentioned, though reference is made to a further two later in the book, see Chaps, eight and twelve.
In this consideration we shall be looking at the restoration of these ten gates as part of the rebuilding of the city walls. Not just as entrances and exits, but as evidences that the revitalised city was a functioning entity. In doing so we shall see that they are reminders that every assembly should be not merely a usefully organised arrangement for religious activities, but a functioning organism, characterised by life and living. They will be discussed in two groups, of four and six. The six are seen as related to what we usually call 'outreach', a reaching out from a living city to those outside. The other four, to be considered first, are concerned with something which we do not hear much about, but should, 'in reach'. Unless we pay attention to this aspect of the growth of a assembly, there will be no spiritual power for any outreach undertaken, nor a home base capable of caring satisfactorily for any results of that outreach.
i) The Valley Gate, v13
Valleys speak to us of low places David refers to "the valley of the shadow of death" Ps 23 4 and humanly we cannot get much lower than that But the scriptures do equate lowliness with humility and we are encouraged, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up", James 4 10 Nor is it only "in the sight of the Lord" that we should cultivate humility "Yea, all of you be subject one to another and be clothed with humility", 1 Pet 5 5 Going further still, as well as being encouraged to be humbled ourselves, we are shown too how we should respond to such humility and lowliness when evidenced by others "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate", Rom 12 16 'Condescend' has a rather unfortunate connotation in todays language meaning often to adopt a patronizing attitude The thought here is more simply, to go along with, or to associate with A good target for us to aim at, in this context, is as described in David's prayer, "Lord my heart is not haughty, not mine eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too high for me", Ps 131 1 He had learned, and he shares that learning with us, that, "Though the Lord is high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly, but the proud He knoweth afar off," Ps 138 6
All of the forgoing though seems to be to do with individuals, what about the local assembly?
Firstly, local assemblies are composed of individuals and one only has to read 1 Cor 5 1, to see what the failure of one individual member could do to the testimony as a whole Nor was it only the testimony to outsiders that was affected, the ramifications spread into the very spiritual fabric of the assembly, see v2 Indeed, Paul makes it quite plain that it is the moral and spiritual state of the assembly which should be our prime concern in such situations, v12-13
As well as individual failures though, we do have an extremely regrettable example of what appears to be a whole assembly failing to cultivate a lowly position before God This was due to a total misreading of their own true state "Thou sayest I am - and knowest not that thou art" The Laodiceans were extremely proud of their own achievements and, in consequence, misguidedly self sufficient "I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing" Rev 3 17 The Lord Jesus wanted them to have the best, to "be rich — be clothed - (to) see" But they could not accomplish this themselves, it would only happen as and when they came to Him in total dependence and that takes humility, v18
A local assembly collectively, and its individual members, need to be in the state advised by Peter and then we can rightly look for the outcome spoken of immediately after the advice "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time", 1 Pet 5 6 What is it that God wants us to be personally or collectively?
"He hath showed thee O man what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God" Micah 6 8 So He has shown you what is good, now He waits for you to do it and so to receive the blessing promised to those who not only know His will but perform it, see John 13 17 Remember though, "to walk humbly with thy God" is an ongoing exercise which needs application and perseverance.
"Beloved," v2. As the Apostle thinks of Gaius this word comes to his mind again and again. What a beautiful word it is, reminding us of the movement of God toward us in grace and how it is reflected in our lives. As our brethren think upon us, what feelings arise in their hearts? What do they see as most prominent in our walk? In one sense they may be gravely mistaken "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" 1 Sam. 16.7, but as they observe the tenor of our lives is there something that they can see that could only have been produced by the Spirit of God. How remarkable that as John thinks of Gaius he repeats this same word four times in just a few verses. What an impression had been left on the Apostle's mind by this association. In v1 he uses the word beloved in relation to the HEART, in v2. regarding the HEALTH of Gaius, in v5, of his HOSPITALITY, and finally in v11 of the HABIT of his life. He sees a somewhat rare quality in this brother and his aim is to encourage and develop it. Do we always encourage the good in our brothers and sisters in Christ? Or do petty jealousies surge forth to choke any true appreciation of what God has done in others?
