Chapter 12 is a crisis chapter in Matthew's Gospel. It is the chapter of the rejection of the King. Jesus presents Himself in a three-fold greatness, but the leaders of the nation take counsel as to how to destroy Him. He is, in the chapter, greater than their temple, greater than Jonah, and greater than Solomon. This temple, with its priesthood, was their pride, but He was greater than their temple and their priests. Jonah was unique among their prophets, having been sent with a ministry to Gentiles, but He was greater than Jonah and all their prophets. Solomon was perhaps their greatest king, but Jesus was greater than their greatest. Their priests, prophets and potentates, were all eclipsed by Him, but in a stubborn short-sightedness they would reject Him. In the heart of this chapter the Lord will speak of Gentiles trusting in His name. It was a quotation from Isaiah 42 and He was that Servant in whom the Gentiles would trust. His own nation would refuse Him. Gentiles would receive Him.
The critical (and hypocritical) Pharisees reprove Him for the action of His disciples on that Sabbath day. As they walked through the cornfield with Him they were plucking the ears of corn and eating them. Technically they were reaping and threshing! On the Sabbath! It was offensive to the legalistic ceremonialism of the Pharisees. But then, even their King David had infringed ceremonial law when he ate of the shewbread in an hour of necessity, and the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath.
So then, since they had such scruples about Sabbath keeping, was it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath day? The Saviour asks, but He does not wait for their answer. What man, even amongst men, would pitilessly, mercilessly, leave some poor sheep fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, leave it there helpless until the Sabbath sun had set? Would not any man promptly lift the entrapped animal out, even on the Sabbath day? He heals the man with the withered hand and they forthwith plot His destruction. What perversity!
There follows the case of a wretched creature, blind and dumb and demon possessed. The Saviour heals him and the people are amazed. The Pharisees make the foolish observation that Jesus is in league with Beelzebub and that He casts out demons because of His association with Satan. It was an absurd commentary. Could Satan be divided against himself? How would a divided home or a divided kingdom stand. No, Jesus would bind the strong man and spoil his goods. He would deliver men from demon power and these Pharisees were actually committing the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. As the Saviour had earlier taught another man, one of themselves, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, only the Spirit of God could effect new birth in a man. If a man blasphemously rejected the Spirit this was a rejection of the only means of salvation. There could be no forgiveness for that man. Obviously, in this particular context the unpardonable sin could only be committed in that day of miracles, but the principle must still obtain that rejection of the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit is a rejection of the only means of salvation. It is impossible to bring to repentance one who has so despised that divine Person who alone can produce a work of grace in the heart of a man.
These Pharisees were guilty of gross wickedness and inconsistency. They had an outward show of holiness, but it was only a facade. They were a generation of vipers whose hearts were evil. How could a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit? How could hearts that treasured up evil produce anything but evil? The words that they spake would condemn them. How could the people be expected to hear or to trust such men? In the day of judgment all would be exposed, and judged accordingly.
The scribes and Pharisees then seek a sign! What evil arrogance was this! After all His miracles of grace which they had witnessed, they ask for a sign! Jesus refers them to Jonah. As it had been with Jonah, buried for three days and then raised with a ministry to Gentiles, so would it be with the Saviour. Jonah their prophet had, in a figure, come up from burial and had gone to Gentiles, and it was Gentiles too who came with the Queen of Sheba to see their King Solomon. Gentiles would hear the message and see His glory, when risen from the dead. He would be preached among all nations.
How sadly would the last state of the house of Israel be worse than the first. Jesus had come, and in His gracious ministry He had, as it were, swept and garnished the house. He was expelling the unclean spirit, but it would return. They would reject the Christ who had come to them in His Father's name, and they would one day receive an Antichrist who would come in his own name. The last state of the house would indeed be worse.
While the Saviour so conversed with them, His mother and His brethren came, wishing to speak with Him. They told Him, "Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee", "My mother?" "My brethren?" "Who is my Mother?", He asks, "and who are My brethren?" Our Lord was not being disrespectful, but was showing them that natural ties and human relationships are not relevant in the kingdom. He beckons towards His disciples. "These are My mother and My brethren", He says. Those who would do the will of His Father were closer to Him than earthly relatives. There was a spiritual plane where there was something more gracious and more important and more enduring than family and earthly friends.
At this crisis moment in the Gospel and in His ministry, our Lord will now leave the house and go to the seaside. It was a symbolical gesture. The sea is ever a picture of the restlessness of Gentile nations. He will leave the house and go to such since Israel will not have Him. But this is chapter 13.
In our previous paper, we suggested that in introducing the book of Esther, we should at least consider the following: (1) The position of the book: (2) The providence of God: (3) The purpose of the story: (4) The part of the characters. We have already given attention to the first two of these, which brings us to:
3) THE PURPOSE OF THE STORY
Isaiah 54.17 states the outstanding lesson of the book of Esther: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper". The book also recalls the words of Ps. 121.4, "Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep". This reminds us that we must not forget the prophetic significance of the book. But there is a greater issue at stake than even the preservation of the Jew. Israel's coming Messiah would be "of the seed of David according to the flesh", Rom.1.3. We have therefore here a further attempt to destroy the royal line, with Haman a remarkable picture of Satan himself.
Undoubtedly, the book of Esther emphasises a general lesson, and this was very clearly stated by James Anderson many years ago in the Believers' Magazine: 'The story is an epitome of the whole human story. It displays the wrong person getting promotion to power, but although that may appear to be unjust, it doesn't hinder the end of God's ways. The man destined to the gallows will yet have the power and honour. It forms another chapter of the story of wrong being so often on the throne, but right will assuredly triumph at the last". This brings us, finally, to:
4) THE PART OF THE CHARACTERS
In our studies, we shall pay particular attention to Haman, Esther and Mordecai. But there are significant lessons for us from Ahasuerus and Vashti. For the time being, we will quote Ellicott's Bible Commentary in which Esther is dealt with by R. Sinker: "Ahasuerus is an ordinary specimen of an Eastern despot, who knows no law save the gratification of his own passions, and of the passing caprice of the moment. He sends for his queen in defiance of decency and courtesy, to grace a revel, and deposes her for a refusal simply indicative of self respect; he is willing to order the destruction of a whole people throughout his empire, at the request of a favourite of the time; when the tide of favour turns, the favourite is not only disgraced, but he and all his family are ruthlessly destroyed, and Mordecai rises from a humble position to be the new vizier". So much for Ahasuerus! Mr. Sinker has got it pretty well summed up.
