BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
A FOURFOLD VIEW OF A SCRIPTURAL ASSEMBLY
by J. Moneypenny
GATES OF JERUSALEM, NEHEMIAH 3
by D. S. Parrack
JOTTINGS FROM THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN
by D. Williamson
DAYS OF SERVICE WITH THE MASTER
by J. Grant
by R. Reynolds
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by B. Rodgers
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
9. The Beatitudes (Ch.5)
There are seven mountain scenes in Matthew's Gospel. This is the second of them. For the first see ch.4.8 and the story of our Lord's temptation. In ch.5 Jesus ascends the mount which has become known as "The Mount of Beatitudes," to give that ministry which is commonly called "The Sermon on the Mount." This is, of course, a misnomer. There were other sermons delivered on mountainsides and indeed the very last public discourse in Matthew was given on the Mount of Olives. But when we speak of "The Sermon on the Mount" most will assume that we refer to this discourse of Matthew 5,6 and 7.
There at once however, appears to be a problem. Matthew says, "a mountain," but Luke says, "the plain," (Luke 6.17). Critics and cynics decide that there is a discrepancy, a contradiction, but every true believer knows that there are no discrepancies in our Bible. The explanation is simple. Luke's "plain" was simply "a level place." It was a level place on the mountain slope where the multitude could gather before the Lord and hear His word. Matthew and Luke agree. It was a level place on the mountainside.
But though the multitudes are there, and listening, still this ministry is particularJy addressed to the disciples. They are in the midst of, but distinct from the crowd. The teaching that follows is specially for them. The saints are always a separate company, left in the world, sent into the world, but not of the world and not like the world. As the beloved J.N.D. used to say, "The world goes its way and I am not part of it."
The opening word of the discourse is "Blessed." What sharp contrast is this to that last word in our Old Testament. The old dispensation of law had revealed the true nature of man. God had put the best of men, the chosen race, on trial under law and they had failed. There remained only the curse, and with this word our Old Testament comes to a sad close. But after four hundred silent years, Jesus came. He brought a new order of things and in this, His first recorded public ministry, He begins, "Blessed . . .". There follow seven beatitudes which describe the character of the true children of the kingdom. Two more beatitudes pronounce blessing in the face of opposition and persecution.
Perhaps one of the most profitable, devotional ways to enjoy these twelve lovely verses of our chapter is to see in them an unfolding of the character of the Saviour Himself. Once, as the God of Sinai, He had brought to that awful mount the tables of the law. It was a high standard that they demanded. Now He comes to another mount, having Himself lived out that law perfectly for thirty years in Nazareth. This ministry is an advance on the demands of the law, as we shall see. It is the character of Christ and thus it is the manner of life which is expected of those who are in the kingdom, whether now or in a future day.
The word "blessed" (makarios) has the thought of happiness, serenity, tranquillity. God is the "Blessed God". To be so blessed in poverty, in mourning, in meekness, in persecution, is surely contrary to the thoughts of men. But this is the way of the kingdom. Happiness when there is adversity; serenity where there is hostility; tranquillity in the difficult circumstances of life and testimony; such was the character of the Master and such should be the character of His disciples.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit." We are not to be poor-spirited, but poor in spirit. It is the opposite to pride. The truly poor in spirit will have no rich thoughts of self; will make no high claims; will demand no rights; but will rest in this, that the kingdom of heaven already is theirs.
"Blessed are they that mourn." This is not alone the sorrow of bereavement or the grief of domestic problems- and hardships. It is the mourning of those who grieve over the havoc that sin has wrought. It is that sweet sadness that characterised the Saviour Himself as He wept with men and for men and became known as "The Man of Sorrows." Such will inevitably and eventually be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek." Meekness has been defined as "excessive angerlessness." It is a cumbersome but very apt definition. Our Lord said, "I am meek" (Matt. 11.29). Paul wrote of the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor.10.1). Like the poor in spirit, the meek can rest in this, that Jehovah has reserved for them an inheritance. The meek spirit will be richly rewarded.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." Hunger and thirst! How like our physical needs. Bread and water! Jesus said, "I am the Bread of life," and He has too, the water of life (John 6.35; 7.37). For those who truly hunger and thirst after Him there is enough and to spare. They shall be filled. They shall be abundantly satisfied (Ps.36.8).
"Blessed are the merciful." God is a God of mercy, merciful and gracious (Ex.34.6). Our Lord dispensed mercy on every hand. His people are expected to show mercy with cheerfulness (Rom.12.8). We need not expect to be shown mercy by others if we ourselves cannot be merciful.
"Blessed are the pure in heart." Without holiness shall no man see the Lord (Heb.12.14). But where there is purity of mind and heart, of thought and motive, there will be corresponding revelations of God to that soul. We sing, "Without a cloud between," and when it is so there can be on-going visions of the beauties of divine Persons. Sin, impurity, would rob the soul of such revelations of God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers." It is a great thing to keep the peace when things are already in harmony. It is a greater thing to make peace when there is dispute and discord. The supreme and blessed Peacemaker Himself made peace by the blood of His cross (Col.1.20). It is the very character of God, who is the God of peace. He desires that this moral likeness may be seen in us.
Now such characteristics as those here described will doubtless evoke persecution from the world. It was so with the Saviour. It will be likewise with those who follow Him. But, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake" and "Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you ... for My sake." Indeed the very trauma of such persecution for Him is a cause for rejoicing. "Rejoice," He says, "for so persecuted they the prohpets which were before you." Those who are persecuted for His sake and for righteous living are in the illustrious company of the prophets of old and of the Saviour Himself.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
THE CHURCH AND THE CHURCHES
(16) Elders (Part 3)
We have already noticed that 1Tim.3 deals with those who exercise care in the assembly ("bishops", better, 'overseers'), and those who serve in the assembly ("deacons", better, servants). So far as the former are concerned, we have outlined (1) The terms employed, and (2) The work involved. This brings us to:
3) THE QUALITIES REQUIRED
Keep 1Tim.3 open. Bearing in mind our discoveries so far, it will hardly come as a surprise to learn that 'overseers' are to be men of exemplary character. Of course, we all ought to be people of exemplary character! But how much more necessary for those who lead the assembly. It is all summed up in the first adjective in v3, "blameless." There is no question about it: "A bishop ('overseer') must be blameless." (Not 'flawless', and certainly not 'sinless'!). See also v7. It means 'irreproachable'. His character cannot be called into question. He is to be irreproachable in every sphere of life, and these are now set out for us in the verses that follow.
