It hardly seems that twelve months have passed since we last wrote such a message to our readers. Society has not improved and rebellion against all authority, both of God and man, is increasing at an alarming rate. We recognise, "the spirit of lawlessness doth already work."
However, we who accept the Lordship of Christ gladly bow to divine authority. This is something to which we acquiesced at the moment of conversion. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom.10.9. 1Cor.1.2, "… with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."
In light of this please note four commands that God gives to us individually, each introduced by the expression, "be thou".
The first is in Gen.17.1, "… I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect." This has to do with our WALK OR SOJOURNING. The revelation of God in this verse gives impetus to the injunction. El Shaddai is not fully defined as "the Almighty God." "El" signifies the Strong One and is in itself an indication of His Almightiness. Shaddai comes from a root that means a woman’s breast. Thus it has the ideas of nourishment, giving of strength as well as satisfaction, rest and calmness. Since our God is all-powerful and yet has the sustaining and sympathetic heart of a mother, He has all the resources we need to fulfil the injunction to walk before Him and be perfect. To walk before him removes hypocrisy; to be perfect removes immaturity. Is not this the teaching of Phil.1.10, "that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; …" ? "Walk before me, (SINCERE) and be thou perfect.’ (WITHOUT OFFENCE) — What a standard!
Again, the word "perfect" means upright or sincere. In the light of all that is embraced in El Shaddai we need to be free from everything that is unrighteous or questionable.
Secondly, we are enjoined in Josh.1.7, "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest." This has to do with our WARFARE OR SOLDIERING. As Joshua was taking over the demanding role of leadership from the mighty man Moses, he is reminded four times, in this chapter, to be strong, v6, 7, 9, 18. This was not natural strength but would spring from reliance upon God and His Word. The comfort of v5, "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee", is really based on the command of v6, 7, 8. It is the same in our day, whether for leaders locally or servants in a wider sphere, all who are involved in warfare for Christ must be guided by His precepts if His presence is to be enjoyed.
Thirdly, the wise man encourages us in Proverbs 27.23, "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds." This has to do with our WORK IN SHEPHERDING. If there is one outstanding need right through the testimony worldwide, it is for true shepherds. Their work is demanding and exhausting, involves tears and weariness, is often unappreciated, but for the spiritual good of the assembly it is absolutely vital. This task can only be carried out with diligence and that which comes from a love for the Lord who is the Good Shepherd. Brethren, we recall that because this task is so demanding, He who appreciates all that is done for His people’s spiritual good, has promised a special reward for these special men. 1Pet.5.4, "when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
We conclude by recalling the words of the Lord Jesus Himself to the church in Smyrna, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev.2.10. This encourages us as we WAIT IN SUFFERING. Many of our brethren throughout the world live in the atmosphere of the constant threat of death. If the Lord Jesus does not return soon, perhaps this will be the portion of all who come under the world’s umbrella of, "fundamental, evangelical Christianity". As we face another year we grasp His command and seek to continue in faithfulness to Himself, yet all the while looking for His coming to the air "to receive from the world His own".
Not only does the passing of another year cogently remind us of the swift passing of time and the brevity of our lives but it affords us the opportunity for sober reflection.
We look back and with grateful hearts trace the unfailing faithfulness and goodness of our God. We look forward and anticipate with gladness that bright and blessed Maranatha morning when Christ will come. Midst the increasing tumult of a restless and dissatisfied world we incline our ears to hear that welcome voice we know so well, "Arise my love, my fair one, and come away." Song of Solomon 2.13. In view of that fast approaching moment, may the Spirit of God impress upon us all the limited opportunities to serve Him as we can only do on earth. May we be found waiting expectantly, watching and occupying "till He come," "redeeming the time." Col.4.5
We give thanks to God for His gracious help another year, enabling publication of "Assembly Testimony" to continue without interruption from its inception by godly brethren who were exercised about the instruction and edification of God’s people.
We appreciate the input of so many, those who write articles, those who pray for God’s blessing upon this ministry, those who encourage by their letters of appreciation, those who support by their practical fellowship and those who assist in the distribution of the magazines.
We are especially thankful to the Editor for his screening and selection of profitable material, to the Secretary and his wife for the cheerful way in which they undertake the many onerous tasks associated with the publication of the magazine and to the Accountant for his valued services.
It is our sincere prayer that we may continue to enjoy your prayerful and practical support, that believers may be edified and many of our unsaved friends be blessed as a result of the gospel articles. May you all know the Lord’s gracious blessing in the months of this year in His Will.
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
7) "Thou shalt Love the Lord Thy God"
Read Chapter 6
As we have noted, in ch.4-5, Moses reminds Israel of the covenant made with them at Sinai. Now, in ch.6, he tells them how they were to keep it. V4-9 comprise a ‘key passage’ in the book. They lie at the heart of God’s instructions in Deuteronomy, and emphasise devotion to God, v4-5, with corresponding devotion to the Word of God, v6-9. His commandments should not therefore be burdensome. See 1Jn.5.3.
The chapter can be analysed as follows:
(1) Approaching God's Word, v1-5;
(2) Applying God’s Word, v6-12;
(3) Admonishment from God’s Word, v13-19;
(4) Asking about God’s Word, v20-25.
1) APPROACHING GOD’S WORD, v1-5
These verses describe the atmosphere in which we should read and apply the Word of God. We should approach God’s Word with a sense of duty, v1-3, and a sense of devotion, v4-5.
A) Our duty to God, v1-3
His Word is binding upon us. This is clear from the words "commanded," "commandments," and "command." Like Israel, we are to be "obedient children," 1Pet.1.14. Notice that ch.6-9 all commence by emphasising the possession of the land. This is, of course, an outstanding characteristic of Deuteronomy.
B) Our devotion to God, v4-5
Without this, there can be no lasting obedience to God’s Word. Deuteronomy stresses God’s love for His people. See 7.7-8. It also stresses the importance of their love for Him. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (The word "one" here refers to a plurality in unity, and should be investigated further: it demonstrates the pinpoint accuracy of God’s Word). The Lord Jesus called this "the first and great commandment," Matt.22.37. We should remember too that only the Lord Jesus, the true Israel, fulfilled this command perfectly. The importance of Israel’s love for God is stressed throughout Deuteronomy. See, for example, 11.1, 13.22.
The Lord Jesus emphasised the same lesson: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments … He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me," Jn.14.15,21. Love for Christ is essential in Bible teaching and shepherd care. See Jn.20.15-17. It distinguishes the believer from the world, where men are "lovers of their own selves … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God," 2Tim.3.2-3.