Now for a few preliminary suggestions in connection with Haman, Mordecai and Esther:
HAMAN. We have already said that Haman is a striking picture of Satan himself. There are many resemblances, and they culminate in Esther's statement: "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman", 7.6. Doesn't this remind you of 1 Pet.5.8, Matt.13.39 and 1 Jn.3.12? The murderous intentions of Haman recall the words of the Lord Jesus concerning Satan: "he was a murderer from the beginning", Jn.8.44. Haman means, "Magnificent", and this recalls Eze.28.12-19. Haman's ambition that every knee should bow to him, takes us to Matt.4.9. However, the very means by which he endeavoured to dispose of Mordecai became the instrument of his own defeat. You can supply chapter and verse for that! We shall look at this more closely in due course.
MORDECAI. Here is the man who refused to bow — the only man to do so — and we are immediately reminded that a Greater than Mordecai said, "the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me", Jn.14.30. Mordecai refused to exalt himself: even after he had been paraded through the streets in high honour, he "came again to the king's gate", 6.12. But he was "the man whom the king delighteth to honour", 6.9, and the book ends with Mordecai "great in the king's house", 9.4 and "great among the Jews", 10.3. Doesn't this remind us of Luke 1.32, "He shall be great...". The man who had been condemned to death was elevated to the highest possible position. See Phil.2.9-11.
ESTHER. She was reminded that her privileges brought responsibility, and undertook the risks from intervention on behalf of others, 4.14-16. That's where we come in! We too have a ministry of intercession, and a mission of intervention. Like Priscilla and Aquila, there are times when we have to lay down our necks, Rom.16.4. Are we willing to expose ourselves to risk in the service of God? Work for God is never easy. But look at the end of the story. Esther is with the man honoured above all, 9.29-31.
We have noted that in the book of Genesis the lives of many men of God centre around a single feature. In the case of Jacob it was the pillars that he erected.
A pillar is a monument set up to mark an important event for remembrance.
TO REMEMBER HIS CONVERSION TO GOD (Gen.28.10-22)
God had made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, Gen.12.1-7. "I will make of thee a great nation", the nation of Israel. "Unto thy seed will I give this land", the land of Canaan. "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed", the blessing of the gospel, Gal.3.8. God passed on this covenant to Jacob as an act of pure grace, because God chose so to do. "The elder (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob)", Gen.25.23, Mai.1.2. Jacob's behaviour not only did not merit the covenant but rather merited judgment. He had lied and cheated to obtain the birthright and the blessing. Now his scheming had utterly failed as he fled for his life. Then God appears and gives to him as a free gift that which he had striven for and failed to obtain. The sheer wonder of God's grace converted Jacob to God.
Jacob was filled with awe, 'He was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven', 28.17. So he set up a pillar, v18,22 to commemorate the event, the place and the time, and called the place 'Bethel', the house of God.
So we remember at the Lord's table the wonder of our conversion to God.
TO REMEMBER HIS OWN PROMISES (Gen.31.43-52)
'Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar', Gen.31.45. Laban called the pillar 'Watchpost'. Jacob's promises, marked by the pillar, were, first, to care for Laban's daughters. "If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee", v50. The second promise was never to become an enemy of Laban. "This pillar be witness ... that thou shalt not pass over ... this pillar unto me, for harm", v52.
Do you remember at the Lord's table the promises we made to the Lord at our baptism? That we had died with Christ to the old life of sin and rose with Christ to live a new life in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 'Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life', Rom.6.3-4.
TO REMEMBER GODS BLESSING (Gen.35.1-14)
God has blessed Jacob in preserving him since his conversion. "God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with rrie in the way which I went", 35.3. God had protected Jacob from powerful enemies. 'And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob', 35.5. But above all God changed his name from Jacob - the Supplanter, to Israel - the prince with God. "Thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall by thy name", 35.10. 'Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon', 35.14.
Do we remember at the Lord's table that God has changed our name from 'sinner' to 'child of God'? 'As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God', Jn.1.12.
TO REMEMBER HIS BELOVED (Gen.35.16-20)
Jacob erected a pillar as the headstone for the grave of his beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. 'Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day', 35.20.
We come to the Lord's table to remember our Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 'Accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace", Eph.1.6-7.
'We love Him, because He first loved us', 1 Jn.4.19.
'Unto you therefore which believe He is precious', 1 Pet.2.7.
Even before the Israelites entered the promised land, they were given detailed guidance regarding the period when they would be governed by kings. In Deut. 17.14-20 record is given with respect to what type of king should be chosen and how they should rule. Although we cannot include ourselves in such exalted circles, the passage still contains many helpful lessons for present-day believers. The teaching neatly divides itself into three sections:
(a) v14&15: Selection of the King - by God!
Guarding against any feelings of pride or possession, the divine communication would have reminded the Israelites that not only was the land given to them - '.. which the Lord thy God giveth thee' - but the chosen king would be a divine choice - 'whom the Lord thy God shall choose'. Although the New Testament focuses more on the spiritual rather than the national, the principle established in Deut. 17 can be applied generally to the assembly life. For instance as we serve within the assembly, we too must be conscious that our respective positions are not the result of personal preference, rather they mark a divine decision! 1 Cor. 12.18 - 'But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him'. What feelings should this have sparked within the chosen king? How should we respond to the spiritual work allocated to us?
As the selection of the king was a divine prerogative, it indicated that his position was one of high honour. At this stage, to be an Israelite was a blessing in itself, but to emerge as a ruler over God's people was even more honourable. So it is with present-day believers. The fact that we are now called the children of God (Uohn 3.1; 2 Cor. 6.18) is a tremendous blessing, however, to be chosen as a servant within His house - as all believers are - is to have more blessing still.
Obviously the coronation of the king was not designed to pamper his ego or provide lucrative business opportunities, rather it was that he might rule over God's people in a way acceptable to God. Although the succeeding points will elaborate his responsibilities, it is important to stress that because God had selected him as king, his job was highly responsible - he knew what was expected of him and he was held accountable. The privilege of belonging to an assembly requires us to have a responsible lifestyle and attitude - 1 Tim. 3.15. Remember that we too will be held accountable - 2 Cor. 5.10.