A) HIS SANCTITY IN PERSONAL LIFE, V.2-3
"The husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous." As you can see, Paul lists positive qualities first (v2), and then follows with negative qualities (v3). Perhaps we should say at this point, that according to competent authorities, the words "not greedy of filthy lucre" should be omitted.
i) Positive qualities
a) "The husband of one wife." This has been variously interpreted. Some teach that it means that on overseer is not free to marry again if he is widowed. In other words, he can only ever have one wife. This is decidedly unlikely! There can be no doubt that when marriage is dissolved by death (apart from the Lord's coming, the only way in which marriage can be dissolved in God's sight), Scripture does not preclude remarriage for any believer, whether overseer or otherwise. If this particular explanation is valid, then the sheep can go where the shepherd cannot go!
Others teach that it means that an overseer can only have on wife at a time. This is of course perfectly true. But does this mean that whilst other men can be bigamists or polygamists, and elder must not? This explanation implies that bigamy and polygamy is acceptable for all but elders. It is evidently invalid.
A third suggestion follows the literal meaning of the words: 'a one woman man.' J. Allen (What the Bible Teaches - 1 Timothy) puts it very clearly: 'The simple interpretation is to see this statement as laying emphasis on the absolute fidelity of the overseer to one woman.'
This verse also raised the question of an overseer's marital status. Should he be married? Is a bachelor precluded from overseership? Wm. Hoste (Bible Problems and Answers) quotes from Alford (Greek New Testament) in saying that if this was Paul's meaning, he would have said '"husband of a wife', rather than "husband of one wife". Quite obviously, it is preferable for an overseer to be married. In fact, this is assumed in 4-5 and Titus 2.6, but it does not appear to be mandatory. Single overseers are in a good position to help single people. Hence the requirement for a plurality of overseers, with a wide range of differing experience.
b) "Vigilant". This means, literally, free from the influence of intoxicants. In other words, free from the sleepiness which intoxicants induce. An overseer is to be wide-awake. He is to be aware of what is happening in the assembly. He must be alert, and therefore be able to deal with potential dangers before they have opportunity to gather momentum. He must be able to 'nip them in the bud', before they get 'out of hand'.
c) "Sober". This describes a sound mind, with self-control and self-constraint. The overseer is not an extremist: he is balanced. He knows when quick remedial action is necessary, and when patience is required. It also enables him to keep confidences. There is nothing worse than an overseer who broadcasts information given to him in confidence. The flock will soon come to distrust their shepherds if private matters are made public knowledge. It also suggests that he is a man of his word: if he says he will do something, he does it.
d) "Of good behaviour'. This is the same word as "modest" in 2.9, and means well-arranged or orderly. It refers to his overall manner of life. He is a disciplined person. There is nothing slap-dash about him. He is not disorientated.
e) "Given to hospitality". Literally, 'a lover of strangers'. Gaius was commended for this: "Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers", 3 John 5. (There are not two classes here; just one: 'the brethren, even strangers'. In other words, believers previously unknown to him). See also Heb.13.2. Notice that it does not say, 'prepared to give hospitality', but "given to hospitality." The value of a Christian home in caring for God's people is inestimable.
f) "Apt to teach." We have it again in 2 Tim.2.24: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient". It means, 'skilled to teach.' This does not imply that every Bible teacher is automatically an overseer. A brother might be able to expound the Scriptures to great profit, but unless he has a shepherd-heart, and therefore spends time 'taking care of the church of God', he is not qualified to be an overseer. This does not mean for one moment that a man cannot do both, but whilst a Bible teacher handles the Scriptures, an overseer handles the Scriptures, and people. The latter can be as difficult as the former! A Bible teacher is not necessarily an elder, but an elder is necessarily a Bible teacher. It has been well said: 'beware of a non-teaching oversight'. But "apt to teach" does not necessarily mean that an overseer is, habitually, a 'platform man'. Obviously, he must be able to address the assembly, but that does not mean that he is a recognised 'ministering brother'. (Whatever that may mean). The flock must hear the voice of its shepherds, but this means far more than giving addresses at regular intervals. The Scriptures need to be opened and applied in the privacy of homes, during 'pastoral visits', and on other occasions.
ii) Negative qualities
a) "Not given to wine". Literally, 'not tarrying at wine'. It can be rendered, 'not quarrelsome over wine'. The RV renders this, 'no brawler'. Let's be clear about this: it means what it says. The overseer (or any believer for that matter) is not to endanger his deportment and spiritual dignity by indulgence in this way. We are all better off without alcohol. The London Underground used to carry the following advertisement: 'Total abstinence for intoxicating liquor makes for accuracy in skilled movements.'
b) "No striker ... but patient". These two phrases refer to an overseer's temper. When provoked, he does not react violently, whether verbally or physically, but with forbearance. The word is used in Phil.4.5, "Let your moderation be known unto all men". It means 'non-insistence on rights': see JND footnote. It has been explained by the adjective, 'gentleness'. One outburst of temper could be ruinous for an overseer.
c) "Not a brawler". The RV has, 'not contentious'. This does not mean that he does not "earnestly contend for the faith", Jude 3. But it does mean that he is not an argumentative character.
d) "Not covetous". This means, literally, 'not a lover of silver'. An overseer must not be governed by money. If promotion at work is the be-all and end-all of his life, he is not qualified to be an overseer. Let's face it, business will buy us body, mind and soul, if we let it. If a man is so engrossed in materialisation that he has little time for assembly gatherings, or for visitation, or for Bible study, how can he possibly "take care of the church of God".
B) HIS AUTHORITY IN THE FAMILY, V.4-5
"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)".
We must not get the idea that an overseer is an absolute despot at home. The word "rule" here (and in vl2) does not convey that idea at all! It means, simply, 'to stand before' with a view to leading. It occurs again in Rom.12.8, "he that ruleth with diligence", 1 Thess.5.12, "know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord". (In Heb.13.7,17,24, we also have "rule" in the AV, but here it means 'to guide'). None the less, authority is involved: "having his children in subjection with all gravity". It is the way in which that authority is exercised that is important: hence "ruleth well". J. Allen (What the Bible Teaches -1 Timothy) puts in exquisitely: 'He does this with a firmness that makes it advisable to obey, with a wisdom that makes it natural to obey, and with a love that makes it a delight to obey'.
