5) "The Day That Thou Stoodest Before the Lord Thy God"
Read Chapter 4
As we have noticed, ch.1-11 are retrospective. In ch.1-3 Moses relates historical facts, and in 4-11, he 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. In this section of the book, Moses lays the foundation for the "statutes and judgments which follow. See 12.1. Ch.4-5 emphasise the implications of the covenant made with Israel at Sinai. See particularly 4.1-40 and 5.1-33. We now begin to meet the oft-repeated expression, "the statutes and … the judgments." See, for example v1, 5, 14. The character of the book is reflected in the words "possess" (v1, 5, 14, 22, 26) and "inheritance‚ (v20, 21, 38). The central message of the chapter lies in v9-10.
The chapter can be analysed as follows: (1) The lessons of Sinai, v1-40; (2) The cities of refuge, v41-43; (3) The introduction to the commandments, v44-49.
1) THE LESSONS OF SINAI, v1-40
A) THEY POSSESSED THE WORD OF GOD, v1-8
This section falls into two parts: (i) obedience by Israel, v1-4; (ii) observation by others, v5-8. Both emphasise teaching. In the first case, it is present teaching: "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments which I teach you," v1. In the second, it is past teaching: "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments," v5.
i) Obedience by Israel, v1-4. "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live (like the men that did not follow Baal-peor, v4), and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you." Obedience was the key to continuance ("that ye may live") and possession of the inheritance ("go in and possess the land"). Obedience is essential to our spiritual life, and to the enjoyment of our inheritance. See 1Pet.1.14.
Notice the warning: "Thou shalt not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." The New Testament is equally insistent. See 2Tim.2.2 ("the same commit thou to faithful men"), and Jude 3: "the faith once (once for all) delivered unto the saints." Remember the solemn warning in Rev.22.18. The warning here is enforced by an illustration. "Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-peor." This refers to Num.25: "And Israel abode in Shittim, and people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab … and Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor." As usual, immorality and idolatry went together, (See 1Cor.10.7). Hence the severe warning against idolatry that follows in v15-31. Past lessons must not be ignored. The clarity of those lessons is stressed by the words, "Your eyes have seen," v3. See also v9 and v34.
ii) Observation by others, v5-8. "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them." Notice the faithfulness of the teacher, and the intimacy of his relationship with God: "even as the Lord my God commanded me." Compare Phil.4.19 etc. The result of obedience to the word of God would be a strong testimony to the surrounding nations: "For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people," v6. The greatness of Israel was solely due to their relationship with God. This is emphasised by Moses in two ways: (a) they had the presence of God, v7: "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord God is in all things that we call upon Him for?" (b) They had the Word of God, v8: "And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as this law, which I set before you this day?" Compare Ps.147.20.
Unqualified obedience to the Word of God, v1-4, will secure a unique testimony for the people of God, v5-8. Each assembly should covet the testimony that "God is in you of a truth," 1Cor.14.25. Sadly, Paul was obliged to write of Israel, "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written," Rom.2.24. The following injunctions are relevant in this connection: 1Tim.5.14, 1Tim.6.1, Titus 2.8.
B) THEY EXPERIENCED THE PRESENCE OF GOD, v9-14
"And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven (JND, ‘unto the heart of heaven’)", v11. God's heart has now been revealed in love! Their great privileges, v6-8, brought solemn responsibilities. "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget (see 8.2, 8.18, 9.7, etc.) the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy son's sons." They were to apply the teaching of God's Word, first to themselves, and then to their successors. Compare 6.4-7. Children should not only be taught the Word of God, they should see it exhibited in the lives of their teachers! "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine," 1Tim.4.16.
While they were not to forget what they had seen at Horeb, they were not to forget what they did not see at Horeb: "And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but ye saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice." This is now emphasised in connection with a solemn warning against idolatry:
C) THEY LEARNED ABOUT THE JEALOUSY OF GOD, v15-31
See v23-24, "Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you (see v13), and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." See also 5.8, 6.15. These words are cited in Heb.12.29. They are a warning to us. The Scriptures describe the jealousy of God in three ways. (a) He is jealous of His own glory: see Exod.39.25, Isa.48.11; (b) he is jealous for His people: see Joel 2.18, Zech.1.14, etc; (c) He is jealous of the affections of His people, as here. See also Exod.34.14, Deut.32.16, etc. he demanded the wholehearted love and devotion of His people, and therefore:
i) Idolatry was prohibited, v15-20
The worship of terrestrial things was prohibited, v16-18. Compare Rom.1.23. The worship of celestial things was prohibited, v19. The folly of idolatry is emphasised by the words that follow: "But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day." Israel owed nothing to idolatry: they owed everything to God, and belonged to Him. Compare 1Jn.19-21.
ii) Judgment was pronounced, v21-28
a) Judgment on Moses, v21-22. "Furthermore the Lord was angry with me for your sakes (see also 3.26), and sware that I should not go over Jordan. It has been said that Moses was refused entrance to Canaan because ‘he broke a type!’ This seems a little speculative, to put it mildly! Ps.106.32-33 explains why it "went ill with Moses."
b) Judgment on Israel, v23-28. If Moses was unable to enjoy the land because he "believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel," Num.20.12, 27.12, then Israel could not expect immunity from judgment either. Notice that disobedience, v25, would be followed by dispossession and destruction, v26, and by dispersion, v27-28.
iii) Restoration promised, v29-31
"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Nehamiah alluded to this passage. See 1.8-9. Notice reference to "the latter days," and the fact that "He will not … forget the covenant of thy fathers which He sware unto them," v30-31. This refers, not to the covenant made at Sinai, but to the unconditional promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in connection with the land.
D) THEY ENJOYED THE FAVOUR OF GOD, v32-40
These verses stress the great privileges of God's people, together with their responsibilities. Compare v7-8. They can be summarised as follows:
i) The uniqueness of their privileges, v32-34
"For ask now of the days that are past, which were set before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?" (a) "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?" b) "Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation … according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?" Compare v3 and 9.