Following selection as king, there would have been little point in complaining or suggesting a transfer into the work of priest or prophet! We shall learn in future
studies that one king attempted such a change - Uzziah - and it ended in personal disaster (2 Chron. 26.16-19). We too must learn to be content (Phil. 4.11) within the sphere of our service, for such an attitude has 'great gain' (1 Tim 6.6).
It will not be surprising to learn that one common problem amongst many of the kings, was that they suffered from the age-old problem of pride and self-importance. They should have followed the words spoken to king David - 'He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God' (2 Sam. 23.3). Therefore, while our profile and popularity may increase outwardly, we must always remind ourselves of our inward condition (Rom. 7.18).
(b) v16&17: Submission of the King - to God!
Inevitably during his reign, each king would have become a figurehead for the nation. Thus, if he were to pursue a godless way of life, this would only serve to propel the nation onto a path that would divert them further from the truth. Being conscious of this, the king was unequivocally told - in verses 16 and 17 - not to do the following:
'not multiply horses' - The Carnal
Ps. 33.17 states that to trust in a horse for safety and deliverance was 'a vain thing'. Thus, for a king to increase the number of horses would signal that his trust lay in them rather than God. Perhaps this was one of the first signs of departure in Solomon - 2 Chron. 1.16, 17. Although we are unlikely to multiply horses in our life, we may show other signs that our confidence is not in the Lord and thus we become like the world (ie. Egypt as in the text).
'neither .. multiply wives' - The Emotional
In order that the king's heart was kept focused on the Lord, it was imperative that he did not become a husband to numerous women! The larger the number of wives, the more time the king was required to spend with them and less was reserved for God. Also if the wives were foreign, there was the real danger that they would cause the king to worship other idols. Again Solomon is the sad example - 1 Kings 11.1-4. For us the lesson is twofold. Firstly the Lord must always be our first love (Rev. 2.4). Secondly to marry someone with different spiritual values than ourselves will be disastrous. Remember we do not merely marry a believer, we (should) marry the right believer.
'neither .. multiply .. silver and gold' - The Financial
In order to protect against feelings of independence and desires for material wealth, the king was not to multiply money. Whilst scripture allows for the possibility of material wealth (1 Tim. 6.17), we are to guard against making it the 'be-all-and-end-alP. Sadly the example of Solomon can be used again - 1 Kings 10.14-15, 23 & 12.4 - as it appears he may have acquired his great wealth by oppressing his people.
(c) v18-20: Service of the King - for God!
In the remaining verses of the passage, the kings were reminded of their responsibility when on the throne. In the first instance, they were instructed on what
they had to do regarding the law. Firstly they were to copy it - this would have been a great aid in memorising the law. Then they were to read it - close inspection of what the law conveyed. Thirdly, they were to keep it - little point in memorising and reading if the kings failed to keep what was said. Finally they were to do it - a practical application of the law in the life of the king. Remember that there is little point in obtaining a firm grip of the word, if we do not let it get a firm grip of us!
Once the kings were told what they had to do, the instruction concludes in verse 20 with the obvious issue of - why? There were three main reasons for placing such emphasis on the law.
The Control of their Pride
Whilst each King was called to rule over the nation, he was not allowed to let his position engender feelings of pride. As the king read and applied the law, his fear and respect of God (vl9) would have deepened and the knowledge of his own lowly position would have been magnified. Sadly we shall read of various kings whose pride increased as a result of their position. However, by focusing on the godly example of Hezekiah we can observe how pride can be controlled - 2 Chron.32.25-26.
The Clearing of their Pathway
By placing the law at the forefront of their life, each king would ensure himself of a clear pathway to follow. In this context, Josiah is a good example - the Law was prominent during his reign and not surprising we read - 'he .. declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left' (2 Chron. 34.2). This is exactly the promise of Deut. 17.20 - how faithful God is!
The Continuation of their Power
Each faithful king was promised that his reign would be prolonged along with that of his children's. This would remind the kings of their responsibility to ensure that a godly reign was pursued and a good example was set. With the case of Jehoshaphat, his unholy alliance with the wicked king Ahab, not only created problems for himself but also had sad implications for his children (2 Chron.18.1, 31; 21.1-6). From this we learn a practical lesson - doing that which is right before God ensures that our spiritual influence will never diminish and good examples will be set for others.
Thus, we have considered the instruction that each king had to ponder. In succeeding papers we can identify who failed to reach the standard and why.
(See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures).
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
ll(a)—The Bride, the Lamb's Wife
How refreshing it is to turn away from the dark sin of man and contemplate the magnificent grace of God! We have seen the awful evil of the false Church and the divine judgment upon her; it is now our pleasure to consider the glorious future that is in store for the true Bride of the Lamb.
God has His own wondrous purposes of grace, formed in His own great heart before time began. These He will assuredly accomplish for His own glory, in spite of all human failure and the hostility of Satan. But He allows man first to show what he is. Thus the past six thousand years have revealed a long story of human sin and shame, whether in the world, in Israel, or in the Church of God. When man's sad story is fully told, God will come in, setting all aside and accomplishing His own eternal counsels in rest and glory. This is due to Christ, who suffered all in this scene that God might be glorified.
In pursuing our present theme we will first turn the reader's attention to Eph.5.25-32. There we have the affection of Christ declared for the Church. The Apostle in this place is really giving practical exhortations to the saints as to their conduct in the different relationships of life. But he was so full of the great theme that he had been commissioned to everywhere unfold that even when exhorting thus he could not refrain from bringing in Christ and the Church.
The Christian wife is bidden to consider the Church's position in relation to Christ and to render due obedience to her husband. The Christian husband, on the other hand, is directed to keep before him Christ's affection for the Church as his pattern of behaviour to his wife. The Spirit of God would lead us into God's thoughts and show us heavenly patterns, that they may have their due effect in our daily walk on earth. May the spirit of heaven enter into our various earthly relationships more and more!
Let the reader weigh well before the Lord the precious statement in verse 25: "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it". This is fuller and deeper than the statement in Matt.13.46: "Went and sold all that He had and bought it". It was one thing to surrender all His earthly rights as Son of David and Son of man, but quite another to lay down His own life. "Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her", Gen.29.20. But Christ did more than serve. He suffered and bled that the Church might be His own possession for ever. Was ever love like this? But it could not be otherwise. Sin stood in the way. Divine grace must have a righteous foundation, so He accepted the cross with all its unutterable agony and shame, that every righteous claim of the Throne of God might be met. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross and despised the shame, Heb.12.2. Now all barriers are removed, and His grace and love flow out richly and blessedly to all who believe in His name.
