As we have noted, Deut.14 makes it clear that as a “holy people” Israel was to be distinct in four ways:
(1) In their denial of idolatrous practices, v1-2;
(2) In their dietary regulations, v3-21;
(3) In their devotion to God, v22-27;
(4) In their distribution to the needy, v28-29.
In our first study of this chapter, we considered the warning against disfiguration for the dead, v1-3, and commenced to examine the second part of the chapter, viz:
2) DIETARY REGULATIONS, v3-21
This included (A) animals, v4-8; (B) aquatic creatures, v9-10; (C) birds and other creatures, v11-20.
A) ANIMALS, v4-8
We noticed that this section covered clean and unclean food: “these … ye shall eat,” v4-6, and “these ye shall not eat,” v7-8.
i) Animals that could be eaten, v4-6
It has been said that ‘we are what we eat!’ The ox, sheep, goat, hart, roebuck all remind us of the Lord Jesus in various ways, and something of His lovely character and beauty will be seen in every child of God who spends time contemplating and enjoying Him!
ii) The animals that could not be eaten, v7-8
These were in two categories: (a) animals that chewed the cud but divided not the hoof, and (b) animals that divided the hoof but chewed not the cud. These were animals that did not display the character of the Lord Jesus, Whose outward and inward life was perfectly complementary. Anything less will not be suitable food for believers.
a) Animals that chew the cud but divide not the hoof, v7
“The camel, and the hare, and the coney.” There was inward activity (they chewed the cud), but outward life was unaffected (they did not divide the hoof). The inward and outward life of the Lord Jesus was perfect! We can easily imbibe the spirit that goes in for theory without practice, and feeds on intellectual arguments without making the slightest adjustment to daily walk and practice. It takes the form of endless debate and discussion, without practical godliness. See 1Tim.1.4, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith.” Compare 2Tim.14-17. We must avoid such a spirit in ourselves, and ensure that we are not influenced by others. Animals that chew the cud and divide not the hoof describe people who give themselves to thought and study, but it does not have any effect on their lives.
b) Animals that divide the hoof but that chew not the cud, v8
“The swine” is the only animal specified here, and it is difficult to imagine anything about the swine which depicts any form of godliness. Its natural habitat is described as “wallowing in the mire,” 2Pet.2.22. Perhaps this is precisely the lesson. People who have an outward form of godliness, but are devoid of inward reality, are in fact totally unclean. The Lord Jesus quoted Is.29.13 in this connection: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips: but their heart is far from Me,” Matt.15.8. The Saviour was referring here to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, of whom He later said, “within they are full of extortion and excess … but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness,” Matt.23.25-27. External orthodoxy without inward devotion is another form of uncleanness. The Lord Jesus was marked by outward perfection and inward devotion. He had an inner delight in doing the will of God.
B) AQUATIC CREATURES, v9-10
The prohibition on aquatic creatures without “fins and scales” may refer to such aquatic creatures as frogs, etc., but it has been suggested that the prohibition refers to creatures that scavenge on the bottom. So far as fish are concerned, eating shark would be forbidden. It has no scales! But however we understand the difference between the two categories, one thing is very clear: in water as on land, there is a difference between clean and unclean creatures. It is a distinction we must never forget.
C) BIRDS, v11-19
Unlike the animals, the clean birds, v11,20, are not specified, but we do have a list of the unclean birds: “The eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, and the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, and every raven after his kind, and the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow (JND ‘seagull’), and the hawk after his kind, the little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant, and the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat,” v12-18. Compare Lev.11.13-14. All carnivorous birds (those that feed on flesh) were unclean, and so were the omnivorous birds (those that feed on anything). Notice too that creeping things that flew were not allowable, v19. Lev.11.29-30 lists additional creatures that were not to be eaten: “These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, and the ferret and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.”
So, if you fancied a vulture for lunch, you had to think again! You could not eat your pet tortoise, and it was a case of pas d'escargots if you went to France!! Not surprising, is it, when you think about the diet of the birds in question, and close proximity to the ground of the creatures named in Lev.11.29-30. All this emphasises that holy people must be so careful about their mental and spiritual diet. It will not go amiss to add that we ought also to do all in our power to ensure the well-being of our bodies as “the temple of the Holy Ghost,” 1Cor.6.19.
We should notice that both Lev.11 and Deut.14 do not recommend avoidance of certain things: they prohibit them absolutely. The Bible calls them “an abomination,” Lev.11.1-13, and an “abominable thing,” Deut.14.3. There was no question of experimenting with ‘nouvelle cuisine.’ They were to be completely excluded from Israel's diet. The Israelite who objected with, ‘what's the harm in roast owl now and then,’ or ‘why not a tasty dish of ferret in batter,’ was in danger of becoming “abominable” and “defiled,” Lev.11.43. We must not experiment with the defiling influences of this world. Remember that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” 1Cor.5.6. Isaiah spells out the danger as follows: “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope,” 5.18. The cord becomes a cart rope! It has been said that ‘an evil inclination is at the first like a fine hair-string, but the finishing like a cart-rope,’ We must never play with sin. When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar's wife, “he left his garment in her hand, and filed, and got him out,” Gen.39.12.
The section concludes with two further prohibitions, v21. Like the preceding instructions, the first is based in holiness: “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it to the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it: or thou mayest sell it to an alien: for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God.” The second is based on kindness, although some think that this probably refers to Canaan's fertility rights: “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk,” v21. This was evidently a prohibition against taking the kid from its mother's teat, with great distress to its mother, and eating it for dinner. This passage, together with Ex.23.19, 34.26, governs the Hebrew practice of separating milk and meat foods, which is still part of dietary law in contemporary Judaism.
The New Testament says nothing about dietary regulations. Paul censures false teachers who forbid marriage, and impose abstinence from animal foods “which God created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving,” 1Tim.4.3-5. As J. Allen (What the Bible Teaches — 1Tim.) points out, ‘The Lord showed in Mk.7.15, as Paul taught in Rom.14.4 and as confirmed in Peter's experience in Acts 10.9-16, that all such national and ceremonial restrictions had a limited purpose and are now no longer applicable. Their whole typical purpose is now absorbed in the real sanctification of which they were only a shadow.’
3) DEVOTION TO GOD, v22-27
“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.” Quite clearly, the two tithes spoken of in this chapter, v22-27 and 28-29, are quite different from the tithes described in Num.18. This passage deals with the enjoyment of the personal tithe. Israel was to “tithe all the increase of thy seed … and thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose to place His name there … that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.” The tithe was to be eaten in ‘the place of the name.’ It was either brought to the ‘place of the name’ and eaten there, v23, or if this involved a long journey, the tithes were to be sold, and the money used to purchase replacements on arrival, v24-26. In either case, “Thou shalt eat before the Lord, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there.” v23,26. Notice the two expressions: (a) “that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God alway.” v23, and (b) “thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,” v26.
