Many of the world’s leaders want us to believe that society is getting better and better and is evolving into some kind of a great Utopia and the age of Aquarius, when every problem will be solved and all men will live in peace and prosperity. This is just the opposite to what is taught in the Scriptures of truth. 2Tim.3.13 states clearly and unambiguously, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." 2Tim.3.1 tells us that such is a mark of the last days, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."
There is little doubt that we are presently in such days. It is most interesting to note that the word for ‘perilous’ is only used on one other occasion in the New Testament and that is in Matt.8.28, "there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way." It seems clear that these demon possessed men were showing features which would be widespread in the last days. Such features were, devoid of clothes; deranged mind; dwelling among the tombs and destructive power. These are seen on every hand. Immodest dress, an interest in the occult, pornography and a rejection of authority are acceptable now in society. Not only in society generally, but in what we know as Christendom. Note v5, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:"
What resources do we have in the midst of this? What will keep us in touch with heaven until He comes for His bride? Do we join in and have some great ecumenical umbrella? The apostolic command is clear, "from such turn away." The first resource we have is A PARTING FROM EVIL, even or perhaps, especially, when it is in a religious guise.
The latter part of the chapter gives us four more resources. These are:
v10-12 - PATTERN OF PAUL:
Timothy was thoroughly acquainted with Paul and his life. This was more than mental knowledge; it implies to carefully note with a view to reproduce. What was the basis of Paul’s life? Note what is first, "my doctrine." This is the basis of all else. My convictions control my character; my beliefs control my behaviour. Only then does he speak of his, "manner of life." My dear brethren, if we are not right in doctrine we will not be right in anything.
v11 - PRESENCE OF THE LORD:
We may say that such a life will be hard and costly. Paul tells us of another precious resource, v11 "but out of them all the Lord delivered me." He is still the same and we can rely on His companionship and presence when we do what is right and Scriptural. Very often it is in the storms of life that we experience His nearness in a special way.
v14 - PERSISTENCE IN THE TRUTH:
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them:".
He was to abide in the unchanging character of truth and not be blown about by the sin that was all around. Error is always looking for something new and novel but we remember 2.2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
The character of those who taught underpinned the truth. Good men teaching good things will produce good Christians.
v16 - PROFITABILITY OF THE SCRIPTURES:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
Scripture is PERFECT since it is given by inspiration and it is PROFITABLE. Scripture is "inspired" which means, God breathed. Not that the authors were breathed into, but the words of God were breathed out. This is NOT superintendence; suggestion; direction; elevation of writer’s mind. It is God breathing without destroying the personality of the human instrument.
Since this is so, we should spend time over the inspired record and carefully note and weigh every word. If we want to know the will of God, it is revealed exclusively in the Scriptures. God will never guide contrary to the Scriptures, nor should our personal experiences override the Scriptures. This wonderful book is the only guide book for believers.
The study of the Word and obedience to that which is revealed will ensure that we are "perfect" - complete, entire and mature throughly - and "furnished" - completely fitted out - unto all good works. Thus the man of God, in following the word and ways of God, is in total contrast to the defiled society at the beginning of the chapter.
Let us fully utilise these resources and thus be preserved until we see His face which may not be long delayed. Rom.13.11, "for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
In our reflections on the year that is past, we recall the passing of beloved brethren in Christ who were marked by a knowledge of God. Steadfast, highly principled and guides in the assembly for many years, such are no longer with us. We cherish the memory of these dear brethren who are now in the presence of the One Whom they loved and served.
Sadly too, in our reflections, we feel that the spirit of the age has left its mark upon us in many ways. Do we not lament at times the absence of blessing in the Gospel? Are we not conscious of a barrenness in our gatherings - especially as we meet to remember our Lord Jesus on the first day of the week? Do younger brethren have the same interest and convictions regarding the assembly as that of a previous generation?
As we examine ourselves spiritually and personally we feel a lack of love and true devotion to the Person of our Lord Jesus. How relevant the words of Christ Himself "... and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold," Matt.24.12. Thankfully God has not changed. He knows us with all our failure and sin and graciously pardons and restores where repentance and obedience to His Word are seen. May the Lord enable all of us to take stock and adjust our lives accordingly, in view of the brevity of life and the nearness of His coming.
The aim of the Assembly Testimony magazine always has been the circulation of written ministry that aims to assist in the understanding of the Scriptures and thus is for the edifying of His people. We greatly appreciate our editor, secretary and accountant who give of their invaluable time and skills in this work. We are also indebted to those who contribute articles to the magazine or help by their prayers and financial support.
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
The Hebrew name for the fifth book of Moses is Haddebharim "The words," and the title is taken from the first verse of the book: "These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness." Our title, Deuteronomy, was first assigned to this book in the Septuagint Version, made towards the end of the third century B.C., in which the Old Testament Scriptures were translated from Hebrew into Greek. The name is taken from the Greek deuteros (second) and nomos (law). We must not think, however, that Deuteronomy is simply a repetition of previous instructions, with particular reference to the new generation of Israelites who had grown up in the wilderness. This is clear from 29.1, "These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb." As we shall see, the book of Deuteronomy sets out the terms and conditions on which Israel could enjoy their inheritance in Canaan.
In our introductory study, we must consider:
(1) The position of the book, (2) The purpose of the book, (3) The plan of the book.
1) THE POSITION OF THE BOOK
There is a progressive spiritual order in the first five books of the Bible. In fact, it has been said that the Pentateuch can be regarded as the Bible in miniature. In Genesis, we have ruin through man’s sin; in Exodus, deliverance by "blood" and "power;" in Leviticus, communion on the basis of atonement; in Numbers, direction under the guidance of God; in Deuteronomy, destination provided by God. While each of these is a study in itself, the five books together comprise a beautiful picture of salvation.