An assembly that has lost its love for Christ, has lost its reason to exist. See Rev.2.4-5. "First love" is called the "love of thine espousals" in Jer.2.2. Is our love for God, not only being maintained, but increasing?
2) APPLY GOD’S WORD, v6-12
We can summarise this section as follows: (A) How it is to be applied, v6-7; (B) Where it is to be applied, v7-9; (C) Why it is to be applied, v10-12.
A) How it is to be applied, v6-7
i) It was to be applied with devotion. "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart." Love for God must promote love for the Word of God. It will be at the very centre of our lives, causing us to say, "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day," Ps.119.97. Love for God’s Word will preserve us from liberality and selectivity in interpretation. But it will also preserve us from cold dogmatism. How much we need sound uncompromising teaching which, at the same time, warms our hearts! See Matt.12.34-35. Teaching must flow out of the heart.
ii) It was to be applied with diligence. "And thou shalt teach them diligently (‘impress them,’ JND)." The word "diligently" literally means ‘to sharpen,’ and also occurs in 32.41, "If I whet my glittering sword." According to Gesenius, it means ‘to assail any one with sharp sayings,’ with the idea of impressing and enforcing by constant repetition. This emphasises the need for care and continuity in Bible teaching, with particular reference to coming generations of believers. This is stressed in Deuteronomy, not only later in this chapter, see v20, but, for example, in 4.9 and 32.46. See also Ps.71.18. The New Testament speaks with the same voice. See 2Tim.2.2. Compare this with Ps.78.3-7.
B) Where it is to be applied, v7-9
Precept must be backed by practice. There is a good illustration of this in Ezra 5.2. Among other things, these verses emphasise that the next generation of Israelites were to see the Word of God in action. Once again, as we should expect, the New Testament speaks with the same voice. See 1Tim.4.11-12 and Tit.2.6-7. Four couplets follow. The Word of God was to be applied (i) to daily conversation, v7; (ii) to daily routine, v7; (iii) to daily activities, v8; (iv) to daily security, v9. Compare 11.18-20.
i) To daily conversation, v7. "Thou … shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by." There are no double standards here!
(a) In the family circle. "When thou sittest in thine house." In our haste to apply this to a wider sphere, we must not overlook the literality of these instructions. What do we talk about at home? Is there any conversation about the Scriptures? Then there is the wider ‘family circle.’ See, for example, Mal.3.17. We must remember the injunction, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers," Eph.4.29.
(b) In the circle of society. "When thou walkest by the way." By what are we known to others? We should be known for our positive testimony. That is, we should be known for what we do say, not just by what we do not say! After all, the Word is to be in our hearts! We should be glad to speak about divine things! This reminds us of a galaxy of New Testament passages. For example, Col.4.6, Tit.2.8, 1Pet.3.15. Of the Lord Jesus we read, "All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth," Lk.4.22.
ii) To daily routine, v7. "Thou … shalt talk of them … when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Once again, we must not overlook the literality of these instructions. See Ps.92.1-2.
(a) The day was to conclude with the Scriptures. The Word of God had the final word! This must be true for us in every sense. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them," Isa.8.20. The Word of God was to be final for Israel. See Deut.17.8-13. It is to be final for us. See, for example, 1Cor.14.37. The local assembly is to be "the pillar and ground of the truth," 1Tim.3.15. The Bible is not only a book of proof texts, it is equally a book of proof principles. For example, "Let all your things be done with charity (love)," 1Cor.16.14; "Let all things be done unto edifying," 1Cor.14.26, and "Let all things be done decently and in order," 1Cor.14.40. The Word of God is to be final in all matters of doctrine and practice.
(b) The day was to commence with the Scriptures. They are the source of everything for the believer. This balances the previous instruction. The Scriptures are positive: they promote conduct. "Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto Thee," Ps.143.8. This is how the Lord Jesus began the day. See Isa.50.4. Our conduct throughout the day, and throughout life, must be regulated by the Scriptures: all must begin and end with reference to the Word of God.
iii) To daily activities, v8. "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." See Ex.13.9,16. (Note the mark of the beast will be "in their right hand, or in their foreheads," Rev.13.16).
(a) "Upon thine hand." This reminds us that the Word of God must govern our work and activity. The hand is the emblem of work. See Gen.31.42, Lk.9.62. The Word of God must govern our secular activity. Read, for example, Eph.6.5 and Tit.2.9. The Word of God must govern our evangelical activity. For example: "For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord," 1Thess.1.8. We must continue to "preach the Word."
(b) "Between thine eyes." Now we have the Scriptures in our thinking. This refers to the New Testament ‘phylactery,’ which was ‘a small strip of parchment, with portions of the law written on it: it was fastened by a leathern strap either to the forehead or to the left arm over against the heart, to remind the wearer of the duty of keeping the commandments of God in the head and in the heart,’ W. E. Vine.’ See Ps.1.2, "His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night."
iv) To daily security, v9. "Thou shalt write upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." That is, at the places of entry. The place of entry needs protection.
(a) In the personal sphere. "Upon the posts of thy house." (Orthodox Jews still practise this: it is called the ‘mezuzah’). The blood on the door posts, Ex.12.7, brought protection from judgment: the Word of God on the door posts was to give protection from forgetfulness. See v17-18. We need the protection of the Word of God as far as our personal lives and our homes are concerned.
(b) In the corporate sphere. "And on thy gates." We need the protection of the Word of God as far as the assembly is concerned. See 1Tim.4.16, and Tit.1.9. Compare Acts 20.28-30. The Lord’s people need protection from "grievous wolves" and "men … speaking perverse things."
C) Why it was to be applied, v10-12
"And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which He sware unto thy fathers … then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." Compare 8.7-14. This is quite self-explanatory, but alas, Israel’s subsequent history proved that they failed to heed the warning, just as they failed to heed the injunction in 12.8. This is why we need to "have these things always in remembrance," 2Pet.1.15. We should covet the commendation of Rev.3.8.
3) ADMONISHMENT FROM GOD’S WORD, v13-19
This section of the chapter continues to warn God’s people. We need admonition as well as exhortation. The instruction here is expressed negatively, v14-16, and positively, v17-19. The opening words of this section were quoted by the Lord Jesus in dealing with Satan. See Matt.4.10. We should notice the jealousy of God. God is jealous of His own glory. See Ex.39.25, Isa.48.11, 1Cor.1.29-31. He is jealous for His people. See Joel 2.18, Ezek.36.5-6, Zech.1.14, etc. He is jealous, as here, of the affections of His people. See Ex.34.14, Deut.32.16,21, etc.
