There are a little more than one thousand words in Matthew's Gospel and over six hundred of these are the actual spoken words of the Lord Jesus These are mostly contained in six discourses, of which the Sermon on the Mount is the first Having spoken of the blessedness of the believer, even in adversity, our Lord now proceeds with the discourse showing the transcendency of grace over law.
The disciples were to carry a heavy responsibility They were to be the salt of the earth, preserving whatever was good in Israel They were to be also the light of the world, bringing enlightenment to poor Gentiles In their testimony they were to shine with a righteousness which would exceed the hypocritical self-righteousness of the Pharisees These proud and arrogant men quoted the letter of the law but were ignorant of the spirit of the law They paid an external homage to the law but failed to understand its deeper import Theirs was a legality, not a spirituality There was an outward show of religion but no inward sense of holiness or sin, and the disciples of Jesus must be better than this Accordingly, our Lord will make six references to the law, Saying, "It has been said " He will show that the requirements of grace surpass the demands of the law.
It is important to note that there was but one law There were ceremonial, moral, and judicial aspects of it, but there was one law The believer has died to it and so has been delivered from its demands and penalties, but in his life, under grace, he fulfils all that it demanded, and more If the law requires him to go a mile, he will go two miles Upon this our Lord now expands as He continues His discourse He had not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it and then introduce something infinitely greater He will have a spiritual people who will, by reason of their spirituality, live better than those natural men to whom the law was first given And so His commentary on the law begins.
Had the law said, "Thou shalt not kill"? And had it pronounced judgment upon the offender9 True, but anger in the heart was, in fact, akin to murder To nurture anger in the breast, and in that anger speak with contempt of one's brother, angrily calling him, "Raca", that is, fool, brainless, stupid, worthless, was the spirit of the murderer The true child of the kingdom would rather hasten to be reconciled, and indeed would see such reconciliation as a necessary prerequisite to worship It was essential to be so reconciled, and quickly The prolonging of the enmity was the sure pathway to disaster and judgment.
Again, they had heard it said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" It was the seventh commandment of the Decalogue The breaking of it had been the cause of untold misery in a myriad families (and still is) But before and beyond the physical act which transgressed the commandment, there was therefore adultery already in the heart Deal ruthlessly then with the offending thing, whatever the cost Better to lose even a hand or an eye, the Saviour teaches, than for some fleshly desire to result in a damning situation Let not impure desires become a trap and a snare, culminating in an adulterous relationship with all the sad consequences.
Again, they had heard of the writing of divorcement But divorce was not God's way There had been concessions under law because of the hardness of men's hearts and the weakness of the flesh (Matt 19 7-9) Grace would no longer recognise these concessions but would revert to God's ideal Marriage between the man and the woman was for life Only death could break the bond There was but one exception, fornication during the customary betrothal period, when there was already a husband-wife arrangement though not yet consummated (see Matt 1 19-20) Unfaithfulness, unchastity, on the part of the betrothed was grounds for a putting away and an annulling of the arrangement In any other circumstances the re-marriage of the divorced person was adultery It is well known that the exception is found in Matthew's Gospel only His is the Jewish Gospel, and only Jews would be familiar with the legally binding betrothal prior to the consummation of the marriage.
Again, they had heard commands about oaths and swearing But the true child of the kingdom did not need to swear at all, neither by heaven nor by earth nor by the Holy City itself The Christian's word is his bond His whole manner of life should be characterised by a truthfulness and honesty which requires no oath He is transparent Lying and falsehood are foreign to him His "Yea" means "Yea" and his "Nay" means "Nay", and people will so recognise and respect his integrity that his word is believed and accepted by all who know him.
Again, they knew about the law of retribution, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" But this could be construed as cold revenge and this was not the way under grace Of the Master it was later to be written, "When He was reviled, He reviled not again," (1Pet 2 23). With His followers it must be the same Grace does not seek retribution Grace does not demand rights or seek redress Grace will turn the other cheek when one cheek is smitten Grace will go that second unasked for mile and will give up the outer garment with the body coat Grace will never refuse the needy borrower
Finally, they knew that it was said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy" But there was a better way Even the despised publicans and the Gentiles loved those who loved them There was no reward in that If the disciples really wanted to bear a true likeness of their Father in heaven they would love their enemies and return good for evil The Father sent the sun and rain upon all without partiality His sun rose upon the evil and the good alike The just and the unjust together shared the rain which He sent To be true sons of the Father we must likewise be kind to all There is nothing extraordinary, says the Lord, about loving our brethren only.
So the discourse continues The law was good but grace has ushered in a more excellent way It might be argued that the standard is too high It is high, but it is our Lord's standard We are, after all, those who are empowered so to live, by an indwelling Spirit May we be delivered from cold legality into the warmth of true spirituality and so bear gracious testimony to Him of whom it is said, "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ".
But who can really hinder when God rises up, and works on behalf of His people?
"When He makes bare His arm,
Who shall His work withstand?
When He His people's cause defends,
Who then shall stay His hand?"
Puny men may set all his forces in array, and even defy the Almighty to His face, as Pharaoh of old, but it is only to be overthrown and broken himself God intends Israel to lead the nations of the earth, and to enjoy His own presence and blessing, the mightiest powers of the world are utterly unable to prevent it If man had faith, he would not attempt an enterprise so hazardous, but would bow to God's purposes, but, alas' man has not faith, and so rushes blindly on to his own destruction.
This is what Jehovah says about the movement of this great enemy "Thus saith the Lord God Behold, I am against thee, 0 Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords, Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, with them, all of them with shield and helmet, Gomer and all his bands, the house of Togarmah, of the north quarters, and all his bands, and many people with thee Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them", (Ezek 38 3-7) Here we have the vast array Gog is leading on his hosts, with those of his many allies and vassals, against the people of the Lord If it were simply a question between Israel and the enemy, the seed of Jacob would now be finally wiped out They can surely then say, with the Psalmist, that were it not that Jehovah is on their side, with such a rising against them, they would be swallowed up quick (Ps 124) But Jehovah will not give His chosen as prey to their teeth, but will turn upon their enemies in righteous fury and indignation. We observe a little Divine sarcasm in the words, "Be thou a guard unto them" The hosts of Gog will find their leader unable to protect himself when Jehovah rises up to defend His people's cause
Israel's unwalled villages and want of practice in the art of war will attract the envious eye of their unscrupulous foe Their great wealth will appear to be within easy reach of his rapacious hand But he forgets that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro in the earth His eye is upon Gog, He notes the thoughts that arise in the heart, and the plans that result.
