Haggai - Paper 6 — "I am with you," saith the Lord
Again Read Chapter 1.12-15
We have noted that the first of Haggai's four messages is found in 1.1-15 which was written TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15. It can be divided into four sections.
A) The Reproof, v1-11;
B) The Result, v12-15.
In the last paper we subdivided v1-11 as follows:
Their attitude, v12. They "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God … the people did fear before the Lord."
Their assurance, v13. "I am with you, saith the Lord."
Their activity, v14-15. "They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God …".
We have dealt with the first of these and must now consider the second and third sections.
ii) Their assurance, v13.
"Then spake Haggai, the Lord's messenger, in the Lord's message unto the people, saying, I am with you saith the Lord." After the solemn message in v3-11, it must have given Haggai great joy to comfort and encourage God's people! Their change of attitude enabled God to bless them with His presence. Up to this point, He had acted against them, see v9-11, not because He hated them, but to secure a change in their attitude. Now He was going to make it clear that He was for them. See Heb.12.11, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Notice, therefore, that God spoke to His people, v13, and God "stirred up" His people, v14. We must observe:
a) The messenger
Haggai was entrusted with the message. He was "the Lord's messenger." On the one hand, he was simply a "messenger": but on the other, he was a privileged and responsible servant of God.
It is so important to remember that however elevated our service might appear, we should regard ourselves as "unprofitable servants," Lk.17.10. Here is the full quotation: "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." As `the Lord's messengers,' we must "walk humbly" with God, Mic.6.8. John the Baptist described himself simply as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." Now read Rom.12.3.
It is equally important to remember that it is a great privilege to be "the Lord's messenger." We are "the servants of the most high God," Acts16.17. We represent Him faithfully. "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful," 1Cor.4.2. The message we carry is not ours to alter or amend. A messenger must convey the message committed to him without subtraction or addition. Jeremiah was told, "Diminish not a word," 26.2. Haggai faithfully conveyed the message entrusted to him, whether it involved reproof or encouragement. We must notice as well that Haggai was "the Lord's messenger, in the Lord's message unto the people." He had a responsibility towards them as well. Compare Rom.1.14, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise." The word "debtor" means exactly what it says: Paul was in debt to the Greeks and the Barbarians. He did not owe them a sum of money, but he owes them the Gospel! We owe it to men and women to let them hear the Gospel. How well are we discharging our debt?
But Haggai was also involved in the message. He was not `the Lord's messenger, with the Lord's message unto the people, but "the Lord's messenger, in the Lord's message unto the people." He was certainly not "the Lord's messenger, with his own message!" The man and his message were one. The prophets were not men who mechanically churned out sermons. They felt the weight of the Word of God themselves. That is why their messages are often called a "burden." See, for example, Isa.13.1, "The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see." How much do we feel the weight of God's word. Or, to put it another way, is the Word of God part of us? Listen to Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart," 15.16. Ezekiel was told, "Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel," 3.1-4. Compare Rev.10.8-11. Paul "was pressed in the spirit" at Corinth, Acts18.5. The RV has `constrained by the word' here, and W. E. Vine explains this as follows: `Paul felt the urge of the word of his testimony to the Jews at Corinth."
b) The message
"I am with you, saith the Lord." This is a great promise! Other passages come readily to mind. For example, "Let your conversation be without covetousness," and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," Heb.13.5. (This reiterates the promise made in Deut.31.6-8 and Josh.1.5). Matthew's Gospel commences with His presence: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us," 1.23. It concludes with His presence. "Go ye therefore, and teach (disciple) all nations … teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen," 28.19-20. This is very precious, but we must remember that, through Haggai, God promised His presence to people who had realised the folly of living for themselves, and given Him first place in their lives. If we want to experience the presence of God consciously and actively in our own lives, we must also give Him first place. Haggai emphasised the greatness of God. "I am with you, saith the Lord (Jehovah)." Promises are only as good as those who make them, and the French Bible says it all, `Je suis avec vous, dit l'Eternel!' They needed nothing else. The presence of God met every need. All their resources were in Him. This must have been a tremendous encouragement to them, especially when we remember that they are described as "all the remnant of the people." On the one hand, we have their weakness, with possible depression and discouragement, and on the other hand we have the presence of God! The evidence of God's presence with them follows:
iii) Their activity, v14-15
"And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, in the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king." There are at least four things to notice here:
a) The initiative.
It began with God, "And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … Joshua … all the remnant of the people." The recommencement of the work was not `their idea.' They responded to divinely-given conviction. In fact, the whole story of their return from captivity, and work of temple reconstruction, began with God. "Now, in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia …", 2Chron.36.22, Ezra1.2. We should be careful about making passionate appeals in connection with missionary work, and other aspects of service for God. The Lord Jesus said, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest," Matt.9.37-38. Barnabas and Saul were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost," Acts13.4. God took the initiative in connection with the work at Jerusalem.
We must not forget, however, that we must respond to God's initiative. See 2Tim.1.6, "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." See also 2Pet.3.1.
The leaders are mentioned next. "And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … and Joshua." See Ezra5.12. Having spoken through Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua "rose up … and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem." They were "ensamples to the flock," 1Pet.5.3. Timothy was to be an "example of the believers (objective genitive here; `be thou an ensample to them that believe,' RV), in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in purity." We must remember that an assembly seldom, if ever, rises above the example and standards of its leaders.