Let it be distinctly understood what Scripture means by "the Church" which Christ so loved. Many are vague as to this, having a general idea that the term includes all the saved from the beginning to the end of time. We sometimes meet with the phrase, "The Church in Jewish times", etc. But we are firmly persuaded that this is a great mistake. We find no mention of the Church in the Old Testament at all. There we find God dealing with an elect nation, blessing them after an earthly manner in the Land of Canaan. The godly in the midst of that nation and elsewhere appear as so many units looking up to God in their own individual faith, but a scheme for forming them into a corporate body nowhere appears. When the Lord Jesus was here in the flesh, He spoke of the Church as a future to be built upon Himself, the Son of the living God, Matt.16.18. Clearly He did not regard it as then existing in any shape whatever. The birthday of the Church of God was the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven according to the promise of the Lord Jesus, Acts 2.
Even then the full character of the new company was not revealed. It is questionable whether any of the first Christians knew at the beginning into what a wonderful sphere of heavenly blessing they had been introduced. The unfolding of this was reserved for Paul — one born out of due time. To him, by special revelation, was made known God's eternal counsel concerning Christ and the Church. Hitherto it had been an unrevealed secret — "hid in God", Eph.3. Then it came out that God was forming believing Jews and Gentiles into "one new man" — to be the body of Christ the Head, and, as we shall see shortly, to be His Bride in the day of glory.
Into this those who lived and died prior to the Pentecostal outpouring do not come. Those who follow us in testimony on the earth are again a distinct company of saints, with a portion peculiar to themselves. It is no question of merit or superior godliness, but of God's own sovereign intentions. If He has chosen to keep the best wine until now, none do well to complain: and if He has seen fit to provide some better thing for us than for other companies of saints, who dare find fault? If the Church's portion, like Benjamin's mess, is really five times as much as that of others, let us see to it that we enjoy it, and not endeavour to explain it away, Gen.43.34. The Old Testament worthies will certainly find their place in heaven for ever, Heb.11.16, but will not stand in the same relation to Christ as the believers of the present dispensation, though their blessing, of course, as ours, is founded on His blood. Through His grace, all who are saved now are called into a special place of honour — a peculiar character of blessedness.
Christ displayed His love in the past, then, by giving Himself up for the Church. His affection is proved in the present by His constant and unwearying care. We read "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word", Eph.5.26. He applies His own gracious Word to her who is to be His companion in bliss for ever that her thoughts and desires may be formed suitably to Himself, and that she may be weaned from every attraction that Satan and the world present. He brings Himself and His glory constantly before her heart and thus she is not only cheered and helped in the desert path, but she is able to put from her everything inconsistent with the One to whom she is going. This is the aim and object of all His present care and attention. He would have His beloved Church heavenly practically while waiting to see His face.
Such is His love and grace; but what shall we say as to the response of our hearts to it? "So much to be loved, and so little to love". We have not been all we should have been for Christ. The Church has not kept herself as a chaste virgin for Christ, but has trifled with many lovers, to her hurt and loss. Nothing is so painful as unrequited love. How solemn to read "I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love", Rev.2.4. Let us confess our failure. Let us frankly own that we have not appreciated and responded to the heart of Christ as we should. In the days that yet remain, ere all is closed in glory, let us cultivate earnest affection for Him. This can only be as we keep near to Him and learn the deep secrets of His wondrous love to us.
The third characteristic of the time, revealed that the Israelites had completely failed to appreciate the real cause of their enslavement. "They chose new gods, then was war in the gates", v8. In Joshua's final discourse before his death, he had made quite clear to the people the solemnity of the undertaking they had entered into when they declared, "Therefore will we also serve the Lord for He is our God", Josh.24.18. He went so far indeed as to appear to be almost dissuading them from making such a commitment, including the solemn warning, "If ye forsake the Lord and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt and consume you", Josh.24.20. This was in fact the exact situation into which they had now come, and not for the first time. The precise cause of their present servitude was that "The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand-of Jabin, king of Canaan", Judges 4.1,2. Now the remedy for such a state of affairs was repentance and a turning to God for mercy and forgiveness. This they had done in the past, time and time again, from the very beginning of their wilderness wanderings right up to their previous subjugation under Eglon the Moabite (see Judges 3.12-30). But for twenty years they suffered under Jabin and Sisera, changing and experimenting with any and every new god that appeared to offer any hope of release from the tyranny of their oppressors. The result of such degrading self-abasement by those who had experienced the goodness of past forgiveness was that the enemy was triumphing in their very gates. The place which was known as a venue for the deliberations of their elders, where reconciliations could be made, where ordered justice could be administered, was now dominated by the enemy. Their new gods, in whatever permutation they might try them, proved utterly valueless and indeed served only to prolong the agonies under which they were suffering.
Now we should not be too highminded in our condemnation of the Israelites. The apostle warns us, in the very context of speaking of their failures, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall", 1 Cor.10.12. James reminds us that, "In many things we offend all", Jas.3.2, and we are assured, even the very best of us, that, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed", Lam.3.22. We need to benefit from the experiences through which they passed by avoiding the pitfalls into which they fell and by adhering to the safe pathways which they missed. If we are concerned and exercised by a lack of blessing, are we prepared to go even beyond self examination and say meaningfully, "Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting", Ps. 139.23,24. Such an approach will never fail to bring out the Lord's grace and love in abundant forgiveness and renewal. It will however also necessitate a willingness to deal with those things which He shows us to be stumbling blocks and hindrances to blessing. A failure to respond to the revealed mind of God in such circumstances will inevitably lead to disciplinary judgment. The Corinthians found this out to their cost. There was physical weakness and death in the church and it was widespread too. "Many, are weak and sickly among you and many sleep". This was a result not only of sin but of a failure to judge sin when it was shown to be such. "For", Paul continues, "If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged", 1 Cor.11.30,31.