He turns to the enemy thus "After many days thou shalt be visited" (or "mustered") "in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste; but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely, all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm; thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord God: It shall also come to pass that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought; and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages: I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, to take a spoil and to take a prey, to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land" (Ezek.38.8-12).
Russia has always been desirous of possessing the land of Palestine, but has never been able to accomplish the design; and if so eager now, while the land is largely a waste, how much more eager and desirous when the desolate places are inhabited once more, and that by a people with cast possessions, and apparently without protection! Ah! God is not in all his thoughts. His love to Israel for the fathers' sakes is neither known nor believed, hence the disastrous enterprise, undertaken so confidently.
Poor Israel! What distress this terrible invasion will plunge them into! After all their vicissitudes and their dreary centuries of banishment and suffering, is everything to be snatched from their grasp just when all looks so bright and fair? The Western hosts have not been able to stand, but have been Divinely judged and overthrown; the king of the North and his array have met with a judgment equally solemn; and is the Northern enemy to be allowed to spoil all for them?
The thirty-third of Isaiah seems to speak of the same time and circumstances. It follows the chapter that deals with the establishment of Christ's reign of righteousness and peace (chapter 32). It pronounces woe on an enemy who comes up treacherously to spoil Israel, yet never having been so treated by them. We believe this refers to Gog, of whom Sennacherib was an early type. Israel's distress is vividly described in verses 7-9: Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without; the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. The highways lie waste: the wayfaring man ceaseth; he hath broken the covenant; he hath despised the cities; he regardeth no man, The earth mourneth and languisheth; Lenabon is ashamed and hewn down; Sharon is like a wilderness, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits".
But, as often remarked, man's extremity is God's opportunity. This has been blessedly proved on many occasions by the people of God. Israel will prove it gloriously when Gog's alien hosts swarm into their land. They have no might wherewith to beat down the foe; but God is near at hand and will intervene on their behalf. "Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up Myself. Woe to the oppressors of the people of God when this is so! Here is His word to the boastful invader: "Ye shall conceive chaff: ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath as fire shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime; as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire" (Isa. 33.10-12).
Jehovah will make of Gog and his multitudes a permanent warning to the nations of the earth not to meddle with His chosen. No people have ever prospered that have ill-treated Israel, in strict accordance with the word: "No weapon formed against thee shall prosper" (Isa.54.17). Jehovah will sanctify Himself before the eyes of the Gentile world at large by His terrible dealings with Gog and his army. His fury will come up in His face, and there will be a great shaking throughout the land of Israel, resulting in a frightful destruction of the enemies of His people. Israel will not need to fight: Jehovah will fight for them, and, as on the shores of the Red Sea, they have but to stand still and see His salvation. He will dispose of their enemies in the coming day with the same ease as He disposed of Pharaoh's legions in the distant past. He will first create confusion in their ranks and turn their swords against each other (Ezek.38.21). This is no new method of warfare with God. He used the same means in Gideon's day (Judges 7.22).
Our first thoughts in this context will almost certainly go to the words of the Lord Jesus when He said of Himself, "I am the door of the sheep - by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved". Most readers will have proved that for themselves to be true. But that is a beginning of things, not the conclusion, He goes on "and (he) shall go in and out and find pasture" John 10.7-9.
'But I feel safe when I think about being in the fold. Aren't there dangers and enemies outside?' Yes there certainly are, but a human shepherd does not keep his sheep permanently corralled nor does "the Good Shepherd". "When He putteth forth His own sheep", so not only does He expect outward movement, He actively encourages, one might almost say presses, it; see again, "putteth forth". But, quite differently from driving them out, "He goeth before them". He does not expect the sheep to go foraging on their own in perhaps unknown environments. 'Isn't it easy to get lost, or, for those like me, with a weak faith, to drop behind?' "His sheep follow Him, for they know His voice" John 10.4. He does not go on so fast that we cannot keep up, does not go so far ahead that we are out of earshot. It is not then just a question of keeping up with the flock, though that is to be encouraged, see Heb.10.25. But it is more important for us to be "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" Heb.12.2. If all the sheep keep close to the Shepherd they will be sure of keeping close to each other.
How though does the voice of the Shepherd come to us? What channels are used to ensure that even with our oftentimes defective hearing we recognise His voice? Fundamentally, the only basis on which we can have assurance in such matters is by a simple reliance on the word of God. As far as our initial salvation is concerned for instance, we are told by John, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life". That is the only dependable foundation on which our new life in the Lord Jesus can be built and because it is eternal life, not just a possibly changeable creed, it is ongoing "and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" Uohn 5.13, a continuing of what He says we have already done.
The question remains though, what method is used, who are the agents for transmitting that word, and its meaning, its teaching, in such a way as to provide the right level of spiritual sustenance to the wide range of needs as any local church represents?
Paul, in talking to the Ephesian elders, sees them too as shepherds, undershepherds, see 1 Pet.5.4, and urges them, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the flock of God which He hath purchased with His own blood", Acts 20.28. It appears from Scripture, that each assembly has been given sufficient spiritual gift to meet the needs of its own members, in the matter of shepherds as well as every other respect, see 1Cor.1.4-9. It is incumbent though on those possessing such a gift to see to it that it is used, and not allowed to lie dormant, see 1Tim.4.14 & 2Tim.1.6. It is equally required that the saints make sure they benefit from such a gift. Heb.13.7.
Once again, do not bring new converts into an environment where no suitable provision has been made for them. If you do you will end up with malformed believers, certainly alive but incapable of spiritual growth or maturity. That is not a discouragement from doing something but rather an encouragement, to make the necessary preparations for hoped for converts. However thick and seemingly protective were the walls of the city outside of which they were huddled, the four lepers, (2 Kings 7.3-4), realised there was nothing there for them, so they went elsewhere in desperate hope. Do you want any results of your outreach to be forced to act like that? God provided for those lepers and, by the obeying of their consciences, see v 9-11, for those shut up in Samaria as well. He will provide too for concerned and immature believers and if you or your assembly prove to be unusable He will use someone else. In the early days of the judges, Jael and Deborah were used for the wellbeing and protection of God's people when the leaders who ought to have been available were not willing to do the work, Jud.4.4-5.