So the Israelite ate the tithe himself, but he ate in the presence of God, thus acknowledging that all that he had came from the good hand of God, and that he ate in fellowship with God Who gave it in the first place. So we have (a) a right attitude to God, and (b) a rejoicing heart before God. The two go together!
But what is more, every Israelite was to do the same. They all went to the ‘place of the name,’ and ate there before the Lord. This certainly silences the argument that as long as we acknowledge the Lord in our private lives, it doesn't really matter about coming “together … into one place,” 1Cor.11.20. Like the Israelites, we are to bring ‘the wealth of the inheritance … to the common meeting place of saints’ (C. A. Coates). Enjoyment of the tithe before God will result in
4) DISTRIBUTION TO THE NEEDY, v28-29
The second tithe in Deut.14 was to be provided for the Levite and others locally every three years. Compare 26.12-14, where the third year is called “the year of tithing.” C. A. Coates puts it nicely: ‘The result of three years' enjoyment of the plenty of the inheritance, is that one becomes qualified for a very large-hearted ministry to those who have need … There is nothing said of more than one tithe until we come to Deuteronomy, but now we see the people viewed as “sons of Jehovah.” So enriched that they can render even three tithes, and out of their abundance can minister satisfaction to every kind of need.’ C. H. Mackintosh is equally delightful: ‘God would teach His people to think of and care for all in need. The tithe belonged to Him, but He would give them the rare and exquisite privilege of devoting it to the blessed object of making hearts glad.’
The result of distributing to the servants of God, and to the needy, follows: “that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” This is still the result of “cheerful” stewardship: He which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully,” 2Cor.9.6-7.
The absence of any command in the New Testament regarding tithing indicates that believers today are not under this obligation. But the demands of grace are greater than those required by the law! The Macedonian believers, in “deep poverty,” recognised this: “For to their power (ability), I bear record, and beyond their power (ability), they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints,” 2Cor.8.1-4. The principles of our financial stewardship are set out in 1Cor.16.2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” We should be able to sing ‘in sincerity and in truth.’
Naught that I have my own I call,
I hold it for the Giver:
My heart, my strength, my life, my all.
Are His, and His for ever.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Teaching of 1 Thessalonians
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 5 : 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2
In our previous study we saw that the chapter falls into three main sections and we now continue in the first section reviewing the godly characteristics of Paul, Titus and Timothy.
1. THE REVIEW OF THE MINISTRY, v1-12
2. THE RESPONSE TO THE MINISTRY, v13-16
3. THE REWARD FOR THE MINISTRY, v17-20
They had been tested by God, v4. ‘But as we were allowed of God,’ dokimazo, meaning to prove or test. It declared their character, like coins that had been put to the test for genuineness or full weight and found to be so. This verb for testing is never used of Satan in the New Testament since he never proves in order to approve, or tests that he may accept. Satan only tests for destructive purposes but the Lord tests to make us useful for Himself. It is a Scriptural principle that we should spend a number of years in training before the Lord calls us to a particular work. There are some 13 years between Acts 9 and Acts 13: that is, Paul had been saved for 13 years and had diligently been serving the Lord in that time before the Holy Spirit separated him to become a missionary. Let us ever be wary of thrusting gifted young men forward into the limelight of public service before they are ready for it. Let us remember one of the warnings regarding local assembly elders; ‘not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil,’ 1Tim.3.6.
They were not grovelling sycophants, v4, ‘not as pleasing men, but God.’ They were not too concerned about what men thought of them because their chief ambition was to please God. There is constantly the possibility that a preacher might attempt to use his preaching ministry to build up public esteem for himself rather than simply convey God’s message to men.
Neither were they interested in public esteem; ‘nor of men sought we glory,’ v6. Surely this gave them perfect liberty in the preaching. In v2 the word used ‘to speak’ means ‘all speech,’ which involves a state of mind which is at peace with itself and so allows words to flow freely. ‘The fear of man bringeth a snare,’ Ps.29.25, but when that fear is lifted, we have perfect freedom to preach.
They were marked by humility, being ‘among you,’ v7, rather than ‘over you.’ In some cultures sadly the preachers are treated as super-humans, whom ordinary mortals should hold in reverence and awe. Paul and his companions, however, freely mingled with the believers and showed that they were men ‘subject to like passions as we are’ Jm.5.17. ‘We might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ,’ v6 is translated by Moffat as, ‘We had the power of claiming to be men of weight.’ Paul was not a man who threw his weight about, but was gentle.
They showed parental affection for their converts. This can be seen in v7, ‘But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.’ The word for nurse is ‘trophos’ meaning a nursing mother. Cherisheth is the word thalpo which is used in the LXX of Deut.22.66 of a bird covering her young with feathers to warm and protect them. ‘Her’ would be better translated ‘her own’. That is to say, the missionaries saw their converts as their own spiritual children. Truly, young believers, like young children need loving attention and encouragement. Missionaries and evangelists are to show affection to their converts, because that is what they need. It is equally true that Christian mothers have a responsibility to care for their own children; which is far more important than earning enough money to have a foreign holiday or a larger car, 1Tim.5.14. Fatherly love is seen in v11, ‘as a father doth his children.’ This would suggest the sterner aspect of the same love.
They also showed an interest in individual believers, with them referring to having ‘exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you,’ v11. They realised the importance of working with and encouraging individuals. They would preach to the masses, but would draw alongside the individual. In this, they were following the example of the perfect evangelist whom we see at work in Jn.4 taking time to speak to a single, sinful Samaritan woman. From personal experience, I have found great encouragement in a spiritual Christian spending time alone with me.
They were sensitive to the spiritual condition of their converts. Paul saw them as ‘his children’. This not only tells us of his affection for them but also of their spiritual immaturity, for Paul saw them for what they were, spiritual infants. The godly servant will discern the degree of spiritual maturity in his converts and give them what they require. He longed to see them develop Christian virtues, ‘that ye would walk worthy,’ v12.
They taught them about things to come, ‘His kingdom and glory,’ v12, looks forward to millennial glory and the Thessalonians sharing that kingdom. Believers are never too young to learn prophetic truth, which is designed not just to satisfy our curiosity but stimulate us to godly living now. It was the prospect of future glory that was to energise them to ‘walk worthy of God.’