Finally, the people are mentioned. `And the Lord stirred up … the spirit of all the remnant of the people." Whilst, as we have said, the leadership set the people an excellent example, we must not forget that God "stirred up … the spirit of all the remnant of the people" in exactly the same way as he "stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … and Joshua." Both leaders and people acted out of divine conviction. It was not just a case of `follow my leader!' Conviction about the work got right down to the `grass roots' of the nation. Don't leave everything to the leadership in the assembly, and trade on their convictions. God wants us all to be concerned about His work.
b) The enthusiasm
Now let's alter the emphasis. `And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel … and the spirit of Joshua … and the spirit of all the remnant of the people." Whilst we could argue that "the spirit" refers to the highest part of man, it seems more likely that this refers to their inward desires and aspirations. Perhaps we can illustrate this from Rom.2.29, "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." God did not push reluctant people into the work: He gave them the enthusiasm to get on with the job. There is all the difference in the world between doing something reluctantly because it has to be done, and tackling a task with zeal and enthusiasm. Just look at the enthusiasm in Ex.35.21, "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation." Paul could say, "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers," Rom.1.9. If we are only `going through the motions' in our service for God, it won't be long before we grind to a halt. The Lord Jesus said, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart," Ps.40.8.
c) The energy
"They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God." Not `they came to the services,' but "they came and did work." Most assemblies have a core of workers plus a `fringe membership.' You will have to decide where you belong, and if it's the second category, transfer to the first now!
d) The expedition
They certainly didn't `hang about.' The work recommenced in twenty-four days. The ministry of Haggai certainly expedited the work. Just twenty-four days. How long does it take for Bible teaching to become effective in our lives?
—to be continued (D.V.)
Testimony in Troublous Times
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 6 — Assembling at the Altar (Ezra 3.1-7)
Ezra 2 ended with those newly returned from Babylon dispersing to their own home areas. Many priorities had to be attended to. Homes had to be built; agriculture and horticulture established; and the essentials of Jewish society reconstructed. During that time they were very aware of potentially hostile neighbours. Thus they encounter pressures unknown in Babylon.
While many matters pressed for legitimate attention, Ezra.3 shows their priority was to give God His proper place. "Back to the Word of God" was their determining attitude. Their calendar year and spiritual observances must be Biblical, not Babylonian. They therefore commence their civil year, as did their forefathers, with the feast of trumpets. "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you," Num.29.1.
Thus we have the first general regathering at Jerusalem for many long years. Individual submission to the Word of God produced unity of purpose and unanimity of mind. They gather at the place where their fathers worshipped and at the same time of the year in which Solomon’s temple was dedicated. "And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month," 1Kg.8.2. However these people in Ezra 3 cannot bring up the "ark of the Lord, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle," 1Kg.8.4. Much had been lost in Babylon, never to be recovered. And their return was not like that following the Exodus from Egypt. Hence they had returned without pillar cloud, Urim or Thummin, ark of the covenant, rod of power, divine fire upon the altar, manna, water from the rock, and, a mediator. But they counted on what they did have, God’s unchanging word.
So Jeshua and Zerubbabel, priest and governor respectively, and their families, built what could not be in Babylon: "the altar of the God of Israel." Like King David, 2Sam.24.25, they built the altar before there was a temple. They built strictly according to the law of Moses, Exod.20.25; Lev.17.2-7; Deut.12.5-11; 27.6, refusing to allow anything of human innovation. And in setting the altar upon its bases, they located it precisely in its former position on the old foundations where the altar of the temple of Solomon stood in the days before the exile. Thus their exercise complies with the Scriptural precedent of Moses, David and Solomon.
Continuing "steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine," Acts2.42 is the present day equivalent of this Old Testament example. Implicit obedience to the Word of God is still the hallmark of revival. And obedience is seen in both positive and negative aspect. They had learned by bitter experience in Babylon not to thwart Divine design. They would appreciate the injunction of God’s word, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls," Jer.6.16.
Their carefulness in exercise, while commendable in itself, must also be seen in the context of the opposition from the other inhabitants of the land. Fear brought them in dependence to God and in putting God first, they could count on His protection. Although His presence was no longer in their midst visibly, the efficacy of the burnt offering remained, Exod.29.38-46; Num.28.3-8. They give God His due even though everything was not complete. Consistent daily commitment marked them, which undoubtedly contributed spiritual tone to the celebration of their annual feasts.
It is significant that the feast of tabernacles is specifically mentioned, Ezra 3.4. This feast portrays the joy of millennial conditions. The vision of future blessedness is therefore brought to bear on present circumstances. For seven days the returnees remembered the wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan and, no doubt, reflected with gratitude on their own journey from Babylon. Num.29.12-34 shows that the numbers of animals offered over the seven days of this feast was the greatest of all: 70 bullocks, 14 rams, 7 goats and 98 lambs. There is no delay in their unstinting exercise as they "offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required," Ezra 3.4. They evidenced willingness and commendable spontaneity.
Consistent exercise is also to the fore. Twice daily morning and evening sacrifices were constant. This also continued through the feast of tabernacles when additional, onerous and time bound exercises were observed. And they were assiduous in offering burnt offerings associated with: the new moons, a monthly exercise; the seven annual feasts, periodic exercise; together with individual and personal free-will offerings, specific exercise.
This activity and freshness raises questions about our spiritual exercise. Are we constant in that which is expected daily, the reading of the Scriptures and in prayer? And are we consistent in that which is regular, attendance at all the assembly meetings? Also, what about our response to times of special exercise in relation to series of gospel meetings or seasons of ministry? In appreciation of our privilege there should be nothing sporadic or casual in our attendance and spiritual contribution.
The interesting outcome in Ezra 3 is that the zeal and exercise at Jerusalem became known as far away as Zidon, Tyre, Lebanon and Joppa. May we, in our local sphere, develop a quality of exercise that will have practical and beneficial effects in foreign lands!
—to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in aModern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.4 — THE CONSIDERATE LIFE (Continued)
(E) Reflect the Mind of Christ (Romans 15.1-7)
The early verses of chapter fifteen are a concise summary of the salient points of chapter fourteen. In ch.14 the apostle has been at pains to emphasise that we must be careful to avoid using our freedom in Christ to the detriment of other believers. We are to be considerate of others, especially those weak in the faith. The verses before us in this paper reiterate that truth and add that such consideration is the basis of true Christian unity. The example of Christ is brought to bear upon the subject and an appeal is made to the Old Testament Scriptures.