This reminds us of the uniqueness of our privileges. We too have the Word of God. Not now "speaking out of the midst of the fire," but in the complete canon of Scripture. God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. 1.3 Those "spiritual blessings" follow: "chosen … in Him," v4, "predestinated," v5, "redemption," v7, "forgiveness," v7. Staggering, isn't it!
ii) The reason for their privileges, v35-38
Three reasons are given. (a) "Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mayest know that the Lord He is God; there is none else besides Him." Compare Isa.45.6, 18, 22. See also v39. (b) "Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee; and upon earth He shewed thee His great fire, and thou heardest His words out of the midst of the fire." (c) "And because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in His sight with His mighty power out of Egypt; to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day."
We must not forget that our great privileges are intended to deepen and enrich our knowledge of God, Jn.17.3, to bring us into increasing conformity to His Word, Col.2.6-7, and to remind us constantly of His love. God blessed Israel, because He loved the "fathers": He has blessed us "for Christ's sake," Eph.4.32.
iii) The implications of their privileges, v39-40
"Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon earth beneath: there is none else (see v35). Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever." The lesson is clear: enjoyment of God's blessings demands obedience to His Word.
2) THE CITIES OF REFUGE, v41-43
Current space does not allow us to consider this absorbing subject. For further details, see Num.35, Deut.19, Josh.20. Study will be most rewarding!
3) THE INTRODUCTION TO THE COMMANDMENTS, v44-49
These verses speak for themselves. Details of the covenant made at Sinai follow in ch.5, to be followed by "the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments."
—to be continued (D.V.)
Testimony in Troublous Times
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 15 — Retaining Worth and Weight in Testimony (Ezra Chapter 8.24-36)
The two priests mentioned in Ezra 8.2 evidently brought with them a considerable number of kinsmen as Ezra separates twelve of the chief of the priests in addition to twelve Levites already mentioned in Ezra 8.18,19. These were selected to be guardians for precious things, "silver and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God," Ezra 8.25.
These officially designated guardians were sufficient in number to know that the energy and exercise of each would provide encouragement and protection for them all. Indeed the task that lay before them resembled the tasks allocated to the sons of Kohath, Gershon and Merari in Num.5. There was no self-selection for specific tasks; all was allocated by another. But each must now, as then, become familiar with worth and weight. And this was immense. Ezra weighed into their hands 22 tonnes of silver and over 3 tonnes of silver vessels. He also weighed over 3 tonnes of gold, 8.5 kilograms of golden vessels plus 2 brazen vessels of golden brilliancy that were as desirable as gold. Yet the combined value could not be calculated in pure economic terms. The value of exercise in giving by saints enhanced the monetary value. So did the goodwill expressed by the civil powers. The true value could only be calculated by the assessment of heaven.
While the 24 men tasked with this onerous responsibility were all of the lineage of Levi, an additional criterion applied. Holiness. They were set apart for a distinct purpose. The vessels are holy also and the silver and the gold. So persons and possessions are both holy. The men selected, therefore, must answer in personal character to the public task they must perform. God will not entrust special tasks to men of dubious worth.
A severe charge is then laid upon them. "Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord," Ezra 8.29. Not only had they witnessed a day of weighing, but also they would be present on a coming day of reweighing under a severe and discriminating scrutiny! Care must therefore be given to ensure that nothing is lost, mislaid or stolen. Full account must be given of stewardship. It is incumbent that those entrusted with the holy vessels should ensure that sufficient of their number are awake and on duty at any time. They must not be naïve or gullible in discharging their responsibility. And they must have sufficient witness to each transaction.
That the faithfulness of these men will be assessed by the weight delivered "in the chambers of the house of the Lord" is reminiscent of the lesson of the wagons in Num.7. The princes of Israel offered six covered wagons for the service of the tabernacle. Natural reasoning may have suggested an equitable division among the Levites. But instead two wagons were given unto the sons of Gershon, four wagons were given unto the sons of Merari and "unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders," Num.7.9. Kohathites were to feel the full weight of the testimony and show all due care for "they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die," Num.4.15. Too many believers assess the worth of testimony by wrong criteria: by counting numbers, by physical dimensions or in financial terms. But we serve the God who measures by weight at the commencement and, again, at the close of our service. Sadly, the service of many is in large volume, low value and combustible material. Fewer specialise in high value, low volume and durable material, 1Cor.3.11-15.
Accepting their onerous responsibility, the priests and Levites depart "from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lie in wait by the way," Ezra 8.31. In spite of prevalent danger and the potential for attack, God preserved His servants along some 900 miles of the caravan route until they "came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days," Ezra 8.32. Thus they had three days of rest at the start of their journey (8.15) and now at its end. There would be relief, rest, rejoicing and reunion. And this was followed by review on the fourth day with "the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites," Ezra 8.33.
Ezra was not to be the judge of his own service. Another priestly man is responsible to assess his faithfulness. So he weighs in the house of God the value of Ezra’s faithful service. This suggests a foretaste of the judgment seat of Christ where value and weight of service will count, rather than apparent success. This should sober us all, and particularly those who preach to sinners and teach the saints.
So the vessels were both weighed and counted and an accredited inventory prepared of all that was delivered, Ezra 8.34. While this may have been required by Artaxerxes it was nevertheless good practice even without a legal imperative. In this there is a practical lesson for those today that discharge financial matters in co-operation with other faithful men. "Let all things be done decently and in order," 1Cor.14.40, is a comprehensive principle. Also relevant is the parallel with Paul’s writings to the Corinthian assembly relative to both the collection for the poor and regarding the messengers: "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men," 2Cor.8.21. It is vital to ensure that good practice is both done and is seen to be done!