Spiritual health is vital, at times only gained and maintained at the expense of the physical. However it is lovely to have both, and for this the Apostle prayed relative to Gaius. Already he enjoys "soul prosperity" what a boon! What has risen to the surface in this man's life is what is begotten through a love for God and His truth. The blessed man of Psalm 1 enjoyed this, and Joshua was reminded to go in for it in chapter 1 of the book that bears his name. It is also available to us 2 Pet. 1.3. Could the saints pray for us like this? Is our spiritual life the most predominant. What would a prayer like this result in if answered in our case? John prays that in respect of all things relating to the physical life of Gaius it might measure up to the spiritual. We may indeed ask ourselves the wholesome question "how is my soul prospering?"
What a blessing when brethren can testify of us as they did of Gaius. Obviously John's assessment of this brother was one thing, but now a further testimony is given. Certain brethren arrived with John and how it delighted his heart when they rehearsed what they knew of Gaius. As we listen we find a rich lesson for our souls. The all important issue with them was the relationship of Gaius to "the truth." Can you imagine their joy at being able to say to John "it is in him, and he is walking in it?" This father's joy was superlative. He found no greater joy than that his children walk in truth, v4. So greatly had the truth impressed this dear brother that he was giving willing expression to it in his daily walk. Again we see the balance. An apt illustration may be given from Lev. 11 where those clean beasts referred to must (a) chew the cud [precept] and (b) divide the hoof [practice]. No mere theory satisfied Gaius, his life was ordered in the sphere of truth. Is it not sad when we see lip and life so far removed nowadays? Somehow there is almost a classical approach to the Word of God. Our hermeneutics are excellent, grammar precise, delivery without fault, yet the "God breathed" nature of the truth seems to be forgotten, hence it doesn't effect lives the way it should - both our own and others. Gaius kept company with the truth. It delighted the Apostle and I judge Gaius felt safe.
If there was spiritual prosperity and spiritual constancy, there was also spiritual activity on the part of Gaius. V5 brings out another beautiful feature on the tapestry of his life. The normal exercise of hospitality was entered into from a spiritual standpoint. It was the expression of a faith which trusted the Lord to order his home life on spiritual lines. This "noble work" was to brethren who were strangers. Their only previous link was at the throne of Grace "though sundered far by faith we meet, around one common mercy seat." We listen to the writer to the Hebrews "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for some have thereby entertained angels unawares" 13.2. Like the Thessalonians "his faith was spreading abroad." They bore witness before the assembly of his exercise. John would have him continue in a manner "worthy of God." A reason is given to help Gaius see clearly the nature of his work; a work in which the Apostle would join gladly. These brethren were linked with "the Name." They were "taking nothing" from the Gentiles. There seems to be a certain play on words here. John says they "take nothing" and since that is the case we should "receive" i.e. "undertake" their cause by practical assistance, this in turn would mean we would further the truth, which in the last analysis is the most important.
Never has there been a time when demands for financial assistance have been so great in respect of so many projects. Let us be careful to qualify and control our exercises with this truth. Is it for the sake of His Name? Have these rejected help from worldly sources? Are we being fellowhelpers to the truth? Valid questions, are they not, in light of this scripture? It is interesting to note the Greek word for Gentiles here "ethikoi". Others have highlighted that the same contrast exists in Matt. 18.17 as here. There if the one called a brother refuses to listen to the church "ecclesia" let him be to you as an heathen "ethnikos." There is therefore a bounded duty to refuse practical assistance from such a source.
An O.T. illustration may be that of Abraham in Genesis 14. Abraham refuses what the King of Sodom offers in light of the One whose Name is Possessor of Heaven and Earth. What a joy for Abraham to hear the words of 15.1 "Fear not Abraham, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." How true then the oft repeated statement "the Lord is no man's debtor." If in the second Epistle the false teacher is to be refused entry to our homes, here the reverse is emphasised, those acting "for the sake of the Name" are to be welcomed.
Hearing all these things of Gaius produced a longing in the heart of John to see him face to face vl4, kindred minds run like that don't they? There is an attraction about spiritual exercise unequalled in the worldly sphere. May we seek to cultivate this kind of life for God.