The paragraph comprising v1-7 is divided as follows:
1. An Exhortation to the strong, v1,2.
2. The Example of the Saviour, v3.
3. Their Encouragement from the Scriptures, v4.
4. An Expectation in prayer, v5,6.
5. The Expression of unity, v7.
1. An Exhortation to the strong, v1,2.
In v1 the exhortation to those who are strong in the faith has two aspects that are worth consideration. The first is the recognition of a moral obligation placed upon the strong. An understanding of the truth of ch.14 places an obligation upon the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak, "we then that are strong ought to bear…" The second is a refusal of self-gratification, "we ought … not to please ourselves." In v2 the exhortation has two aspects of equal importance. Firstly, there ought to be loving consideration of our neighbour, "let everyone of us please his neighbour for his good…" The affairs of others ought to be of paramount importance to us. Secondly, as we seek to please others it should be for their helpful edification, "… for his good to edification." Those who are strong ought to consider the weak by carrying their infirmities and consolidating their weakness.
a) A Moral Obligation, v1. In 14.1 the apostle tells us how a weak brother is to be received. Here in chapter 15.1 he tells us why the weak brother is to be received; it is a moral obligation — "we ought." The strong brother has no reason to glory in his strength, instead of self-glorying, he is obliged to use his strength to bear the infirmities of the weak and assist in his spiritual progress. As the strong brother does this, he recognizes his moral obligation and refuses self-gratification. Nothing is done to please himself. What a high standard is set in the considerate life! This is true self-denial. To bear the infirmities of the weak is much more than exercising patience to tolerate them — it is actually to carry them. To receive the weak (14.1) brings with it a burden to be carried — his "infirmities." When such are received, the strength of the strong brother is not used to intimidate or further weaken the weak brother; it is used to support the weak brother and his weaknesses. Nor will the weakness of the weak brother be ignored as the strong brother pleases himself, "we ought … not to please ourselves." This is contrary to human nature; to be self-seeking is the prevalent attitude of the world and ought never to be seen among believers.
b) Loving Consideration, v2. To "please his neighbour for his good to edification" is not the unworthy practice of man pleasing. The apostle was never a man-pleaser, yet he always sought to please his neighbour. This should be the motive in our lives and is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the "good Samaritan" Luke 10. The "strength" of the Priest and the Levite was not employed for the "good to edification" of their neighbour in all his weakness. The Samaritan appreciated who his neighbour was, what he needed, what would build him up and his own obligation towards the wounded man. The strong-arm tactics of legalism and judgmental excision are too easily practised. They are the methods of the flesh and a denial of the grace of God by which we have been received, Rom.15.7. So often the motivation in our acceptance of others is rooted in our personal preferences, and these preferences when satisfied, strangle the grace of God and eclipse true Christian love.
2. The Example of the Saviour, v3. The Lord Jesus is the supreme Example of not pleasing self. This is seen in two ways; His self-denial and His willingness to suffer. He willingly underwent the experience of bearing reproach for the good and benefit of others. When the example of Christ is placed before us as an incentive, it should bring to an end all the arguments and objections. We ought to follow His example in pleasing others. V3 is closely linked with the description of the condescending Christ in Phil. 2.4-8. In Philippians and here in Romans, the humility and consideration of Christ are held up as examples that place practical demands upon our behaviour.
3. Their Encouragement from the Scriptures, v4. Here we are taught that the Old Testament Scriptures have their use and application in our day. The example of Christ in v3 with the quotation from the Old Testament, classifies Psalm 69 as Messianic in character. The fact that we can see Psalm 69 fulfilled in the experience of Christ and that it is corroborated by the Holy Spirit should encourage us to look for Christ throughout the Old Testament. In this verse the "things written aforetime" have a three-fold purpose:
a) Instruction. The word "learning" is generally translated doctrine and here it is the idea of doctrine used for sound instruction. The Word of God imparts doctrine or divine truth that instructs the believer. It is good to remind ourselves that this is the sphere of true learning and knowledge. In these days of abundant educational opportunities and access to knowledge for all, we need to beware of the danger of secular intellectualism being substituted for spiritual intelligence. There is no substitute for the knowledge of God through His Word.
b) Encouragement. "That through patience and comfort of the Scriptures…" The Scriptures provide the encouragement needed for endurance, continuance and constancy in the things of God. The Psalms in particular offer a rich source of encouragement to those prepared to spend the time and effort perusing their pages. Many a soul has known real comfort and encouragement from the heartfelt experiences and simple petitions of the Psalms.
c) Expectation. "That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." As we read the Word of God and receive its instruction and encouragement, our hope is strengthened. Thus in the darkest hours and most perplexing situations of life, the child of God has in his heart an expectation of deliverance. Meditation on the Scriptures provides a sound mind, a steady walk and a sure hope for the Christian.
4. The Expectation in prayer, v5,6. The apostle has set Christ before the saints as an example of considerate living. Now in v5,6 he prays that the God of patience and consolation will give them a spirit of unity among themselves. The ultimate goal is the glory of God in the lives of His people. The various titles for God in chs. 15 & 16 are an interesting study: 15.5; 15.13; 15.33; 16.20.
a) The Character of God — Steadfastness and Encouragement, v5a. In v4 the Scriptures are the agency of patience and consolation, and now in v5 God is the author of the same two qualities. If they are to be likeminded towards each other, they will need steadfastness and encouragement to help them exercise consideration.
b) The Blessing of God — Harmonious and Charitable living, v5b. Paul’s request is that they be "likeminded one toward another." Here again he is summarizing the teaching of ch.14 where his exhortations are to; walk charitably v15, and peaceably v19. This can only be accomplished by following the example Christ gave; "according to Christ Jesus."
c) The Adoration of God — United in praise and glorifying God, v6. If the apostle’s request for them is granted by God and it is experienced in their lives, the result will be united praise and glory to God. This is the ultimate test of assembly life. We may boast in numbers, we may pride ourselves in knowledge, but if there is not united adoration of God in the gatherings of the assembly, we have missed the goal. The absence of united adoration for God indicates a lack of like-mindedness as expected by v5. To be likeminded will produce the conditions necessary for a united adoration of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice how the apostle demonstrates, as he often does in his writings, his knowledge of human nature; we should glorify God with one mind and one mouth. It may be in assembly activities that "one mouth" is demonstrated; we may all ascribe praise to God in our hymns, we might say amen to another’s worship and it be nothing more than an assent of the lips. If we are at variance with others in the assembly, we cannot truly glorify God with one mind and one mouth, both must be in harmony. This puts an end to playing at meetings; this brings to an end the hypocrisy of professing a unity that is only outward and superficial. Here we are in the realm of spiritual integrity. This cannot be faked or counterfeited. ch. 14 has dealt at length with spiritual relationships and conditions and now in ch. 15.1-7 we are faced with spiritual reality and its consequences.
