(1) the Sabbatic Year, v1-18;
(2) the Sanctified Firstlings, v19-23.
We should notice once again that the enjoyment of the land is linked to obedience, v4-5.
1) THE SABBATIC YEAR, v1-18
The section divides into three paragraphs.
(A) The Release of a Brother's Debt, v1-6;
(B) The Relief of a Brother's Poverty, v7-11;
(C) The Reward for a Brother's Service, v12-18.
The word “brother” occurs in each section: see v2, 3, 7, 9, 11, 12.
A) THE RELEASE OF A BROTHER'S DEBT, V1-6
“At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.” The year of release evidently coincided with the sabbatical year: see Lev.25.4, “In the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” Compare Ex.23.10-11. We should notice:
i) The provision for a brother, v2. “And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release.” In modern parlance, this is called ‘forgiving the debt,’ and the passage is a forcible reminder of the will of God for us in the matter of forgiveness. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” Col.3.13. See also Eph.4.32. In the parable of the two debtors, the creditor “frankly forgave them both,” Lk.7.42. W. E. Vine explains that the words, “frankly forgave,” translates one Greek word (charizomai) meaning ‘to forgive (as a matter of grace).’ C. A. Coates is worth quoting here: ‘Let us turn over our ledgers and see if we have any entries standing against brothers or sisters!… If we keep up personal grievances against our brethren we are missing the creditor's privilege in the year of release.’
The consequences of not making ‘a release’ are very serious: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you,” Matt.6.14-15. Notice the emphasis in 1Cor.6.6, “brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers.” Compare Acts 7.26, where Moses addresses the two striving Hebrews as follows: “Sirs, ye are brethren: why do ye wrong one to another?” See also Gen.13.7, “Let there be no strife I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen, for we be brethren.”
Good relationships are vital in the Lord's work. It has been said that there is nothing quite so incongruous as ‘a bunch of irreconcilable people preaching a gospel of reconciliation!’ This requires conscious effort on our part: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Eph.4.3. The word “endeavouring” means ‘to make haste, to be zealous, and hence, to be diligent’ (W. E. Vine). It is important to notice that “the release” in this chapter is not called ‘a release to the debtor’: it is called “the Lord's release,” or ‘a release to Jehovah’ (JND). That is, He undertakes the obligation of the debtor. The creditor would be marvellously compensated by the Lord Himself! He would not be ‘out of pocket!’ See v4, 6, 10.
ii) The position of a foreigner, v3. “Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again, but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release.” See also Deut.23. Quite obviously, Israel was not expected to be a ‘charitable institution.’ To exact a debt of a foreigner was perfectly fair and just: there was not the slightest ‘sharp practice’ involved or the slightest infringement of integrity. But accepted commercial practice in this way did not apply amongst God's people. Having said this, it is important to remember that the Lord Jesus warned His disciples against double standards in their relationships: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that despitefully use you,” Matt.5.43-44.
iii) The prosperity of the land, v4-5. These verses have been rendered as follows: ‘But there will be no poor among you (for the Lord will bless you in the land which the Lord God gives you for an inheritance to possess), if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments which I command you this day,’ RSV. The implication is that the prosperity of the land would eliminate the need for debt in the first place, but this prosperity was dependent on obedience. The route to a prosperous spiritual life is exactly the same. If we are obedient, we will never lack.
iv) The promise of independence, v6. “For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” See also Deut. 28.12, 44. This reminds us that we are not to be indebted to the world, and that the world is not to exercise any authority over us. We must keep the world in its proper place in our lives. It must be subject to us, and that can only happen when we are spiritually prosperous. Spiritual poverty will bring us into bondage to the world with its pleasures, pursuits, and interests.
B) THE RELIEF OF A BROTHER'S POVERTY, v7-11
This was not just a matter of grudgingly obeying a command. “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of the gates, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother,” v7. There was to be no hard heart, and no shut hand. If the heart is right, the hand will be right.
i) There was to be an open hand, v8. “But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and thou shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” This was true of the Macedonian believers: “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the deep riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves,” 2Cor.8.2-3.
ii) There was to be an open heart, v9-11. The ‘open hand’ should reflect an ‘open heart.’ God's people are warned against two forms of inward resentment: a “wicked heart,” v9, and a ‘grieved heart,’ v10.
“Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.” Even if “the seventh year” was imminent, “thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need … Thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to the needy, in thy land,” v11. We must beware of the spirit which says, ‘If I do this, there will be little or no return on my expenditure.’ This means an open heart in material things. Read 1Jn.3.16-18 and Jms.2.14-17. It also means an open heart in spiritual things. Paul exemplified this when he said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved,” 2Cor.12.15.
“Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.” We know that “the Lord loveth a cheerful giver,” 2Cor.9.7, because He is exactly that Himself: He “giveth unto all men liberally, and upbraideth not,” Jms.1.5.
The ‘open hand’ and the ‘open heart’ attract the promised reward, “for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thy hand unto,” v10, and address the perpetual need: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to the poor, and to the needy, in the land,” v11. There is always the need for teaching and pastoral care amongst the people of God, and there are always believers who need to be on ‘high maintenance.’ The statement “the poor shall never cease out of the land” does not conflict with “save when there shall be no poor among you,” v4: the former describes actual conditions: the latter describes ideal conditions which are contingent on obedience.
C) THE REWARD FOR A BROTHER'S SERVICE, v12-18
In this section we should notice the procedure:
(i) on Releasing a Servant, v12-15, 18, and
(ii) on Retaining a Servant, v16-17.
i) On Releasing a Servant, v12-15, 18. Three things call for our attention here: the liberality, remembrance and appreciation on his release.
The liberality on his release. “Thou shalt not let him go away empty. Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him,” v13-14. This is the way in which God has dealt with us. He has not dealt with us “grudgingly, or of necessity!” 2Cor.9.7. The released servant was to be given the best possible benefits, and this is the spirit which Paul desired in Philemon; his runaway slave was to be received “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved … as myself,” Phil.16.17.
The remembrance on his release. It was to be made in a manner worthy of God. “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today,” v15. ‘It is only as we keep before our hearts the marvellous grace of God displayed towards us in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus that we shall be able to pursue a course of true, active benevolence,’ (C. H. Mackintosh).