"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein , and ye shall find rest for your souls " Jer 6 16
"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers " 1 Pet 3 12
For some this is a contentious subject. There are many who still feel that the most appropriate way to address Divine Persons is to distinguish Them from all others by adopting the personal pronouns "Thee" and "Thou" which are no longer in common use in many parts of Britain Regrettably, however, this is now a minority view, even amongst those gathered to the Lord's name. Indeed in these days there are many who are not even aware that in addressing God as "You" they are causing much unhappiness to fellow saints
This paper seeks to draw together some of the main lines of argument in support of the retention of the use of "Thee" and "Thou" in addressing the Lord It does not purport to present any original lines of argument nor indeed attempt to be a technical exposition of the subject
My Personal Conviction
Before undertaking a detailed study of this subject, I held strongly to the view that we should address the Lord using "Thee" and "Thou" This view is held even more strongly now for the following reasons
A distinction should be maintained between addressing Divine Persons and addressing our fellow men. The use of distinctive pronouns allows for this
The discussion on this matter is not just about textual accuracy (although this is of course very important) but about reverence
There is generally these days an undue familiarity when speaking about and in addressing, the Lord. It is far better to use His full title "Lord Jesus Christ" rather than just using His human name "Jesus". Every opportunity should be taken to show He is superlatively different whether by the name we use or the form of address.
Secular practice should not govern my approach to God Indeed quite the opposite To use "Thee" and "Thou" is a positive act of non-conformity and would be recognised as outwith the spirit of the age Further the use of these pronouns is not just for public prayer but should be our exercise in private prayer as well
What then should my attitude be to Christians who address the Lord as "You"7 Firstly a distinction should be drawn between an uninstructed or young believer and one who should be more learned about these matters I would not necessarily expect to hear one new to the Christian faith using "Thee" and "Thou" until they have been taught on the subject It is very sad to hear an older Christian who once used "Thee etc " speaking to the Lord in another way This is often a reflection of the circles in which one mixes. For one to be brought up spiritually on "Thee" and "Thou" and then to change requires great effort. Conversely the writer of this article has known brothers come amongst the local assembly and to adopt the use of "Thee" in recognition of the majesty of God.
It is also necessary to take account of the fact that if someone's native language is not English then they are unlikely to use "Thee" and "Thou" so easily at first. However very many languages do distinguish between the singular and plural in the use of personal pronouns.
Ultimately the matter is one of individual exercise. In discussing this subject therefore it is not the intention to impose a restriction on the public participation of any brother. Nor is it suggested that a brother is being deliberately irreverent.
Some Common Questions
In pursuing this study we need to be mindful of some common questions raised such as:-
Does it matter how we address Divine Persons?
Are not "Thee and Thou" archaic terms?
What has prompted the change in recent years?
Is the use of "Thee" purely a traditional or cultural thing linked with certain minority groups?
Does it matter how we address Divine Persons?
Some have argued that we should address the Lord using "Thee" on the basis that we would approach royalty with deference and respect. So it is argued we should address the Lord differently. This is superficial. Divine Persons stand far above any mortal be they royalty or commoner.
Familiarity with God is inappropriate. Ps. 89.7 says "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him". We should therefore take every opportunity to show that we know God is different from ordinary people. To put the Lord Jesus on the same level as another mortal is blasphemous. To use "Thee and Thou" immediately introduces a distinction and there is absolutely no suggestion of familiarity.
Are "Thee and Thou" Archaic Terms?
In the preface to the 1952 edition of the Revised Standard Version the use of "Thee" and "Thou" is described as archaic. The dictionary definition of archaic is "no longer in common use, though retained for special purposes". Archaic language is "language retained for special purpose". There can be nothing more special than speaking to God in prayer.
Linguistic authorities suggest that the use of "you" in place of "Thee" was common in spoken English from the thirteenth century. The use of "Thee" and "Thou" in the AV is not therefore simply because this was the language of the day. It was not. The AV was not written in 16th or 17th century English. The use of "You" was common at that time and, in fact, the word "you" occurs over 2,000 times in the AV but never as an address to Deity. The AV did not conform to the language of its day. Interestingly King James is addressed as "you and your" in the preface to the AV.
What has Prompted the Change in Recent Years?
There may be many reasons. The main impetus to change has been the introduction of a wide variety of Bible translations many of which have over time moved away from and ultimately abandoned the use of "Thee and "Thou". There appears to be a direct link between modern translations and the use of "You" and "Your".
The first action of the devil back in Gen. 3 was to cast doubt on God's word. The multiplicity of modern translations has caused great confusion, not least to young people, and thus are not helpful. Some have been the source of doctrinal error, albeit unwittingly imbibed. Some of this error is consistent with the doctrinal stance of members of the editorial committees and could not therefore be seen as being introduced unwittingly into the particular translation.
