Men have never been busier. Society has never been faster. Means of communication, means of transport, the preparation of food are all being achieved as fast as modern technology will permit. This new technology was supposed to lead to more leisure time, more family time, in all, a more relaxed way of life. Instead we have to work as fast as the machines with the resultant stress leading to physical, mental and emotional breakdowns.
What is the answer? The nation of Israel was in great difficulty and they turned to Egypt for help, Isa.30. They were scurrying hither and thither seeking to effect their own deliverance, but the comment of the LORD is very clear, concise and so blessed. V7, “Their strength is to sit still.” What a conundrum to the modern mind. We must work it out, we must plan, plot, scheme, we cannot just sit still. The Lord’s advice is all so unnatural.
The word “strength” is also translated “Rahab”, which is one of the names of Egypt — see Ps.87.4 and Isa.51.9. The LORD seems to say, “you want Egypt to help? Well your Egypt is just to ‘sit still’.”
How difficult it is for us, who are almost trapped in a whirlpool of ceaseless activity, to get the time and the place to “sit still.” We need to extricate ourselves from the endless round of activity and the increasing pressures placed upon us and spend time in His presence sitting still.
When David’s heart was overwhelmed at the promises of God’s goodness to him and his seed, we read, “Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD ...” 2Sam.7.18. We too, have great promises from the Lord regarding our future and the glorious future of the great family of God into which we have been brought. These promises include the security of our sins forgiven; the sight of the Saviour when He comes; the splendour of heaven for eternity; the song of the redeemed — the list is endless. These promises and multitudes more, should bring us into His presence just to “sit still.”
When bereavement was breaking the hearts of Martha and Mary, they heard the Lord was coming and then it is recorded, “Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house,” Jn.11.20. While this primarily means that she remained yet in the house, let us lift the principle that in times of difficulty, tears and disappointment, our “strength is to sit still.”
In Zech.1.11 the report is given, “behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” Again this has a direct meaning for that time, but there is a day coming when this shall be verily true. When the King is on His throne and has His rightful place of universal dominion then, all the earth shall sit still and be at rest. Every enemy shall have been defeated; Satan will have been incarcerated and, as the Psalmist records, Ps.145.10-13, “Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” What a glorious day that will be and we anticipate it with great joy.
However what about the period between? We wait for Him to call us away before the days of dreadful tribulation, which will shortly come upon this godless world, and we can say, “Even so come Lord Jesus.” In the meanwhile we hear Naomi speaking to Ruth, 3.18, “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.” There has been a lovely progression through the book that charts the history of every believing soul. We are taken from Wandering to a Wedding; from Moab to a Marriage: from the foulness of Sinnership to the fulness of Sonship and until this climax is reached we are to, “sit still.”
T.D.W. Muir wrote the words:
O, child of God, thy lot may be
Oft mixed with trial, grief and pain;
Look up! He’ll surely come for thee,
He says, “I quickly come again.”
Let us learn the lesson that gives the flesh no room for activity.
“Their strength is to sit still.”
Most will agree that the sad situation of Iraq has occupied the minds of many of us throughout the past year. Not a day has passed but the media has filled our minds with the dreadful details of man’s inhumanity towards man. In addition, who would dispute the awful changes in our society, the depths of depravity and the appalling and blatant display daily of the human heart in its wickedness and opposition to God? Even that which was originally done in secret is now open for all to see, and gloried in by the perpetrators. Sadder still the words of the Psalmist would seem to ring so true today, “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted,” Ps.12.8.
How grieving these things must be to God, but among the many warnings from Scripture concerning these conditions, the Words of the Lord Jesus in Matt.24 and the apostle Paul by the Spirit in 2Tim.3, would suffice.
How essential, therefore, is the continuation of the spreading of the Word of God to saint and sinner. In this respect the ministry of the Word by the printed page of Assembly Testimony circulates to many saints — a ministry of instruction, of exhortation and encouragement, which is so essential at all times.
We are grateful to the Lord and His faithfulness — He alone enables us to continue. Likewise we are indebted to those who help the work by their prayers, by their practical fellowship and those who make contributions by their written ministry. In addition we deeply appreciate the spiritual and practical work of our Editor, our Secretary and our Accountant, who give freely of their skills and time.
May those who read the magazine be blessed and to those who have written to the Editor or Secretary expressing their appreciation — many thanks.
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
13) "The Place Which the Lord Your God Shall Choose"
Read Chapter 12
In introducing these studies we noted that the book of Deuteronomy can be divided into two main sections: (i) the retrospective section, chs.1-11, and (ii) the prospective section, chs.12-34. The second part of the book contains the final instructions of Moses to Israel, chs.12-30, and the final actions of Moses before his death, chs.31-34. It commences with the words, “These are the statutes and judgments which ye shall observe to do in the land.” Previous references to the “statutes and judgments” are general in nature, and emphasise how they were to be kept, and this reminds us that obedience to God's Word will become a mere chore without love for God. See ch.6.5-6.
This chapter commences and concludes in the same way: “These are the statutes and judgments which ye shall observe to do,” v1: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it,” v32. Their obedience to God's Word was to be continuous (“all the days that ye live upon the earth,” v1) and complete (“what thing soever I command you,” or “everything that I command you,” v32, JND). The detailed “statutes and judgments,” which embrace all aspects of national and individual life, begin with reference to the “place which the Lord your God shall choose,” v.5,11,14,18,21,26. We must notice two important things:
i) It was the place of God's choice. It is described as “the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all the tribes to put His name there … His habitation,” v5. Initially this was Shiloh, Jer.7.12, but at the dedication of the temple God said, “I have hallowed this house which thou hast built, to put My name there for ever; and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually,” 1Kgs.9.3. No wonder that “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob!” Ps.87.2. The ‘place of the name’ today is the local assembly, of which the Lord Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in (‘unto’, JND) My name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matt.18.20. It is described as “the house of God … the church of the living God,” 1Tim.3.15, and “the temple of God,” 1Cor.3.16-17.
ii) it was the place of great joy. “And here ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice, v7 … and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, v12 … and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, v18.” We should be able to say with David, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth,” Ps.26.8. Bearing this in mind, the chapter can be divided as follows: it was the place where:
(1) God's name was honoured, v2-7;
(2) God's order was recognised, v8-12;
(3) God's people gathered, v13-27.