The response to the ministry, v13-16
Firstly there is its reception, v13-14, which produces thanksgiving. ‘For this cause also thank we God without ceasing.’ When a person receives the gospel by faith the preacher will certainly render thanks to God, Lk.15.10. The prior necessity is preaching, ‘when ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us,’ for, before anyone can receive the Gospel they must have heard it preached, Rom.10.14. It commences development, for ‘the Word of God … effectually … worketh in you that believe.’ ‘Worketh,’ energio, means to work in, is in the present continuous tense, because the receiving of the gospel is only the beginning of a life influenced by the word of God. Once we are saved God’s powerful word continues to do a work within us and therefore we must keep reading that word. It utilises faith, ‘in you that believe. It is by simple faith that the gospel is received into the heart. Receiving the Word of God provokes opposition, v14, but at the same time it works in us to enable us to endure the resulting suffering.
The rejection of the ministry spoken of here, v15-16, is by religious people and it was violent, stemming from those ‘who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us.’ Paul is here in effect gathering together as one every unbelieving Jew of all time. He places the guilt for the death of the Lord Jesus Christ squarely upon the Jews, even though they used Pilate as their instrument (compare 2Sam.12.9). We might be able to hide our sins from men but God knows! Rejection was persistent, ‘to fill up their sins always.’ They continued persistently and determinedly to rebel against God, His servants and His Son, and so kept adding to their cup of guilt. God allows the sin He sees in a man, or a nation, to develop until it becomes manifest to eyes other than His own, so that the righteousness of His judgments, when they do come, may be put beyond dispute, Gen.15.16.
Finally, this rejection was fatal, ‘for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.’ For the Jewish nation God’s longsuffering had reached its extreme limits and judgment could not now be averted. Their cup was full, hence the inevitability of the time of Jacob’s trouble.
The reward for the ministry, v17-20
There is firstly the heartache. ‘Being taken from you,’ v17, is the idea of a parent losing a child and the resultant sadness. The spiritual parents of the Thessalonian converts experienced the feelings of any natural father, v11 or mother, v7, at the loss of their children. They speak about how they ‘endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face,’ for they longed to be reunited.
In v18 we have brought before us the hindrance, ‘Satan hindered us,’ enekopsen, meaning ‘to cut into,’ is a military term picturing an enemy force cutting up or destroying a road so as to make it impassable. We learn that Satan is real, not a figment of our imagination. He is adversarial, that is, he is the great enemy of God, His people, and their service. Thirdly he is powerful, in that he can influence our physical environment so as to attempt the disruption of our service for the Lord.
It is worth noting that Paul did not indiscriminately attribute all hindrances to Satan. We too must be very careful in what we say for often believers are very quick to claim that ‘Satan hindered us.’ Notice please that in Acts 16.6,7 it was the Lord who prevented the preaching!
Then in v19,20 there is the happiness. These verses look forward to that blessed day when all that the writers hope concerning the Thessalonians will be realised as they stand before the Lord Jesus for His final review and reward. All that Paul and his co-workers did was in view of that future day, the ultimate reward of the ministry. When Paul sees his beloved converts, glorified in heaven, receiving their prizes from the Lord Jesus Christ for a life lived for Him, his joy will be ecstatic.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. Richards (Canada)
We have dealt with Scriptures which support the truth that once we have trusted the Lord Jesus as our personal Saviour, we are eternally secure. However some use other Scriptures to object to this teaching. In these two final papers we shall examine at least some of these objections.
Romans 3.25 “Whom [Christ Jesus] God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission [forgiveness] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Some will say that this verse teaches that the work of Christ upon the cross only covers our past sins. If this is so, then what is to be done about our future sins? Are we supposed to atone for them ourselves, and if so, how? If the work of Christ is not necessary for our future sins, then why is it necessary for our past sins? This verse must not be taken on its own. Notice the following verse, v26, “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The words “at this time” in v26 are set in contrast to “sins that are past” in v25. V25 is referring to sins prior to the death of Christ. Heb.10.4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” The animal sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were not capable of putting away sins, all they could do is cover sins temporarily. This is the meaning of the word “atonement” in the Old Testament. It meant “a covering”. No one was ever saved apart from the work of Christ. When an Israelite in all sincerity offered a sacrifice for his sins in Old Testament times, his sins were covered, but not erased. But through the death of Christ upon the cross those who came to God in all sincerity have had their sins remitted. V26 goes on to speak about the effect of the work of Christ upon those who believe since the death of Christ.
Philippians 2.12 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but also in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
It is claimed that God saves us initially, but we must now work out our salvation, or else we may lose it. First of all, the verse says nothing about losing our salvation. But I want you to notice that in the expression “your own salvation,” “your” is plural, but “salvation” is singular. Paul is addressing the assembly at Philippi. They were experiencing problems with unity. I would judge that at this time it may not have been that serious, but little problems will become big problems if they are not dealt with quickly. Notice what Paul says in v2 about being “of one accord, of one mind,” and in v3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory …”. In v12 Paul indicates that, as a prisoner in Rome, he was unable to come to help them with their problems. They would have to “work out their own salvation,” that is, their own deliverance from the problems that existed amongst them.
Col.1.21-23 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, …”.
Again, it is suggested, that v23 teaches that if we do not “continue in the faith …” then we lose our salvation. But, notice that v21 says, “you … hath He reconciled…”. The Greek verb here is in the aorist tense, speaking of a settled, unalterable state. In v23 Paul is stating that if we don’t continue then we were never saved in the first place. Continuance is the proof of genuineness! The proof that Christ has saved us is that we continue in the things of God. Look again at v21. First of all we see what God has done for us, “hath He reconciled.” Secondly, we see how He accomplished it, “through the body of His flesh through death.” Thirdly, we see the goal that He had in mind, “to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” God’s purpose cannot be defeated!
—to be continued (D.V.)
Principles of Divine Election
by M. Rudge (Wales)
(9:14-18) “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. …”
God’s right to confer upon Israel special privileges and a unique role in God’s purpose of redemption, at the expense of the Arab (Ishmael), and Edomite (Esau), nations, would have the complete approval of Paul’s opponents. But if they approved the principle of the Divine right to choose sovereignly in this instance, they could not repudiate it when it was turned against them. In order to be consistent, they must also respect the Divine right to set aside Israel and bring Gentiles into blessing. V14 may be paraphrased as saying, ‘There is no unrighteousness with God, is there?’.
It is at this stage in his refutation of the false charges of his opponents, that Paul applies the principles that he has established, to demonstrate the point at issue. He shows that God is not unrighteous in setting Israel aside as a nation and showing mercy to the Gentiles in the gospel. Even then, “at the present time, there is a remnant [of Israel], according to the election of grace,” 11.5. Paul himself, was one of the remnant.