The appreciation on his release. “It shall not seem hard unto thee … for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest,” v18. What is done should be right, and the spirit in which it is done should also be right! How much do we value the service of others: in relation to ourselves, and in relation to the assembly?
ii) On Retaining a Servant, v16-17. If the preceding verses teach the importance of valuing the service of others, then these verses teach the importance of love towards those whom we serve. This is an advance on the previous section. The servant's love for his master and joy in serving him is now mentioned: “he loved thee … he is well with thee.” This spoke well for both parties! The servant's love for his master engendered the desire to serve him perpetually and to bear the identifying mark of his devotion, rather than living for himself. “Ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another,” Gal.5.13. We should be characterised by “unfeigned love of the brethren,” 1Pet.1.22. It is striking that the servant's love for his master was exhibited by affixing his ear to the door of the house, and we serve one another particularly in our identification with “the house of God,” 1Tim.3.15. It is most important to notice that the passage applies to both manservants and maidservants. This speaks for itself!
These verses should be compared with Ex.21.2-6, which gives us a beautiful picture of the love and devotion of the Lord Jesus.
2) THE SANCTIFIED FIRSTLINGS, v19-23
“All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord thy God,” v19. This should be read in conjunction with Ex.12.2, 13.1-2. Israel was reminded in this way of their redemption from Egypt when divine judgment fell on the firstborn of Egypt. It also reminded Israel that they were God's “firstborn”, Ex.4.22-23. The church is called “the church of the firstborn,” Heb.12.23. Unblemished and blemished animals were involved.
i) An unblemished animal, v20. “Thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household.” It was to be eaten in fellowship with God. Our fellowship with God is in Christ, “the firstborn among many brethren,” Rom. 8.29; “the firstborn of every creature,” Col.1.15; “the firstborn from the dead,” Col.1.18.
ii) A blemished animal, v21-23. “And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish (so it could not be a picture of Christ!), thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God. Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roeback, and as the hart.” The simple but important lesson in these verses is that only the best will do for God. A blemished animal was not fit for “the place which the Lord shall choose.” The chapter ends with a familiar warning: “Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water,” v23. As we have noted previously, the lessons of the blood were so distinctive that it was always to be connected in their thoughts with atonement.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Teaching of 1 Thessalonians
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 6 : 1 Thessalonians chapter 3
This chapter follows on directly from the explanation of their hindrance, 2.17-20. Since Paul’s efforts to return to Thessalonica had been frustrated, the next best thing was to send Timothy to them. Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica can therefore be divided into three parts: firstly, he served in person, 1.2-2.16, secondly through an intermediary, 2.17-3.13, and thirdly, by epistle, 4.1-5.28.
In v1 we learn of love’s concern. ‘When we could no longer forbear,’ suggests that the spiritual condition of these young converts was indeed a source of great anxiety to the apostle. His continual separation from the Thessalonian Christians and lack of information about their reaction to the pressure of persecution produced unbearable uncertainty. If only the Lord would give us hearts like this to be so deeply concerned about the spiritual well being of other believers that there was no room left to worry about ourselves.
There is also love’s sacrifice, for Paul was ‘left at Athens alone.’ We should be willing to forego personal comforts for the sake of others. It was no small thing for Paul to be left at Athens and the language of this verse suggests that he felt the loneliness very keenly. ‘To be left’ may quite literally be translated ‘to be forsaken or abandoned,’ Heb.11.27; 2 Peter 2.15. There is a saying ‘no man is an island,’ and Paul longed for the company of his friends, for even the great apostle needed other believers! The whole point of this verse though is that Paul was so concerned about the Thessalonians that he was willing to suffer this loneliness for their sakes. What are we willing to give up for the sake of others?
Timothy’s character is brought out in v.2. He was a true ‘brother’. When we were saved we became related to every other Christian in a family sense and because of this should love and cherish each other. I still remember when I first became a Christian the new feelings of closeness I felt to other believers. Timothy was a servant, or ‘minister of God,’ as in Rom.15.8, telling us he was not lazy but industrious. All Christians are called to serve and should do all we can for Christ. Furthermore, he was a ‘fellow labourer,’ a co-worker, and in gospel activity we need to help and not hinder each other.
Timothy’s mission was to ‘establish’ the believers. The same word, sterizo, meaning a prop, is used in Lk.22.32, for Peter was called upon to do the same after his restoration. The picture is like that of stabilisers on a bicycle when a child is learning to ride. These Christians were just saved, just learning to live their Christian lives and needed real support. He was also to ‘comfort’ (parakaleo, to call to one’s side) the Christians, which may be more like an arm around the shoulder. How often we all need this at times. Do we try to stabilise other believers or knock them over? Do we draw near to others to encourage them or do we push them away and distance ourselves?
We see in v3 some of the details of Christian suffering. The word ‘moved’ was used of dogs, to wag the tail and hence metaphorically of persons, to disturb or disquiet them. Because suffering can really shake us up Paul was fearful lest the trials experienced by the new converts might have troubled them so much as to do irreparable damage. ‘Afflictions,’ speaks of intense pressure, which surely we have all experienced at some time in our lives. Yet the word ‘appointed’ indicates that suffering is central to the Christian life. Indeed, Calvin states that ‘afflictions are the terms on which we are Christians.’ Distress is not to be looked at as a sad side effect of salvation but as a necessity, to which God has appointed us, and it cannot be escaped.
Paul’s prediction of coming suffering, v4, was firstly honest, because ‘we told you before’. He did not try to hide from them the inevitable outcome of their trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. From Paul’s transparent honesty we should learn that it is wrong to hide from the youngest Christian the fact that tribulation is the common lot of believers whilst in this world. His prediction was accurate, because ‘it came to pass,’ in their suffering. Paul’s prediction was also Christ like, since ‘suffer tribulation’ is the word thilbo, which is used in Matt.7.14, ‘straightened’. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ told before hand of the same difficulties and hardships of the Christian life as Paul did. Finally such warning was wise, as it prepared them for what was to come so that they would not be taken by surprise.