There are other ways to look at these books. For example, in Genesis, the doctrine of electionis clearly taught. The sovereign choice of God is seen throughout the book. In this connection, notice Paul’s observations in Rom.9.11 on God’s choice of Jacob as opposed to Esau. In Exodus, the elect people are redeemed from bondage in the same way that those who are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" have been "redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," 1Pet.1.2, 18-19. In the book of Leviticus, the redeemed people are engaged in worship and priesthood in the same way that those "redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ" are "an holy priesthood" and a "royal priesthood," 1Pet.2.5, 9. In Numbers, the priestly are engaged in service, walk, and warfare in the wilderness in the same way that priestly people today are equally "strangers and pilgrims" who must "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul," 1Pet.2.11. In Deuteronomy, the wilderness gives place to the land of inheritance and possession in the same way that whilst we are at present "partakers of Christ’s sufferings," we will be "glad also with exceeding joy" when His glory shall be revealed." Then, we will enjoy to the full our "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away," 1Pet.5.13, 1.4. We shall see, of course that, strictly speaking, Canaan is not a picture of heaven, and that this only makes the lessons of Deuteronomy all the more relevant to ourselves. However, Deuteronomy is not only the last book of the five: it beautifully and properly completes the Pentateuch, both for Israel, and for us. This brings us to:
2) THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
The grand purpose of Deuteronomy was to show God’s people the way to permanent enjoyment of the "good land," 1.25, 1.35, 3.25, 4.21-22, etc. The narrative of the book is punctuated with such expressions as "the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it," 15.4. "Inherit" and "possess," and their associates, are key words, and are found frequently. God wanted His people to enjoy their inheritance, but this demanded high standards, and failure to maintain them could only bring dispossession. This is spelt out with overwhelming clarity in ch.28. Note the consequences of obedience in v1-13, and of disobedience in v15-68. Possession and enjoyment of the land depended on obedience to the Word of God. Divine blessing is always dependent on obedience. This is why we are to be "obedient children," 1Pet.1.14. There is nothing mysterious about spiritual enjoyment and spiritual strength. The Lord Jesus taught this clearly: "Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock," Matt.7.24.
While we must obviously recognise, as a matter of sound exegesis, that the book of Deuteronomy was written for Israel, we must also remember that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." The "statutes and judgments" stress principles which are common to both Old and New Testaments, and we must make it our business to identify these lessons. Deuteronomy, with its 34 chapters, should not be a formidable proposition, but a powerful tool in Christian living. It can help us to possess and enjoy our spiritual inheritance now, for whilst we do have "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven," we also have a present inheritance in Christ. We have been "blessed … with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," Eph.1.3. Those blessings are enumerated in the epistle. For example, "chosen … in Him;" "predestinated … unto the adoption of children;" "accepted in the Beloved;" "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins," 1.4-7. Surely we want to possess and enjoy such a rich inheritance! Deuteronomy will help us here, for whilst Canaan cannot be a picture of our eternal inheritance in heaven, it is certainly a picture of our current inheritance in Christ. Our eternal security is never in question once we have received Christ as Lord and Saviour, but the enjoyment and possession of our blessings in Him can be speedily lost without submission and obedience to the will of God in our lives. This is the broad lesson of Deuteronomy for us. With this in mind, we should add that whilst, historically, Israel entered the wilderness before they entered the land, Christians know what it is to be in "the wilderness" (Numbers) and in "the land" (Deuteronomy) simultaneously!
It is worth pointing out that Israel, disobedient and stiff-necked, has never ceased to be God’s people, even when dispossessed of their inheritance in Canaan. The latter chapters of Deuteronomy will make this clear, and it is hardly necessary to add that both Old and New Testaments concur in this. See the powerful arguments of the apostle Paul in Rom.9-11.
3) THE PLAN OF THE BOOK
The book of Deuteronomy can be divided into two main parts:
(A) The retrospective section, ch.1-11 and (B) The prospective section, ch.12-34.
A) Looking backwards, Chapters 1-11
This section of Deuteronomy is historical in character, and does two things. In the first place, it states certain facts, ch.1-3, and the second place, it applies those facts, ch.4.11.
i) Ch.1-3 are ‘Bald’ history. They relate historical facts without comment. (Apart from 1.11, "the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as He hath promised you!"). Moses traces the journey from Horeb, via Kadesh-barnea, to the plains of Moab. This section emphasises the need to know the facts of the Bible. We must know what it actually says. The teaching of the Bible is rooted in fact. One of the most significant verses lies on the threshold of the section. "There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb, the way of mount Seir, unto Kadesh-barnea," 1.2. It is a very solemn warning of the consequences of disobedience and unbelief. Eleven days ultimately became thirty-eight years. See 2.14.
ii Ch.4-11 interpret the facts. They give us their significance. In these chapters Moses emphasises the lessons of their history. In ch.4-7, he reviews events at the beginning of the journey: in ch.8-10, he reviews events during the journey: in ch.11, he describes the land at the end of the journey. These chapters deal extensively with the qualities required in God’s people. Great emphasis is placed on the fact that Israel was to be utterly devoted to Him, with corresponding devotion and obedience to His Word. This is emphasised by the repeated expression, "The Lord thy God," which occurs on countless occasions in the book. Ch.11 concludes with these words: "Behold I have set before you this day a blessing and a curse: a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God … and a curse, if ye will not obey."
B) Looking forward, Chapters 12-34
This section of the book gives us the final instructions of Moses to Israel, ch.12-30, and the final actions of Moses before his death, ch.31-34.
i) The final instructions of Moses, ch.12-30. The teaching of Moses commences with the words, "These are the statutes and judgments which ye shall observe to do in the land." Previous references to the "statutes and judgments" are general in nature, and emphasise how they were to be kept. A right attitude to divine authority must be established before attention can be given to details. Divine instructions would become a mere chore without obedience flowing out of devotion. See 6.5-6, reminding us of the words of the Lord Jesus, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments," Jn.14.15.
The "statutes and judgments," enumerated in ch.12-26, are most comprehensive, and embrace all aspects of national and individual life. They begin with particular emphasis on the "place which the Lord your God shall choose," 12.5, 11, 18, 21, 26. The subsequent instructions include the procedure to be followed in cases of reported idolatry, ch.13, dietary regulations, ch.14, cities of refuge, ch.19, and divorce, ch.24. These are just samples of the wide variety of subject-matter in these chapters! We can consider this to be the central section of Deuteronomy: it is rich in lessons for the believer. We learn that the Word of God touches every part of our lives.
Ch.27-28 extend ch.12-26 by enumerating the results and consequences of obedience and disobedience. The subsequent history of Israel has shewn the accuracy of these predictions. In ch.29-30, the whole body of teaching commencing with ch.4 is presented in the form of a covenant. The covenant enumerates the conditions in which Israel would possess Canaan, and has particular reference to the nation’s restoration from dispersion and captivity following repentance.
ii) The final actions of Moses before his death, ch.31-34. These chapters cover the charge of Moses to Joshua and the Levites, ch.31, the song of Moses describing the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel, ch.32, the blessing of Moses upon the tribes, ch.33, and the death of Moses on Mount Nebo, ch.34.