One major problem with modern translations is that, because of their variety, they make more difficult and indeed inhibit the memorising of the Scriptures. It appears many young people today cannot quote Scripture, not least in the language of the AV.
In defence of the AV
The AV is being set aside by many today for rather spurious reasons. It is not as difficult to read as some argue. Indeed it is a fact that some have learned to read using the AV. The AV has been used to great effect down the centuries. It is based on the Received Text. As a general principle any translation not based on the Received Text is suspect. Most modern translations (i.e. those since 1881) have sought to discredit the Received Text.
A Brief History of the Development of Translations
There is a need to consider the development of Bible translation as it affects the use of "Thee" and "Thou".
The AV is a far more accurate translation than all modern translations in that it clearly distinguishes between the second person singular and the second person plural. The former is always translated "thee or thou", the latter is always rendered "you or your". The singular form is always used in addressing God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The AV retains a distinction which is in the original text. Most translations since the 1960's make no distinction.
They also ignore the accuracy of the receptor language. That is, good English allows for a distinction between the second persons singular and plural albeit that this is not adopted in common speech. But there is a distinction and there has been no change in the English language. We should not allow the deficiencies of the spoken word to undermine the accuracy of translation.
In the interim period i.e. between approximately 1800 and the 1960's, there has been a great deal of inconsistency in translation. This has a direct link to, at best, doctrinal uncertainty, but in truth to doctrinal error. This is perhaps best illustrated be reference to the R.S.V. The use of "thee" and "thou" in this translation has changed over time. There is therefore a need to examine the date of the edition being used before recognising how these pronouns are to be understood.
In the early versions of the R.S.V. accuracy of translation was not the issue for it is stated in the preface that the use of "Thee" and "Thou" has been retained of Divine Persons and that "you" is used of men (with no apparent regard for the distinction between singular and plural). These sentiments have not been rescinded.
If we examine the text of Matt.16.16 in these early R.S.V. translations there is implicitly (hopefully not deliberately) a denial of the deity of the Lord Jesus. Against the declared intention of retaining "Thee" and "Thou" for Divine Persons Matt. 16.16 is rendered "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Weakness of translation has given rise to a denial of the deity of the Lord Jesus. The use of "You and Your" is directly linked to fundamental error.
In the preface to the 1952 edition of the R.S.V. it is stated that me use of "thee" and "thou" (with indeed many other words) is archaic and in the 1972 version these words were abandoned. This issue of archaic language has been dealt with.
The use of these pronouns has also been encouraged by their occurrence in many modern hymns. Regrettably many of them misapply Scripture, taking it out of context or out of its dispensational setting. Many address the Lord Jesus in an inappropriate way e.g. He is often addressed as King when in fact this is really a term for Israel. He is our Head and Lord.
Is the Use of "Thee Purely a Traditional or Cultural Thing Linked with Certain Minority Groups?
It has been shown thus far that the use of "Thee and Thou" in the A.V. reflects accurately the original text. It is accurate English. Where the text uses the plural so does the A.V. The classic illustration of the accuracy of the A.V. is seen in Luke 22.31-32 which reads ". . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren". Here "you" refers to all the disciples, "thee" to Peter. The A.V. stands closely to Biblical language. We might conclude that the A.V. is in a Biblical style of English, not a form of language that was ever spoken, but based on the style of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures and an accurate translation.
It is correct to say that the original text did not use a different form of personal pronoun in speech addressed to God. However we should address God as the Bible addresses God. This is always in the singular. Nowhere in scripture is God addressed other than in the second person singular. Accuracy in translation and speech would render this "Thee or Thou". This mode of address is the language with which to speak to Divine Persons (see Mark 1.11: Luke 3.22: Acts 1.24)
The use of "Thee and Thou" is not therefore a cultural thing.
The use of "You" and "Your" allows for no distinction in speech between God and men. Even if there were no textual justification for promoting the difference (which there is) there is a lot to be said for maintaining a distinction as a deliberate act of respect. To use "You" and "Your" brings God, albeit unintentionally, down to a human level.
Ps. 50.21 reads "... .thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes". This positively promotes the idea of treating God in a different way. One such possible way is to use a different form of address.
The use of "You" and "Your" is associated with the denial of Fundamental doctrines.
The common practice in prayer and hymns today could lead to the introduction of error.
The AV retains the use of "Thee" and "Thou", so do many of our best loved hymns written a long time after the use of you became common in the English tongue. Why not follow this pattern in our prayers? It is strange that many gladly sing these hymns but refuse to use these pronouns in addressing the Lord.