5. The Expression of unity, v7. As we conclude the summary to this practical and searching section, the apostle appeals to both the strong and the weak. There ought to be a practical expression ("receive ye one another") to their spiritual experience ("as Christ also received us"). The section began in 14.1 with an appeal to the strong to receive the weak and the section now ends with a similar appeal to both the strong and the weak. In both cases the appeal for acceptance one of the other is based upon their own experience in salvation. In 14.1, "God hath received him," and in 15.7, "Christ also hath received us." As Christ brought glory to God in receiving us (15.7), so we will bring glory to God in receiving one another (15.6). The exhortation in 15.7 is not reception to assembly fellowship but receiving one another in personal relationships as in 14.1. This appeal for personal reception is made so that they might manifest a continual attitude of acceptance of others in the same manner and in the same measure that Christ received us. His unreserved reception of us with all our scruples and weaknesses is the standard expected among the saints. What greater reason could there be for receiving one another? Christ has received us; He has shown the same divine grace and mercy to each of us. What greater motive could there be for receiving one another than to glorify God? Too often we demonstrate a twisted concept of the Christian life. Instead of offering a winsome and gracious acceptance of one another, we project a grim-faced caricature of the grace of God. Christ demonstrated the grace of God freely when He received us, we in turn should display no less in accepting one another. There is more to spirituality than wrinkled brows, glaring frowns, pointing fingers and artificial expectations and demands. Nothing intimidates and immobilizes a Christian like the demands of legalism and the dictates of judgment. The late Donald Barnhouse expressed it succinctly when he said; "Love that goes upwards is worship; love that goes outwards is affection; love that stoops is grace." When we learn that we never deserved the grace of God, nor do we yet; then we will be prepared to magnify grace in our wholehearted acceptance of one another.
"As Christ also received us." How did Christ receive us? Read the early chapters of this epistle and see what we were in Adam. We were all in bondage, under the same tyranny of sin; there was "no distinction," 3.22. Yet a day came when we were gloriously set free through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 3.24. I love the last words of 3.22, "no distinction!" We didn’t have to be cultured, educated or fulfil some list of requirements to be accepted by Christ — we were all the same — nobodies! He accepted us as we were with all our sin. Moved alone by grace and love, Christ paid the price to free us. We have been set free. We have all been liberated on equal terms by the grace of God in Christ. Not one of us has a better standing than the other in Christ - read ch.8 and see what we are and will yet be in Christ. Hence the demand to "receive one another to the glory of God, as Christ also received us."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 4 — ARMY : THE SOLDIER
We have mentioned that Paul took illustrations from city life and from country life. He could see lessons from the Building and the Body and now from Army life, we too can learn lessons from the Battle.
Paul lived in the times of the imperial might of the Roman Empire and he moved in colonies subdued by the conquering forces of the Roman Legions. In later years he spent years in prison, sometimes chained to a soldier. He was arrested in the Temple, held in the barracks, imprisoned for two years at Caesarea and then conveyed as a captive on the long voyage to Rome. In prison at Rome he was in the custody of the elite Praetorian Guard. As constantly he watched the changing of the guard and he was in daily contact with Caesar’s household, he learned about army life. To the Colossians, he requested that they remember his bonds and to the Ephesians he wrote as an ambassador in bonds. Even before imprisonment, writing from Corinth to the Romans he spoke of "the armour of light," Rom.13.12, as sentinels changed guard before dawn. Also from Corinth, the seat of local government and a strategic military garrison, he wrote to the Thessalonians exhorting them to put on "the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation," 1Thess.5.8. When the war was almost over, contemplating the final victory to Timothy from prison, he could rejoice and say "I have fought a good fight," 2Tim.4.7
1) THE ARMY
From Paul’s writings we learn that we are in the army and from experience we are constantly reminded that we are in active service on the battlefield. "That he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier," 2Tim.2.4. We are not chosen to flowery beds of ease and whether we like it or not, after salvation we soon became aware of a three pronged attack by the world, the flesh and the devil. "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," 2Tim.2.3. We are not just regimental showpieces to be admired by men. We are in the thick of a conflict with the powers of darkness, where the enemy is working an all out offensive upon marriage, family life and assembly testimony. He knows that his time is short, his tactics are to take no prisoners, his terms are unconditional surrender and all too often he has the victory. On the contrary we should be on the offensive to the pulling down of strongholds and driving the enemy from the field so that all that is adverse to the prosperity of the believer is held in the positive power of the heritage of God. The reader may at times feel almost overwhelmed but God is engaged for us, His power, protection and promises are at our disposal. Why go a warfaring at our own charges? You may feel that everything is against you but really they do not count. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us," Rom.8.31,37.
2) THE ARMOUR
"Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil," Eph.6.10-11. Without armour and ammunition, the soldier would be defenceless against a hostile foe who is accomplished in stratagem. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand," Eph.6.13. This is no light skirmish. Can we hold the ground which we inherited or are we losing ground? Having subdued our passions and lusts we are to stand firm, stand upright, not lazy, not leaning upon the arm of flesh, not looking back in retreat. This stand will not be taken by the luxurious man, the lewd man or the lover of money.