Sir Winston Churchill described Moses as ‘the greatest leader the world has ever seen,’ but the Bible says, "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face."
In our next paper, we will address the historical details given in Chapter 1.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Testimony in Troublous Times
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 11 — The man for the moment (Ezra Chapter 7.1-10)
There is a period of 58 years between Ezra chapters 6 and 7. This was a time of considerable political significance when the expansion of the Persian empire was checked, in the west, by the Greeks at the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis. Of this, nothing is recorded in Scripture.
However, the Divine record does bear testimony to the exercise and faith in this period of the devout Jew Mordecai who, under the hand of God, preserved from annihilation all Jews throughout the Persian empire. That story is recounted for us in the book of Esther. It is commended as associated reading because the history from Ezra chapter 7, and in Nehemiah, is a direct result of Mordecai’s, and Esther’s, faithfulness and courage at the Persian court. Using them, God preserved the Jews, including Ezra, Nehemiah and all their worthy contemporaries.
The events we will now consider occur at Babylon "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king," Ezra 7.7. This is BC 458, some 78 years from Zerubbabel’s return in the reign of Cyrus, Ezra chapter 1. Although Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son of Xerxes I who married Esther, is an important historical figure, Scripture focuses only on his association with Ezra’s and, later, Nehemiah’s expeditions to Jerusalem. It is also important to note that it is not Artaxerxes’ genealogy and the history of the Persian dynasty that is here recorded, but Ezra’s lineage from Aaron.
Ezra’s ancestors (Ezra 7.1-5)
Ezra was a direct descendant, probably a great-great-grandson, of Seraiah the High Priest who had been executed by Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25.18-21. Now, 129 years after that day of infamy, Ezra is preparing to return to Jerusalem. In his genealogy he could also count Hilkiah the High Priest who "found the book of the law in the house of the Lord", which was instrumental in revival in the reign of King Josiah, 2 Kings 22.8. Also in his lineage was Zadok, who remained loyal to David in both the Absalom and Adonijah rebellions and was rewarded with the position of High Priest in place of the treasonable Abiathar, 1 Kings 2.35. Further back still was Phineas who used the javelin to oppose Israel’s compromise with the Midianites and stay the plague from Israel, Num.25.7,8. Also there was Eleazar and Aaron. What illustrious lineage!
The secret of Ezra’s greatness (Ezra 7.6-10)
However, it was not his links with noble forebears that determined Ezra’s greatness. "He was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given", Ezra 7.6. A man of the book, he interpreted, unfolded and taught the meaning of God’s Word to God’s people. He was learned in the Scriptures, having made the written law the subject of detailed investigation. Ezra was the principal example in his time of the type of men we long to see raised up in our day: those who give themselves to the study of God’s Word, who become expert in the understanding of its meaning and skillful in its teaching.
But what was it that developed these abilities? Simply this, "Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments", Ezra 7.10. First of all, he recognised that the Scriptures had been given by the Lord God of Israel. This gave him a reverential appreciation of the sacred text. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him", Psa.25.14. And our appreciation should be no less than his because "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works", 2 Tim.3.16,17.
Secondly, with self-judgment he sought to acquire the highest possible knowledge of God’s mind and will through sacrificial, diligent, methodical study of the Scriptures. This required whole-hearted, resolute, personal application. He was not only devoted to the study of God’s Word in a general way, but was disciplined to seek its precise meaning and purpose. "O how love I Thy law! It is my meditation all the day", Psa.119.97.
The third aspect of the secret of Ezra’s greatness for God was in his preparedness to apply those same Scriptures to his own life "and to do it". It was not a matter of academic study to secure a reputation for knowledge and ability. Rather he aimed to scrupulously obey God’s Word, become the embodiment of those truths and fulfil the will of God. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine", John 7.17. This attitude brings its own reward. "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed", Jms.1.25.
It was only after he had applied doctrine to himself that Ezra would "teach in Israel statutes and judgments". Thus he had moral authority. Without such authority, teaching is powerless. But where moral authority exists, it will have influence upon succeeding generations. "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also", 2 Tim.2.2.
Let us not pass over this lightly for men of this calibre are rare and greatly needed. Ezra became a great man for God in his day because of his single-minded, thoughtful, character-forming exercise in the secret place. What he became was in direct proportion to the quality and quantity of the time he spent in private in God’s presence with God’s Word. Surely there is a lesson here for us?
—to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.5 - THE CONSECRATED SERVANT (Continued)
(B) Paul and the Poor Saints (Romans 15.25 - 29).
In our last paper we noticed that the paragraph comprising ch.15.25-29 divides as follows:
1. The Special Commission (v25).
2. The Saints’ Contribution (v26).
3. The Gentiles’ Indebtedness (v27).
4. The Servant’s Commitment (v28,29).
We dealt with the first two and now we come to sections 3 and 4.
3. The Gentiles’ Indebtedness, (v27). The Apostle demonstrates that all the Gentiles are indebted to the Jewish believers and that the Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia responded willingly to that obligation.
(A) Their Moral Obligation. Paul uses three terms to add emphasis, and points to the fact that the gift was the discharge of an obligation upon the Gentile saints.
i) "Yea, it hath been their good pleasure," (R.V.). He not only re-states the pleasure of the Gentiles to send help (see v26, "For it hath pleased them..."), but he goes on to explain why they were pleased so to do. This was more than philanthropy; it was motivated by a deep spiritual debt.
ii) "And their debtors they are." In ch.11 Paul speaks at length of the nature and extent of the debt owed by the Gentiles to the Jewish nation. The Gentiles have been brought into the rich blessings of salvation, having been grafted in as a wild Olive shoot. They must, therefore, be careful to avoid boasting or pride. They need to remember that they are in the position of a debtor, 11.18-20. While that is true nationally, Paul is speaking here more particularly of the debt of the Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia, who heard the gospel through the sacrifice of Jewish believers. As the Jewish saints travelled away from their city in fulfilment of the commission by the Lord, they eventually reached the Gentiles in "the uttermost parts of the earth," Acts 1.8. Many were scattered among the Gentiles by persecution, and took the gospel of the risen Christ with them. The Gentiles were continually under an obligation - they were debtors.
iii) "Their duty is also to minister to them." Their moral obligation must be discharged - it is a duty. The Gentiles have been made partakers of their "spiritual things." The word "partakers" is from the same root as "contribution" in v26. The contribution is an exchange in mutual fellowship: one is spiritual, the other is material. The practical implications of this section are clear. Those who receive spiritual help are debtors, with a duty towards their helpers. This supports Paul’s stance in v22-25, when he mentions his intention to visit Rome, and receive their practical help to move on towards Spain. That visit was planned so that he might impart some spiritual gift to the saints in Rome, and have fruit in the gospel in their city. The fellowship that Paul expected the saints in Rome to extend to him, 15.24, would help him on towards Spain. Thus, the diversion to Jerusalem, en-route to Rome, would provide a practical example of what he is teaching in respect of the duty and debt in spiritual things.