1) THE PLACE WHERE GOD'S NAME WAS HONOURED, v2-7
This section contrasts “the places,” v2, and “that place,” v3, with “the place,” v5. It also contrasts “the names,” v3 with “His name,” v5. The children of Israel were to overthrow every vestige of idolatry, with the warning “Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God,” v4. Idols were to be destroyed, but God was to be honoured.
i) The places, v2-3. They were to destroy the false gods. Idolatry was characterised by various places and various gods: “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods,” v2. The accompaniments of idolatry were to be destroyed: “altars … pillars … groves … graven images … names.” Having spoken of the Lord Jesus as “the true God and eternal life,” John adds, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” 1Jn.5.20-21.
ii) The place, v4-7. They were to be devoted to the true God. Not to various “gods”, v2, but to “the Lord your God,” v4-5. Not in various “places”, v2, but in “the place which the Lord your God shall choose,” v5. It was to be an unrivalled place. There was to be no competition from idolatry. Only God's name was to be honoured. “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God … and one Lord Jesus Christ,” 1Cor.8.5-6. This is the place where the “true worshippers … worship the Father in spirit (as opposed to the dead letter of Judaism) and in truth (as opposed to the falsehood of Samaritism): for the Father seeketh such to worship Him,” Jn.4.23.
This was the place that they were to “seek”, v5, to which they were to “come”, v5, and in which they were to “rejoice”, v7. Notice the expressions: “Thither thou shalt come,” v5; “thither shall ye bring,” v6; “there shall ye eat,” v7. This reminds us that we must be present at “the place,” that we should contribute to “the place,” and that we should be nourished at “the place.” Notice as well that it was a place for the entire family: “ye and your households,” v7. Children should be encouraged to value ‘the place of the name.’ The expression, “your households,” is expanded in v2 and in v18-19.
2) THE PLACE WHERE GOD'S ORDER WAS RECOGNISED, v8-12
These verses contrast behaviour “here this day,” v8, with behaviour “over Jordan … in the land,” v10. The “place”, v11, was to be frequented by people who had crossed the Jordan, in the same way that ‘the place of the name’ is to be frequented by people who recognise that they have been identified with Christ in death and resurrection. The twelve stones taken “out of the midst of Jordan” and the twelve stones “set up” by Joshua, “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests … stood,” Josh.4.3,9, illustrate the truth of baptism. See Rom.6.4. The assembly will never bring pleasure to God if His people are not walking “in newness of life.”
i) “Here this day,” v8. “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.” Compare Num.15.39. Sadly, God's people did do “that which was right in their own eyes” in Canaan. See Jud.17.6, 21.25. The assembly should be a place where the Lord's people recognise that the New Testament principles of gathering are not man-made, and therefore not subject to alteration and amendment, but “the commandments of the Lord,” 1Cor.14.37.
ii) “In the land,” v9-12. It is no longer a case of “whatsoever is right in his own eyes,” but “there shall be a place … thither shall ye bring all that I command you,” v10. It was to be a place of divine order, in the same way that the assembly should be marked by appropriate conduct. See 1Tim.3.14-15. Our behaviour in the assembly must be in keeping with our overall spiritual ambition to be “well-pleasing unto Him,” 2Cor.5.9. R.V. Like Canaan, the assembly should be a place of “rest”, v10, where the saints can enjoy the immense blessings of their inheritance.
3) THE PLACE WHERE GOD'S PEOPLE GATHERED, v13-27
This part of the chapter can be sub-divided as follows: (a) the principle established, v13-19; not in “every place,” v13, but in “the place,” v14: (b) the principle applied, v20-27; it is still in “the place,” v26, even if distance is involved.
a) The principle established, v13-19
“Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee,” v13-14. The New Testament refers to “one place,” see 1Cor.11.20, “when ye come together therefore into one place …” We should be aware of the dangers of modern house-meetings, which are far removed from “the church in thy house,” Phil.v2.
Food for personal consumption alone could be eaten “in all thy gates,” but always with recognition of God's goodness, v15, and always refraining from “eating blood,” v16. But everything devoted to God (including the personal “tithe” which the Israelite ate himself: more of this in ch.14.22-27), was only to be eaten in “the place which the Lord thy God shall choose,” v17-18. In this way the Israelite recognised that the Lord must have first place in his life. The distinction between eating at home and eating at “the place” is most instructive:
i) The consumption of food at home certainly involved the Lord. The Israelite recognised that it was provided by Him: it was “according to the blessing of the Lord thy God.” Everything was to be “received with thanksgiving,” 1Tim.4.4. But the Israelite was to recognise that the “tithe” of his produce and the “firstlings” of his animals belonged to God, even though he ate them with his family, and these meals could only be taken “in the place that the Lord thy God shall choose.” They were not to be eaten in isolation but at the place where God's people gathered. Consecrated food was eaten in fellowship with others of like mind.
ii) The fact that they ate these meals “before the Lord thy God,” v18, indicates that God loves to dwell in the midst of thankful and devoted people. Hence they were to eat everything consecrated to Him in His presence, and “rejoice before the Lord,” v18. It would be inappropriate to infer from this that we should distinguish in some way between our spiritual diet at home and our spiritual diet in the assembly, but we should remember that our personal spiritual enjoyment should be shared with fellow-believers in the assembly. If we have enjoyed something precious concerning the Lord Jesus, let the saints enjoy it too! The lesson is emphasised in Deut.16.2,6,11,15,16; God's people were to come with their offerings and sacrifices to “the place which the Lord shall choose to place His Name there.”
b) The principle applied, v20-27
This paragraph begins with the words, “When the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as He hath promised thee …”, v20, from which we learn that the principle was to apply at all times, whether in the early or later days of residence in Canaan. The Word of God does not change with time and circumstances! We must notice the correspondence (i) between v21-25 and v15-16, and (ii) between v26-27 and v17-18. The provision in v21, “If the place … be too far from thee,” reminds us that God does not place unnecessary burdens upon His people. But as before, their “holy things,” v27 must be eaten “in the place which the Lord shall choose.” While provision is made for Israelites who lived at a distance (see 14.23-26), they were still required to come to ‘the place of the Name,’ reminding us that the “Lord's supper” is a meeting of the local assembly, rather than something that can be practised on an ad hoc basis wherever we might happen to be.