Six items of armour are listed, which are not ours by position or rank, but are practical Christian graces essential for every believer in the conflict with self and sin.
i. THE BELT. "Having your loins girt about with truth," Eph.6.14. This strong leather girding apparatus, covered with metal plates fastened firmly around the loins. Put on first, it was to the soldier as it is to the believer, essential for safety, for support and for standing firm. The true, sincere man with nothing false, has nothing for the devil to work on. Elijah was hated but admired by the wicked Ahab.
ii. THE BREASTPLATE. "Having on the breastplate of righteousness," Eph.6.14. Covering the breast and the bent of the affections, this is not just standing but state. This is practical righteousness in our conduct before the eyes of the ungodly. Don’t leave anything exposed to the arrows of the enemy. Abraham was righteous and princely in his conduct before the Canaanites.
iii. THE FOOTWEAR. "Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," Eph.6.15. Proper footwear is essential if we are to be able to stand. This is not so much marching with the Gospel but standing resolute in the face of attack. Paul speaks of the Gospel, "Which I preached upon you, which ye also received, and wherein ye stand," 1Cor.15.1. This is the enjoyment and confidence of that quiet peace which we obtained when God saved us and which the devil wants to disturb. Said the dying saint, "I have great pain but I have great peace."
iv. THE SHIELD. "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked," Eph.6.16. The reference is to the large Roman shield which protected the whole body. The Lord prayed for Peter when he was under attack from the fiery darts of Satan, that his faith fail not. The shield of faith covers any deficiencies or weak points in the other parts of the armour. When we are under siege and the arrows of the wicked one, charged with combustible materials, seek to ignite a conflagration of doubt and anxiety, can we say like Job, "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him?"
v. THE HELMET. "And take the helmet of salvation," Eph.6.17. This is not only initial salvation but that cheerful, courageous, conscious assurance of mind that God will deliver in any given circumstance. God is our Deliverer past, present and future. When the war is over, we are assured of victory. This sustains us in the heat of the battle. In the midst of no small tempest, Paul could say, "I believe God," Acts 27.25.
vi. THE SWORD. "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," Eph.6.17. In the conflict with sin, self and Satan, we can go on the offensive and make marks with the sharp edge of the Word of God. We need to study its truth if we are to be skilful in its use. This is illustrated in how the Lord used the Word of God to defeat the devil when tempted in the wilderness. It is to be noted that the most characteristic weapon of the Roman soldier, the great pilumar or pike, is omitted. We are engaged in hand to hand, face to face conflict with relentless foes. It is a life or death battle with the world, the flesh and the devil.
3) THE ADVERSARIES
To wage a successful campaign, it is necessary to define, locate and pin down the enemy before we can launch the attack. Too often there is conflict in the assembly which is only mutiny in the ranks. Such will not be the case if there is a united front against the common foe. Paul warned against a three pronged attack:-
i) "The wiles of the devil," Eph.6.11. Still as subtle as he was in Genesis, the devil is seen in Ephesians as the one who seeks to upset our communion in the heavenlies. In World War 2, the enemy set clearly defined battle fronts and it was necessary to muster superior forces to defeat him. Presently terrorist activities can take the most elite army by surprise and even superior powers have little answer to subversive activists. The devil is a master at disguise and deception. He does not need to declare open warfare when he can be so successful in subversive activity.
ii) "The affairs of this life," 2Tim.2.4. The pressure and stress of the modern materialistic age and the quest for non essential luxury can so entangle and hamper God’s people as to leave them of little use in the extension of God’s Kingdom. When Britain was at war, the people lived on wartime rations. Paul exhorted self-denial as necessary, "for the present distress," 1Cor.7.26.
iii) "Make not provision for the flesh," Rom.13.14. When we have subdued every other foe we find that the greatest enemy is self. The conflict with the desires of the flesh is no light skirmish but a continual campaign of vigilance. When the sentry falls asleep, the whole camp is endangered. We are to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.
4) THE ATTACK
"The evil day," Eph.6.13. We must always be on guard against a surprise attack by the enemy. However, more often it is a prolonged war by which the enemy wears down our defences. Paul exhorts Timothy to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," 2Tim.2.3. The soldier requires patient endurance to hold on; clear separation from interests not compatible with the achievement of victory and earnest desire above all, to please the Commander "who hath chosen him to be a soldier," 2Tim.2.4. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds," 2Cor.10.4. The conflict is not all defensive. This is the counter attack and just like the Romans taking the rock forts along the coastline or throwing down the high tower of the enemy fortress, there is still much enemy territory to be brought under subjection. "Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," 2Cor.10.5. Some at Corinth had high thoughts, theories, imaginations and learning and were looking down on Paul and his teaching. These high eminences of pride are to be attacked, overthrown, demolished and made prisoner. We are to bring into subjection anything in our thoughts, not in keeping with the authority of Christ in doctrine, conduct and service.
5) THE ALERT
"Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep," Rom.13.11. Paul may have watched the guards in the long night watches, grow careless and weary, perhaps some even had a tendency to slumber. He would have us to be alert, ready for inspection, "the day is at hand," Rom.13.12.
6) THE ADVANCE
"Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ," 2Cor.2.14. Through Christ, victory is assured. "Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it," Col.2.15. After conquest, the victorious army would parade with the spoils of battle, the fragrance of triumph, the acclaim of the people, to receive the freedom of the city.
Through the victory of the cross, He has lead captivity captive and already we ride in the chariot of triumph with Christ. Rejoice, dear saint, that the battles will soon be over. The fragrance of victory and the acclaim of the people is to the Captain of our salvation. We join the divisions of the Redeemed, unfurl the blood stained banner of the cross and soon at the last trump, the camp will move out. "Everyone in his own order (division): Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming," 1Cor.15.23.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 2 — "EVERY MAN A LAMB"
Ten plagues in all fell upon rebellious Egypt. From nine of them the captive Israelites were markedly exempt. When their oppressors were enveloped in darkness that could be felt, the Israelites had light in their dwellings; when the deadly murrain destroyed the cattle of the Egyptians, the cattle of the Israelites escaped unharmed: when the hail wrought havoc with the crops of the one people, the crops of the other were absolutely untouched; and so on. The captives were spared all the providential inflictions from which their tormentors suffered. Thus did Jehovah openly signify the difference between those who were His and those who were not His. But when the moment came that the angel of death must be sent through the land, invading with his sword the homes of all who transgressed the divine will, Israel could be exempted no longer. However favoured these people might be, in the sovereignty of God’s grace, they were sinners like all others, Ezek.20.5-9; if therefore they were to be spared the last dread stroke some righteous ground for this must be discovered. This is why the lamb was prescribed.