We have then an assembly and its members, humble, with recognised defilements removed, cleansed and fed. This makes them willingly available for outreach activities, which brings us to the other six gates.
v) The Fountain Gate, v15
"The fountain gate" vl5, may perhaps be felt to be somewhat the same as the already discussed water gate, but that is not really so. Fountains were not basically intended for washing, they were clear, cool water for drinking and as such this gate is a particularly good point at which to switch from thoughts of inreach to outreach.
The Lord Jesus made two distinct but linked promises regarding drinking, of slaking spiritual thirst. "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst". That is the effect on whoever responds to one of the many invitations from the Lord Jesus using this idiom, see John 7.36 and Rev.22.17. It is unassailably clear that He is speaking of an experience which will never change, "shall never thirst", and we can therefore equate it with the promise of eternal life being given to whoever trusts oneself to Him,
John 3.14-16. We should not be confused into thinking that this means we shall never need to be looking for an ever increasing practical enjoyment of this blessing. Amongst the many encouragements included in 'the sermon on the mount', we are assured that "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled", Matt.5.6. The Psalmist, though evidently a believer, was only too conversant with such experiences, Ps.42.2; 63.1; 143.6. If we do not have such recurring desires it is probably because we have become satisfied with things as they are, as if we think we 'have arrived' at the pinnacle of blessing and there is nothing else to which we can aspire, at least not in this life. Either acknowledge your thirst and so get it satisfied as promised or remain too proud to do so and become as barren as a desert.
What though of the second promise? "But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life", John 4.14. A very similar promise is made later. "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water". In this latter instance it is made quite plain to us, just what it is to which the Lord Jesus was referring. "But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive", John 7.38-39. What we are being told is, that by becoming recipients, we ourselves become channels for the same blessings to be shared with others. There you have the link, suggested above, between inreach and outreach. Encourage your own hearts and your fellow-believers and the outflow becomes available as a promised follow-on outcome.
The Psalmist tells of that happening to him. "My heart is inditing (bubbling up) a good matter. I speak of the things which I have made touching the king". His heart is affected first and this in turn loosens his tongue and does so i n a very decided manner. "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer", Ps.45.1.
'But I haven't got much to say, perhaps because I don't understand or appreciate things either deeply or keenly. People seemed to have such experiences in the past but now things appear somewhat dry and are not thirst provoking much less thirst quenching'. Maybe Isaac felt a bit like that but he was not satisfied to leave things in such a state. His father Abraham, had sufficient water for his extended family and his large herds and flocks. He got it by spending time and energy digging for it, establishing wells. But those particular wells had now been blocked off, so what did the son have to do? "Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham". No, he did not decide that he had better look for some new source, some fresh method of watering. He did not even try to dress them up with some new description. "He called their names after the names by which his father had called them" Gen.26.18. The essential message cannot be changed since, the basic need most certainly has not. However advanced technology, it is, in the final analysis only those "rivers of living water", speaking of the Holy Spirit, that will achieve anything worthwhile and lasting. Paul assures us that "No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit", lCor.12.1. Do not think then that you will accomplish anything by your own contrivances, efforts or natural abilities "Without Me" said the Lord Jesus, "Ye can do nothing", John 15.5.
The fountain gate then speaks of a sharing of the blessings appropriated and cultivated by believers in response to invitations and promises from the Lord Jesus. That does not infer though that outreach, when undertaken, will be either easy or unresisted, which brings us to "the horse gate" v28.
We come now to Demetrius. We are told in the text that there are some to follow and some not to follow. Demetrius will be safe to follow, he will not lead us astray. Perhaps John is reflecting on the last chapter of his Gospel. How possible for us to focus badly. Of the solemn teaching given by the Lord Jesus to Peter on that occasion we listen with rapt attention as we hear the Saviour say to him, "what is that to thee, follow thou me". Did he need it any more than we? John stood by on that day and it must have left a lasting impression upon his soul. Perhaps all this and more crossed his mind as he thought of the need for a proper lead in the things of God. Ultimately and finally the centre of our concentration must be the Lord Jesus, but then those undershepherds must be able to say like Paul, "be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ", 1Cor.11.1. It is spiritually healthy to follow those who are going in the right direction. The company is always good!
It may be that Demetrius was the bearer of this letter from the Apostle John. What a sample of a clear letter of commendation we have here. Social status, academic qualifications, race, parentage all of which seems to mean so much at times, is entirely absent in this sphere. Even details of what service for the Lord he engaged in, his particular strengths, abilities, exploits do not get a mention. Is there not a message for us regarding this very delicate matter of commendation? Who is there who does not like to be praised? Yet what detrimental results it can have upon us, as well as upon the work to our hands. Some men can stand adversity, but few can maintain godly composure in the face of flattering words. Of the Pharisees it was said that they "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God". It can become infectious if we are not careful!
This recommendation of Demetrius has some fine features. A number of these may be noted. First of all, it is general, then it is short, then it is true and finally it is corroborated by honest witnesses. If all letters of commendation were to meet these criteria much less harm might be caused to the testimony in general, and to many individuals in particular. There is a great tendency to eulogise persons, forgetting that the important thing is their relationship to the God of truth and the truth of God. The Apostle could no doubt have written much more about Demetrius but what caution as he speaks in the shadow of a Diotrephes previously exposed.
In what John has said of Demetrius however, he had covered a very wide scope in few words. Encapsulating a man's character and qualities into one verse and leaving readers in absolutely no doubt as to the calibre of the person indicated is no mean task. This apparently is a peculiar facility which this writer possesses. We have only to think of the simplicity and yet the sublimity of some of the phrases he uses in his Gospel as well as in these Epistles to recognise that this is indeed the case. Note what he says of this brother. There is a fourfold testimony in v12. First he has a good report of "all", then of the "truth itself, then of the apostle and lastly of Gaius Out of such character could well be depended upon not only to carry this letter to Gaius but to adorn the doctrine which is something to be emulated by each believer One is reminded of another servant of whom it is said "John did no miracle but all that John spake of this Man was true" Are there not many dear believers who live like Demetrius His name was fairly common, lifestyle ordinary, tasks perhaps menial, but whose character "comes forth like gold" even though their voice is rarely heard Like the Thessalonians "their faith to Godward is spread abroad" John could with joy endorse the testimony of Demetrius.