How many examples we have of those who by acknowledging and confessing their own association with the sins of God's people, have been instrumental in leading a recovery from seemingly hopeless positions. Daniel was prepared to say, "We have sinned and done wickedly — neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God", Dan.9.5,10. The response from God was immediate, "Fear not Daniel; for from the first day thou didst set thine heart to understand and to chasten thyself before God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words", Dan.10.12. Ezra, confronted with the sin of the newly restored Jews, though he had taken no actuahpart in the breakdown that had occurred, cries, "O God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee my God, for our iniquities are increased over our head and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens", Ezra 9.6. The result of his public confession was a consciousness among the whole people of the seriousness of their sin, followed by an evidenced willingness to put things right. "For the people wept very sore — and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and for the great rain", Ezra 10.1,9. Those who had committed the sin of inter-marriage, "gave their hands that they would put away their wives and, being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass", Ezra 10.19.
Don't let us attempt to blame any spiritual dearth which we may be experiencing upon God and look for something or someone else to provide a new source of inspiration or motivating force. For, "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" but, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness", 1 Jn.1.8,9. Being so cleansed and walking in the practical enjoyment of it, we shall be free from the bondage which sin brings and experience the reality of the Lord's assurance, "If the Son therefore shall make you free ye shall be free indeed", Jn.8.36.
The final degradation of Israel, in common with all subjugated races suffering foreign occupation, was that she had been almost totally disarmed. "Was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" v8. The Philistines imposed a similar embargo in later times, even to the extent of forbidding a smith to ply his trade. "All the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share and his coulter and his axe and his mattock", 1 Sam.13.20.
Such a situation switches us neatly across to the second passage under consideration, Ephesians chapter 6.
On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, and ten after His ascension, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity came into the world. The second Person, the Son of God, had previously come, had remained some thirty-three years and had returned to heaven. On His return the Spirit came down and still remains, Jn.7.39; 16.7.
When the Son of God was on earth it would have been ridiculous for believers to pray to the Father to send Him down, even so now it is ridiculous to pray for the sending down of the Holy Spirit, seeing that his coming is an accomplished historical fact. There are quite a number of parallels in Luke 2 and Acts 2, between the coming of the Son and the coming of the Spirit, but it is not proposed to trace them in this article. The reader can search them out for himself. For our present purpose it must suffice to emphasise that for over nineteen hundred years the Holy Spirit has been in the world as really as Christ was in it for thirty three years. There is no such thing as a second Pentecost, just as there can be no repetition of the birth of Christ.
Christ came into the world and some received Him personally and most did not, Jn.1.11,12. Likewise the Spirit is in the world: some receive Him and many do not. How is He received? Listen to Peter at Pentecost: ... "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost", Acts 2.38. From this passage we learn that the Spirit is received in the same way and at the same time as the forgiveness of sins. This was for Jews; but Gentiles heard the word, received it, repented, believed and received the gift of the Spirit, Acts 10.44; 11.1,17,18; 15.7-9. Gal.3.2,14 confirms that it is by
faith in Christ. Believing sinners at the moment of conversion receive the Holy Spirit and He indwells them from that time, Rom.8.9. The reception of the Spirit is an essential part of salvation just as the new birth, justification, etc.
THE SEAL, THE EARNEST, THE FIRST FRUITS
Concerning the Spirit's work in the believer the above three terms are used as well as others. We bring these three together because they are similar although not exactly the same thing. Please read the following passages: 2 Cor.1.22; 5.5; Eph.1.13,14; 4.30; Rom.8.11,23. You will find that all point forward to the redemption of the body of the believer. The Holy Spirit is the seal of divine ownership, the guarantee of God's taking possession of that which is purchased and owned. For the believer it is the present sample of a future inheritance. God will certainly fulfil in all the redeemed that which He purposed in saving them — that to all eternity they should be conformed to the image of His Son, Rom.8.29.
THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT
Every believing sinner is, from the moment of conversion, a member of the Church which is the body of Christ. "By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles", 1 Cor.12.13. As every believer is a member of that body, and since he is so by the baptism of the Spirit, it clearly follows that every believer has been baptised with the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer praying for the baptism of the Spirit. It is not post-conversion experience; it is not something to be sought for, it is a blessed fact as real as the forgiveness of sins.
THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT
The disciples were baptised with the Holy Spirit on His coming at the day of Pentecost, and they were filled at the same time, Acts 1.5; 2.4. It is normal for a new convert to be filled with the Spirit at and from his conversion. The Spirit enters, fills and floods his whole being. Not every believer continues filled with the Spirit, hence the exhortation: "Be filled with the Spirit", Eph.5.18. The tense of the verb means: "be filled, and continue being filled". It indicates a continuous refilling. Perhaps an illustration may make the matter clearer. A cup of hot water is drawn from the tap and at once a cup of cold water runs into the tank to fill it. Draw a bucketful and the tank is refilled by the inflow of a bucketful. We use up spiritual energy in living, witnessing and working for Christ, and we need to be continually replenished. We are in danger of neglecting the refilling, which is not automatic, and so the exhortation: "Be filled". How is it done? Read the two parallel passages: Eph.5.18-6.9; Col.3.16-4.1. You will notice the various items of correspondence between them. To the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit corresponds: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Through the reading and meditation on the Scriptures we are kept filled. The exhortation to be filled comes in the midst of a series of very practical exhortations. Among them are three pairs together: "Not as fools but as wise ... not unwise, but understanding ... not drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit". The result is a happy spiritual condition and a consistent Christian walk in the domestic and social life. Being filled with the Spirit does not do away with the need for practical exhortations, for such follow. Returning to our illustration if the water tank runs empty there will be a big splash when finally it is being refilled. If the heart gets cold and departs from the Lord there will be a big upsurge of joy on restoration but this is not normal. There should be a continual refilling and a steady maintenance of Joy. To be filled with the Spirit is to walk in daily practical obedience to God and to His word.
SINS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
The New Testament makes mention of three sins against the Holy Spirit of which the believer may be guilty. He may lie to the Holy Spirit by hypocrisy, by pretending to a higher degree of devotion to Christ than that which is the reality, or by boasting of a spiritual experience of which he knows nothing, Acts 5.3. He may grieve Him by indulging in any of the sins mentioned in the preceding verses, Eph.4.30. He may quench Him by refusing to heed His voice when it comes by the reading or preaching of the Scriptures, 1 Thes.5.19-21. Let us beware of these sins for they will bring sad consequences into the life of any Christian who commits them.