4) ASKING ABOUT GOD’S WORD, v20-25
"And when thy son asketh thee …" Do notice that in this case, and in Ex.12.26-27, 13.14-15, and Jos.4.6, informed and intelligent answers were forthcoming. This reminds us that those precious principles of gathering which we espouse can, and should be, established in the minds of younger believers from the Word of God. To just say, ‘this is what we do,’ or ‘we have always done it this way in the assemblies,’ is not good enough. Whilst it is true that some questions are engendered by a rebellious spirit, this is not always the case. Young people’s questions have sometimes been mistakenly construed as rebellion, and ungraciously dismissed, possibly because the people to whom the questions are addressed are unable to give satisfactory answers!
Do notice that adherence to the Word of God is not only a matter of obedience: it is in our best interests. It is "for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us." What more encouragement do we need?!
— to be continued (D.V.)
Testimony in Troublous Times
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 17 - The grief of one Godly man (Ezra Chapter 9.4-15)
Grief attracts. The abject misery of Ezra sitting astonied with garments rent demonstrates his horror and intense distress. The moral outrage and disgrace felt by this servant of God in relation to these illicit relationships caused him, uniquely in Scripture, to pluck out his hair.
This was grief uncommon in its intensity. It was the experience of one who studied the Scriptures until he knew God intimately. More than any other man at this time, Ezra understood the abhorrence of God in relation to the present sin. The measure of his understanding is evidenced by the overwhelming effect upon his physical and emotional capacity. Thus he continued to sit traumatised.
Ezra’s grief was also magnetic: "Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel," Ezra 9.4. He was no longer alone! There are others who take the Word of God seriously. They all come to Ezra feeling the gravity of this sin. They too had kept apart from this evil and were alarmed that God would revisit His people with judgment.
His grief was silent and settled. There are emotions too deep for words that silence only can express: "none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great," Job 2.13. Ezra continued in this manner until "the evening sacrifice," Ezra 9.5.
His subsequent activity is on the basis and value of sacrifice, which prefigures the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. This is the only ground on which those who have sinned can approach God and plead for His continued grace and mercy. While recognising that fact, Ezra does not proceed with a blithe spirit. For too many the gravity of sin is little understood. For others any conviction of sin is shallow and transient. But that was not the case with Ezra. His initial activity is in keeping with rent garments. The intervening hours of silence had not diminished his view of the seriousness of this sin. His attitude is instructive: "I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God," Ezra 9.5. On the value of the evening sacrifice Ezra will confess the sins of the people. His posture indicates the genuine humiliation, dependence, submission and earnest supplication of one who can intercede for his brethren.
Then Ezra began to speak to God. He held nothing back! "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens," Ezra 9.6. Even though innocent personally, he identifies himself in priestly exercise with the people he represents before God. He then reviews God’s dealings in the history of His people and acknowledges the sin of each succeeding generation.
Ezra also considers the grace of God, particularly over the past 80 years since the decree of Cyrus, "to leave us a remnant to escape," Ezra 9.8. A remnant! The exiles that remained in Babylon were not accorded this title. This is a new word, for those who have escaped from danger, which occurs in Ezra 9.8,14,15; Neh.1.2. Also, in dependence upon God they were given a position as "a nail in His holy place," that is as a secure fixture in the restored sanctuary, Ezra 9.8. They could have links with One of whom we read, "And I will fasten Him as a nail in a sure place; and He shall be for a glorious throne to His father’s house. And they shall hang upon Him all the glory …," Isa.22.23,24.
Were they prepared to jeopardise those links with the Temple and Messiah, which had given them recent encouragement? "That our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage," Ezra 9.8. What made their eyes to shine again, giving them vigour and joy? The mercy shown in bringing them back to Judah and the building of the Temple! This was a pledge as to their place in Divine purpose. But that reviving was partial. Only a remnant of the Jews had returned. Therefore there is a fullness, as yet unrealised, which was put in jeopardy by the present sin of illicit relationships.
He also recognises base ingratitude as "God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem," Ezra 9.9. They had sinned in the face of God’s protecting care, which enclosed them more effectively than a physical wall.
Ezra concludes with a short and honest prayer, Ezra 9.10. He acknowledges that the remnant have nothing to say in their defence. Ignorance of the law could not be pleaded. They had sinned against light. They had no excuse. He knew that the nation’s history gave abundant testimony that breakdown in national separation, leads to idolatry, which occasions Divine chastisement. Ezra’s conclusion, therefore, is "give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever," Ezra 9.12. Again, Ezra uses the word for "taking up," which he used in Ezra 9.2. Ezra was a skilled scribe. He is specific in his terminology. He is not dealing, as will become clear in chapter 10, with lawfully contracted marriages. And that which is unlawful in the sight of God cannot be legitimised by human sanction or ceremony.
He then acknowledges that God did not punish to the level that the nation’s iniquities deserved, Ezra 9.13. This is borne out by the preservation of a remnant. However, past sins were being revived. There was great danger that Divine wrath would be justly repeated, and the remnant obliterated, Ezra 9.14. He justifies God and is explicit that the actions of the princes and rulers in relation to the foreign women constitute "trespasses", Ezra 9.15. Moral sin unjudged will threaten the very existence of the testimony. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," 1Cor.5.6. As a leader of God’s people, he must judge the evil and not temporise. A principle that remains valid today!
— to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No. 6 - THE CONCLUDING SALUTATIONS (continued)
(D) Salutations from Corinth (Romans 16.21-24)
In the earlier verses of this chapter, Paul conveyed his greetings to various saints in the assemblies at Rome, v3-16. In the verses before us now, it is the privilege of eight brethren in Corinth to join with Paul in his greetings. Of these eight, Timothy is the one who is well known from other parts of the New Testament; but some of the other names are completely unknown to us. Timothy played a significant part in helping Paul in the gospel and caring for the saints, and he probably was his longest standing helper; hence he is mentioned first in the list. It is very difficult to identify some of the other men, or to evaluate their service in assisting Paul. Whatever little we may know of their labours, it is clear that Paul valued them, and recorded his appreciation: "my workfellow; my kinsman; mine host; a brother." Paul’s inclusion of these men at the end of this epistle is a clear illustration of what he has been teaching in its earlier chapters — that we should show appreciation for each other whether Jew or Gentile, weak or strong.