The instructions concerning the lamb were very comprehensive. "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel saying, in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers a lamb for an house," Ex.3.12. There is no mistaking the plain force of such words as these. "All the congregation of Israel" were addressed, and "every man" was to take a lamb. There were at that time about six hundred thousand men amongst them capable of bearing arms; reckoning upon this basis there were probably some three millions of Israelites in Egypt that night. Amongst so large a number of people there were doubtless great differences in character and ways. The religious and the irreligious, and amiable and the cantankerous, the honourable and the dishonourable, the generous and the mean, not to mention the universal distinction between high and low, and rich and poor. But every man must take to himself a lamb. Neither character nor station counted for anything in the presence of the judgment of God.
In thus insisting upon a lamb Jehovah was thinking of Christ. 1Cor.5.7 puts this beyond all dispute, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." Accordingly this ancient story of Israel in Egypt has its voice for our consciences at this hour. Nothing counts with God but Christ. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," Jn.1.29. The most outrageous sinner who shelters himself in faith in Christ and His blood is secure from all alarms; the most estimable character that ever lived who has not humbly availed himself thus of God’s merciful provision is speeding to eternal ruin. No proposition could be more simple, and yet nothing seems so difficult for the human mind to grasp. We all love to think that there is something in us that should commend us to God; like the Pharisee of Lk.18.11 we are more or less disposed to say, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are." In such an assertion, however badly expressed, there may be a measure of truth, yet it still remains true that with God nothing counts but Christ. The Lamb, and the Lamb only, is our sole hope and plea.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Extempore Speaking. It's Uses and Abuses
by D. S. Parrack (England)
(Reading, 1 Cor. 14.26-33)
Although we have a record of a number of public addresses from the early days of the church, e.g. Acts 2.14-40 and 3.12-26, by Peter, and Acts 7.2-53, by Stephen, we probably do not think of them as extempore. They really were that though, a prior outworking of Peter’s challenge to all believers in general (see 1Pet.3.15). We normally apply the term, to teaching, or ministering, among believers, in situations where no fixed speaker has been invited or appointed, what we sometimes refer to as ‘open meetings.’ That such meetings took place in the early church is, it is considered, made plain by the way in which Paul deals with the matter in that part of his letter to Corinth referenced above. The two Corinthian letters are very much concerned with the functioning of local churches, and as we begin to appreciate something of their problems, and answers to them, we can also begin to understand just how God wanted those churches to conduct themselves and what provision He had made to make such conduct possible.
For two and a half chapters leading up to our short section here, Paul has been dealing with the subject of spiritual gifts, essential in enabling an assembly to function in line with Scriptural teaching. Their source, 12.4-11, their diversity, 12.18, their prime purpose, 14.1-5 and the overwhelming important ingredient without which none of these gifts are viable or effective, love, 13.1-13. Now he sets out to show how they should be exercised in the assembly gatherings.
We might perhaps wish that what he suggests as being the situation at Corinth was more true of our own assembly. "When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm - a doctrine - a tongue - a revelation - an interpretation," v26. It is, regrettably, very often the case that when we meet together we find that we have none of these things and the gathering seems on occasions to be almost moribund. It is true that sometimes ‘silence is golden’, but to over-quote that saying is often just to console, or perhaps excuse, ourselves. A failure to be exercised in the matter has led to an unfortunate decline, even dearth, of ‘open meetings’ in some areas and sisters especially have good cause to wonder sometimes what has happened to the brothers.
Paul is far from suggesting, though that because it is an ‘open meeting’ it need have no structure or any achievable aim. "Let all things be done unto edifying," v26. In these verses Paul deals with two gifts, that of speaking in tongues and that of prophecy. It is from the latter we will find some guidelines for teaching or ministry since that has replaced prophecy in our dispensation (see 2Pet.2.1).
Firstly we notice that a limit is set on the number of brethren exercising this gift at any one gathering, "two or three."
What is the expected response to prophesying or ministry? While the "two or three" are taking part audibly in turn, "let the other judge," v29. Judging, in this context, does not mean criticising, much less condemning. It has rather the sense of assessing, an alternative rendering might be to ‘discern.’ When individuals minister the Word of God, hearers are to adopt a positive role by allowing the ministry to have an effect on their own spiritual development. What happens, though, if by process of genuine spiritual discernment, it becomes apparent that what is being said is not edifying, that even if it cannot be faulted on the basis of it being actually wrong, it is nonetheless unsuitable or inappropriate for a given occasion or audience? "If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace," v30. This means that a response is needed from two parties. The current speaker should be conscious of the fact that someone else present has something more edifying, more Christ-honouring, to share with the congregation and in consequence should have sufficient grace to "hold his peace," to refrain from continuing with what he was saying. That though should not result in an empty or embarrassing silence. One of those aware of the unsuitability of what was being said previously should be ready, willing and able to take the other's place, with ministry more suitable and encouraging. But what happens, it may be asked, when any particular person taking part unacceptably is the only one present who is not aware of that fact? This comes within the work of an elder as outlined in Tit.1.7-11. It is certainly accepted that this passage covers a much wider sphere than inappropriate participation in ‘open meetings’ but it is suggested that that is included too. Such intervention needs handling with great delicacy but for the sake of the assembly it should not be shirked.
That does not mean that a speaker with enough grace to stand down has no further opportunity to minister in the future. "For ye may all prophecy one by one," v31. Bear in mind that though the reference to "two to three" v29, makes it quite plain that "all - one by one" does not mean on the same occasion, but as opportunity is given. There is still, even then, a guard against unprofitable ministry. It is to be "that all may learn and all may be comforted," v31. If what anyone has to say does not meet those criteria, then he should remain silent and allow others to benefit the saints with acceptable ministry. Someone who has a real heart for God’s people and wants the best for them, will not insist, as if by right, on giving them his second or third best. "The spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets," v32, and it is a good thing if we not only bear in mind the warning that "there is a time to keep silence" as well as "a time to speak" (see Ecc. 3.7), but also to learn to distinguish between those differing times in our own individual experiences.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
by C. Jones (Wales)
Many believers have passed through periods in their lives when they have lacked the full assurance that they have been saved eternally, by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Eph.2.8,9. This lack of assurance may be intermittent, in that a believer will have assurance for a while and then will lose that assurance, and then assurance will return only to be lost again, and so it continues. If a believer is suffering ill health or weakness, from whatever cause, the devil may take advantage of the believer’s low condition and cause him or her to lose assurance of salvation. Lack of assurance causes great distress of spirit and mind, and can ultimately have an adverse effect on a believer’s physical condition. Great sadness and despair are experienced and tears can be shed.