(B) Their Willing Response. "To minister to them in carnal things" is to provide a service to the needy saints at Jerusalem in relation to bodily things. Obviously their poverty was extreme, and affected them physically. James addresses the same subject in his letter where he asks, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, ‘depart in peace. Be ye warmed and filled’; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" Jms.2.15,16. The saints in Macedonia and Achaia were not heartless like that, they responded willingly and with pleasure in a way that met the need in Jerusalem.
4. The Servant’s Commitment, (v28,29).
In these verses we see the Apostle’s commitment to the service he has to perform, and to the saints for whom he will perform it. The gift being sent by his hand was motivated by spiritual love and was given in acknowledgement of a spiritual debt by the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Paul recognises this in his use of the words, "perform," "seal" and "fruit." To him this was not a perfunctory task, he felt the responsibility of his service in a three-fold way. His Service in delivering the gift to the saints in Jerusalem is shown in the phrase, "Performed this," v28, which links to his "ministry" to the saints, v15. His Stewardship in the safe delivery of the gift for the saints in Macedonia and Achaia is seen in the expression, "and have sealed to them this fruit," v28. His Service towards the saints in Rome in declaring the truth of God, is seen in the words, "When I come, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ," v29 R.V.
i) His Service to the saints in Jerusalem (v28). The word "perform" indicates a task fully accomplished, or finished in detail. Such was the significance of this ministry, v25, that Paul could not leave it undone or half done. Whatever his hand found to do, he did it with all his might! Amidst a busy life in the service of Christ, with all its appointments and pressures, he is not tardy in any task he undertakes. Nor should we be. Whatever we have to do, we should ensure that it is completed. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
ii) His Stewardship for the saints in Macedonia and Achaia (v28). For Paul, the task will not be completed until he has ‘sealed to them this fruit’ What exactly is meant by the word "sealed" is not certain. In those days seals were prominent in Jewish life. Offerings brought to the Temple were inspected, and when the temple officer was satisfied as to its suitability it was sealed. When a farmer brought his grain to a merchant for purchase, and upon inspection of it the merchant was satisfied with the quality and quantity, he sealed it. This may well be what Paul had in mind for the gift. When he offered it to the needy saints at Jerusalem, and they checked it for quantity with an accompanying letter from the saints in Macedonia and Achaia, it would be accepted and receipted from Paul’s hand. Paul’s practice when handling money was always transparent as he sought to "provide things honest in the sight of all men," 12.17. We ought to ensure the completion of any task in the same manner, so that our honesty will stand the closest scrutiny.
iii) His Service to the saints in Rome by declaring the gospel (v29). Paul intended that when he arrived in Rome he would make full use of the opportunity the visit afforded. He would not while away his time in sightseeing or leisure activities. There was serious business to be done. Notice his confidence in the will of God. He has intended for some time to visit them, preach the gospel among them, and see fruit for his labours, ch.1.11,13. He speaks now in ch.15 with the calm assurance and confidence of a servant who has seen God bless his earlier labours in many regions. His intended journey is subject to the will of God; and while he could not have looked forward and seen in detail how and when he would arrive in Rome, yet he was confident he would reach there.
He was equally confident that when he did reach Rome, it would be in the full complement of the blessing of Christ. The word Paul uses in 15.28, "I will come to you" is the same word used by the Lord when He said "I will come again," Jn.14.3. It means not only his arrival, but all the blessings and benefits that would attend his arrival. Paul is sure that as he travels and when he reaches the destination, he will have with him the fullness of the blessing of Christ. This is the full complement of spiritual blessings that we are afforded by Christ. Every blessing they needed would be supplied in fullest measure. This full blessing was to be experienced through the labours of a truly consecrated servant of God, in touch with the resources of his Master in heaven, and the needs of saints on earth.
—to be continued, (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 8 — ACCOUNTANCY : PART 1
The events of September 11, 2001, struck hard at the symbols of World Trade. As we draw near to the end of the age, the nations of earth unite their currencies and set up trading blocks in preparation for the Mark of the Beast and rise of commercial Babylon. "The merchants of the earth waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies," Rev.18.3.
The emphasis on every High Street in our towns and cities is upon Financial Institutions, Banks and Building Societies. Stock market values, deposit accounts, interest rates, security and profits are only of interest to the worldling in this scene of inflation, devaluation and corruption.
The Saviour said; "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Earthly gold is in danger from the robber, material things will be attacked by the rust and the grain can be destroyed by the rodent. The believer's interest should be Riches in Christ, revenue of Heaven and wealth in the Bank of Glory. We should be trading now in the untarnished currency, the intangible commodities, the unperishable cash of eternal wealth laid up in a deposit account, as the Apostle Paul says; "against that day," 2Tim.1.10.
The financial account has a major part to play in the decisions of the board in running any business. The Church of the Laodiceans boasted of earthly riches but the Lord of the Churches said: "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire (value, precious, durable) that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment (virtue, pure, practical, costly) that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve (vision, perception, long range sight) that thou mayest see," Rev.3.18.
Paul in his writings tells us about the long term faith of Abraham, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted (reckoned by calculation, accredited by imputation) to him for righteousness," Gal.3.6. Abraham abandoned the short term life of Ur, he parted with Terah (the older man), he separated from Lot (the worldly man) he sent away Ishmael (the carnal man), he even yielded up his beloved Isaac; "accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead," Heb.11.19. By faith in God’s promises, with his eye upon the future inheritance’ "He went out, not knowing whither he went," Heb.11.18. "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," Heb.11.10.