We should notice the repeated warning, “be sure that thou eat not the blood,” v23. The prohibition is explained in Lev.17.11-12. The lessons of the blood were so distinctive that it was alwaysto be connected in their thoughts with atonement. Obedience would have happy results: ‘Thou shalt not eat of it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord,” v25. This principle is repeated in v28.
The chapter concludes, as it commences, with the injunctions to “observe and hear,” v28 and “observe to do,” v32. God's people were to act at all times within the boundaries of God's Word, and we should notice three things:
i) The blessings of obeying God's Will, v28. “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God.”
ii) The danger of imitating the world, v29-31. “Take heed to thyself, that thou be not ensnared from following them (the nations of Canaan), after that they be destroyed before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God.” We are not to be “conformed to this world,” Rom.12.2. The sheer illogicality of idolatry is stressed here: it was totally incongruous to worship the gods of defeated nations!
iii) The necessity to maintain God's Word, v32. “What things soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Compare Deut.4.2. Jeremiah was told, “all the words which I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word,” Jer.26.2. The Bible ends with solemn warning against tampering with its contents. See Rev.22.18-19. We must maintain “all the counsel of God,” Acts 20.27.
— to be continued (D.V.)
The Garments of the Saviour
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
11. Garments of Victory
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? ... Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger ... and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment,” Is.63.1-3.
An otherwise beautiful hymn has mistakenly interpreted these words as describing the Saviour’s return from Golgotha, His garments stained with the blood of His cross, but the verses have no reference to Calvary at all, or to the sufferings of Christ. They are prophetic still, looking to a future day and to our Lord’s triumph at His return in power and glory. As the peaceful kingdom of Solomon was introduced in judgment, and was established only after the removal of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei, so will the setting up of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace be preceded by the destruction of the King’s enemies. Adonijah was a usurper. Joab was a murderer. Shimei cursed King David. They were a trinity of evil and had to be removed before Solomon’s kingdom could be established. These verses in Is.63 portray, in graphic symbolism, the awfulness of the destruction of the enemies of David’s greater Son, the heir to the throne, to the land, and to the world, prior to the setting up of His millennial kingdom.
There is at once, however, a perceived problem. Zechariah predicts that the coming King will set His feet upon the Mount of Olives, Zec.14.4. Rev.16.16 identifies the battlefield as being Armageddon. Here, in Is.63, the victorious King is returning from Edom. The apparent difficulty is that Armageddon is North, in Galilee. Edom is in the South, below Israel’s southern border, at the foot of the Dead Sea, with Bozrah as its capital city. Olivet lies between, in Judea, on the East of Jerusalem. To where then will the King come? Where will the final battle be fought? Where exactly will His enemies be destroyed?
There is, of course, no discrepancy. There cannot be in the inspired Word. It may well be that the King will come initially to the Mount of Olives. From this mount He ascended to Heaven, and at this mount His angels promised that in like manner He would come again. But the enemies of God and the Gospel are not at all confined to this area. By divine intervention the armies of those who oppose Him will be gathered together at Megiddo, and there be crushed. Some, perhaps fleeing, will be pursued to Edom and Bozrah, so that, for the whole length of the Land the King will travel in triumph, from Megiddo through Olivet to Edom and from Edom through Olivet to Megiddo.
In Rev.14.20, again in awful symbolism, there will be blood to the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. These are not exactly furlongs as we know them, but rather the Greek stadia. As Seiss remarks, “A river of human blood 160 miles in length, and up to the bridles of the horses in depth, tells the awful story.” From Edom to Esdraelon the Land will flow with the blood of the King’s enemies. It is “the great winepress of the wrath of God.” Rev.14.19.
The figure of the winepress is therefore common to both Isaiah and the Revelation. The vintage was an event of great significance and ceremony in the East. The harvested grapes were put into the winepress, or wine vat. They were then trampled out, sometimes ceremonially and joyfully to the strains of music, until the grape juice flowed from them to be collected in the vat. As may well be imagined, the garments of those who trod them out were stained with the blood of the grapes. Such is the symbolism used here and the people familiar with the custom of the vintage would easily recognise the meaning.
Messiah will come. His enemies, and the enemies of His ancient people will then have had their day. For too long they have raged against the Lord and against His anointed. They have broken the cords of divine restraint and have scorned the Almighty. For centuries the voice of rebellion has reverberated throughout the Land of Israel and the world, but now “the Lord will have them in derision” and “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh,” Ps.2.
Doubtless Jerusalem will be in the very heart of it all, but the battle will rage from Megiddo to Bozrah. Megiddo is, at the one and same time, a city, a hill, a valley, and a plain. Armageddon, or Har Megiddo, has been the battlefield of the ages. Men of almost every age and every nation have fought at Megiddo. It has a commanding position, an abundant water supply, and rich pastures, all of which have made it a notorious battleground. Canaanites and Philistines, Jews and Egyptians, Chaldeans and Persians, Greeks and Romans, Moslems and Crusaders, Turks and Arabs, and the British too, have all fought here. Here Deborah and Barak fought the Canaanites. Here Gideon fought the Midianites. King Saul was slain here, and Ahaziah, and good King Josiah. This vast plain has a history of strife, but the final battle has yet to be fought.
The armies of the nations will be gathered there. The Western bloc, the armies of the beast of Rev.13 will be there. The great Northern Confederacy, Russia and her satellites, will be gathered too. The Kings of the East will cross the Euphrates in the might of their great numbers, and the King of the South, will move northward, the wealth of his oil reserves giving him his power.
Poor Israel will be in the centre of opposing powers. Humanly speaking the little Land could be overrun and the tiny nation at last crushed out of existence. But the promises which Jehovah made to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to David, must be fulfilled. At the crucial moment Messiah will come. The sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears in the heavens and those blocs of nations, formerly enemies of each other, now unite to become allies against the Lord and His anointed.
The battle will not be prolonged. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2Thess.1.7-8. From Megiddo to Bozrah He will triumph. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” He replies personally, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Metaphorically His garments are stained with the blood of His enemies. He has trampled them like grapes in a winepress and their blood, sprinkled on His garments, has stained all His raiment.