A believer in this sad condition sometimes wonders if he has committed the unforgivable sin and goes down and down into the depths of depression. The truth is that no one who yearns to be saved or for the assurance of salvation has committed the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. The troubled believer does not doubt God’s power to save eternally, through faith in the Lord Jesus. He may also believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, but is unsure as to whether he ever really trusted Christ or is truly and fully trusting Him at this present time. The devil causes confusion in the mind of the doubting believer.
Assurance of Salvation
The life we live in this present world is full of uncertainty. We are warned "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth," Prov.27.1. On the other hand, there are some things, and they are things that matter eternally, regarding which we can be sure. We can be sure of spiritual things. Once a person has been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is saved eternally and cannot lose that salvation, Jn.3.36; 5.24; 10.28. A believer has peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom.5.1, and nothing can change this. However, a believer may not always enjoy "...the peace of God, which passeth all understanding...," Phil.4.7, because this peace is lost when a believer sins. Sin interrupts fellowship with God: the joy of salvation is lost and effective service for God is impossible. The peace of God can only be recovered when the believer repents and confesses his sins to God, 1Jn.1.9. Obeying our righteous, holy God brings peace, for "...the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever," Isa.32. 17.
A believer’s complete and absolute assurance of salvation is not based on feelings but on a knowledge of God, belief in the eternal efficacy of the work of the Lord on the Cross, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
God is unchanging, Mal.3.6; Heb.13.8; Jms.1.17, cannot lie, Tit.1.2; Heb.6.18 and His Word is truth, Jn.17.17; Eph.1.13; Col.1.5.
The Word of God
In 1Jn.5.13 John tells us why he wrote the Epistle. He says "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, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Here the Holy Spirit is stating clearly and definitely, through John, that a believer may know, that is have full assurance, that he has eternal life. Assurance is based on believing God’s Word. John uses the word "know" many times in this Epistle.
The worried believer needs assurance: he needs to know that he is eternally saved. It is possible from a study and belief in the Word of God to have this assurance. If we keep His commandments this is evidence that we know Him, 1Jn.2.3. We may fail and sin, but if we repent and confess our sin, and in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit strive to keep His commandments, this is evidence of our regeneration and salvation. Again "whoso keepeth his word," 1Jn.2.5, knows he is saved. A believer has further evidence, and can know he is saved, if he seeks to do that which is righteous, 1Jn.2.29; does not sin continually, 1Jn.3.9; 5.18, and loves the brethren, 1Jn.3.14.
A believer who trusts the statements given in God’s Word will be assured of salvation through the witness of the Holy Spirit, Rom.8. 16. The Spirit will provide evidence of His dwelling within a believer, 1Jn.3.24; 4.13, by producing fruit in the believer’s life, Gal.5.22,23.
The Lord said ". . .I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand," Jn.10.28. These are the words of the Lord, who is the truth itself, Jn.14.6, who loves and gave Himself for each individual believer, Gal.2.20. He saves "them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them," Heb.7.25. He said "...him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out," Jn.6.37.
Paul’s assurance of his salvation was based on his knowledge of God, for he said "...I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day," 2Tim.1.12.
It behoves us to examine ourselves to see "whether ye be in the faith," 2Cor.13.5. Once we are sure that our faith and trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ then to lack assurance of our salvation at any time in the future is to disbelieve the truths and assurances given in the Scriptures, to imply that God is a liar, 1Jn.5.l0, and to lose the peace, comfort and confidence which we should enjoy. Such disbelief hinders praise and love for God, stifles spiritual growth and prevents effective service for God.
The Holy Spirit tells us "...neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Rom.8.38,39. These wonderful words give great assurance.
To turn once again to John’s First Epistle, where so many things are stated that we may know, we read "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life," 1Jn.5. 12. These words leave no room for doubt regarding the position of the person who is saved and the one who is lost. The Word of God speaks clearly and gives comfort and assurance to each individual believer. God says to His children, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine," lsa.43. 1.
My Conversion and Call (75)
by T. Kember (Canada)
The writer was raised on a farm in Southern Ontario, Canada, one of eleven children. My parents had, after much soul trouble, received peace in Christ, and gathered with an assembly which met in a town about five miles distant.
My mother took time to school us in divine truth while we were young. She was an avid story teller, and often gathered us around the kitchen table, where we listened with pleasure to Bible incidents, missionary adventure and biography. At the time, I thought nothing of my father stopping work to get us to the meetings, but I now see that no little conviction was present, to thus put our salvation first.
In the fall of 1935, the late Charles Keller and A. P. Klabunda had six weeks of gospel meetings in Sarnia. I attended all of those meetings. I was deeply concerned about my soul, and wanted to be saved. Being brought up as I was, however, I thought that I knew how to be saved. My sister Martha (who later went as a missionary to Venezuela) was saved at that time. The meetings closed, and I was still in my sins.
In January 1936, Lorne McBain and Robert Crawford came to Sarnia, and nightly meetings began again. I learned afterwards that the brethren were much cast down, as the fourth week of the meetings was entered and none was yet saved. Salvation now became my chief concern. I read different gospel booklets and asked God to save me, but no light came.
On the Tuesday night of that fourth week of meetings, my closest brother John came home saying that he had been saved during the meeting. He told me that it was very easy, which annoyed me, as we had before agreed that it was very difficult.
Friday night at the door, Mr. Crawford gave me a tract called "Sudden Summons." I lay in my bed and read the tract, while my two brothers slept. It said the same thing that I had heard so many times before. People seemed to suddenly see something about Jesus' death that they hadn't seen before.
I stopped reading, thinking "I'm as dark as a heathen." Then I began to reason: "Didn't Jesus die for the ungodly?"
"Well, isn't that me?"
"No argument at all — I'm the one." "Did He die for my sins?"
"Well, isn't that what the text says?"
"Surely it can't be that simple. Why didn't those preachers tell me?"
After a while, I got down on my knees by the bed, and thanked God for Jesus' dying on the cross. I turned out the light and went to sleep.