Another good accountant was Moses. "Esteeming (accounting) the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," Heb.11.26. Moses handled the treasures of Egypt, he held proximity to the throne, he shared in the wealth of the palace. Providence brought him in, faith led him out. In the short term, he exchanged riches for reproach, as to the present he might have had the pleasures of sin for a season and a pyramid at the end. Instead he identified with despised brick makers as the people of God, he endured as seeing Him Who is invisible and in the long term of faith made a good investment; "He had respect unto the recompence of the reward," Heb.11.26.
It has been well said: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose," (Jim Elliott).
CREDIT AND DEBT:
The keeping of a ledger of profit and loss was a matter first introduced to us before salvation. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mk.8.36 The use of this commercial metaphor in the Lord’s teaching is, of course, in the context of training His disciples in true allegiance to Himself and to the Gospel. The parables of the pounds and the talents guide us in trading in the wealth of the Kingdom. The Lord spoke of the Merchant Man seeking goodly pearls "Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it," Matt.13.46. We will be eternally thankful that; "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich," 2Cor.8.9.
Paul changed his principles of accountancy when he got saved. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for (on account of) Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but (to be) loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (offal, that which is thrown to the dogs), that I may win (gain) Christ," Phil.3.7-8. Paul is showing us the profit and loss columns of his new spiritual ledger. As he looks back upon his unsaved days those national, tribal, ceremonial and legal privileges which he once counted as gains, he moved across to the debit side. Assets changed to liabilities, pluses became minuses, gains were really damages, things to let go to the dogs. We should never waste the time of an audience detailing these things which marked us in unsaved days no matter how commendable, never mind exploiting for popularity's sake, the grosser depths of folly without Christ. In Phil.2, we read of what Christ gave up: in Phil.3, what Paul gave up. After 30 years of faithful service, he counts the "gain" of the past as refuse untouchable, the droppings from the table, the wipings of the hands. His present "gain;" the blank side of the balance sheet is filled by Christ, the surpassing devotion to the Lordship of Christ, the costly experimental knowledge of the excellency which really belongs to Christ Himself. Paul’s dealings were not speculative. "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 7 — "WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD"
If the instructions to Israel were very explicit, so that no one could well misunderstand them, they were also severely inflexible. No room whatever was left for human opinion as to what was right and proper that night, and no deviation was permitted from the strict letter of the divine word. The blood of the lamb was the divine requirement, and nothing else could be accepted in its stead. Here is Jehovah’s message to the people: "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Jehovah. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt," Ex.12.12-13.
Suppose some in Israel had pleaded that their lives were so much better than their neighbours, that therefore there was not the same urgent necessity for putting the blood upon the door-post, what would have happened? The angel of death would have swept through that dwelling, even though the people therein were in very deed the most upright and the most religious in the land. Jehovah did not say, "When I see your excellent lives, but, "When I see the blood."
Again, suppose some had objected to slaying the lamb, their minds revolting from the gruesomeness of shedding blood, and had instead tied the living animal to the door-posts of their houses, would this have been accepted? By no means. Jehovah did not say, "When I see the lamb," but "When I see the blood."
The blood was the confession on the part of those who sprinkled it that they were personally only worthy of death and that they sheltered themselves under the death of another. To God the blood witnessed that death had already entered the houses upon which it rested; and this justified Him in bidding His ministers of judgment pass such houses by.
How simple are these lessons, and yet how difficult it is to get men to take them in, albeit their moral and religious lives as if excellent living should exempt them from the holy judgment of a sin-avenging God. Again, how many profess respect for the living Christ, admiring His perfect ways and acclaiming Him as the great Preacher to whom all men would do well to hearken. "Back to Christ," they say. "Let us live according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, and all will be well." Vain delusion! False hope! Men’s great need is not a holy example nor a teacher of good, but a sin-atoning sacrifice. This is found alone in the precious blood of Christ. He has made peace through the blood of His cross, Col.1.20, and in no other way could peace ever have been made between men and God. "Apart from shedding of blood is no remission," Heb.9.22. A millennium of holy living and divine teaching on the part of the Son of God would have left the sin question just where it was before He came to earth. Sin could only be expiated by blood.
God be praised for the atoning death of Christ. It has made it righteously possible for Him not only to exempt from judgment the sinner who believes, but also to take such an one into His heart of love for ever and ever. No wonder the redeemed on high ascribe all worthiness and glory to the Lamb who was slain.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Perplexed Prophet: An Overview of Habakkuk
by Graeme Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
In 1.12-17, the prophet found it difficult to reconcile the character of His God with the thought that a nation like Babylon would be used to punish Judah for her transgressions. In the ensuing chapter (ch.2), the prophet receives an explanation. We may note:
THE ANSWER OF THE ALMIGHTY
Just as the Lord had answered the prayers of men such as Moses, Aaron and Samuel, Ps.99.6, He did the same for Habakkuk. How gracious the Lord is to allow His servants to have a little understanding of His ways and plans. However, in 2.2-3, the prophet was given prior instruction/assurance before the prophecy was unfolded. We have:
2.2a - the documentation of the message. The instruction from the Lord was clear and unmistakable: ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables.’ The Lord was about to unfold His plans and it was incumbent upon Habakkuk to preserve the words so that the truth could be proved in the future. This would demonstrate the truth of 1Cor.14.33: ‘God is not of confusion.’ For believers today, God has carefully preserved His full and complete revelation - the Scriptures. Having gone to such lengths, it is vital for us to read and study the Word.
2.2b - the delivery of the message. It was insufficient for Habakkuk to merely preserve the record of God’s word, it had to be publicised as well: ‘that he may run that readeth it’1. Clearly the spread of the message was a matter of great urgency and the Lord desired as many as possible to hear it. The Word of God is still of such value today that it must be spread abroad and not kept solely within any one individual. Remember the pattern of the great commission in Matt.28.19-20 is reach, preach and teach!
2.3 - the dependability of the message. God informed His prophet that the vision he was about to receive would be fulfilled, but only according to the divine timetable. As we shall observe, the prophecy related to the fact that the captors of Judah, namely Babylon, would, themselves, be punished. The prophet (and others who were righteous in the nation) could take comfort from this truthful and unerring word, Heb.6.18. It may be delayed, but it would come!
In Heb.10.37 the writer adapted the words of 2.3 to speak of the second Coming of Christ. Suffering saints, no matter in which period they live, may take comfort from the fact that the day is coming when the Lord shall reign on earth in perfect justice, and then the righteous will have no fear from persecution. Just as Habakkuk and his readers could be sure of the vision, so too we can be sure that: ‘He that shall come will come and will not tarry.’