The blood-stained robes of the Conqueror are garments of victory. Now He can, and will, enter on His reign of peace and rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. He has rightfully exchanged the purple robe of mockery for the royal robe of victory and He will now reign supreme.
And when He comes in bright array, and leads the conquering line,
It will be glory then to say that He’s a Friend of mine!
—to be continued (D.V.)
Reasons For Writing
by D. S. Parrack (England)
"To Stir You Up By Putting You In Remembrance" 2 Peter 1.13
The scattered groups of believers to whom Peter was writing, see 1Pet.1.1, were “for a season,” v6, going through very difficult times. They were suffering physical persecution, “being tried with fire,” v7, and there were also some who, seeming to know something of their beliefs, were goading them as to their plausibility, see e.g. 2Pet.3.3-4. That is perhaps one of the most trying situations for young believers, to have to face being challenged on their own ground by people who appear to know as much, or more, of the tenets of their faith as they do themselves.
Peter wants to show them on what their thoughts should be concentrating, on what they should be relying, as a counter-weight to all of the harassment to which they were being subjected. He doesn’t attempt to make light of their problems or say that they don’t really matter, his readers knew them as being very real. Instead, towards the end of his second letter he says “This second epistle beloved I now write unto you in both which” so we are quite justified in considering them together, “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour,” 2Pet.3.2.
Do we feel unable sometimes to stand up to the articulate, well-informed and perhaps well-educated detractors who both oppose what we believe and appear able to marshall logical arguments to support such opposition? Peter is writing to deal with just such a situation and the way he does it is to point us away from contemporary circumstances, in whatever age, and from the neatly formulated arguments of intellectually superior opponents. In doing so he first of all makes clear one overwhelmingly important fact. He shows that the Old Testament, referred to here as “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets” is on a par with, and therefore as equally dependable as “the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour,” i.e. the New Testament. He confirms this stand later on by linking Paul’s letters with what he refers to as “the other scriptures,” see 2Pet.3.15-16, so putting them on the same level.
Just where though did those “commandments of us the apostles” come from, what authority did they have to speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus, “the Lord and Saviour”? We need to be sure of their credentials, both as regards who they claim to be and as to what they say.
First of all the apostles were chosen from among all the other disciples by the Lord Jesus Himself, see Lk.6.13-16. He confirms it as being His choice alone by saying, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you,” Jn.15.16. Then after His resurrection and immediately prior to His ascension, He gave them a commission. He Himself was going back to His Father in heaven, but they, for a while at least, were to stay in this world, acting and speaking on His behalf, see Jn.17.11-18. The actual words of the post-resurrection commission were “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” Matt.28.19-20.
Having set out in his letters to encourage their memories, the apostle recognises that he still has a responsibility in the matter. He is not prepared to sit back and just wait for those memories to self-start. “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them and be established in the present truth” and such “putting in remembrance” was to be an ongoing activity for Peter. “Yea I think it meet as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” He didn’t expect to be with them for very long, “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle,” i.e. quite bluntly, he expected to die fairly soon, but he wanted the results of his reminders to stay with them long after that. “I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my departure, to have those things always in remembrance,” 2Pet.1.12-15, and his endeavours were effective not only for his first readers but for us too.
Well, it was fine for Peter to talk about memories and how they can be a comfort. He himself, of course, had many vivid and personal memories on which he could draw. He could, just like John, have referred to the Lord Jesus as “The Word of life — which we have heard — seen — looked upon,” 1Jn.1.1, but we haven’t experienced anything like that. Peter acknowledges this when recalling one of the most outstanding of all of his own experiences, “We — were eyewitnesses of His majesty — when we were with Him in the holy mount,” Matt.17.1-5. But he goes on to say, that over and beyond all that “We,” which includes us, “have also a more sure word of prophecy whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” Something “more sure” than a revelation like that which those three apostles had, is such a thing really possible? Yes, most certainly it is. That revelation was to just those three and revelations can be misconstrued or over-emphasised by the individuals claiming to have them. But of the “more sure word of prophecy” Peter says, “knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scriptures is of any private interpretation.” It isn’t just for one person or one privileged group. Nor is it merely the reminiscing of people who having themselves had experiences, want, as best they can, to pass them, on to others. “But the holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” 2Pet.1.16-2. We are not then relying on what Peter remembered, or perhaps thought he remembered; our confidence in the reality of what he wrote, is based on it being recorded in the Word of God.
So Peter doesn’t want us to have to depend on his limited understanding or fallible memory. After all he wasn’t always that good at understanding situations, see e.g. Lk.9.33 and Mk.9.5-6, nor of remembering sufficiently clearly, to put into practice some of the things which he had been taught by revelation (compare e.g. Acts 11.1-18 and Gal.2.11-12). Rather, his reminders are based on what the Scriptures teach and he applies specific passages to meet some of the needs and queries of his readers.
In his first letter for instance he speaks of the foretelling of the Gospel message by prophets as recorded in the Old Testament, see 1.10-12. He stresses, by quoting from Isaiah, the eternal nature of God’s Word and therefore its total reliability, v23-25. Then the dependability and assurance that we have in the Lord Jesus, spoken of, again in Isaiah, as “a chief corner stone, elect, precious,” 2.6. He cites Sarah as a Scriptural example to Christian wives, to which he adds, as a balance, how husbands should behave, 3.1-7.
In his second letter he again uses Old Testament patterns, this time to show how God differentiates between the justified and those still unjust, 2.4-9, then giving that enigmatic character Balaam as an example of someone who we ourselves would find difficult to evaluate apart from the clarification of the Scriptures, v15-16. As a corollary of this he shows the danger of, and outcome from, a false profession of faith, using a quotation from Proverbs to emphasise the point, v20-22. Finally he uses the Scriptural record of creation, and the events following it, as a response to challenges regarding the second coming of the Lord Jesus, an event which believers are encouraged to be “looking for and hasting unto,” see 3.3-13.