Inability to manage in the home disqualifies a man from leadership in the assembly. The expression "church of God", is always used of local churches in the New Testament. We have already noticed the implications of the words, "take care", with reference to Luke 10. See Study 14. Two questions now arise:
a) Must an overseer be a family man? It has been argued that he must have at least two children. Since Paul says "having his children in subjection . . ." It seems quite unreasonable, to put it mildly, to suggest that every overseer must have a family of this minimum size, or that he must have a family at all. Once again, a married man without a family is in the best position to help others in similar circumstances. Hence, again, the plurality of overseers. If he is a family man, then these verses are relevant to him.
b) Must an overseer have saved children? How far are we obliged to take the words, "having his children in subjection with all gravity"? Where does Scripture draw the line in connection with his family responsibility? If children 'go off the rails' when they grow up, does an overseer suddenly lose his qualification? How about Tit.1.6, "Having faithful children not been accused of riot or unruly"? Some understand the word "faithful", to mean, 'believing", see JND. D. E. West (What the Bible Teaches - Titus): is worth quoting in full here. "The word "pistos" may mean trustworthy, reliable or dependable, as the expression "faithful word" (Tit.1.9), or, alternatively, believing. It is noted that in lTim.3.2-7, nothing is said of the spiritual condition of the children; so it is perhaps better to take the meaning here as "trustworthy" . . . The elder must be known as one who insists on good behaviour in the household".
C) HIS MATURITY IN EXPERIENCE, V6
"Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil". The word "novice" means, literally, 'newly planted', and refers to a new convert. This does not mean, of course, that overseers must necessarily be men in their later years. But it does mean that they are to be men with spiritual experience, and experience of life generally. It does not demand a great intellect to understand why Paul continues, "lest being lifted up with pride . . ." Humility does not come quickly or easily in most cases. Elijah had to learn to 'hide' himself (1 Kings 17.3), before the time came to 'shew himself (1 Kings 18.1). There must be no pride on the part of the man who has to take centre stage on Mount Caramel. There must be no pride on the part of the men who guide the people of God. The verb "lifted up" means, primarily, 'to make a smoke'. Hence, metaphorically, to blind with pride or conceit. (Vincent's Word Studies).
Paul illustrates the inevitable result of pride by referring to the fall of Satan himself: "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation ('fault', JND) of the devil". In Isa.14, "Lucifer, son of the morning" says, "I will" five times. His proud boast "I will ascend", is answered: "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit", v12-17. God hates pride. See Prov.6.16-19.
D) HIS TESTIMONY IN THE WORLD, V7
"Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil". Of course, this is required of us all. In a different connection, Paul writes: "Give none offence to the adversary to speak reproachfully", lTim.5.14. But it is particularly important for overseers. If the leadership can be successfully discredited, then the entire testimony will be jeopardised. Effective Gospel witness by the assembly will be seriously impaired if an overseer displays dishonesty or a bad temper at his workplace. The devil will set traps with this very end in view. The overseer must maintain a consistent testimony. He must maintain exactly the same standard of conduct in all circumstances, in the assembly, at home, at work, and in society generally.
Overseers can expect to be a particular target for attack, and we might be forgiven for thinking that a man who 'aspires to oversight' (v1, JND) is exposing himself to special risk! Just look again at the requirements! But the "Chief Shepherd" is coming back, and will bestow a special reward for the faithful elder: "a crown of glory that fadeth not away", lPet.5.4. This indicates the importance and value of the work, When the Lord Jesus came, almost two thousand years ago, there were "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night". He expects to find shepherds guiding and caring for His people, when He comes again.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98)
Paper 9a—The Future of Russia
In our paper on "The Times of the Gentiles", we considered the history and future doings of the powers represented in the great image of Dan.2. We will now inquire into the actings of a vast power of which the prophet Daniel says nothing, but which is destined to play a very important part in the latter-day crisis. We refer, of course, to Russia. There was no "Russian empire" in the days of the Old Testament prophets, yet its doings are minutely described by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God.
It is worthy of remark that God only takes notice in His Word of the powers of the-world in so far as they are connected (either for good or ill) with His own people. Dominions and movements that men count great are suffered to pass entirely unnoticed in the inspired Word, if they do not happen to fall within the line of God's dealings with His own beloved people, the seed of Abraham, His friend. Israel is His earthly centre; everything therefore that affects them is of the deepest interest to the Spirit of God.
Russia's future bold and profane doings are unfolded in Ezek.38,39. The prophet was told by God to set his face against "Gog, the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him". We cannot state fully here the reasons for accepting "Rosh" as a proper name, our space not permitting. It must suffice to say that the translators of the Septuagint so rendered it many years before Christ; and the English revisers of 1881 have adopted it in their work. "Meshech" and "Tubal" represent the Moschi and Tibareni, two ancient tribes long ago incorporated with the empire of Russia. "They were in fact three great tribes, by the ancients called Scythians, the first of them apparently deriving its name from their proximity in those days to the river Rha, or Volga (though some think the Araxes), and supplying that of the modern Russ, as the others are reproduced in Moscow or Muscovy and in Tobolsk. There is, of course, no difficulty in supposing migrations northward from the original seats, supposing that they may have been the races in the north of Asia Minor during the days of Ezekiel, and familiar to us as the Moschi, Tibarebi, and perhaps other tribes named in later authors of Greece". (W. Kelly, "Notes on Ezekiel").
How wonderful in its comprehensiveness is Scripture! Who could have imagined, in Ezekiel's early day, that in the north parts, would exist a mighty empire full of schemes of self-aggrandisement, and full of enmity to God's land and God's people? Yet such a power has for some time been before us, with just the aims and purposes foretold in the Word of God.
The time referred to in the prophecy is clearly given — "in the latter years"; "in the day when My people Israel dwelleth safely" (Ezek.38.8,14,16). This is very plainly the time when God sets His hand the second time to recover the remnant of His people. Israel has never dwelt safely in their own land since Ezekiel uttered his prophecy; indeed, Israel as such has not been in the land at all. Those who returned to Palestine under Zerubbabel and Ezra were but a feeble remnant, and mainly of the two tribes Judah and Benjamin. Ezekiel's prediction therefore looks onward to their future ingathering. Thus no sooner are they restored to the land of their fathers, the power of the Western and Eastern enemies being completely broken, than their Northern foe, who has been watching their re-establishment and blessing with envious eyes, swoops down upon them with his vast hordes. The hatred of Russia to the Jewish people is well known, and has been painfully proved before our eyes in recent years. This will manifest itself even more malignantly by-and-by, as we shall see. But when the God of Israel makes inquisition for blood, it will all come up in remembrance before Him.
The Gog and Magog of Ezekiel must not be confounded with those of Rev.20.8. The latter Scripture refers to a gathering together of enemies from all quarters at the close of the thousand years' reign; the other speaks of an invasion from the North at the commencement of that period.