We will divide the subject matter of these verses into two sections: The Friends Described, and The Greetings Conveyed.
1. The Friends Described. It is remarkable throughout the chapter how Paul identifies and commends them in just a few words, but the brevity of his description adds to its eloquence. The challenge is: what kind of sentence would it take to describe our lives?
(A) Timothy, Paul’s Fellow-worker, v21. First in the list, he is Paul’s closest associate. Timothy was commended to the grace of God during Paul’s second missionary journey, Acts 16, and from there he was his constant helper and support. Acts 19.22 tells us that he ‘ministered unto’ Paul. It is likely that Timothy filled this role for a longer time than any other, except possibly Luke. The word for ‘workfellow’ is the same as ‘helper’ in vs3 and 9 of this chapter.
(B) Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Paul’s Kinsmen (v21). In vs7 and 11, Paul identifies others as his ‘kinsmen’, but these three may have been his fellow-country men. It is difficult to identify them positively in other passages of the New Testament. To say that this is the same Lucius of Cyrene mentioned in Acts13.1, is no less ambiguous than to say that it was Luke the Physician. The most important lesson in the chapter is not their positive identification, but to learn from their steadfastness, and the Apostle’s humility in naming them at all. Paul valued men like these, and he wanted that appreciation to be made known among the believers in Rome. When Gentile Christians in Rome received warm greetings from Jewish converts who were highly valued by Paul, it would emphasize the cordiality of the relationship between Christians, just as he had taught earlier in chs.13 and 14.
(C) Tertius, the Writer (v22). Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis on this occasion: Paul dictated the epistle, and Tertius wrote it down. While Tertius could not himself compose a mighty treatise like the Epistle to the Romans, both the human and the Divine authors acknowledged his humble service in the accuracy of his writing. The fact that Paul trusted someone to write for him demonstrates the largeness of his mind. Writing a letter for oneself, is much easier than dictating it to another. It demands greater powers of mind and memory, to ensure that it is coherent and lucid. In allowing Tertius to append his own greeting, Paul again demonstrates the largeness of his heart. He does not disguise the fact that he needed and appreciated the help of others in his service. In the work of the Lord, we can complement each other. This is yet another illustration of what Paul had taught earlier.
(D) Gaius, the Host, v23. Gaius seems to have been a common name, for it appears on five occasions in our New Testament. This Gaius is likely the same brother mentioned in 1Cor.1.14. It is plain that he was an hospitable man who loved his fellow believers, for he opened his home to the apostle Paul, and allowed the assembly at Corinth to meet there. Gaius loved the believers in Corinth, and sends his greetings to the believers in Rome. Here is a living example of what Paul taught regarding hospitality in Rom.12.
(E) Erastus, the City Treasurer, v23. Josephus describes the Chamberlain as one of the civic rulers in a city. His office was like that of a treasurer, and he worked closely with the Town Clerk. The word ‘chamberlain’ has the combined ideas of stewardship and government. Even though the name ‘Erastus’ appears in Acts 19.22 and 2Tim.4.20, there has been disagreement as to whether it is the same man in both instances. We cannot be wise beyond what is written, and there is very little biographical information in other passages to corroborate his identity. Whoever he was, the inclusion of his name here serves as another example of Paul’s teaching in the earlier chapters of this epistle. More than anyone, Erastus would know the rigorous demands of subjection to ‘higher authorities,’ ch.13, for they were his immediate superiors. In addition, believers who paid tribute or custom would meet him as the city’s treasurer, and according to ch.13, they were to show respect for his office.
(F) Quartus, the Brother, v23. The scarcity of information on Quartus renders futile any speculation as to his identity. Obviously, he was well known among the assemblies in Rome, for there was no need to do anything more than mention his name. For some worthy reason, he was well known by name and as ‘a brother.’ In an epistle that lays a great emphasis on the responsibilities of brethren in Christ, it is significant that Quartus is known as such. In ch.14, the foundation of their responsibilities to each other as Christians is that they were brethren.
2. The Greetings Conveyed. There are two distinct features about the greetings that Paul extends: they were to the saints and in the Lord.
(A) To The Saints. Earlier in the chapter we noted that there were likely to have been a number of assemblies of saints in Rome (16.5, 10, 11, 14, 15). Throughout this epistle, as Paul addresses these assemblies, he uses the titles ‘saints and brethren’. Both titles have positional and practical aspects. As saints, they have been sanctified and ought, therefore, to be holy. As brothers, they are in the family of God and ought to behave toward each other in love.
(B) In the Lord (v22). Tertius greets them as fellow-believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This expression appears in this epistle only in ch.16. Perhaps, as Tertius repeatedly wrote it down for Paul throughout the closing verses, it made an impression on his mind. Thus, he joins in the sentiment of Paul’s letter as he identifies himself with them in the Lord. He is not saying that he wrote the epistle ‘in the Lord,’ though he was undoubtedly governed by the Lord as he was writing it. In v24, Paul gathers the various greetings together with his own salutation, and makes a statement almost like the one in v20. Even though the Revisers omit v24, I prefer to follow The New Translation (JND), where it is retained. After the section that conveys greetings to various individuals at Rome, Paul adds a little salutation of grace in v.20. It is addressed to ‘you’, and is a reference to the brethren and sisters mentioned up to that stage in the chapter. Then he adds eight more names of those who have joined him from Corinth, and appends another salutation of grace in v24. He marks the end of the epistle with suitable finality and completeness: ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ Paul, together with all his helpers in Corinth, sends greetings to all in Rome. They are all included — Jew and Gentile, high and low, rich and poor, weak and strong.
This section of the epistle corroborates the record of Paul’s service in the Acts of the Apostles, and authenticates the Epistle to the Romans. There is no statement in the epistle as to where it was written from, or when. In Acts, there is no evidence that Paul wrote an epistle to the assemblies at Rome. However, in Acts 20, we find mention of Sosipater and Timothy being present with Paul then. We also learn that they were preparing to travel to Jerusalem with financial help from Gentile assemblies. This corresponds with the information in Rom.15.25-29. Both records are independent in terms of authorship and date of writing, yet they combine to tell us that:
1. Paul was in Corinth, Greece;
2. While in Corinth, he wrote an epistle;
3. That epistle was written after the collection in Macedonia and Achaia for the poor Christians in Jerusalem;
4. And it was written before Paul delivered that gift to Jerusalem.
It can be none other, then, than the Epistle to the Romans.