Paul’s concern, v5, was practical, because he ‘sent’ Timothy. A genuine concern will not just be a deep anguish of spirit, but will be active, Jm.2.15, 16. How practical are we when it comes to helping other Christians in difficulty? This concern was knowledgeable, ‘lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.’ Paul well knew the fierce enmity of Satan and his continual striving to destroy all that is of God. The word for tempt is peirazo, which is at times used of God or Christ in the good sense of putting men to the test that they may stand approved. When used of the devil it always has a bad connotation, since he tests in order to disapprove. The devil’s aim is to entice men to sin and bring them to a fall.
Mutuality of feeling is indicated in v6. Just as the missionaries loved the converts and longed to see them again, so the converts loved the missionaries and wished to see them also. People at Thessalonica had been slandering the character and motives of the Lord’s servants, Ch.2, and they were concerned that this would affect the believers. What a relief Timothy’s report must have been to Paul’s heart.
We learn that older believers suffer too, ‘in all our affliction and distress,’ v7,8. Sometimes younger Christians look at older ones and think they do not understand, but they are suffering as well. Whether we are old or young in the faith, we all suffer together. Mature saints are comforted through the young going on well, ‘by your faith.’ The way we grow spiritually affects other believers whether we like it or not. If we are steadfast we will encourage others. In seeking to comfort the Thessalonian believers they themselves were comforted and so we learn that everything we do to others, good and bad, is sure to come back to us!
Paul’s thanksgiving, v9, was something of a payment back to God, for ‘render’ means to recompense. That they still stood firm in the faith was an act of God and His power. Paul’s thanksgiving was thus a little repayment to God for what He had done for the Thessalonians. Do we give thanks to the Lord when we see what good things He has done in the lives of other Christians? Such gratitude sprang out of a joyful heart, despite adversity, for ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength,’ Neh.8.10.
The true shepherd is to be characterised by, an intense desire. ‘Praying exceedingly,’ v10, tells us that Paul’s intense yearning for their spiritual well being resulted in an outpouring of his heart to the Lord. Good shepherds’ hearts go out to the sheep and therefore pray for them. Self-neglect is another feature, for he prayed ‘night and day’. Paul’s sense of bodily needs, in this case sleep, at times seems to be wanting, so caught up is he in the Lord’s service. Is this not true fasting? The Lord Jesus Christ had the same exercise, Lk.6.12. Then there is spiritual insight, as he desired to ‘perfect that which is lacking in your faith.’ Their faith was holding up despite suffering and persecution, but the body of truth that they believed was as yet incomplete. Once they were saved Paul started what we might call a ‘Christianity induction course’ with them, which he failed to complete because he was forcibly separated from them and he wished to impart to them much needed truth. Although in 1.7 Paul says they were a model church, even they had much more still to learn.
God opens the way for us to walk in, v11. Satan hindered them, but Paul’s request to God was that He would make it possible for the missionaries to return to see their beloved converts.
Love, v12, is dynamic, as Christian love can always ‘increase and abound’. We can never have enough love for others. It is divine, for He alone enables us to love as we ought, Rom.5.5; it is directed, firstly to believers, ‘one toward another,’ 1 Jn.2.10, for if we do not love fellow believers, we are not saved. Secondly it is directed to unbelievers, ‘toward all men,’ which would of course include persecutors, Matt.5.44.
As with every other chapter in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 3 closes with a reference to the Lord’s coming, v13. The coming of the Lord will be with established saints, ‘to the end He may stablish your hearts,’ the word being sterizo as in v2. In v2 Timothy is establishing the believers, but here it is the Lord who does it. His saints will be blameless and holy at His return. Further every saint will be there, for Christ comes ‘with all His saints,’ not one left behind. This coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is His return in open glory to inaugurate His world-wide reign. What an immense encouragement to these suffering saints at Thessalonica, that they, with us, are to share in the future glorious kingdom of the Lord Jesus, 2Tim.2.12.
—to be continued (DV)
by D. Richards (Canada)
We continue to examine some of the Scriptures which are used as a basis for objecting to the truth of eternal security.
Heb.6.4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”
Here again, it is claimed, the Word of God warns that we can lose our salvation if we fall away. V4 is used to prove that these people are genuine believers. But, if these are necessarily believers, let us see what the consequence is of them “falling away.” V4 to 6 say, “it is impossible … to renew them again unto repentance.” Surely, if these are Christians, the writer must be saying that if they fall away they can never be recovered. I have never heard it suggested that if someone loses his salvation he can never be saved again! But this is what these verses must be saying, if they are referring to true believers. To rightly understand these very difficult verses we need to have an understanding of the whole purpose of the Epistle to the Hebrews. As the title of the epistle infers, it was written to “Hebrews”, that is, people of the Jewish nation. That many of them were genuinely saved there can be no doubt. In 3.1, the writer states, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,…” But, as also happens in our day, many, it would seem, had been caught up in the original zeal for the gospel, who may not have really been saved. Bear in mind that Judaism, the religion they had left, was the only God given religion. They had a temple in Jerusalem, a high priest in his garments of glory and beauty. Everything about Judaism was visible and tangible. Now they had left all that to follow a man whom they could not see. They had no visible temple. Everything about their “new religion” was invisible, and intangible. Now, as a result of persecution, they were questioning whether they had been too quick to forsake Judaism and follow “Jesus”. There are five series of warnings against apostasy in the Epistle to the Hebrews (2.1-4; 3.7-4,13; 5.11 - 6, 20; 10.26-39 and 12.15-29). Apostasy is a total abandonment of Christian ground, a repudiation of all that one once claimed to believe. No true believer can commit apostasy. But, some will object, how are we to understand the statements of v4? Surely, such things could only be said of a true believer. To answer this we must go back to ch.3. In this chapter from v7 (the second warning against apostasy) the writer uses the nation of Israel on their journey from Egypt to Canaan as an example of failure to achieve the goal (in their case, entry into Canaan). He concludes that the reason they (i.e. that generation) never entered the land was unbelief, v19. In ch.6 the writer uses the experience of Israel in the wilderness as a background for his warning against apostasy. In 6.4,5 he says five things about those who may fall away.
1. “… once enlightened.” 2. “have tasted of the heavenly gift.” 3. “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” 4. “have tasted the good word of God.” 5. “the powers of the world to come.”