We have discovered some principles on the very surface of this little Epistle to which we do well to "take heed as unto a light shining in a dark place" Such surely is the character of the world around We may be sure that John saw valid reasons for warning on the one hand and encouragement on the other, as he observed trends which he felt were anything but conducive to the furtherance of clear testimony for God- and the edification of His people In speaking of these three men, he had encouraged, exposed, endorsed respectively as a true shepherd seeking the welfare of those under his care With plainness and without bias he has been led to record his assessment, his attitude, his actions in relation to each There are still those whom we are to receive to our hearts and homes Unfortunately there are others we are clearly warned to reject, not receiving them to our homes nor giving them "God speed" The point still at issue is the truth of God.
Perhaps this is why, as he terminates the short Epistle he uses one of those characteristic words of his — friends' Is he recalling how he used it in the fourth Gospel? Possibly as he closes he wants to tug a little at the affections of the saints drawing them closer to the One who said " Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you" John 15 14 As we examine our own heart is there not still a need to have our affections rekindled so that we too may be counted practically among HIS FRIENDS.
This day commences with the Lord Jesus teaching beside the Sea of Galilee. At the end of the day the Master tells them to pass over to the other side of the sea, and they commence a memorable crossing. The storm which engulfed them was the means of revealing to them truth about the Master which otherwise they would never have learned. Among the many lessons of the day there were three which stand out clearly.
At the beginning there were lessons on sowing. Mark's account of the parable of the sower differs in a very marked way to that of Matthew, who is concerned with the great quantity of seed which is sown by the sower. In Mark however, the emphasis is on each individual seed. JND's translation shows us this clearly: 'one fell by the wayside' (v4), another fell on the rocky ground where it had not much earth' (v5) and 'another fell among the thorns' (v7) etc. The lesson in this gospel, which is a handbook for servants, is that every individual seed sown is of value. The servant may not consider that he is able to sow the handfuls which others are seen spreading around in a liberal way, but knows that each word spoken for the Master and each opportunity taken to spread the gospel is noted in heaven.
If we feel down hearted by how meagre are our efforts at sowing, compared to others, let us take comfort from this fact and remember that growth comes from an individual seed. The harvest from what you sow may be as great, if not greater, than that which comes from the seed sown by those who are able to spread the word in greater quantities than is within your ability to achieve.
When they had considered carefully all the lessons of the parable of the sower the Lord Jesus then teaches them some lessons on growing. He speaks about a candle which is put under a bushel or under a bed, and not set upon a candlestick. The teaching which they had heard would be of no value to them, or to others, if they treated it as these candles were treated. The candle hid under a bushel is deliberately hidden, whereas the candle put under the bed is hidden because we slumber. Thus, if we deliberately hide our testimony from others, or it is not seen due to our spiritual sloth and lethargy, we are not fulfilling the purpose of the teaching.
It is with that in mind the Master then says: 'with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you, and unto you that hear shall more be given' (v24). God measures us by our measure of truth, by what truth has been given to us. To those who hear the word, accept it and put it into practice, more will be given. Indeed, far more will be given than would be warranted by the effort we have put into obeying, for He is a generous God. The lesson on growing therefore is that this will only take place when we are obedient to the truth which has been revealed to us How are we responding to what we are taught and to the truth which we have received?
Later in the day the Master tells them that it is now time to pass over unto the other side This Servant will waste no time and all will be used purposefully The storm which overtakes them on the waves causes them so much concern because the Lord Jesus is asleep on the helmsman cushion It would appear mat He had taken the place of the helmsman by sitting on the cushion which was reserved for the one undertaking that responsibility While the clouds darkened and the waves swamped the ship seasoned manners were filled with fear.
Do we not even feel as they did when the storms of life engulf us9 Does it not appear that the Helmsman is asleep and has little interest in what is going on around us9 We may never voice the thought publicly, but it does cause us to wonder if He really cares for us But, as the disciples cried out in fear 'Master, carest thou not that we perish9' there were three things which they had forgotten These comprise the lessons on trusting which marked the end of this full day of service.
Firstly, they had forgotten His promise He had said to them 'Let us pass over unto the other side' He had never let them down at any time, and even in the midst of the terror of the storm could they not call to mind that there was a promise implicit in His words9 Whatever He had asked them to do He had enabled them to do it and if His wish was to pass over to the other side He would most certainly be able to bring that about In the midst of the storms of life let us remember that He has promised to take us over to the other side, and one day He will land us safely on that shore despite the winds and waves of adversity through which we pass.
Note that, secondly, they had forgotten His presence He was with them in the boat, and no storm could overwhelm Him He had gone with them, and was passing through the same experiences as they What a lesson this is for us to learn' He is with us in the trials of life and in everything through which we pass, we find Him beside us He shares the storms and experiences and understands the trials
Finally they had forgotten His power The Man who could cast out demons, cleanse lepers, cure multitudes, and much more, need have no fear of a storm As the waves abate and calm returns He gently rebukes them with the words 'how is it that ye have no faith9' Disciples with no faith9 What a strange thing is this!
They surely had shown their faith in Him when they left all to follow Him Had they not proclaimed by their actions their faith and trust in Him9 But for that moment, for that experience, they had no faith Is He not teaching us that it is one thing to have faith that He is the Lord who will take us to heaven, but quite another to trust Him completely for the immediate problems which face us today9 Our faith is often for what will take place in the future, not for what is happening now May we learn the lesson that faith for tomorrow must be backed up with faith for today The Christ who has given us eternal blessing is the Christ who can take care of today The Helmsman of our life is not asleep Let us ensure that He need not say to us 'How is it that ye have no faith?'