Those who returned with Ezra were not forgetful to give God His portion by offering unto the God of Israel, Ezra 8.35. This implemented the command of Artaxerxes, Ezra 7.17. But it is commendable that they who sought God’s face for protection at the start of their journey remembered to return to give God glory at its end. Their expression of gratitude embraces the whole of Israel both in burnt and sin offerings. And only after spiritual matters were attended to did they address the secular. "And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God," Ezra 8.36. Their loyalty to the civil and military powers was evident. But it was demonstrably subordinate to their reverence for God. This provides another vital lesson for us today.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.6 — THE CONCLUDING SALUTATIONS (Continued)
(B) His Salutations to Rome (Romans 16.8-16).
In this paper we will discuss the remaining particular salutations in v8-15, and the general salutation in v16. There would appear to have been a number of assemblies in the city of Rome, as indicated by the expressions "the church that is in their house," v5; "them which are of Aristobulus’ household," v10; "the household of Narcissus," v11; "and the brethren which are with them," v14; "and all the saints which are with them," v16. It is interesting and instructive that, with at least six assemblies in the city, Paul did not write to a representative such as a "Bishop," or to a representative body of men as an area-oversight. He wrote in such a way that his letter would reach each assembly, and encourage the strengthening of bonds between all those assemblies. Among the various companies of saints it would not be unreasonable to assume that there were different degrees of loyalty to the truth of Scripture; yet he did not differentiate between them or segregate them. The teaching for any one assembly was profitable and useful for all of them.
Among these various assemblies there were particular individuals to whom Paul wanted to make personal reference, and he gives his reason for mentioning each name. It is a record of the many true friends he had in Rome, and as we peruse their names we can learn valuable principles in the character of his commendation of them.
1. The Sensitiveness of his mention. With each name Paul uses a beautifully delicate touch with his pen; but there is no hint of fleshly flattery or favouritism. He outlines the facts of their fellowship with him: "beloved, well-beloved, helper, kinsman, work-fellow, and host." Paul does not specify the exact nature of what these helpers had done, simply that it was in fellowship with his service for the Lord.
2. The Warmth of his fellowship. As he travelled and preached the gospel, these saints had provided help and friendship for Paul. Their help meant a lot to him, and he had carefully noted their valuable contributions to the work of God. Now, when the opportunity has arisen, he pays them respect and recognition in a warm-hearted way. This is not a mere list of deeds or duties, but the appreciation by an eminent servant of God of what they had done to help him. It comes right from his heart, and with all the sincerity that a man can apply by Divine inspiration.
3. The Intensity of his love. The expression, "beloved," in its various forms is used a number of times by the apostle. While there is no doubt that Paul loved all the saints, there were some whose memory evoked in his heart a feeling of deep, sincere love. So this is not fawning, nor an insincere greeting. In one case (Persis, v12), he tells us what she did: she "laboured much in the Lord." In another case, he just tells us that Amplias is "beloved in the Lord." Perhaps it was not appropriate for Paul to give specific reasons for his deep love for Amplias (v8); but we cannot mistake the intensity of his love in the Lord for this particular saint.
4. The Variety of his perspectives. As Paul writes about these Christians, he views their relationship with him from different standpoints. He writes of some as being "in Christ;" of others as being "in the Lord;" and of some as "unto Christ," which lets us see that Paul does not generalise in his appreciation of his friends — he has a specific commendation for each:
The Family of Saints — mother (v13), brethren (v14), sister (v15).
The Field of Service — much labour (v6), helpers (v3,9), labour (v12).
The Fight of Soldiers — fellow-prisoners (v7).
The Fruits of Salvation — firstfruits of Achaia (v5).
The Fidelity of Saints — my beloved (v8,9).
Rather than a perusal of doubtful historical speculations about the various names listed, a careful consideration of these various designations and spheres of relationship will yield a much richer harvest of meditation and blessing.
V8 — "Amplias my beloved in the Lord." Amplias was a brother with a Latin name, who, along with two other brethren and one sister, was beloved in the Lord. Among slaves, Amplias was quite a common name; yet in the cemetery of Domatilla, one of the earliest catacombs, there is a highly decorated tomb that bears the single inscription of this name. This would suggest that he was a Roman slave who had considerable standing among the Christians. The name means ‘enlarged,’ or ‘made great.’ What a testimony of grace, that a lowly slave should be so highly thought of by the saints, and well-beloved by the apostle.
V9 — "Urbane, our helper in Christ and Stachys my beloved." Urbane (Urbanus R.V.) is afforded the same classification as Priscilla and Aquila (v3): ‘fellow-worker.’ We are not told anything of the nature or extent of his work; but from the phrase, "in Christ," we get an indication that he had been specially called to help in the furtherance of Paul’s great teaching of "the mystery" of the church. This would include the spread of the gospel among unbelievers, and the strengthening of believers: bringing in those who are outside, and building up those who are inside, was constantly a burden upon Paul’s heart.
"Stachys my beloved." Like Amplias (v8), Stachys is described simply as "my beloved." A cynic might say that, since most are mentioned for what they did, he is only mentioned in this bland way lest he should feel excluded or belittled. Not so! But it is true that some are mentioned for what they did, and Stachys solely on the basis of what he was. Paul does not tell us why; but for some reason he was loved — likely because of the type of character he was. Some Christians are such an example of the grace of God, with the fruit of the Spirit evident in their lives, that it is almost impossible not to love them. We should try to live so that the grace of God and the fruit of the Spirit are manifested in such a way that, Stachys-like, we are loved for what we are.
V10 — "Apelles approved in Christ … them which are of Aristobulus’ household." The greeting to Apelles tells us that he had been tested and approved in relation to his testimony or claims as a Christian — hence the mention of "in Christ." His approval was not so much personal, as positional. Whatever the test was, he had shown beyond all doubt that he was worthy of the claim to be ‘in Christ.’ He had been tested and tried, and had emerged triumphantly. In secular history the household of Aristobulus appears as one of the great noble families in Rome, being close to Caesar. What a triumph for the gospel of Christ, that salvation reached the servants in a household so close to the seat of power in Imperial Rome. When Paul writes to Philippi, he sends greetings from "they that are of Caesar’s household" Phil.4.22. Writing from the city of Rome, he includes greetings from Christians who are household-servants to Caesar. It is unclear whether this is the immediate household of Caesar or the Praetorian Guard, but that is not important. In our passage in Romans it is worth noting that the words "household of" are absent — suggesting a closer relationship with Aristobulus and Narcissus than servants. It is possible that Paul is writing about the immediate families of these two great men.