I want us to see how this parallels with the experience of Israel in the wilderness, not just those who truly believed, but also those who perished in the wilderness. The Israelites had known what it was to be delivered out of Egypt, and from being recaptured by Pharaoh’s hosts, when God parted the Red Sea, and they went through on dry ground, Ex.14. They had been enlightened. When they complained to Moses that they had no water to drink, God instructed Moses to “smite the rock” with his rod. When he did so the waters flowed and they tasted of the heavenly gift, Ex.17. In all their journey to Canaan, for forty years, they were led by “the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night,” Ex.13.21, 22. They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost (that is, they experienced, by way of illustration, the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives). When they complained that Moses and Aaron had brought them into the wilderness “to kill this whole assembly with hunger,” God supplied them with the manna, which they were able to gather through the whole of their journey. They had tasted the good Word of God (of which the manna speaks, Ex.16). Through all their journeying they saw the mighty hand of God in miraculous power. They had experienced the powers of the world [age] to come. Yet, “with most of them God was not well pleased” 1Cor.10.5, and they died because of unbelief in the wilderness, Heb.3.19.
The present writer submits that all that is said in Heb.6.4, 5 can be true of a person who has been much influenced by the gospel, but who has never actually believed it.
Heb.10.26, 27 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.”
You will notice again that if these verses refer to true believers then there is no hope for such if they sin wilfully. These verses form the beginning of the fourth warning against apostasy. The wilful sin spoken of in v26 is wilfully (i.e. deliberately) turning away from Christ when fully understanding the gospel. An apostate is someone who has professed faith in Christ, fully understanding the truths of the gospel, and not only departs, but now repudiates all that he once claimed to believe. V29 says of such, that they have “trodden under foot the Son of God, … counted the blood of the covenant … an unholy thing, … and have done despite to the Spirit of grace.” Notice now the writer’s concluding remarks in v39, “But we [emphatic in the Greek] are not of them who draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
Matt.10.22; 24.13 “But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
These two verses are exactly the same in wording in the Greek, though slightly different in the translation. It is claimed, on the strength of these verses, that endurance to the end is essential to salvation. It must be remembered that the Bible never contradicts itself. As with the other verses we have looked at, we must see these statements in their context. In Matt.10 the Lord commissions the twelve apostles for their work amongst the Jews, v5, 6. This is not a commission for us today. It was temporary, until the nation had finally rejected Christ as their Messiah. It also has a meaning for those who will serve Him in the coming tribulation, v23. From v16-28 the Lord is warning the disciples of the persecution that they would receive. In v21 He warned them that “the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.” In v22 He continues, “And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake …” Then He adds, “but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” The words “saved”, “salvation” and “Saviour” do not always have in view the salvation of the soul. For example the Lord Jesus is described as “the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” Are we to believe from this verse that all men are saved? It would be easier to understand if it read, “the preserver of all men,” for He is not the Saviour of all men. In the context of Matt.10, the salvation spoken of by the Lord for those who endure is their preservation from denying the Lord through the persecution which they were to experience. The context in Matt.24 is very similar. V9-12 refer to the persecution that will be experienced by God’s servants in the coming tribulation (after the church has been raptured). But those who would endure to the end would be delivered through the persecution.
It is often objected that the teaching of the eternal security of the believer encourages believers to continue to commit sin. First of all, it would never be right to deny what the Bible clearly teaches because of what the effect of such a doctrine might be. The important thing is “does the Bible teach it”? But secondly, on the contrary, the teaching of eternal security does not encourage sin. It gives the highest possible motive for seeking to please the Lord. The believer should not be motivated by a fear of losing his salvation, that would be a selfish motive. But the believer should be motivated by an appreciation for what Christ suffered for him, and an appreciation of all that we have been brought into. Also, it has already been pointed out that if we are truly saved we will continue, Col.1.21-23. When Christ saves, He does a good job of it. He not only saves the soul, but also the life! In 1Jn. we have a series of tests to prove who is really saved. Right through the letter there are two basic tests:-
1. What does the person believe?
2. How does he live?
The individual must pass both tests to be proved genuine. John suggests that if the person has the right doctrine, but is not living the life then he is not saved. On the other hand, if the person is living the life, but does not hold to the doctrine he is not saved. Not that living the life contributes to salvation. It is the evidence of salvation.
Teaching that we can lose our salvation if we do not endure does two things:—
1. It brings discredit to the work of Christ, in that it implies that the work of Christ upon the cross is not enough.
2. It elevates the flesh, in that it implies that the flesh is not the corrupt thing that the Bible teaches it is, and there is something we can do to contribute to our salvation. This would mean that when we get to heaven (if we make it) we will be able to say, “I am here, not only because Christ saved me, but because I was able to hang on.” As can be seen from Jn.10.28, 29, it is not how tightly I hold on to Him that saves me, but how tightly He holds on to me.
Many other verses could be quoted by both sides in this argument. It is not claimed that this is an exhaustive exposition of this subject, or that these articles are the definitive answer to all objections. But it is prayerfully submitted for the help of all who will read it. May the Lord be pleased to use it to the encouragement and establishment of the saints!
Principles of Divine Election
by M. Rudge (Wales)
The example of Pharaoh shows more than his judicial hardening. It demonstrates the sovereign right of God in choosing to act in judgment and His sovereignty in raising a man to prominence in order to make His power known in him and “that My name might be declared throughout all the earth,” v17. At the end of a long drawn out period, during which God showed exceptional long-suffering, allowing Pharaoh to exercise his will and reject the call to “Let My people go,” God hardened his heart, judicially.
This example adds support for God’s right to judge. Compare v19 and 3.5,6. It is additional support for the rightness of God’s judgment, when applied to unbelieving Jews, who had hardened their hearts against the gospel.
God allowed the exercise of Pharaoh’s free will but held him responsible for what he did. This is the truth of individual responsibility and accountability, which acts as a balance to the truth of Divine sovereignty. These truths are invariably found alongside one another in Scripture, and are like parallel lines that run closely alongside one another and may appear to meet in the distance, but in fact never do.
“For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.” v17,18.
The order and sequence of events in God’s dealings with Pharaoh should be noted. In Ex.3.19, there is the first indication of Divine foreknowledge of the way events will develop, “And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go ... ”; 4:21 gives notice of the outcome of Pharaoh’s resistance “but I will harden His heart …” God foresaw Pharaoh hardening his heart but He did not foreordain it.