THE FAITH OF THE FORGIVEN
Ch.2.4 is perhaps the central verse in the whole prophecy. The prophet lived in dark days and it was vital for him to live in close harmony with the Lord. Faith in the Lord and faithfulness to His word still remain the essential ingredient for those believers who stand justified/forgiven in the sight of God, 2Cor.5.7. However, given the prominence of this verse throughout the Scriptures, it is important to consider the following:
The Quotation of Hab.2.4. On three separate occasions, this verse is quoted in the NT. The OT prophet established the important principle of faith, but the NT writers then applied the principle in a number of ways. Firstly, in Rom.1.17 the Apostle Paul stated that the individual who is righteous (or just) has the possession of eternal life, not because of keeping the Law but rather because of a humble, steadfast reliance upon the truth of God’s Word - the exercising of faith! In Gal.3.11 the Apostle does much the same thing, as he argues against those who felt that the keeping of the law plus salvation was essential. Remember that the law could only bring a knowledge of sin, Rom.3.20, but salvation brings a removal of sin, Rom.3.26. Then in Heb.10.38 the writer again stresses the importance of faith, just before he develops it further in the great chapter of faith, ch.11, where many OT characters are used as examples. Therefore, throughout the NT we are constantly reminded that not only are we justified by faith, but a justified person ought to live by faith as well!
The implication of Hab.2.4. Given that faith is so important for present day Christian living, it is possible to enrich our understanding of this principle by considering what it meant to Habakkuk. Firstly, we may note THE CONTRAST. In 2.4a the character of the Babylonians is summarised: ‘behold his soul is puffed up’ (JND). They prided themselves in their own power and strength and it only inflated their notion of self-importance and self-trust. The righteous person, however, was one who willingly conformed to God and His will.
Secondly, we may note THE CONVICTION. What is faith? To be like Habakkuk, ch.2.3, and the Apostle Paul, Acts 27.25, and believe that God cannot lie nor fail. As the hymn-writer would express it ‘Where He may lead me I will go for I have learnt to trust Him so.’
Finally, we may note THE CONFIDENCE. In 3.17-18, the prophet seems to have applied the lesson of 2.4 - for he declared that irrespective of outward circumstances he was prepared to maintain his reliance (and rejoicing) upon God. Perhaps, for a spiritual man like Habakkuk, his role model was that of Abraham, the great man of faith (see, for example, Lk.19.9; Rom.4.3 and Heb.11.8-10, 17-19).
THE WOES OF THE WICKED
The Lord was able to inform Habakkuk that the mighty nation of Babylon would, like Judah, be punished for its sin and iniquity. The way in which this message was unfolded was by a series of ‘woes,’ 2.6, 9, 12, 15, 19. The term was frequently used by the OT prophets (see, for example, Isa. 5.8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22), and it simply highlighted the distress that would be caused by God’s punishment. In considering each of these pronouncements, we may note the following:
No. 1: The Woe of the Greedy! In 2.6 the nation of Babylon is compared to those who increase their wealth by ill-gotten means. Similar to 1.2, the question was posed: "How long will this continue? The answer, in v7-8, is unmistakable. The oppressed would rise up in opposition and those spoiled would begin to spoil themselves. These verses would teach another important principle: ‘… whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," Gal.6.7. Babylon sowed terror and so then they would reap the same. The believer does well to remember this principle in the light of his service, Gal.6.8-9.
No. 2: The Woe of the Covetous! In 2.9 the aim of the sinful nation was exposed. They sought their own self-advancement by desiring and securing the possessions of others. In order to elevate themselves above the rest, they trampled other nations down, v10. However, God would bring judgment upon the proud, v11. This would bear out the testimony of 1Pet.5.5: ‘God resisteth the proud.’
No. 3: The Woe of the Violent! In 2.12 the third woe stresses the barbaric nature of the Babylonians - murder and bloodshed were used to build their empire. However, in the succeeding two verses our attention is directed to the Lord. In v13 the Lord states that all their effort was in vain: ‘They shall weary themselves for nothing’ (Scofield), whereas in v14 the Lord’s glory would, in contrast, fill the entire earth. In 2.14 the prophet is quoting directly from Isa.11.9, where the coming millennial kingdom is described. Both prophets then anticipated the time when the Lord would establish His kingdom, a period when the Lord’s glory would be visible to all, Matt.24.30. We too look forward to this period when the claims of the Lord shall be truly vindicated.
No. 4: The Woe of the Seductive! The nation of Babylon is then pictured as one who tries to seduce other nations to follow along similar paths of sin and helplessness. These verses would remind us of what happened to Noah after the flood, Gen.9.21-25, and they demonstrate the cunning devices of the devil and his emissaries, Eph.4.14; 1Tim.4.1.
No. 5: The Woe of the Idolatrous! In the final woe of the passage, the fixation with idolatry is unreservedly condemned. How futile it is to cry ‘Awake … Arise,’ 2.19, to those pieces of wood or cold stone (see 1Kgs.18.26-29) that are completely inanimate. The contrast with the Lord is startling, 2.20, for He is in His holy temple, and instead of the need to shout at Him to awake or listen, all the world must remain in silent awe and worship before Him.
Therefore, as the final woe closes in the chapter, the prophet is called to exercise his faith. Believing that God’s word would soon be accomplished, Habakkuk’s portion was to remain patient and confident. This is what the Lord expects from all His children, 2Thess.3.5; 1Jn.2.28.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
by Jim Burnett (Scotland)
Psalm 102.7. Also Matthew 10.28-31; Luke 12.4-7
In the previous article we considered this verse in the light of the Psalmist's own experience. We shall now apply it to the glorious Person of our blessed Lord. Again we shall keep before us the same four interesting thoughts.
Note things in the verse that are marked by their absence.
I. "I watch" — NO RELAXATION:
II. "Am as a sparrow" — NO ESTIMATION:
III. "Alone" — NO CONSOLATION:
IV. "Upon the house top" — NO PROTECTION.
I. NO RELAXATION:
When we thought of the Psalmist we readily saw the reason as to why he said, ‘I watch.’ He was in danger of being ensnared in some temptation. This, of course, could never be said of our Lord Jesus. There was no possibility of Him straying from the path of obedience to the will of God. He did say, "… the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me," Jn.14.30. There was absolutely nothing that could respond to sin.
There are many fundamental truths that are most surely believed among us in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, one of which is His Sinless Perfection. Some teach that He did not sin and we can agree wholeheartedly, but the statement does not go far enough. We must go further and say He could not sin. To say only that He did not sin does not eliminate the possibility that had He chosen to He could have sinned.