There abounds much unsound teaching concerning the Holy Spirit and His work, many unscriptural terms are used, and so there is much need to give heed to the truths we have touched upon, as well as many others on the same subject. So, get to your Bible.
Down through the centuries in Bible times, the custom was for parents to name their children at birth. But seven times the Lord intervened and named a child before his birth. The first was during the patriarchal period. The last was for His own Son, the Babe of Bethlehem. Before He was born, according to the Gospel records, God gave Him four names, of which three were made known by an angel and the fourth fulfilled a prophetic scripture.
These names are "The Son of God," "Emmanuel," "Jesus," and "The Son of the Most High." They are not in the order as recorded in the Scriptures. But, in this order, they reveal various truths concerning His person, ranging from the eternal past to the millennial future. Let us now consider each name in turn.
"The Son of God," said the angel Gabriel to Mary, He shall be called, Lk.1.35, signifying 'what He had always been.' The name denotes His absolute Godhead. This means that His Deity is neither shared with nor derived from His Father. In Deity He is equal with His Father as He said that "God was His Father, making Himself equal with God," Jn.5.18. By this claim of equality with God, He meant that both His Father and He were totally God. When He said later, "My Father is greater than I," Jn.14.28, He is not contradicting His earlier statement of being equal with God, but He indicates that whilst He was on earth His Father in heaven was greater in position. In stating that "I and My Father are One, Jn.10.30, He is not saying that He and His Father are on Person but rather of one Substance as Deity.
He did not become God in Eternity past or within the span of Time, but He was, is and ever will be God, and so He is eternal as Deity. Introduced as "the Word," these vital truths are set forth in Jn.1.1. "In the beginning (that is, at the first moment of time) was the Word (indicating He already existed), and the Word was with God (implying His eternal relationship in the Godhead) and the Word was God" (meaning He is truly and essential Deity). Again by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am," Jn.8.58, He claimed not only eternal precedence over Abraham, the founding-father of the Jewish nation, but He identified Himself as "I am," the ineffable name by which God revealed Himself to Moses. Hence, He implied: before Time - "I am," when Time ends - "I am," signifying that He knows no past or future and so His Deity is eternal.
Concerning His Divine Sonship within the Triune Godhead, the name "the Son of God" does not infer either subordination or inferiority to the Father. But rather the word "Son" denotes the dignity of His person in His Deity.
"Emmanuel..." this name denotes 'what He became.' Unlike the others, it was not given by the angel but, according to Matt.l.21f, it was in fulfilment of the prophecy in Is.7.14 that the son born of the virgin should be called "Emmanuel," meaning "God with us," - a stupendous thought! In the distant past God had appeared in human form to the patriarchs and later to others, but none of these theophanies was the realisation of "God with us" - on no occasion did God become man but only appeared as man.
The Incarnation is defined in Jn.l.l4(RV): "And the Word became flesh . . ." He who is Eternal became temporal. The Celestial One became terrestrial. Thus, a union of the Infinite and the finite was formed. Not surprisingly, Paul declared that "without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh . . .", lTim.3.16, which refers to the birth of Christ and His life on earth in the days of His flesh. In becoming Man, the Incarnate had two natures, one divine and the other human, but He had one personality, not two.
The timing of the Incarnation was divinely predetermined, for "when the fullness of time was come" - not a moment too early or too late - "God sent forth His Son" - His dear Son - "born of a woman," Gal.4.4(RV), which denotes the universality of His Humanity; ". . . He took on the seed of Abraham," Heb.2.16, indicating the nationality of His Humanity; and ". . . (He) was born of the seed of David," Rom.l.3(RV), which signifies the royalty of His Humanity.
"Jesus" was to be His name said the angel to Mary, Lk.1.31, and similarly to Joseph in a dream during their betrothal, Matt.l.18-21. This name indicates 'what Hewill do' - "... He shall save His people from their sins."
For His work of salvation, it was essential that the form of His incarnation should not impair His Deity or prejudice His purity. This high objective was achieved not by man but by God. As foretold in Is.7.14(RV) (mgn), ". . . Behold the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son ..." Some seven centuries later concerning the virgin Mary to whom Joseph was betrothed, an angel told him in a dream: ". . . that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost, Matt.1.20. As His conception was of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was free from the taint of original sin - "... in Him is no sin," according to Un.3.5.
Both the supernatural conception (the birth was natural) and absolute sinlessness of Jesus had far reaching effects in accomplishing His work of salvation for sinful men. It meant His blood, which He shed in His death on the cross, was untainted by sin. Consequently, it is efficacious for the remission of sins during this church age
of grace and in the millennial age of righteousness to come.
"The Son of the Most High": this is the last name made known to Mary for her Son, Lk.l.32f(RV). It reveals "What He will be'. "He shall be great . . .", said the angel. In the age to come, the glorified Messiah will be "a great King over all the earth," Ps.47.2. Jerusalem will be "the city of the great King," Ps.48.2. As Deity, He is "a great God" whilst in His regal supremacy He is "a great King above all gods" of the heathen, Ps.95.3. Still Deity, Messiah will be the matchless Monarch in the millennial world.
The name "the Son of the Most High" is appropriate for His future reign on earth. This is apparent from the first mention of the divine name "the Most High" in Gen.14.19 where He said, as such, to be "possessor of heaven and earth." The name denotes His absolute dominion over the earth. This has not yet been realised but it will be when Jesus, the Son of the Most High, rules over all the earth in the age to come. Of His future Kingship, the angel gave Mary three features. First, "the Lord God shall give upon Him the throne of His father David," which means the Davidic dynasty, after an interruption of long centuries, will be restored. Second, "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever," that is to say, His millennial reign will be over a united nation not divided as it was after Solomon until the Exile. Third, "and of His kingdom there shall be no end." In the past, kingdoms have risen and fallen, but the Messianic kingdom will neither fall nor end.
Truly, "the Son of the Most High" will be the King of Israel and over all the earth.
In the midst of a Godless age and a society which is prominently marked by those who are "lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God", 2 Tim.3.4, it is good to remind ourselves of how we should behave on the Lord's day, the first day of the week. There is, of course, no specific Scripture to which we can turn for definite guidance. This is unlike the law concerning the Sabbath. Yet there are indications in the Word of God as to how it should be viewed, and so guide our behaviour.