Keep 1Tim.3 open. We have already noticed that the first part of the chapter (vl-7) deals with those who exercise care in the assembly. They are described as "bishops", or better, 'overseers'. As we have seen, they are also called "elders" elsewhere in the New Testament. See, for example, Acts 20.17, Tit.1.5, 1Pet.5.1 The second part of this chapter deals with those who serve in the assembly. They are called "deacons", or better, 'servants'. In fact, the word "deacon" is simply an Anglicized version of the Greek word 'diakonos'. 1Tim.3.8-16 can be subdivided as follows:
The servants of God, v8-13;
The house of God, v14-15;
The Son of God, v16.
We are particularly concerned with the first of these three sections, but don't stop there. Read on, and don't be like the "slothful man" who "roasteth not that which he took in hunting", Prov.12.27. In other words, "mediate therein day and night", Josh.1.8
The Greek work 'diakonos' occurs frequently in the New Testament, and it might be helpful to look at some of the different ways in which it is used. Another Greek word is often translated 'servant' in our New Testament. This is 'doulos', meaning a bondservant, or slave. W. E. Vine (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words), explains the difference: 'Diakonos' views a servant in relationship to his work; 'dousol' views him in relationship to his master. The Lord Jesus is never called bondservant of men, but He is described as the Bondservant of God. See Phil.2.7 were 'doulos' is employed. But when the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "I am among you as He that serveth" (Luke 22.27), He used 'diakoneo'.
As we have said, the word 'diakonos' occurs widely in the New Testament, and it might be helpful to notice its extensive use before dealing with its relevance to the local assembly in this passage.
(1) It is used to describe different classes of servants.
Domestic servants. "His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it ... the servants which drew the water knew . . ." John 2.5,9.
Civil Rulers. "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to thee for good". Rom.13.3-4. This is rather striking. Since "the powers that be are ordained of God", they are accountable to Him for their service. Bearing in mind that government, "with law and order, is a Divine institution, it is not surprising that the authorities are subject to relentless Satanic pressure He attacks every Divine institution
The Lord's servants. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me and where I am, there shall also my servant be" John 12 26 "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed", 1Cor 3 5 "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of the church which is at Cenchrea", Rom 16 1 "For I speak unto you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office", Rom 11 13
The Lord Jesus. "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God", Rom 15 8 "Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid", Gal 2 17
These references serve to show that in general terms, the word "deacon" has a far wider meaning than is generally supposed!
2) It is used to describe different types of work.
The word covers all forms of Christian service, whether temporal or spiritual in character See Acts 6
Material service. "Their widows were neglected in the daily ministration, v 1 "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables", v2
Spiritual service. We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word", v4
Notice the two ways in which the same root word is applied in the passage above Wm Hoste (Bishops, Priests and Deacons), comments 'Both the seven and the twelve fulfilled their respective deaconships As the result of one, we no longer hear of murmuring among the widows, and as the outcome of the other, "the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly", Acts 6 7
3) It is used to describe service in the local assembly.
This brings us back to 1Tim 3 8-13 The word is used here to describe those who undertake service in connection with the local assembly Hence, Paul commences the Epistle to the Philippians as follows "Paul and Timotheus, the servants (doulos bondslave) of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (diakonos) "1 1 In general, the deacons may serve in the material or spiritual realm they may serve in a permanent or temporary capacity the service may be undertaken by men or women Such service would include, for example, the responsibilities of the assembly treasurer, and the Sunday School superintendent with his teachers It is, however, difficult to escape the conclusion, that 1Tim 3 refers particularly to spiritual service, and this 'explains why these qualities (referring to v8-9) are of the same standard as that required for elders', J Allen (What the Bible Teaches - 2Tim p225) We must now look at the qualities and qualifications involved They can be summarised as follows
The attitude of the servant, v8-9,
The approval for service, v10,
The activities of sisters, v11,
The authority at home, v12,
The achievement through service, v13
A) The attitude of the servant
"Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience", v8-9
His attitude towards demeanour. "Grave" means serious or venerable, and refers to a dignified bearing This does not mean that a servant never smiles, or never exhibits a sense of humour1 But it does mean that he takes his responsibilities seriously We must never undertake service for God in a light-hearted manner
His attitude towards speech. "Not doubletongued" He must not prevaricate He must not "play to the gallery" Most of us would rather listen to someone with whom we disagree, than to someone who says one thing to one person, and something quite different to somebody else
His attitude towards pleasure. "Not given to much wine" His judgment, and his testimony, are not to be clouded by pleasure 'The social drink has destroyed many a testimony' (J Allen)
His attitude towards materialism. "Not greedy of filthy lucre" See also Tit 1 7 Strictly speaking, this means a desire for material gain in serving God Paul condemns this in 2Cor 2 "For we are not as many, which corrupt (make a trade of) the word of God but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ", vl7 A man who serves for what he can get out of it, is no servant of God He is serving himself Let us widen this however, and say that a man whose outlook is governed by material prosperity is not fit to serve God We are to be industrious and faithful in employment a lazy Christian brings disrepute on the Gospel On the other hand, if we are not careful, business can buy us body, mind and soul
His attitude towards the word of God. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" This is a very finely-balanced verse It does not just say, "holding the mystery of the faith" That is, in the same way that we accept scientific facts But "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience". The servant of God must always have the inward testimony that his life corresponds with the doctrines of the faith See also 1 19 Compare Acts 2 1, Acts 24 16 and 1Cor 4 4 In the New Testament, the word, "mystery" does not imply knowledge withheld, but knowledge revealed W E Vine gives an excellent definition in his Expository Dictionary (you really must have a copy) 'In the New Testament, it denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit' We have a perfect example of this in Eph 3 3-5
More than four centuries had elapsed since the patriarchs went down to Egypt. Their descendants, the children of Israel, were subjected to Pharaoh's tyrannous bondage until the Lord intervened in mighty power and delivered them. About 600,000 men besides women and children, totalling some three millions in all, departed from Egypt. Trekking five abreast, they formed a column of several miles in length. Turning their backs upon slavery, they went forward as a redeemed people.
Reaching the Red Sea, the Lord miraculously divided the waters for them to cross safely on dry ground. In the wilderness where there was a lack of food, the Lord fed them with manna. Among the mountains, no water was found and so Moses, at the Lord's command, smote the rock from which water gushed forth for the people to quench their insatiable thirst.