— to be continued (D.V.)
The Garments of the Saviour
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
5. GARMENTS OF MAJESTY
The Holy Mount! So Peter calls it as he remembers the transfiguration. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty, he recalls. They had seen the King and they had been given a preview of Kingdom glory. They were privileged men, these three, Peter, James, and John. The Saviour had earlier announced to them again that soon He would suffer and die, rejected by the nation, but now He will permit them to see His glory, the glory of the kingdom that was to come. It was "after six days" say Matthew and Mark; "after eight days" Luke says. There is no discrepancy for Matthew and Mark count the intervening days and Luke includes the two days at the beginning and the ending of that week.
Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus had taken them up into a high mountain apart. Contextually and geographically it was probably one of the spurs of Mount Hermon. At the commencement of His ministry the Devil had taken Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain, Matt.4.8, and from that vantage point had offered Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, in exchange for His homage. Surely Satan knew that this glory already belonged to our Lord. In patience He could wait, and now, three years later, on another mountain, with the close of His ministry in view, He allows these favoured disciples to catch a glimpse of that glory.
He was transfigured. His personal glory shone out. "His face did shine as the sun" and even His garments became radiant, Matt.17.2. Centuries earlier Moses had climbed the mount with three men and as he came down, his face shone. That was a reflected glory which even a thin veil could conceal, Ex.34.29-35; 2Cor.3.13. But no veil could hide the glory of Him who is the effulgence of glory Heb.1.3, and His garments radiated with the splendour.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this effect on the Saviour’s garments. Together they say that His raiment was "white as the light," "white and glistering," "white as snow." Mark adds that they were whiter than any fuller on earth could make them. A fuller was one who dressed cloth, a launderer skilled in the art of either dyeing or bleaching. Not the most efficient fuller could have produced the whiteness with which the garments of Jesus shone on that mount. In a little while coarse men would callously strip these garments from Him. Undoubtedly they would then be stained with blood. But now they were glorious, alight and alive, as it were, with the glory of Him who wore them. Galilean homespun they might be, the garments of one who came from a carpenter’s home in Nazareth, but Jesus of Nazareth was the Lord of Glory, and now that glory which was His personally, inherently, and eternally, shone out through His raiment. It is touching to remember that these were the garments of mercy whose border that poor woman reached out to touch for healing. They are now garments of majesty.
Two men from heaven join the three men of the earth to see that glory. Heaven is in accord with all that is about to happen. Moses and Elijah talk with the Saviour, but only Luke reveals the theme of their conversation. They speak of His approaching death, calling it "His decease, (His exodus) which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." The approaching events were all in the hands of sovereignty. He Himself was ordering all. It was fitting that Moses and Elijah should be there. Moses had led the people through the waters of the Red Sea, Ex.14.22. Elijah had passed through Jordan, 1Kg.2.8. But for both Moses and Elijah those waters had been miraculously parted, so that they passed through on dry ground. It would not be so for Him with whom they now talked. He would be deluged in a flood of suffering and sorrow. Nevertheless, it would be an accomplishment, and He would ultimately triumph in resurrection.
The law and the prophets had together predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, and so it was indeed appropriate that Moses and Elijah should converse with the Christ on this Holy Mount. Moses had had his Mount Sinai. Elijah had his Mount Carmel. This was different. This would be known ever afterwards by the saints as "the Mount of Transfiguration," where the garments of majesty had been ablaze with Messiah’s glory.
As for Peter, James, and John, sadly, they slept, until a bright cloud descended and overshadowed them. This was no ordinary cloud. It was, says Peter, "the excellent glory," 2Pet.1.17. Doubtless it was the Shechinah, the cloud that had descended on Sinai, Ex.19.16, the cloud that had covered the tent of the congregation and that had led the children of Israel on their wilderness way, Ex.40.34-38. This was the symbol of the awful Presence. It was the glory cloud, and the disciples were afraid. Now it was fitting that the law and the prophets should withdraw, so that none should be seen but Jesus only. He must be supreme and solitary in His glory. Then came a voice out of the cloud confirming this. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I have found My delight; hear Him," Matt.17.5 (JND).
For the second time the Father has, from an opened heaven, expressed His delight in His Son. Formerly it had been at the commencement of the Saviour’s ministry, no doubt in retrospect of thirty years of holy living in Nazareth. Like a tender plant Jesus had lived for God’s pleasure in a parched and barren ground. He brought delight to God when there was little else in Israel for Him. There was plenty of ceremonial and ritual and religious activity, but there was corruption and defilement too. In the midst of it all Jesus had lived for God’s glory. Then, looking back over those thirty years, the Father had spoken of His delight in His Son. Now, on the Holy Mount, the commendation is the same. Three years of busy ministry have come and gone. Throughout those years, with all the opposition of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, and the adversity of scribes, rulers, and elders, He had lived impeccably, and served faithfully as the perfect Servant of Jehovah. Looking back over those years of busy public ministry, the Father again expresses His delight.
Now, however, a further word is added, "Hear ye Him." Peter had proposed three tabernacles and staying there in the glory, but it was neither the time nor the place. Jesus knew that, and so the Father says, "Hear ye Him." The Saviour is, after all, the Word. He is God’s message to men. He will convey the mind and will of God perfectly to those who will hear Him. And so He speaks, charging them that they should tell no man of the vision that they had seen, until after He was risen from the dead. How well He knew that He had already been rejected. The day of visitation had all but ended. Israel had failed to recognise her Messiah, and not until He was risen would His disciples again preach His Messiahship to that nation. They must now leave this mount of glory and make their way to Jerusalem and to Golgotha.
These three favoured men never forgot that sight of glory! Peter confirms that in his second Epistle, written maybe forty years later. What an encouragement and stay it must have been to them. James was to become an early martyr. Peter was to be the bold spokesman of the Day of Pentecost. John was to be exiled, and then live on and on until the close of the century. The memory of the garments white and glistering, like the glory itself, would never fade.
— to be continued (D.V.)