The 'Lord's day' is not another term for the Sabbath, just as the 'Lord's Supper' is not another name for the Passover. Both the Sabbath and the Passover were given under the law to Israel alone. The Day and the Supper appertain to this dispensation alone and are of a higher, spiritual character. Our behaviour on these occasions is not laid down by detailed commandments but reflects our spiritual affections, and reveals our spiritual intelligence and discernment.
The term the 'Lord's day' is found just once in the New Testament and that is Rev.1.10, while the words, "the Lord's" occur in one other place, namely 1 Cor.11.20, referring to the Lord's Supper. "The Lord's" does not indicate something which the Lord possesses as if it meant, 'the day of the Lord' or 'the supper of the Lord'. This is proved by the fact that 'the day of the Lord' is an OT expression referring to the coming day of judgment on the earth which will occur after all believers have been called away at the rapture of the church. John is writing of a day when the Lord is still moving among the assemblies of His people, so it cannot refer to the 'day of the Lord'.
The word "Lord" is an adjective indicating a day and a supper that should bear the character of the Lord, markedly different from all other days and suppers. All connected with it should bear the stamp of His character and be under His control and be 'Lordly' in every way. It appears that the Lord's day' was the first day of the week, the resurrection day. This was the day marked out by the Saviour when He appeared to His disciples upon His resurrection, Jn.20. The fact that He did not appear on the Sabbath emphasises the importance of the first day. This was the day when the Father manifested His complete satisfaction in the death of His Son by raising Him from the dead. That event on that day proved the basis of our salvation and eternal blessing had been secured. The key event of that day is the keeping of the Lord's Supper. This is a time when His people are to be occupied with Him alone. When all is to be for Him, not for us. All is to be in keeping with His character and on obedience to His word. Properly understood and appreciated, this gathering will give character to the rest of the day and as a consequence will affect our lives during the following week.
Therefore it is important, even imperative, that we are present every week at the Lord's Supper unless it is impossible for us to attend. We claim that He is present, the One whom we say is our Lord, and it is something of a contradiction to absent ourselves willingly. Such lax behaviour must grieve Him. It makes it important also that when on holiday we go to places where we can join with like minded believers to celebrate the Supper in a Scriptural way.
As we have pointed out, this was the day marked out by the Saviour when He appeared to His own following His resurrection, Jn.20. Why did He choose the first day of the week? Surely this indicates that it was thereafter to be regarded as a special day, the resurrection day bringing in a completely new order.
We well know that Paul considered it in this light, feeling obliged to stay at Troas so that he might not be at sea on the Lord's day and thus miss the Lord's Supper, Acts 20. The supper is an assembly function not to be celebrated by individual believers alone at home or on holiday.
In the UK, before 1939, the Lord's day was generally recognised as being different from other days. The years of the second world war inevitably brought a change as so many people became used to treating every day alike. This could probably be traced to the necessary increase in shift work. Shift work imperceptibly implants in the mind that all seven days are just the same. This has been accentuated in our day by the general opening of shops on the Lord's day which increases the idea that there is no difference between the seven days. Believers must take great care not to be influenced by these changes in society. In fact they give us greater opportunity to show that we are different because we are under the Lordship of a risen Christ.
We each, when we break the loaf at the Lord's Supper, identify ourselves with the Lord, since it is 'the communion of the body of Christ'. To do this and then to treat the rest of the day as having nothing to do with Him is to behave like the unsaved who attend a place of worship in the morning and then go shopping or to enjoy themselves during the remainder of the day. The world will not take our profession of salvation seriously if we act in this way. It gives the impression that our portion in Christ needs to be supplemented to bring satisfaction.
When we consider how we should behave on the Lord's day the cardinal question is, 'what would the Lord do on that day if He was here?' Would He celebrate the Lord' Supper and then go sightseeing or shopping? Would He go swimming or watch sport? Such ideas are blasphemous. Would He travel on the Lord's day for pleasure or to go on holiday? Scripture leaves us in no doubt that we are to take the Saviour's place in His absence and manifest His character. In every situation the answer to 'what shall we do' is 'what would He have done?' Would this not suggest that the time should be spent in serving Him in some way or in the study of His word?
Each time we relax our treatment of the Lord's day as a sanctified day we set a bad example to our family and other onlookers. As with all departures from the will of God, succeeding generations will take the departure a step further. By setting a bad example we will stumble others and we know how seriously this is viewed by the Lord. Lk.17.2
Have we ever thought that our attitude to the Lord's day will be one of the aspects of our life that will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ? Will we have to hang our heads in shame and lose reward because we have not kept the day for Him? Keeping the Lord's day in a reverential way as He desires may cost us something. Surely this is as nothing in comparison to the price paid by the Saviour for our salvation.
I had the great privilege of being born in a land called 'Bible loving' Scotland, in a Christian home. Thus I was privileged above many. My parents not only preached Christ to us but lived Christ before us. Twice in the week we attended meetings and four times on the Lord's Day we found ourselves among the people of God. Scripture is very clear, the greater the privilege — the greater the responsibility and the greater will be the judgment. How deep, dark and destructive will the punishment be of those who die in their sins, who have been raised in a Christian home. God spoke to me time and again, but like so many, I stirred for a short time but continued to live in sin.
When I was 13 years of age, special gospel meetings were held in Bethany Hall, Lochore. A brother called Patterson, who served the Lord in Bermuda, was preaching. One truth that seemed to be preached much in those days was the coming of the Lord and in those meetings this truth was being stressed. I knew if the Lord had to come, loved ones would be taken and I would be left for the wrath and judgment of God.
The meetings had continued for a few weeks and the Spirit of God had been striving with me. Sleep left me, my appetite had gone, and the truth of the coming of the Lord really bothered me.
On 7th January, after the Gospel had been faithfully preached, I waited behind to speak to the preacher. He read a few Scriptures to me that night, one of the verses was Isa.53.5.1 saw that night when Christ suffered on the cross it was for me. Then I could sing with the hymn writer:
Was it for me He bowed His head, Upon the cross and freely shed His precious blood — the crimson tide? Was it for me the Saviour died?
It was for me, yes, all for me; Oh, love of God so great, so free; Oh, wondrous love, I'll shout and sing, He died for me, my Lord and King.