Nor must the Gog of Ezekiel be concluded with "the king of the north" of Dan.11.40. This is a very common mistake with even careful students of prophecy. The king of the North (identical, I have no doubt, with "the king" of Dan.8.33 and "the little horn" of Dan.8.9) will invade the land when the man of sin is in power there, and will be suffered (at least at first) to carry all before him. He will pass through "the glorious land" as an overflowing scourge Gog's invasion is a little later, when Israel is dwelling safely, and just beginning to enjoy the many blessings brought in for them by the appearing of Christ and His heavenly saints. These two enemies come from the same direction — "the north" — and their policy is the same; still they are distinct powers. "The king of the north" will probably be urged on, and even helped, it may be, by Russia; as we read, "His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power" (Dan. 8.23). Russia will probably instigate the lesser antagonist to move before she judges the right time has come to move herself. "The king of the north" of old ruled over Syria; we may therefore reasonably expect to see ere long a new state formed of some of the Asiatic provinces of the Sultan, and placed under the protection of Russia. This power will prove, as Russia, a determined opponent of Israel's blessing at the end of the age.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by the late J. Moneypenny
Paper 3 — Temple of God
Now we come to the most solemn portion of the fourfold picture—"temple of God." See how the Apostle specially introduces this with his oft-repeated emphatic phrase — "Know ye not," v.16. In the New Testament two different original words are used for "the temple," one of them including the whole range of the temple buildings—"Hieron." The other "naos," "the Sanctuary" (see R. V. Margin)—where God dwelt. This is the word here in lCor.3.16. The Assembly is not only a building (God's building) which requires constant watchful human care, but (let us not forget) a scripturally gathered assembly is nothing less than a temple—a sanctuary—a dwelling place of God. No wonder that we read even in the Old Testament—Psalm 89.7, "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." This figure "temple of God" is the greatest of the four in this remarkable chapter. The responsibility, therefore, is the greatest also, "If any man" (v.17)—let us all give heed—"defile or corrupt or destroy" (this word is translated in each of these ways in different verses) him shall God defile or corrupt or destroy—it is the same word again. Note three facts—a scriptural assembly is "a temple of God"—"The Spirit of God dwelleth in you"—"the temple of God (sanctuary) is holy, which ye are." Then after these very solemn words he says, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world let him become a fool that he may be wise." Some among the Corinthian saints were evidently marring God's Assembly by introducing worldly wisdom—possibly (indeed likely) bringing in Grecian philosophy in that Grecian assembly. It is quite evident from both these Corinthian epistles that worldly wise men had risen up, drawing disciples after themselves (as in Acts20.30) and belittling the Apostle who had led most of the believers there to Christ, and who had actually planted the assembly. Note, for instance, their words regarding the beloved Apostle in 2 Cor. 10.10—"But his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible." These men were corrupting—marring the assembly, hence the terribly solemn Apostolic warning. Uzziah, the king, in 2Chron.26.16-23 is a painfully striking illustration of lCor.3.16-17. "He was marvellously helped till he was strong" (till he became strong in his own estimation—let us beware!) "But when he was strong his heart was lifted up to his destruction, for he transgressed, etc." Not content with his position as a mighty king— like wicked Korah in an earlier time—"he sought the priesthood also" (Num. 16.10). The priests of the Lord valiantly withstood Uzziah, but he angrily persisted in his awful sin— he corrupted, defiled the Sanctuary of Jehovah (see vl9), and Jehovah corrupted, defiled him. He was smitten with leprosy, and leprosy in its worst form—leprosy "in his head" (Lev.13.44), and thus he was, unto the day of his death. And is it not evident that these carnal, worldly-wise "puffed up" leaders, who were corrupting the Corinthian assembly, had also leprosy in the head—wise with the wisdom of this world, drawing the saints away from "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2Cor.11.3). Oh, how enormously Christen-dom is plagued to-day with such lepers! The terrible words of Jeremiah in the last days of Judah's pre-captivity history have surely their analogy in these present last days of the Church period. "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and My (professed) people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" Jer. 5.30,31. The end is near. "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
Let us be awake to God's instructions and warnings! If we have failed, or strayed from, His precious and simple New Testament pattern, let us truly "cease to do evil" and let us "learn" from this epistle as well as from all Scripture, "to do well" (Isa. 1.16-17). "To do well" not only in our capacity as individual believers, but as gathered according to His will, to our beloved Divine Centre, the Lord Jesus Christ.
May it be ours genuinely to be "spiritual brethren." "God's cultivated field, God's building," a temple—sanctuary—dwelling place of God.
by D. S. Parrack, England
iii) The Dung Gate, v14.
Its very name signifies the use of this gate. It was the exit point for refuse, for defiling matter, including what was, and perhaps still is in some social environments, known euphemistically as 'night soil'. In Bible cities it was quite common to keep animals within the city walls both as a safeguard against marauders and to help towards self sufficiency in a siege. This involved the necessity for a great deal of waste disposal of a kind not envisaged in urban areas today.
'But', you may say, 'there is not much in the way of waste produce in either my personal or assembly life'. Such a perception is not necessarily evidence of a pristine condition, it is in fact almost certainly not. The writer of these notes remembers being told when in industry that, 'A person who has never done anything wrong has probably never done anything.' That secular saying has a biblical parallel. "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean". No animals in the farmyard, no mess to clear up, "but much increase is by strength of the ox" Prov.14.4. If you are not conscious of the need for any waste disposal, it is more likely that either you are doing nothing or that you are oblivious to the true state of things, rather than that such unwanted material doesn't exist.
Looking at the Corinthian church again, we find the apostle asking a question which he appears to think should have been unnecessary. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" 1 Cor.5,6. Since he obviously does expect them to know, he goes on to the only reasonable reaction to such leaven existing, even in small amounts, "Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump" v7. If the little waste, or rubbish, that is there is not dealt with while it is still small, it will fester and bring putrification into the body as a whole. It is far better to face up to, acknowledge and deal with such matters rather than ignore, overlook or just hope they will somehow go away; they won't.
But if we could not rectify or remedy our situation before we were converted, how can we hope to deal with matters involving either individual or corporate failure now? How, and on what basis, can we "purge out - the old leaven?" Well, from one point of view that purging has already been accomplished, and not by ourselves. The aim was "that ye may be a new lump", i.e. without the leaven of sin, and Paul carries on to say "even as ye are unleavened". How did that happen? "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us", 1 Cor.5.7. The apostle is using the picture of the O.T. Passover throughout this part of his letter. Under that arrangement, the salvation effected by the sacrifice of the lamb and the clearing out of the defiling leaven was achieved in parallel. So if that is what was accomplished by the Lord Jesus on a once-for-all basis how do we keep in the practical enjoyed good of it? "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith", Heb.12.1,2. Just as surely as He was the Author, i.e. the Originator, of the whole plan, so, just as surely will He bring it to a glorious finale. But for that salvation to be seen by others as something attractive, it must be seen to work practically in us. If you ask someone into your home you endeavour to make sure that it is inviting. If you are working, or hoping to work, to attract converts into the assembly, not just the building, but into the fellowship, make sure that you have got rid of the rubbish first and rubbish includes everything which does not accord with the teaching of Scripture and which in consequence fails to give to the Lord Jesus the place given Him by the Father, Phil.2.9-11 and Col.1.18.