Peter then is doing what all good teachers among God’s people need to be doing. Not just telling their hearers what they ought to do, after all modern-day Scribes and Pharisees, just like their predecessors, are quite good at doing that, see Matt.23.1-3, but rather, demonstrating that what is being taught is eminently meaningful and practical. If we want believers to accept that reliance on the Scriptures is the only “more sure” way of knowing God’s mind on specific matters, we need to establish what the contemporary problems or difficulties are and then present the relevant passages of Scripture which answer those needs. Don’t worry that your hearers perhaps already know the letter of the Word, that may very well be the case, and, after all, you can’t remind them of something which they never knew. Do remind them though, stir up their memories. But bear in mind that for anything which is being taught to have any worthwhile effect it must be seen to be vitally real in the heart of the teacher. That does not mean that hearers have to rely on their teachers’ experiences second-hand, but on the Person who gave those experiences and who, by the Holy Spirit, makes them real by confirming them with, and relating them to, the Scriptures.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Teaching of 1 Thessalonians
by J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 2: Acts 17.1 - 15 - The Missionaries at Thessalonica
In the first paper we commenced an introductory study to this epistle and set out to consider the following matters:
1. THE SETTING:
2. THE SERVANTS:
3. THEIR SCRIPTURAL ORDER
4. THE SAINTS:
5. THE SCRIBE:
6. THE STRIFE:
We got as far as the first two and now we continue with:
Their Scriptural Order
They were Scriptural in sermon material. We must use our Bibles in preaching. At Thessalonica Paul preached ‘the Scriptures,’ v2, and at Berea ‘the Word of God,’ v13. Although there is no apparent Old Testament quotation in the preaching at Athens, the material is completely Biblical. Paul speaks of God as Omnipotent, v24; Omnipresent, v24,27; All Sufficient, v25; Longsuffering, v30; and a God of judgment, v31. The only way we can allow God to speak in our messages is by quoting and reading from the inspired Word of God. We must explain the Bible in our preaching. Paul was an expositor of the highest calibre because he opened and explained to his audience what the Word meant, ‘opening and alleging,’ v3. God honouring exposition of the Scriptures brings out the true meaning of the text, making accessible to view, it involves prising open that which appears to be shut and unravelling that which is difficult to entangle. There is no point in reading a passage from God’s Word never to mention it again. The whole point of reading it is that its message will penetrate the hearers' hearts, and the whole objective of preaching is to explain that message in a clear and understandable way.
They were Christological in sermon material. Prior to His ascension into Heaven the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, ‘ye shall be witnesses unto me,’ Acts 1.8. Concerning the converted Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus the glorified Christ explained, ‘he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name,’ Acts 9.15. Paul had a full understanding of the most complex Bible doctrines, but when he went about preaching his chief end was to preach the Lord Jesus. With regard to his preaching at Corinth, he wrote, ‘I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,’ 1Cor.2.2. He preached at least four things in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Firstly, His suffering, ‘Christ must needs have suffered,’ v3. Secondly, His resurrection ‘from the dead,’ v3. Thirdly, His rejection, ‘this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ,’ v3, that is to say, Jesus of Nazareth, rejected and crucified by the Jewish nation, is in actual fact the true Messiah. Fourthly, His royalty: ‘there is another king, one Jesus,’ v7.
They were powerful in their preaching. ‘These that have turned the world upside down,’ v6 is an amazing testimony to the effectiveness of their preaching. When the gospel of Christ is set forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, it turns men’s lives upside down and inside out, transforming the whole character of a man. It produces nothing short of a revolution in the heart, turning around the whole direction of the life in an instant. This transforming power of the gospel comes through faith in God’s infallible Word as v4 states: ‘and some of them believed.’ Although it sounds good, we must be prepared for the open hostility that such preaching provokes, v5,6.
The missionaries were considerate of other believers. This is seen in their willingness quietly to leave the city of Thessalonica, v10. Paul was unafraid of opposition and persecution so it was not because of the threat of this that he left. Rather he was willing to go so easily for the sake of the young converts since, had he stayed, the persecution they had already experienced was likely to intensify, and he did not wish that upon them. V9 states ‘And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.’ The word for ‘security’ is hikanos, meaning they had to make a monitory deposit, so ensuring that the preachers would not again disturb the public. Had they risked any further preaching the Jews would undoubtedly have staged another riot. This would have involved Jason and his fellow Christians in serious financial loss and would have aroused the active hostility of the magistrates against the church. True spirituality does not ignore the material. Paul did not play fast and loose with other people’s property and finances claiming only to be interested in the spiritual.
They showed hospitality, v5,7. It was quite something for Jason to allow these missionaries to stay at his house, since they still bore the wounds that they had received at Philippi, showing it was no popular message they preached. Hospitality to such men evidenced the genuineness of their conversion. Lydia responded in a similar manner, Acts 16.15, when she desired them to stay in her home. Hospitality is one of the characteristics that should mark elders in a local assembly, 1Tim.3.2.
They suffered hostility, v5,6,9. Jason and the other believers had not been saved for long before they were hauled up before the authorities and accused of nothing short of the executionable offence of treason. Adversity is inescapable for the believer in this world, 1Thes.3.3. If we do not somehow suffer for the faith it may be questionable whether we are really saved. Adversity also acts as a very effective test for genuineness, Matt.13.20,21.
Scholars have questioned Luke’s credibility, claiming that certain words used by him in the text of the Acts cannot be found in other contemporary historical documents. For example, the word for ‘rulers’ in v6,8 is politarch. Classical writers never appeared to use this word and instead used poliarchos and politarchos to describe these ‘rulers’. However the validity of Luke’s writing has been vindicated as this word has now been found in inscriptions discovered at Thessalonica dating from this time. We learn from this the infallibility of the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has chosen every word. If the academics of this world are found to be at loggerheads with the Word, then they are wrong, Lk.16.17.
Then there is the industry of the servant. Luke was a very diligent student as he compiled this historical record of the early years of Christianity, working hard that every detail would be correct. This should be the attitude of any Bible teacher.
There are at least four sources of strife in this passage that can also be a cause of trouble amongst the saints. The Jews had an envious heart, v5. Though we would never admit to such a base motive this is perhaps the root of most division in the church. Envy is ‘the rottenness of the bones,’ Pr.14.30. There was a misunderstanding mind, for in v7, they certainly misrepresented the apostle and fellow labourers. Sometimes misunderstanding causes division among believers. The Thessalonians had a lazy spirit in comparison to the Bereans, v11. If there was more Bible study amongst the believers in assemblies there would be a lot less strife. Finally, how dangerous a retentive memory, v13, can be. Some things should fill our memories, but others, for example the wrongs that have been done to us, are best forgotten.