The sequence of events in the book of Exodus, show Pharaoh’s responsibility for what happened, when he first, hardened his heart and then, when God hardened his heart. See 7.13 RV; 14,22,23; 8.15,32; 9.7,34,35. See also 1Sam6.6, “Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? …” Hardening was judicial, the operation of Divine laws governing human conduct, and fully justified by his conduct. See 9.12; 10.1,20,27; 11.10; Isa.6.10; Matt.13.15; Jn.12.39,40; Acts 28.26-28.
(9:19-29) “Thou wilt say then unto me. Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? ... ”
Paul’s opponents now resort to the argument that if God is absolutely sovereign in human affairs, how can blame be attached to anyone? No one can resist His will. This is a specious argument that chooses to ignore everything that the apostle has so carefully and capably presented on the subject of Divine sovereignty. Paul refutes their irreverent reasoning by using the illustration of the power of the potter over the clay — absolute power to shape the future, within the limits of the Divine will. Puny, finite man's questioning God's dealings is comparable to the clay questioning the potter, “Nay but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?”, v 20,21. We should never question the dealings of God. He is always righteous and as we have seen, our understanding of the exercise of His sovereign will, must take into account other characteristics, v15.
The illustration of the potter, which is used as an example of the exercise of the absolute power of Divine sovereignty, in connection with the future destiny of men, must be understood in the context of what follows in v22-24. It does not mean that God determined beforehand that the “vessels of wrath,” should become “vessels of dishonour,” “fitted to destruction,” but that their destruction is determined by their response to God’s dealings with them. As we shall see in v22, they are vessels that are “[self]-fitted to destruction.”
Paul's final appeal is to the nature of God. The exercise of His sovereignty is inseparable from His nature. His holiness makes it imperative that He must punish sin and even then, it is His “strange work,” which He undertakes reluctantly. ‘Though His holy will would lead Him to show His wrath, yet He withheld His wrath and endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath.’ (M. R. Vincent)
Paul asks the question, “What if God, willing to show His wrath and make His power known …?” What if the exercise of His will involves His acting in judgment? He is perfectly righteous in doing so, and especially after He has “endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath …”, v22. Long-suffering and the endurance of man’s hardness of heart, are now added to other features which are displayed in the exercise of God’s sovereignty.
It is important to notice, here, that there is a distinction between “the vessels of wrath” [self] fitted to destruction, after being shown “much long-suffering” and “the vessels of mercy,” which God has “afore-prepared unto glory,” and where He makes known “the riches of His glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles,” v23,24. The immediate context and the difference in the language used here, show that the vessels of wrath fitted themselves for destruction. The vessels of mercy were “afore-prepared” by God but there is nothing comparable to this in the description of the vessels of wrath, “fitted to destruction.” Rom.2.4,5 and 1Thess.2.15,16 show clearly, that vessels of wrath bring judgment upon themselves. It is something that they choose rather than repenting and turning to God.
In v22-29, application is made to the situation of Israel and the Gentiles, and what has taken place is shown to be confirmed by Scripture.
At the close of v24, Paul writes of those “whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” This recalls the earlier verses, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” v8; (… “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;)…”, v11.
Paul quotes from Hosea and Isaiah to support the principle of God calling a people, “My people,” who were not formerly His people (see 1Pet.2.10), and the partial calling of a remnant of Israel. Hosea is speaking initially of Israel and the salvation of a remnant when the nation returns to Divine favour in the future. Similarly, Isaiah “also crieth concerning Israel, … a remnant shall be saved: …” and “as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma and been made like unto Gommorah.” i.e. completely extinct. The last two quotations are a further reminder of God’s sovereign mercy in saving a remnant and sparing a seed. Yet again, we read the magnificent “I will” of Divine sovereignty, “I will call them My people …”, v25.
And again, in a masterly way, Paul establishes the principle of Divine sovereignty in God’s dealings with Israel and then applies the same principle to His dealings with the Gentiles. In passing, we can note that both prophets learnt the truth of wider issues in their domestic life, Hos.1.2-11; Isa.7.3,4 [“Shear-jashub thy son,” ‘a remnant shall return’ marg.]; 8.18; 10.22). The classrooms in the school of God are the circumstances of daily life in which we can learn the truth which has a bearing upon wider issues.
It is instructive to notice that Paul speaks of “those whom He hath called …”, because God’s call in the gospel, is the means which He uses to give effect to His purpose. Cp 2Thes.2:13,14; 1Cor.1:2, 24-31; 1Pet.1:2. Response to God’s call, or its rejection, brings together yet again the truth of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
9.30-33, “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel … Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”
The parallel truth of human responsibility is developed from v30, onward, The Gentiles “attained to righteousness,” the objective that Israel vainly sought by the works of the law. Israel “stumbled at the stumblingstone, …”, and were solely responsible for their unbelief. Faith is a matter of personal responsibility, the response to God’s working in such a way, that salvation by grace through faith, is presented as His gift. “For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Eph.2.8.
The revelation of God’s purpose in His Word shows that in the matter of His sovereign choice in election, He has always acted consistently, and in strict conformity to the same principles. It has been seen that He has always disregarded natural descent, human merit or any other external considerations.
If the response to this is that God is acting arbitrarily [‘not bound by rules; dependent upon the discretion of an arbiter, judge or court (rather than upon a set law or statute); (of a ruler or power) despotic, absolute], then the answer must be that ‘God is God.’ He is not accountable to any, and always acts righteously, in keeping with His character, displaying those other characteristics, which we are delighted to notice in this chapter. Who could question a God who is what He is and acts in the way in which He does?
At the conclusion of our consideration of the principles of Divine election and human responsibility, we reach the point where we have to accept that they are both taught clearly in Scripture. In a way comparable to other truths that we cannot fully understand, we have to accept and believe them, as both being true of God’s dealings with men. What we must not do, is to attempt to make them logical and understandable in a human way, and to reconcile them.
We must recognise that God is infinite and that, whatever our intellectual capacity, we are puny creatures with finite minds. This is a matter that calls for humility. It is at this point that we become humble worshippers. We recall Job.33.13, “I will answer thee that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive with Him? For He giveth not account of any of His matters.” Also Dan.4.34-36, “And at the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, … blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever, … all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What doest Thou? At the same time, my reason returned unto me; …” Again, “I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect: For all His ways are judgment [‘righteousness, what is right, just.’ JND]: a God of truth and without iniquity, Just and right is He.” Deut.32.3,4.