In this second passage, Paul begins with a rhetorical question and applies the principles he has already established, to give additional proof that, “there is no unrighteousness with God is there?” — that is in the exercise of His sovereignty. Another two examples are used, and on this occasion, it is, (i) Israel, to whom He showed mercy, when they had forfeited every right to blessing, in the worship of the golden calf, and (ii) Pharaoh, who He endured with much longsuffering and then hardened judicially. God was “making known the riches of His glory” in the mercy He showed to Israel, and “willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known,” in the case of Pharaoh. “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth,” v18.
Paul’s opponents are bound to be in agreement with him, as long as he maintains the principles of Divine sovereignty in the election of Israel and those who are “of Israel” [the chosen people], v6b. But they fail to be consistent when they oppose the application of the same principles to Israel and the Gentiles. This is a common failing.
Divine principles can be welcomed and accepted until they are applied to a situation in which the persons concerned and/or their families are involved, and in a way that calls for adjustments to be made. It is then, that they are no longer acceptable.
This is a matter that accounts for much failure in obedience to the Word of God. A simple example of this would be the general agreement that all Scripture is Divinely-inspired and should be authoritative in the lives of Christians but when it comes to certain aspects of what the Scriptures teach quite plainly its authority is not owned. It is a very searching exercise at times, to decide whether we are guilty of this inconsistency, and calls for honesty, uprightness and transparency.
“What shall we say then? …”, v14, is a further use of this question or comparable language, where Paul questions his readers, to bring his teaching into perspective and challenge his opponents. See 3.1,3,9,27; 4.1; 6.1,15; 7.7; 8.31. He is saying, ‘there is no unrighteousness with God, is there?’ — that is in His dispensational dealings with Jew and Gentile?
It has already been noted that Paul is taking his argument a stage further and that, again, he uses two incidents. Examples have been given from the book of Genesis and are now given from the book of Exodus. In the first example, v15,16, God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, demonstrate His sovereignty in dispensing mercy. Sovereign mercy shown to Israel is irrefutable support for the rightness of God’s dealing in mercy with the Gentiles, ie to “whoever He will.”
On the occasion of the idolatrous worship of the golden calf, Israel forfeited any claim they might have appeared to have, of Divine blessing, and stood exposed to God’s wrath — “Let Me alone that My wrath may wax hot against them and that I may consume them ...”, Ex.32.10. Moses put the case for Israel to be spared, on the ground of what others would think if the nation God had brought out of Egypt was made extinct. But it was solely an act of sovereign mercy that saved the situation. The Divine prerogative to show mercy, was exercised, entirely apart from any external considerations, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion …”, v15.
K. S. Wuest writes, “The first ‘I will’, is future indicative, predicting a future event and the second occurrence is present subjunctive, — not, on whoever I desire, or will to have mercy, but “on anyone, whoever he is, that I will show mercy to,” in the future.” This confirms even more emphatically, that God is absolute, sovereign and free, in the disposition of His mercy. “I will have mercy … I will have compassion …”, is the ‘I will’ of Divine sovereignty. It includes determination, selection and the appointment of those who are to be its objects. ‘Compassion’ is the inward feeling of pity and distress caused by the condition of others. We should note these features that characterise the exercise of God’s sovereignty. There is more to learn of these features as the chapter progresses.
If it is argued, and it is, that God knew and foresaw something in me and on that basis, He chose me as one of the elect, then it is not difficult to see the exposure of its fallacy in the example of Israel’s national history. The worship of the golden calf was the beginning of a long history of rebellion that culminated in the rejection of their Messiah. Israel could never have been chosen on the basis of what God knew they would turn out to be.
Israel is the people whom God “foreknew”, Rom.11.2, in the sense that He recognised them in a special way and included them in His purpose long before they came into existence as a nation. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3.2; “I never knew you,” Matt.7.23; “who verily was fore-ordained [‘foreknown’] before the foundation of the world …”, 1Pet.1.20. Each of these Scriptures shows clearly that foreknowledge is much more than knowing beforehand. In His omniscience, God knew beforehand that the elect would come to faith in Christ and in His foreknowledge, He recognised them beforehand as His elect. But He did not choose them on that basis. That would mean that they chose themselves and make it obligatory that they were among the elect. It would rule out Divine choice altogether, as well as the truth that has been established — God’s sovereign choice in election.
God did not choose Israel, on the basis of what He foreknew [foresaw] in them, in the ordinary sense of the word. Their failure at Sinai in the matter of the golden calf was only the beginning of a history in which they were more like Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman and Esau, than the true “Israel of God”, Gal.6.16. See Gen.16.12 and 1Thess.2.15,16. It should also be noted that Israel under law are seen in figure as children of the bondwoman in Gal.4.21-31
Did God choose them on the basis of what he knew about their future? No. He chose them because He loved them with a sovereign love, quite independently of anything in them, that could have drawn out His love towards them See Deut.4.37; 7.8; 22.5; 33.9.
We cannot understand the Divine love shown to Israel and to ourselves but we believe that it is true, because it is the teaching of the Word of God.
“So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” v16.
There are some obvious examples of this further application of Divine sovereignty in election, irrespectively of those who would have wished matters to be otherwise and also, those who misguidedly, sought to further what was God’s purpose, and which would have been fulfilled anyway. All such attempts to thwart or further Divine purpose in a carnal way failed and will always fail. In His sovereign power, God is perfectly capable of bringing about what He has purposed. The prophet Isaiah used this point to face the nation with the difference between Jehovah and the idol gods to which they had turned, Isa.41.1-4, 21-29.
It was on the occasion of the announcement that Isaac would be born “at this set time in the next year,” that Abraham laughed in unbelief and said, “O that Ishmael might live before Thee,” Gen.17.18. If it had been Abraham’s choice, the exercise of his will, then Ishmael would have been the chosen heir. In his old age, when his eyes were dim, Isaac sent Esau to the field, for the venison he loved and would have given him the blessing, before he died, Gen.27.1-4. Rebecca overheard what Isaac had said to Esau, and sent Jacob running to the flock to supplant him. In a somewhat different context, but similar in principle, Jacob overruled Joseph’s displeasure and blessed the younger son, Ephraim, when Joseph would have preferred Manasseh.
We can also think of the way in which Samuel “looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him,” and had to be told he was not, and again, to be told, “Neither hath the Lord chosen this,” in the case of each of the seven sons of Jesse, 1Sam.20.6-10. In His sovereignty, God overruled the misguided attempts to thwart His purpose and also the carnal attempts to further it in a way which did not have His approval.