— to be continued (D.V.)
by E. W. Rogers (England)
It is a thing to be specially marked that prayer for the Lord’s servants is equivalent to helping them actively. Even if it be not possible to do anything more (and, of course, we should do more than pray) sincere prayer to God for them is a great help. Paul says so in 2Cor.1.11: “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.” This phrase is found in a context that has to do with Paul’s perilous Asian experiences, which elsewhere he graphically describes as ‘fighting with wild beasts.’ He even despaired of his life, though he knew that if that were lost God is He who raises the dead. Still, deliverance came and the prayers of the Corinthian saints had helped to bring it. Prayer had been proved to be that mighty power
“Which moves the hand that moves the world
To bring deliverance down.”
The prayers offered up by many saints issued in thanksgiving to God offered by the same many: a volume of prayer had produced a volume of praise.
Paul uses a stronger word in Rom.15.30: “Strive together with me in your prayers.” He felt the force of adverse powers who were ever seeking to hinder his prayers and, therefore, he urged the Roman believers to join him in the contest. It was a real contest. He was making a journey to Judea, but wondered what sort of reception he would have by the saints and how he would fare at the hands of his unbelieving fellow-nationals. His desire was that he should be delivered from the hands of the opponents, welcomed by the saints, and be able in due course to come to the saints at Rome with joy. If this programme were to be fulfilled he knew he would have to fight his way through, and he, therefore, besought these Roman believers to join him in the battle of prayer.
See what prayer can do: it can deliver out of menacing circumstances such as those in Asia: it can overcome the devices and activities of hostile foes such as those in Judea. But more, it can even release from prison confinement. Of this Paul was confident and, therefore, to the Philippians he wrote, 1.19: “I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ.” By the word ‘salvation’ he may have had much more in view than deliverance from prison, he may have been thinking of spiritual failure. Certainly the prayers of many a saint have saved many an one from such spiritual shipwreck. But whether it be physical or spiritual, prayer need not be limited to any place or to any state. It is boundless in its scope.
The prayers of the Philippians imparted confidence to the great Apostle Paul, for note the words ‘I know.’ He uses the word that denotes inward conviction, he was confident that God would respond to the prayers of the saints seeing they needed the help of the Apostle. Therefore, later he says: “having this confidence, I know.”
It was not only churches which he urged to pray for him. He wrote to Philemon, father, mother, and son, for he expected after his release from prison (to which he had alluded to the Philippians) to go to that Colossian home. The word he used, v22, is stronger than ‘trust,’ it is ‘hope.’ He does not here ask them to pray for him, he knew they were doing that, but he does ask them to supplement those prayers with appropriate action, for their prayers had begotten within his breast the confident assurance that he had procured from the hand of God as an answer of grace the desires of both Philemon and Paul and that each would be together again in due course.
Prayer has been eulogized: many have written on the topic: many sermons have been preached about it. But how many of us are like Epaphras, who did much prayer-business with God in dead earnest? Who can tell what would be accomplished were every reader of this magazine to engage himself thus. Prayer is the first prerequisite of all other aids to missionary enterprise. It will have a salutary effect upon our own spiritual life: it will direct our steps: it will unloose our purse: it will help the Lord’s servants in difficult circumstances: it will smooth their journeys: it will meet their needs: and there is no telling what prayer can do.
Conversely, if we fail in this direction who can measure the loss not only that we ourselves sustain but which we incur for those who “on behalf of the Name” have gone forth. No marvel that they constantly ask “Brethren, pray for us.”
by the late H. Bailie (Northern Ireland)
In Deut.24.1-4, we have the main passage with reference to this subject: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she has departed out of his house she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord; and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
In Matt.5.31, in His Sermon on the Mount, our Lord makes mention of divorce for the first time. In this chapter, He goes back to the true spirit of the law which God gave to His people from Mount Sinai, teaching His disciples of a righteousness that exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. He sets this forth in three groups of two commandments. In v21-26, we have the sixth (thou shalt not kill) interpreted. The Lord reminds them that the root cause of murder is anger in the heart, and teaches the way to remove this — by reconciliation, otherwise imprisonment will be the result. From v27-32, we have the seventh commandment set forth in two groups. The first is from v27-30 (Thou shalt not commit adultery). Here again, our Lord refers back to the cause: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” The way to remove this occasion of stumbling is given in v29 and v30. If it is the right eye it is to be plucked out, or if it is the right hand, it is to be cut off, otherwise the whole body should be cast into hell. (Greek - gehenna.). In the last of these groups, v31 and v32, we have another kind of adultery. This time it is connected with the law of divorce. “It had been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” From v32, we see that the man who sends away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, makes her an adultress, and whoever marries her that is put away commits adultery, since her first marriage is still valid in the sight of God.
If, however, the wife has committed fornication, then she has already broken the marriage vow, and was not driven to this by her husband. Our Lord teaches from this, that “putting away” is the breaking of the marriage covenant, and that this bond in the sight of God, is indissoluble.
In Matt.19.3-12, we have the subject introduced again, this time by the Pharisees, who asked the question: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Note the words — “for every cause.” When our Lord was on earth, there were two rival Rabbinical schools of thought on the subject of divorce, viz. that of Hillel and that of Shammai. Hillel taught that divorce was allowable even on trivial grounds. Shammai denied it, except in the case of adultery. Our Lord replied by appealing to the Scriptures — Gen.1.27, where God made them at the beginning male and female, and Gen.2.24, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall be one flesh,” adding the solemn words: “What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” The Pharisees further questioned the Lord saying: “Why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and put her away?” Deut.24.1-4. To this the Lord replied that it was on account of the hardness of their hearts, but from the beginning it was not so. The Lord again reaffirmed that the marriage bond is still valid before God, and quotes the words He had previously given in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt.5.32. Stier remarks, that “the essential bond of marriage consists not in unity of spirit and soul, by which indeed the marriage state should ever be hallowed and sweetened, but without which it still exists in all its binding power:— the wedded pair are one flesh, i.e., one man within the limits of their united life in the flesh, for this world; beyond this limit, the marriage is broken by the death of the flesh. And herein alone lies the justification of a second marriage, which in no way breaks off the unity of love in spirit with the former partner now deceased.”