Footnote. It is instructive to notice that in the book of Genesis, where the truth of election commences, the major part of the narrative deals with the chosen line and the other histories are minimal. This can be seen in the division of the book of Genesis into its ten sections, after the first four introductory chapters. Each of the divisions commences with similar wording.
5.1 - 6.8. This is the book of the generations of Adam. 6.9 - 9.29. These are the generations of Noah. 10.1 - 11.9. Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah. 11.10 - 11.26. These are the generations of Shem. 11.27 - 25.11 Now these are the generations of Terah. 25.12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael. 25.13 - 25.18 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael … according to their generations. 25.19 - 35.29 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son 36.1 - 37.1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. 37.2 - 50.26 These are the generations of Jacob.
F. E. Marsh said, “two things are prominent in the above fact, the men of the flesh, such as Ishmael and Esau, and their descendants, are summarised in fifty verses; while the men of faith and their seed, such as Terah, Isaac and Jacob, cover no less than over forty chapters. From this we may gather, that those who are to play only a minor part in the drama of human history, while they are recognised, they and theirs are dismissed with a few statements of fact; while those who are in the covenant of promise are prominent throughout.”
“Second, the undercurrent which runs through the strata of Genesis is, the men who are identified with the Promised Seed are to the front because of the Messiah with Whom they are associated. The others are in the formation of the human race, but the elect race is the foundation of the purpose of the Lord. Association with Christ makes all the difference whether we count or not.”
State and Standing
by D. S. Parrack (England)
No. 2 — WASHING/CLEANSING
We are probably only too well aware of how easy it is to get defiled, or quite bluntly dirty, in our spiritual living. Can we say then, in any really meaningful sense, that God can see us as, or that we can claim to be, absolutely clean?
Paul was obviously talking of a once-for-all washing when saying of God that it was “not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” Tit.3.5. Believers accept, and accept with gratitude, that being born again, regenerated, is a ‘forever’ happening. Well, here the apostle links it with our being washed, being cleansed, from the defilement of judgment-deserving sin.
Because of some of our own personal experiences, we might find that vista particularly hard to contemplate. Of believers in N.T. times whom we might first think of as susceptible to such doubtings, perhaps the Corinthians spring to mind. There were certainly enough problems in that church when Paul first wrote to them, however, having cited a whole catalogue of sins, potential and actual and included the words “such were some of you,” he continues, “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God,” 1Cor.6.11. That is a very comprehensive range of fully conferred blessings and we cannot doubt any one of them singly without casting doubt on them all.
Peter appeared to be unsure at one time as to just where he stood in the matter, and his quandary gives us a clear picture of the twin aspects of once-for-all and ongoing washing. Since feet washing was in N.T. times essentially the task of a servant, Peter's incredulous, “Lord dost thou wash my feet?”, is eminently understandable. Jesus' assurance, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter” was insufficient to prevent the apostle's next exclamation. “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” He does deserve some credit for his desire, even if misplaced, to safeguard the disciple/master relationship between himself and his acknowledged Lord. Then the Lord Jesus begins to show what He wanted His disciples to learn from the incident. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” but then He goes on to say, “He that is washed” a completed operation, “needeth not save to wash His feet.” Here we have an activity which will bring our daily living into closer accord with how God sees us as being, which is “clean every whit” (see Jn.13.3-17). But that too was always in the mind of the Lord Jesus as being an integral part of the salvation which by His sacrifice He offers to those who trust Him. “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,” but again, as with redemption, there is an ongoing factor, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,” Eph.5.25,26.
“Washing of water by the Word” then, is how the Lord Jesus accomplishes what He wants for His church and all of its constituent members, people who because they have been washed and made clean, go on to show that cleanness in their daily lives. Although we could do nothing to achieve that cleansed standing in God's sight, we are expected to be cooperatively submissive in our ongoing state of being washed from the daily defilement which results from our living in what is, after all, a defiled world. In this context we have, as quite often we find in the Scriptures, a question posed and an answer immediately given. The Psalmist asks “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his ways?” The reply is given “By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word,” Ps.119.9. The Scriptures are there available for us, but it is only when we “take heed thereto” that they will prove their effectiveness as a cleansing agent.
The causes of uncleanness can vary both in actuality and in our own perceptions. Paul's second letter to Corinth was not dealing with blatant fornication as was the first, though the ramifications were referred to (see e.g. 2Cor.2.1-11). He now talks about being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” 2Cor.6.14, and we need to be quite sure if we feel others are moving in defiling circles, that we are not ourselves just as much enmeshed but in ways less openly apparent. Having highlighted the problem the apostle looks for an action-invoking response. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit” and the former is easier than the latter, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2Cor.7.1.
A similar approach is taken when writing to Timothy about service amongst God's people. Having acknowledged that “in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth, and some to honour and some to dishonour,” the apostle encourages his younger protégé by saying “If a man purge himself from these” and note the word “purge” has a strong affinity in the original to the word ‘cleanse’, “he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master's use and prepared unto every good work,” 2Tim.2.20,21.
Do you want to serve the Lord? You want that service to be both acceptable to Him and of help and benefit to others? You are already, as far as God is concerned, “clean every whit” as regards reception into, and service within, heaven. This is your standing, secure and inviolable because of the Person and work on which it is based. But what about here and now, what about service in this world? God has given, by the application of His Word, the wherewithal to enable an ever-increasing degree of practical cleansing. How effective it is for you personally though, depends on how attentive, obedient and responsive you are to that Word.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By A. N. Groves (England)
“God hath set in the church” and appointed for all service and ministry “helps” as well as “governments,” 1Cor.12.28. To the latter belong the guidance of the work in hand, like the pilot or the steersman of a ship, as the Greek word signifies. But those to whom this gift is entrusted need others as their helpers, and this is what is implied in the word “helps.”
Guides and helpers are thus connected together, the latter depending “in the Lord” on the former. Let us not be afraid of dependence on one another in the Lord, for independence is often little better than self-will.