In the preface to the New English Bible in the 1960's the following statement is made: ". . . .public .... are not generally ready for the use of "You" in address to God with all the overtones of familiarity and casual speech that this would bring with it." What has changed to make this comment invalid today?
There are undoubtedly believers who feel that "Thee" and "Thou" are the most appropriate forms of address to the Father and the Son. Others have no similar conviction. It is hoped however that those with no conviction on the matter will recognise from the above that there are good reasons for the continuing use of "Thee" and "Thou" and if not fully persuaded will be willing to adopt this practice out of deference and respect for fellow saints.
Mark's gospel is recognised as a presentation of the Lord Jesus as the Perfect Servant of Jehovah. As we examine his writings, therefore, we may consider this book as a handbook for all who desire to serve God acceptably. The Perfect Servant took twelve men and commenced a course of teaching which is unequalled in human history. During their time with Him they saw Him at work, they listened to Him, they observed Him closely and they had the inestimable privilege of sitting at the'feet*of a Teacher who is unsurpassed. This Teacher was a master craftsmen with words and with Him there was not one word wasted. Every syllable counted, for who else could contain such depth of teaching in parables told in a minute or two. His actions also were never less than perfect, and no act ever had to be carried out twice to rectify faults or to improve what was not done well. What a Teacher to follow!
During the presentation of the Perfect Servant Mark uses a number of methods to present lessons to us for our education in His service. In these articles we will be looking at a number of full days of service which are recorded in the gospel, and we will see with interest how this Servant of God spent the hours of the day. Each of these days is identified by the attention which is drawn to the close of the day. The first is found in ch.l and ends with the words 'And at even' (v.32). The second is found in ch.4 where the end of the day is marked by the words 'And the same day, when the even was come' (v35). The third is found in ch.6 where we find again the day end in the words 'And when even was come' (v47). These are three normal days of service for the Master, but Mark cannot complete his narrative before bringing to our attention one very specjal day, the end of which is found in ch.15 when he writes 'And now when the even was come'. In these studies we will look at the first three of these days.
Before considering these full days spent by the disciples in the school of Christ, it is advisable to examine the opening verses of the gospel to learn some basic lessons for those who wish to be pupils in this school. There are two cycles of preparation which are noted before the Perfect Servant commences His public service. In the opening verses the work is prepared for the servant. John Baptist comes as 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness' (v3). The need was obvious, but the Servant of God is not sent to those who are unprepared for His coming. The crowds thronging the banks of Jordan are testimony to the fact that preparation was being made for the introduction of the One who is mightier than John Baptist.
So, in like manner, it is with all those who serve the Master. Work is made ready for all who engage in His service. He does not expect us to enter into areas of work which He has not prepared for us. Even in the pioneering days of Paul and his companions the way had been prepared. Hearts had been made ready in such places as Derbe and Lystra; Corinth contained 'much people' who would bow to the claims of the gospel; the way into the imperial court in Rome was prepared for Paul's entrance. Yes, He does prepare work for us. In our own localities, or wherever He calls us He has gone ahead and prepared the work in which He would have us engaged.
We note, however, that not only was the work prepared for the servant, but the servant was prepared for the work. The approval of heaven on the early years of the life of the Lord is clearly seen from the voice which came from heaven declaring "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. Mark is anxious to let us see the encouragement which this would be to the Servant by noting alone of all the gospel writers that 'He saw heaven opened'. What a joy it is in service when we realise that heaven approves of our work. The opened heaven signifies the reality of personal experience with God and there is no greater incentive to serve faithfully than a realisation that God is with us.
But the triumph of this Servant will be brought before us before He commences His service. Mark's account of the temptation in the wilderness differs from that of the other gospel writers in that there is no detail of the temptations. Firstly, we are told that He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan. The three temptations noted by Matthew and Luke were the culmination of forty days of tempting. Even at the end of these forty days Mark does not tell us that the devil departed from Him. The lesson being taught us by this Servant of God is that those who serve Him must be prepared for the constant attention of the Adversary. Dealing with the attacks of the devil are part of preparation for service. To overcome will give spiritual confidence for what lies ahead.