So now, as an assembly, we are not relying on our own attributes or accomplishments, but, in humility, on God alone. We have made efforts to remove those things which hinder real fellowship and spiritual effectiveness, the kind of things which might not perhaps seem very wrong in themselves but which are referred to as essentially valueless and consumable, see 1 Cor.3.12. Those perhaps, continuing Paul's analogy between a local fellowship and a building, may be seen as structural defects, mistakes made during the actual construction process. There is though, however soundly the original building was erected, a need for ongoing attention and this brings us to the third gate, the water gate v26.
iii) The Watergate
Peter had to be shown that although he had been, to use the later words of Paul "washed - sanctified -justified", 1 Cor.6.11, he still needed to have his feet washed. "He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit", John 13.10. Such an ongoing washing, to clean away the defilement of our life's journey through the dust and debris of this world, is an integral part of the purpose of the Lord Jesus for His people. "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word". Such washing, or cleansing, is to be a progressive process until "He - presents it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish", Eph.5.25-27.
Being engaged in the undertaking of such an inward reaching activity is something which should occupy the attention of all believers, but how does, how can, it actually happen? Paul, as seen above, shows that it is "with the washing of water by the word" i.e. by the applying of the word of God, the Scriptures. Earlier in the letter he shows the practical means for achieving this. "He (the Lord Jesus) gave some apostles - prophets - evangelists - pastors - teachers" and gave them for this set of purposes. "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ", Eph.4.11-12.
The Lord Jesus then is looking for each assembly to be practically clean and that will only be achieved when the individual members are themselves practically clean, and kept so. The means have been provided and may even be known about and be paid lip service to, but to the question "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his ways?" comes the answer, not 'by knowing about the word' but "by taking heed thereto according to Thy word", Ps. 119.9.
Apply the Word of God to yourself personally, and thus collectively and there will be a place where not only will both the Lord Jesus and the Father be able to evidence their residential presence, John 14.23, but a real spiritual home will be available to welcome those newly "born again", John 3.3,7.
So we have a clean and attractive spiritual home provided. But newly born believers, as well as those older and more mature in the faith, need more than a place to live, they need food, sustenance. Without that there will be no growth for individuals and, in consequence, no spiritual development in the church. It is when considering this particular aspect that we come to "the sheep gate" v1. —to be continued (D. V.).
by D. Williamson, (Belfast)
Paper 3 Writing to EXPOSE DIOTREPHES AND HIS TENDENCIES
May we underline again the importance of this short Epistle. So many principles and practices are interwoven throughout its fabric that we may be sure that the Elder felt impelled to write this third Epistle in light of prevailing conditions then and, under the guidance of the Spirit of God Himself, for succeeding generations. Crystal clear are his deductions, ambiguity is entirely absent. In areas which in our day have become so befogged by human wisdom seeking to impose its "enlightened age" theories, it is essential to realise that the warnings of this writer, if heeded, would have prevented the predominance of "one man ministry" on the one hand, and "any man ministry" on the other.
"I wrote somewhat unto the church" v9. The present writer prefers this rendering as the correct one, feeling that there had been an attempt made to contact the assembly and here John is giving reasons why this has been so ineffective. What an exposure! One can almost feel the righteous anger of the Apostle as he details for us the characteristics of Diotrephes in contrast to both Gaius and Demetrius. What a sad reflection on any local assembly which has allowed matters to deteriorate to such a degree that men of the calibre as Diotrephes are wielding power. Here at least is one reason for this third Epistle. Could John see beforehand the havoc which might be caused by one with such arrogance, "loving to have the pre-eminence"? What a different 'History of the Church' might have been written had Apostolic doctrine in this area been gladly followed. Yet sadly we know that scarcely had the Apostle left the scene until what was reflected in Diotrephes became almost common practice, i.e. the domination of the laity by the clergy. Peter would concur with John "neither as being Lords over God's heritage, but ensamples to the flock" 1 Pet.5.3. Is there not yet a voice of warning needed for a new generation?
Has not this third letter a very pertinent and timely message for us? Amalgamations, federations, organisations, affiliations, are all towering Diotrephes-like over believers in local assemblies and insidiously seeking to sap vital energy from these companies, while at the same time rejecting the very simplicity of the Word of God as to the reason for their existence. Wilted and frustrated, many genuine believers have yielded to pressure to conform to many things which in principle are far removed from "the Name". How can they be recovered except when men like the elder speak plainly, exposing the wrong and establishing the right?
What of our words? "Prating against us with malicious words" vlO, John records Words intended to inflict the deepest injury, calculated to damage even if untrue. James reminds us "But the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison", 3.8. Here we see it in operation. Let us remember that "if any offend not in word, the same is a perfect man able also to bridle the whole body", James 3.2. Those words once said can never be recalled. So stands this eternal record against the action of Diotrephes. How solemn you say, but do we engage in it?
Here we see a man intent on retaining position at all costs, trampling over the desires of others, rejecting the Apostle, refusing other visiting brethren and exercising discipline of the most extreme kind on those who would receive them. The view of the present writer is that Diotrephes was not a believer. This seems to be confirmed by v11, and this in spite of the fact that he was in the local assembly and had gained a responsible position there.
How situations like this might be avoided if the words of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 were accepted and practised. He warned concerning an attack from without the assembly, "grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock", v29. Then he said "also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them". The two-fold nature of the attack was to be observed (a) from without, and (b) from within. Therefore says Paul "watch and remember that for the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one of you night and day with tears". Here is the heart of a true shepherd beating for the care of the flock. No position, prestige or payment can sway this man, he is seeking only the Glory of God for the people of God. The only recourse in such a situation is "God and the Word of His grace."
God never expects His people to follow a bad example as vll indicates. Well might the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy come to mind, "take heed to thyself and to the doctrine, continue in-them, for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee". How sad it is when our lives contradict our teaching. Far better not to speak than that our speech ring hollow because of our behaviour. The Lord Jesus began "both to do and to teach", Acts 1.1. Happily there are still good examples to follow who first apply the Word to their own lives before exhorting others. This has a preserving effect upon the testimony as 1 Tim.4.16 clearly shows.
The Apostle John would call to mind the words, works, ways of Diotrephes. He would not engage in oblique references which do nothing to diffuse, but rather exasperate situations such as these. Love for the Lord and for His people made John fearless in the face of such a one, so "fond of being first". He feels he must expose, and he does. Like many another servant he must have wished it had been different. There is no real joy in opposing men like this.