We find illustrations of this in Scripture histories. Moses had as his servant the young man Joshua, who, as his helper, filled his appointed place. Elijah had his Elisha, who poured water on his hands, and was thus being trained to occupy his place when God should take him away. Paul and Barnabas had John Mark “to their minister” when they were sent on their great missionary tour, Acts 13.5; he went with them as a helper, not taking independent ground, but following those whom the Holy Spirit sent out. Thus, afterwards Paul found Timothy, and knowing that he was “well reported of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium,” he would have him “to go forth with him.” Timothy had no separate call; he was to be a helper, and as such he went, as a son with a father, as a servant with a master, and therein fulfilled his mission. In the same way originally Paul seems to have gone after him to Tarsus and brought him to Antioch. But the helper soon outstepped the leader during the ten years, more or less, they were together, so that “Barnabas and Saul” of Acts 13.2 became very soon “Paul and Barnabas” of ch.13.43, and always afterwards.
The faithful helper becomes in time the faithful leader. Joshua takes the place of Moses; Elisha that of Elijah; Timothy that of Paul. The relative position of each must not be lost sight of. The one is directly under the guidance of God and in direct dependence on Him; the other is in measure under the guidance of the one who leads, and dependent on him. Learning thus in the place of service, the helper may be gradually guided of God into the place of leadership.
This we regard as the appointment of God for training His servants, the younger by the elder, the inexperienced by the experienced; and we would press the consideration of it on all who are interested in the raising up of faithful men for service in the church and in the world. Forgetfulness of the distinction here indicated has led many a youthful godly servant of the Lord, who would have made a most efficient Timothy, to withdraw from the work altogether, because he was not fitted to take at once the higher place of following God alone. It was not thus Paul trained his helpers to become good soldiers and in time to take an independent place of service for God.
There is a human as well as a divine side in all these questions, which can never be forgotten without incalculable loss. In some, alas! the human element swallows up the divine, and the result is something very different from the Scriptural examples we have considered; namely, a continued servile dependence on man, with no thought of ever reaching up to God alone. On the other hand, the human element is often set aside and overridden by a profession of a divine independence that results in pride and self will.
Mutual subjection to one another, of the younger to the elder, there is to be, and that “in the fear of Christ;” and all that disregard it are violating the headship of Christ and the claims of the body of which we are members.
Let us therefore bid good speed to those who take the higher place when we see their call of God, and when they have made proof of their ministry; but let us, none the less, bid good speed to those who are prepared as yet only for the humbler sphere of going to work as helpers to those on whom for the present they are content to lean, and by them to be guided. It is thus true-hearted men of God will be trained up for the Master's service; and we shall find Joshuas, Elishas, and Timothys not wanting when the call comes, and the work demands them.
Many make a bold commencement, who come to grief in the end; and many make a humble commencement in ostensible subjection to man, who in the end became giants in faith and mighty in service.
Some degree of avowed dependence on man is far safer than unreal dependence on God; to be real the latter must grow in circumstances to call it forth. Practical lessons alone teach it. No Bible theory, however true, will do it.
God keep us from discouraging the feeble, knowing that covenant mercy can make the “feeble,” if only true, “like David,” Zech.12.18.
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (96)
by Terry Topley (Eire)
From as far back as I can remember I was afraid to die. The religious teaching we received never removed that fear, nor the dread of meeting God, but only emphasised it. One night after watching a film where the leading actor was killed I tossed on my bed, wondering where he was and then where I was going to be. Being unable to sleep I went down to my mother and asked her, “what happens when you die?” Knowing nothing of the way of salvation she said if I believed in God and did my best I would go to Heaven. For a time my conscience was hushed. At different times though I would be troubled again — once when my best friend was knocked down and killed; another time when I was trying to be ‘one of the boys’ and was dared to steal sweets from the local shop in Seymour Hill, Dunmurry. I was making for the door when a voice seemed to say “the girl didn’t see you but God did.” I replaced the sweets and headed home in fear.
The ‘troubles’ in the North brought much personal suffering from the hands of older boys in Seymour Hill. I endured it, believing it was because, as a Roman Catholic, I was one of God’s chosen people. Something happened at this time which had a great effect on my life. I was wakened one night by my sister screaming “Terry, there are men trying to kill us.” Petrol bombers had intended to throw bombs through my bedroom window. My bed was just below the window — I could easily have been killed. God overruled and being disturbed by our dog they threw them through the front window. That night after the emergency services had gone I remember getting down and asking God to show me a way for men to live together in peace. The Lord has since answered that prayer — Jn.14.6.
Due to these circumstances my family came to live in Dromore, Co. Down. There I came in contact with an aged sister from the assembly. Over the next five years she visited our home and I grew to like her. I noticed she never swore and also her appearance — she seemed happy and genuine. Due to illness she spent a long time in hospital. When she came home I decided to do all I could to help her. One day as I sat at her feet, Aunt Agnes, as we called her, got down a big black Bible and read Jn.3.16 to me. She told me I needed to be saved and how she had got saved. All this was new to me. I had never seen a Bible before. From that day I was full of questions and almost every day found me at Aunt Agnes’ house. She read Heb.10 and showed me that my priest and my place could not help me — Christ had done all that was needed for my salvation. My responsibility was to trust Him. I was convinced from this chapter that Rome could do nothing for me. My simple thought was “my church is living in the Old Testament, repeating sacrifice after sacrifice to no avail.” I couldn’t understand how to get saved. Jn.3.7 haunted me. The first time I heard it I thought I would have to die and then be born into the world again — I was blind as well as lost.
Life started to seem unreal. I remember sitting in a disco watching my mates and knowing they were unhappy. Many times the chat would come round about God and why are we here. My thoughts turned to Aunt Agnes and I wanted the reality she had.
Gospel meetings came to a tent near Dromore and a friend asked me to go with him. He wasn’t saved himself but was going to please his father. The preachers were Mr. McShane and Tom Matthews. I went three Lord’s Days. Each night my friend would ask me if I understood or would like to speak to the preachers. There was one night I would have liked to have stayed behind but thought they wouldn’t speak to a Roman Catholic. Both preached on the resurrection and as I considered that Christ was no longer on the Cross but alive and that God was going to raise the dead I was convinced I needed to be saved. I remember looking down at the sawdust and wondering “What does God want me to do?”