I remember walking home that night rejoicing in the truth of sins forgiven. When I got home, as usual there were people visiting. I remember telling them I had gotten saved. My father asked me to come upstairs and he asked me how I got saved. When he came down stairs again he said to the others, "I think he has got it". After nearly 50 years in Christ I can say as we sometimes sing:
He'll do better for you than this world can do,
He's a mighty Saviour, He is good and true,
He will save you by His grace,
Until you see His face,
He'll do better for you than this world can do.
I worked in a coal mine which had its advantages. One was when you finished your work you never thought about it again until you returned the next day. The mine where I worked went on fire and I remember, in the quietness of my own room, seeking the mind of God for my life. One Friday night I remember reading my Bible and three Scriptures seemed to stand out. Gen.28.15(RV), "I am with thee and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest and bring thee again into this land" — God's promise to Jacob. Then Joshua 1.7(RV), "that thou mayest have good success whithersoever thou goest" — God's promise to Joshua. Also II Sam.8.6(RV), "The Lord gave victory to David whithersoever he went" — God's promise to David. We were always taught that every promise in the Bible is not to us but every promise in the Bible is for us. And with these three promises I left Scotland for Canada in 1965, arriving in London, Ontario, where I took up employment. Our time there with the saints who met in the Pall Mall Hall was very enjoyable.
During this time I met with George Campbell who invited me to visit Labrador. In May 1967 I left London for Labrador and spent the summer on the Gospel boat preaching in different villages on the coast of Labrador, Quebec and Newfoundland. Afterwards I returned to Scotland in September 1967. Looking back we can see God's faithfulness to His promise. In 1968, Irene and I were married (she comes from London, Ontario). We lived in Scotland for seven years but during that time we always had a desire to return to Labrador.
In the month of June 1975 we made inquiries at the immigration office in Glasgow, Scotland about immigrating to Labrador, Canada. They told us two things were essential: (1) We must have someone to sponsor us, and (2) I had to have a job to go out to. After one month we received a letter from the immigration office saying we had been accepted for Canada and my wife Irene, who is Canadian, was my sponsor, and no mention of a job.
We felt before the Lord that the door had been opened for us to move to Labrador. A verse of Scripture we did take comfort and encouragement from and it has been an encouragement to us down through the years, is Ps.45.10, "Forget also thine own people and thy father's house, so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty, for He is thy Lord and worship thou Him".
When we left Scotland we did not know what was before us, if secular work was before us we were prepared for that. We were in Labrador for three years preaching the gospel and ministering the Word of God in the assemblies in Newfoundland, and Labrador. In 1978 we received a letter from the brethren in London, Ontario, commending us to the work of the Lord, also along with the assembly in English Point, Labrador. We have spent 13 years on the coast of Labrador and as we look back we have much cause to thank God for His faithfulness and kindness towards us. Not one thing has failed of all that He has promised. We look back and can say, "How good is the God we adore, our faithful unchangeable friend".
We have visited many parts of Canada and some in the U.S.A. and have enjoyed the fellowship of God's dear people.
We would value the continued prayers of the saints that we may be led in a path that will glorify our God in His people being built up and sinners being reached and saved.
Politicians and humanists promise a brighter future, insurance companies and financial institutions encourage you to plan for the future, clairvoyants and fortunetellers claim to be able to foretell the future. Do you ever wonder what the future holds for you? Some people in their quest for this knowledge, consider it innocuous to read their horoscopes, unaware that only God knows what shall be. Satan himself knows no more of the future than is revealed in the Word of God. Others dabble to a deeper and more dangerous degree in the occult, very often with disastrous results.
Dear reader, I would like to focus your thoughts just now on the great eternal future, towards which all humanity is inexorably drifting as fast as time can carry them. You may have planned thoughtfully for your retirement and made contingency plans for the unexpected in life but have you made preparation for eternity, that endless, inexhaustible future which for all of us is inescapable? Life will pass with unbelievable speed and will surely end but the Scriptures pronounce very specifically on the eternal existence of the soul. Hebrews 9.27, "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment". In Luke 16.22,23 there are significant occurrences of the little conjunction 'and' to indicate that death is not the end. "...the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes...". Similarly in Job 14.10 we read, "But man dieth, and wasteth away: Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" Notice the present tense, "Where is he?" indicating the continuing existence of the soul.
Raise the telescope beyond the horizon of life and ponder this great question, "Where will I be in eternity?" The Bible speaks of two destinies for all mankind, irrespective of creed, class, character, clime or culture. Whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, pious or pagan, all will either be in HEAVEN or HELL. What determines which of the two it will be, is my attitude to the Lord Jesus and His death on Calvary — not my religious or political affiliations, not my philosophies or practices, not my efforts or piety. Without the experience of the new birth, salvation, through faith in Christ alone, we remain on the way which we commenced at birth, leading ever nearer to "everlasting punishment", Matt.25.46, "...this place of torment", Luke 16.28, "...the lake of fire", Rev.20.15.
We are absolutely powerless to effect any change by our own efforts, we are, according to Rom.5.6, "without strength". However, God, in amazing love and grace, provided a way of escape from the everlasting burnings. Rom.5.8, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"; 1 John 3.4 "...God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him". To make salvation available, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed", Is.53.5.
We committed the sins, we deserved the punishment but He bore it for us, not some of it, not most of it but Christ Himself assured us that He bore it all, for his penultimate cry from the Cross was, "It is finished": John 19.30. The fearful penalty has been borne, the ransom price has been paid in full, and everything needed to save souls from hell, has been fully done.
Dear reader, would you be prepared to believe Christ's words and depend alone upon Him to save you from hell and take you to heaven? Because of that glorious achievement by the Son of God, that dark day almost two millennia ago, the future for you will be bright and unclouded if you trust Him but please consider the alternative — a bleak future will be yours if life passes without you ever having put your faith in the only One who can save your undying, immortal soul.
We say so much that means so little. God says so little that means so much.
The life of Christ on earth was like a river of silver flowing through a desert of soot.
H. St. John.
"The way we spend the Lord's day may well be the straw which shows how the wind blows. The man who deliberately flouts the Lord's day, flouts the Lordship of Christ and shows the direction in which his whole life is tending".
I always like to have a censer for God, a basin of water for my brethren and coals of fire for my enemies.
W. W. Fereday.
What is modern method? It is the public admission that we think that God's ways have failed.