Anyone who in any measure has engaged in it, feels it keenly as well as the need for God's help and enablement. Nevertheless just as John found it necessary here, it is still necessary to expose with a view to the furtherance of the testimony. An example of this is seen in the second Epistle to Timothy. Each chapter reveals the names of certain individuals whose^practice is entirely detrimental to the purity of testimony for God. We need to learn that when we allow what contravenes the Word of God we encourage it. May the Lord grant grace and discernment.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Grant, Scotland
Paper 2 — A Day of Duty, Mark 1.14-28 —
The Problem of Anxiety
We now come to the first of the three full days of service for the Lord Jesus which are recorded by Mark. Each of these days is characteristic of the kind of days through which we pass. One feature common to all three days is that they had problems which only the Lord Jesus could solve. The disciples were cast on Him daily. The difficulties of life could not be faced without Him. How much the poorer they would have been if they had not had Him beside them, meeting the needs of the day as they arose.
This day was the Sabbath and it was spent by the Lord and the disciples in Capernaum. The events are found in Mark 1.21-34. It commenced with the Lord teaching in the synagogue. This was followed by healing the man with the withered hand. On leaving the synagogue, the Lord and His disciples enter the house of Peter and He heals Peter's wife's mother, who was ill with a fever. By evening, word had spread throughout the region of the presence of this remarkable Teacher who had the ability to heal. As a result crowds gathered outside Peter's home. Those who were sick enjoyed His healing power and demons who had possessed many, were cast out. What a day to be remembered!
In the synagogue, in the early part of that day, the crowds were amazed at the teaching of the Lord. He was possessed of an authority which they had never seen before. The healing which they witnessed caused such amazement that the people kept on asking themselves 'What thing is this'? The great stir caused by His actions spread quickly throughout the region. However, amongst the wondering crowd that day, there was one man whose delight at what was taking place was clouded by anxiety. He had left behind at home his mother-in-law who was very ill. Despite his anxious domestic circumstances, the Lord had called him to follow Him and to leave his home and accompany Him to the synagogue. Was this not an unreasonable request which had been made? Could Peter not have claimed that there were problems at home which demanded his presence?
How many of the servants of the Lord have lived through days like that. The problems of life and the pressures of service often involve us in situations which we feel cannot be left. We must surely be present to see the problem through. Would it not be most unfair to leave others alone in the midst of the difficulties? How many have felt that they have been left with the problems to handle as others have gone off in the service of the Master? For both Peter and his wife this was indeed a day of anxiety, and yet this was the day chosen by the Lord to take Peter away into the synagogue.
But is there not another issue which could have caused further despair to the obedient Peter? As he saw the man with the unclean spirit healed by the Lord, could he not have wondered why a stranger was enjoying the healing power of the Master, while his own family was not. There could have been in his mind a feeling of being let down; a feeling that the Master may be more anxious to work publicly than privately; that He was more concerned with the crowds than with the family. Was Peter's obedience to be rewarded in this way? Although they do not appear to have told Him of her until v30, should He have known of the illness? Doubtless Peter did not think this way, but would we not have done so in the same circumstances? At last the Lord turns to Peter's home, and the cause of the anxiety is removed. Healing comes in and what started as a day overshadowed by worry, ends as a day of rejoicing.
So, if you are engaged in His service, and there are matters which are causing you worry to such an extent that you feel you must leave your service behind, you do well to consider this day. If your mind is occupied with other problems which prevent you concentrating on the work of the Lord, remember that the difficulties are known to Him and they can be left in His care. Anxiety and worry there will be, but how blessed it is to learn the calm confidence which comes when we cast all our care upon Him. Thus our service can continue, not because we are unfeeling, not because we do all that we can to help and sympathise, but because we know that all is in His control.
Not only did the disciples learn how to handle anxiety, they also learned how to gather up the fragments of the day which remain. For the Saviour this was a day on intense activity. At even the home of Peter, as we have already noted, was surrounded by crowds all demanding His attention. He could well have argued that enough had been done for one day and this was now the evening when it would be reasonable to allow Him a little rest. Had not two been cured that day; had not the anxiety of Peter and his family been lifted; had not the crowds seen acts and teaching such as they had never seen before? The fragments of the day, however, still remained. The evening hours, that part of the day which was left over was still there, and how would He use it? Where there was need He used every moment for the Glory of God and to meet the need of men and women. There were times when rest was the order of the day, but the Servant wasted no moment. He redeemed the time and used it profitably. Thus the disciples learn that much can be done with the fragments that remain.
How do we use the fragments which we have? The odd hour or two which we find free? Do we seek to use it for Him, or is it wasted in pursuits which are of no eternal value? Does the present emphasis on recreation and leisure activities mean that the fragments are cast away? The little amount of money that we may find spare from time to time, is it used for Him or squandered? If we are careful we will find that much can be done with the fragments which remain. He used the closing hours of the day to bring blessing to men. On a later day, when He feeds thousands from seemingly inadequate resources, the disciples will see again how much value He places on these fragments. So let there be no waste of our time, of our energy or resources.
At the end of that day how much they had learned in the school of the Master. Let us ensure that we also are good pupils and take to heart what He taught His followers on that remarkable day in Capernaum.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by R. Reynolds (Bleary, N. Ireland)
It is almost inconceivable that one day, almost two millennia ago, should occupy such a place in the mind of the great, eternal, timeless, tenseless "I am". Its painful realities lay open to His gaze when He sat upon the throne of His eternal glory, surrounded by worshipping seraphim and even before creation its every detail was fully known to Him.
"When the fullness of the time was come", Gal.4.4, He stepped from eternity into time and into humanity, to sojourn among the sons of men for a little over thirty-three years and at length, the day arrived, coinciding with the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem, in exact alignment with the prophetic scriptures.
Four expressions from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, chronologically map out for us that unforgettable day when the Maker of heaven and earth, died for man, His creature's sin.
Lk.22.14, "And when the hour was come . . ."
This expression takes us to the commencement of that day, its opening moments, its very first hour. We naturally dread crises and try by all means to postpone them as long as possible but the blessed Saviour, fully conscious as He ever was of the mind of His Father, commenced that day in the upper room in Jerusalem and not a second was wasted. At His behest, disciples had gone before to make ready for the Passover and as soon as that day began, "He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him".
Many thoughts were in His mind, much had to be achieved, but central was the institution of that simple but exceedingly precious feast which has been preserved unto the present, the Lord's Supper. After the commemoration of the Passover and the departure of Judas, the betrayer, sombre disciples watched the Saviour take bread and, having given thanks, He "brake it and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me". With eyes and hearts still fixed on Him, they saw Him likewise take the cup, saying, "This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you". It was all so new, so meaningful — such words they had never heard before. Has this feast become a formality to us or does the wonder of it inspire our hearts to worship Him, in whose honour and remembrance we gather each Lord's Day?