Isaiah 54 — Israel's Restoration
by J. Gibson (Scotland)
a. Their Joy — v1
If during the awful billows of the tribulation Israel will suffer untold anguish, so during the bright day of the Millennium they will enjoy unimaginable happiness and gladness of heart, Ps.30.5. Jerusalem is destined to be the joy of the whole earth, Ps.48.2. Joy always follows true repentance towards God.
b. Their Fruit — v1
There will be a population explosion in the nation even more impressive than that experienced during their sojourn in Egypt, Ex.1.7. This is in fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham in Gen.15.5. Under the Old Testament economy, fruitfulness or fertility was a sign of divine blessing, Ex.23.36, Deut.7.14. We see God going out to bless His people and filling them with the joy of childbirth.
c. Their Expansion — v2,3
Their territory will be extended as covenanted in Gen.15.18. Never in its history has Israel possessed in its entirely the land God gave it. Here is also a practical realisation of the teaching of the Lord Jesus in Matt.5.5. The meek do not get anywhere in the present world system, but at that time they will surely inherit the earth. Following the chaos and destruction of the tribulation there will be large portions of the world uninhabited. Israel will begin to repopulate these cities desolated by war and pillage.
d. Their Stability — v2
There is no point in lengthening the cords of your tent and not strengthening the tent pins. Otherwise when a mighty storm arises your tent will be blown away. Israel will be stable, unmoveable and unshakeable in contrast to the tribulation period when they will be tossed hither and thither with the tempest, v11. Their stability will be founded upon righteousness, v14. Not only will they be established in their land, there will also be geographical upheavals and changes in the landscape itself, v10.
e. Their Exaltation — v3
They are going to be at the head of all the nations of the world, Deut.28.13.
f. Their Forgetfulness — v14
So good will be the blessedness of the millennial reign of Christ that they will forget the years of shame and suffering.
g. Their Re-gathering — v7
Due to their unbelief and wickedness Israel has been scattered throughout every country and people of the world. When the Lord Jesus returns to inaugurate His kingdom, they will be gathered back to the land promised to Abraham. This assembling of the nation will be performed by the Lord, Ex.11.17.
h. Their Wealth — v11,12
The riches of the Gentiles will be brought into the city of Jerusalem and enjoyed by the Jewish people, Isa.61.6.
i. Their Education — v13
The teaching of children in the Old Testament was rated very highly, Deut.6.7. In that day there will be a wonderful knowledge of God amongst the Israelites, Jer.31.34, because their children are going to be taught by the Lord Himself. We have to ask ourselves what priority we give to teaching our children the things of God.
j. Their Peace — v13
In Zech.8.5 we read of the children playing in the streets, and the nation as a whole will be unafraid, v14. All military warfare will be abolished, Ps.46.9, and resources usually devoted to the creation of weapons of destruction will instead be used to promote agricultural advancements, Isa.2.4.
k. Their Righteousness
The nation's foundation will be a righteousness that comes from God Himself, v14,17; Ps.97.2; Jer.33.16.
l. Their Invincibility — v14
Israel will be indestructible, because Jehovah the Almighty One is her Protector. This will echo the story of Esther when the Jews were given liberty to gather themselves together and wreak havoc among their enemies, Est.8.11.
m. Their Service — v17
It has always been the will of God for Israel to be His Servant, Isa.44.1. Alas, they have failed to live up to this expectation. Restored in their relationship to the Lord, they will finally become the nation of servants that God always desired.
These glorious blessings are meant for Israel but we can enjoy them in at least three different ways. Firstly, since ‘all Scripture is profitable,’ 2Tim.3.16, simply to read it is to nourish our souls. Secondly, we learn that ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him,’ 2Tim.2.12. This means that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to inaugurate His world wide kingdom we shall be with Him, so enjoying all the described blessings. Thirdly, what Israel is going to enjoy on a physical level in that day, we can enjoy spiritually now. We should ask ourselves, are we joyful, Phil.3.1, fruitful, Gal.5.22, gathered in the local assembly, Matt.18.20, spiritually rich, Eph.1.3, taught by a Divine person, Jn.14.26, in possession of a Divinely imparted peace, Jn.14.27, constituted righteous, Rom.5.19, and busily engaged in the service of the Lord, Col.3.24?
My Reasons for not being free to engage in Inter-Denominational Services
by the late W. Trew
(This is a copy of an address given in Shield’s Road, Motherwell in 1954)
(Submitted by J. D. McColl, Australia)
Read — Matt.28.16-20; Acts 20.17-38; 1Cor.9.1-23
The saints who have gathered here today to hear this statement of my reasons for not being free before the Lord to serve inter-denominationally, will believe me when I say that I have not lightly undertaken this responsibility (as I conceive it to be).
As most of you know, I have been seeking to serve the Lord for nearly 30 years, and in that time I have travelled in many parts of the British Isles. I have come into contact with many assemblies and have watched their development through the course of the years. I have taken careful note of changes and have sought to analyse the causes and have become increasingly convinced that one of the main causes of the destruction of the character of many assemblies, and the alarming inroads of worldliness and lack of spiritual growth amongst our young people generally, has been the modern spirit of inter-denominationalism. It has the appeal of the appearance of large-heartedness and charity. Indeed many of those who urge this line of things today, do so on the plea that love to our fellow-believers demands inter-denominational activity. A reference to 1Jn.5.2 will assure us that our love to our fellow-believers can only be shown by our obedience to the commands of God. If I love my fellow-saints truly, I shall desire to influence them to walk in the ways of God, knowing that this alone will serve their richest blessing and truest happiness. But it is evident that I can influence them to so walk only as my own life is an example of obedience. To compromise the truth of God is no evidence of love.
Recently I have been serving a group of assemblies whose spiritual poverty has been a great grief. It cannot be denied that spiritual poverty is the direct result of years of inter-denominational activity. It seems to me that such poverty is inevitable, for it is manifestly impossible to work inter-denominationally and, at the same time, build an assembly for God upon solid foundations. We have seen this demonstrated again and again.
I think it to be fundamental in every phase of spiritual experience and Christian service, to ask our hearts a question and arrive at a decision in respect of it in the Presence of God. The question is a simple one, but the whole character of our life and service depends upon the answer. It is this: "What is to be my guide in life?" Long ago I decided that my sole guide must be the Word of God. Dr. Moule says that "A bishopric in the present day sense of the word has nothing in common with the bishopric of the New Testament." We therefore ask, "Where then is the authority for a bishopric in the present day sense of the word?" The answer given to that inquiry is, "Such a bishopric as we have today appeared practically everywhere in the church at the close of the second century." So that it would appear that church history may legitimately set aside the authority of the inspired Scriptures. I confess that I cannot take that ground. I receive the Word of God as alone authoritative to be my guide in every step of life.