V11— "Herodian my kinsman … them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord." Continuing the theme of the previous verse, if the gospel reached into families of such note in Rome, we have an insight into the great advances of the gospel to the Gentile world. This adds importance to the repeated plea in ch.14,15 for unity among the saints at Rome. In the fellowship of Christians there were high and low, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, master and slave, male and female. As he sends his greetings to such a diverse group of people, Paul singles out some from each class for special mention and affection. His own actions corroborate his teaching on unity: his behaviour does not contradict what he teaches.
V12 — "Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. The beloved Persis which laboured much in the Lord." Paul is careful to make note of any contribution to the work of God, irrespective of its substance or source. Most agree that these were three sisters. His hearty commendation of their assistance in the furtherance of the work of God is a helpful answer to the suggestion in some quarters, that Paul downgraded women. As shown also in Phil.4.3, Paul did appreciate the toil of sisters in the Lord. In the commendation of Persis, the quantity of her labour is identified by the word "much." Down through the centuries the progress of the gospel owes much to many diligent sisters who actively promoted the cause of Christ. They have had a powerful and pervasive influence in spiritual work, and it is fitting that they should be mentioned as praiseworthy. To be of influence in this work does not mean that they should depart from their God-given sphere, as clearly taught in the New Testament, 1Cor.14.34; 1Tim.2.11-15; Tit.2.4,5. Where they have departed from spiritual service in a God-given sphere, the results have demonstrated that their actions should not be copied, 1Tim.2.14,15.
V13 — "Rufus, chosen in the Lord and his mother and mine." Traditionally, Rufus is identified as the son of Simon of Cyrene, Mk.15.21. That may be so; but among slaves Rufus was a common name. The word ‘chosen’ is usually understood as ‘elected,’ but it can also have the meaning of ‘favourite,’ or ‘special.’ The context always determines how it should be understood. In a list where all those mentioned are ‘elect,’ in the sense of Rom.8.33, it may well bear the other meaning of someone who was a favourite, or specially favoured, by the apostle. When you bear in mind that Paul regarded Rufus’ mother as his own, that may explain his special regard for her son. She had shown motherly love and labour to the apostle, and this would have brought Paul into close contact with their home, and given Rufus a special place of brotherly favour with Paul.
V14 — "Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them." V15 — "Philologus and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them." In these two verses, the apostle identifies a number of individuals, both men and women; and those who "are with them." It is most likely that these verses refer to different assemblies of believers in the city. As we come to the end of this list of select individuals, there is a searching question worth asking: if Paul were writing a letter to the assemblies in my area, how would he describe me? Indeed, would he mention me at all? We should endeavour to live and labour in such a way as to ensure inclusion in a list of commendations, like v3-16. At all costs we should avoid identification with the division-makers of v17 and 18!
2. General Instruction and Salutation v16. While the general salutation is nowhere nearly so extensive as the specific ones we have examined, both in this paper and the previous one, it is nonetheless genuine and meaningful.
V16 - "Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you." The practice of greeting with a kiss is seen in Lk.7.45; 1Cor.16.20; 2Cor.13.12; 1Thess.5.26 and 1Pet.5.14. It is variously called ‘a kiss,’ ‘a holy kiss,’ and ‘a kiss of love.’ A kiss signifies that it is not a dead greeting — there is no aloofness about it. A holy kiss signifies that it is not a dubious greeting — there is nothing sensual or indecent about it. A kiss of love signifies that it is not a deceitful greeting — there is nothing insincere or false about it. In our society, where people are becoming more self sufficient and proud, we should ensure that our greetings are warm and genuine. Where innuendo and loose living are rampant, we should ensure that our greetings are holy and pure. With the prevalence of dishonesty and falsehood around us in the world, we should ensure that when we greet one another we mean what we say.
It is only here that Paul uses the term, "churches of Christ." It embraces all the assemblies, and identifies them as belonging to Christ in a unique and intimate way. For whatever reason he uses this universal type of expression, Paul wants to assure the saints in Rome that they are within the interest of all the churches of Christ. Because Paul had not yet visited Rome, perhaps they felt estranged from other assemblies who had enjoyed his presence and labour; so he wants to assure them of the affection of other saints, and that they are not disadvantaged by geographical location. In our contact and communication with one another, we should emulate Paul’s embracive love for every saint, and do everything we can to encourage love between assemblies; rather than speak or act in a way that cultivates division amongst those who are "in Christ," and "in the Lord."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 11 — "FOR A MEMORIAL"
That night in Egypt was to be kept in perpetual remembrance by the people of Israel. That it might never be forgotten the Passover was to be observed annually as a feast to Jehovah throughout their generations. "Ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever," Ex.12.14. There is a dangerous tendency in the human heart to forget, particularly in matters relating to God. How often in Deuteronomy — that book which gives us Moses’ final addresses to the people — we come across such admonitions as "Beware lest thou forget," and "Take heed that ye remember." Peter’s last epistle was written in order that his readers might, after his departure, have his teaching, "always in remembrance." One of the marks of a backslider, according to this apostle, is his having "forgotten that he was purged from his old sins," 2Pet.1.9.
The Lord’s Supper comes to mind here. The Saviour was on the eve of death when He instituted it. His wonderful course on earth was ending, and He was about to undergo the supreme anguish of Calvary. Only by His death could atonement be affected and salvation be made possible for sinful men. Yet even One so divinely unique as he, and a sacrifice so stupendous as the sacrifice of Himself, would be in danger of being forgotten by His own. Accordingly He gave to His disciples first the bread, and then the cup, saying, "This do in remembrance of Me," Lk.22.19-20. Years after His return to heaven’s glory, the Holy Spirit reiterated His words in 1Cor.11.23-25, adding, "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till He come." Thus during the whole period of His absence on high the Lord’s Supper remains with the Church as the memorial of her once-slain Lord and Saviour. The absurdity of encouraging any to partake thereof who have no saving knowledge of Christ should be apparent; for how can I recall to remembrance a person I have never known?