In Mk.10.2-12, we have Mark’s account of the Pharisees’ question, and the Lord here, as in Matt.19, points back to the original creation, and shows that marriage is indissoluble. Mark adds that the disciples asked their Lord about the matter afterwards when He was in the house. He replied “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another commiteth adultery against her, and if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery,” v11.
In Israel, of course, such a case could only be that of a dismissed wife, but the case of a woman divorcing her husband has to do with Greek and Roman law.
In Lk.16.18, here is a further reference. Here, the Lord is addressing the Pharisees and rebuking them for the sin of covetousness, which is the breaking of the tenth commandment, let it be the love of money, or the love of another man’s wife. — One tittle of God’s law shall not fail. — Note that here and in Mk.10 the words, “for the cause of fornication” are omitted. Again the Lord emphasises the inviolability of the marriage bond. This is confirmed in Eph.5.30-32, where it is taken as a type of Christ and His Church: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”
In 1Cor.11.1-16, where the subject is “Headship,” we have the husband and wife again referred to. In v8 and v9, the apostle Paul, like his Lord, goes back to the original creation: Gen.2.21-22. In Rom.7.1, the same apostle, in illustrating the believer’s relationship to the law, uses the marriage bond. From these Scriptures it is clear that divorce is a denial of the Type, a setting aside of the truth of Christ’s Headship, and ignoring of the believer’s position regarding the law.
In Mal.2.14-16, the prophet says to the people: “Because the Lord hath been witness between thee, and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not He make one? yet He had the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.” This shows again the unbreakable holiness of the marriage relationship. Dr. Fairburn says in his “Typology of Scripture” that the national covenant had its parallel in every family in Israel, in the marriage-tie that bound together man and wife. This relation, so important generally for the welfare of individuals and the prosperity of states, was chosen as an expressive image of that in which the whole people stood to God.
The hardness of heart to which the Lord refers in Matt.19.8, will not be found in the believer who is walking in the liberty of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, but instead, the righteous requirements of the law will be fulfilled in Him, the sanctity of the marriage bond being preserved. The wife will submit to her husband, and the husband will love his wife as Christ also loved the Church, being heirs together of the grace of life.
In 1Cor.7.10,11, the apostle gives charge (“yet not I, but the Lord”), that the wife is not to depart from her husband. Should she depart, however, she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband, thus establishing the truth of what our Lord taught regarding “putting away.” In v12-16 of this chapter, we have the question of one of the parties becoming a believer after marriage, in which case the believing wife is not to leave her unbelieving husband, “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife” and vice versa. Children too, are brought in, because of the divinely-ordained marriage covenant. The believing wife is, by her subjection and manner of life, to win her unconverted husband, see 1Pet.3.1-6. The believing husband, too, is so to live that he may win his unbelieving wife, and the children are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Eph.6.4.
This unbreakable bond is God’s ideal for His people, whom He describes as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, staying its corruption, and giving light to its darkness by holding forth the Word of Life. Whether it is restored Israel in the day of Millenial glory, or the Church in her Heavenly Home, God will display symbolically, to a wondering universe, the inviolability of the marriage bond between Jehovah and His people, and Christ and His Church.
Oh! what joy that marriage union
Mystery of love divine;
Sweet to sing in all its fulness
“I am His, and He is mine.”
(submitted by S. J. McB)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (92)
by Timothy Sloan (Norway/Ukraine)
As I look back over the years I can recall the words of Jon.2.2 “I know that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”
I have happy memories of a childhood spent in our home in Aghadowey, Northern Ireland, where my Christian parents brought up their four children in the fear of the Lord. For the first 11 years of my life I attended Coleraine Terrace Row Presbyterian Church along with my parents. For some years both my father and mother were exercised before the Lord as to the Scriptural pattern of gathering and I well remember the time, in 1967, when we left this large building in Coleraine to gather in a tin hut at Ballylintagh Gospel Hall. With its coal-burning stove in the middle of the hall one was always sure of a warm welcome!
At the age of 12 the Lord spoke to me through words spoken by my Sunday school teacher Carson Dinsmore. On the 20th April while speaking on Jn.3 he stressed the need of the new birth. About Nicodemus he said, “His first birth was defective and he needed to be born again.” The Holy Spirit used these words to impress upon me the thought, if Nicodemus needed salvation so did I. It was in the early hours of Monday morning the 21st that I accepted Christ as my Saviour. I was baptized in Ballymoney Gospel Hall in September 1972 and received into fellowship in Ballylintagh.
Two years later (November 1974) at the age of 18 I stood at my father’s graveside devastated. The Lord had taken him home suddenly at the age of 49 and it was a loud voice to me regarding the brevity of life. In February 1976 God intervened in my life by preserving me in a serious car accident, which left me in hospital for six months. God taught me another important lesson as I lay on my hospital bed — life was to be lived to serve Him and not lived to satisfy self. My outlook in life changed and it was on the 15th May 1978 that God spoke to me regarding serving Him through Phil.4. It was an experience that was as clear and definite as the day of my salvation. Through days of difficulties and loneliness on the mission field I have often looked back to this experience. My personal dealings with God that day have been a source of support and strength.
Many older brethren took an interest in me. Alex Doey was a godly brother in Ballylintagh who gave me wise advice. Tommy Jamieson (Coleraine) often asked me to accompany him when he went preaching. Overseeing brethren in Ballylintagh taught me and it was in those years that I learnt the preciousness of the local assembly and the importance of an effective local testimony. Over time they gave me responsibility in the Sunday school, opening the Bible reading as well as helping in the open-air gospel meetings.
In 1982 I married Rhoda Hanna (Londonderry) and we made our home in Garvagh and moved to the local assembly at Killykergan. Ten happy years were spent in Garvagh and we greatly benefited from the ministry of Samuel Ussher. Sammy, as he was known, knew his Bible and lived out the truth of it in his daily life. Most weekdays he was found in our home and after telling me what he had enjoyed from the Scriptures that morning he would often turn to me and say “And where have you been reading today?” The other elders in Killykergan always sought to encourage me, giving me responsibility in opening the Bible reading, in the Sunday school and in preaching in the open air. Shortly after arriving in Garvagh we commenced a weekly Monday night children’s meeting in our home along with John Stewart and Tom Stewart before others joined to help. It was a privilege to see up to 100 children attending. We kept active in preaching the gospel each Saturday night of the year in the open air as well as Monday evenings through the summer months. We also had the privilege of helping out in a number of series of gospel meetings along with brethren Eric Wishart, Jim Fillis, William Millar and Albert Aiken.