Time and time again, God has shown His sovereignty in overruling and using means and methods which do not have His approval, and causing them to be a means of blessing or glorifying Himself in furthering His purpose, “that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.” See and compare Ex.17.3-7 and Num.20.2-13.
This important principle is not recognised, as it should be. All too often, it is numbers and apparent blessing that are the only criteria, by which it is thought that God’s blessing and approval are measured. But it is faithfulness to God, His Word and His Will, which will gain the Lord’s approval and reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, Matt.24.45; 25:21, 23. We need to remember that it is not necessarily majority approval or the approval of the brethren that will be the decisive factor in the day of review. These are deep lessons concerning Divine sovereignty, which are seen elsewhere in Scripture.
—to be continued (D.V.)
State and Standing
by D. S. Parrack (England)
No. 1 — REDEMPTION
Redemption is much less spoken of in the N.T. than in the old, the actual word ‘redeemer’ does not occur in it at all, at least not in the A.V. Where the subject does occur, it covers a much wider range of thought than we often consider. But our redemptive standing before God is shown as being positive and absolute. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” How? “being made a curse for us,” Gal.3.13. That was a once-for-all completed work of redemption, it remains such and always will, because it is based not only on the task accomplished but on the Person who accomplished it. “(God's) dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” Col.1.14. Remember that the person who does the work is always greater than the work done. “He who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.” Heb.3.3.
The Scriptural idea behind the word redemption is not really, as often described, like the redeeming of a pledged item by the depositor, but rather of a ransom paid by someone from outside. So David can say, speaking prophetically for the Lord Jesus, “Then I restored that which I took not away,” Ps.69.4. He was not involved in the original transaction leading to the loss, that was due entirely to us. He came from outside to pay the ransom demand, something which even our nearest and dearest could not do. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him,” Ps.49.7. The Jews of Nehemiah's time were only too conscious of their total inability in this respect. “Neither is it in our power to redeem (our daughters), for other men have our lands and vineyards,” Neh.5.5. We were as bankrupt spiritually as they were materially, but it was in such circumstances that the Lord Jesus intervened, see e.g. Rom.5.6-10.
But if the redemptive work has been accepted by God once-for-all, how can our present state be out of line with it? What other aspects of redemption should we be concerned about? Looking at a well known example of redemption in the O.T., we find Boaz declaring that as well as dealing with the inheritances of Elimelech, Chilion and Mahlon, “Moreover Ruth the Moabitess — have I purchased to be my wife,” see Ruth 4.9-10. Ruth then was not so much redeemed from something as being purchased to be somebody, Boaz's wife. As such she certainly came into a whole range of blessings and privileges, but she had also to accept ensuing responsibilities. This latter aspect the Corinthian believers seemed either not to realise or were unwilling to respond to. “What” asks Paul, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price” (note that the word given here as “bought” is elsewhere translated as “redeemed,” e.g. Rev.5.9). What is the expected result, if and when we appreciate that we have been so totally bought, as to be “not your own”? “Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's,” see 1Cor.6.19-20.
That is the practical corollary of our eternal redemption, the evidenced acceptance that we no longer belong to ourselves, having been redeemed, ransomed, purchased, by the Lord Jesus that we might belong to Him. The apostle refers again to such ownership by saying, “Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men,” 1Cor.7.23. He was not advocating a slave revolt, an occurrence not altogether uncommon in his time. The stance to be taken is to be more like that of Peter before the council. “We ought to obey God rather than men,” Acts 5.29, i.e., when the commands of God and the diktats of men clash, it is God that we should obey. We do need to be quite sure though that it is a command of God to which we are giving preference, not just some view of our own which happens not to agree with legitimate authority. We must not use Peter's dictum as a self-justifying excuse for anarchy, especially so in the church. That would be confusion not godly order, see 1Cor.14.40.
A practical working out of having been redeemed, of our new ownership, see Rom.6.16-22, is what the Lord Jesus expects, and deserves, of His people. That it was an integral part of His redemption plan is made clear to Titus. Paul speaks of “The great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Tit.2.14. God's intention, put into operation by the Lord Jesus, is to have people purified and special to Himself, actively concerned about, and engaged in, good works. Such works are not a precondition of redemption but an expected result and evidence of it.
That this ongoing nature of redemption is of paramount importance, is seen by the references to it in the N.T., including its future climax, “to wit, the redemption of our body.” Of that time, not only is it true that “even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption,” Rom.8.23, but the Lord Jesus Himself waits expectantly too. We are reminded of “that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest (the pledge) of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory,” Eph.1.13-14. When the redeemed, the ransomed, Bride is displayed in all her beauty, see Rev.19.19.6-9, the costliness of the ransom paid will be all the more publicly evident.
That all those currently in the good of the redemptive work at Calvary will be included in this climax is certain and secure. Paul writes of “the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph.4.30. Marked out as being specially His and kept so until the transaction is complete and the redeemed brought fully into his possession, see again Eph.1.13-14.
In the light of needing to see our state more conforming to our standing, there is, in the context of redemption, something to which we ourselves should give attention. Firstly, in our general conduct. “See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” Eph.5.15-16. We should be living our lives in the reality that time is short, don't let what is available to you be wasted. “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles — but the end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober and watch with prayer,” 1Pet.4.3-7. That is certainly one way of redeeming the time.
The Colossians too were encouraged to “walk in wisdom,” but for them the emphasis was with regard to “those that are without.” It is with them, their welfare, that the need for “redeeming the time” is pressed, see Col.4.5. For such there may indeed be very little time left, and it should not be wasted. Redeem it, buy it, at a cost to yourself but for the good of others. But let it be essentially for the Lord Jesus and by so doing make your own redemption more evidenced and meaningful. By so doing your present state will be more closely aligned to your eternal redemption, to the standing which that gives you in God's sight here and now.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Worship The Lord Thy God
By C. Jones (Wales)
The Lord Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and there He was tempted by Satan, Lk.4.1,2. It was impossible for the Lord to sin, 2Cor.5.21; 1Pet.2.22; 1Jn.3.5, and the testings Satin inflicted on Him proved that the Lord would not and could not sin. There was nothing in Him to respond to Satan's temptations and He could say “the prince of this world … hath nothing in Me,” Jn.14.30. When tempting the Lord, Satan told Him that if He would worship him then Satan would grant the Lord rule over the kingdoms of the world, with all their power and glory. Satan wants to be worshipped, and the Lord, who always did the things that pleased His Father, Jn.8.29, would certainly not worship Satan. The Lord would, at the time ordained, receive world dominion from His Father, Ps.2.8; Rev.11.15. In response to Satan's temptation the Lord quoted from Deut.6.13 and commanded Satan, with divine authority, saying “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve,” Lk.4.8. The Lord gave a clear, unequivocal, unambiguous command, saying that God alone is to be worshipped. Close to the end of the New Testament the angel said to the apostle John “worship God,” Rev. 22.9.