It has been urged that the manifest blessing of God upon our service is a sure and certain evidence of the approval of God. I have a friend who is a lady evangelist. Faced many times with the fact that the Word of God condemns the course she takes and will not allow her the place she assumes, she justifies her disobedience by the fact that a large number of men and women have been saved at her meetings. The Scriptures make clear that apparent blessings are no proof of God’s approval of our ways. Are we willing that the Word of God should settle every difficulty, determine every association, control every step, guide in every iota of service? The answer to these questions is fundamental to my present statement.
With that matter settled for me personally, here are the terms of the commission from the Lord, and no servant of Christ has any other. I ask you to note the recurrence of the word "All."
1. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF OUR MASTER
"All authority is given unto Me." Rejected and slain by man, He is now enthroned at God’s right hand and made "both Lord and Christ," invested with absolute authority in every sphere. How will He use that authority? He will use it in sovereign grace for the blessing of the nations. Therefore He gathered His servants around Him and gave them their marching orders.
2. THE SCOPE OF THEIR MINISTRY
"Make disciples of all the nations." His grace, because it is sovereign, leaps over the narrow confines of Israel, and the message of His blessing for man is carried to the nations and broadcast among the Gentiles. With what object in view? That sinners might be saved from Hell? Emphatically, "Yes!" Yet that is not what the Lord said.
"Make disciples" is His Word. He has in mind, and, by the terms of their commission, His servants also must have in mind as they carry the Gospel to the nations, that all who receive the message are thus brought to His feet, to be taught by Him, to imbibe His doctrine, to own Him Lord of their lives and to obey His will no matter where it leads or what it costs. The true servant of Christ, as he preaches the Gospel, must have nothing less than that before him as his object. Anything less will not fulfil the terms of his commission.
3. THE SUBJECT OF OUR MESSAGE
"Baptizing them … teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
First place was given to baptism in the commission, and every New Testament servant of Christ acted upon these instructions, so that, in the New Testament it is not supposed that any believer would not be baptized. For, in that act of obedience, there is on the part of the disciple of the Lord Jesus, the public severance of every moral tie that bound them to the world life, the sin life and the self life, and a solemn surrender of themselves to the absolute authority of their sovereign Lord and Master, henceforth, to live for His pleasure and if needs be, to die in His cause. As they rise out of the baptismal waters, the path that stretches out before them through life is one in which they are prepared to "Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
— to be continued (D.V.)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (86)
by S. Thompson (U.S.A.)
Converted by Grace
In writing about one’s "Conversion and Call" the words of Paul come to mind, "… God forbid that I should glory …", Gal.6.14.
My parents were in assembly fellowship in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. It was a privilege to be born into a Christian home yet frankly, in my youth it was not counted as such. As the youngest of three boys I was bent on following my older brothers in whatever way they went. Our father, the product of a home broken when he was but six, had attended 14 different schools by the time he graduated from high school. Needless to say his youth had little stability and raising three sons from that platform was no easy task. But his mother had taught him one very valuable lesson, the Bible is the Word of God. Saved in his early twenties he eventually met and married our mother who came from a Christian home. Their objective was to raise a family to be saved. Yet memory spells out various times of tension in knowing how to raise these boys. "How much liberty do you give them?" and "Where do you draw the lines?"
I recall clearly one Sunday evening at six years old being deeply troubled during a Gospel meeting. Exiting the meeting the question came to me, "Stu, what will your friends across the street say if you tell them you received Jesus as your Saviour?" And sadly at such a young age I chose them and refused Christ.
Teenage years were spent pursuing various pleasures with many friendships to distract me. These were the restless times of the 60’s and early 70’s; a generation being swept along in the wave of material growth and the careless attitude of a youth culture moulded by drugs and alcohol. I didn’t want to be a Christian. They didn’t know what life was all about! Time was being swallowed up by things to do, places to go and people to see! And one day at a time Satan was robbing me of my soul!
By the time I had graduated from high school and attended a year of college many of my companions were becoming regular alcohol and drug users. Though my upbringing had restrained me thus far I also fell to the pressure of peers and became one of the same. I dropped out of college in my second year and entered the working world, though pathetically below potential. Soon I took up the sport of Motocross, offroad racing of motorcycles. Yet a collision with a fallen rider’s bike found me with a severely broken leg. God had shaken my life and my father asked me as I lay in the hospital bed, "Stu, don’t you think God is speaking to you?" I had no answer for him but the answer I knew full well. Six months later I returned to work hardly able to walk.
New Year’s eve 1974-75 found me partying with companions in London, Ontario. But it turned out to be a miserable affair as the thought hit me amidst of it all, "1975 is just around the corner, the Lord might come this year and you’re not ready!" Driving home the next day on icy roads we came very close to a fatal accident. My first thought was, "You could have been in hell!" Two weeks later a series of gospel meetings with the late Lorne McBain and David Oliver commenced in Sarnia. The first week I attended two nights to please my folks. But troubling circumstances that weekend brought me to conclude, "I can’t run any more. I have got to get this matter settled!" I went to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night’s meetings and became increasingly convicted about my soul’s need. Slipping up to my bedroom that Wednesday night I sat in my bed with a number of Gospel tracts and started reading. My brother next in age, whom God had saved over a year earlier, saw my light was on and stepped in to say "good night." He was shocked to see me with tract in hand and asked what I was doing. I told him what I had never said to another, "I want to be saved." He tried his best to point me to Christ but my darkness became only deeper. As he left the room I picked up where I had left off reading in that old worthy tract, "God’s Way of Salvation." There it said not to think of how I felt but of what God in His love had done in giving His Son to die for my sins. And for the first time in my life, despite all that I had ever heard and known, I simply saw that, "Christ died for me!" It was settled! I could now turn out the light and at age 21 lay down in rest, both for the night and now for eternity!
Called by God
Bible readings on Rom.6-8 in Mimico, Ontario, April 1978, brought two blessings: settled assurance of salvation, and a desire to study God’s Word. Though the flesh still plagued me I was a "new man" and nothing could "separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Having been baptised and received into the fellowship of the assembly in Sarnia, life had taken a new course. Inconsistent employment at this time prompted an exercise before God regarding returning to school. After only one and a half years in my home assembly I was led to move to the city of Guelph to attend college; so, with only one week’s notice and no accommodations arranged I set out after the Sunday night Gospel meeting. The words of the Lord Jesus had brought courage only days before departure, "as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."