Year by year the Passover feast was to be observed in Israel. In this way the goodness of God was to be kept alive in the minds of the people and the mighty fact that He redeemed them from the bondage of Egypt, taking them unto relationship with Himself on the ground of the blood of the lamb. Connected with the Passover there were to be seven days of unleavened bread. Leaven is everywhere in Scripture the type of evil. Thus in God’s picture book as elsewhere in the plainest language. He insists upon purity of life and doctrine in all whom grace has sheltered beneath the Saviour’s blood.
The children of the Israelites came into the divine thought also. They were to be carefully instructed as to the meaning of the Paschal feast. The case is supposed in Ex.12.26-27 of the children inquiring at a later date, "What mean ye by this service?" The parents were to reply, "It is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s Passover who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses." Let us in this day see to it that we are not only ourselves under the shelter of the blood of the Lamb, but that our children also are in the same position of divine security. The wrath of God against all undgodliness is a tremendous reality, from which nothing can screen either ourselves or our children but the Saviour’s blood.
The Garments of the Saviour
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
3. The Garment of Mystery
The robe for which men gambled at Calvary was "seamless". The soldiers recognised the value and the beauty of this seamless garment and said, "Let us not rend it," Jn.19.24. There was a unity which must not be spoiled, and in symbol we may see that inexplicable, indivisible unity of the human and the divine in the Person of our Lord Jesus. It has often been pointed out that this truth is, in a special way, the theme of the writings of the Apostle John, who so intimately and so personally knew and loved the Saviour. John has bequeathed to us, by inspiration, his Gospel, his three Epistles, and his Revelation. In his Gospel he demonstrates that the Man of Galilee was God. In his letters he shows us that it was indeed God who became Man. In his Revelation he proves the ultimate triumph of Him who is both God and Man.
Of this wondrous blending of Godhood and Manhood in one glorious Person we must say, "Let us not rend it." We dare not coldly analyse or segregate these two aspects of our Lord’s Person. Such irreverent academic prying into such holiness would be akin to lifting the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, a deed which brought severe judgment on the men of Bethshemesh so long ago, 1Sam.6.19. Our Saviour is God. Our Saviour is Man. It is a holy mystery, incomprehensible. Like the men with the seamless robe we say again, "Let us not rend it."
How carefully then do the Gospels preserve this unity. It seems that wherever we are given a glimpse of our Lord’s humanity there is invariably, and at once, a reminder of His Deity. This is, as has already been suggested, particularly so in the Gospel according to John. This blessed Man never ceased to be God.
How human was our Lord Jesus in accepting an invitation to the wedding in Cana. With His mother and His disciples He graciously deigned to be there as a guest. But it was in these lowly circumstances that He chose to manifest His glory in that first miracle of making the water wine. His last recorded miracle in John’s Gospel had similar connotations. The sisters at Bethany were in sorrow. Their brother Lazarus had died. The Saviour, in the reality of His manhood, saw them weeping and He wept with them. It has been said, "The tears of God in the eyes of a Man!" What an evidence that His holy manhood was real. Jesus wept! But this weeping Man is God, and in just a little while He calls forth the dead from the grave, and death must obey Him. Humanity and Deity! Blessed truth, let us not rend it!
Again, is not this a picture of true Manhood, to see Him wearied with His journey and resting on the well at Sychar. He was hungry too, and thirsty, asking for a drink and waiting for His disciples to bring food from the town. How real was this humanity, when He was recognised by the woman of Samaria only as "A Jew!" But as the conversation continues she realises that this Stranger is no ordinary Jew. With divine insight and all-knowledge He reveals her heart. He knows her past and her present. He knows all about her. This hungry, thirsty, tired Man is God. He can meet her need fully. He is the Christ, and the Saviour of the world. He is God and Man. It is a glorious truth. Let us not rend it!
It was some time later that the Jews said of Him, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?", Jn.6.42. And again, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?", Jn.7.15. What glimpses are these, of Him who had lived simply among them for thirty years in Nazareth. He was, to them, but the son of the carpenter. He was not a man of learning like their scribes and lawyers but He was truly Man. Yet, they had to marvel at His ability to teach the things of God, and He who was to them the son of Joseph fed five thousand of them with five loaves and two small fishes. Some said, "He is a good Man," Jn.7.12. He was, of course, but why did they not recognise that He was God? We who acknowledge both His Manhood and His Godhood have learned a great truth indeed. Let us not rend it!
After a lengthy discourse concerning His relationship with the Father, they said to Him, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil." How they despised His Manhood. In great grace He replied simply, "I have not a devil," Jn.8.48-49. Why did He not answer the Samaritan charge? Were there Samaritans within hearing whom He would not offend? He then proceeded to tell them of His greatness, saying, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day … Before Abraham was, I am." They argued with the Man but failed to recognise that this Man was God. The Man of Galilee was, in fact, the God of Abraham! What a truth! A mystery perhaps, but let us not rend it.
It was a man who had been blind from birth, but whose sight had been miraculously restored, who spoke of the Saviour as "A Man that is called Jesus," Jn.9.11. It was all that he knew at the time. "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Jesus asked him later. In simplicity and sincerity he replied, "Who is He Lord, that I might believe." Jesus made Himself known and the poor man acknowledged, "Lord, I believe," and he worshipped Him. The Man called Jesus was the Son of God. Truly, the Man from Nazareth was God. Precious truth, let us not rend it!