Since that spring morning 15th May 1978 I had been “assuredly gathering” what the mind and will of the Lord was for my life. Rhoda and I had not mentioned our exercise to anyone, yet on Sunday 15th September 1991 while accompanying one of our elders, John Stewart, to a gospel meeting he said among other things, “You should be out in the Lord’s work.” Confirmation was given that others had confidence in me and so I made my exercise known.
On the 5th November I met my overseeing brethren and soon after that Rhoda and I were commended by the Killykergan, Ballylintagh, Lisachrin and Moneydig assemblies to the grace of God for the Lord’s work. The door was opening and after selling our house and moving into rented accommodation we applied for a visa to Norway. Standing in the Norwegian Embassy in London I was told there was little point in applying and that if I did apply, it would take six months before I would get a response. Three weeks and three days later we had our visas!
Leaving family behind was difficult for us all. Three days before my father died, though he was healthy and well with never a day’s illness in 26 years, his last words to me were: “If anything happens to me make sure you look after your mother.” In serving the Lord difficult decisions and choices have to be made and true are the words of Lk.14.26. On the 7th October 1992 we left Northern Ireland for Norway.
More than twelve years have passed and we look back with joy as to what the Lord has done. Rhoda has been a blessing to me as we have served the Lord together. The Lord has saved our three children and we have seen them baptized and gathered to the Lord’s name. It has pleased the Lord to save others whom we have contacted through our weekly meetings or as a result of street work. Eleven years we lived in Kristiansand, raised a family and that without a local assembly or young Christian company for our children Esther, Thomas and Andrew. We have missed family, friends and fellowship but look back over these years confident in the fact that we were doing what the Lord called us to do.
God calls to the work and so it is important to work where and when He calls, Acts 13:2. He guides while in that work opening or closing doors as He wills, Acts 16.6-10. Through a contact we made in Norway in 1994 an assembly work has been established in the town of Lutsk, Ukraine. A lot has been accomplished since the assembly in Lutsk met to remember the Lord for the first time on April 21st 2002. The work there is progressing and the assembly has grown. Souls have been saved and baptized. Assembly truths have been taught and practiced and our heart’s desire is to see a Scriptural work develop. Over the past two years or so, I have made eight visits and enjoyed working with my fellow brethren from Northern Ireland, America and Canada. After much prayer and in fellowship with our commending elders we have left Norway to live in Ukraine. Many things will be different but the commission remains the same — preach to all and teach “all things.” Our confidence for the future is in a God who has not failed us in the past. Your continued prayers are valued.
Serving the Lord demands conversion, a concern “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do,” a call Acts 26:19, commendation Acts 14:26, communication Acts 14:27, conviction Rom.1:16, cleanness of life 2Thess.3:7 and commitment 2Tim.4:7.
God called Jonah who was his servant in the Northern Kingdom to go and do a work in Nineveh to the south. Jonah sought to run away. WILL YOU?
1Cor.9:16 Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.
Good Tidings from Heaven
A while ago, the city of New York and surrounding areas were plunged into darkness due to a unexpected power cut. There was widespread panic as people wondered what had happened. Human imagination took over as all sorts of possible reasons were considered from the simple to the sublime. It did show how much men really fear literal darkness.
The Bible has much to say about darkness. The first mention is in the first chapter of Genesis and the last reference is in Revelation chapter 16.10. Thus the subject goes from the beginning to the end of the Holy Scriptures.
It describes the character of God in relation to His Holiness, 1 John 1.5, “… God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” This is in distinction to us, John 3.19, “… men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Thus we learn that mankind and God are diametrically opposed. Just as light and darkness cannot coexist, so God and sinful mankind cannot coexist. Man cannot dwell with God as long as his sins are unforgiven.
What keeps us in this situation? There is another power outside of ourselves, which holds us in the dark. Speaking about Satanic powers, the apostle Paul states, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6.12. Thus the wicked forces of hell desire to keep us in the dark. Why? So that we will share their eternal damnation. This is described by Peter, “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” 2 Peter 2.4. To such a place all unrepentant souls will go, if they die without having accepted God’s provision of salvation in His Son. Matthew 22.13, “… Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The Bible speaks of people who have been delivered from this darkness. Colossians 1.13, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” How can such a change take place? Can God just decide to change the eternal destiny of people without regard to His character? The answer is a resounding, “No!” All must be done righteously and in accordance with His character. In order that such a change can take place, God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into this world to go into dreadful darkness that we may never experience this darkness and enjoy the light of His presence both now and for all eternity. At 9.00 a.m. (the third hour in Jewish time) they crucified the Saviour and we read, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27.45,46. In those dread hours He suffered what should have been our portion and thus answered God’s claims and because of this we who accept Him as our personal Saviour can go free.
“Because the Sinless Saviour died, my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
The tremendous power of this message is taught in Acts 26.18, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.”
'In Christ' in Ephesians
to be faithful in Christ Jesus, 1.1
blessed us with all spiritual blessings … in Christ, 1.3
He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, 1.4
He hath made us accepted in the Beloved, 1.6
In whom we have redemption through His blood, 1.7
He will gather together in one all things in Christ, 1.10
in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, 1.11
made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 2.6
we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, 2.10
now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh, 2.13
to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace, 2.15
in whom all the building … groweth unto an holy temple, 2.21
in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God, 2.22
the Gentiles … partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel, 3.6
the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, 3.11
in whom we have boldness and access with confidence, 2.12
the truth is in Jesus, 4.21
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, 6.1
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, 6.10
Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, 6.21
by H. A. Barnes (England)
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore.
Abundant grace will He afford,
Till we are present with the Lord,
And prove what we have sung before,
That Jesus lives for evermore.
Then let our souls in Him rejoice,
And sing His praise with cheerful voice,
Our doubts and fears forever gone,
For Christ is on the Father's throne.
Paul stood by the pearly gates and looked and longed to enter in. But as he turned to the battle-field of earth and saw that his brethren still had need of him, he relinquished the “far better” of Heaven for their sakes.