Barely two months had passed since they had left Egypt and these liberated slaves had traversed a winding route of nearly 150 miles when they reached this mountainous region of Horeb. Here at their encampment, the Israelites encountered a foe, as recorded in Ex.17.8-16. "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim" v8. The question arises, Who was Amalek? Ignoring the principle of no inter-marriage with the corrupt Canaanites as expressed by his grand-father, Abraham (Gen.24.3), Esau deliberately married two Canaanite women to the grief of his parents (Gen.26.34f). This may be a warning to young believers today, when contemplating marriage, not to marry an unsaved partner. Subsequently Esau's son, Eliphaz, co-habited with Timna, a Canaanitish woman, who gave birth to Amalek (Gen.36.12). And so Amalek was born out of wedlock and he was the grandson of Esau, described centuries later as "a fornicator and profane person" (Heb.12.16). This is briefly the ethnic background of the Amalekites who fought the Israelites.
Although these two peoples, Israel and Amalek, were descendants of twin brothers, Jacob and Esau respectively, they were utterly different from, and opposed to one another as their respective founder brothers, Jacob and Esau, were. The Israelites as a nation refrained from inter-marriage with the Canaanites whilst the Amalekites did not. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was worshipped by the Israelites but not by the Amalekites. As Esau hated Jacob so did the Amalekites the Israelites.
The Amalekites lived among the mountains of Horeb and, not surprisingly, when the Israelites reached their territory, "then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim", a wadi where they were encamped. Amalek's ancestral hostility was displayed immediately. In the conflict, Israel was victorious.
Amalek's war with Israel is figurative of inner strife experienced by us as believers. When we are saved, by the grace of God, we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet.1.4). Consequently, from the day of our salvation we have two natures. Our old nature with which we were born, prefigured by Amalek, is fallen, depraved and hostile to God; it is called "the flesh" which, in its metaphorical sense, may be defined by omitting the last letter 'h' and spelling the word backwards — 'self. Our new nature, symbolised by Israel redeemed from Egypt, is divine and God-given. Like Amalek and Israel of old, our two natures have nothing in common and are diametrically opposed to one another.
Less than two months had elapsed since Israel left Egypt when Amalek attacked them. This was very early in their long pilgrimage to Canaan. In fact, "Amalek was the first of the nations that warred on Israel" (Num.24.20,mgn.). This foreshadows that from the moment of our having been born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, conflict with "the flesh" begins. As Amalek was first of the nations to strike Israel, so "the flesh" is first in striving with our new nature. Conflict is immediate from the day of conversion.
Amalek fought Israel, so Moses reminded them many years later, "when ye were come out of Egypt" (Deut.25.17). Not 'in Egypt', portraying an unconverted people dominated by "the flesh", but "out of Egypt" Amalek's attack befell this redeemed people. Similarly with us, not before redemption but after redemption we discover that "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: . . ." (Gal.5.17), and so the struggle starts and never stops while we are here on the earth.
On the same occasion, Moses told Israel that Amalek "smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee" (Deut.25.18). Amalek struck not at the front but from behind, directed upon the feeble and weak pilgrims. Furthermore, the assault was made, says Moses, "when thou wast faint and weary" (Deut.25.18). This unexpected attack was brutal and subtle. Struggles with "the flesh", although unseen, are not different. When we may feel faint-hearted and weary spiritually, "the flesh" is active in attacking us. Amalek, a fearful foe, "feared not God" (Deut.25.18), but Israel did. This explains their callous assault upon the people of God. Likewise "the flesh", our unregenerate nature, cannot be changed or reformed, and hence its hostility toward, and conflict with, our God-given new nature.
When Amalek fought with Israel, then Joshua, as instructed by Moses, went with some chosen men and fought with Amalek while Moses, sitting on a nearby hilltop stone, held his rod in his hands, supported by Aaron and Hur when weary. So long as Moses held up his rod in his hands, but not otherwise, Israel prevailed over Amalek and Joshua discomfited the foe with his sword (Ex.17.9-13). For ending the conflict, Israel made no treaty with Amalek but fought them. This is significant spiritually. We should "have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil.3.3) and "make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof (Rom.13.4). Indulgence in fleshly lusts is displeasing to the Lord. To Jewish believers of the Dispersion, Peter tells them how to confront "the flesh" — "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1Pet.2.11). Knowing a conflict may arise between the old and new natures, he gives advice upon the action to take. Abstain by keeping ourselves away from the strong desires of "the flesh", because they make war against the soul which is the seat of our new nature. Compromise leads to spiritual disaster. This occurred in Corinth. "Ye are yet carnal", says Paul, meaning that some believers' lives were governed by "the flesh", the old unregenerate nature, which resulted in envying, strife, and divisions among them (1Cor.3.3). Others, said to have been "spiritual" (1Cor.2.15), knew the Lordship of Christ in their lives which meant that the new nature was paramount in all spheres of life.
In conclusion, "sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord", says Peter (1Pet.3.15,R.V.). In our hearts, the seat of affection, let us set apart Christ as Lord.
It is interesting to note that these comforting words were written by one who, with other disciples, in a time of crisis, said harshly, "Master, carest Thou not that we perish?" Mk.4.38. How their doubt must have pierced the tender heart of Christ. Had He ever failed them? Had He ever abandoned them? Could they remember even one time when He had refused or was unable to meet their need?
The lowering clouds, the tempestuous wind and the crashing waves however, filled the minds of the disciples with fear and in a moment of faithlessness they uttered words which in days to follow, must often have grieved and embarrassed them as they remembered their lack of faith. They misinterpreted the attitude of Christ and considered Him to be disinterested — how wrong they were.
Dear fellow believer, crushing sadness and fierce trials may have dimmed your vision and saddened your heart, maybe even embittered your spirit but look up and see Him whose love never fails and whose care is constant and changeless. In times of protracted illness and failing strength you may have wondered if Christ really cares — do not allow such thoughts to lodge in your mind and never doubt that love that springs eternal from a fountain that will never dry up. Trust Him and in His own good time He will bring that "great calm" into your soul.