The truth is only correctly expressed when we assert that He did not sin and could never have sinned. He was absolutely holy in all His ways. He is uniquely different from all others.
There are four ways in which men entered into the world:
1. Adam — by way of CREATION:
2. Eve — by way of FORMATION:
3. All others — by way of GENERATION:
4. The Lord Jesus — by way of INCARNATION.
Of Him the poet wrote:
"In every feature flawless,
In every aspect fair,
The search of sinners lawless
Could find no blemish there."
The sinless perfection of Christ is seen in seven lovely expressions of Scripture:
1. Purer than — Hab.1.13:
2. Fairer than — Ps.45.2:
3. Greater than — Matt.12.42:
4. Mightier than — Lk.3.16:
A careful, prayerful examination of these Scriptures would enhance greatly our appreciation of who He is and what He has accomplished both for God and for us.
Three things were firmly implanted in us in early days:
1. As our Mediator — HE MADE THE LINK:
2. As our Great High Priest — HE MAINTAINS THE LINK:
3. As our Advocate — HE MENDS THE LINK (not of union but communion).
But we may ask how can we apply the words ‘I watch’ to our Lord? Just in the sense that as a Man before God He was ever sensitive to the Spirit and Word of God. He was God’s diligent, devoted Servant. While in the garden the disciples slept, oblivious to the great drama unfolding before them, the Lord was fully awake, alert as always to the Father’s will. We can never forget those tremendous words of devotion, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done." Lk.22.42.
II. NO ESTIMATION:
We have seen in the former paper that the sparrow is really the WORTHLESS bird of the Bible. Such was our Saviour in the eyes of the world. No beauty that they should desire Him. Such was our position until our eyes were opened to behold Him as ‘altogether lovely.’ Men in the darkness of sin mock Him. To them He is as the worthless sparrow. It is still true:
"Our Lord is now rejected and by the world disowned,
By the many still neglected and by the few enthroned."
Let us who love Him continue to give Him His rightful place in our affections.
III. NO CONSOLATION:
This can be highlighted by considering the fourth lonely cry from the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" We know He spoke on seven occasions from the tree. The late Dr. Campbell Morgan said that in the first three we see His PITY for men in the matter of their sin; His POWER towards those who trust in Him; His PROVISION for those He loves. In the last four we stand in amazement as the greatest work ever done was accomplished. Victory reached through suffering — a victory far reaching, all full of glory.
As we come to the central cry, the fourth, we stand on ground that is most holy. There is no consolation; none to pity; none to deliver. He bore it all alone. Listen again in holy wonder to this lone mysterious cry which came from the depths of Calvary, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Truly He was the sparrow alone upon the housetop.
He was never forsaken of His Father. As the eternal Son His dwelling was always in the bosom of His Father. But here on the cross He is forsaken by God. This is a mighty ocean of truth and we stand on the shore gazing in wonder. Let the Scripture speak, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," 2Cor.5.21.
We noted that there are two experiences that we fear most — loneliness and poverty. He knew both. 2Cor.8.9, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." He knew both in His life. He was misunderstood and deserted by friends and rejected, despised and betrayed by foes. Yet all comes to climax at His death. Remember Isa.53.9, "… with the rich in his death …". The word ‘death’ is really in the plural, ‘deaths.’ Does this mean He died more than once? Of course not, "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God," Heb.10.12. The plural teaches us the intensity of His death as well as its far reaching consequences. He died firstly to vindicate God, secondly to redeem poor sinners and also to recover creation and remove every trace of sin for ever from before the face of God.
IV. NO PROTECTION.
The sparrow on the housetop is exposed to the elements — rain, wind and storm. There was no hiding place. Such was the experience of the Saviour. He could have called twelve legions of angels, but He went to the storms of Calvary all alone. We watch, wonder and worship, but cannot fully understand.
"We do not know, we cannot tell
What pains He had to bear:
But we believe it was for us,
He hung and suffered there."
We cannot begin to fathom the depths of sorrow and grief.
"None of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed,
Or how dark was the night the Lord passed through, to find the sheep that was lost."
In conclusion let us note three things about the cross:
1. It is THE MEANS OF SALVATION:
2. It is THE MARK OF SEPARATION:
3. It is THE MOTIVE OF SERVICE:
We may well join with JMS Tait of Lerwick and exclaim,
"Be still proud heart, how can I stand and gaze,
Upon that head, so humbly bowing low,
And not lament with tears and shame of face,
Thy wilful ways, rebelling, murmuring so?
Oh! For the grace, in every earthly loss,
To bow the head to God, as He did on the cross."
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (80)
by James W. Ronald (Canada)
From early childhood the words of Paul regarding Timothy were true in our home. "That from a child thou has known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation," 2Tim.3.15. It was my privilege to have God-fearing parents who instilled into their six children a respect for God, a reverence for His Word, a need of salvation, and a love for the gospel. In our home there were regular family devotions morning, noon, and evening, and the assembly and meetings were a priority. My father served full time in gospel work and to my mother was delegated many additional responsibilities. Of the many impressions of youth in the home, I make mention of two that were outstanding. Both the prayer life of my parents and the hospitality shown others are remembered. It seemed every decision had to be thought through and prayed about. Many individuals and needy persons received a meal, a kind word, and a gospel tract or invitation to attend a meeting as they stopped by the home. Gospel preachers and missionaries were also entertained in the home and what a delight to listen to their report, to hear a story of the grace of God, or receive a postage stamp to add to my collection. In our home the most important item seemed to be the gospel message lived out in daily life and the word spread abroad.
From a young age the reality of God, the personal guilt of my sin, salvation through Christ alone, the imminent return of the Lord Jesus, and the joy of living for Christ, were emphasised. I had no reason to question the importance and the necessity of God’s salvation. I could honestly say I believed it all and now reasoned, at the age of eight years, I should confess Christ and tell others I was saved. Since I believed, why couldn’t I say I am saved and this would also save me the embarrassment of telling others, like the preachers, I was not saved. I lived the next several years in doubt and fear and had no inner peace or assurance of the forgiveness of sins. At the age of twelve I approached my father with the problem of my doubts and very wisely he did not question but opened his Bible and read again the Scriptures I knew so well and many I had committed to memory. Three Scripture references stand out till this day. From 1Pet.3.18 the question was put to me, "Who was the Just One and who was the unjust one?" Finally, my father left the room and I now read again the words of Isaiah 53.5-6. Wounded for me! In that late evening hour I simply took God at His Word and the promise of Jn.1.12; "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." I realised that Christ dying in my place satisfied God and this was the answer to all my sins. There was nothing I could do and my prayers, asking, tears, or believing could not save me. In giving all else up, I found rest and peace in what Christ had done for me at the cross of Calvary. It was with great joy that I confessed the next morning to my mother that I was saved and had peace about the matter and all doubts were gone. Now I had a God given desire within to tell the gospel message to my school classmates and the customers on my paper route.