Nine months passed and I felt more the burden of my sin. I went for long walks alone thinking about all these things. May 26th 1982 I was lying thinking about the Lord on the Cross, His suffering, His head, His hands, His feet and the blood pouring down. The thought came to me — I could die in my sleep and if I did I would be in Hell. As I thought again about the Cross and the Saviour I asked myself “why was He there?” — He was there for me. I was afraid because I felt, this is my responsibility, I could accept or reject Christ and be lost. At age 21 I didn’t have a Bible and knew no verses. I didn’t know if God would save me but I knelt at my bedside and prayed “God, I believe Jesus died for me. I know I’m a sinner but I believe Jesus died for me.” Still on my knees the thought came — “Terry, the work’s done,” and I knew I was saved.
I told no-one for two weeks, then I told everybody I could. My friends soon left me. I was labelled a turncoat, etc.
After a year of wandering I discovered the truth of believer’s baptism and gathering to the Lord’s name and began to sit at the Dromore assembly. After nine months I was baptised and received into fellowship and sat beside Aunt Agnes on Lord’s Days to break bread.
I had begun to pray for my family, speaking and reading to them. I also started to pray about the South as I considered Roman Catholics brought up like myself and dying without hope. I prayed the Lord would send me to them. Mk.16.15 seemed to burn into my conscience — Go YE.
Mr. John Thompson asked me to share meetings in Dublin. He said “It’ll either sicken you or give you a taste for it.” It was very difficult but it gave me a greater desire to pray for the South.
The Lord started to work in my family saving first a sister, then her husband and my old grandmother. I hadn’t wanted to leave the family in the dark to go to preach to others. I had begun meanwhile to preach in the open-air with other brethren around different towns on a Saturday.
When I approached the girl whom I was to marry I asked her to pray about the South. Her reply was “I have been praying for it for five years.” After having more meetings in the South and feeling the Lord guiding, both Cheryl and I asked the Lord that if He wanted us to go now He would save my father. One reason was that there would be a testimony in my home when I left. One Friday night after taking him to a Gospel meeting, Cheryl and I spent well over two hours praying that God would save him. Saturday morning I couldn’t pray. Very discouraged I told one of the men preaching that I thought my father had missed it. He said “either that or he’s got it.” My father met me at the door that evening and told me he had got saved that morning.
God proved His hand with us in other matters, and feeling His leading I approached the Banbridge brethren (where I was now in fellowship) about commendation and they agreed, along with Dromore assembly. After some fruitful meetings and after getting married, we set up home in a small caravan in Co. Cavan. The work is most difficult but we endeavour through door-to-door and open-air work, along with series in the Gospel to sow the Seed, trusting the Lord will bless for His own glory.
Good Tidings from Heaven
“ARE YOU LOST?”
A small boy went with his father to a busy market. His father stopped to speak to friend and the boy looked all around, fascinated by the sights and sounds. Then he moved away to explore by himself; he wandered, unconcerned amongst the stalls. After a while, he began to wonder where his father was. He looked everywhere and tried to find his own way back. At last, he began to cry and sob — “I’m lost!” A kind stall-holder saw him and in a few minutes, carried him back to the arms of his father again.
Did you ever realise that people are lost spiritually. They are away from God, estranged from Him because of sin. Their lives are aimless, lacking direction or purpose. Isaiah says “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way but the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” 53.6. So everyone has the same straying nature and every individual has turned to his own, self-chosen path, away from God.
Many are lost but do not know it, just like the boy when he first wandered off. Some are careless, but lost; some are religious, but lost; some are baptised, but lost; some ‘take communion’ but are lost. Have you ever discovered your real spiritual condition before God? Have you ever realised the eternal destiny to which you are going? In other words have you ever found out that you are lost? Just as the lost boy was in danger, so you too are in danger of perishing and being lost for all eternity. So many think that hell is where only murderers or robbers go to; however it is enough to continue as a lost, careless sinner and you will find yourself in that dreadful place. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all … that forget God,” Psalm 9.17.
Some have an idea that they are not right with God and try to do something about it. They decide to ‘turn over a new leaf,’ give up bad habits or join a church organisation, — all in an effort to find their own way back to God. But all this is of no value to a lost sinner; and how could anyone be sure that he had done enough to be acceptable to God? Instead Paul reminds us — “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us,” Titus 3.5.
But the gospel is God’s good news to mankind. All who are lost because of sin and in danger of its awful consequences, can be saved and sure about it. When the birth of the Lord Jesus was announced, the Lord said to Joseph “call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1.21. As a lost sinner, you do not need a reformer or a good example; you need a Saviour, one strong enough to save you from your sins.
The Lord Jesus explained in simple words the real reason why he came into the world — “ For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19.10. By His sacrificial death at Calvary He provided the only way by which lost sinners can be saved; everything He did at the cross satisfied God entirely. God has raised Him from the dead and “exalted Him with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour,” Acts 5.31. It is also certain that He is the only Saviour — “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” Acts 4.12.
Maybe you do know that you are lost, cannot save yourself and would like to be sure that you are saved. One night many years ago, in a jail at Philippi, a poor lost sinner called out the urgent question “What must I do to be saved?” The speedy, united response of two gospel preachers was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16.31. The way of salvation is still the same today. May I ask you in view of eternity “Are you lost or saved, which?”
WHAT DO YOU DO?
When heavy burdens crush the breast,
When your faith is put to the test,
When you cannot get any rest,
What do you do?
When your eyes flow freely with tears,
When your heart is filled up with fears,
When the heavens are closed, it appears,
What do you do?
When in friends you cannot confide,
When the devil and demons deride,
When the pressure, you can't abide,
What do you do?
When all joy is turned to sadness,
When in vain you search for gladness,
When actions seem to be madness,
What do you do?
There's One who was pierced by the nail,
Who will soothe the bitterest wail,
Come to Him who never will fail,
That's what to do.
When our cup is full to the brim,
We know His compassion will not dim,
By faith we lay hold upon Him,
That's what to do.
On the Rock of salvation,
On His declaration,
We stand firm — no deviation,
That's what to do.
He said He'll surely come again,
And then will banish all our pain,
So trust, the time that doth remain,
That's what to do.
(Written by a brother known to the editor at a time of great trial and grief)
We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies can never be alone. — H. Moule