Afterwards He girded Himself with a towel and washed the disciples' feet, both by example and precept, teaching them great lessons on humility and service. Then followed the important discourse of John 14-17, much of which was related to the disciples as He and they in the darkness of the evening, made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. How often have we, with them, crossed the brook into that ancient garden with its gnarled olive trees and with smitten hearts, thought of Him
who withdrew Himself a stone's cast and prostrated Himself upon the ground, in anticipation of the anguish and pain, just hours away. His bloodlike sweat, in profusion "falling down to the ground", proclaims the deep anguish of soul that was His alone, as He faced the cross and the prospect of bearing "our sins in His own body on the tree", lPet.2.24.
Those scenes, missed for the greater part by sleeping disciples, were followed by the arrival of Judas and the hordes from Jerusalem and thence the Saviour was led to the capital. What turmoil and grief the ensuing hours brought to His already wearied frame, as first they brought Him to the high priest, then to Pilate, then to Herod who, with his men of war, set Him at nought and then back to Pilate
Matt.27.1 "When the morning was come . . ."
This expression introduces the next section of the day. The intense hatred and jealously of "all the chief priests and elders of the people" spurred them on to hasten the death of the Nazarene. That morning soon turned into an eternal night for poor Judas, who, having understood his dreadful mistake, cast down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple, "and departed, and went and hanged himself. He had gained nothing but lost the Saviour, the silver and his soul. His last recorded words were, "I have betrayed the innocent blood" — what a testimony to the guiltless Christ.
The mock trial is soon completed, the abundant but conflicting accusations provide the rulers with a platform on which to proceed to the civil trial by Pilate, the Roman governor. Their maltreatment of the Father's only Son and their subhuman cruelty are etched upon that lovely face, but no mercy is shown nor can Pilate elicit from the throngs who had gathered, one spark of sympathy for the lonely, humiliated Sufferer. Though after examination, Pilate, having concluded that this blessed Man was faultless, guiltless and thus undeserving of death, yet "delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified", John 19.16. Surrounded by His foes and bearing His cross on His bleeding back, He went through the narrow streets of the city (to which He will one day return as Sovereign) to "a place, called the place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha", John 19.17 and "when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him", Lk.23.33.
It was now nine o'clock in the morning, as three crosses were uplifted, silhouetted against the azure sky, two bearing malefactors who were suffering for their own sins, but on the middle cross was the Lamb of God, "bearing sins but not His own, suffering agonies unknown". Around the cross the multitudes gathered, sadistically feasting their eyes on the unfolding scenes of suffering and pain.
Mk. 15.33, "And when the sixth hour was come . . ."
This is the third section of the day. In the privacy of the darkness which so suddenly and mysteriously enveloped the scene, the intensity of Christ's suffering increased infinitely as "the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all", Isaiah 53.6. We will never be able to comprehend the experience of the Saviour in those hours, from which emerging, He was heard to cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thy forsaken Me"? We bow our heads and hearts in gratitude as we remember:
- "All for my sake, my peace to make,
- Now sleeps that sword for me".
Willingly and uncomplaining He endured and exhausted the righteous judgment of God against our sins. He sank "in deep mire, where there is no standing", Ps.69.2, but at last arose in undisputed triumph above the angry tide, proclaiming with a loud voice, "It is finished", John 19.30. Having procured an eternal redemption and having accomplished the great work of salvation, He bowed His holy head and gave up the ghost.
Mk.15.46, "took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre . . ."
We are now brought to the fading light of that Passover day, when two loyal disciples, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, perform their last and very touching duties for the Son of God.
Due to that terrible experience on the cross, all His bones were out of joint and His face beyond recognition. With what tenderness they extracted the nails and gently lowered that sacred body. With spices they wrapped the One they loved in fine linen clothes and carried Him with dignity to the garden tomb. The day was ended — but its effects are still being experienced and its memory will never fade as in scenes of glory we gaze upon the freshly slain Lamb and recall "the many sorrows that He bore". Because of that dark and lonely day, whose bitterness and woe the Saviour will never forget, we who are saved have the prospect of an endless, unclouded day in heaven, "for there shall be no night there", Rev.21.25.
That day eclipses every other day in the annals of human history and its impact on all humanity in time and eternity is incapable. Who of us, in remembering that sad yet blessed day, would not bow adoringly before the "matchless Lover of our souls" and in deep gratitude and with a sense of indebtedness, proclaim in truth:
- "I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
- And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
- I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
- 'Tis Thou who are worthy, Lord Jesus, 'tis Thou".
by B. Rodgers (Ontario, Canada)
My grandparents, Stewart and Florence Rodgers, were among the first pioneers to settle the Charlton area in Northern Ontario, around 1906. A few years later, my grandmother's brother, Ben Widdifield, was saved and came north to reach his relatives with the gospel. The assembly in Charlton was formed in the 1920's, and has continued to the present by the grace of God. Later, my parents were also saved and in assembly fellowship, along with a number of other relatives. Three other assemblies also continue in the area. In Kirkland Lake, Englehart, and Earlton.
I was born in 1952, the youngest of three boys, and my earliest recollections include family Bible reading and prayer morning and evening, regardless of the business of our dairy farm. My parents made the assembly their priority, so we never missed meetings. Whenever there were special gospel or ministry meetings in one of the area assemblies, we were there. The great realities of God, personal sinfulness, heaven and hell, salvation through Christ, and His return, were absorbed at an early age. If asked, I would have honestly said I believed it all. In fact, we used to argue vigorously at school with friends who believed in good works as the way to heaven. Though young, I sat in many gospel meetings earnestly trying to get saved. In 1961, I was determined to be saved at the annual July 1st conference held in Charlton, but the conference closed, and I was not saved. On Thursday night of the following week, I was reading "Christie's Old Organ", and was deeply touched by the plight of an old man dying without hope, and without knowing how to be saved. I was sitting thinking, "'If only I could be there to tell him the way'!, when the thought struck me: 'you are not saved yourself!
My mother sensed my soul trouble, and opened up the Scriptures, reading a number of familiar gospel verses, and then quietly left me alone. Nothing seemed to help, and a despairing feeling of hopelessness settled over me. I was lost. As I closed the Bible, another thought came to me — God must have a way! I again turned to Isa.53, and v5 flooded my soul with spiritual insight. 'He was wounded . . .': HE was punished FOR ME, and God is satisfied with what Christ suffered for my sins. Would I be satisfied? For the first time, I bowed my knees and thanked God for giving His Son for me. Though only eight years old, the Lord was waiting to save me, and I will always treasure that moment of salvation.