Worship has many aspects. It emanates from feelings of love, reverence, awe, wonder, devotion, admiration, adoration and gratitude. These feelings create a desire to honour, do homage and obeisance, to praise and serve. True worship takes the worshipper away from self-centred occupation with himself or, if others are present, with those around him. True worship causes him to delight in, and be joyfully, completely and absolutely absorbed by, the wonders, beauties, attributes and qualities of the One he is worshipping.
It comes naturally to a man to worship something. God has placed a sense of eternity in men's hearts, Ecc.3.11. There is a deep-seated desire for eternal things and a capacity and a need to worship something. A man cannot be satisfied with that which is temporal, transient and passing. Through a God-given awareness, even though it may not, in all cases, be an awareness of which they are acutely conscious, men know that they are dependent creatures. They are dependent upon a higher power outside of themselves and need to have something or someone to worship, to trust, serve, enjoy and to which they can be loyal.
Over the centuries, those who have not been graciously brought to know the true God have worshipped all manner of things in an attempt to satisfy the God-given desire to worship. Men have worshipped idols of wood, stone and metal, and made idols of material possessions, worldly success, people, hobbies, activities and the pursuit of pleasure, and these things have consumed their time, energy and other resources.
IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH
Once a believer begins to learn what God has done for him, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, then the desire to worship God is experienced. The believer learns that “God is love,” 1Jn.4.8, and that every good and perfect gift comes from his unchangeable God, Jms.1.17. The response is to worship God. The more the believer learns of God, of His attributes, His greatness, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, grace, mercy, compassion, kindness, goodness and truth, then the greater will be the believer's love to God, his admiration of God and the feelings of gratitude he feels towards Him. The desire to worship will increase and intensify. Love for God is initially a response to the blessings and gifts He showers upon believers, God's greatest gift being His only begotten, eternal and beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, 2Cor.9.15, who is “altogether lovely,” Song of Solomon 5.16. God did not spare Him, Rom.8.32, but because of His love for the world, Jn.3.16, gave Him to suffer, bleed and die on the Cross as our substitute so that believers might be saved by grace through faith in Him, Eph.2.8. A believer meditating, under the guidance and leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit, 1Cor.6.19, on the truths that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, Eph.5.25, and that Christ loved and gave Himself for the individual believer, Gal.2.20, will experience increasing love, wonder, thankfulness and gratitude and will respond to these feelings by praising and worshipping God.
The desire to worship God increases as a believer gets to know Him better, and seeks to glorify Him. At first it is a response to His love and the gifts He bestows. However, as by grace a believer goes on to greater spiritual maturity, studying and meditating on the written Word of God and responding to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit by obeying the truths He reveals, he learns more and more of God. The more a believer learns of God then the more he will worship God, not simply for the blessings and gifts He graciously bestows but for all that God is in Himself. The believer's worship will be filled increasingly with love, adoration, admiration, wonder and praise. The worship will be less concerned with self and more and more concerned with God and all that He is. The worship will be more concerned with, and centred on the One who has an un-derived, eternal existence, the cause of His existence being in Himself. God is the independent, self-existent, self-sufficient One, who possesses eternal life in Himself and reveals Himself. He is eternally unchanging, Mal.3.6; Jms.1.17. He is the One who said “I AM THAT I AM,” Ex.3.14.
The Lord said to the woman of Samaria “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him,” Jn.4.23. The believer does not have to go to a particular location to worship. “God is a Spirit,” and must be worshipped “in spirit and in truth,” Jn.4.24. Worship is not limited to particular places and situations: it is not connected with outward forms, ceremonies, ordinances or special days. Worship must be “in spirit,” and the worshipper must worship “in truth.” The worshipper must have no sin concerning which he has not repented and received forgiveness, 1Jn.1.9.
When God was giving Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, the people became impatient and tired of waiting for Moses. They asked Aaron to make gods for them, Ex.32.1. Aaron made them a golden calf which they might have believed represented God, for Aaron said “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” Ex.32.4. We read that Aaron “built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord,” Ex.32.5. The people were going to worship, but their worship was not as God would have them to worship. They had an idol like the nations and like the ones they would have seen in Egypt. They were not worshipping God in spirit and in truth but in ways devised by themselves. God is seeking true, genuine worshippers who will worship Him in spirit, in truth, and without hypocrisy.
We find an early mention of worship in Gen.22.5 when Abraham told his young men that he and Isaac would “go yonder and worship.” Towards the end of the Old Testament there is a prophecy of the nations, in a future day, going up to Jerusalem to worship “the King, the Lord of hosts,” Zech.14.16,17. When the Lord Jesus Christ was born “there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?, for we … are come to worship Him,” Matt.2.12.
IN THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
God is holy, Lev.19.2; Rev.4.8. God is to be worshipped in spirit, in truth, and “in the beauty of holiness,” 1Chron.16.29; Ps.29.2; Ps.96.9, and those who “worship the Father,” Jn.4.23, must be those who have been born again and are children of God, cleansed by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1Jn.1.7. A believer must be in the right spiritual condition to worship God and God must be worshipped with all the reverence of which the Spirit-led believer is capable. The more one knows God and the closer one is to Him, leading a life of obedience and service, then the more beautiful, reverent and wonderful will be the loving, adoring worship offered to God in and through the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Himself was worshipped, Heb.1.6; Matt.8.2; 9.18; 14.33; 15.25; 20.20, and He will be worshipped, Rev. 5.11-14.
True worship of almighty God is the most wonderful activity in which a believer can be involved. Worship is both a privilege and a responsibility. Those who know God and love Him stand in awe of Him, of His might, majesty, glory and the wonder of all that He is. Abraham fell on his face before God, Gen.17.17. “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God,” Ex.3.6. The beloved disciple, John, who had leaned on Jesus' bosom, Jn.13.23, had been with Him when He was transfigured, Matt.17.1,2, and knew the loveliness, gentleness, meekness and beauties of his Lord and Master whom he loved, was overawed when he saw the risen glorified Christ, and “fell at His feet as dead,” Rev.1.17.
Our worship of God depends on our appreciation of the greatness of God.. The adoring worshipper, conscious of the greatness of God, will be lost in wonder, admiration, adoration, love and praise for God, who is infinite in every aspect of His Being, and so very far beyond the complete understanding of human beings. God has revealed Himself so that we may learn of Him. He has revealed Himself in His written Word and in and through His lovely Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Heb.1.1-3, who is the “image of the invisible God,” Col.1.15. If we learn more and more of God and serve Him in ways acceptable to Him then, by grace, our worship, led by the Holy Spirit, can rise to heights we would never have thought possible.