Was that not an instance of His real Manhood, that He could enjoy the hospitality of the home in Bethany. They made Him welcome and He appreciated that. He sat at their table and shared a meal with them and Mary poured her spikenard upon Him in true acknowledgement of all that He was. The chief priests consulted together how they might put both Him and Lazarus to death. Next day He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Why did they not recognise that this was an unbroken colt on which never a man had sat before, and yet it carried Him calmly into the City? The dumb ass knew more than they! The Lord of creation sat upon it. Why could they not see that this was the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy, Zech.9.9. The Man on the donkey was the God for whom they had waited, but they failed to see. How could a Man be God? His people believe it, even when they cannot understand.
"Behold the Man," said Pilate. "Behold your God," said the prophet, Isa.40.9. Yet both the Roman Governor and the prophet of Israel were calling attention to the same Person. Let us not rend it, this divine mystery, but let us sing —
In Thee, most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s glories shine,
Of the full Deity possessed,
True image of the Infinite,
Whose essence is concealed;
Brightness of uncreated light,
The heart of God revealed
But the high mysteries of His Name
An angel’s grasp transcend;
The Father only (glorious claim!)
The Son can comprehend.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Devices and Wiles of Satan
by C. Jones (Wales)
PAPER 2 — DOTH JOB FEAR FOR NOUGHT?
In the book of Job we can read of a conversion between God and Satan in which Satan slandered man to God. God described His servant Job as a "perfect man, an upright man," Job 1.8. Satan replied by slandering Job to God and said "Doth Job fear God for nought?", Job 1.9. He claimed that Job only served God because of the material benefits God showered upon Job and the protection from harm that God bestowed upon him, Job 1.10. Satan argued that if these benefits and protection were withdrawn then Job would curse God, Job 1.11. God gave Satan permission to harm all that Job had but did not allow him to harm Job, Job 1.12.
Here we see the absolute sovereignty of God, in that Satan, a created being of immense power, can only go as far as God permits. Another example of this is the occasion when Satan desired to have power over the disciples so that he might sift them as wheat, Lk.22.31. God controls all events and circumstances for the eternal benefit of the believer, Rom.8.28. God is sovereign and if He is "for us, who can be against us?", Rom.8.31.
Job lost his possessions and his children, and was greatly distressed, but "sinned not, nor charged God foolishly," Job 1.22. He was not sinless, for "all have sinned," Rom.3.23, but he was "upright" in the sense that men could not find fault with him. Job feared God and avoided evil, Job 1.8. Satan continued to slander Job to God and God gave him permission to hurt Job's body but not to take his life, Job 2.6. Satan then afflicted Job severely with boils. Both Job's wife and his friends discussed his situation with him and offered him advice, much of which only served to make clear that human reasoning is not always capable of understanding the reasons behind events or of providing correct solutions to the dilemmas and calamities people are faced with in life. As a result of his sufferings, we have on record those wonderful statements Job made, such as "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord," Job 1.21; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," Job 13.15, and "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God," Job 19.25,26. Job's friends were not correct in suggesting that Job's sufferings were because of his sins. This is not always so, because God disciplines and chastises His children and "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," Heb.12.11. God will not allow us to be tempted and tried beyond what we can endure, 1Cor.10.13. Job's confidence was in God. He was humble before God and said "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," Job 42.6.
Job raised a fundamental question which can only be answered by one who knows something of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the value of His shed blood. Job asked "how should man be just with God?" Job 9.2. Believers can answer "being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him," Rom.5.9. Then again Job regretted the fact that there was no one to stand between him and God, Job 9.32-33. Believers enjoy the great blessing of knowing that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time," 1Tim.2.5-6.
Despite the wiles of the Devil, Job came out of all his suffering glorifying God and more aware than he ever had been of his complete dependence on God. He proved Satan to be a liar in his slandering of Job to God, and after all the troubles and testings "the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning," Job 42.12.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Isaiah 54 — Israel's Restoration
by J. Gibson (Scotland)
This prophecy of Isa.54, follows on from the record of Israel's repentance and their acknowledgement of collective guilt in relation to the Messiah and His suffering in ch.53. This must always be the order, repentance followed by restoration. The details of this chapter are not to be interpreted allegorically, or at a purely spiritual level; though there are a number of spiritual lessons to be learnt. When Israel as a nation repents, then these prophecies will be literally fulfilled. Three main subjects are dealt with:
1. Israel's Suffering
2. Israel's Sovereign
3. Israel's Salvation
a. Barrenness — v1
Keil and Delitzsch apply this verse specifically to Jerusalem, and describe it as an ‘allusion to her depopulation as a city.’ The same Hebrew word is used in Gen.11.30; 25.21; 29.31, where it means the physical inability to bear children. There will be a reduced birth rate amongst Jewish women during the tribulation period. Though this is an act of judgment upon Israel, yet in another sense it is an evidence of the mercy of God, in that He will spare them from some of the sufferings they might otherwise experience, Matt.24.19. Often God's judgments upon His people are turned into blessings. The nation will also be unfruitful spiritually, with little in them to bring pleasure to God. Are we spiritually fruitful for the Lord?
b. Universality — v3
In this verse we read of cities which will have been made desolate. This implies universal destruction and a rise in the international death toll. Thus Israel will not be alone in her suffering. It brings to mind the Nazi holocaust of World War II with mass graves and hundreds of bodies being thrown in on top of each other. That will seem as nothing during the tribulation when whole cities will be devastated and left without inhabitant, Rev. 6.4,8.
c. Shortness — v7 — ‘a small moment’
This will be a period of unparalleled suffering, yet in comparison to the coming glory it will be very brief, in fact just seven years. In Isa.61.2, it is but a ‘day of vengeance’ as opposed to an ‘acceptable year.’ Such will be the onslaught of judgment and loss of human life that if the time were lengthened there would be no one left alive on the earth, Matt.24.22. The judgment of God in these circumstances is graciously swift.
d. Abandonment — v7 — ‘have I forsaken thee’
What an awful experience to be abandoned by God! In Ex.25.8 the Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle so He could dwell in the midst of Israel, but they will not enjoy this privilege in the time of their trouble. Instead of God's face shining on them, it will be hidden, Num.6.25.