With school completed Nancy and I (whom I had met at a conference shortly after starting school) began courtship and were married in July, 1979. Almost 14 years were spent in the assembly at the Yorkshire Street Gospel Gall in Guelph while employed in engineering work. They were good years in that the oversight gave me many opportunities to grow and exercise what gift they saw. Children’s work was a tremendous training ground as well as the Bible readings and helping in Gospel work. Time and experience would see the added responsibility of helping in the oversight of the assembly.
In October of 1989 brother Norman Crawford visited the assembly and stayed in our home. On the Friday evening before he had arrived I was impressed with the words of 1Cor.9.14, "they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Surely this wasn’t for me! There was too much need in the home assembly! I couldn’t be making that sort of a change! I booked off from my work Monday morning to have a conversation with brother Crawford and also shared my thoughts from 1Cor.9. He was very pleased and suggested that we share a gospel series in Guelph. The following fall of 1990 we did so and the intervening months served to press us more towards a final decision.
The question confronting us was, "Where shall we go?" Years before Nancy and I had fleeting thoughts of missionary work. When I mentioned this to David Oliver he said, "We need men in the States!" To which I responded, "I’ll never go to the States!" January 14, 1990, while praying early that morning I was once more impressed, but now with a response to the question "Where?" It was, "the States," and opening the book "Streams in the Desert" the Scripture for the day was, "He putteth forth His own sheep." But that’s a big place, "Where?" Time and prayerful waiting drew our minds to Michigan. After a particularly prayerful weekend, on December 4, 1990, I read the Choice Gleanings calendar, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see … The Lord said … Go forward, Ex.14.13,15."
Having had the confidence of my brethren in Guelph made known, they then suggested that both Sarnia and Nipissing Junction (Nancy’s home assembly in North Bay, Ontario) be invited to join in commendation to the Lord’s work. It was humbling, yet most encouraging, to have these three assemblies join to express their confidence in our work and calling of God. The early months of 1991 were spent initialising applications to immigrate to the U.S. An offer to purchase our home was settled minutes before we left to join brother Larry Perkins for tent meetings in July, 1991, in his home town, Alpena, Michigan.
In August my employment was complete and we moved to Sarnia to be on the border of Michigan. It eventually took over five years to obtain our immigration visas to the U.S., and on December 30, 1996, we crossed over the bridge from Sarnia into Michigan and presented our visas to the officials. The next day the Choice Gleanings calendar read, "Until we were gone over, Josh.4.23. As thy days, so shall thy strength be, Deut.33.25. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, Matt.6.34."
Good Tidings from Heaven
THE GREATEST GIFT
What could it be? A new car, a new home, an exotic holiday — no, something greater by far, something that no currency on earth could purchase.
Almost two thousand years ago God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus into this world, in sinless human form. He was born of a virgin called Mary, a humble woman who lived in Nazareth. The purpose of His coming was made clear by the angels who announced, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke 2.11. "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3.17.
The Bible makes it clear that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," Romans 3.23. These sins must be forgiven if we ever hope to be in Heaven, as no sin can enter there according to Revelation 21.27. No one can do anything to merit God’s favour and eradicate his sins — good works, religion, penance or payment cannot avail but thank God, He provided a Saviour — His own Son.
Sin is so serious in the sight of God that His Son must suffer and die before sins can be pardoned. He must not be spared if we are to be spared. Having endured cruel mockings and unjust trials, having been wrongly accused by false witnesses, spat upon, scourged and subjected to the most humiliating treatment, He was led out to Calvary to be crucified, not for any wrongs He had committed, for the Roman Governor had concluded, "I find no fault in Him." John 19.4,6.
For six long, lonely hours He suffered indescribable agonies and in the final three hours, enshrouded in total darkness, God punished His Son for our sins. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes, we are healed." Isaiah 53.5 Just before He died, He said, "It is finished," John 19.30. Everything has been done, every sin has been atoned for, all the debt has been paid and all the punishment has been borne. Would you doubt His Word?
Christ’s body was laid in Joseph of Arimathea’s new tomb but on the third day God raised His Son from among the dead to display to the whole world that He was completely satisfied with all that Christ had done. Do you believe that it is enough to save you from Hell and take you to Heaven?
By His death the Lord Jesus has provided the greatest gift you could ever receive — eternal life, the forgiveness of all your sins, deliverance from Hell, the assurance of Heaven, real peace and lasting satisfaction. You can become the happy possessor of this gift if you acknowledge your sins and trust Him who died that you personally might be in Heaven with Him eternally.
As with every gift, you can accept or refuse. Have you considered the consequences of refusing this gift — Hell and everlasting punishment? The offer of this gift is strictly limited, the closing date has been set, time is running out for you. The Lord is about to return for all who have trusted Him and then the offer of salvation will be withdrawn.
If you spent a vast sum of money on an expensive and exclusive gift for someone you loved and it was flatly refused, would you not feel deeply hurt and insulted? The greatest gift has cost the Giver an infinite price and yet it is offered to you today without money or price — accept it, it is freely given, do not refuse it and insult the God who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." John 3.16.
Sonnet to Cowper
The Cowper student sets himself "The Task"
(What pleasanter pursuit? may well we ask)
And musing thus, industriously he delves
Amidst the many thousand volumed shelves
Of ‘Varsity’s far-famed bookseller’s store:
By-passes man-made Theology, and Law.
With lightened step, and palpitating heart
On Poetry’s profusion makes a start.
Rapidly glances he through ‘A’ and ‘B’
Avidly then he turns to letter ‘C’
Alas! no choice at all-naught leather bound
Or even buckram (word that Cowper found)
No select editions — sorry fact.
One volume, solitary, that paper-backed!
Ah! Cowper, permit me, if you please to quote
From that blest Sacred Page of which you wrote
The fool hath said in his deceitful heart
"No God" or if there be, from me depart!
But His Own hand, which leads by waters still,
The flowing cadence of a summer’s rill
Allowed you clearly to delineate
(No puerile scrawl of modern Laureate)
To show that dupe who Deity disdains,
How he, his ilk, "Lose all their guilty stains."
Denying that "the work of grace is done"
Prefer "John Gilpin’s ride to Edmonton"
They may despise "a Fountain filled with Blood"
But that remains the only way to God.
By John Glenville (Saltash, England)
Believer's Portion in Heaven
… hope … laid up for you in heaven, Col.1.5.
… ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, Heb.10.34.
… an inheritance incorruptible … reserved in heaven for you, 1Pet.1.4.