I must say how important assembly life was in my early and formative years. I was baptized at the age of thirteen and received into assembly fellowship the following year at Portage la Prairie, MB, Canada. The Portage assembly provided a good healthy spiritual environment and encouraged one in both Bible study and gospel outreach. A year later our family relocated 400 km. north west of Portage, where my father was preaching the gospel and a new assembly had commenced.
There were a number of gospel efforts in the area and I was encouraged to help out in open air evangelism, tract distribution, a Sunday school class, and contribute in home Bible studies. It was a joy to witness the power of the gospel, Rom.1.16, in the transformed lives of believers.
To further my education I moved to Winnipeg and am again thankful for the support and fellowship of the local assembly. We were encouraged to be involved in open air meetings in the park, the tract band, Sunday school teaching, and tract distribution. Upon the completion of my studies in education I took a teaching position in the community of Minitonas, about 500 km. north west of Winnipeg. Here I could be a help in a small assembly and reach out in the gospel especially during the summer vacation. Meetings for both children and adults were held in the community hall and in the summer I worked together with other young men in carrying the gospel to several northern communities in the province of Manitoba.
In 1970 I married an effective and suitable partner in life and in the gospel work. My wife has been influential in others coming to hear the gospel and, as well, she has ministered a spiritual role in the lives of our four children.
At a summer prairie conference in 1972, a spiritual shepherd and elder from the Portage assembly expressed to us his appreciation for our involvement in the gospel work. He further suggested our commendation to the gospel work and all this went to confirm our exercise to serve the Lord in the gospel. In December 1972 our home assembly, Minitonas, joined with the Portage assembly in commending my wife and myself to the grace of God and the work of the gospel. We appreciate that God uses many different circumstances to make His will known and His call to serve in the gospel. I cannot speak of a specific call to full time gospel work, but rather trace the circumstances and appreciate a God begotten desire to serve the Master. How important to be sensitive to what the Word of God says; "Son, go work to day in my vineyard," Matt.21.28. I thank God for godly parents, spiritual assembly guides, the encouragement of others engaged in the work of the Lord, and for a spiritual partner in life, all assisting me to detect the will and call of God.
For the first twelve years of our married life and gospel work we lived in five different centres and did visitation, held home Bible studies, and had both children and adult meetings in community centres. For twenty years I joined with my father and others in village gospel work during the summer months of July and August. A mobile trailer unit was used for the preaching of the gospel in four or five centres each summer. My father would systematically map out and cover an area in visitation and would often use a public sound system in the open air followed by nightly gospel meetings. From my father I learned many practical lessons including a simple trust and confidence in the Lord, and realised that God’s ways are best for carrying out the work of the Lord. Many souls heard the gospel and a number were saved in these country districts and to God be the glory.
In 1984, we moved our young family to the city of Saskatoon and the gospel work was approached in much the same way with visitation, tract distribution, home Bible studies and short series of gospel meetings in a number of community centres. The Lord blessed His Word and souls were saved, baptized, and encouraged to meet together for fellowship and Bible study which was often in our home. In 1990 a company of believers met together to "break bread" and have continued to the glory of God in assembly testimony and gospel outreach. Our responsibility is to sow the good seed. "In the morning sow thy seed and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good," Ecc.11.6.
I would stress in conclusion that God is faithful and we may fail but not our blessed Lord. "But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and keep you from evil," 2Thess.3.3. We would also like to encourage others who have a God begotten exercise, to trust the Lord and serve full time in the gospel.
Good Tidings from Heaven
It is a very rare thing to hear anyone say "I don’t know." We are very slow to admit our ignorance. We hear people say in a general way, "everybody knows this or that." However, there are things that we don’t know and it would be good if we were prepared to admit it!
There was a company of people in the Bible who professed they had everything. They said, as a collective company, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." They were totally self satisfied, did not need nor did they want any external assistance. In their estimation they had all they desired, they wanted for nothing and were proud of it. However, there was another who also made an assessment and that was God. He said that they knew, "not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Revelation 3.17. It would be good for us to assess our state before God and accept His infallible summary of the human race, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God," Romans 3.23. Please, when asked of your condition before a Holy God do not say that you don’t know because after reading the above paragraph you now do know!
It is recorded in John’s gospel chapter three, that a very religious man came to the Lord Jesus Christ one night to ask Him about eternal matters. The Lord Jesus, God’s only and eternal Son said to him, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This really confused the religious man who answered, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" He was thinking in terms of being born physically and perhaps there were the seeds of the nonsense of reincarnation. However the Lord Jesus was speaking of a spiritual birth from above. Only those who have been born again will ever enter the heavenly kingdom. This is not religion, philosophy, deeds of kindness etc., it is being born again into God's family to be one of God's children and to enjoy God's heaven for all eternity. The religious man ought to have known about these things. In v10, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Religious men who profess Christianity should know these things and should preach them. They are like the Pharisees of the Bible days of whom the Lord Jesus said, "woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in," Matthew 23.13.
How this new birth could take place was Nicodemus' problem. The answer is in v14-16, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Through the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, where He was lifted up and our belief in Him, God promises to give us, as a free gift, "eternal" or "everlasting life." This is not so much endless existence, which is the portion of every person, but eternal life is enjoying the life of God now and entering into it in all its fulness in eternity.
You may say I have plenty of time to think about this and will deal with this matter before I die. But there is another thing which we don't know. Proverbs 27.1, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Those thousands of people who left for work in New York and Washington on 11th September 2001, didn't know what was about to happen. Their plans were made, their lives stretched out before them, they probably were looking forward to family occasions and happy times and suddenly, literally out of the blue there came disaster. My dear reader, are you ready to meet God? The prophet Amos told the people of his day, "Prepare to meet thy God," Amos 4.12; 2 Corinthians 6.2, "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Tomorrow may be too late!