c. Wrath — v8
Zeph.1.15 describes this dark period in the history of the world in terms of brevity, it being but a day, and that a day of wrath. The suffering of Israel will be as a result of God's anger with them because of their continual sin and rebellion against Him.
f. Completion — v9
After the flood God promised never again to destroy every living thing as He had done, Gen.8.21. In much the same way the tribulation is never to be repeated for Israel. Once it is over, it is over forever. In v9 we have Scriptural authority for viewing Noah and his family passing through the waters of judgment as an anticipation of Israel passing through the great tribulation. In Gen.5.24 Enoch is a type of the church being removed before the day of wrath.
g. Instability — v11
We have pictured here a wild and stormy sea. The ‘tempest’ expresses the fury of Gentile powers in their satanically inspired determination to crush Israel out of existence. And the Jews will be tossed in that tempest with no sure foundation for their feet to rest upon. New Testament believers can also experience instability in their lives through doubt, Jms.1.6, and exposure to false doctrine, Eph.4.14.
h. Comfortlessness — v11
The same root word for ‘comfort’ in this verse is also used to describe David sending messengers to console Hanun following the recent death of his father, 2Sam.10.3. The Jewish nation will not experience such a blessing during that time. Israel will not only suffer from others, but on the whole they will be neglected and ignored in their suffering. That is to say the great majority of the world's population will not want to have anything to do with them. They will be comfortless, Matt.25.41-43. This is a general statement, because there will be a few who will actively succour Israel in their distress, but not many. They are described as sheep in the judgment of the nations in Matt.25.
i. Fearfulness — v14
During the Millennial period of bliss, there will be no fear, however, by implication, there will be much fear for Israel during the day of her trouble. This was one of the threatened punishments on disobedience found in the Law of Moses, Lev.26.36-37. If they obeyed, they would have courage and boldness beyond belief, and their enemies would flee before them. If on the other hand they disowned the regulations contained in the law, they would tremble before their oppressors.
j. Attack — v17
They will be attacked from all sides. This will be physical ("weapon’), verbal (‘tongue’), and headed up in the person of the anti-Christ (‘the waster’) who, along with all other world powers, will have been raised up by the Lord, Rom.13.1.
The tribulation is an outpouring of the wrath of God against sin. Because we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour we will never have to experience these judgments. We have been saved not only from the Great White Throne judgment and subsequent torments in the lake of fire, but also from this intense period of suffering which will be experienced by all the inhabitants of the world, 1Thess.1.10. The bright and living hope which should burn in every Christian's heart is the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ to take us to be forever with Himself. Despite this we mush be acutely aware that sin in our lives does grieve the heart of God and we must make every effort to avoid it.
—to be continued (D.V.)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (84)
by Colin Raggett (Botswana)
I was born in Manchester, England into a Christian home, the second of five children. My parents were, and still are, in assembly fellowship. I had the privilege of being taken to meetings — including Sunday School — from an early age and I learnt my need of salvation whilst still very young. I distinctly remember the night when only six years of age I asked my dad what I needed to do to get salvation. That night I received the Lord Jesus as my Saviour.
At 13 I realised the necessity of obedience to the Lord in baptism and thereafter was received into assembly fellowship at the Cheetham Gospel Hall in Manchester which was to be my spiritual home for the next 18 years. There I learned the importance of getting involved in all the activities of the local assembly including the Sunday School, open-air work and door-to-door visitation. I well remember the first gospel meeting I was asked to share. My brother David and I, together with another young man, shared the meeting. Looking back to that occasion I remember being very nervous but a start has to be made somewhere and I would encourage young men to give themselves to the gospel early on in their Christian lives.
My parents were always hospitable and we regularly had the privilege of having many of the Lord’s servants staying in our home. Many of them encouraged my brothers and me to study the Scriptures for ourselves and to get involved in gospel outreach.
In my late teens I benefited tremendously from weekly Bible Studies led by Norman Mellish who was at that time in the Wythenshawe assembly in South Manchester. In these studies we, as young men, were positively encouraged to contribute and gradually convictions about Divine truth, in particular the truth of the local assembly, were formed. We look back with deep gratitude to brethren like Norman who were prepared to give of their time to help us in spiritual things. He was also, at that time, having tent meetings each summer in the Manchester area and he encouraged us to get involved in that work.
One of the preachers who came to the Cheetham assembly for meetings was Phil Harding, who has had, and continues to have a major spiritual impact on my life. That was how I first met his eldest daughter Christine who, in the goodness of the Lord, was to become my wife. Christine and I began to attend the Bible Readings at the Bicester assembly in Oxfordshire, England. It was there that many brethren had an influence on our lives but noteably our beloved brother, the late Robert McPheat to whom we owe a great debt, and whom we miss greatly. Even though he was very busy with the Bible Readings and the Gospel Meetings he took an interest in the young people and was willing to answer questions and to give advice on matters of importance to us at that time. Some of us even sought him out early in the morning and he was always available. The wise counsel he gave was used of God to help us to continue on in the Christian pathway. It was during those years that we also began to help evangelists in Scotland during some of our holidays from work, especially John Campbell and Jack Hay and in later years Robert Revie. These brethren taught us, by example, how to reach precious souls and how to teach children the Word of God. The things we learnt then we are still using daily in the Lord’s work here in Botswana.
Christine and I were married in 1977 and the Lord blessed us with three children, Andrew, Beth and Philip. In the goodness of the Lord each got saved as the years went by and all three are now in assembly fellowship. They have been, and still are, a tremendous help in our work for the Lord here in Botswana (though Andrew and Beth are currently in England for university studies).
In the early 80’s the Lord began to speak to us about missionary work and we began to invite missionaries into our home, arranging meetings for them in the locality and writing to a number of them personally. One day we received a letter from a brother whose interest in missionary work is second to none. He had been in our home a few days earlier and in our conversation together we had mentioned that we felt we were at a crossroads in our lives. He wrote wondering if maybe the Lord was calling us to serve Him overseas. From that day on that thought never left my mind although it was years before we actually stepped forth in faith.