Peace and Salvation
By E. W. Rogers (England)
The nation of Israel is God’s object-lesson to men. Their sufferings consequent upon their sins, and God’s ways with them (both in judgment and mercy), are intended to warn others not to follow their ways, and to encourage those who, having done so, yearn for recovery.
Jerusalem has for long been “trodden down of the Gentiles” and the Jew has been scattered all over the earth; for centuries he has been hated and persecuted. Oh, how they long for some good news! How they yearn for peace! Listen to the two-fold testimony of the prophets Isaiah and Nahum: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation: that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth!” Isa.52.7; Nah.1.15. This is not yet fulfilled. Why the delay?
The Lord Jesus once came to that people, and Simeon said “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” But Israel did not know this nor the things “which belonged to their peace.” Instead, they rejected their would-be Saviour and deprived themselves of peace. The Lord has returned to heaven, and His earthly people have been left alone.
From among them, however, God has a remnant according to the election of grace. One of these was Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle of the Gentiles. He knew that his Lord had been cast out and that Israel had been “broken off,” but his vision was much larger than that of merely one people, his eye was also on the whole of the Gentile world. They, too, needed salvation: they longed for peace. Salvation, not from earthly foes so much as from eternal perdition. Peace, not so much among men, as “peace with God.” Paul saw all men as perishing, and knew that they were “enemies in mind by wicked works,” as he once was.
Yet to him had been entrusted “the gospel of peace”: like his Lord he went and “preached peace to them that were afar off” — the Gentiles — as also to “them that were nigh” — his fellow-nationals. He calls the message he proclaimed “the gospel of your salvation”: he showed unto men “the way of salvation.” Peace and Salvation he offered to all men everywhere. What a message!
And not Paul only, for Paul was accompanied by fellow-workers who preached the same message. Others, too, in their own sphere did the same. Of one he says “He worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.” That original band of preachers has grown until, throughout the centuries, untold numbers have heralded Peace and Salvation.
No marvel then that when Paul quoted Is.52.7 in Rom.10.15 he altered the pronoun “Him” to “them.” The Lord’s feet have left the earth for the time being and will not stand here again till they do so on the Mount of Olives. But meanwhile, there are numberless other feet that are going hither and thither with the same message of Peace and Salvation. The sound of these feet does not spread terror; they are “beautiful” feet, in many cases those of welcome messengers.
Paul argues thus: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek: the same Lord of all is rich unto all that call upon Him: for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But, he says, they cannot call on One in whom they have not believed; and faith cannot exist apart from a message; and if they are to have the message then there must be a preacher; and if one is to preach he must be sent. But have any been sent? Yes, says Paul. Listen to Isaiah and listen to Nahum, and till the day comes when that Great Messenger shall return, let us be His messengers, His mouthpieces, declaring to all men everywhere Peace and Salvation.
Yet, how easy it is to go unsent or to mistake the path and be in the wrong place! How tragic it would have been had Philip not obeyed! There can be little doubt that “beginning from” Is.53 he preached to the eunuch Peace and Salvation. No marvel that he went on his way rejoicing: and not only he but Philip also; the eunuch in that he had found that for which his heart longed, and Philip in that he was in the place where he could effectively tell the message.
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (95)
by J. Elton Fairfield (Japan)
It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write these lines to tell of the workings of God. Since God saved me by His grace as a boy of not yet nine years old, I cannot recall a day when I did not want to serve the Lord Jesus as a preacher of the Word of God. To be able to say that God has heard the beatings of my heart, and has called again by His grace to such service, brings us great joy.
I was born into a place of great privilege. My parents firmly believed that my three younger siblings and I were to be raised in a sheltered environment, away from the world and its values. One lesson continually emphasised was “God is first. Mom is second. And we were next!” My father’s career objectives as a college professor were not even considered, and it made a deep impression when he deliberately chose a demotion so he could spend more time with us. Our parents read and prayed with us each evening, and there were two activities that especially demanded our reverence: prayer in the assembly meetings, and the preaching of the Gospel.
It was under the ministry of the late Alex Wilson (Canada) on the book of Romans that I realized I was the sinner about whom the Scriptures spoke. A few nights later, in deep soul trouble for the things I had done wrong against man and God, I found rest where God intended every man to rest: in the death of Christ. I simply accepted that there was nothing I could do about my sin, and that the Lord Jesus had done it all. The wages of sin is death. Christ had died for sin. In total simplicity I accepted that fact. That transaction of March 15, 1979, has often been recalled with clarity.
The next morning I told my mother, “I was saved last night, and I am going to become a doctor and go to Africa as a missionary.” She calmly replied, “If God calls you, that would be good.” Those words were to burn into my soul in the years to follow. I asked the elders for baptism the next week, and their wise reply was that I wait a while. Seven years later those same elders came to me and said that the wait was long enough. Shortly later I took my place with the believers at the Lathom Road Gospel Hall, Port Alberni, BC, and remembered the Lord for the first time. That evening I preached the Gospel. The previous evening I had participated in the provincial debating championships, and was very disappointed not to be chosen for the nationals.
But what I gained on Sunday far outweighed what was lost on Saturday, and the joy in preaching the Gospel has only multiplied over the years.
University studies commenced, and burning in my mind was “Am I called?” When I met Ruth Wells for the first time in 1989, I told her of my desire to be a missionary. She made no mistake in telling me that she did not share such an exercise. I was in a state of confusion. Never had I met a girl who was clearly everything and more I could ever wish for in a wife, but for the fact she had no desire to be a missionary. Shortly afterward I had opportunity to visit with my mother, and I told her what bothered me. She quietly replied, “If God calls you, He’ll call her too.” Ruth and I were married 18 months later.
Up to that time, my life had been on schedule. I had just turned 21, married my princess, and enrolled in a doctorate programme. But then Ruth took ill. She was to be sick for the next five years, and radical changes resulted. I had to admit defeat, quit my studies, and ask Ruth’s parents to assist me in caring for Ruth. I found out what it was like to be jobless and collect unemployment benefits, and traces of bitterness crept in. We can now see that the Lord was teaching us necessary lessons. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Heb.12.11.