Note also the significance of the absence of detail in Mark's account of these wilderness days. He records these days as a time when there took place a battle which was one of private exercise, the details of which are between the Servant and God alone. The further lesson to be learned is that private victory must take place before public service. The victory may be won in circumstances which are known only to you and to the God whom you seek to serve. They are not for public account, nor for sharing with others, but they are part of the learning process which shape you for the responsibilities of service.
It is worthy of note that Mark alone uses the name 'Satan' in his record of these events. 'Satan' means 'Adversary'. Is this not teaching us that the service of God involves us in a battle with one who is our adversary, constantly seeking our ill and with a clear objective of ending our usefulness in the service of God? He attacks early and he attacks with skill and resourcefulness, but although we always respect him we need not fear him. The triumph of the Lord Jesus at the cross has guaranteed our success in this battle if we avail ourselves of the armour which is at our disposal.
Young believers must realise that their early years are not merely to be spent in pleasure, content that others are leading the saints, and that they will become interested in these matters when they are older and have 'enjoyed' their youth. If you would become a servant of God you start when young and learn, in the school of Christ, what is necessary for your spiritual growth and development. Are you man and woman enough to stand up to the challenge? This perfect Servant is teaching us how important are these years and what delight there can be in heaven over one who is young walking in ways which are well pleasing to Him. —to be continued (D.V.)
I was born and brought up in Manchester and although my family and relatives were not Christians, they gave me a good upbringing. The Lord awakened and saved me by His grace at the age of 16. Up to this time I had never heard the Gospel, but through the conversion of a man with whom I worked, I was brought under the sound of the Gospel and afterwards on the way home from a meeting I was led by the Spirit of God to put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Afterwards some members of my family were brought into a personal experience of salvation in Christ.
During the last war whilst serving in H.M. Forces, through attending meetings connected with the Assemblies of the Lord's people and through reading God's Word, I saw my need to be baptized as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1941 I was baptized and received into fellowship in the Banbridge Assembly. It was there I met Mollie (later to be my wife) who was saved that year through Gospel meetings held in the assembly at Banbridge. In 1945 after service overseas we were married.
The questions may be asked, "What constitutes a call? How does the call reach one of the Lord's servants? When it comes does one know it unmistakably? Is not the command of the Lord Himself to go, sufficient in itself?" I would say that the call to service is the summons of God to your spirit for a special and specific service. It is the voice of the Lord by His Spirit to man's spirit, and the spirit of man feels, knows, and responds. We had a deep interest in missionary work for many years and sought to foster the interest in the assembly. I was actively engaged in the spread of the gospel and took a willing part in the assembly activities. We worked amongst young people in Sunday Schools, and young peoples meetings. I would say that the prospective missionary should prove himself at home before he attempts to go overseas.
We had a particular interest in Tanzania for many years after Stephen and Mary Downs went there in 1955, as Stephen and ourselves had been in fellowship in the same assembly in Manchester. Mollie and I often had missionaries staying with us in our home and whilst one from Tanzania was with us, the Lord spoke to me very definitely. It was not at home nor in a meeting, but outside sitting in a car having my lunch in a quiet place, taking a break from my business during the lunch hour. I had a deep concern and exercise for some time as to where and how I could give my life more wholly to the service of the Lord. On this occasion the experience was different from anything which I had had before. The Lord was saying to me, Will you go to Tanzania? I answered willingly, yes Lord, I will go. This was a definite call to service, a special and specific service. The Lord was sending me as He does His servants according to Matthew 9.38. So in obedience to the Lord's call I acted upon it, "Immediately we endeavoured to go ... assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them" Acts 16.10. Then I considered that some years earlier in the tropics I had had a severe illness caused through a brain haemorrhage. Although I had been perfectly fit since, I needed to make sure that it-would be alright for me to go overseas. My wife and I talked about this matter. I sought the advice of a well known doctor in the Belfast Assemblies, Dr. John Boyd, now with the Lord. He said things were not so easy going out to a foreign country amongst strange people, with a trying climate and a language to learn, he said maybe the Lord wanted me to stay in N. Ireland and serve Him there. I replied, If that is the Lord's will for me, I am happy to stay here. However he suggested I sought advice at the R. V. Hospital, Belfast, as to whether it would be alright for me to go to Tanzania. When the day came for the appointment, I knew that what I would be told would determine whether or not I would go to Tanzania. I prayed about this and left it with the Lord. That day I was told it would be quite safe for me to go to Africa, and that there would be no problem. I then made known my exercise to the oversight of Glengormley assembly, they along with Adam Street assembly where we had been in fellowship for some years commended me to the work of the Lord in Tanzania. As the days passed by the Lord gave my wife and myself words of assurance from His Word as we made preparations to go to Tanzania. We looked to the Lord to direct us now. Do we ever regret the step which we took in obedience to the Lord's call? No never. The Lord has been faithful to us all the way and provided for us and enabled us in this path of service for the best of Masters
We arrived in Dar es Salaam in November 1966 where we had 3 months language study in order to learn the Swahih language, this is used in all our activities in the Lord's work there Dudley Dalton was our teacher, who is now with the Lord. He proved an excellent teacher and we were able to get a good grasp of the grammar of the language, from then we used this in all our work for the Lord, we would say that it is most important to learn the language of the country in which one seeks to serve the Lord in order to tell forth the best news that was ever heard Afterwards we went to Kilwa Masoko where some of the assembly missionaries served the Lord in a mission hospital During our stay at Kilwa we engaged in preaching, visitation around the houses in the bush and the Islands around that area I also helped in maintenance work at the hospital.