I was baptised at 14, and received into fellowship in the Charlton assembly the following year. Visiting preachers often stayed in our home, and contributed to awakening spiritual desires. Mr. Ed. Doherty spent considerable time in the area, and was like a father to many of us. He often exhorted the assemblies to pray for full time labourers 'from the north, for the north'.
In teenage years, I was greatly influenced by a tract band work which began in our area. Along with a time of prayer and Bible study, we put tracts together to mail out to various towns. In the summer, we distributed the gospel tracts locally, and invited people to the nearest Gospel meeting. There was also open air preaching weekly in Kirkland. My older brother David, and my cousin Murray Pratt and I also began holding children's meetings in a nearby community, was well as regular door-to-door visiting in our area.
By the end of high school, I felt convinced that the Lord wanted me in His work, but had no clear idea of when and where. I made the choice of working at home on the farm while waiting for His call. I had no idea it would be nine years, but the Lord used the delay to teach me much needed lessons about myself.
In January 1975, my brother David was commended to full-time service in the Lord's work, and in the fall, Murray was likewise commended to the work. Becky and I were married the same year. However, at that time I was becoming increasingly engrossed in business (farm and post office), and less active in spiritual things. Perhaps I also felt complacent, with two commended workers already labouring together in the area.
The Lord intervened in a number of definite ways. A godly fellow believer gave me a faithful rebuke and exhortation to re-focus on the kingdom of God. Then persistent health problems necessitated a back operation, forcing me out of the farm. About the same time, my brother David felt called to the land of Chile, and left Canada in the fall of 1977. I became more involved in helping Murray in ongoing gospel efforts around the area.
In July 1979, Murray and brother Ken Moore took the gospel tent 300 km. northwest to Kapuskasing, Ontario. We spent about four weeks there, and at the close of the meetings, one lady told us she had been saved. It was a tenuous link, but she became a 'bright and shining light' who brought many others into contact with the gospel from then on. Further meetings were held that fall and winter to maintain contact.
During that year, Becky and I felt drawn to a crisis point concerning the Lord's work. Both of us were brought to confidence and peace through the same scripture, at the same time. When we made known our exercise to the overseers in Charlton, we were encouraged to learn that they were already thinking about it as well. In the spring of 1980, I resigned from the post office and we were given a letter of commendation in the Lord's service by the assembly.
Murray and I pitched the tent in Kapuskasing again that summer, and were assisted by a number of other Christians who spent their summer holidays giving out invitations and supporting the meetings. The Lord graciously blessed, and a good number were saved during six weeks of meetings. There was further blessing as we continued in the gospel and teaching through the fall and winter. Believers were baptized, and the assembly was formed on 15th march, 1981. Our families moved there at that time. The Lord has continued to bless and establish the young believers, supplying gift for spiritual service, and raising up men with a heart for the flock.
In 1985, Murray and Doris moved to Timmins, which is about half-way between Kap and Charlton, to begin a new work. A year later, we also moved to Timmins, where we are at present. The work has progressed much more slowly here, at times appearing to lose ground rather than advancing. However, in the Lord's grace a few souls have been saved, and an assembly was formed in April 1990.
We can testify to the Lord's faithful care, and the sufficiency of His Word and grace to fulfil His work.
The plea of children is often heard, "Just one more, please," as they want another sweet, another ride, another treat of some kind. They think there is no harm, not much increase in "just one more". Adults too can be guilty of such superficial thinking. A lawyer will plead in court for his client on the grounds that it was only a one off crime. The drunken driver will cry, "I never did it before." There is abroad the notion that if it was only once, just one time, just one thing it must be a triviality.
It was one sin that robbed man of fellowship with God. When Adam disobeyed God it was not a range of sins, just one. Some people think if they try their best to keep the commandments they will be in heaven but just one broken commandment will bar heaven's gates. James 2.10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Dear reader, how many of God's commandments have you broken? If you are honest, you must admit, that you have broken many commandments and that more than once.
The answer to our disobedience is God's love in His Son. How many Sons did God have? Just one. John 3.16, "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." To what did God give His Son? It was not just to this earth, but to the death of the cross. There He offered all that was required to effect salvation for lost and guilty mankind. No other work is required and such was the value of His death to God that He will never have to repeat the work. Hebrews 10.12, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." When upon the cross He said, "It is finished", John 19.30, and a finished work never needs to be added to and cannot be improved. If you understand that you are a sinner away from God, to come into the benefit of this salvation, all that God asks you to do is accept His offer by believing in His Son. Acts.16.30, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved ...."
In Luke 15 the Lord Jesus told the story of one sheep, just one, that went astray. The shepherd went after it and brought it back home safely. On the journey home, all depended on the shepherd, not the sheep. It was his work from beginning to end. The parallel is that we are like that one sheep and the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd. If we accept Him, we will be carried safely home to heaven and it is only those who are being thus carried, who can truly say, "The LORD is my shepherd," Psalm 23.1.
We have just one life and then eternity. If we reject the Saviour then there is only one sentence. Hebrews 9.27, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Sin must be judged, either in you personally or in the Person of your substitute, Jesus Christ. The choice is yours and the question to be answered is, "What shall I do then with Jesus is called Christ?" Matt.27.22. You have just one choice to make, it may seem a very small thing, even trivial, but it will decide your eternal destiny.
HELP AT HAND — by W. Beynon (Wales)
- The Lord of Glory sits on high,
- And yet to Him we can draw nigh,
- To prayers of faith His ear He lends,
- Then help for our distress He sends.
- Not always in a way we know,
- As on our burdened path we go,
- But as He truly sees our need,
- He does supply and our faith feed.
- So rest and trust on Him above,
- Who looks upon us here with love,
- For He has gone this way before,
- Has suffered thus, and so much more.
BACK TO THE BIBLE WHEN ADDRESSING GOD
It is reported that a man who was grieved at the use of the word "you" in addressing God in prayer compiled the following facts about the use of the words "you", "thee", and "thou" in the bible.
In our English Bible the word "you" is found in 2,011 verses. It is used when God addresses men and when men address one another, but NEVER when man speaks to God.
In the Book of Psalms, "you" and "yours" occur thirty times and NEVER in addressing God, but "thy" and "thou" occur 2,860 times. Solomon's great prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles uses "thy" 61 times, but "you" is NEVER found.
The prayer of our Lord in John 17 lacks a single "you", but contains "thou" and "thine" 41 times.
In view of these facts, it seems only proper that we address God according to the pattern set forth in His Word. God is sovereign, eternal and infinite. As such, He deserves utmost respect from His creatures, especially is this true of believers who have been taught God's ways.
While "thee", "thine", and "thou" my not be familiar terms to the world in general, it is for that reason that they lend themselves aptly to addressing God in a distinctive and reverent manner.