During this period I was working as a surveyor and I began to be increasingly aware of the need to devote more of my time to gospel work. I therefore asked my boss to allow me to work four days a week for a 20% reduction in salary. He refused because we were too busy. Within a week, while attending a professional conference, I met a Christian architect who was a partner in a Manchester firm (where the partners were all believers) and who was looking for someone to join their surveying department. Just that very morning one of their surveyors had handed in his notice. I mentioned to him about the possibility of a four-day week and on hearing the reason why I wanted this, he immediately arranged an interview and I was offered the job. This was really of the Lord and the job proved to be very flexible. The firm was very kind and I learnt a great deal there. The extra day each week enabled us to commence children’s meetings in our home and gave extra time for visitation work in which I was joined by Andrew Renshaw of the Wythenshawe assembly who later married my sister Alison (now serving the Lord in Brazil). We also had the joy of holding series of children’s meetings in the assembly.
In 1986 the Lord led us to move to South Manchester and we were warmly received into fellowship in the local assembly at Wythenshawe. The Lord began to show us that He wanted us to serve Him in a full-time capacity and made that clear in a variety of ways. One of the unforgettable experiences at that time was the day we attended the annual conference at the assembly at Blackpool, England. The Lord exercised one of the preachers to speak about Barnabas and the call to full-time service. Both Christine and I left that conference without any doubt that the Lord wanted us to serve Him in a full-time capacity. I felt convinced that He wanted us to serve Him overseas but we knew that it was important for us both to be sure of this before taking such an important step. Christine was not sure about overseas service at that time, so we continued to wait upon the Lord and we proved that waiting time is not wasted time as things were learnt during that period that have been invaluable.
The Lord used numerous Scriptures to speak to us and to guide us and once we were both clear that He wanted us to serve Him overseas we then asked Him to bring the country of His choice before us. Over a period of months during 1990/91 the Lord continually brought the land of Botswana before us — a country we knew little about at that time. We began to find out as much as we could about the country. It became unmistakeably clear that Botswana was the place of the Lord’s choice for us. The next step was speaking to our elders whose prayer support and wise counsel have always been greatly appreciated. They gave us the right hand of fellowship and made our exercise known to the assembly. At the same time we wrote to the Lord’s servants in Botswana telling them of our exercise.
At that time Andrew, Beth and Philip were 12, 10 and 7 respectively and we were concerned about their schooling in Botswana. A visit there in 1991 helped to convince us that home-schooling was what the Lord wanted us to do. We knew that this would be a major commitment on Christine’s part but through it we have been able to keep them with us and they have opened doors in the service of the Lord which have been very encouraging. The elders of Wythenshawe invited the brethren at Cheetham (now Prestwich) to join with our commendation which they were happy to do. We were commended to the grace of God for the work of the Lord in October 1991 on the same day as my sister and brother-in-law Alison and Andrew Renshaw. We left for Botswana in January 1992. We began language study with Jim Legge who very kindly also arranged for Andrew, Beth and Philip to have lessons and we are very grateful for the time he spent with us and his patience too! We continued working in Serowe until October 1999 when we moved to begin a new work in the village of Palapye where we now live.
The prayers of the Lord’s people for our blessing and preservation would be valued greatly.
Good Tidings from Heaven
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
In this materialistic age of keeping up with the Joneses, many are satisfied with the mere semblance of wealth. It matters not how deeply they may be in debt to secure a certain image, just as long as they appear to be wealthy. They may not actually ‘own’ what they proudly display, but this is offset with the sheer delight they experience when others seem to envy their lifestyle and comment on their car or house. Semblance for them is more important than substance and appearance than the actual. Such people are really living a lie and very often the cost of keeping up appearances takes its toll. The ‘tyranny of things’ can become a millstone around the neck and cause much sorrow. The clear warning of Scripture is, "They that will be (desire to be) rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." 1Timothy 6.10.
We must never delude ourselves into thinking that if I look like a Christian, or dress like a Christian, or try to act like a Christian or be in the company of Christians that I will eventually become one and maybe God Himself will fail to notice the difference and allow me into Heaven. "Be not deceived" — the soul-searching, penetrating gaze of the Omniscient will find you out and nothing but reality will count. In Matthew 22 we read of a man who appeared at a wedding feast without the requisite dress. He appears to have managed to slip through without anyone detecting his falsehood but there was one he could not deceive and in verse 11 it states: "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:" Those all-seeing eyes immediately noticed the glaring lack. Hebrews 4.13 reminds us that "… all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
Why accept a replica when you can have the genuine article? Why endure the misery of pretence when you can have God’s great salvation and become one of the blessed beneficiaries of the work accomplished by Christ on the Cross? Obtain today the greatest blessing that anyone can possess and rejoice to know that you have eternal life and will forever be in Heaven. Not all the wealth of all the world could purchase this salvation but you can accept it as a free gift from a bountiful God who delights to bless and desires the salvation of all men. To this end the Lord Jesus "gave Himself a ransom for all" 1Timothy 2.6. Gratefully and gladly do we often sing, "None need perish, all may live for Christ has died."
Rid yourself of all sham and acknowledge to God what you know yourself to be, a guilty, helpless sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness. Confess your sins to Him who is willing to pardon and by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting that what He did at Calvary has met all the righteous demands of God and therefore has met all your need, enter into the blessedness of peace with God.
Then you will be a Christian, for "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:" John 3.36 You will then be assured that you have something that God Himself cannot find fault with for He it was who gave His only begotten Son and He it was who designed the great redemption plan that involved the death of His only Son that you might live eternally. Do not allow anyone to convince you that there is an alternative, but confidently trust Him who said," I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Christ "was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." 2Corinthians 8.9.
… the consolation of Israel, Lk.2.25.
… the adoption, Rom.8.23.
… the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1Cor.1.7.
… Christ, 2Thess.3.5
by H. A. Barnes (England)
"… the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me,"