In 1968 on the advice of brother Dr V Dodsworth who was working there, we left and went to the North of the country in a more thickly populated area around Moshi We started a Sunday School in a rented hall in Moshi town, an assembly was formed in Moshi and continues to grow to this day Later my wife started a Sunday School in our rented house in Moshi, then I worked in the prison for gospel meetings This work I engaged in for 11 years, we are now no longer permitted by the authorities to go into the prison However I started a meeting in the Remand Home for young men every Monday, this work is still continued.
I sought to engage in visitation with literature in the villages, afterwards we preached in the open air lor many years Thirteen thousand people live in villages in the country of Tanzania We saw an Assembly formed and built a Hall in Pasua in 1983, the assembly continues well until the present day.
All the believers were baptized according to the scriptures, the teaching and building up of the Christians was one of the important parts of our ministry There is a need for the teaching of those things which are most surely believed among us Luke 1.1.
We spent 18 years in Tanzania and came home thiee times However the day of foreign missionaries is not over, there is still the place for the gifted believer The Lord has raised up an African Brother named Ombeni who was and still is a gifted and useful fulltime worker.
Tanzania is one of those countries where the door is wide open to those who are led of the Lord to serve Him "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few" Matt 9.37.
We would like to throw out a challenge from God's Word, 1 Chron 29 5 "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord"
Where are they, let them come now for the day of Gospel grace will soon be passed.
The Lord Himself has said, "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly Amen, Even so come Lord Jesus " Rev.22.20.
In life we are made aware of very powerful influences. There are those of nature, like the power of gravity, the force of the wind; there is peer pressure, competition in the college and work place, unfair and unrealistic demands of commercial life; in some societies there is pressure just to obtain the bare necessities of life and where disease and early death are commonplace; others are powerfully influenced by bullies, thugs and illegal organisations.
Not all experience the same powers which often make life quite miserable, but there are two powerful forces which affect every person, whether in a cultured society or from a third world country. These are the power of SIN and that of SATAN. The one is internal and the other external, but they combine to bring a soul into bondage and eventual damnation.
The Bible distinctly declares, Romans 5.12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." There can be no mistaking the clear statement of Cod, ". . . ALL have sinned". The fact that so many are oblivious to this proves the reality of the power of Satan. 2 Corinthians 4.4 "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." These two powers unite to make sin attractive, to cloud the mind as to its seriousness and to promote within a person the awful soul damning attitude of procrastination.
If there are readers who doubt these powers in their lives, let them try to break their darling habit, forsake their cherished sin or give up the giddy company and there will be a manifestation of the power which holds captive.
There is only one power which can break the power of sin and Satan and release a person into glorious freedom. That is the power of God. Thus we read in Romans 1.16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." The gospel of Christ tells us of the Son of God who came from heaven to shed His precious blood on the cross that sinners might be redeemed. On the basis of that sacrifice at Calvary, Cod can forgive sins righteously. While salvation is offered to all, not all will be saved. Thus the verse states "to every one that believeth." Dear reader, if you are struggling under the burden and bondage of sin and Satan, faith in the Son of God will bring into your life the power of God and His great salvation.
Some people think they could never keep salvation but Peter states that the power of God is sufficient for that also. 1 Peter 1.5, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." There is no greater power than this.
Why struggle on to eternal doom when God in His love and power offers life and that more abundantly? John 10.10, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."