We so often fail the Saviour and consequently feel so undeserving of His care but it is encouraging to remember that for those very reasons, Peter was best fitted to write such words, "He careth for you". Memories of his failures and strong denial of Christ caused him to weep bitterly each time he thought upon it. Yet there were no harsh recriminations from Christ but love and care and recovery to a place of usefulness in the service of the One whom he had denied.
We occasionally hear of "sympathy fatigue" as people are continually asked to contribute to charitable causes. We may grow tired of repeated requests for help but He never grows weary of those daily cries for help from every corner of the world. How long will this continue? — not only today but for all the tomorrows of our life and throughout eternity. Fear not to come before Him for there is no problem so trivial that He would despise it, nor can any burden be too great for Him to be unable to bear it.
In an uncaring world where you may be often misunderstood and pained by the unsympathetic attitude of so many, apply the balm of those precious words, "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you".
Before I tell you how God saved me I'll give a little back ground of our family. My father made his living as a.trapper and small sawmill operator. He had never gone to school but his grandmother taught him to read from the Bible when he was a small boyand he was able to read well. After he got into the lumbering he needed to be able to scale lumber and other things to do with work so mother having been a school teacher, was able to teach him arithmetic, writing, etc.
My father had a soldier's New Testament that had been given him by an uncle. He always carried it when on two week trips on the trapline. Both he and his trapline partner (his brother-in-law) used to drink a lot and yet, in spite of that they read that New Testament every night by candle light in their little cotton tent. They took turns reading a chapter each night. I believe this is a reminder of Psalm 119:130 "The entrance of thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple."
Dad had no time for religion or ministers and as far as I can remember he was never at a church service not even a wedding or funeral. Mother was the opposite, very religious, attended church services often, but never read the Bible. Dad was the one that read the Bible at home, not every Sunday, but most Sundays. He read audibly and demanded that we listen and behave in a respectful manner. As well, quite often on Sundays, mother and dad would sit down and sing hymns together. Beside that, twice a year (Christmas and Easter) we all knelt and mother read from the family prayer book.
There was an elderly lady who was extremely religious, and a little strange, (or so we thought — actually she was a real saint) who used to come and talk to dad about getting saved. As a boy I remember as she talked, dad would get mad and swear and she would go away, but would be back again in a few weeks. Over the years, Dad's attitude towards her changed, and he seemed to look forward to her coming. She died some years before the Gospel came, but she had left her mark. Dad was still not saved but had a desire to be all these years, until the Gospel came to our small village on the Northern peninsula of Newfoundland.
That year, 1960, came in like other years. We were working at the lumber where we made our living. In August of that year the Gospel came to our community and with it a real stir. Four men came in a boat, the "M.G.M." (Missionary Gospel Messenger). The four men were Herb Harris, George Campbell, Andy Bergsma and Gaius Goff and they preached the gospel in the open air and then in an old pool room that they rented for two dollars a night. We listened to the gospel in the open air, and found it very interesting. Later in the pool hall it got to be more personal.
We attended a few meetings in the pool hall and one evening after we left the meeting our family went to Dad's house. He got his Bible and looked up some of the things that the men had preached. He said to my brother and me, "These men have got the truth, and we are going to continue going to the meetings." Because Dad had read the Bible we were convinced that he knew they were preaching the truth, so we went to these meetings with all barriers down and wide open to the preaching.
Personally, I had a longing for a long time for something, but did not really know what I often wondered while we were working at night and looking up at the stars "Is there a big God up there like people talk about?" or "when we die where do we go? There was never a time when I didn't know that Jesus died on the cross, but never knew why Listening to the Gospel nightly the interest changed to concern, and concern to conviction These men told us that they were saved and sure of heaven I never once questioned this but it never occurred to me at first that I could be saved like that too
Then one night as I was walking home I made up my mind and said to myself "If there is such a thing as salvation for me, I want it " That did not save me but I did listen with keen interest. Every night leaving the meeting the older preacher would ask me questions, like, "How are you tonight?" I would always steal myself away with, "O fine!" Until one night, I was broken and could not answer a word. Seeing this the preacher at the door said, "It's a wet night, so one of the young men will drive you home " When we got to our house, I asked the young preacher to come in, not knowing that he intended to come in anyhow. We talked a long time, but I still could not see a ray of light. After going over many Scriptures together, he took me to Acts 16 31, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved".
After he had read that, and I had read it, I said, "I always believed that, but I'm not saved " Then he stressed, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" I got the gist of what he was saying and I said, "I guess I don't really believe " Then he wisely turned to John 3 18, "He that beheveth not is condemned already" For the first time I realized that I was lost. The young man had to leave because of the late hour, and I was left hopeless, helpless and lost I did not feel like eating, so went to bed, and I knew to another sleepless night. We were always used to saying our prayers, — but no prayers tonight! put out the light and sat on the bed thinking if I die tonight, I'll be in hell. Just then the thought came to me, why? Because I'm bad. Then I got to thinking of what the preachers said how that Jesus had died for bad people. The light began to dawn. He must have died for me? Some of the verses began coming back to me that the men had repeated over and over again, in particular, Matthew 9 13 I did not know the exact wording of the text, but I had grasped the truth since Jesus died for sinners, that took me in. For the first time in my life, I understood why the Lord Jesus Christ died and could thank God for giving His Son to die for a sinner like me. That was midnight Sept 8, 1960.
I was the first to get saved in the area, then in the course of two weeks my wife, father, brother, oldest sister, and her oldest son were saved. Blessing continued with others getting saved.
The following year, on Oct 2, we were baptized in the nearby pond, and in Dec of the same year fourteen of us, along with the preaching brethren, Herb Harris, Gaius Goff and Bert Joyce, sat down to break bread together for the first time.
I found it hard to take public part at first but always had a desire.