With much affliction of soul I continued to seek the Lord as to whether or not I was called. Unbeknown to me, God was working in Ruth’s heart. She had finally reached the point where she told the Lord if He restored her health, she would go to the mission field. The call did come, unmistakeably, the week before Easter, 1994. Mr. Tom Bentley (Malaysia) was visiting Woodland Drive Gospel Hall in Vancouver, and was congested with a head cold. After a lengthy pause, he rose to his feet after the breaking of bread to minister the Word. I am quite convinced that he had little idea as to the effect that message would have. He read Isa.42.6 “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness,” and I never heard another word he said. It was a direct communication from heaven. I sat in stunned silence, knowing that God had spoken His mind.
I was concerned how to break the news to Ruth, and waited until late that Sunday evening before telling her. I told her about Isa.42.6 and how God had spoken. She quietly asked if I remembered Mr. Bentley’s second point. I admitted I didn’t. She pointed to the second half of the same verse, “and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee.” She said she knew right then that God would “keep” her on the mission field, and she had bowed her heart and said she would go. God had used the same verse at the same time to convince us both. We wanted God to work out his plan without our interference, so we did not tell anyone except for writing a confidential letter to brother A. J. Higgins from USA. His response was encouraging, and counselled us to pray about where we were to go. This we did.
Ruth got the answer before I did. At the 1996 Vancouver Easter Conference, Mr. Jim Currie gave a report of the Lord’s work in Japan. That morning Ruth had read Acts 16.10 “assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” Mr. Currie read the same verse, saying that perhaps a young couple had been called of God, and were seeking His mind as to where they were to serve. He spoke of Japan, and Ruth listened with great interest. At the conclusion she turned to me and said, “I think we are to go to Japan.” My immediate reply was “I think not.”
I had reasons why I didn’t want to go, and the chief one was the language. I pushed Japan far from my mind. But two years later we received an unexpected email from brother Higgins, informing us that he had visited Japan and witnessed the work of God. His astounding suggestion was that Ruth and I ought to pray about going to Japan. Out of a sense of panic I did pray. Ruth and I had agreed we would never tell a missionary our exercise. The pattern was Paul with Timothy, and we were waiting upon the Lord to work in an older brother’s heart. A few weeks later, Mr. Currie was on the phone asking if he could pay us a visit. He did come, and his question stunned me: “Would we come to Japan to serve the Lord?”
Ruth was convinced, but I could not give an answer until I knew for sure the mind of God. He gave that assurance a few months later on February 18th, 1999. I was reading the book of Exodus, and came to the point where Moses began to tell the Lord he couldn’t go. “I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant.” I actually said to myself, “You have got it right, Moses, I can’t learn Japanese either.” But Ex.4.12 came with unmistakeable clarity, “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” The Lord not only gave the directive, but a promise to overcome my biggest obstacle.
On December 6th, 2001, with Ruth and two little boys, we arrived in Japan with the commendation of our brethren from six assemblies in Ontario and BC. The language has proved to be every bit the challenge we feared, but the promises of God are meant to be proved. With confidence we look forward to the day when we can say “that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass,” Josh.23.14.
Good Tidings from Heaven
“CONDEMNED ALREADY OR NOT CONDEMNED : WHICH?”
Many years ago I visited a large basement which was used for keeping medical equipment, bandages, etc. It had been flooded with dirty water from the street above. An expert examined the packages of bandages. Some were obviously soiled but others did not seem too badly affected on the outside. However he ordered them all to be placed on trolleys and then he wrote in bold red letters on a big placard attached to each trolley the word “CONDEMNED”. Everything had to be burned.
A very religious man, a Rabbi called Nicodemus came and spoke to the Lord Jesus one night. Nicodemus had a great knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and it is likely that he lived a respectable, moral upright life. To an observer, he did not look as if he was badly affected by sin, yet the Lord Jesus said, “he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John 3.18.
Some people imagine that they will have to wait until some ‘judgment day,’ far in the future to discover whether they have merited a place in heaven or whether they will be sent to hell for ever. Again, some think that only those who commit dreadful sins like murder or robbery will be condemned to a place in hell. However “sin is the transgression of the law,” 1John 3.4. Every time you break any of God’s laws, you are therefore guilty of committing sin against Him. The Lord is “of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity,” Habakkuk 1.13. That is to say He is so holy that He cannot look lightly or with ‘tolerance’ on evil as some men may do. Actions, words and even thoughts which most people think are of little importance do not escape His notice; He has a perfect, accurate record of them all.
John 3.18 tells us that every unbeliever is “condemned already.” Isn’t it dreadful to think that you have already sinned enough to be “condemned”, even though your life may be outwardly decent, respectable or even religious. Hearing this often comes as a shock to people; some resent it, others just want to forget about it and hope that everything will work out favourably in the end. However the solemn fact remains; you are “condemned already.” Would it not be wise to face up to the seriousness of your sin now, rather than continue on in unbelief or carelessness?
Others, realising that they do not feel that they are acceptable to God at present, would like to do something to free themselves from this ‘condemnation’. They try to improve their lives, join a church organisation or do charitable acts. These things may be very good and commendable, but they will not lift the sentence which has been passed on you — “condemned already.”
The same verse, John 3.18, that tells us “he that believeth not is condemned already” also shows us the only means by which that condemnation can be removed. “He that believeth on Him (Christ) is not condemned.” It is not a mixture of Christ’s work and merits and your own which removes the condemnation; it is simple faith in Christ only. He is the Person who came down from heaven and went all the way to the Cross and endured all God’s righteous judgment against sin. There, He laid the only proper basis on which God can maintain His holy righteous character and pardon a repentant sinner.
Any person who puts his faith in Christ is described as being “in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 8.1, we are reminded “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” No need to wait for some future day for God to decide on his destiny. This is the great truth which brings settled peace to the soul of the believer. For the believer, condemnation is past; Christ the holy and sinless substitute has taken his place in death and judgment, so he can sing truthfully —
“There is no condemnation,
There is no hell for me,
The torment and the fire
My eyes shall never see”
John 3.18 divides people into just two classes — “condemned already” and “not condemned”. Into which class do you fit?
The Church persecuted is the Church pure.
The Church pure is the Church powerful.
The Church patronised is the Church in peril.
The Church fraternised is the Church paralysed. — J. Douglas
By the late James H. Wilkinson (Co. Tyrone)
Death everlasting by the fall
Must be the doom of sinners all,
But God's unbounded love we see
To ruined man at Calvary.
God's holiness we also see
While Jesus suffers on the tree,
Bearing the sin of Adam's race
In holy wrath God hid His face.
God's righteousness He doth declare
By dying, Christ hath triumphed there,
And God the Just now justifies
The sinner who on Christ relies.
Forever be the glory then
To Him Who died for sinful men,
A little while and in the air
He'll call His saints to meet Him there.