In the morning, I thought, "Did I get saved, or did I dream it"" I went over Rom.5.6 again — "Christ died for the ungodly." That was clear enough, so I went down to the kitchen, where breakfast was being made. On telling my mother that I'd been saved, her answer was "How?" I was somewhat non-plussed, and finally said, "I believed that Jesus died for me."
More than sixty years have come and gone. What I got then, I still have now — that assurance from the Scripture that Jesus took my place.
Conversion does make a great change, creating in the soul a love for our Lord Jesus, a tender conscience about sin, and a desire to tell others of the Saviour. Some of the elders of the Sarnia assembly influenced my life in a marked way. They accompanied a number of young men in open-air meetings, and looking back, I can appreciate their patience with us. They would counsel us, and we felt that they were really on our side.
Having a desire to give ourselves to the work of the gospel, we looked for openings. In 1947, we came to help Mr. G. P. Taylor for the summer in tent work in the Bay of Quinte area, in Eastern Ontario. Finding some interest in the gospel, my wife and I moved to the area and have made it our home. An assembly was formed in Picton in 1950. It has known many ups and downs, but continues to this day. It was in 1949 that I was commended to the Grace of God for the work of the Gospel by the Assembly in Sarnia, Ontario. At that time they met on College Street, now on London Road.
We have known and respected many godly men over the years. One in particular was Mr. Archie Stewart, who took an interest in us and joined us at times. While in meetings together in the city of Peterboro, he and I went to the office of the big Canadian General Electric plant, and asked to tour their factory. The officer replied "Yes, providing you don't work for a competitive company." Mr. Stewart glanced my way with a twinkle, and said, "Oh, we work for a far bigger Company than General Electric. It has three partners, and will never go broke." The man caught on, and said "OK, I'll get you a guide." Mr. Stewart was unique.
Along with other men, we have sought to carry the gospel into many years. We likely began with unwarranted expectations, forgetting our Lord's words "The servant is not greater than his Lord; if they have hated Me, they will hate you." "However, there has been some lasting fruit in the gospel, for which we bless the Lord. We acknowledge His faithful supply, and the prayerful encouragement and support of His people. We need to remember what a great privilege it is to be "workers together with God."
Good Tidings from Heaven
Some of the greatest feats of engineering have been achieved by bridge-builders. The seemingly impossible has been accomplished as amazing structures have spanned wide stretches of water or deep canyons. The longest bridges in the world are the two parallel Lake Pontchartrain causeways which connect the cities of New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana. They stretch for an almost unbelievable length of 38.6 kilometres.
But the greatest bridge-builder of all times has been the Lord Jesus. He has spanned the yawning chasm between a Holy God and ungodly sinners. This gulf developed after Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden and Genesis 3 ends with God driving out the man whom He had created, from His presence.
Other verses confirm this sad condition: "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear," Isaiah 59.2. Ephesians 2.13 speaks of those "who sometimes were far off …" Romans 5.10 refers to us as enemies of God. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works …" Colossians 1.21. The ingenuity and skill of man could never have provided the answer but the great redemption plan, designed by God, reflects His wisdom, power and eternal love.
How can God and sinners be reconciled, how can peace be made? There is need of a Mediator who can satisfy the demands of God’s justice and meet the exceeding need of sinners. He must be able to deal with the problem of sin which has caused the distance. Thank God, God found such a Mediator in the person of His own Son. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son …" John 3.16; "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) … John 1.14; "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Timothy 1.15; "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," Luke 19.10; "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus," 1 Timothy 2.5.
If peace is to be made, then God’s justice must be appeased and His righteous claims met in full. Then and only then can mercy be shown to sinners who deserve nothing but eternal banishment from God. The sufferings of Christ upon the Cross are God’s full and final solution to the problem of sin.
"And, having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself," Colossians 1.20; "…God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself," 2 Corinthians 5.19.
At Calvary, God meted out to His sinless Son the judgment deserved by us eternally and uncomplainingly, willingly, Christ bore the fearful penalty in full and at length was heard to triumphantly proclaim, "It is finished!" This signifies that a full atonement has been made, the debt has been paid, the work has been done and the judgment has all been borne.
To have your sins forgiven and enjoy the blessedness of reconciliation, you have but to trust Christ. Any further efforts on your part will be an insult to Him who claimed to have done all upon the Cross.
This may seem simple, but failure to trust Christ will result in you being in that dread place of torment referred to in Luke 16 from which there can be no escape. "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." Luke 16.26 That gulf is unbridgeable.
His Decision - John 3:
His Defence - John 7.50,51:
His Devotion - John 19.39. J. Neilly (Scotland)
Peace through the Blood of His Cross
Colossians 1.20 — (From "A Bunch of Memorandums")
Perfect peace, that timeless treasure,
Knowing neither bound nor measure,
Endless in its flow.
Love of God, Christ must secure it,
Wrath of God, Christ must endure it,
All its terrors know.
O what peace there is in knowing
That the river still is flowing
Of eternal grace.
Grace displayed in yonder manger,
And the Galilean Stranger
Wondrous to retrace.
Peace! no tongue can ever show it,
Only they can truly know it
Who from sin depart,
O it passes understanding,
Sentinel of God's commanding
Keeping thought and heart.
Yesterday, Today, Forever,
Peace there is that changes never,
Neither shall it cease.
For the death of Christ has made it,
And the dreadful price, He paid it,
Of eternal peace!
Ps.107.29 ‘He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.’
Ps.46.9 ‘He maketh wars to cease …’
Ps.23.2 ‘He maketh me to lie down in green pastures …’
Ps.18.33 ‘He maketh my feet like hinds' feet …’
Ps.147.14 ‘He maketh peace in thy borders …’
J. Neilly (Scotland)
We are not what we think we are — but what we think we are.
Thoughts dye our souls.
Reason puts man above the beast, but faith puts the Christian above man.
O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
Just and true are Thy ways.
O Lord, if this then be the path
That Thou would'st have me tread,
Make me to trust implicitly
Thy wisdom, and be led.
I cannot understand the way
So surely marked by Thee;
But unto Thy most holy will
I would submissive be.