There was a brother, Mr Goosney, who was taking a little part in the meetings He always kept pressure on me to take part too Being able to lead the singing they finally persuaded me to open a meeting with the singing I thought that Brother Robert Goosney would be satisfied now, but instead of being satisfied he said "You didn't do that right, you are supposed to stand up front and lead the singing the way the preachers do" Anyhow the time came when I opened another meeting, this time I stood up front I thought I had gained his approval this time for sure But he said "You still didn't do it the way the preachers do" I felt like telling him to do it himself — but the singing and then get up and preach, as if I didn't know that1 So the next time he persuaded me to open with three hymns and pray, and I read from the Bible and I spoke about five minutes Now I was wondering what Mr Goosney will have to say to me this time To my surprise he was very pleased, and said, "now you did that right That's the way it is supposed to be "A very small start but at least a start Mr Goosney had gotten saved just after I did but seemed to be able to grasp things faster than I I sort of resented his bugging me then, but afterwards I really appreciated his persistence I believe it was of God.
As time went by we were able to develop a little and when the preaching brethren moved on, we were left with the responsibility of all the meetings During the summer we had open air meetings which were a real help in developing our ability to speak publicly Right from the time I got saved I used to say to the brethren, "How many people are out there in spiritual darkness just like we used to be!"
A dear preacher, Mr Russell Harris, spent some time there with us during the first couple of years after the assembly was planted He took an interest in me and used to have me open meetings for him quite often, and coached and corrected me many a time.
As the years passed by, the opportunity came for me to share in a short series of gospel meetings there at home with Gaius Goff By 1967 I had had two such series In these meetings some were saved, and thus we were encouraged to plod on.
In the winter of 1967 the preaching brethren approached me about going with them the following summer to help them with the gospel work In the mean time whenever there were ministry meetings or conference meetings it always left me in a turmoil about the Lord's work full time I often spoke to other brethren about the things I had heard in the ministry, but they never seemed to have heard the same things that I did.
My wife and I often talked together and wondered why we were always unsettled about such things while others seemed to be content to carry on at home My big problem, I suppose, was that I just did not have the ability to be a preacher anyhow In all this we did not realize that God was speaking to us in particular.
The brethren of my home assembly always encouraged me, as I began to get involved more and more in the Lord's Work and they supported us in every way My wife was also with me in whatever move I made in that direction So when the brethren asked me to go and help she was all for it.
I was keen to go but I needed enough money to support my family while I was away I had agreed to go, and was determined to make extra money that winter at the lumbering, working long and hard, so that I would be able to go But as it turned out, I developed pneumonia and that winter we barely kept bread and butter on the table As much as I desired to go, 1 would not be able In the spring I was doing some lobster fishing and again only making a living Then my uncle (who was community council chairman) asked me if I would be interested in tendering on some lumber that the community needed I said I would, and made up my mind to make it high enough that I would make some extra money This would bring me about one thousand dollars, enough to take care.
of the family through the summer and a little extra to share in the expenses of the summer's work The problem was that three other parties had tendered on the lumber and mine came by far the highest However after a few days, one party withdrew his proposal, the second party had a break down of the sawmill equipment, and the third party got called back to their regular employment a month earlier than normal and also had to withdraw So the contract came to me which gave me the extra I needed So I went' My work that year was driving a bus to bring people to meetings and also visiting door to door I was back home working during the fall and early winter and in February went back to that area again for a series of Gospel meetings Then back to work for a while and back there again for the summer It went on like that for the next three years until I was not doing justice to either In 1970 the brethren approached me about the work full time So we went forward in fear and trembling Our three children, Jocelyn, Carson, and Gail, seemed to be able to adjust to the different schools, teachers and pupils as the work brought us to different areas.
Twenty-seven years have passed since we were commended and we have proven the Lord's good hand with us in many ways We can say like one of old "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us " (1 Samuel 7 12).
One of the most important influences in life is that exercised by our friends. It is for that reason that parents will seek to guide their children as to who are suitable chums. The author well remembers his mother saying frequently, "your friends will laugh you into hell, but will never laugh you out again." Friends should be chosen carefully since their counsel and advice will play a great part in the development of our character. A good friend is a great blessing, but a bad one can lead into awful problems.
The wise man Solomon said, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful," Proverbs 27.6. It may be that some aspects of the following truth are not very easy to accept but they are written by your friend in order that you may experience eternal blessing. Sometimes we hear it said, "it is necessary to be cruel to be kind." We know from experience that not all medicine has a sweet taste, yet it is necessary to effect a cure. Paul asked, "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4.16. James speaks of two friendships. 2.23, "Abraham .... was called the Friend of God"; 4.4, "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God". Which category are we in, either a friend of God or of the world? We cannot be both for he says, "know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" James 4.4. If our ambitions, outlook, desires and aspirations have all to do with this world then we are not the friends, but rather the enemies, of God. What a serious position!
It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's eternal Son," a Friend of publicans and sinners!" Luke 7.34. He came from heaven into this world to display friendship to those who were His enemies and to reconcile them to God. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John 15.13. Yet He laid down His life for His enemies, "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5.8. Upon the cross He bore the judgment of God against our sin and His work allows God to offer salvation to all on a wholly righteous basis. He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, a so called friend, and was forsaken by all who were near to Him, "Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness," Ps.88.18.
"Alone upon His cross, God's judgment Jesus bore,
He paid in full the cost of glory evermore"
If we trust Him we will have a friend for time and for all eternity. Proverbs 18.24, "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." It is a blessed thing to be able to think of the risen, exalted Son of God in heaven and say, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend," Song of Solomon 5.16. The alternative is to meet Christ as an enemy and hear Him say, "those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before Me," Luke 19.27. This means eternal banishment from Him as His enemy.
Do not see difficulties, see God He will only give as much as His people can bear No heavier burden Learn to fall back upon God How calm1 He can do the largest work without neglecting the smallest matters
We have to do with the same God He will not neglect the most minute circumstance, nay more, is interested to be brought into them all, aye, and delights to have us bring Him into them
Measure not God by your feelings and apprehensions of Him, but by His testimony to His own power Man ever changes God's power and grace are ever the same, as He was so He is
His watchfulness, His character is our safeguard We have Christ's work, and God's word — that our faith and hope may be in God The soul fears no evil, resting, and counting on His omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, and love The living God our true portion
What is more wonderful than the truth that the shrine He delights to dwell in is a broken and contrite heart' Behold God's temple, what nobility' using the arm of the Almighty to sustain our tottering frame Oh' may our constant cry be "Hold thou me up", and the more we lean upon that arm, the more does He delight to keep us, and to sustain our weakness